Birdwatching, Costa Blanca

Birdwatching, Costa Blanca

Birdwatching Costa Blanca, Urban Birding in Benidorm by James Common

James Common has very kindly agreed for us to share his blog here on our website.  If you would like to follow James then you can do so HERE.   Thanks James.

Birdwatching, Costa Blanca - November 14th 2015

So contrary to expectations, I managed to survive a week in Benidorm! Such places, jam packed with people, loud music and twenty-four hour nightclubs are not usually my first choice of holiday destinations, mainly because they often lack wildlife. This week found me pleasantly surprised however and I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Spain. Sadly I was unable to venture out of the city during the week though this was of little importance with a great line-up of birds, butterflies and other beasties to enjoy. Urban birding has it’s perks it seems!

Starting out as ever with the feathered things and with 51 species noted amid the glaring lights and constant music I find myself unable to complain! First up the seafront and a few visits here provided a few goodies though I did receive a few odd looks prowling around, bins in toe amid the thousands of sunbathing British Grandmothers. Here Black-Headed Gull and Yellow-Legged Gull were numerous. The latter proving particularly confiding. Two tern species were also picked up though the second, a rather dainty looking bird remains unidentified due to poor views. Drat. Still, the Sandwich Terns here but on a fine show, as did the numerous Shags that fished behind the breakers. Both Little Egret Grey Heron stalked the rocky areas here and Common Swift and Barn Swallow were picked up hawking above the beach. On a few occasions fishing boats passed by with a escort of rather nimble looking gulls, Auduoin’s perhaps but I will never know. Elsewhere the only other things to be seen along the coast comprised stacks of Feral Pigeons and an all to brief Peregrine which shot through in pursuit of one rather unlucky dove.

Birdwatching, Costa BlancaBirdwatching, Costa Blanca

Birdwatching, Costa Blanca

Moving on, Benidorm surprised me, showcasing a number of “green areas” within the city itself. Most of my outings during the week focused on these areas and thankfully I was rewarded with a number of great birds. One of the highlights here was a delightful Hoopoe though this was followed closely by Firecrest and Sardinian Warbler, both of which were extremely numerous! The various stands of pine that held the aforementioned crests were also jam-packed with GoldcrestGreat TitChiffchaff and Blackcap though good numbers of Common Crossbill were a tad more interesting. I did manage glimpse an “unknown warbler” here during one of my morning excursions though it quickly disappeared never to be seen again. Based on the overall shape, colour and rather thick bill I feel confident angling towards Melodious Warbler though as ever, when unsure, no ID was made. Black Redstarts were prolific here with over 100 seen during my stay, outnumbered only by Benidorm’s Feral pigeons! I am used to seeing these birds in ones or twos, often while freezing on the Northumberland coastline so these proved particularly enjoyable!

A few jaunts to building sites and various other wasteland sites produced yet more familiar British birds including GoldfinchGreenfinchMeadow PipitCommon StarlingCollared Dove, and Woodpigeon alongside the more noteworthy additions of White WagtailSerin and yet more Black Redstarts. Serin was a much sought after lifer for me prior to this trip and these colourful little finches did not disappoint. Notes taken, I now stand ready to unearth one of these in the UK in the future.. I can dream can’t I? Also here a number of Spotless Starling were seen though these proved rather timid.

Birdwatching, Costa BlancaBirdwatching, Costa Blanca

Birdwatching, Costa Blanca

Benidorm is thankfully surrounded by some rather pleasant mountains and the suburban fringe where city meets sand provided an exciting change of scenery. The undisputed highlight here (and perhaps of the whole holiday) was the numerous Crag Martins zipping too and throw overhead. At least 45 of these birds were seen together at one point and made for quite a show, providing another nice lifer in the process. With them a few more interesting species including some very noisy Dartford WarblersRavenStonechatBlackbird Song Thrush. The same area also provided the trips only Long-Tailed Tits on top of more Firecrest, Sardinian Warbler and you guessed it, Black Redstarts. On one early excursion I found the place virtually empty and opted for a quick dip in the sea in a rather secluded cove. Here various tropical fish, sea cucumbers and odd looking crabs made for a memorable encounter and another Peregrine graced me with its presence as I attempted to haul myself out of the sea upon realising a line of German tourists had assembled behind me with cameras! So much for being alone.

Heading back to Alicante airport on Friday, two Iberian Grey Shrikes and a Green Woodpecker provided nice views, the former giving me my final lifer of the trip. Not bad at all though birds were not all to be seen in and around Benidorm.

Butterflies proved a mainstay of my week with the highlight a glorious Scarce Swallowtail (shown left) which at one point decided to use me as a perch! Clouded Yellows were numerous here, as were both Large Small White while a few equally familiar species were observed including WallPainted Lady Red Admiral. Aside from the Swallowtail the only other new species comprised a good number of Long-Tailed Blues scattered along the coastline. A real energetic gem of a butterfly and one that proved incredibly hard to photograph! My best attempt is shown below. Butterflies aside lots of interesting (and in some cases rather large) Grasshoppers also proved entertaining and a whopping great spider was revealed to be Araneus angulatus, a rather large and fearsome relative of the Garden Spider and one that is rather scarce in the UK. This one had made a meal of an unfortunate Clouded Yellow.

So as you can see, there is far more to Benidorm than just sex and Sangria! The week proved most enjoyable though now that I am back in the real world I should get back to the arduous process of conservation based job seeking *sigh*

Birdwatching, Costa Blanca November 20th 2017

Another week, another adventure, this time to the tourist hotspot and renowned centre of debauchery that is Benidorm. A location I first visited on a family getaway two years ago that, much to my surprise, I found to be a rather fantastic spot for some urban wildlife watching. Well, fast forward a couple of years and this past week, once again, I found myself pacing the cities sunny outskirts, hectic streets and forgotten areas in search of some of the party destinations less conspicuous inhabitants. Between festival activities, that is – this was not a birding holiday per say.

Staying in the Belroy Hotel, my first encounter came on our first day when, at dusk, the characteristic call of wagtails was heard from our balcony. Scanning the adjacent rooftops, it soon became apparent that the opposing hotel was favoured by the local White Wagtails as a roost site; with upwards of 100 birds arriving in loose flocks during the proceeding hour. A spectacle which, much to my delight, repeated each and every night during our stay.

Early morning watches from the comfort of the balcony saw the wagtails long gone – the monochrome ones rising far earlier that I – though that same rooftop later yielded Spotless Staring, Black Redstart and my first Blue Rock Thrush of the trip – a rather pristine male. Not to mention the many Crag Martins elegantly traversing the skies at eye-level with my makeshift viewpoint, accompanied on occasion by the odd Pallid Swift.

Venturing out into the streets before the inevitable rise of my fellow Britons proved worthwhile; the roadside palms and plain trees chiming with the merry twittering of Serin and Goldfinch and, of course, the familiar chirrup of the cities many House Sparrows. It was the larger gardens and scant parks that yielded the greatest reward, however, with one particular visit to a nearby skatepark producing 13 Sardinian Warbler (the first of many seen throughout the trip), Long-tailed Tit, Firecrest and, best of all, Crested Tit. The experience here amplified by a hovering Kestrel and a handful of Little Egrets passing overhead at first light.

Perhaps the best birding of the trip was had amid the more luxurious villas located along the cities boundary with Serra Gelada National Park to the west. Here, the cherry on top of an outing on the second day came in the form of a stunning, and very confiding, male Black Wheatear; though a surprise Short-eared Owl came a close second. Indeed, I had no idea this species could be seen here, and seeing one quartering above Mediterranean coastal shrubbery was a far cry from the windswept moors of Northern England or the Scottish Highlands. Similarly, a covey of five Red-legged Partridge here was also nice to see – a familiar species in the UK, yes, but one I had not yet seen in their natural environment.

Birdwatching, Costa Blanca

Birdwatching, Costa Blanca Red-Legged Partridge – Benidorm

The fringes of Serra Gelada were the focus of much of my birding exploits during the week: with two more Black Wheatear seen during my last visit, alongside a trip-tick Dartford Warbler, two Raven and a further four Blue Rock Thrush. Not to mention countless more Black Redstart, Sardinian Warbler, Crag Marten and Firecrest and a few more familiar additions to the weeks tally: Meadow Pipit, Greenfinch, Chiffchaff, Linnet and Robin. A flyover large raptor here, far too distant to properly scrutinise, providing a tantalising hint of things to come upon a brief outing on the bus to nearby Calpe.

Having heard much of Calpe before our trip, it was only fitting that myself and Matt set some time aside for a proper outing before we were forced to head home. We did this on the third day; arriving at the inner-city Salt Lake early in the morning and immediately finding ourselves greeted by 47 Greater Flamingos feeding contently by the roadside. A first for me, having never before seen this species in the wild, and a queer sight to behold, in truth. Flamingos with a backdrop of high-rise accommodation and passing traffic, not something I had thought to see anytime soon. Also here, a number of Shelduck, Cattle Egret and Moorhen provided new additions to the growing trip list and a passing birder was kind enough to draw our attention to an overhead Booted Eagle – another lifer. What a bird!

Greater Flamingo – Calpe

The real highlight of our stay at Calpe, however, came in the form of a lone gull sitting alone towards the Northern shore – far removed from the squabbling hoards of Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls amassed in the interior of the lake. Drawing closer, the identity of the pristine-looking bird soon became clear: Auduoin’s Gull – perhaps my most hoped for target of the trip and, by all accounts, a splendid bird to behold. The gull was enjoyed until our busy schedule forced us to depart for a whistle-stop tour of the Pobla de Ifac, where another male Blue Rock Thrush was the highlight of a decent cast of more familiar species. Including the ONLY Great Tit seen throughout the entire trip.

Audouin’s Gull – Calpe

Back in Benidorm, our final ventures of the week saw us add Iberian Green Woodpecker to the trip-list; while a single Crested Lark was unearthed on a local building site. Taking a much more touristy trip to Benidorm Island, it was similarly great to immerse ourselves in the resident Yellow-legged Gull colony; while the short boat voyage to our destination provided sightings of Shag, Greater Cormorant and Sandwich Tern.

A brief mention should be given to Benidorm´s non-avian inhabitants that also amused throughout the week. With butterfly sightings including Swallowtail, Clouded Yellow, Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Wall, Long-tailed Blue and Lang’s Short-tailed Blue, there was plenty to look at on this front. A notable bonus coming in the form of my first ever Silver-striped Hawkmoth (pictured below) found hiding in the shade cast by a local supermarket.

Silver-striped Hawkmoth – Benidorm

Lang’s Short-tailed Blue – Benidorm

Greater Flamingos against an urban skyline


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Jellyfish Safety

Jellyfish Safety

Jellyfish, vary in both harmful and harmless varieties, and are a very common sight along our local coastlines.

Jellyfish have been around for millions of years, even before dinosaurs lived on the Earth. Pulsing along on our ocean currents, these jelly-like creatures can be found in waters both cold and warm, deep and shallow and along coastlines, too. Some jellyfish are clear, but others are vibrant colours of pink, yellow, blue and purple. They can be bioluminescent, too, which means they produce their own light!

They are normally in swarms, making them easily seen and, in theory at least, easily avoided. Jellyfish are normally to be found between 20 and 40 miles from the coast where the waters are warmer and saltier,  However, Hot summer weather will bring them in much closer to shore, when people are bathing, so sting numbers increase dramatically.

The numbers of jellyfish in any given year are dependent on several factors. A warm, dry winter and spring inland, for example, will normally lead to a high build-up of jellyfish at sea. However, when freshwater river input into the sea is lower due to lack of rain, salinity increases and this allows them to breach the barrier. Other factors include winds and sea currents as jellyfish just drift along in the currents.

Information about Beaches in Benidorm and The best Beaches on the Costa Blanca

Jellyfish safety App Available

Medusapp allows anyone to warn of sighting of a jellyfish and offer in real time a map of the places where their presence is detected.

Links to the App can be found here and are in English as well https://medusapp.net/

Jellyfish Safety, Medusapp

Medusapp logo

Stay safe on the beaches always follow the life guards warning flag system.

Medusapp allows you to send both the photo of the species and the abundance and estimated size, data that is published on a map on www.medusapp.net and which can also be accessed from the application itself. The user can send a photo of the jellyfish, in the case of sightings; and in the bites, you can also send them, also explaining how long it has been since it was produced or type of species that has bitten you.

In addition, it is able to notify the user if there have been sightings in recent days within a radius of 5 km from their position, being able to generate a quick global report on the situation maps . "It is also possible to consult the sightings in any range of dates and / or species desired,"

A sketch of the human body has also been added , which helps indicate the bite area, new maps, as well as filters that make navigation through the application more accessible and friendly. 

Didactic and first aid guide

The new version of Medusapp also has a didactic guide and images of the main jellyfish and an interactive first aid guide, with recommendations in case of bites/stings depending on the species. All this information comes from the LIFE Cubomed project, in which César Bordehore, a researcher at the UA, participates, together with personnel from the Institute of Marine Sciences of the CSIC in Barcelona.

Medusapp is available for both Android and iOS, and it works both online and offline in case there is no coverage or it is preferred to send from WiFi coverage once the information is collected.

Beach Safety

If you see this flag flying on the beach, do not enter the water, it may also be seen as just a purple flag and means the presence of possible dangerous marine life.

Jellyfish safety

Jellyfish that can be found in the Mediterranean sea

The Portuguese man-of-war

June 2019 2 of Benidorm´s beaches were closed for a short while due to the sighting of 2 Portuguese man o war

This is very often mistaken for a jellyfish. Not only is it not a jellyfish, it’s not even an “it,” but a “they.” The Portuguese man-of-war is a siphonophore, an animal made up of a colony of organisms working together.

When a man o’ war stings, its long tentacles release thousands of microscopic venom-injecting capsules called nematocysts. On contact with skin, the nematocysts deliver a toxic chemical cocktail into its victim. The effects of this venom can range from mild to life threatening, but typically include immediate pain that can last upwards of 15 to 20 minutes. In more severe cases, a sting can trigger chest pain, difficulty breathing, and even death.

Jellyfish Safety, Portuguese man of war

If you are stung the main thing is to remove the remains of tentacles with tweezers or a plastic card, without rubbing, and inactivate the stinging cells that could remain on the skin with a mixture of bicarbonate and seawater," recalls the expert in marine ecology of the UA.

Experiments show that the best way to treat a sting from a man o’ war is to rinse the wound with vinegar to remove any residual stingers or bits of tentacle left on the skin, and then immerse the wound in hot water—ideally at a temperature of 113 degrees F (45 degrees C)—for 45 minutes. A hot pack will substitute nicely for the hot water, even a quick, 30-second wash of diluted vinegar will help.

As for other treatments, such as alcohol, urine, baking soda, lemon juice, regular cola, and seawater, they will not really heap but are more likely  to worsen stings.” The application of seawater—a fairly common prescription—can be particularly bad by spreading the stinging capsules over more skin area, making the situation worse.

If you spot or suspect you have seen a Portuguese man of war in the sea  or on the beach please report it immediately to the nearest life guard or first aid point. But beware—even dead man-of-wars washed up on beach can deliver a sting.

Pelagia Noctiluca, Clavel jellfish

Known in English as the mauve stinger or the purple-striped jelly, In Latin, pelagia means "of the sea", nocti stands for night and luca means light as this jellyfish has the ability to glow in the dark.

Pelagia noctiluca are fairly small jellyfish with adults having a bell diameter of 3–12 cm (1.2–4.7 in), They range in colour from mauve, purple, pink, light brown to yellow.

These normally arrive at our shores around June.

Jellyfish Safety, clavel Jellyfish

They are considered the most important stinging jellyfish in the Mediterranean Sea as both its tentacles and—unusual among jellyfish—the bell are covered in cnidocytes (stinging cells), and even recently dead, stranded individuals can sting.

The sting causes pain that typically lasts 1–2 weeks, local redness, swelling and a rash, but it is generally not dangerous and there are no known fatalities symptoms may be more general and include dizziness, vomiting and diarrhea. Sudden recurrent skin eruptions may occur years later. Rarely, the sting can cause a serious allergic reaction and leave scars or hyperpigmented marks on the skin that can remain for years after the encounter.

Cotylorhiza tuberculata, commonly known as Mediterranean jellyfishMediterranean jelly or fried egg jellyfish or Watercolour

Has a characteristic shape, with a flattened, yellowish-brown umbrella, and a prominent brown-orange central bulge, reminiscent of the shape of a fried egg.  It is common in the Mediterranean. 

It can reach 40 cm (16 in) in diameter, but is usually less than 17 cm (6.7 in) wide.  The effects of its sting are very mild, not going beyond a slight itching and skin irritation. However it can cause allergies to more sensitive people, these allergies usually involve itching and scratching in the stung area.

These are prominent from July to November and reproduce during August and October.

Blue jellyfish/Purple sailor jellyfish (velella velella)

Also know as Sailfish jellyfish as they have a kind of fin or sail with which they capture the wind to drift across the Mediterranean in large floating colonies.

Don´t panic if you see some of these jellyfish (velella velella) washed up on Benidorm´s beaches. These are NOT dangerous and will produce no reaction if they come into contact with the skin.


Treating Jellyfish Stings

Toxins stay in the tentacles even in dead jellyfish, so DO NOT touch them.

Find your nearest lifeguard for advice.

Symptoms can include

Burning in the contact area, tingling or stabbing pain.

Red, brown or purple markings on the skin area where contact with the jellyfish has occurred.



Throbbing pain.

If any tentacles remain stuck to the skin after exiting the water, remove them using a flat object (like a credit card). Do not rub them off with your hands (you don’t want more stings!) or a towel (which can aggravate the sting even more). 

Rinse the sting with seawater or a saline mix.  NEVER use fresh water, as due to differences in osmotic pressure, the remaining stinging cells could explode and spread more poison.

Next, deactivate the stingers: Rinsing with vinegar for at least 30 seconds works for some species, while a paste of baking soda and seawater works for sings caused by Portuguese man-of-war and sea nettle jellyfish.

Apply something cold (no more than 20 minutes) can be applied to the affected area using for example a plastic bag containing ice, to avoid inflammation and reduce pain. Do not apply ice directly as it can cause burns.

Relieve pain by soaking the sting in hot water for at least 20 minutes. Pain can be treated with a heat pack for some pain relief.

Apply insect bite creams that lists ‘…ocaine‘ as an ingredient.

Note: Despite the folklore, urinating on a jellyfish sting may actually cause the stingers to release more venom, rather than providing relief. Keep your pee to yourself.

It is also important to avoid exposing the wound to sunlight, and do not scratch it.

If there is continued swelling, or itchiness, apply a light steroid cream e.g. Hydrocortisone eczema cream.

• if muscle spasms persist see a doctor.


Dangerous Insects and Reptiles in Spain 

Dangerous insects and Reptiles in Spain - As in every country there are literally 1000´s of different species of insects and reptiles, most are not dangerous to humans but some can be.  The insects and reptiles listed on this page can be dangerous to humans and/or animals.

The page has been kindly sponsored by the Blues Brothers Experience Benidorm

For non dangerous creepy crawlies (insects and reptiles) check out this page

What’s the Difference Between Venomous and Poisonous?

According to biologists, the term venomous is applied to organisms that bite (or sting) to inject their toxins, whereas the term poisonous applies to organisms that unload toxins via touch or other routes, both are obviously "Dangerous"

Bees, Hornets and Wasps etc

Asian predatory wasp or hornet (Vespa velutina)

These nasty hornets entered Spain in 2010 The 'Vespa velutina' is an invasive species from Asia, specifically from northern India and China. The velutina does not pose more danger to humans than that of the native species but cases of allergic reactions to velutin stings have increased significantly in recent years. 

Asian wasps measure 3 centimeters. They are as big as a euro.

Dangerous insects and reptiles in Spain, Asian Hornet

The sting from any of these insects can be very painful and deadly if you have an allergic reaction. 

Try to withdraw the sting immediately but do not use tweezers because squeezing or pressing the sting can inject more poison into the skin.

It is recommended that you scratch off the sting with your fingernail, a knife or the edge of a credit card. Normal reaction to a sting is pain, itching and swelling of the injured area but these symptoms will pass off within hours.

Treatment: Clean the injured area and bathe with cold water.

Warning: Some people are severely sensitive to insect venom and can suffer respiratory and cardiac problems. If a person who has been stung shows signs of wheezingbreathing difficulties and/or facial swelling or has a rapid pulse, it is a sign that he/she has an allergy.
Do not delay: Call an ambulance or get to a hospital casualty department immediately. An allergy to such a sting can be life threatening. Call 112 in case of emergency.

Dangerous insects and reptiles in Spain


Dangerous insects and reptiles in Spain, Processionary Pine Caterpillars

These Caterpillars (Thaumetopoea Pityocampa) may look cute and furry, but they are very DANGEROUS to children and especially dogs.  DO NOT TOUCH THEM.

These are one of the most dangerous natural enemies to dogs and can be found all over Spain. Some have even made their way to parts of the UK:

The processionary pine caterpillar as the name suggests makes its home in a certain type of pine tree., damaging the trees over a period of time.  These trees are very popular here in Spain and are a protected species so even if you have pine trees in the garden you cannot cut them down.

There is only one generation per year and most of the time the caterpillars are not seen and therefore not a threat. Read more HERE


Europe was rife with malaria until the middle of the 20th century but Spain made great efforts to clear its wetlands where the problem was endemic and in 1964 malaria was declared to be eradicated from the country.

Asian Tiger Mosquito

The tiger mosquito has begun to spread through the interior of the province 

The Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) is a small black and white mosquito, about 1/4-inch long. The name "tiger mosquito" comes from its white and black pattern. It has a white stripe running down the center of its head and back with white bands on the legs.  Unfortunately this mosquito can now be found in Spain.

The bite of the Asian tiger mosquito is not particularly irritating to most people, but they are persistent biters. The main difference between these and a normal mosquito is Asian tiger mosquito are active during the day.

Mosquito bites aren’t just a painful nuisance, they can pass on serious diseases to both humans and animals. Read more about Mosquitos HERE

Biting Midges – No-See-Ums

At certain times of the year these bites are inflicted by a very small black fly. This fly is part of the Ceratopogonidae family, and due to their small size are commonly known as NO-SEE-UMS. The common problem upon experiencing a bite from this insect is that you can feel something is biting, but the person suffering cannot see what it is. Biting midges are sometimes incorrectly referred to as sand flies. Sand flies are insects that belong to a different biological group and should not be confused with the biting midges. Read more HERE


Centipedes are generally considered to be more of a nuisance than a nasty, unless you have an allergy to their venom. They can give a sting, unpleasant but not dangerous, however all centipedes should be considered hazardous just in case you are one of the unfortunates who have the allergy.

Mediterranean Tiger Centipede – Escolopendra tigra 

Dangerous insects and reptiles in Spain, Tiger Centipede

Found throughout Southern Spain and North Africa. The Mediterranean Tiger centipede is largest in Europe and can grow up to 150mm in length. The centipede’s markings change, depending on location.

Generally they are yellow with black stripes, hence the name tiger. Nocturnal and venomous; they can give a nasty bite. Rarely lethal, unless allergic to the venom, their stings are none-the-less extremely painful and require medical assistance. They have been given a toxic rating of two.

Dangerous insects and reptiles in Spain


Mediterranean Scorpion (Buthus Occitanus - Escorpion Amarillo) 

Dangerous insects and reptiles in Spain, Mediterranean Scorpion

The most common scorpion in Spain is the Mediterranean scorpion (Buthus occitanus, escorpión amarillo or just alacrán) it can give you an extremely nasty sting. You might want to think about wearing boots and thick socks if you plan to hike in dry rocky areas (most of wild Spain) as they are by no means rare. The females will eat the males if food is short on the ground.

The European black scorpion is also present in Spain, preferring more northerly and wetter areas. It's sting is short-lived. Scorpions like resting in your shoes, so give them a shake before putting your feet in.

Dangerous insects and reptiles in Spain


There are more than 1,700 species of spider in Spain but only four are in way harmful to humans.

Mediterranean Tarantulas

Dangerous insects and reptiles in Spain, Mediterranean tarantulas

A spider with a look that is worse than the bite. A Mediterranean Tarantula can be up to 14cms with a body the size of an egg. The bite gives you pain, but the effect is not worse than a wasp sting. Greater discomfort can be caused if removing the bristles on the back when it is threatened. This gives the same feeling as when you get fiberglass strands on your skin and can irritate for days. The spider is a night hunter, so it is unlikely that you will see it unless you love hiking at night time.

Mediterranean Funnel Web spider 

Dangerous insects and reptiles in Spain, Funnel web spider

This spider is linked to their lethal cousins ​​in Australia and especially in Sydney. Mediterranean funnel web spider looks impressive and staying in typical funnel-shaped net. The bite is causing a sting instead of a serious bite. Look for them or avoid them in the thickets and woods or a shady spot behind the sheds, together with garages or in hedges. Active all year during the day and night and is one of the most common spiders along the Mediterranean Sea and the coastal areas.

Black Widow Spider

Black Widow Spider

(Latrodectus Tredecimguttatus) is the most widely distributed species in Europe and is the most dangerous spider in Spain giving a nasty bite but not fatal. Whilst they are rare, it is said to be commonest in the arid parts of Almeria and Aragon and also in the Valencia and Andalucian regions.  They are found in scrub and in Spain’s mild climate and is active all year round, but are more likely to be seen during the mating season. The adult female is shiny and black with a red hourglass-shaped mark on the belly. The male’s brand, which is also hourglass-shaped, from yellow to white with a varying shade of orange and red. It also carries a small dot near the spinning gland which can vary in color. Usually it is also red, but separated from the hourglass. A large female spider of this subspecies can be about 3.7 cm long including legs. The body is then approximately 1.2-1.5 cm, while the male is at most half as large as the female.

Brown Recluse Spiders

(Loxosceles Reclusa) are found in parts of Spain but are less virulent than in other parts of the world and is not lethal. Bites from this spider cause a tender blister to develop, characteristically with a “bull’s eye” appearance (a red centre). At the time a person is bitten, it is often hardly noticeable and it can be several hours before the venom to takes effect. Then, it is very painful.

Symptoms of a spider bite

If you are bitten: Always try to kill the spider and keep the body. This helps the doctor to identify which spider anti venom is needed for treatment.

Using images alone, it can be difficult to distinguish a spider bite from other insects. To receive the proper treatment, it is important to recognize the symptoms of a spider bite.

1. Before you can examine it, it is important to wash the wound with soap and water. This will make identification bite much easier.
2. Check to see if the bite is raised. A common symptom of spider bite is that the skin becomes irritated and raised. It may look like a blister and will probably itch or sting. If the bite diminishes or disappears, it is probably a common house spider or other insect.
3. If you experience nausea, headache, severe skin damage, a lot of pain, or muscle spasms. Is this the signs and symptoms of a serious spider bite and you should see a doctor immediately.

Seeing a spider bite it is important that you get antivenom that you get at most pharmacies, hospitals and among physicians in Spain. It is recommended to kill the spider and take it with you for identification.

Treatment: Do not ignore bites. Always get medical attention as early as possible.

Dangerous insects and reptiles in Spain


Ticks are small, blood-sucking bugs. They can range in size from as small as a pin head to as large as a pencil eraser they have eight legs and are classed as arachnids, which means they’re related to spiders. There are different kinds of ticks and they range in colour from shades of brown to reddish brown and black.

Ticks are prevalent in Spain and they can transmit nasty diseases to your pet such as canine Babesiosis and Ehrlichiosis. They can cause dogs and cats incurable damage which incurs lifelong administration of drugs. There is as yet no known cure.

As they take in more blood, ticks grow. At their largest, ticks can be about the size of a marble. After a tick has been feeding on its host for several days, they become engorged and can turn a greenish-blue colour.

How to remove a tick

The most important thing to do when you find a tick is to remove it. You can remove the tick yourself with a tick removal tool or with a set of tweezers.

Follow these steps:  Grasp the tick as close as you can to your skin’s surface.

Pull straight up and away from the skin, applying steady pressure. Try not to bend or twist the tick.

Check the bite site to see if you left any of the tick’s head or mouth parts in the bite. If so, remove those.

Clean the bite site with soap and water.

Once you’ve removed the tick, submerge it in rubbing alcohol to make sure it’s dead. Place it in a sealed container.

This also seems to work Apply a glob of liquid soap to a cotton ball. Cover the tick with the soap-soaked cotton ball and swab it for a few seconds (15-20); the tick will come out on its own and be stuck to the cotton ball when you lift it away

If you find one on your pet, it is suggested that the tick should be doused with alcohol or spirit. This makes the tick contract and allows you to pull it out whole. Leaving a portion of the tick inside the dog/cat is likely to cause an abscess.

Prevention and Treatment for your pets: Various forms of prevention are available such as special collars against Sand fly, this will not also protect against Ticks and wearing Anti Tick and Sand Fly collars together is detrimental to the dog’s health, you can also protect your pets with anti tick drops which do not react against the chemicals in the collar. These drops are easily placed around the pet’s neck.

If ignored, in exceptional cases, tick fever can be fatal to the animal. It is most important that you are advised by a qualified vet.

For humans tick bites are usually harmless and may produce no symptoms. However, if you’re allergic to tick bites, you may experience: Pain or swelling at the bite site, a rash, a burning sensation at the bite site, blisters, difficulty breathing, if severe.  

Some ticks carry diseases, which can be passed on when they bite.  Tick-borne diseases can cause a variety of symptoms and usually develop within several days to a few weeks after a tick bite. Potential symptoms of tick-borne diseases include: a red spot or rash near the bite site, a full body rash, neck stiffness, headache, nausea, weakness, muscle or joint pain or achiness, a fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes

Be sure to seek medical attention as soon as possible if bitten by a tick and you have any of the symptoms above.

Sand Flies (Leishmaniasis)

Your Pet Dog needs protection, otherwise it can be in serious danger

Dogs that regularly travel abroad may be exposed to Leishmaniasis (also known as Kala-Azar) which is carried from dog-to-dog by a bite from a Sand Fly.

The name 'Sand Fly' is misleading as the Sand Fly's natural habitat is in wooded and garden areas.

Dogs can be bitten up to 100 times an hour during the sand fly season which begins in May and ends in October. August is the worst month. The flies are mainly active between dusk and dawn. Early morning, 2 to 4am, is the worst period. They are not high flyers so your dog is better off in an upper room or flat at night. Fitting a preventative collar will protect your pet from approximately 95% of sand flies bites for the whole season. Dogs left out in the garden as security guards are particularly at risk.

It is thought that there may be very rare suspected cases of the disease being passed to humans; this is currently being research by the World Health Authority.

Prevention: The best preventative treatment up to now is , "INTERVET"  based on mosquito repellents It is impregnated into a very effective collar called "SCALIBOR"

Please note, this collar lasts for one season only and needs replacing each May. Do not let children play with the collar, we have also found the smell somewhat unpleasant.

See your Vet about a collar before you travel to Spain. Mosquito repellents, sprays and some mosquito nets etc help to keep them out of the house. These flies are very tiny.

Things that the owner can do to prevent are:

Keep the dog inside the house when the sun starts to set, and keep toilet breaks short before bedtime.

Don't give night walks where water runs

Use of mosquito nets to keep flies out of the house.

Stinging Ants (Myrmica rubra laevinoides - hormiga roja chica)

This is, I believe, the only species of poisonous ant but whilst its bite is unpleasant it is said to be not serious  unless you have an allergic reaction in which case call 112.

Dangerous insects and reptiles in Spain

Snakes -  Pretty much all the snakes are protected by law in Spain, so don't even think about harming one.

In Spain there is 13 different types of snakes, but only five of these have venom that is fatal to humans.  The most dangerous period is in the spring and summer as they hide during the cooler months of fall and winter.

Asp Viper

A very venomous snake in the cobra family where the venom from a bite can lead to cardiac arrest and death. There are not many in Spain, and is believed to be limited to the Pyrenees. If you are bitten by this poisonous snake, seek medical attention immediately.

Lataste´s Viper or the Snub-nosed Viper

Lataste’s Viper is present in the Spanish peninsula. It is gray and short (around 50cm) and is characterized by its triangular head and a zigzag pattern on the back. It lives in dry, rocky areas. Be especially careful when collecting firewood and do not put your fingers in holes or cracks as this is where the snake can be found.

Seoane’s Viper

This snake is dangerous. It lives in Galicia, Leon, Biscay coastal strip (Cornisa Cantábrica) and Basque.

Montpellier Snake, Malpolon monspessulanus - More dangerous to animals than humans.

Montpellier snake

Commonly found throughout the Mediterranean and usually in dry rocky or scrubland areas, they can grow up to 2.00 metres (7 ft) long and may weigh up to 1.5 kilograms (3 lb).  They have a thick body which in adults is a dark grey/green with the underside being lighter and often yellowish with darker marks, they have large eyes with round pupils surrounded by clearly visible rims, which makes them look more threatening than they are. They are generally active during the day and feed on small lizards.  

The unthreatening nature of the snake, has made it one of the more common species, even in areas occupied by humans.  This species is classed as mildly venomous to humans, but as its fangs are fixed and set at the back of the mouth it is unlikely to cause problems. In the unlikely event of being bitten the result would be extremely painful but not dangerous for most individuals. A bite could result in stiffness and swelling where bitten and a state of general lethargy and weakness and a severe headache, this may last a day or two.

If you are bitten by a snake, remain calm and seek medical attention immediately. Bites only occur in the spring and summer as snakes hibernate. Of the estimated 50 snakebite deaths a year in Europe, only 3-6 occur in Spain, so don't worry too much. More people die from bee and wasp stings.

Dangerous Creepy Crawlies in Spain

Fire Salamanders

(Salamandra salamandra)
Very distinctive don’t get to close to this creature, it can discharge poison.

The poison glands of the fire salamander are concentrated in certain areas of the body, especially around the head and the dorsal skin surface. The coloured portions of the animal's skin usually coincide with these glands.

Jellyfish Safety

Jellyfish, vary in both harmful and harmless varieties, and are a very common sight along our local coastlines.

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Dolphins and Whales on the Costa Blanca

Dolphins and Whales on the Costa Blanca

Dolphins and Whales on the Costa Blanca - The most recommended place to spot dolphins and whales in the Comunitat Valenciana is, Cabo de San Antonio, which is located between Jávea and Dénia. Each year sightings of bottlenose dolphins and fin whales increase; There are also regular sightings in and around the Sierra Gelada/helada Natural Park area.

The Bottlenose dolphin is one of the most common dolphin species. They measure between 1 and 4 meters, weigh from 100 to 300 kg and can swim at about 35 km/h. They are intelligent and sociable animals, who travel in groups.

Dolphins on the Costa Blanca

Photo taken 5th May 2020 from the Sierra Helada 

Like the name “bottlenose” suggests, this species of dolphin has a short, stubby beak. Its sleek, conical body varies in color from a light to slate grey on the upper body to a pale to pinkish grey on the bottom part.  They are very social animals and generally swim in groups (called pods) of 10-25. Offshore, they have been seen in larger groups of several hundred. These large groups are called herds. Like all dolphins they like to play within their groups, they love to surf on waves near shore and ride waves caused by boats.

Dolphins on the Costa Blanca, Altea 

Photo taken 5th May 2020, just off the coast of Altea

We also get fin whales also known as the common rorqual whale in the area, these are the second largest species of whale in the world and can measure up to 24 meters and weigh more than 80 tons, these usually swim in deep waters about 20 miles out but are also being seen closer to shore in the Denia area, where sometimes they can be spotted from the mainland.

The finback whale feeds on krill, small fish and crustaceans, by opening its jaw and swallowing with it a colossal 70m3 of water, and can eat as much as 1,800kg per day. The common rorqual is currently classified as an endangered species.

Finback Whale, Costa Blanca

There have also been recent sightings of both dolphins and fin whales around the Island of Tabarca and in the Torrevieja area.

It wonderful to see these incredible animals swimming in their natural habitat.

The best time to spot them is during the migration season (spring and summer months), when they swim from the Ligurian coasts to the Strait of Gibraltar and the Atlantic Ocean.

Dolphins and Whales, Costa Blanca

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Creeyp Crawlies, non dangerous

Creepy Crawlies in Spain, non dangerous

Creepy Crawlies in Spain, non dangerous - As in every country there are literally 1000´s of different species of insects and reptiles, but these are the main non dangerous insects and reptiles you may come across here in Spain.

Obviously here in Spain we still get all the normal insects such as Bees, wasps, ants, flies, centipedes and spiders  etc these are more annoying than dangerous unless you have an allergy to them.



The mention of cockroaches can often make your skin crawl and your hairs stand on edge, unfortunately they are part and parcel of living in a hot country.

Cockroaches have been around for millions of years, evolving into some of the most adaptable pests on Earth. There are approximately 4,000 living species of cockroaches in the world.

Cockroaches are commonly found in buildings and homes because they prefer warm environments close to food and water, it does not mean a place is dirty, even the cleanest of places can play host to these common pests.   

Creepy Crawlies in Spain, non dangerous, Cockroach

Did you know

Cockroaches are cannibals!

Cockroaches aren’t fussy eaters at all, they will eat nearly anything, fruit, glue, faeces, you name it! They will even eat each other if food is scarce.

Cockroaches are old!

Evidence suggests that Cockroaches have been around since the time of dinosaurs!  fossil evidence shows that cockroaches have existed for over 300 million years!

The average lifespan of a cockroach is approximately one year.

Cockroaches can squeeze through the tiniest of gaps!

Just like rats and mice, cockroaches can squeeze through the smallest of cracks!  This is all down to their  exoskeletons. Cockroaches are able to fit through a gap as small as a quarter of their body height by flattening their flexible exoskeletons and splaying their legs to the sides.

Cockroaches can trigger asthma

Although not dangerous as such, i.e they don´t bite or sting studies have shown that cockroaches have been linked to triggering asthma as well as other allergies! the saliva, faeces, and shed body parts of cockroaches can trigger asthma when they are kicked up in the air.

Cockroaches can survive a week without a head

Cockroaches can live for approximately one week without a head! The reason behind this is, that unlike us, cockroaches don’t need their mouths to breathe. Instead, they use spiracles (tiny hole) in their body to inhale and transport oxygen. Combine this with the ability to survive without food for a month and you have an insect that can last without it’s head for a week!

Some female cockroaches only mate once and stay pregnant for life!

Cockroaches are super fast!

Cockroaches are insanely quick. Being the prey of many predators, it’s they only defence mechanism. They can run up to speeds of 1.5 meters per second, the human equivalent is around 200 miles per hour!

Cockroaches can’t fly

Even though many species of cockroaches have wings, they can’t fly, well not very well,  their wings only allow them to glide and flutter for short distances. It is much quicker for a cockroach to scurry around the place than it is for them to try and fly.

Cockroaches can hold their breath for 40 minutes

Studies have shown that cockroaches can hold their breath for 40 minutes, and can survive underwater for 30 minutes!

Cockroaches love beer!

Studies have shown that cockroaches are quite fond of a nice cold pint of beer, they are attracted to the sugars and hops found in beer.

Cockroaches can’t survive a nuclear explosion

Fortunately, the theory of cockroaches being able to survive a nuclear explosion is just a myth. Well, to some extent.

The myth first appeared after the events in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 where cockroaches were the only survivors. After various testing it was found that cockroaches can’t actually survive a nuclear explosion as no crawling insects survived radiation levels of 100,000 rads, but they can endure far greater levels of radiation than humans.

Creepy Crawlies in Spain, non dangerous


Cicadas are oval-shaped, winged insects that provide a buzzing and clicking song heard in nature throughout the summer.

There are around 3,000 cicada species, and they vary in size from 0.75 to 2.25 in (2.2 to 5.5 cm) long. Cicadas can be black, brown or green and can have red, white or blue eyes.

Creepy Crawlies in Spain non dangerous, Cicada

Their wings are transparent and can seem rainbow-hued when held up to a light source.

The buzzing sound they make is a mating call. Male cicadas vibrate a white, drum like membrane on their abdomens called a tymbal. A group of singing cicadas is called a chorus. The singing attracts both males and females to a certain area. The males join in on the singing and the females mate with the males.

Some cicada calls can be heard up to 1 mile (1.5 kilometer) away.

Cicadas do not sting or bite. .

Each species of cicada has a different song.

Palm Weevil

Completely harmless to humans but deadly to the local palm trees.  The red palm weevil is a member of Coleoptera: Curculionidae. The male and female adults are large reddish brown beetles about 3 cm long and with a characteristic long curved rostrum; with strong wings, they are capable of undertaking long flights.

Palm Weevil

Damage to palms is done mainly by the larvae. Adult females lay about 200 eggs at the base of young leaves or in wounds to the leaves and trunks; the grubs feed on the soft fibres and terminal bud tissues.  Spanish authorities work continually to try and eradicate these beetles.

Grasshoppers, Crickets, Locusts

All the above can be found here in Spain and are completely harness to humans, you will hear them in the summer months as the males make very loud noises both during the day (grasshoppers) and night time (crickets),  the noise is made by  them rubbing a row of pegs on the hind legs against the edges of the forewings (stridulation). These sounds are produced mainly by males to attract females, though in some species the females also stridulate. In terms of size, a grasshopper is larger than a cricket, the grasshopper comes in colours of: neutral, green, grey, or light brown. On the other hand, crickets come in bright or dark colours

Creepy Crawlies in Spain, grasshoppers and crickets

The main difference between a grasshopper and a cricket is that crickets tend to have long antennae, grasshoppers have short antennae. Crickets stridulate ("sing") by rubbing their wings together, while grasshoppers stridulate by rubbing their long hind legs against their wings,  grasshoppers go out in the daylight and crickets are out and about during the nighttime.

While grasshoppers can fly and jump, crickets just only jump. Only some cricket species fly.

Praying Mantis

They do not bite humans, or spread disease. However, when handled, their spiny-like forelegs can be readily felt as a "sharp pinch." they can vary in colour from bright green to brown, During the summer seasons praying mantis grow in size, gain dimension, and during autumn begin their breeding season Mantids are most commonly seen in late September, October and early November depending upon weather conditions, and yes the females do eat the males after mating, these are fascinating insects to watch. 

Creepy Crawlies in Spain, non dangerous

HARMLESS Snakes - Don´s panic you will not see any of these in Benidorm town centre.

Pretty much all the snakes are protected by law in Spain, so don't even think about harming one.

Grass Snake (Natrix natrix), sometimes called the Ringed Snake or Water Snake

The Grass Snake is typically dark green or brown in colour with a characteristic yellow collar behind the head, which explains the alternative name ringed snake. The colour may also range from grey to black

Ladder Snake (Rhinechis scalaris)

It is found in France, Portugal, Spain. Its natural habitats are forests, shrub-land, Mediterranean-type shrubby vegetation, arable land, pastureland, plantations, and rural gardens.  It usually eats eggs, insects, and small mammals such as mice, also known as the ratsnake.

False Smooth Snake

This snake is not aggressive and is mainly found in Catalonia. But it is advised to stay away if you do spot on. False smooth snakes are totally harmless for us humans. They are venomous, yes, but their venom is only effective against tiny lizards and other small animals.


Spain has around 16 species of Lizard,  Here are some you may see. Two very common geckos that frequent rock walls and houses are the Moorish gecko and he Turkish gecko which is slightly smaller than the Moorish Gecko and found more in coastal regions. These are great insect hunters  and are a familiar summer sight and are quite entertaining to watch.

Turkish Gecko

Turkish Gecko

The largest of the lizards is the ocellated lizard. This blue-spotted green reptile grows to 20 inches or longer.

The Large Psammodromus ( Psammodromus algirus ) This is probably the most common lizard in Spain, they prefer shrubby habitats, Mediterranean forests and hedges. Snout to vent length is up to 8 cm, but the tail is twice or even thrice times that length.

Spiny-footed Lizard, up to 23 cm long lizard, this inhabits dry, open areas.

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