Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Castro Marim and more Pied Flycatchers

We spent a warm, almost cloudless morning at Castro Marim walking a complete circuit of the Cerro do Bufo saltpans. By 10.30am it was really quite warm and the gentle breeze was very welcome. As expected, there were parts of the trail that were quite muddy and it could be a week or so before everything dries out again.

As would be expected in this mainly wetland area, the total of 70 species that we recorded was dominated by waders (19), gulls (6), terns (3), grebes (3), herons and egrets (3) and ducks (5) but the total was boosted by several passerine migrants in the surrounding trees and bushes. These included Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Willow Warblers, Whinchats, Northern Wheatears and Yellow Wagtails. We counted more than 150 Spoonbills and there were probably close to 1,000 Greater Flamingos; the only ’rarities’ were eight or more Slender-billed Gulls, actually an increasingly regular species along the Algarve coast although scarce elsewhere in Portugal.

After a short diversion across the border into Spain to re-fuel the car, on the way home we stopped at Altura tank . At this time last year there was a Red-knobbed Coot here amongst more than 100 Eurasian Coots; today there were just two Eurasian Coots. As usual there were Little Grebes and a few Common Pochard on the water plus about 30 Mallard but not much to get excited about. Barn and Red-rumped Swallows were flying over - the first hirundines of the day.

Back home we had a walk down the track towards the local shop, the area where we had been yesterday. Again there were numerous Pied Flycatchers and today we also found Spotted Flycatcher, Whinchat, Common Redstart, Common Whitethroat, Willow Warblers and Blackcap as well as the usual Eurasian Jays, Sardinian Warblers and Crested Larks. When the need for food finally took over and we headed back home, a Peregrine Falcon flew over bringing the day’s birding to an end.

The news is that there are unusually high numbers of passerine migrants all along the coast, particularly at Sagres and Cape St Vincent. What shall we do tomorrow…?

Monday, 29 September 2008

Pied Flycatchers

An early flight from Manchester this morning brought us back to Portugal and we were in Tavira by lunchtime - many thanks to Bevan Craddock and Ray Tipper for getting us to and from the airports.

There has clearly been a lot of rain here during the last few days - puddles everywhere and the promise of some muddy trails when we get out birding tomorrow. The good news is that it is now warm and sunny and if it stays this way it won’t be long before everything dries out.
During what was supposed to be a five-minute walk to the local shop for essential supplies there were enough Pied Flycatchers in evidence that we spent half an hour trying for a photograph - with just limited success.

Pied Flycatcher

Our neighbours, Dave and Glenys tell us that while we have been away one of the local Little Owls has taken to sitting on our balcony in the evenings. Probably our return will put an end to that routine because this evening we’ll be out there…

Friday, 26 September 2008

Washington & Oregon and Spain

Peter has just returned from leading a successful Avian Adventures tour in the Pacific Northwest of the USA - Washington and Oregon; June in the meantime, wearing her Algarve Birders hat, has been in Andalucía on an excellent trip organised by the Spanish Tourist Office.

The highlight of the Avian Adventures tour was a pelagic trip from Newport, Oregon on 13th September that produced what is being described as only the second-ever Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans) recorded in North America. To see three species of albatrosses in one day in North America was unexpected to say the least! Apart from the many Black-footed, a single Laysan Albatross made up the trio.

Of course, there has been a lot of debate about albatross taxonomy and although the American Ornithologists' Union doesn't (yet) recognise the split there are those who regard 'Wandering Albatross' as three separate species. Fortunately, 'our' bird was extremely obliging, staying in view for 40 minutes or so and providing close views that enabled its identification as Antipodean Albatross - Diomedea antipodensis or as the AOU would have it D.e.antipodensis.

Antipodean Albatross Diomedea antipodensis

Although most migrant breeding birds had left, the tour produced a very respectable bird list. Apart from all the expected seabirds including South Polar Skua and Buller's Shearwater, we saw Wandering Tattler, Surfbird, Black Oystercatcher, Black Turnstone, Varied Thrush, White-headed, Pileated, Lewis's and Black-backed Woodpeckers, Harlequin Duck, Wrentit and Lapland Longspur. Highlights amongst the mammals were Black Bear, Humpback Whale, Grey Whale and Dall's Porpoises.

As well as the wonderfully scenic Oregon coastline we spent time in the Klamath Basin, the Deschutes National Forest and on Mt Rainier during two weeks of almost uninterrupted and very welcome sunshine.

Hatstack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon

Meanwhile in Spain, June had a fairly hectic five days with a party of 24 journalists and tour guides visiting hotels, restaurants and birding sites in southern Andalucía. The trip included a visit to the inaugural Andalucía Bird Fair at Tarifa where it was no surprise to bump into Tim Appleton and others from Rutland Water giving the benefit of their long experience of organising such events.

Although this was only a part-time birding trip an impressive 190 plus species were logged, underlining what a terrific area this is - as we already know! As well as Tarifa, the itinerary included Ronda, Doñana National Park and the Marismas del Odiel.

Good birds, excellent food and wine and lots of new friends - who could ask for more?