Friday 25 November 2016

A Bit of Winter Sunshine

I was back down in Portugal last week enjoying some warm winter sunshine. It was around 21 degrees C everyday and the air was really clear.

One of the highlights is always first light on the steppe or pseudo-steppe near Castro Verde. I have a site that always produces some great early morning entertainment. In the half light I could already hear Calandra Larks singing and this year a new sound caught my attention. I soon learned that the sound was coming from a group of Black-bellied Sandgrouse and they seemed to be displaying. At least 20 BB Sandgrouse were flying around and doing their strange call. A single Great Bustard flew past and an Iberian Grey Shrike perched close by. A Merlin dashed across the steppe disturbing hundreds of Calandra Larks - phew it was time for some breakfast!

We enjoyed lots of great birds during the week with the wintering Bluethroats winning the bird of the trip prize. Near Faro we visited a great area where Dawn spotted a male Bluethroat perched in the open, but I was looking the wrong way and only saw its backside, as it disappeared into the reeds. On the next visit I spotted another male skulking in a ditch, but this one had colour-rings. I'm still trying to track down where it was ringed. Possibly Spain, but I haven't received a reply yet.

Colour-Ringed White Spotted Bluethroat

The area is called Parque Natural Ria Da Formosa. It is quite close to the area known as Ludo Farms. Dawn always enjoys watching the aeroplanes coming in to land at the nearby Faro airport. Ospreys and Caspian tern were fishing in the lagoons and hundreds of ducks including Pintails were dabbling. Winter plumaged Little Stints were educational and a Short-eared Owl disturbed near the track was a new Portuguese bird for me. On a reedy lake by the golf course were many more ducks and at least a dozen Western Swamphens were looking comical as normal. Little Bitterns were elusive this time, but just before we stood up to leave the hide a splendid male broke cover and posed for a few second on a reed stem.

Western Swamphen

As normal I made Dawn endure a few hours at the Portimao Fish Harbour (not everyday as she claimed when we got home). I targeted flights shots of first year Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls. I will put together a set of those for my next post. As well as the gulls I enjoy looking at the working boats and the old wrecks.

"Were Going to Need a Bigger Boat"
Sunset at Priai Da Rocha

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