Saturday, 21 May 2016

Back into our routine

With Peter now back in the Algarve after his travels for Avian Adventures we have returned this week to our usual routine that includes birding in both the Algarve and Baixo Alentejo, some photography and some reading of colour-rings.

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 Phalarope
Whilst 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!

Marbled Duck

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.

Marbled Duck

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.

 European Bee-eater

House Martin

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!

 Eurasian Griffon

 Gull-billed Tern

Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin

Cattle Egret

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.

 Audouin's Gull

 Yellow-legged Gulls

Thursday, 12 May 2016

More Avian Adventures!

With June left holding the fort in the Algarve, Peter has again been off again leading a tour for Avian Adventures, this time in his favourite Arizona.  It was his 22nd visit to the Grand Canyon state and his 14th spring tour there.

This year's tour was confined to the south-east of the state with just one brief excursion north of Tucson to find Burrowing Owl.  The itinerary included stays in Portal, Sierra Vista, Green Valley and Tucson, giving access to more excellent birding sites than could possibly be covered in the time available.

Here are some photographs of a few of the birds seen and places visited during two weeks of sunshine:

Scenic Cave Creek Canyon in the Chiricahuas

Burrowing Owl - in decline and becoming harder to find around Tucson

Willow Tank - an oasis in the desert, near Portal

Whitewater Draw - not much water at this time of year but still worth a visit

Patagonia Lake - a large man-made lake, good for ducks, grebes, shorebirds and more

Lower Sabino Canyon - saguaros, chollas, mesquite, palo verde and more

Amado Sewage Pond - often attracts something unusual, this time a Greater Scaup

Portal Main St. - always good for an early morning or evening walk

Black-throated Sparrow - an attractive common resident of desert scrub

Lark Sparrow - one of the most numerous birds we saw

Cactus Wren - the official state bird of Arizona

Greater Roadrunner - always popular and seemed particularly numerous this year

Scott's Oriole - one of three oriole species seen

(Mexican) Spotted Owl - well worth the climb up Miller Canyon 

Lucifer Hummingbird - eight species of hummingbirds were seen

Vermilion Flycatcher - presumably a first-year male