Sunday, 13 October 2013

Algarve Update

With scarcely a day off from birding in one form or another and lots of long days out to the Alentejo, to Sagres and to Doñana, regular updates to our blog have been impossible these last few weeks.

September and October are two of the best months for birding here.  It’s migration time of course and that means birds arriving, birds leaving and birds just passing through - raptors, passerines, waders, seabirds, everything.  We've been busy!

Among all these birds can usually be found a few rarities but we have to be careful when we refer to rarities.  In the last month or so there have been records here of American Golden Plover, Lesser Flamingo, Lesser Redpoll, Rüppell’s Griffon, White-winged Tern, Herring Gull, Brent Goose, Roseate Tern, Glaucous Gull, Chimney Swift, Long-tailed Skua, Yelkouan Shearwater and Long-legged Buzzard, all of which are subject to scrutiny by the Portuguese Rarities Committee but this list no doubt includes a few that you may not think of as rare if you live in the UK, for instance.  It will be interesting to see how many of them are eventually accepted. 

Other scarce (but not officially rare) species of local interest have included Western Olivaceous Warbler, Great Egret, Grey Phalarope and Ferruginous Duck, plus Eleanora’s Falcon, Spanish Imperial Eagle and several other raptors. 

Grey Phalarope

Here in Tavira, we did hear a couple of reports of a Western Reef Egret but they almost certainly referred to the presumed hybrid garzetta x gularis egret that has been mainly around the Forte do Rato area for several weeks.

Hybrid garzetta x gularis egret

In recent autumns at least some of the rarity records in the Algarve have resulted from ringing activity but as far as we are aware that hasn’t happened this year.  The group from the UK led by Colin McShane who in previous years have ringed Common Yellowthroat, Aquatic Warbler and Common Rosefinch among others, unfortunately chose to spend a week at Vilamoura that included the only few days in the last several months that proved to be unsuitable for ringing.  This was their seventh visit here and the total number of birds ringed, while they endured wind and rain, was their lowest so far.

The 4th Sagres Birdwatching Festival during the first weekend of October seems to have been a success both for the number of people attending and for the number and variety of birds that were recorded.  Some days at Sagres / Cape St Vincent birding can be hard work so it was good that those who travelled there just for the festival had plenty to keep them entertained.

This autumn we have managed only one ‘pelagic’ trip and really it wasn’t one of the best.  We went about 5 miles out from Fuseta but saw only Cory’s and Sooty Shearwaters, a Black Tern and Northern Gannets.  Probably we should have gone a week or two earlier but that wasn’t possible.

 Northern Gannet

Black Tern

Much of our birding has been in the Eastern Algarve, at Castro Marim and in the Ria Formosa.  The numbers of birds have been impressive - e.g. 1,700 Greater Flamingos, 1,350 Audouin’s Gulls and 900 Avocets at Castro Marim - and species such as Bluethroat, Glossy Ibis, Purple Swamp-hen, Little Bittern, Slender-billed Gull, Caspian Tern and Black-necked Grebe have been popular with visiting birders and mostly easy to see.

 Black-necked Grebe

 Glossy Ibis

 Caspian Terns

Little Bittern

As usual, we've been reading and reporting colour-rings.  Three Lesser Black-backed Gulls from the Netherlands and two from Belgium were all seen at Olhão.  We are still awaiting replies concerning a Black-winged Stilt, a Spoonbill and several Greater Flamingos and Audouin's Gulls.

In other news, television personality Bill Oddie has been birding in the Algarve and has expressed support for the campaign to ‘Save Salgados’.  You can read about that here and, if you haven’t signed the petition, it’s still available here.

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