Saturday, 18 February 2012

Alentejo Day.

Our visit to the Castro Verde area yesterday was our first of the year. The morning was bright and sunny and warmer than we expected but cloud built up later and back here in the Algarve we ended up having some rain overnight.

Although early migrants such as Barn Swallow and Great Spotted Cuckoo may have led us to think that spring has arrived, we were still able to find Common Cranes and flocks of Corn Buntings, Meadow Pipits, Northern Lapwings and Golden Plovers all provided further evidence that it is still very much winter.

European Golden Plover

Great Bustards are easy to see at this time of year and during the day we counted at least 90 of them. In contrast, Little Bustards proved elusive and we managed to find only one small flock numbering 11 birds.

Great Bustards - as so often, with an unattractive wire fence behind them...

...and then unfortunately spooked by a passing truck just as they were coming within range!

It was a reasonably good day for raptors. Red Kites, another winter bird here, seemed to be everywhere and Common Buzzards and Common Kestrels were also numerous. Other species seen were Black-winged Kite, Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Peregrine Falcon and Spanish Imperial Eagle.

Red Kite

Peregrine Falcon

Iberian Grey Shrikes (as some would have us calling them now) were also numerous. They're hard to miss as they perch on roadside power poles and cables but elsewhere it's often their far-carrying song that draws them to our attention.

Southern (Iberian) Grey Shrike

Black-bellied Sandgrouse are also birds that are very often heard before they are seen. We saw about two dozen of them during the day but all of them were flying and we didn't find any on the ground.

White Storks have been back on their nests for some time now. One day we must count the number of nests in this area!

A happy couple!

With so many waders on our doorstep here on the coast, we don't normally go out of our way to look for them in the Alentejo but still we recorded seven species, a list that included Ruff and Wood Sandpiper, two that we might not have predicted.

Wood Sandpiper

All in all, it was decent day's birding!

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