No two trips to the Castro Verde area are ever the same. Take last week for instance: on Monday we had really good looks at Griffon Vultures, flying and on the ground; just a few days later, we struggled to get more than a very distant view of a couple of birds in flight; on Monday there were plenty of Little Bustards to be seen, while on our second trip we didn't find any at all. On the other hand, we saw more raptors on the second trip, including Golden, Bonelli's and Spanish Imperial Eagles and our first Red Kite of the autumn.
Sometimes it's hard to account for such differences between visits that are just a few days apart but this week we can maybe point a finger at the calendar and see that Tuesday was a public holiday, celebrating the Implantação da República, a date that also marks the opening of the hunting season. From mid-August it is permitted to shoot migratory birds such as Turtle Doves but now Rabbits, Red-legged Partridges and probably Little Bustards, too, are fleeing for their lives and every other wild creature is keeping its head down. Hunting here is not just one or two people walking around with shotguns, its highly organised parties of heavily-armed men, out from the towns with their dogs, 'hides' made from straw bales to shoot from, tell-tale groups of vehicles parked in unusual, isolated locations. They take over the countryside and who knows what they shoot?
In between our trips to the Alentejo we agreed to help out our friends at Another Level by leading one of their guided walks starting in Tavira. It came as a relief and a surprise that people turned up for this walk carrying binoculars and so very quickly we were able to treat it as a 'birding walk'. We were out for something like seven hours and didn't carry a telescope or any heavy camera gear but we still managed to record 68 bird species. The highlight amongst these was a Black-winged Kite, the day's only raptor. We also took a few photos using the Panasonic Lumix FZ50 that is ideal for long walks such as this in that it weighs next to nothing.
Creatures at Castor Hanglands NNR
3 days ago