After a few days when the weather has been less than friendly it was good this morning to see the return of sunshine and blue sky. That's not to say that it's particularly warm or that it looks in any way settled but it was enough to have me reaching for the camera and having a couple of hours checking our regular sites around Tavira.
It's only at this time of year when the blossom is out that you realise just how many almond trees there are in the Algarve - they're a real sign of spring approaching! And everywhere you look, Bermuda Buttercups provide a bright yellow carpet. They're not really buttercups, they're Oxalis pes-caprae, a noxious weed introduced from South Africa, also known as Cape Sorrel. It's a highly invasive plant, difficult to control but for all that really quite attractive!
I started this morning at the local saltpans and within a few minutes I saw flocks of Black-tailed Godwits flying in the distance. Something had clearly upset them and very soon I saw what it was - a male Hen Harrier, presumably the same bird that we have been seeing here since before Christmas. As I followed its progress, a flock of Golden Plovers also took flight from their regular roosting area which they share with the local Stone-curlews. I watched the Hen Harrier until it went out of sight - there was no chance of a photograph. However, it was at this moment that I thought it might be time to renew my battle of wits with the Stone-curlews, birds which rarely in my experience, allow close approach. We can see them every day but not since November have I tried to photograph them.
Well, it turned out to be the same old story! There were probably close to 100 Stone-curlews and maybe 50 Golden Plover but only a few within reasonable camera range. I managed just a few quick shots before they joined their friends in the middle of the field.
This is the same area where for the last three weeks or more we have been watching Short-eared Owls and where we in turn have been kept under surveillance by the local Little Owl. I like to think that he has got used to seeing us and that he chose this pose realising that the yellow lichen on the roof would look nice against the blue of the sky!
Nearby, I found this group of Spoonbills. They're common enough here but never taken for granted.
And a little further on these two Caspian Terns were roosting along with a crowd of gulls - mostly Lesser Black-backs, but also two or three Audouin's.
Last photo before lunch was this Black Redstart. Any thoughts of an afternoon photo session disappeared with the arrival from the west of a huge black cloud and 'rain stopped play' once again!
Juvenile Gannet, Ring's End/Guyhirn, Cambridgeshire
4 minutes ago