Friday, 14 October 2011

Castro Verde Week

There’s not been much time for Algarve birding this week. Bustards have been in demand and our schedule has been dominated by trips to the Castro Verde area.

Great Bustard

As we have indicated previously, Great Bustards can be a bit elusive at this time of year and with temperatures reaching 32° it’s definitely best to be out early to look for them. It’s amazing how well they blend in with the vegetation in the parched landscape. Our 100% record of finding them remains intact but there have been occasional moments of doubt!

Little Bustards have been even harder to find in recent weeks so yesterday’s flock of more than 50 birds was particularly welcome. Sometimes we have to make do with flight views but these were on the ground and we had excellent views through the telescope.

Raptors in the area now include Hen Harriers, replacing Montagu’s, and Red Kites, replacing Black ones. We’ve had brilliant views of Spanish Imperial, Short-toed and Bonelli’s Eagles and yesterday had a reasonably close flock of two dozen or so Griffon Vultures.

Eurasian Griffon

All of the week’s Black-bellied Sandgrouse have been heard first and seen only as fly-overs; the area of habitat available for them now is huge.

Northern Lapwings started arriving several weeks ago but there are still relatively few of them. In this extremely dry environment, food must be in short supply. Mostly they are around the edges of the few reservoirs or on grassland that has been irrigated. The reservoirs are attracting a few other waders including Greenshanks and Green Sandpipers (two of our favourite birds!) and three times this week we have seen a Great Egret along with the Little Egrets and many Grey Herons. Great Egrets are relatively scarce here but we do seem to be seeing them more and more frequently. It was also good to see a couple of Black Storks standing amongst the assembled herons.

Black Stork

Northern Wheatears are numerous now, flying from roadside fence posts everywhere; it’s a time when we can easily see all three wagtail species and amongst the Yellow Wagtails there are a few Tawny Pipits.

Tawny Pipit

This Viperine Snake, a species usually found in or near to water, was taking advantage of a puddle formed by run-off from agricultural irrigation.

We don’t mind how often we visit the Baixo Alentejo and no doubt we’ll be up there again next week!

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