Photographing the Gallotia lizards – Part 3: Gallotia intermedia

The Tenerife Speckled Lizard (Gallotia intermedia) is the fourth largest extant species in this genus. It was also discovered quite recently — in late 90-s. The terra typica is the rocks Acantilados de Los Gigantes (Cliffs of the Giants) at the south-western coast of Tenerife. With estimated number of 1500-2000, the total population of G. intermedia is much more numerous than of G. bravoana. This species is currently known from two localities — the coastal rocks between Punto de Teno and the town of Los Gigantes, and from the Montaña de Guaza (Guaza Mountain) at the eastern end of Los Cristianos. Since the distribution area of Tenerife Speckled Lizard is quite extended, this species doesn’t appear to be in acute danger although it may suffer from predation by stray cats.

The ecology of G. intermedia appears to be similar to that of G. bravoana: It inhabits dry rocky places with scarse vegetation, at the southern or south-western coast. Unlike G. bravoana that has been found so far only on a very steep slope of a rock, G. intermedia also occurs in a more plain areas — on the Guaza Mountain and at nearby locations.

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View at Acantilados de Los Gigantes (Cliffs of the Giants) — the terra typica of Tenerife Speckled Lizard (Gallotia intermedia).

I searched for my photography subjects in both populations but again had bad luck. In the western population I tried to find the lizards at two sites — near the town of Los Gigantes and at Punto de Teno. Both locations are in the same chain of Los Gigantes rocks, but at the both ends of it. There are no doubts that I was searching in the right places, but like with the Gomera Giant Lizards, I suppose that all living beings were hiding from the heat during this extremely hot summer. Anyway I didn’t see adult lizards of any species at all. A couple of young that I finally found and photographed in Baranco Seca — a gorge of a dried river — and that I initially thought were juvenile G. intermedia later turned out to be G. galloti.

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I found this memorial plate dedicated to the discovery of Gallotia intermedia on a rock at the beginning of the paths along the Los Gigantes cliffs.

The habitat of Tenerife Speckled Lizards at Los Gigantes is very easy to find: It is on the huge cliffs — Acantilados de Los Gigantes — that you see from any point in the town. All I needed to get there was to find a street leading to the cliffs. It was Calle Tabaiba that ends with a small parking lot. A path along the cliffs starts right at it. The entrance to the path was closed with a portable fence, a warning sign was informing that the path shouldn’t be used. I supposed that this warning was intended for the inhabitants of the villas nearby — people from Germany and other countries who own holiday apartments there and may want to go to the cliffs for a walk. Indeed, I saw people searching for a way to the cliffs, and also a woman who lived in a villa told that the official recreation path was higher — near the top of the rocks.

I took that lower that was closed. First it was quite broad, and walking was absolutely no problem. At about 200m from its beginning I saw a bronze plate on a rock telling that “Lagarto Canario Moteado” — i.e. Gallotia intermedia — had been first discovered in this place. This was a sign for me that I had determined the location correctly.

This slope was still in shadow, and I didn’t hurry. A couple of times I sat down not only to rest but also to wait for the sun. Finally the sun appeared, and its light was quickly getting brighter and hotter. Against my expectation no lizards were appearing: the slope was looking lifeless. Very soon it got very hot. I continued walking and looking for any lizards. Sometimes I left the path and searched in a wider area on both sides: No lizards were around.

Till noon, when the sunshine got really strong and the entire slope was standing in it, I went only a few kilometers in one direction, and there was no sense to go further. The slopes were extremely dry. There was no water and almost no green plants. When I reach a dried river bed I saw a few young gallotias. Since there were no adult individuals of G. galloti around, I thought that they were juvenile G. intermedia, particularly because they were looking not like the juveniles of G.g. eisentrauti that I had seen on the northern coast. I photographed one of those young lizards and went back to the parking lot. On the way the accident happened that I described in the grey box above.

The second known population of the Tenerife Speckled Lizard is in the area around Guaza Mountain (Montaña de Guaza). It is in immediate proximity of Los Cristianos — one of the most popular beach holiday destinations in Tenerife. Los Cristianos itself is probably the least attractive town on the island. It consists almost entirely of giant hotels and international tourist ressorts, and is a typical sun-and-fun holiday place. Therefore, I didn’t want to stay long there and reserved only a couple of days at the end of the trip for a search for G. intermedia.

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A many kilometers long path going along Acantilados de Los Gigantes — to and through the habitat of G. intermedia. Such paths are the only ways there from Los Gigantes town.

The Guaza Mountain itself and the land around it is officially protected as a nature reserve – Paraje Natural Montaña de Guaza. Nevertheless, the access to it is neither restricted nor regulated. Everyone can just drive closer to it, leave the car somewhere and walk to the mountain.

It is less than 400 m high, looks more like a hill, and is very easy to climb. The slopes aren’t steep. It surprised me that the habitat on Guaza Mountain was very different from what I had seen at Los Gigantes. However, just like there, the Tenerife Speckled Lizard was also here sympatric with the Western Canaries Lizard (Gallotia g. galloti). The latter were very common but hard even to see because they were very shy. Of G. intermedia I have seen no signs at all.

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A view at Montaña de Guaza (Guaza Mountain) from the balcony of my apartment in Los Cristianos. The second known population of Tenerife Speckled Lizard (Gallotia intermedia) that lives on this mountain was the reason for me to chose this hotel.

The weather was again very hot, and there were almost no green plants around except prickly pears (Opuntia). I am sure that heat was the reason why almost no living beings were active.

There is a hill adjacent to Guaza Mountain whose western slope ends in the ocean. According to the information that I had gathered, the Tenerife Speckled Lizards are found closer to the coast, i.e. on this hill which can be regarded as belonging to Guaza Mountain in a broad sense. The next day I searched on this hill too but found it empty: There weren’t even G. galloti around.

Since Monataña de Guaza is so close to the south airport of Tenerife “Aeropuerto Reina Sofia” where many flights from Europe land and since the harbor of Los Cristianos is connected by ferries with other islands, I am certainly planning to repeat the search in this place during my future travels to Canary Islands.

To be continued in Part 4: Gallotia galloti.

Herping lens for Pentax

In May this year I have posted a list of close focusing wide-angle lenses that are suitable for herp photography. Here is another lens for this list that I found later:

smc Pentax DA 10-17mm F3.5-4.5 ED (IF) Fisheye

This lens has a KAF bajonett and hence is suitable only for Pentax DSLR. It has not only very nice short focusing distance of only 14 cm over the entire zoom range. In so-called “super macro” mode its working distance can be reduced to only 2.5 cm. This lens also allows precise manual focusing even with autofocus turned on.