Friday, 4 December 2015

Projecto Arenaria 2015/16

Earlier this week, we spent a morning counting the waders and gulls along the Algarve’s easternmost stretch of beach near Monte Gordo.  We walked from the Guadiana River to Praia Verde, a distance of about 7km and then back again to the car.  We were taking part in Projecto Arenaria, a survey of the birds of Portugal’s non-estuarine coast.

Looking west towards Monte Gordo
Gulls feeding on the falling tide

We have taken part in Projecto Arenaria in previous years and blogged about it here, here, here and here.  It is similar to the BTO’s Non-Estuarine Waterbird Survey, which grew out of the Winter Shorebird Count of 1984/85 but it has been difficult to think of any day this week as winter - in fact, we could hardly have wished for better weather for a walk on the beach.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was warm enough for people to be sunbathing!

Lots of jellyfish on the beach

Based on previous experience it wasn’t a surprise to find that there rather few waders on the beach.  The Ria Formosa and other tidal areas along the Algarve coast provide much better feeding and roosting places than the beaches.  We found just three species: Sanderling (39), Oystercatcher (9) and Kentish Plover (8).  It was disappointing not to find even one Turnstone, the species that gives its name to the survey.


We did, however, find some gulls.  Often they were quite mobile, disturbed by various walkers, joggers and fishermen and they were difficult to count accurately.  We counted each flock that we came across and tried as best we could to avoid including the same birds twice if they moved ahead of us.  In the end, we had a grand total of 1,050, mostly Lesser Black-backs but also a few Yellow-legged.

Lesser Black-backed Gull - ringed in Bath, England in June 2015

Not surprisingly we managed to find five Lesser Black-backs with colour-rings: two from the Channel Islands and one each from England, Holland and Denmark.

Lesser Black-backed Gull - ringed on Alderney in July 2014

We hoped that on the sea we might find some Common Scoters or a Razorbill but it wasn’t to be.  A couple of Cormorants flew by and there were plenty of passing Gannets but we saw no other seabirds.

As well as the birds, we were also required to count people (98), vehicles (2) and any dogs not on a leash (2) but we doubt that any of these had a significant influence on the numbers of birds we saw.

Our contribution to Project Arenaria was our last birding in the Algarve for a while but we hope to be reporting from elsewhere before very long.

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