Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Tavira Redstart

Spring is surely here!  It’s warmer, the days are longer and the birds are definitely getting in the mood for the breeding season.  Chiffchaffs, one of the most numerous species here through the last two or three months, are now singing everywhere, their numbers presumably boosted by returning migrants that have been much further south for the winter.  Zitting Cisticolas, with a song that is probably even more monotonous than that of the Chiffchaff, can be seen in display flights over almost any area of open grassland.  Hoopoes can also be heard; again theirs is hardly a musical song but always a pleasure.  Barn Swallows and House Martins can be seen collecting mud and starting to renovate old nests.  Great Spotted Cuckoos are courting, chasing each other around and at the same time causing alarm among the local Magpies.  How aware, we wonder, are the Magpies that they may soon be expending all their energy in raising young Cuckoos rather than their own offspring?  Yesterday, we saw our first Pallid Swifts of the year and any day now we expect to see Yellow Wagtails followed by Woodchat Shrikes and others as the migration season gets fully underway.  It all happens every year but we still find ourselves excited by it!

In the last week or so we have made further multiple visits to Castro Marim, we’ve spent quite a bit of time around our local patch, the Tavira and Santa Luzia saltpans, and we’ve been in the Castro Verde area, where Great Bustards, Spanish Imperial Eagles, Black-bellied Sandgrouse and an Ocellated Lizard were among the highlights.  Rather surprisingly, we’ve also spent quite a bit of time in the narrow, cobbled streets of Tavira town centre!

Ocellated Lizard

Black Redstart

There has been just one accepted record in Portugal of Moussier’s Redstart: a bird found near Sagres on 16th November 2006 that stayed in the area for about two months, long enough for us to see it when we returned here after an Avian Adventures tour in Costa Rica!  So, when we received news late last Tuesday evening that another male Moussier’s Redstart had been seen and that it is was no more than five minutes drive away in Tavira town centre, we immediately cancelled our plans for Wednesday!  Apart from wanting to see the bird ourselves, we were also keen to confirm the sighting and the identification because we knew that there would be people who would be planning to travel here from as far away as Lisbon once they were sure that there was a chance of seeing such an extreme rarity.  Unfortunately, our efforts have so far been in vain and we have yet to re-locate the bird.  There has apparently been another reported sighting in the last couple of days but at the moment details of that are lacking.  Our only reward to date for pounding the streets has been a nice, spiffy, male Black Redstart but we live in hope!     

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