Sunday 11 March 2018

Southern Portugal Birding

Dawn and I made our eighth trip to Southern Portugal last week. We were hoping for some winter sun, but it was in short supply. The first few days weren't actually that bad, but after that strong to gale force winds were the order of the day.

Nevertheless we boosted our all time Portuguese list up to 226 species. The highlights were Red-knobbed Coot, Sociable Plover, Richard's and Water Pipits plus Alpine Accentor.

We visited most of the well known areas during our stay. The sites are shown using the yellow pins on the map below.

Alpine Accentor, Cape St Vincente, Near Sagres

We stay at Praia da Rocha, as it is a central location and close to the Portimao Fish Harbour. Although it is a tourist spot it can be quite good along the cliffs and even on the beach for birds; especially at migration time. The sea is generally very calm, but when the wind blows things alter very quickly and during winter storms birds like Great Skuas can be seen from the beach boardwalk. Sea Watching can be good in winter and I've seen Cory's and Balearic Shearwaters, Great and Arctic Skuas, Common Scoters and Razorbills. During our holiday the storm completely destroyed several beachside bars. A small group of Purple Sandpipers could be found near the mouth of the River Arade on the far end of the Praia da Rocha beach, but photography was impossible with large waves breaking close to them.

Praia da Rocha During a Winter Storm

A Sociable Plover had been present at Salgados Lagoons near to Pera since November, but it hadn't been seen for about a month so I thought it had gone. Just prior to leaving home it was reported again. It was hiding with a small Golden Plover flock and I got to see it twice in flight, but not on the ground as the vegetation was too tall where it was residing. It was on the same day at Salgados lagoons that I saw my first Richard's Pipit for Portugal.

Red-knobbed Coot is rare in The Algarve and it is also a species I had not seen before. I was really excited by the news that one was at Quinta do Lago near Faro, but luckily due to logistics I had to wait a few days before trying for it. Luckily it was still there and easily identifiable.

Short Video of the Red-knobbed Coot:

Quinta do Lago is an excellent place for birding, as around the freshwater lake are saltpans and also salt marsh. A large day list is easily achieved in this area. Western Swamphens are easy to see and photograph on and around the large freshwater lake by the golf course .

Western Swamphen

One of the highlights of the trip was watching nine Caspian Terns at the Portimao Fishing Harbour. The first two arrived just as it was getting dark. They landed about 3 metres away from where we were parked and settled amongst the roosting gulls. Amongst the nine was one that was colour ringed and it had been ringed in Finland. The photo below was taken when it was almost dark, but an ISO setting of 6400 makes things look much lighter. My car headlights helped illuminate the scene.

Caspian Tern, Portimao Fish Harbour

I only read 34 colour rings this time and the gulls although around in good numbers were very mobile due to the strong winds. I did spot a Herring Gull amongst the Yellow-legged Gulls, which was nice. Not quite the rarity it was but still a good bird in The Algarve.

Herring Gull, Portimao Fish Harbour

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