Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Lagoa dos Salgados

My week-long tour of the Algarve’s best bird watching sites took me on Monday to Lagoa dos Salgados (sometimes referred to as Pêra Marsh), undoubtedly one of the most popular sites with birders visiting here from the UK. The long-running, nightmare story of Salgados is well-known and has received coverage in various UK publications but if you’re not familiar with it and have half an hour or more to spare, take a look here. Try not to get too angry!

One of the ongoing problems at Salgados is that the lagoon is regularly, but for no obvious sensible reason, emptied of water. On Monday I found that it had again been recently drained. There were remaining areas of standing water sufficient to hold a few ducks (Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Pintail and Teal) and even an odd Little Grebe but mostly the bed of the lagoon was bare, wet mud - after something like 50 days of rain, nowhere here is dry! Waders included about 100 Black-winged Stilts, almost that number of Black-tailed Godwits and lesser numbers of Ringed, Kentish, Grey and Golden Plovers, Dunlin and Sanderling. Also on the mud were countless White Wagtails, 50 or so Black-headed Gulls, just a handful of Mediterranean Gulls and about 40 Sandwich Terns. Many of the gulls are now sporting almost complete breeding plumage. Two of the Black-tailed Godwits, on the other hand, were sporting colour-rings indicating it seems that one of them was ringed in Iceland and the other in Scotland - further details are awaited.

For some time now a feature at Salgados have been a group of Northern Bald Ibises that are thought to have absconded from the re-introduction project at La Janda, across the border in Spain. Originally six of these birds arrived but at least one is known to have died. On Monday I saw only two. They are regularly seen on the neighbouring golf course and wherever they appear they are very approachable and easy to photograph.

Northern Bald Ibis

Northern Bald Ibises were once widespread across the Middle East, northern Africa and southern Europe but disappeared from Europe over 300 years ago, and are now considered critically endangered. There are believed to be about 500 wild birds remaining in southern Morocco, and fewer than 10 in Syria, where the species was rediscovered in 2002. To combat these ebbing numbers, reintroduction programmes have been instituted internationally, with a semi-wild breeding colony in Turkey, as well as sites in Austria, Spain and northern Morocco. A pair bred in the wild in Spain in 2008 and 2009. Maybe the Salgados birds will eventually tire of watching golf and go and find a cliff ledge nesting site somewhere in the western Algarve.

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