Just a half day around the Tavira and Santa Luzia saltpans where the usual selection of waders included one or two Ruff but the highlight for us was seeing Common Redshank H19 for the first time this autumn. We have written before here about this Dutch-ringed bird, which was back in its usual spot where it has been seen regularly through the last three winters.
There are lots of Audouin’s Gulls here still and we couldn’t resist jotting down a few ring numbers.
A full day in the Castro Verde area saw the best of the week’s weather - warm and sunny with just a gentle breeze. With persistence and a little luck we were able to find most of the target species, including both Great Bustard and Little Bustard, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Griffon Vulture, Black Vulture, Stone-curlew and Calandra Lark. A Hen Harrier was our first of the season, Red Kite numbers had increased from a week ago but the day’s only Black-winged Kite disappointed by quickly disappearing from view.
A dark and dismal morning with persistent rain found us at Castro Marim birding just from the car. We saw barely 30 species in the hour or so before we saw sense and headed back home!
Most of the day was spent around Ludo and Quinta do Lago where early morning raptors included four Booted Eagles, an Osprey, a Marsh Harrier and a Black-winged Kite. We saw what were probably three different Little Bitterns and as well as the usual Purple Swamp-hens it’s nice that a Water Rail has recently taken to appearing from time to time in front of the hide. Several Red-crested Pochards, Glossy Ibises and Black-headed Weaver completed the area’s ‘must see’ species. Two Cetti’s Warblers put on a memorable and uncharacteristic show for us, displaying and chasing about in open view, lots of White Storks were back on their nests, the wooded areas provided Crested Tits, Iberian Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker but for some reason not Short-toed Treecreeper. Two Common Scoters off Praia de Faro at lunchtime were a bonus.
We rounded off the day back in Tavira where three Bluethroats in view simultaneously could hardly have been bettered.
When the forecast shows wet and windy weather approaching from the west, it’s best to head east! We went to Doñana for the day and although we didn’t see much sun we did stay dry.
At La Dehesa de Abajo there were fewer birds than we saw on our last visit there two weeks ago mainly because Glossy Ibises and White Storks were mostly absent. There were still 1,000 or so Greater Flamingos and probably twice that number of Northern Shovelers. Among the hundreds of Black-winged Stilts, one with a colour-ring obligingly walked past the hide two or three times. Two Black Terns, two Pallid Swifts and several Red-knobbed Coots were also notable and there were large numbers of hirundines feeding over the water. After all that we enjoyed an excellent lunch in the visitor centre.
In the afternoon, we headed off to explore other parts of Doñana where the numbers of Marsh Harriers, Great Egrets, Grey Herons and Common Kestrels were particularly impressive. We saw Griffon Vultures and Calandra Larks, on several occasions we had good views of Black-winged Kites but the highlight was probably seeing four Black Storks at close range, birds that we don‘t often see on the ground in the Algarve.
Heavy overnight rain continued into the morning and we decided not to venture out birding until after lunch. The afternoon was no better; we managed half an hour or so around Tavira, birding from the car but it was no fun and we did the only sensible thing, we packed up and went home.
During a week’s birdwatching tour in the Algarve it would be unprofessional not to go to Sagres, particularly at this time of the year when there is a chance to see some raptors and other migrants. The weather had improved and we enjoyed a mostly sunny day with very little wind. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a great birding day - the birds just didn‘t turn up!
We saw a few Cory’s Shearwaters, a tired-looking Garden Warbler and a Pied Flycatcher, Shags, Rock Doves and Crag Martins and a flock of what must have been 100 or more Red-billed Choughs but the only raptors were a Booted Eagle and a Common Buzzard.
On the way back to Tavira, we called in at Lagoa dos Salgados but it wasn’t a pretty sight. Work is currently being carried out by Águas do Algarve, which it is said should provide enhanced nesting and feeding areas for birds, enable the water levels to be controlled and generally increase the lagoon's appeal to migrating birds to stop over, rest and feed. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is! We should remember that the head of Águas do Algarve is that same person who was previously mayor of Silves council and was instrumental in granting permission to Finalgarve for the tourist development adjacent to the lagoon that has been the subject of an online petition and a complaint to the European Environment Commissioner.
So, that was the week - some very good days, one that was not so good and two that were washed out by the weather.