Little Bittern - part of this morning's sideshow
The Baillon’s Crake (Porzana pusilla) reported on 22nd March is a very rare species in Portugal with only three previous records, all of them back in the 1990s. There have been no further sightings of it as far as we know but at the same site on 27th and 28th March an equally rare Little Crake (P. parva) was seen and photographed.
Since then there has been no further news but plenty of debate! Was the first bird misidentified? Could two rare crakes have arrived at Quinta do Lago in the same week? It does sound unlikely and although the recent spell of weather predominated by easterly winds certainly makes it possible, most people seemed to be think that a mistake had been made. The fact that a Moustached Warbler (Acrocephalus melanopogon) was reported by the same observer at the same time as the Baillon’s, a time when several Sedge Warblers (A. schoenobaenus) were also present, was another factor that seemed to put doubt in people’s minds. Moustached Warbler is also an extreme rarity here.
This morning was our first opportunity to go and see for ourselves. We arrived at Quinta Lago at about 7.45am and stayed there just about five hours. It would have been nice to include here lots of images of one or more crakes but that wasn’t to be and photographing Little Bitterns, Little Grebes, Red-crested Pochard and Purple Swamp-hens was all we managed. However, we did see crakes…
At the edge of the reeds in the western corner of the lake we had multiple but very brief views of what we believe was a Little Crake. However, the time that elapsed between observations was such that we couldn't say with absolute certainty that only one bird was involved although we are inclined to think that was the case. We were unable to detect any barring on the bird that would have suggested identification as P. pusilla.
Little Bittern - again!
When we walked to the hide, about 100 metres away, we quickly had better views of what was definitely a Little Crake. We had several further views of this bird until it was last seen disappearing into vegetation straight out in front of the hide. Then, after an hour without seeing it again, we gave up and left.
Little Bittern - hard to resist
We consider the morning to have been only a qualified success. One the one hand, we confirmed the presence of at least two birds but unfortunately we weren’t able to verify the record of a Baillon’s Crake which would have been a ‘lifer’ for June. We can’t, however, rule out the possibility of a Baillon’s having been there or indeed still being there and we hope other people will go and look - we will certainly be there again as soon as we can!