Sunday, 29 May 2011

So Much To See...

What a busy week! Not only have we been to most of our favourite birding sites in the Algarve and twice visited the Baixo Alentejo, we also managed a trip across the border to Doñana.

And it hasn’t just been birds we’ve been looking at. Butterflies, dragonflies and reptiles have also been getting at least some of our attention.

Apart from the breeding Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Kentish Plovers and Common Redshanks, quite a few wader species still remain on the local saltpans in small numbers: Ruddy Turnstones, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpipers and an occasional Greenshank, most of them in something close to full breeding plumage.

Ruddy Turnstone

Kentish Plover

At Quinta do Lago and the Parque Ambiental de Vilamoura, several pairs of showy Black-headed Weavers are attracting lots of attention as they busily attend their nests. Purple Swamp-hens now have young and are equally popular. At the other end of the scale, a singing Savi’s Warbler is rather less obvious and almost impossible to see!

Black-headed Weaver

We’ve had two great days in the Castro Verde/Mértola area with most of the regular birds giving great views. Every day there is different – sometimes it’s the Rollers that put on a particularly good show, sometimes Griffon Vultures, Black Vultures, a Short-toed Eagle or any one of a dozen or more other raptor species will fly directly overhead, other times it might be a Calandra Lark that poses or, as on both occasions this week, young Great Spotted Cuckoos drawing our attention with their noisy begging calls. With Great Bustards, Little Bustards, Black-bellied Sandgrouse and many more special birds to look for, we are very happy to keep returning.

Calandra Lark

In Doñana we made our way first to the Dehesa de Abajo, situated adjacent to the vast rice producing area of Isla Mayor. The breeding colony of White Storks here is said to be one of the largest in Europe with perhaps 500 nests. Black Kites were also numerous but, surprisingly, the enormous lagoon here was almost birdless. Next we went to the José Antonio Valverde Visitor Centre where large numbers of breeding Glossy Ibis, herons and egrets are the main attraction and nearby we had a fairly distant view of what we like to call Iberian Imperial Eagle.

Black Kite

White Stork

Black-crowned Night Heron

Large and easy to identify, Two-tailed Pasha, Cleopatra and Common Swallowtail are our kind of butterflies, more so than the blues, skippers and whites but when bird activity has died down in the heat of the day we have also taken an interest in these smaller ones. Two-tailed Pasha was a particular target this week, a species that apparently can be baited with fermenting fruit and alcohol. We found one around its favourite larval host-plant, Arbutus unedo, the Strawberry Tree.

Two-tailed Pasha

Large Psammodromus

We are keen to learn more about the reptiles here and are always pleased when we come across snakes and lizards that allow close inspection or at least a photograph from which we can identify them. This Large Psammodromus appeared while we were waiting for White-rumped Swifts to appear.

Other highlights of the week have included a quick look in at a Black-winged Kite nest site here in the Eastern Algarve, a visit to our local “Grey Egret” and an evening showing Red-necked Nightjars.

So much to see, so little time...

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