During that time, we’ve had two further visits to the Castro Verde area, a trip across the border to Doñana and multiple visits to the usual sites in the Algarve – Quinta do Lago, Ludo, Castro Marim, Tavira/Santa Luzia, Olhão and even Lagoa dos Salgados, somewhere that we don’t go all that frequently.
We’ve had no further luck with the crakes at Quinta do Lago and neither it seems has anyone else. There’s been one further report of a Little Crake there but no confirmation of the Baillon’s Crake reported on 22nd March. Interestingly, three further Baillon’s Crakes have been found further north in Portugal during the past couple of weeks and there’s been at least one in Spain. There was another Little Crake at Vilamoura on 2nd April and there have been at least three Spotted Crakes in the Algarve during the same period of easterly winds.
The weather that brought the crakes has also resulted in us having many more migrants than usual in the Algarve. Species such as Subalpine Warbler, Bonelli’s Warbler, Black-eared Wheatear, Common Redstart and Greater Short-toed Lark have all appeared in greater numbers than we normally expect and it has made for some exciting birding.
Greater Short-toed Lark
No further sightings of crakes at Quinta do Lago but it has been a great place to watch Little Bitterns. Black-headed Weavers have been busy building nests there and are always a talking point and Purple Swamp-hens can always be relied on for entertainment. Not far away, Glossy Ibis continue to be seen and we’ve heard a Savi’s Warbler singing on two or three occasions. The Barnacle Goose that we first saw back in October is still present and appears to be of the fulica race, making itself at home feeding on the golf course with the Coots!
When we’ve been to Quinta do Lago we’ve usually also spent time at nearby Ludo. The saltpans there haven’t been very productive but the raptors have been good with Booted Eagles, Black Kite, Montagu’s and Marsh Harriers, Common Buzzard, Peregrine Falcon and Osprey all seen there in the last week. A pair of Wrynecks (one of June’s favourites) also put on a good show for us one morning.
We still rate Castro Marim as the best birding site in the Algarve and spend quite a lot of time there. As well as regular birding there, we’re also helping with a survey of the breeding Lesser Short-toed Lark population. As usual with survey work, one of the side benefits has been that we have birded in areas that we don’t usually go to. Amongst the recent highlights at Castro Marim have been several pairs of Great Spotted Cuckoos, displaying Little Bustards, a Short-toed Eagle, Montagu’s Harriers, half a dozen Glossy Ibises, more than 50 Slender-billed Gulls and plenty of waders, including Spotted Redshanks and Curlew Sandpipers starting to show signs of breeding plumage and, yesterday, a Wood Sandpiper.
The woodland at Aldeia Nova is worth a quick visit when in the Castro Marim area and we have been rewarded there recently with Ferruginous Duck, Red-crested Pochards and Black-crowned Night Heron at the small pond and Bonelli’s Warbler in the pines.
The Castro Verde area has continued to provide us with excellent birding. Displaying Great Bustards and Little Bustards are the ‘crowd pleasers’ along with the Spanish Imperial Eagles and it’s great now to see so many Montagu’s Harriers and Lesser Kestrels. We’ve also enjoyed watching the song-flights of Calandra Larks. On our last visit we had great views of a flock of about 50 Black-bellied Sandgrouse, two Collared Pratincoles and the first Rollers of the year.
We also had good views of a Spanish Imperial Eagle when we were in Doñana but there the sandgrouse were of the Pin-tailed variety. Other highlights of our day there were 20+ Griffon Vultures, Short-toed Eagles, Purple Herons, Great Reed Warblers, Black-crowned Night Herons and countless Black Kites. It was disappointing to see how much the area seems to have suffered from the very dry winter; few egrets or Glossy Ibises appear to be nesting at the JAV Centre where they are usually such a feature.
The soundtrack to the last two weeks has been the songs of Corn Buntings, Cetti’s Warblers, Serins, Nightingales and Zitting Cisticolas and the calls of Bee-eaters. We’re looking forward to adding Golden Oriole to that list very soon and we’re also listening out now for the return of Red-necked Nightjars.