The Spanish Pyrenees
The Spanish Pyrenees
This page is devoted to the mountainous massif of the Encantats in the Spanish Pyrenees (province of Lérida, Catalonia), home to the National Park of Aigüestortes. This area harbors more than 200 high-altitude lakes. All photos presented here were taken in Val de Boi, a beautiful valley with a well-preserved nature.
Stream of Sant Nicolau. This stream snakes through the forest at the bottom of a wide valley. This place gave its name to the National Park (Aigüestortes = "winding waters").
The Pyrenean brook salamander (Calotriton asper). This strange salamander is fairly large (up to 16 cm) and robust. The body is gray or brown, sometimes with a thin pale line along the spine. The belly is orange (see below). This species lives in streams and lakes, often above 2000 m. It is endemic to the Pyrenean range.
The Pyrenean brook salamander, underside view.
Pyrenean brook salamanders mating.
Juvenile common frog (Rana temporaria). This frog is very common in the streams and lakes of the Pyrenees. It can be found up to an altitude of 3000 m.
The Pyrenean rock lizard (Iberolacerta bonnali). This lizard belongs, together with the Aran rock lizard (Iberolacerta aranica) and Aurelio's rock lizard (Iberolacerta aurelioi), to a group of three species endemic to the high mountains of Pyrenees. These lizards all have restricted distribution ranges that don't overlap. Because they live at high altitudes, there period of activity is often very short. The distinction between the Pyrenean rock lizard and the common wall lizard (Podarcis muralis), which can reach an altitude of 2500 m, is based on the criterion illustrated below.
Identification of Iberolacerta bonnali. One of the criteria allowing to separate Iberolacerta bonnali (right) from Podarcis muralis (left) is the fact that the rostral and internasal scales are in contact in the latter, as indicated by the red arrows. In the common wall lizard, these two scales are separated by the nasal scales that are in contact (blue arrows).
The common wall lizard (Podarcis muralis). This nice male adopts a position of intimidation, lowering its head and inflating its throat. The Catalan wall lizard (Podarcis liolepis), also present at Aigüestortes, is very similar to P. muralis. It can be identified by the lack of masseteric scale, the round scale that can be seen on this photo behind the eye.
Gavarnie ringlets (Erebia gorgone) mating. This species is endemic to the Pyrenean range.
The shepherd's fritillary (Boloria pales pyrenesmiscens). This subspecies is endemic to the Pyrenees, where it can be found up to 2500 m of altitude.
The pearly heath (Coenonympha arcania). As most species of this genus, the pearly heath display a series of ocelli on the underside of the posterior wings. The wide white stripe is distinctive of this species. This small butterfly is widely distributed in Europe and North Africa.
Accouplement de petite nymphe au corps de feu (Pyrrhosoma nymphula). This species is common and widespread in Europe. It is found from the plains to the mountains, here in a lake at an altitude of 2450 m !
Aragon's grasshopper (Chorthippus saulcyi moralesi). This species with short wings exhibits contrasted color markings. It is found mainly in the Iberian Peninsula.
The meadow grasshopper (Pseudochorthippus parallelus parallelus). This female shows distinctive short and pointed elytra. The meadow grasshopper is found in a wide range of habitats, but favors wetlands.
Female Podisma pedestris. This short-horned grasshopper lives in dry mountain grasslands (roughly from 1000 to 3000 m of altitude), in the Alps and Pyrenees. The female is larger than the male, less brightly colored, and has an abdomen extending beyond the knees.
Female Podisma pedestris.
Cophopodisma pyrenaea. This nice, wingless short-horned grasshopper, exhibits a distinctive body coloration with a mixture of green and pink. Endemic to the Pyrenees, it is found in rocky grasslands around 2000 m of altitude.
Callicrania ramburii. This robust species of bush cricket shows a distinctive pronotum with a quadrangular shape. The body color is usually green. This Franco-Spanish endemic is rather a mountain species, found mainly in the Pyrenean range where it occurs up to an altitude of 1900 m. It was also found in plains in the French department of the Landes.
The Pyrenean lily (Lilium pyrenaicum). This stunning lily is almost identical to the red lily (Lilium rubrum) from the French Alpes-Maritimes, except for the flowers which are yellow. Endemic to the Pyrenees, it appreciates steep rocky slopes exposed to the south, around an altitude of 2000 m. Flowering occurs in July.
The Pyrenean lily (Lilium pyrenaicum).
The Pyrenean iris (Iris latifolia). This nice iris endemic to the Pyrenees is found in well-exposed slopes. It can also be found on plateaus, where it forms vast colonies. This is a mountain plant, reaching 2300 m of altitude.
The swamp beacon (Mitrula paludosa). This strange mushroom has a bright yellow spongy cap on top of a white stem. It grows on decomposing organic matter, usually in a wet environment: here pine needles in a lake at an altitude of 2300 ! This species has a wide distribution range.