Saturday, 12 December 2009

Another Week At The Office

We’ve had another week of really enjoyable birding, much of the time under a clear blue sky with temperatures again reaching 17°C or more most days.

Around Tavira we’ve been seeing pretty much the same birds as previously including 80 or more Audouin’s Gulls, a Slender-billed Gull and at least one Razorbill.

On Tuesday we had a good long walk on Barril beach, part of the 11-kilometre stretch of sand on the Ilha de Tavira that earlier this year was listed by Lonely Planet as one of the world’s top ten beaches. Walking for two hours on a glorious sunny morning we saw no more than half a dozen other people! We weren’t there for the birds but there was a constant movement of Gannets just off shore and over the adjacent salt marsh we watched 30 or more Stone-curlews take flight as a Hen Harrier passed by. On the beach itself were just a few Sanderlings, a small flock of Lesser Black-backs and a long-dead Dolphin.

Wednesday saw us return to Altura but there was no sign of either the Whooper Swan or the Yellow Wagtail seen a week previously. We did though see a Grey Wagtail and two Green Sandpipers (both of them in Peter’s top ten favourite species!). We also saw several Crimson Speckled moths, attractive day-flying insects that have somehow not registered with us before. There haven’t been many butterflies these last few days, just an occasional Clouded Yellow and Red Admiral.

Crimson Speckled

In woodland not far from Altura we spent a while trying to photograph Crested Tits and Short-toed Treecreepers but with very limited success. A bonus in this same area was to see two Purple Swamp-hens at the edge of a small man-made pond, not an easy bird to find in the Eastern Algarve. Nearby, we also came across two Moorish Geckos.

Crested Tit

Moorish Gecko

On Thursday, a fairly relaxed day spent mainly at Castro Marim produced a total of 86 bird species. There are several hundred Mediterranean Gulls there now, matched in number by the Lesser Black-backs. There were at least 16 Slender-billed Gulls but surprisingly we could find only a single Audouin’s. A Glossy Ibis was an unusual bird for us to see at this site; other highlights were about 50 Black-necked Grebes, probably four different Marsh Harriers, 20 or so Little Bustards, a Caspian Tern and four Lesser Short-toed Larks.

Mediterranean Gull

Yesterday we went to the Ludo Farm and Quinta do Lago area where we haven’t been for about a month. Our morning got off to a great start when, within about fifteen minutes of arriving, we had seen eight Booted Eagles, at least four Black-shouldered Kites, two Ospreys, a Marsh Harrier and a Common Buzzard! These were quickly followed by two of June’s favourites - a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Green Woodpecker!

We usually plan to spend about five hours on the walk to Lagoa but this time we somehow managed to add two hours to our normal schedule! The lake is one of the Algarve’s most popular birdwatching sites but many of the visitors there are simply out for a walk, have not much more than a casual interest in the birds and know the names of few of them. One of our pleasures is to let some of these ’non-believers’ use our Swarovski telescope to look at birds such as Little Bittern and Glossy Ibis and possibly convert one or two. On this occasion a group of women from New York City were particularly appreciative of our help and very impressed by Purple Swamp-hens. At the same time they gave us a lot of pleasure through their enthusiasm and excitement.

Since our last visit a lot of the vegetation around the lake has been cut back quite severely. In the short term the result isn’t visually attractive but it probably makes sense for this management work to be carried out at this time of the year. It has certainly made it quite a bit easier to see and photograph some of the birds (and has made for some really horrible backgrounds in many of the photos!). Chiffchaffs and Common Snipe were very confiding by the water’s edge, a Glossy Ibis came close and for once wasn’t half hidden by reeds but it was just our luck that an obliging Bluethroat should be the least colourful example of this species that we have seen in a long time!


Glossy Ibis

Common Snipe


No comments: