Since then we have been enjoying a St Martin’s summer - for almost two weeks we have had sunshine, mostly cloudless skies and temperatures reaching a comfortable 23°C or even higher.
During this time we have mostly been visiting our usual haunts along the coast of the Eastern Algarve but there have also been longer excursions to Sagres and Cape St Vincent and inland to the Castro Verde area.
Part of the Castro Verde / Mértola plains
The coast at Cape St Vincent
In the Baixo Alentejo, Common Cranes have arrived to spend the winter and both Great & Little Bustards are now much easier to find than they were before the rains. Red Kites and Hen Harriers have now replaced the Black Kites and Montagu’s Harriers that were here for the breeding season. On one trip up there we were surprised to find four Mute Swans on a reservoir where just a couple of weeks earlier we had seen two of these unexpected visitors. We were almost as surprised to find four Great Egrets at another lake nearby but at least we could think that they were truly wild birds.
Inevitably, we have made multiple visits to Quinta do Lago where Purple Swamphens and Little Bitterns are so easy to see and sometimes to photograph and there are also opportunities, if you are lucky, to photograph Common Snipe and Kingfisher. While waiting for these birds to appear, it’s hard to resist filling up the memory card with a variety of duck species!
Nearby at Ludo we have been seeing Booted Eagles and Black-winged Kites and this is one of several places we’ve seen Firecrests.
We also had a morning at Rocha da Pena where a long uphill walk to the summit at Talefe (479m) provided marvellous views over the surrounding countryside and a modest selection of birds that included a single Ring Ouzel, which was our main reason for being there. Ring Ouzels are regular autumn and winter visitors here and Rocha da Pena is always a good bet when it comes to finding them.
Rocha da Pena
As to be expected, rarities have been fewer but there were several reports of Grey Phalaropes after the storm and a drake Long-tailed Duck near Faro was a good find (by Thijs Valkenburg). We wonder whether it was the same bird that was briefly at the same site in February.
In Tavira we have been reading colour-rings, mostly those on Mediterranean Gulls but also on Audouin’s, Lesser Black-backed & Slender-billed Gulls. There have been as many as 500 Meds on the saltpans by the Estrada das 4 Águas and they have come from Belgium, Holland, France, Germany, Spain, Poland and Hungary. Some of them are birds that we have seen here in previous years. There have been Lesser Black-backs from Belgium, Iceland and Alderney while the Audouin’s have been from Spain (Ebro Delta and Mallorca) and from the local colony on the Ilha da Barreta in the Ria Formosa.
Marsh Harrier ready to be released
Finally, we should mention the visit we made to our friends Fábia and Thijs at RIAS (the Centro de Recuperação e Investigação de Animais Selvagens) at Quinta de Marim. It is the season for them to be taking into care any Griffon Vultures that are too weak and hungry to continue their migration but we were there to be involved in a happy outcome, the release back to the wild of a Marsh Harrier. Fortunately, this bird had not been badly injured and was fully recovered after just a short stay.