Sunday, 27 May 2012

Last Week's Birding

It’s been another week when most of our birding has been around the Castro Marim area but we’ve also spent time in the Ria Formosa and yesterday we had a complete change by leaving the coast and heading about 40km inland into the countryside.  There have been no rarities to report but plenty to keep us interested.

At Castro Marim our survey of the Lesser Short-toed Larks has more or less come to an end; we’re not expecting to find them singing/displaying beyond the end of May.  In truth, the areas that we have been responsible for haven’t been very productive but while looking for larks in places that we might not otherwise have been to we’ve had lots to keep us entertained.  Just this morning, we saw a Great Spotted Cuckoo, two Glossy Ibises, a Spoonbill and a Marsh Harrier during just a short visit to a place that we would probably have driven past without stopping if we hadn’t had larks to look for.

We continue to see small numbers of Glossy Ibises in odd places, presumed to be birds that have dispersed following their failure to breed in Doñana and elsewhere.  There was also a report this week of 2,000 Eurasian Coots at Ludo, which one also has to think have failed to find suitable breeding conditions.  Surely there must be a Red-knobbed one amongst that lot if we can find time to go and look!

We’ve also been involved at Castro Marim in the monthly count of wetland birds.  The reserve covers about 845 hectares so it’s quite a task.  Wader numbers are dwindling now and most of the 15 species we saw on Friday were in quite small numbers.  The exceptions were Dunlins, Black-tailed Godwits, Black-winged Stilts and Avocets, the last two of these being breeding birds here.

Nesting among the Avocets and Black-winged Stilts are Kentish Plovers and Little Terns and it is to be hoped that they will manage to avoid the predations of the many Yellow-legged Gulls.  Plenty of Audouin’s and Slender-billed Gulls are still on the reserve but there’s no sign of any of them breeding there this year.

Counting the Greater Flamingos is the biggest headache!  The total was just short of 1,600 birds, which again are non-breeders.  As usual we read as many colour-rings as we were able to and now await some details of the life histories of the birds concerned.  We had replies this week about several birds that we reported back in March.  Three of them had been ringed at Laguna de Fuente de Piedra, near Malaga in Spain.  One was ringed in 1990 and had previously been seen at Castro Marim in 1997 and 2007 but had since been to Algeria in 2009; another was ringed in 1991, has been seen regularly in the Marismas del Odiel but hadn’t previously been seen in Portugal; the third was ringed in 1999 and had been reported from Tunisia in 2000, Algeria in 2006 and Tavira (seen by us) in 2011.

We’ve seen two more Ospreys this week.  One was at Castro Marim and may have been the same bird we saw on 17th May.  The other was in the Ria Formosa, near Faro.

At the same site, near Faro, we saw a pair of Shelducks with a brood of 11 recently hatched young.  The first breeding of Shelducks in Portugal was as recently as 2000 but they now seem well-established and we expect to see some more young appearing very soon.

Our trip inland took us to an area where the air was filled with the songs of Nightingales, Woodlarks and Blackcaps and where we found several species that we don’t see much if at all in our home area, notably Melodious Warbler, Common Redstart, Iberian Chiffchaff, Rock Bunting and Nuthatch.  It made a nice change from all the wetland birds that we live with along the coast. 

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