Saturday, 4 April 2009

Birdy Castro Verde

Yesterday we were in the area around Castro Verde with a familiar list of target species. It was a bright and sunny day but a wind coming mostly from the north had some of us wearing three layers of clothing early on.

Our birding began in impressive style. Not far from Castro Verde, we stopped the car and jumped out when a male Montagu's Harrier was spotted. We had a decent enough view and it soon went on its way but within minutes we had also seen several Great Bustards, Little Bustards, Lesser Kestrels, Red Kites and Calandra Larks, not to mention a couple of Common Buzzards and two Little Owls! All these without walking away from the car - not a bad start!

Later we saw lots more Montagu's Harriers. On several occasions there were as many as six in the air together and we just sat and watched their marvellous sky-dancing displays. There were plenty of Great Bustards to be seen also, maybe 100 in total during the day. As usual, Little Bustards were less conspicuous but we did have two fly up from beside the car at one place that we stopped. This was the same spot from which we had managed to see a Spanish Imperial Eagle on three separate occasions in March. Well, it happened again! Not surprisingly, we never now drive past this little pull-in area. Soon after we flushed the Little Bustards we were watching Griffon Vultures rising on the warming air and then an immature Spanish Imperial Eagle came into view. It wasn't as close as we have seen it on some previous occasions but close enough.

Later we saw more Spanish Imperial Eagles (probably including the bird seen earlier) at another 'hotspot' not very far away. That was just after we had seen Black-bellied Sandgrouse there and before we found a pair of Stone-curlews! It was that sort of day. By the time we headed for home, we had seen about 70 species.

It would be a shame not to mention the White Storks' nests that are such a feature of this area. We haven't counted them but there must be 50 or more nests between Castro Verde and Mértola, most of them on poles along the roadside. The bill-clattering display of these birds was a sound we heard regularly during the day. Many of their huge nests are tenanted by Spanish Sparrows - but don't you think they and the Imperial Eagles should be Iberian rather than Spanish?

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