Wednesday 8 October 2014

Portugal 2014

Dawn and I decided that a second trip to Portugal would give us the chance to visit the sites we missed last year. We once again headed to the Algarve for the last days of September and early October.

The stand out highlight of the trip was seeing an Iberian Wolf. I spotted it near to the LPN Bustard Reserve at Guerreiro. This site is close to Castro Verde a drive of just over 90 km from our base at Praia da Rocha on the Algarve coast. I stopped to scan for bustards and was very surprised to see what looked like a wolf running away from us. It was distant, but I told Dawn to get out of the car and look for what I thought was a wolf running away from us up the hill. I set up my scope just in time to get a brief view at a higher magnification before it disappeared over the brow of the hill. With this view I was convinced it was a wolf and luckily Dawn had found it and agreed. It was mostly grey in colour with a few brown areas. It ran as though each pair of legs operated together (loping). It ears were obviously quite big even at the distance, as were its feet. I was able to compare its size with some sheep that were at a similar distance and I could see that it was taller, but not by that much. Iberian Wolves are smaller than other European Wolves. Its style of running was different to a Red Fox in that they tend to run with a much quicker leg action. I considered the possibility of it being a dog, but I discounted that because I don't know of a dog that matches what I saw. This sighting was made outside of what I believe is the stronghold of Iberian Wolf in Portugal, however, their numbers are increasing in both Portugal and Spain. After the wolf had disappeared we continued to search for bustards and we were rewarded with good views of three Great Bustards. During the day we saw at least forty more.

The weather was really good with temperatures up to 29ºC daily. I don't know if it was this that had encouraged White Storks to return to their nests and start displaying but it was great to see. One day we came across a group of at least a 100 White Storks soaring high above us.

White Stork on Nest

White Storks

Another highlight was seeing a large flock of Alpine Swifts and House Martins in the hills just inland of the coast. Most were lower than us, so their colours were really easy to see. A falcon dashed through the flock and there was a great whoosh as the swifts rushed to avoid the predator. 

At Pera Marsh a Bluethroat delighted us when we finally got good views of it. I was hoping to get to see a Black-shouldered Kite and in the end we found two and enjoyed good views un-like the only other one I have seen which was very distant and heat haze conspired to make the views rubbish. Dawn spotted three Booted Eagles roosting near to one of the kites, which was a bonus and several Purple Swamphens posed on the reed fringed pool in front of us.

Booted Eagle
Purple Swamphen

I once again took part in a mini-pelagic on board a powerful rigid inflatable boat, but Dawn decided to stay on dry land this time. This was a good decision as many on board were sea sick. The boat took us about ten miles out from Sagres in the south-west corner of Portugal. A bit of chum soon encouraged seabirds to arrive and at least half-a-dozen Great Shearwaters were soon showing down to a few metres. I missed out on Wilson's Storm Petrel last year, but this time at least two joined the British Storm Petrels feeding on our slick. Photography once again proved difficult due to the south-easterly wind, which caused quite a bit of sea swell.

Great Shearwater

We encountered quite a few Greater Flamingos and Spoonbills with colour-rings, during the trip, as well as many gulls.

Greater Flamingo in the Early morning Mist

We saw at least five Caspian Terns including the one below, which flew straight past us. 

Caspian Tern

Caspian Tern

At this time of year many common migrants are present along the coast in southern Portugal. Loads of Pied Flycatchers were catching insects even in the built up resorts. Redstarts and Spotted Flycatchers were also enjoying the abundant insect life alongside many Willow Warblers and smaller numbers of Subalpine Warblers.

1 comment:

  1. Wow Carl, looks like you've been busy enjoying gulls both at home and abroad. Marvellous photos as always, you wouldn't have had me on that pelagic at any price!