On Monday afternoon we spent a couple of hours at Cacela Velha and Fábrica looking mainly at gulls. There had been a recent report from there of a Great Black-backed Gull but we were also hoping we might come across the colour-ringed Caspian Gull from Germany that has been seen at several sites along the coast in recent weeks. In the event, we saw only the six regular species: Black-headed, Mediterranean, Slender-billed, Audouin’s, Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed. Among them were six colour-ringed birds: four Audouin’s (three from Spain, one Portuguese) and two Lesser Black-backed (one from Norway and one from the UK).
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Our enthusiasm for gulls continued on Tuesday. In spite of it being a miserable, wet day, we went to Quarteira. There have been a remarkable number of records of Glaucous Gulls in the Algarve this winter (mostly when we haven’t been here!) including one at Quarteira in January so it seemed a reasonable place to go and look for one. Also, there have been reports of Great Black-backed Gulls from there, not quite so rare but still a very scarce bird in the Algarve. Again we were unsuccessful, although we did find a colour-ringed Lesser Black-backed Gull from Belgium and a Yellow-legged Gull that had passed through the hands of Thijs Valkenburg at RIAS here in the Algarve. In the harbour, the Eider was still in exactly the same place where we had seen it on 12th January.
We also went to Foz do Almargem and Trafal where quite a lot of Barn Swallows, House Martins and Crag Martins were feeding in spite of the weather. Out at sea, a few Great Skuas passed by as well as the usual Gannets.
On Wednesday we had an opportunity to show off some of our local birds to visiting birders, taking them to Santa Luzia, Tavira, Castro Marim and to the Mata Nacional das Dunas de Vila Real de Santo António. Among the most popular of about 85 species recorded during the day were Little Bustard, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Bluethroat, Black-winged Kite, Slender-billed Gull, Black-necked Grebe, Stone-curlew and Crested Tit, some of them because of the prolonged, close-range views we were able to enjoy. Of course, we also found time to look for colour-rings, which included one on a Greater Flamingo that we had seen before in 2010 and 2012, a bird that was ringed in 2006 in the huge colony at Laguna de Fuente de Piedra in Spain.
Friday was also a guiding day but this time we went a short way to the west of here, birding around Ludo, Quinta do Lago, Foz do Almargem and Trafal. Again the species count for the day was about 85. It was a remarkable day for raptors with Black-winged Kite, Osprey, Booted Eagle, Goshawk, Peregrine Falcon, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard and Common Kestrel all being seen before 10.00am! Also notable were a first-winter Little Gull, probably the same bird that we saw at Foz do Almargem in January, and a flock of about 150 Common Scoters off Praia de Faro. Again this is almost certainly the same flock of scoters that has been in that area for several weeks but we failed to find anything else among them. As far as we know, there don’t seem to have been any recent reports of the Surf Scoter, Velvet Scoter and possible Black Scoter that we and many others saw with them a month ago. Elsewhere, Purple Swamp-hens, Glossy Ibises and a Little Bittern all appeared on cue but it was a singing Short-toed Treecreeper that was named ‘bird of the day’ by one of our party, which just goes to show how we all view things differently. It was certainly cute but for us the Goshawk was definitely the star, particularly as it was seen so well, perched for several minutes in full view.
If, like us, you have an interest in the gulls of the Algarve, you should take a look at Nelson Fonseca’s new blog, appropriately called ‘Gulls of Algarve’.