Saturday, 12 October 2013

Portugal Trip Report

I jumped at my good ladies suggestion that we should try Portugal for a late summer holiday. A few Jedi mind tricks helped her choose the destination, which as look had it was close to some renowned gulling sites. On September 27th we flew from East Midlands airport to Faro. From Faro we were transferred to our hotel at Praia da Rocha, near to Portimao. Azure-winged Magpies teased as they flew overhead in groups of up to 30 at times. White Storks and Cattle Egrets were seen seen feeding in roadside fields.

It was dark shortly after we arrived, so we found a suitable watering hole and then crashed out for the night. The following morning dawned a little overcast, but I headed in search of gulls and the location where we would be picking our hire car up from. I soon found a group of gulls on the beach and amongst them was two colour ringed Lesser Black-backs. I'll bore you in another posting about all the colour ringed birds seen on the trip.

Gulls on the Beach at Praia da Rocha
At 10 o'clock we collected our nice little Seat Ibizia and then a trip to the nearby small town called Alvor was the order of the day. Here we enjoyed a walk on the beach and the boardwalks that allow good views over the estuary. Four Med Gulls were seen: an adult and three second-winters. The estuary held good numbers of waders. It was similar to a day out to Titchwell to be honest, although a couple of Caspian Terns brightened up the day. Crested Larks flitted about as did migrant Wheatears. I turned to Dawn and said I'd be surprised if we didn't see a shrike on those distant bushes and right on cue one appeared - an Iberian Grey Shrike. She initially accused me of stringing, but accepted I was right after setting my scope up and making her look through it. This was the only shrike we saw along the coast.


An early start was required on Sunday for a trip to Castro Verde where we hopped to find 'steppe' species. The drive was about 60 miles inland from our base. We set off in the dark and it was raining, so driving was not that pleasurable, but at least the roads were quiet. The weather improved as we neared our destination. Corn Buntings and Iberian Grey Shrikes were everywhere, as were migrant Wheatears. Two Crag Martins hawked over a small stream and Pied Flycatchers flicked out from roadside trees. Our target species was Little and Great Bustards. We followed the map I found on the internet - HERE . Quite quickly we located a Little Bustard on the hillside and after watching that we spotted the distinct bulk of a Great Bustard on the horizon. In all we saw 23 Great Bustards, one Little Bustard and six Stone Curlews. The GB's were a bit distant for photography, but I did manage to get a bit of video footage of them.


Great Bustards

We explored further afield after filling our boots with the bustards and found an interesting river valley. The river must have been a raging torrent in the past as the dried bedrock had some really deep gouges in it. Out in the middle of the river was an ancient water mill, which was pretty impressive and a Green Sandpiper fed close by.

Ancient Water Mill
Searching for colour ringed gulls was the order of the day for Monday. The beach at Praia da Rocha and the fishing harbour at Portimao were productive, but a trip to the landfill site at Porto de Lagos beckoned - I know how to treat a girl!

Portimao Fish Harbour
Portimao fish harbour
Porto de Lagos Landfill
This place was amazing 1000's of Gulls and 100's of White Storks.

White Storks
Off for a Wash
Tuesday morning was spent at the fish harbour where I found the Azorean Gull and in the afternoon we wandered the old cobbled streets of Alvor.

Wednesday and Thursday were spent at the 'end of the world'. We enjoyed a Pelagic boat ride (not quite a cruise) out of Sagres - with Marilimitado

Dawn was enthralled by the Common Dolphins, but didn't appear to enjoy the chumming bit. It was quite rough and photography was quite a challenge.

The Second Boat
1st year Northern Gannet
1st year Northern Gannet
Cory's Shearwater
Cory's Shearwater
Cory's Shearwater

As well as the birds in the photographs we had a Great Shearwater at point blank range (too rough to photograph well) and five Stormies, plus one each of Sooty and Balearic Shearwaters.

A visit to a nearby raptor watch point proved to be a good decision. At one time there must have been at least 100 Booted Eagles soaring above us along with a smaller number of Short-toed Eagles and a couple of juvenile Bonelli's Eagles. Honey Buzzards and a Goshawk were a great supporting act. Even better was an Osprey carrying a fish whilst being chased by a Black Kite.

Booted Eagle
Raptor Watchpoint, Cape St Vincent
The area around Cape St Vincent is supposedly good for Thekla Lark. I spent quite a while studying the larks in the area and I'm pretty sure I identified and photographed at least a few Thekla Larks (correct me if I'm wrong).

Thekla Lark
Thekla Lark
Thekla Lark
Cape St Vincent was a good location for a sea watch and I added Great Skua to the seabird tally there. A Blue Rock Thrush and about half a dozen Black Redstarts frequented the cliffs and a couple of Pallid Swifts scythed the air above the lighthouse.

Cape St Vincent (believed to be the end of the world in ancient times)

Our time during the rest of the trip was shared between the fish harbour at Portimao, Monchique and Alvor. On the last day we walked from Praia da Rocha to Alvor along the coast. In parts the cliffs provided us with great entertainment as we scrambled up and down the rocky paths along the edge. Many migrants were seen including good numbers of Pied Flycatchers, Northern Wheatears and three Sub-alpine Warblers.

Northern Wheatear
The Algarve
In all we saw just over 100 bird species and had a great time.

1 comment:

  1. Some lovely shots as usual Carl, some smart looking birds and it looks very picturesque - apart from the landfill site of course - can't believe you went there!