Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Lagoa dos Salgados

This morning we set out early for Lagoa dos Salgados located about an hour’s drive from Tavira. We had received a message late last night from Ray Tipper that a Spotted Crake and a Pectoral Sandpiper had been found there, two species that are rare in Portugal. Ray had already seen them and that was encouragement enough for us to set an early alarm and visit what is in any case one of the best birding sites in the Algarve.

We had been disappointed only a few days ago to hear that Salgados had been drained again and it currently makes a bit of a sorry sight. The ongoing story of the battle to save Salgados, involving SPEA and the RSPB, has been detailed elsewhere but in spite of all the efforts that are supposedly being made to protect the site, seeing it today did nothing to cause us any optimism about its future.

Having said that, it has not yet completely dried out and there is quite an extensive area of wet mud that is proving attractive to Ringed Plovers and Dunlin and a few Common Snipe, Grey Plovers and Little Stints. And because the suitable habitat is limited, finding the Spotted Crake and the Pectoral Sandpiper didn’t prove too difficult. Also seen were one Purple Swamp-hen, four Caspian Terns, 17 Spoonbills, 24 Grey Herons, a Peregrine Falcon, countless Black-headed Gulls, several Northern Wheatears, a Whinchat and at least four Bluethroats.

From Salgados we headed back east, calling on the way at Vilamoura, a hive of activity ahead of a major golf tournament that starts there on 16th October. We had a walk in the Parque Ambientale, visiting both of the hides and then having a look at the lagoons at the adjacent water treatment plant. We had several sightings of Kingfishers, a Common Buzzard and a Marsh Harrier provided the raptor interest, Cetti’s Warblers were calling loudly everywhere, Willow Warblers were numerous and there was a flock of about 50 Yellow Wagtails. From one hide we had a brief up-close view of a Purple Swamp-hen, from the other just Eurasian Coots and Little Grebes. The lagoons held a few ducks (Gadwall, Common Pochard and Shoveler) and hundreds of Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls. Butterflies included a couple of Monarchs.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Brief stops at a couple of other sites on the way home produced Blue Rock Thrush, Green Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail, Sandwich Tern and Whimbrel.

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