Saturday, 25 October 2008

Great Bustards and Waders

Yesterday we headed north to the Baixo Alentejo and enjoyed a great day’s birding in pretty much perfect weather. The main target species was Great Bustard, usually not too difficult to find, but with a lot of agricultural activity in progress and tractors everywhere we thought we might have difficulty. Fortunately, our fears proved unfounded and we duly found a dozen or so birds that weren’t too far away from a main road. We watched them for quite a while from a vantage point we have used on several previous occasions.

Amongst everything else, it was quite a good day for birds of prey; Red Kites, Common Buzzards and Common Kestrels were all numerous, we saw several Black-winged Kites (probably our favourite raptor and one that we still tend to refer to as Black-shouldered), a beautiful male Hen Harrier, a Golden Eagle, a Booted Eagle and about 50 Eurasian Griffons.

It seems that nowhere in Portugal is safe from development and we are conscious that before long several of the wonderful areas we enjoy in the Alentejo will be blighted by more dreadful wind turbines. If golf courses weren’t bad enough..! Anyway, it was an excellent day.

This morning the request was for waders and we could do no better than walk the saltpans from Tavira where 21 species of plovers, sandpipers, stilts, etc included our favourite Greenshank and Spotted Redshank. High tide was mid-morning and the Oystercatchers, Bar-tailed Godwits and Knot were sitting it out on the bunds. When a light aircraft passed over a flock of about 700 Greater Flamingos were disturbed enough to fly around briefly, a fantastic mass of pink against the clear blue sky.

Most of the ducks here currently are Northern Shoveler but as well as these and reasonable numbers of Mallard we managed to find a few Teal, Wigeon and Pintail. For once we didn’t find any Slender-billed Gulls, but there were dozens of Audouin’s and Mediterranean Gulls among the hundreds of Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed. We also found four Caspian Terns and a handful of Little and Sandwich Terns.

A regular bird in this area is a grey egret that is presumed to be a hybrid Little Egret x Western Reef Egret. It seems to frequent the same small area every day, feeding in the channel at low tide and standing on the side of one of the saltpans when the water in the channel is too deep. There is another similar-looking bird in the Tavira area and we recently saw a much paler presumed hybrid at Lagoa dos Salgados. At this point we have no information about their origin.

Presumed Little Egret x Western Reef Egret


Anonymous said...

This is a white face egret ...yes? I saw one in the Everglades once.

Peter and June said...

No, this is a hybrid Little Egret x Western Reef Egret, Egretta garzetta x gularis.