Finding Fun in Flora and Fauna

There’s a lot to explore here in Portugal, but since the pandemic restrictions came into force, I’ve been limited to backyard biking and hiking.

That said, there’s still a lot of new things to discover, with insects, plants, flowers and wildlife, lots of which I’ve not come across before.

Here’s a few of my favourite discoveries from around the house and some of the trails that I’ve been exploring over the past seventeen months.

Fire Salamander – November 2019 & February 2021

This little fire salamander was creeping around outside my house one night. It was about the size of the palm of my hand. I’d never seen one before and have since found one living under the boards in my woodshed. When it’s pouring with rain, lots come out of the undergrowth and you see them on the roads. Extremely cool.

(I should have a nature-nerd-ometer on here – this little thing would be at the top of the scale!)

Conehead Mantis – September 2020

This little conehead mantis was hanging around on the fly nets on my balcony last summer. Pretty cool I have to say. It was about an inch and a half long and at first glance I thought it was a twig stuck in the nets. About a month later, one of the cats brought in a bigger one which I managed to rescue and take back outside. Funky looking beasties.

Snakes – May 2020

I’m not sure what kind of snakes these are (apparently not poisonous) but they were having a great time on the road just down from where I live. Looks like there are plenty to to find in Portugal.. The commentary is pretty funny.. 😉

Pixie Cup Lichen

This teeny lichen has a great name, and I’ve also never seen them before, although apparently they’re common in the UK too (thanks Chloe!)


I’ve had two experiences with hornets since I lived here. The normal type of European hornets was a little more close to home than I wanted. When I say “close” there was actually a nest in the chimney above the kitchen when I moved in. They found a way out through the kitchen extractor fan and were flying slowly round the kitchen… . This is my neighbour Aida in her mother’s beekeeping gear wrapping netting round the chimney after removing the nest…

The other type was the Asian hornet otherwise known as murder hornets. Luckily this one was dead on my driveway, but a nest was found a few hundred metres down the road, which the council had to come and destroy.. Scary shit. I really don’t want the cats to try and catch one of these buggers, or the other type of hornets.. they will try to eat anything…

Funky moth – September 2020

This was dead, hanging upside down in a spider’s web, but still very pretty. It’s called a Discrete chaperon (the mind boggles what it gets up to at night :p)

Giant bee – August 2020

This Violet carpenter bee was pretty amazing to see. It was the size of my thumb, slowly buzzing around the flowers and looked blue-black in the sunlight. Very cool.

Giant plants – January 2020

Some of the plants here get pretty big. This is my sister messing around on a visit last year.

Strange sounds in the night – February 2020

I think this may have been deer honking away in the forest off to one side of the house. It was so loud I could hear it over the TV so I went outside to investigate. Needless to say, I couldn’t see a thing… Likely to be roe deer though, as I’ve seen a small family of them really early one morning on that same side of the forest.

Wild boar – April 2020

These guys are often around the house at night, snuffling around in the undergrowth and making piggy noises in the dark. If you turn the sound up REALLY loud on this video you can hear them..

I crept out onto the balcony to see them snorting and snuffling about. They were pretty common in Chamonix, but I’ve never manged to get so close.

Sculpted pine borer – May 2020

This is the shiniest bug I’ve ever seen. It actually flew into my head, so I swatted it away and sadly killed it… 😦

Swallowtail butterfly – August 2020

This swallowtail was a real treat to see. It hung around for a while enjoying the marigolds. Really pretty.

Red admiral butterfly – May 2020

I also had a visit from this red admiral last year.

Funky spider web – September 2020

This really caught my eye, it looks so complex. I have no idea what kind of spider makes these webs and I wasn’t going to get any closer to look…!

Churchyard Beetle – March 2021

This hulking great thing (which I’m not sure I’ve identified correctly and Seek didn’t recognise) was mooching about near my front door a few days ago. I moved it before the cats found it.. Is it a churchyard beetle or something else? I might send this one to iNaturalist to find out..

Here are some more flowers I spotted on walks around the woods and the dirt roads nearby.

The app I use to identify things is called Seek. I highly recommend it, for almost instant identification when you’re out and about… plus you can join biodiversity challenges and check out more information about the things you spot. Enjoy! 🙂

Published by mtbgirl808

I'm a girl who's happiest on two wheels. I've worked as a writer and editor, but also love to write outside of work. This blog is a collection of some of my travels and mini-adventures, a place to pour out my thoughts and share some photos.

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