We began birding at Quarteira where the Eider Duck, first seen at the end of November, remained in the harbour and was easily located. There have been only a handful of previous records of this species in Portugal and the last one in the Algarve was as long ago as 1998. Remarkably, the day after the first sighting of this bird three more Eiders appeared in the Ria Formosa.
From Quarteira it was just a short drive to go and find the long-staying Red-knobbed Coot that we first saw in November at Foz do Almargem and from there an even shorter distance to Trafal where we quickly located a Lesser Yellowlegs that has also taken a liking to the Algarve.
When we were last in this area several weeks ago we saw a flock of what we estimated to be about 100 Common Scoters far out on the sea. We might not have seen them at all had they not been disturbed by a fishing boat and taken flight. While we have been away these birds have been seen at much closer range and the flock found to include both a Velvet Scoter and a Surf Scoter, both very rare birds in Portugal. This is the first Algarve record of Surf Scoter and only the second of Velvet Scoter.
There is also a bird in this flock that may prove to be a Black Scoter, once regarded as a race of Common Scoter but now generally treated as a separate species. Separation of the two, especially in seawatching conditions, isn’t easy and it is to be hoped that better views can be had and perhaps photographs taken. It took a little while before the flock drifted close enough to shore for us to be able to pick out the three ‘odd birds out’. Maybe someone needs to hire a boat!
While we were watching the Scoters, we also saw several Razorbills, four Great Skuas (one apparently feeding on a gull) and a first-winter Little Gull. This last bird may also be a long-stayer as we saw one in roughly the same place in November.
Next we took ourselves off to the wastewater treatment ponds near Faro where we soon found amongst the thousands of ducks (mostly Wigeon) another bird that doesn’t seem to want to move on - the drake Falcated Duck that we reported on here. A Ruff, two or more Marsh Harriers and a Glossy Ibis were also seen here but we were perhaps most pleased to see three Little Ringed Plovers, not commonly found here so early in the year.
The rest of the afternoon was spent around Tavira and Santa Luzia where highlights included Black-necked Grebes, Slender-billed & Audouin’s Gulls, Bluethroat, Caspian Tern, a male Hen Harrier and good counts of Stone-curlews (65+) and Knot (150+).
When we got home we realised that we had recorded 99 species during the day. It could easily have been more. It’s good to be back!