Saturday, 22 October 2011

Slightly Cooler Birding

This week we’ve had only one day in the Castro Verde area; it was another day when finding birds was hard work but which did at least produce reasonable numbers and decent views of both Great and Little Bustards and we saw Spanish Imperial Eagle and Golden Eagle. The Golden Eagle, seen from the roadside through the telescope, perched high on a crag, was probably the day’s highlight.

Otherwise we have been covering our regular sites in the Eastern Algarve: Tavira, Santa Luzia, Ludo and Quinta do Lago. What a pity that Castro Marim is no longer among the places we regularly visit! For the time being, we have also now added to our itinerary the watercress beds near Almancil where we recently found a Pectoral Sandpiper. Could lightning possibly strike twice in the same place?

On both Thursday and Friday we recorded more than 90 species during what were fairly gentle birding days. Although there are signs now that the weather may be about to change (cooler mornings and evenings and a bit more cloud), temperatures throughout the week have risen to a very pleasant 24º C to add to our enjoyment.

Eurasian Spoonbill - one of three Dutch-ringed birds seen this week in Tavira

There have been no real rarities on show other than a Barnacle Goose which we found at Quinta do Lago. Although this species is officially a rarity in Portugal, it was hard to imagine this individual as anything other than an escape from captivity. But who knows? It had no rings and did seem quite wary. Thankfully, it didn’t spook as easily as the two that were in Tavira last Christmas; those two departed in such a hurry that June missed seeing them completely!

Barnacle Goose among the Eurasian Coots at Quinta do Lago

As we have hardly strayed away from the Ria Formosa, it’s not surprising that wetland birds have predominated – waders (24 species), ducks (10), gulls and terns (8), herons, spoonbills and ibises (7) made up more than half of our species total. Among them, only Sacred Ibis might not have been predicted, although we have now seen the same five birds in the same place on three occasions.

Grey Plover - still a smart-looking bird in winter plumage

Slender-billed Gull - easy to see around Tavira

Black-winged Stilt - numerous but always fun to watch

Northern Shoveler - numbers now building up as they arrive from...the north!

Robins, Bluethroats, Chiffchaffs, Song Thrushes, Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and White Wagtails are amongst the species that have now arrived here in numbers to spend the winter. On the other hand, there are fewer Whinchats and Northern Wheatears to be seen and Yellow Wagtails are in short supply. Two Red-rumped Swallows and a single Sand Martin were the only hirundines recorded.

Raptors have continued to provide plenty of interest down at the Sagres end of the Algarve this week with a Pallid Harrier causing particular excitement, but here in the east we have had to be content with just six species: Booted Eagle, Black-winged Kite, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Common Kestrel and Peregrine Falcon.

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