Without doubt, Castro Marim is one of our favourite sites in the Algarve and it's one we visit pretty regularly. However, the Reserva Natural do Sapal de Castro Marim e Vila Real de Santo António (to give it its full title) covers a huge area and at this time of year, when the temperature can be approaching 30 degrees by 10.00am, we're not inclined to cover all of it in one day. This morning we gave it about two and a half hours before retreating into some shade.
Although much of that time was spent taking photographs (how many flight shots of Spoonbills do we really need?) and trying to read colour-rings, we managed to dig out about 50 species with minimum effort.
The only real surprise was a Black-crowned Night Heron, a species that seems to be occurring more frequently in the Algarve and will surely be breeding here soon if it isn't already.
Amonst the gulls, we found about a dozen each of Slender-billed and Audouin's. (For some reason, the largest concentration of Audouin's in the area currently is at Santa Luzia where 268 were reported this morning.)
As well as the resident Kentish Plovers, Avocets and Black-winged Stilts, a few returning waders were in evidence including Dunlins and Black-tailed Godwits, a couple of Little Ringed Plovers, a Common Sandpiper and (our favourites) two Green Sandpipers.
Not many raptors were seen but we had several sightings of what was presumably the same male Montagu's Harrier, plus Common Buzzard and Common Kestrel.
One species that we particularly looked for was Common Magpie and eventually we found two rather bedraggled-looking birds. As we had hoped, these Magpies were feeding two well-grown Great Spotted Cuckoos. The Cuckoos looked as though they should have been well capable of fending for themselves, but why would they when their foster parents were so attentive. No wonder the Magpies looked worn out!
Other notables were Woodchat and Southern Grey Shrikes, three Common Ravens, Little Terns, hundreds of Greater Flamingos, Azure-winged Magpies, Common Shelducks and Red-rumped Swallows.
All in all, some pretty decent birding. We are no longer surprised that we didn't see another birder the whole time we were there.
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