Where are the European Tree Frogs?

2012_04_24 PB - European Tree Frog (Hyla arborea) 15
Iberian Tree Frog (Hyla arborea molleri)

Yesterday my friend, Javi, and I went to Piedrabuena with our bikes for a cycle up into the woods to see what we could see. The bird life was a bit slow at that time of the afternoon, but we managed to see Cuckoos (Cuculus canorus), a Booted Eagle (Aquila pennata), Black (Aegypius monachus) and Griffin (Gyps fulvus) Vultures, a Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla), and a Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) which were the birding highlights of the day. Mammal highlights were in the form of Muflon, Red Deer and two enormous Wild Boars, the biggest we had ever seen. But it wasn’t until the after-cycle beer that we found the best surprise of the day, an Iberian Tree Frog (Hyla arborea molleri).

2012_04_24 PB - European Tree Frog (Hyla arborea) 17
Iberian Tree Frog (Hyla arborea molleri)

Due to recent information from a fellow blogger Francisco Zamora I am editing this entry. Previously I had commented here that Wikipedia said that Hyla arborea does not exist in Spain or Portugal. It so happens that there was a new subspecies declared in 2010 whereby the Tree Frogs we have here are now a new subspecies, Hyla arborea molleri. So wikipedia is correct I suppose, not that they always are, but they still have yet to incorporate H.a. molleri into their database.
So how do we tell the Iberian Tree Frog from H.a. molleri from the Mediterranean Tree Frog H. meridionalis? Well, the dark brown stripe along the side of the frog is very visible whereas the Mediterranean Tree Frog (Hyla meridionalis) has no stripe behind it’s front legs. You can also see the forwards and upwards branch of the stripe just before the hind leg. However I have still yet to learn the differences between the nominate H.arborea and the subspecies H.a. molleri. It’s probably genetic anyway.

2012_04_24 PB - European Tree Frog (Hyla arborea) 09
Iberian Tree Frog (Hyla arborea molleri)
We were just walking about the garden looking at Javis tree plantation, he’s a great man for trees and plants, and just next to the strawberry bed, 10 metres from water, in a small palm-type plant something jumped. Well you should have seen how excited we were when we saw the sweet-sized green amphibian. The tiny thing was like a super-model posing for us and making a small movement every now and again giving us different angles for our shots. We were sparing with the use of flash for fear of disturbing it too much, but as you can see, the difference between the shot above and all the others is quite noticeable. It was very much in the shade making things difficult.
2012_04_24 PB - European Tree Frog (Hyla arborea) 14
Iberian Tree Frog (Hyla arborea molleri)

Seeing a tree frog has been something I have wanted for years, ever since seeing them on a David Attenborough programme as a kid and from looking at that famous tree frog picture on a poster in my house at university, but I never thought I’d see one in Spain until I found out about them a few years back. They are quite tricky to find although you can hear them all the time as they can blend in rather well amongst green vegetation. I suppose people think of tree frogs as amazonian, jungle dwellers with pygmies using them for poisonous darts. But no, here in La Mancha and other parts of Spain we too have tree frogs despite the current drought.

 Go birding and frogging in La Mancha with Oretani Wildlife

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