Black-necked Grebes are regular winter visitors here in the Algarve. They are normally seen between September and March but we have sometimes seen them in April and in 2007 we were surprised to see one stay at Castro Marim until as late as 20th May.
Castro Marim is where we have always expected to find them, either on the salinas at Cerro do Bufo or sometimes on the adjacent Esteiro da Carrasqueira. The peak number during any winter is usually around 100.
Less regularly we have seen a few at Santa Luzia and birds have been present there throughout the past three months. Our highest count has been 21 on 22nd January but numbers have varied, suggesting that they perhaps move between the salinas and the nearby Canal de Tavira in much the same way that at Castro Marim they use the Carrasqueira.
Yesterday there were just 10 birds present, some of them already well advanced in their moult into breeding plumage. Soon they will depart for breeding areas in Northern Europe but exactly where we couldn’t say.
Black-necked Grebe is said to be the world’s most abundant grebe and they have a very wide distribution. We have seen them in huge numbers at Mono Lake in California (where they are referred to as Eared Grebes and where during autumn migration as many as 1.6 million are estimated to have occurred) but we still enjoy seeing our few local birds and the occasional opportunity to photograph them.