Thursday, 9 February 2012

A Mixed Bag of Birding

It continues to be dry and sunny here with temperatures rising as high as 18º C most days. It’s a little over two weeks since we returned to the Algarve after our tours in Ethiopia and the USA and during that time we have seen mainly clear blue skies. That kind of weather makes it hard to resist going out birding and there have been only a couple of days when we have even thought about resisting! There's been guiding, survey work and lots more...

Yesterday we spent the whole day working on our Atlas square, carrying out timed counts of the birds in six different tetrads. That’s the Atlas Aves Invernantes e Migradoras or Atlas of Wintering and Migratory Birds, a project co-ordinated by SPEA which started last August and will continue until February 2013.

Our survey area is a 10km square in the rolling hills north of Tavira. It’s not far away and there are parts of it that we have regularly driven through, but we haven’t really done much birding there until now. Visiting and birding in new areas are the bonuses that come from atlas survey work.

Green Sandpiper – one of four wader species that we found along a short stretch of the Ribeira de Beliche

Spanish Festoon – just one of several butterfly species seen yesterday

Earlier in the week there was a cross border trip to the Doñana area, the highlight of which was finding a really wet and muddy ricefield that was just teeming with birds. There were thousands of waders of at least ten species plus Glossy Ibises, Yellow and White Wagtails, Little Egrets, Purple Swamp-hens, Meadow Pipits and probably more. Nearby, La Cañada de Rianzuela was also full of birds but otherwise much of Doñana was very dry and rather birdless. It’s a bit ironic that the birdiest area should be outside the National Park!

Little Ringed Plover – many were seen in the flooded ricefield and there was one in our Atlas square

We spent one morning last week near Castro Marim helping to make artificial flamingo nests. They have been sited in a protected area where there is no public access and the idea, which has been successful elsewhere, is that such nests might stimulate some of the Greater Flamingos that occur there to stay and breed. There was an unsuccessful nesting attempt at Lagoa dos Salgados in 2010 that was widely reported as being the first in the Algarve but there is actually a record of successful breeding at Castro Marim in 1987. Maybe they will try again...

Making mud pies to encourage Flamingos to nest!

Otherwise we’ve been birding at the regular sites along the Algarve coast. We were pleased to find that the two long-staying Snow Buntings were still in more or less the same spot along the beach at Vila Real de Santo António where they were first seen before Christmas. Debate continues concerning their subspecific identity!

Nivalis or insulae? You decide!

At Vilamoura we were able to find only four Ferruginous Ducks but there have been reports recently of as many as 17 of them there.

Ferruginous Duck

Short-eared Owls continue at the Tavira saltpans but it has been a while since we saw more than two of them.

Short-eared Owl

Mediterranean Gulls have been a feature of the saltpans at Olhão. More than 200 of them were counted this week including several with colour-rings, birds originating from France and Belgium it seems. There are also two pairs of Common Shelducks displaying there, a species that appears to be increasing in number in the Algarve.

Mediterranean Gull

In the last few days we’ve also seen a Dutch-ringed Black-tailed Godwit, both French- and Spanish-ringed Greater Flamingos and a ‘rescued’ Yellow-legged Gull that acquired its colour-ring here in the Algarve at the Centro de Recuperacao e Investigacao de Animais Selvagens where it was presumably treated successfully.

Dutch Black-tailed Godwit

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