Monday, 7 March 2016

Final day - Castro Verde area

My favourite and last day. Today we headed to the Castro Verde area north of the Algarve. A couple of stops on the way up there got us Lesser Kestrel, Spotless Starling and Long-tailed Tit which was different to ours as it was darker. With the usual species being seen on the journey we made our way up onto a mountain where a chapel has been built. The mountain itself was littered with Red-legged Partridge, which are supposed to be there. Southern grey Shrike showed well and Swallows, House Martins and a Sand Martin all flew through. Dunnock and Dartford Warbler were good birds to add to the list while distant Raven and Short-toed Eagle were also seen. The wind had picked up but Golden and Bonelli's Eagle showed, the Bonelli's more distant than the Golden.
Finally added Woodpigeon for the trip as it is more common up north than in the Algarve. White Stork and Corn Bunting seemed to be the most numerous although Southern shrike seem to be on every wire that we went passed. At a stop overlooking a river Zitting Cisticola,Grey Heron, Mallard and a hunting Hen Harrier showed.

One of the many Shrikes on wires.

An area of water that we stopped at produced Little ringed Plover, Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Lapwing and White Wagtail. Stock Dove was added then a large flock of lekking Great Bustard. Too far away for a brilliant shot but did get a shot.

The next site was one of my favourites. An abandoned building which had lots of Lesser Kestrels and a Little Owl in. Only 2 Cranes from the winter were still in the fields, one of my favourite raptors Black-shouldered Kite did a fly through. As we were leaving a Spanish Imperial Eagle drifted right over our heads showing amazing views.

Crane was also a long way off.

There had been a Long-eared Owl in the middle of a nearby town all winter so we went to look for that and found it easily as it watched us very closely from it's perch.

We then did a few different sites looking for the other specialities in the area. A massive flock of Corn Bunting had Goldfinch and Calandra Lark mixed in with them. Little Bustard was found as it flew across a field and landed in sight, Black-bellied Sandgrouse eventually flew up and showed itself well. The Sandgrouse landed within view of the scope, but within a minute they could no longer been seen even though you knew where they landed.
Before we left the area Spanish Sparrow was found and that was the last bird of note we saw.

I made it 127 species for the trip, which I think is great. Really enjoyed it, and thanks to my guide sampled some local food. 

That evening I went to a local restaurant and had as a starter Melon and Proscuitto which is very popular, I enjoyed both but both together didn't really do it for me. The main dish was Portugese style steak. This also had Proscuitto on it and was very nice indeed, the middle of the steak was medium rare which isn't how I usually have my steaks but I did enjoy it. 

11 new birds for me and plenty of birds only seen for the 2nd time. Now off to try and organise a day trip while on the family holiday.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Day 2 - Sagres area

Where to start. The wifi in this room and hotel I think must have a lot of people using it or just not that good as it is working so slow.
Unusually for me I didn't make the notes I usually do so will put it together as best as I can. I know we started on the Sagres peninsula doing a quick sea watch. This is where fishermen climb down a rope to then perch on a ledge halfway up a cliff to go fishing, madness or dedication? The wind picked up pretty quickly as well so we didn't spend too long there. Chough were wheeling about in the wind, Ring Ouzel darted across the road. Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler and Black Redstart all sharing the rocks with us. Out to sea there were lots of Gannets, a few Razorbill, a Shag and real Rock Doves. A porpoise was also quite close into shore.

We made various stops, some like Little Owl and Blue Rock Thrush (new for me) were stop and see it and go. One area produced very close Thekla Lark (also new for me) not so keen on my photos though. Hoopoe, Song Thrush, Iberian Magpie and one I always like Serin were added here. There were a lot of Cattle Egrets around and a distant Short-toed Eagle showed. The sweetwater lagoon was one area we visited and it produced more Flamingo, Black-winged Stilt, Glossy Ibis and plenty of duck species. Also there Crag Martin, Swallow and House Martin. Gulls added here were Audouin's and Mediterranean. We went looking for a Marsh Sandpiper that had been in the area with no luck but did get 1st Yellow Wagtail (Iberian!) of the year along with Kentish Plover, Little Stint, Snipe and a ringtail Hen Harrier. Ruff, Red-rumped Swallow, Buzzard and Crested Lark are just a few of the other species we added.
The last place we visited was full of Collared Dove but thankfully also Cetti's Warbler, Siskin, Jay and Spoonbill. Within this reserve there is a bird hospital and they had a Griffon Vulture, Goshawk and Sort-toed Eagle all being looked after. No cuckoo as I had hoped but did have a close encounter with a Little Grebe. Two orchids were pointed out to me one a Mirror and the other I am going to look up. Unfortunately I should have used my other camera for those photos.

See what I mean. Tomorrows will be better.

The evening produced a local Sea Bass dinner which went down very nicely. It feels like my laptop is going to give up on me soon so I need to shut it down.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Day 1 Ria Formosa

So today it was just me with no guide. Started with breakfast on the rooftop terrace, the expected House Sparrows were there, loads of Swallows darting around as well as 2 White Storks standing on tree and building. On the walk to the bus stop got things like Ringed Plover, Curlew, Little Egret, Black-headed Gull and the ever present Feral Pigeon. The No. 16 bus to the end of its route cost 2.22E. Bit of a walk back to get to the entrance, however as soon as I got off the bus there were 2 Kentish Plovers feeding. Turnstone, Dunlin, Redshank, Grey Plover and Little Grebe just on the walk to the entrance. Caspian Tern then flew over and the first bird I saw in the reserve itself was a Osprey close overhead. Got onto some common birds like Goldfinch, Coot, Wigeon, Teal, Whimbrel, lovely male Pintail, and then Flamingo. They were a distance away but have to put picture on here for my son to see.

There were loads of Chiffchaff and a few Sardinian Warblers flitting about. Adding Snipe, Gadwall, Shoveler and Great crested Grebe I finally got to the hide, which I didn't need to go in because there was nothing of note to see from it. Took another path that went down beside the golf course. As I was approaching a big lake there were a good handful of Iberian Magpie (or Azure-winged) which gave lovely views but wouldn't sit still for the camera. Purple Swamphen and Glossy Ibis showed well and Cetti's Warbler showed a couple of times but was mainly heard. Then the hotspot it seemed as Bluethroat, Little Bittern, very close Glossy, Black-headed Weaver, Common Sandpiper and Common Waxbill all in a small area. 

This is one of the best photos I have ever taken.

Little Bittern above
Terrapins below

Best I could get of Black-headed Weaver

Common Waxbill above
Purple Swamphen below

An immature Little Gull was at the back of the lake. There was a guide by the name of John there and he pointed out that there was also Iberian Chiffchaff in this area. The Chiffchaffs all looked drab but the small yellow mark on it's head was actually very easy to spot in such close quarters. 
Bar-tailed Godwit, Blackbird, Kingfisher, Greenfinch and Eurasian Magpie rounded off the day with I think 51 species. Here are some other photos I took.

Forgot to mention the Black-winged Stilts that always look immaculate. I then tried to get a charger for phone because out of the 4 we have at home I bought the one that doesn't work. Then had some delicious Chicken Korma with Garlic Naan, I know that's Indian food but tomorrow it is local fish for me. Think maybe Tuna but might be adventurous. Tomorrow I will have a guide with me and I am not sure which site we are doing first but it is going to be good.

Going to now look up the status of Iberian Chiffchaff, it is now a seperate species? 
3 or 4 new ones for me depending on above Iberian Chiffchaff.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Finally an update on whats been going on.

It has been such a long time since I last updated, was hoping to do it more regularly, but half-term and work got in the way.

Am in my hotel room in Portugal as I write this and am looking forward to the next 3 days.
Since my last blog I have been out a few times. A quick trip to Dungeness added things like Black-necked Grebe, Smew, Great white Egret and even Egyptian Goose to the list. Tree Sparrow showed well and a gorgeous male Sparrowhawk sat nicely on a nearby bush until I lifted my camera. 43 species for the visit and pushed my slowly building year list to 100.
Went and visited a relative and added a fly over Ring-necked Parakeet. This is how I normally add this species. The other trip of note was yesterday when I went to Long car park on Ashdown Forest and had some excellent views of Great-grey Shrike, see below that this bird also went before I could get it focused. With Woodlark singing, Kestrel and Buzzard overhead it was a pleasant visit.

So 102 for the year now and will have to decide if I add birds from here onto my list.

My attempt at bird photography!
At least you can see what it is I suppose.

So Iberian Magpie (Azure-winged) should be good tomorrow so will attempt a photo of that with
hopefully more luck than these shots.