The Stone Marten

  • Scientific: Martes foina
  • Spanish: Garduña
  • Catalan: Fagina
  • Portuguese: Fuinha

The Stone Marten (also known as Beech marten) is a mammal of the Mustelidae family, it is around 12cms high at the shoulder with a long slim body of between 40 to 55cms with the bushy tail adding another 22 to 30cms. The main colouring is brown with the legs a darker shade and the chest and throat an obvious contrasting white, often dividing onto the top of the forelegs. The ears are short, upright and rounded, while the face and snout are steeply sloped.

This species of marten ranges throughout Iberia and much of Europe and central Asia.

These secretive mammals are territorial, defending a range of up to 10km from other males, active at dusk and night time. They are solitary other than in the breeding season, resting in a selection of places including under rocks, in tree hollows or in quiet barns and other buildings.

Beech martens prefer open deciduous forest and rocky outcrops in mountainous habitats, but will live in a variety of habitats including woodland, rocky scrub or urban areas as long as there is sufficient cover. They can also be found in mountainous zones to 4000m in summer.

They are able to climb trees making good use of their claws but are more terrestrial than their close cousins the Pine marten (Martes martes).

Stone martens are omnivores and their diet includes smaller mammals, eggs, birds, small rabbits, earthworms and fruit. The food supply can alter with latitude whereby small rodents, fruit and insects are more abundant to northern examples with fruit, reptiles and insects available to the southern inhabitants. The wild fruit includes rose hips and juniper berries as well as taking cultivated fruit from orchards.

Mating takes place during the summer but the female delays implantation for several months ensuring that the young are born the following spring. Gestation takes 56 days with, on average, 3 to 4 young born in March to July using a nest prepared and lined with grasses and moss. The young are blind and hairless at birth. Weaning occurs after 8 weeks with the mother and young remaining together through the summer while she teaches them to hunt. They reach sexual maturity from a minimum of 18 months. The maximum life expectancy in the wild is 10 years, with the average being much less.

Those that prey on the stone marten are wild cat (Felis silvestris), wolf (Canis lupus), fox (Vulpes vulpes), golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) and eagle owls (Bubo bubo).

At one point their skins were sought after but the current danger is more through habitat destruction. Also secondary poisoning may occur if they eat rats and mice that have consumed bait.

Further reading at wikipedia (especially the description of the difference between the stone and pine marten.) Above photo also from Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beech_marten


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The Turkish Gecko

  • Spanish: Salamanquesa Rosada
  • Scientific: Hemidactylus turcicus
  • English: Turkish Gecko
  • French: Gecko nocturne
  • German: Europäische Halbfinger
  • Italian: Geco verrucoso
  • Portugese: Osga-turca

Description

A delicate-looking gecko which normally measures about 8-9.5 cm (3 -3¾ inches) including an intact tail, which is half the overall length. They are mainly pink in colour with black spots and paler areas, somewhat translucent, especially on the belly. The head is narrow and short, triangular in shape, their eyes are placed closer together than in the common gecko, with a vertical pupil.

The tail has alternating light and dark stripes providing it is the original, a regenerated tail will be smooth. Another characteristic of this species is that each digit has a curved claw. The toes are equipped with adhesive pads that allow them to adhere to vertical surfaces.

Nocturnal, spending the day hidden in the cracks of stone walls, in ruins, and rubble or under rocks and logs. This is reptile has adapted well to living with the man and is commonly seen hunting insects on summer nights near street lights and house walls etc.

The breeding season begins in March and lasts until July, consisting of 1 or 2 small eggs with the capability of laying up to 5 clutches per year. The eggs are are deposited under rocks, crevices in the ground etc and incubation lasts between 50 to 72 days.

Baby turkish gecko in Spain
Note the pinky translucent skin of the baby Turkish gecko.

IUCN Conservation Status: LC Least Concern

Distribution: Mediterranean Basin (Introduced elsewhere)

Similar species: Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica)


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The Moorish gecko

  • Spanish name: Salamanquesa Común
  • Scientific name: Tarentola mauritanica
  • English: Moorish Gecko
  • French: Tarente de Maurétanie
  • German: Mauergecko
  • Italian: Geco comune
  • Portuguese: Osga-moura

Description

The moorish gecko is a small reptile that can reach 16 cm (6¼ inches) in length – including the tail. Its body is robust and flattened with a broad, large head that is almost triangular in shape. The eyes are large with vertical pupils. The colour ranges from grey/brown, brown or light brown including black in the early morning hours. These light and dark patterns are an aid in camouflage. It has a scaled back with prominent tubercles. Its spiny tail is banded in different shades.

Very often seen without a tail (after been attacked by domestic cat or predated on by a bigger lizard or snake.) The tail can regenerate and the new one is much smoother.

The feet have 5 digits, 2 with well developed claws (third and fourth digits). The toes are equipped with adhesive pads that allow them to adhere to vertical surfaces (including glass).

Moorish geckos emit croaking sounds of varying types for communication between individuals, to mark their territory etc.

A common species found in rocks and stones, as well as manmade structures in the countryside, towns and cities (making use of the artificial lights that attracts their prey). They are most active during the early hours of the night and spends the rest of the time hidden, although you can see them basking in the morning sun.

They hunt at night and are mainly insectivorous; sawflies, wasps, bees, moths, grasshoppers and spiders.

The breeding season begins in March and lasts until July, consisting of 1 or 2 small eggs placed in crevices such as the bark of trees, gaps in walls or under stones. Incubation lasts 55 to 98 days. Females lay two or three egg clutches per year.

Baby Moorish gecko in Spain
Baby Moorish geckos are tiny. Note the striped tail which helps to identify them

IUCN Conservation Status: LC Least Concern

Distribution: Mediterranean area (introduced elsewhere)

Similar species: Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus)


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Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) Lince Ibérico

Overview

Lynx pardinus (Felis pardina or pardinus, Felis lynx pardina, Lynx lynx pardina)… Too many names!

The Iberian lynx is considered by IUCN (the International Union for the Conservation of Nature) to be critically endangered and is the world’s most threatened cat species.

Formerly found throughout Spain and Portugal. Although it began to decline in the first half of the 20th century due to over hunting, the decline was hugely accelerated after the 1950’s due to the spread of myxomatosis. A disease which decimated populations of the European rabbit, the lynx’s main prey.

Additional factors in the lynx’s decline include habitat loss (which affects both the lynx itself as well as its rabbit prey), illegal hunting, accidental killing by snares and poison baits set for other animals, and roadkill.

By 2000 it was considered to exist in a heavily fragmented population in which only two groups are large enough to have long-term prospects of genetic viability.

Habitat, description and life cycle

The Iberian Lynx prefers habitats of scrubland and open woods bordering onto pastures or clearings. Each lynx has its own individual area but a male may overlap into the territory of several females. A defended territory may vary from 4 to 20 km2 depending on food availability.

Continue reading Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) Lince Ibérico

Iberian Wolf (Canis lupus signatus) Lobo Ibérico

  • Spanish: Lobo
  • Catalan: Llop

The Iberian wolf, Canis Lupus, has suffered much persecution over centuries. Already being eradicated from many countries and despite a bounty on every head of a wolf during the 1950’s and 60’s some small populations of these mammals survived and now receive a partial protection especially when they reside in protected (natural and national park) area of Spain.

Iberian wolf populations are mainly in scattered packs in the forests and plains of north-western Spain, the Sierra Morena in Andalusia and the north of Portugal also holds small numbers.

The Iberian wolf can reach a height of around 70cm and length of 120cm. The animal is different in colour from the Eurasian wolf by having dark markings on its forelegs, back and tail with white markings on its upper lips.

This is the reason for the last part of the scientific name, with signatus meaning “marked”. Males weigh around 40kg with females being of a finer / slimmer build.

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Cantabrian Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) Oso Pardo Cantábrico

Special thanks for help with this article about the Cantabrian Brown Bear go to Lisa Stuart who, together with Mike, runs a wonderful guesthouse in the Picos de Europa national park. They also organise outdoor activities and adventures in this stunning part of Spain

Ask Lisa about finding bears in the Picos de Europa.

Listed in the Spanish Catalogue of Endangered Species (Catálogo Nacional de Especies Amenazadas) as being in danger of extinction, the Cantabrian brown bear’s existence in Spain is not widely known.

Genetically different?

Cantabrian brown bears have developed a slightly different genetic identity to other brown bears, although not as different as was once believed. A study in 2007 led by mainly Spanish scientists hoping to prove the subspecies status of the Iberian bears, has revealed them instead to be more closely related to the European brown bear (in particular those of Southern Scandanavia) than was previously thought.
So rather than once being scientifically known as Ursus arctos pyrenaicus, they are now classed as simply Ursus arctos.

Hunted and persecuted

Having once roamed most of the mountains of the Iberian peninsular, the Cantabrian brown bear was seen by man to be competition for food and the population was reduced in the first half of the twentieth century to two isolated pockets in the northerly mountains of the Cordillera Cantábrica. Systematic persecution through hunting led to a drastic decline in numbers and a total ban on hunting did not come into force until 1973. The maximum fine for killing a bear in Spain is now €300,000.

Continue reading Cantabrian Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) Oso Pardo Cantábrico

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