Saturday, 16 June 2012

Myrmeleontidae !!

When we were at Castro Marim recently we came across an insect that we didn’t recognise. Nothing unusual about that really – we’re birders not entomologists – but this was quite an impressive creature that resembled a dragonfly but clearly wasn’t a dragonfly. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to photograph it, which made finding a name for it more than a little tricky when we got home and started looking at our books and trawling the internet.

We’ve since been back twice to the same area and although we have failed to re-locate the beast, amazingly June did find its remains or at least the wings! These were much easier to photograph and subsequently, with the help of our friend Nelson Fonseca, we now know that it was an antlion (family Myrmeleontidae). Whether it is Palpares libelluloides or P. hispanus we’re still not sure but the exciting thing is we’re told it may be a first record for Portugal or at least a first for the Algarve! It would be nice to think that there wasn’t just one of them and that there will be further sightings. 

Also at Castro Marim were a Purple Heron, Marsh and Montagu’s Harriers, Collared Pratincoles, three Caspian Terns and uncounted Slender-billed Gulls. 

The highlight of another visit to the ETAR (for the uninitiated that’s the Estação de Tratamento de Águas Residuais or wastewater treatment plant) was a colour-ringed Avocet. We reported it the same day and remarkably had an immediate reply identifying it as having been ringed at Veta La Palma in Andalucía on 4th July 1996, making it almost 16 years old. Confusingly, the ring began life white but is now almost orange in colour as the result of staining!

We were joined on our trip to the ETAR by Ray Tipper and Willow the dog (or possibly Willowthedog, all one word!).  Anyway, Ray reckons that Willow has seen more bird species in Portugal than any other canine and probably more than most human birders.  We're told that her list is a bit light on seabirds and unfortunately she still hasn't mastered use of the telescope...

We really don’t know what’s happened to our local Bee-eaters! There seem to be very few birds around Tavira or Castro Marim and we’ve seen little evidence of breeding at some of the sites where we would normally expect to see them.

As well as birds, our week has also been dominated by football and Euro 2012. Even though we don’t have a television, we’ve managed to see a fair number of matches, even popping over the border to join the locals and our friends, Steven and Julie, in a bar in Ayamonte to watch Spain v Ireland. It was Steven and Julie who put us onto some photographable Bee-eaters at Costa Esuri on the Spanish side of the Rio Guadiana which we were very happy to go and have a look at the following morning.

Finally, a couple of items of interest that came our way during the week from the BTO. One concerns those Common Cuckoos that they have been satellite-tracking for the past year, one of which, after just 42 days in the UK, has already set off back south. A further eleven Cuckoos have recently been fitted with devices and it will be fascinating to see over the coming months how the movements of birds from Scotland and Wales compare with those that breed in England. The other item was about the movements of Common Swifts as shown by geolocators and like the Cuckoo project has demonstrated the limitations of conventional bird ringing.

No comments: