After days out in the west and to the east, today we travelled north to the Alentejo. The excellent weather continues - although the morning started very cold the temperature rose to around 70° F by mid afternoon.
Soon after leaving Mértola we saw our first Eurasian Griffons, about 15 of them on the ground. It was presumably much too cold at that point for them to think about flying, but later we saw several birds rising on the warm air.
Bustards were among the targets today and we soon found a group of 11 Great Bustards. It was only after we had been watching them for a while that we saw that there were also 20 or more Little Bustards just a short distance from them. When a couple of Black-bellied Sandgrouse flew by we knew we had stopped in the right place! Further on we stopped at our favourite Great Bustard view point and saw another three of these elegant birds. We also saw several more Black-bellied Sandgrouse.
As always in this area raptors were a feature of the day. Common Kestrels, Red Kites and Common Buzzards are numerous but we saw just one Hen Harrier, one Peregrine Falcon and two Black-shouldered Kites. The star bird of the day, however, was a Spanish Imperial Eagle. We saw it first soaring some way off and in fact there may have been two different birds. We could not be 100% sure of our identification as we looked against the light but we were reasonably confident. Later, at our lunch stop not only did we see one much closer but also with the light behind us and having gained some height we were actually looking at it from above. Now there was no doubt what it was!
The road between Mértola and Castro Verde is well know for the many White Stork nests on the roadside telegraph poles. There are stretches of road where there is a nest on just about every pole - or at least there were nests. For some reason during the summer the nests have been removed and when the storks return they are going to be in for a shock. Instead of a bit of gentle nest repair they will need to start nest building from scratch and with no platforms on the poles to help them the likelihood is that they will have problems. Probably they will take to the trees. It will be interesting to see what happens.
Sunday is a hunting day in Portugal and so all day we saw men wearing camouflage gear with dogs and guns. We do wonder, though, whether the disturbance they caused resulted in us seeing more birds. Certainly the bustards and sandgrouse seemed quite mobile and we saw several groups of them in flight.
On the way home we made a brief stop at Altura tank. The light had all but gone but it was clear that the numbers of Mallard, Common Pochard and Eurasian Coot had all increased since our last visit. No doubt we will be there again quite soon.
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