Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Desert Island Clicks

Yesterday’s trip to the Ilha da Barreta (also known as Ilha Deserta) wasn’t expected to produce a long bird list.  The main object of the visit (by Peter along with Ray Tipper) was simply to see the growing colony of breeding Audouin’s Gulls – more than 300 nests this year, we had been told – and to take a few photographs.

The island is one of the chain of islands that stretches from Faro to Cacela Velha, protecting the Ria Formosa from the impacts of the Atlantic Ocean.  It is uninhabited but it has 10km of beautiful, relatively quiet beaches and, somewhat surprisingly, a restaurant.  Its main attractions, however, are the unique flora and its birdlife.  It is also notable for being the southernmost point of continental Portugal.

Access to the island is via a ferry from Faro.  As it caters primarily for tourists, the first sailing of the day is at 10.00am!  The crossing takes about 45 minutes and costs 10 Euros.

The Audouin’s Gulls were interesting to see but proved no more photographable than those we find regularly around Tavira and Santa Luzia.  As the colony grows, however, it becomes increasingly important for what is, according to BirdLife International, a species that is ‘Near Threatened’ even though the world population appears to be multiplying quite rapidly.   Yellow-legged Gulls and Little Terns were also nesting.

There were a few Kentish Plovers and other waders along the shore, notably a party of eight Red Knots, some of which were living up to their name in at least partial breeding plumage.  Several Mediterranean Gulls were also in smart breeding dress and we saw a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls and wondered whether perhaps they might also be breeding!

There were few passerines to be seen: Crested Larks and Greater Short-toed Larks, Yellow Wagtails, Sardinian Warblers and, inevitably, a few House Sparrows.

The island is also said to be well worth a visit at migration times and we will certainly keep that possibility in mind. 

Maybe not as many clicks as we might have hoped for, but it was a very pleasant day out and a change from our regular haunts.

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