Saturday, 19 May 2012

May...or July?

The calendar says it’s May but for most of the last week it’s seemed more like July or August with temperatures reaching as high as 35ºC.  Early starts have been essential and most days we’ve been out birding by 6.30am or soon after.  Our plan has been to pack up and come home when it gets hot but that hasn’t always happened – there’s always somewhere else to go, something else to see!

Much of our attention has been focused around Castro Marim where we have been making repeat visits to the three areas that we volunteered to cover as part of a survey of the Lesser Short-toed Lark population.  It has to be said that we haven’t found many and it will be interesting to hear how others have fared.  Fortunately, there have been plenty of other birds to see while we’ve been looking for larks, including Little Bustards, Marsh and Montagu’s Harriers, Stone-curlews and Glossy Ibises.

There seem to be quite a number of Glossy Ibises in the Algarve at the moment and several Squacco Herons, too.  When we were last in Doñana conditions there were such that it seemed unlikely many birds would breed at the JAV Centre and so it has turned out, we hear.  Presumably the birds that have found their way to the Algarve are some of the failed breeders.   Might some of these birds have found a place in the Algarve to breed, we wonder.

Again we have spent some time looking for new sites where we can photograph Bee-eaters; we also spent an hour or more one morning trying to photograph an uncooperative Spectacled Warbler.  We’ve been checking for the return of White-rumped Swifts and one morning we even went twitching!

A brood of Crag Martins at a site where we were looking for White-rumped Swifts.
 Migration continues and there are still plenty of waders around the Ria Formosa and at Castro Marim that should soon be heading north.  Mostly they are Dunlins and Sanderlings, now in fine breeding plumage, but we are still seeing a few Grey Plovers, Turnstones, Curlews, Oystercatchers and Ruff and it’s been a good week for Wood Sandpipers.

A late Osprey at Castro Marim on 17th May was one of the week’s highlights, particularly as it perched on top of a pole that was fitted with a nest platform intended for White Storks.  Who knows, maybe one day they will breed there!

Another highlight was adding Golden Oriole to the list of species that we have seen/heard without leaving home.  A bird sang for quite a while yesterday but unfortunately without ever showing itself.  As we are quite close to the coast (Gannet is on that ‘seen from home’ list!), we assume it was a newly arrived migrant.

Our twitch was unsuccessful.  The best bird of the week in the Algarve was a White-winged Tern found near Faro late on Monday by Thijs Valkenberg and others.  Unfortunately, it was gone by the following morning.  Our journey wasn’t wasted, however.  It was an opportunity to enjoy some close up views of Collared Pratincoles and to take some photographs.

Finally, a colour-ringed Spoonbill that we saw on Tuesday turned out, not surprisingly, to have originated in the Netherlands.  It was ringed in 1996 and during its 16 years has made several visits to the Marismas del Odiel just across the border from here in Spain.  However, ours was the first report of it in Portugal.  

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