Sunday, 19 April 2015

More Alentejo days

At this time of the year it is difficult to beat a day‘s birding in the Castro Verde area of the Baixo Alentejo, particularly if you enjoy seeing birds of prey.  We’ve been up there three times during the past week and seen 16 raptor species!  That’s five eagles, three kites, three falcons, two harriers, two vultures and of course Common Buzzard.  There has seldom been a moment when there wasn’t at least one raptor in view.
Montagu's Harrier

Great Bustards are easy to see; Little Bustards are easy to hear but becoming more difficult to locate as the vegetation grows.  Roadside fence posts and power poles and cables provide perches for countless Corn Buntings and Thekla Larks and a surprising number of Iberian Grey Shrikes; among them the prospect of an occasional Black-eared Wheatear, Tawny Pipit or Short-toed Lark keeps us alert.  Yesterday we found an Ortolan Bunting, which was a surprise - an unusual bird in this area and on an early date.

Little Bustard
 Black-eared Wheatear
Iberian Grey Shrike

Rollers have now returned to their regular nesting areas and they are always fun to watch.  They mostly nest in artificial sites, nest boxes and the like, which are provided for them at several of the farms.  Often they have Lesser Kestrels as next-door neighbours but yesterday we watched a pair that seemed to have competition from Jackdaws.  It is easy to see how a resident species like Jackdaw might gain the advantage over a late-arriving migrant when it comes to nest site selection.  

European Roller

The area is dotted with small reservoirs and ponds where Little Grebes and Little Ringed Plovers are frequent and Black-winged Stilts are often found.  One or two of them have Collared Pratincoles breeding.  We have particularly enjoyed watching the Pratincoles this week.  They are such attractive birds and wonderfully confiding.

Collared Pratincoles

Nesting White Storks never lose their attraction and there are so many that we have given up trying to count them.  There are nests on poles, in trees and on buildings and many of them have tenants living alongside the storks: House Sparrows, Spotless Starlings and Spanish Sparrows.

Spanish Sparrow

And it’s not just a visual experience!  As well as the constant jangling song of the Corn Buntings and the zitting of Cisticolas, most of the water courses with any vegetation have Nightingales singing loudly.  There are numerous Calandra Larks singing and displaying, Bee-eaters can frequently be heard passing overhead and where there is suitable habitat, often roadside eucalyptus trees, there is the sound of Golden Orioles.

Corn Bunting

No doubt we’ll be heading to the Alentejo again next week!  Every day up there is different.   

1 comment:

Rob and Anne said...

Great pics as usual.can't wait for our next visit to all the spots you mention.
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Rob and Anne