We began on Monday with a trip to the salinas at Olhão where two Red-necked Phalaropes had been seen during the previous few days. This species is classified as a rarity here and is always a delight to see. With good directions we easily found one of them but have to assume that the other one had departed.
Red-necked PhalaropeWhilst in the Olhão area we called in at Quinta de Marim. This was partly to see our friends at RIAS but also to have a look for a Marbled Duck that had been seen and photographed on the small freshwater pond there. Marbled Duck is a species that many visiting birders want to see and ask us to find for them, presumably not realising what a scarce bird it has become in Iberia. The last record in the Algarve was in January 1997!
It used to be that they could be found across the border in Doñana but relatively few remain there and they aren’t easy to find. The breeding population is very small and has undergone a large and rapid decline because of destruction and degradation of breeding habitat. Many of the wetlands in North Africa where they spend the winter have also beeen destroyed.
When we found the duck it was quickly obvious that it had a yellow ring on its right leg and this it would seem is evidence that it originates from a Spanish re-introduction project. For more precise details it will be necessary to read the inscription on the ring, something that won’t be easily achieved!
We did hear that there had been a report of two Marbled Ducks at Quinta de Marim, which together with the secretive behaviour of the bird we saw has given rise to speculation that a breeding attempt might be in progress. Now that would be exciting!
A morning out around Tavira with the camera resulted in some pleasing portraits of European Bee-eaters. We also spent some time at a small puddle where Serins and Goldfinches were drinking and bathing and House Martins were collecting mud.
We spent a full day in the Castro Verde area where we saw most of the expected species including thirteen raptor species, European Rollers and both Little & Great Bustards. Rufous-tailed Scrub Robins (aka Rufous Bush Chats), Collared Pratincoles, Cattle Egrets and Gull-billed Terns were also getting on with the business of breeding. We also saw four Mute Swans but we’re not sure what they were doing there!
Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin
An enjoyable afternoon was taken up with a visit to the Audouin’s Gull breeding colony in the Ria Formosa. This species began breeding in the Algarve in 2001 and it’s amazing that there are now estimated to be 1,800 pairs here. Forty years ago the global population was estimated to be only 1,000 pairs! The population has expanded owing to increased availability of fisheries discards close to key breeding colonies, something that could in future be affected by the EU Common Fisheries Policy. We managed to read a few colour-rings including some indicating that the birds originated from the Ebro Delta in Spain, site of the largest colony in the Mediterranean. There is also a substantial breeding colony of Yellow-legged Gulls on the island.