Saturday, 1 October 2011

Around the Eastern Algarve

In the last few days there have been reports in the Sagres area of a Lesser Spotted Eagle, a Long-legged Buzzard and a Red-footed Falcon but here in the Eastern Algarve rare birds continue to be in short supply. In spite of visits to Ludo, Quinta do Lago, Olhão, Castro Marim and Parque Ambiental de Vilamoura and almost daily coverage of the Tavira and Santa Luzia saltpans, the best we have found this week has been another Great Egret. Maybe it was the same bird we saw on 24th September at Vilamoura but this one was at Castro Marim and it was only our seventh record in the Algarve.

A juvenile Woodchat Shrike and a feisty Eurasian Jay were the highlights of our final session with the ringing team at Vilamoura on Tuesday. Jays are quite often bad tempered and ready to fight back and so are always handled with a degree of trepidation even by experienced ringers. This one was no exception! Mostly they were catching docile hirundines.

Eurasian Jay

As well as Monarch butterflies and an assortment of dragonflies there was other insect interest at Vilamoura in the form of a Red Palm Weevil and an impressive Death's Head Hawkmoth caterpillar. The weevil is a major pest here in the Algarve (and elsewhere) infesting and eventually killing large numbers of palm trees.

Red Palm Weevil

Death's Head Hawkmoth caterpillar

Hundreds of Spoonbills and Greater Flamingos continue to be a feature in the Tavira/Santa Luzia area. Three colour-ringed Spoonbills found this week originated from the Netherlands. One of them was 15 years old and has regularly been seen spending its winters in the Parc National du Banc d'Arguin in Mauritania. Presumably it will soon be heading in that direction again.

Eurasian Spoonbill

Until quite recently considered a rarity in Portugal, Slender-billed Gulls are now commonly seen and becoming more numerous. About 80 birds are currently to be found at Santa Luzia and there are also plenty in the Cerro do Bufo area of Castro Marim.

Slender-billed Gull

Cerro do Bufo, Castro Marim

This photograph of Cerro do Bufo may look like the first snow of winter but any climate change that may be in progress hasn't yet reached that extreme! No, of course, it's salt - a reminder that September sees the peak of the salt harvest, an activity they say has been going on in these parts for about 2,000 years or so.

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