Sunday, 20 September 2015

Last week's birding

We're now settled back into our routine here in the Algarve and we've just  enjoyed an excellent week of birding. Migrants are on the move, it's been a particularly good week to see eagles and there's been much more besides.

Spanish Imperial Eagle

Our two visits to the Castro Verde area in the Baixo Alentejo gave us multiple sightings of Short-toed, Bonelli's, Golden & Spanish Imperial Eagles - enough to make anyone's day!  It would have been nice to have come across the Steppe Eagle that has recently been reported but maybe that was too much to ask for.  Other raptors we did see up there included Black-winged Kites, Griffon Vultures and Eurasian Black Vultures so there were no complaints.

 Short-toed Eagle

As usual at this time of the year, Great Bustards were relatively few and we failed to find any Little Bustards at all.  In an area where hundreds of them nest, there wasn't a White Stork to be seen but we watched a party of seven Black Storks over São Marcos da Ataboeira.  Most of the summer visitors such as Golden Orioles, Collared Pratincoles, Bee-eaters and Rollers have left but a couple of Black-eared Wheatears remained.

After a scorching hot summer the plains are baked dry and for many birds food must be scarce.  Most of the rivers and streams are now dry but there are quite a number of ponds and small reservoirs that still contain some water.  Green Sandpipers and Common Snipe winter around these reservoirs and both species are already in residence. A few passage waders also occur at these waters and we found Dunlin, Common Sandpiper, Greenshank and Ringed Plover.  We also saw Greater Flamingos and Spoonbills which somehow seem a little out of place here away from the coastal wetlands.


The eagles we saw in the Algarve were of course Booted Eagles, several of them at a regular site with two Black-winged Kites roosting nearby.  At Quinta do Lago, Little Bitterns, Glossy Ibises and Purple Swamp-hens were easy to see and a Water Rail made a brief appearance.  At Santa Luzia a juvenile Red-necked Phalarope brought to 25 the number of wader species recorded during the week; Audouin's & Slender-billed Gulls were also there.  At Olhão there were Mediterranean Gulls plus Caspian, Little, Common & Sandwich Terns and near Tavira we found what is presumed to be a hybrid Little x Western Reef Egret, a bird that has been in the area for several weeks.

  Booted Eagle

 Audouin's Gull

Red-necked Phalarope

Presumed hybrid Little x Western Reef Egret

An adult Spanish Imperial Eagle was our main reward for making the long trip to the Doñana area in neighbouring Spain.  There were also several Booted Eagles.  Again here it was a matter of finding some water in order to find a few birds as the whole place was parched dry and unrecognisable compared to how we see it in the spring and early summer. A few Black Storks, Great Egrets and Night Herons were seen as well as numerous Grey Herons, Cattle & Little Egrets but apart from Green Sandpipers and Black-winged Stilts there few waders and the day was generally disappointing.

Spanish Imperial Eagle

Everywhere we have been there have been at least a few passerine migrants, including Common Whitethroat, Northern Wheatears, Whinchats, Tawny Pipits, Pied  & Spotted Flycatchers, Chiffchaffs, Willow & Subalpine Warblers and Common Redstarts and we can expect more of the same during the coming weeks.  Maybe this will be the year for another North American passerine - we can but hope!

 Tawny Pipit


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