Monday, 6 April 2015

Easter birding in the Algarve

This last week our birding time has been spent mostly around Castro Marim and in the Ludo / Quinta do Lago area.  Both have been full of interest and some days it has been difficult to decide in which direction we should set off! 

 Castro Marim Reserve

Quinta do Lago

In a week which saw temperatures rise to almost 30º and a change in the wind direction, it has been great to see a variety of migrants at last arriving in numbers including Common Cuckoos, Bee-eaters, Nightingales, Northern Wheatears, Purple Herons, Woodchat Shrikes and Reed Warblers as well as the first Golden Orioles and Collared Pratincoles.  There have been Garganeys at several sites and among the Yellow Wagtails birds of the flava and flavissima races have joined the earlier arriving iberiaes.

 Woodchat Shrike

 European Bee-eater


The main attractions currently at Castro Marim have been the Little Bustards, which are now displaying and easy to see.  Spectacled Warblers and Great Spotted Cuckoos have also been popular and there has been a nice selection of passage waders that has included Spotted Redshank, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwits and Greenshank.  On Good Friday we saw a Short-toed Eagle there and the wintering Osprey with the red ring on its left leg seems reluctant to leave.  Marsh Harriers are also displaying and from time to time a pair of Ravens appear.

Spectacled Warbler

Although we have found Little Bitterns, Glossy Ibises, Red-crested Pochards and Purple Swamp-hens around Castro Marim in the last few days, these are species that are definitely easier to see In the Ludo / Quinta do Lago area.  Black-headed Weavers are now busy building nests and are also fun to watch in front of the hide that overlooks the Lagoa de São Lourenço.  The long-staying Red-breasted Flycatcher seems to have left and the Little Crakes didn’t stay very long but we have seen Wryneck, Booted Eagles, Osprey, Black Kite and Black-winged Kite as well as a few Mediterranean & Audouin’s Gulls.

Little Bittern

Purple Swamp-hen

Of course, we have also managed to visit the wonderful Castro Verde / Mértola area where Great Bustards are now displaying and easy to see.  One morning we stood and watched about a dozen of them at the same time as there were also in view two Spanish Imperial Eagles, a Black Vulture, 30 Black-bellied Sandgrouse and several Calandra Larks.  It was hard to decide where to look first!  We saw 10 raptor species during the day, which really is the minimum number we would expect at this time of year.  The first Rollers are just arriving but our experience is that Black-eared Wheatears are so far slow making an appearance.

Great Bustards

 White Storks

Almost wherever we go but particularly numerous in the Baixo Alentejo there are White Storks nesting.  We rather take them for granted but their black, white and red colours seen against a clear blue sky make a fine sight and we love to hear them bill-clapping.  There’s a colour-ringed White Stork nesting near Aipo that was ringed as a nestling at nearby Navarro (Castro Verde) in 1999.  It has been using the same nest for several years which is typical of the species but has been seen feeding on rubbish dumps in Spain in the dry autumn months when frogs are hard to come by.

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