Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Vale do Bispo & Cape St Vincent....06/10/2010

Raptor day today!!
Vale do Bispo & the headland at Cape St Vincent are great places to go to see bird migration in Spring and Autumn. At Vale do Bispo there is a Raptor watchpoint. Fortunately there were several birders already at the point, one person being a Bird Guide who I had met on a previous holiday! I love to see the Raptors but struggle with species ID so I knew that the species would be called out when they appeared! Everyone was friendly and waiting in anticipation. A Swallowtail butterfly passed us by several times, the only one I had seen throughout the holiday. The Raptors started to come into view and then the spectacle began. Raptors seen were Bonelli's, Short-toed and Booted Eagle, Black-winged kite, Honey Buzzard (being mobbed by a Sparrowhawk) and Hen Harrier. Other species seen were Black Stork, Raven, Chough, Sardinian Warbler, Crested Lark, Skylark and Mistle Thrush. It was exhilarating watching the Raptors...masters of the sky!!

On the way to Cape St Vincent, Raptors were spotted again, eleven of them were circling fairly low. It was quiet at the Cape. I was expecting to see plenty of Chough and Jackdaws but not today. I had seen 2 Chough at the raptor point so was quite happy with that sighting. A Kestrel was seen perched on a telegraph wire looking for it's lunch, I think it found something as it soon swooped down into a field and out of view! It was relaxing just to sit and watch the world go by and take in the spectacle of the surrounding cliffs and sea!

Monchique and Foia....04/10/2010

A mountain climbing day today...well by car! Monchique is a good place to visit if the weather is kind, today it was a sunny and slightly windy day so all should be well for views from Monchique!!!! After stopping off at the Spa 'resort' of Caldas de Monchique for a coffee it was time to head for the highest point in the Algarve, Foia! This was the first visit to Foia and on the next visit I will take my thermals...it was blowing a gale and feeling decidedly cold with the temperature being 16c compared to 24c at the start of the journey up the mountain! Nevertheless Rock Buntings were the target bird so onwards and upwards in search of them. A Wheatear was the first bird seen, also Whinchat, Goldfinch and superb views of Kestrels as they soared over the fields, it seemed strange being at almost eye level with the Kestrels! Finally a Rock Bunting.....just the one! A super little bird that could have passed for a House Sparrow at a distance. Hardy little birds nonetheless to breed at such high altitudes! I had read that they move to lower altitudes in Autumn/Winter and who can blame them, so I was pleased to have seen just this one! The ride back down the mountain was a little scary if you thought too much about it though there were several viewing points for parking up and taking in the wonderful views of part of the Algarve, even though it was little misty the views were spectacular!

Silves and the Odelouca Valley...03/10/2010

A trip to Silves is always pleasurable the only disappointment today was that the best cafe for Chicken piri-piri for lunch was today closed!!

Silves is the former Moorish capital of the Algarve. A walk along the River Arade is one of the main features of the town along with the Castle and Cathedral. Today there was in all honesty 'not much about', it was an overcast day so maybe the birds were keeping their heads down. Not so the White Storks though as the 'bill-clattering' of a Stork on it's nest echoed around the small town as it's mate joined it on the nest that was on one of the buildings in the town. Large flocks of White Storks can be seen around the area of Silves at this time of year as they prepare to migrate, an impressive sight to see! Pied and Grey Wagtail, Fan-tailed Warbler, Common Waxbill, House Martin, Sanderling, Black-headed Gulls , Grey Heron and House Sparrows were the species seen on this short visit. The House Sparrows are numerous around the town and in the trees along the embankment. A resident puts rice out daily on a wall for the House Sparrows, I have yet to visit Silves and not see the Sparrows enjoying the rice, a nice touch.

The Odelouca Valley which is a short ride away from Silves was also quiet today with Azure-winged Magpies, Kingfisher and Sanderling being the only birds seen, though again it was a short visit today.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Quinta Do Lago....05/10/2010

Quinta Do Lago is a productive area for birdwatching. The Causeway, Bridge (that leads to the beach), Lake and Golf Course are the main areas to see a variety of species. Highlight birds seen were Glossy Ibis, Squacco Heron, Purple Gallinule, Whimbrel, B-t Godwit, Redshank, Ringed and Kentish Plover, Little Grebe, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal, Black and Little Tern, Knot, Little Egret, Kingfisher, Pied Flycatcher, Black-headed Weaver, Crested Tit and Chiffchaff! The best highlights being a pair of Sardinian Warblers that were perched in a tree by their empty nest, the nest was so low and exposed to the pathway and predators, quite surprising really! A Great White Egret feeding in the estuary as the tide was coming in was a joy to see, a Lifer!!Also, a Water Snake was spotted in the lake slithering towards the embankment and the absolute highlight of the holiday was a Little Bittern that flew from a reedbed just as we were about to leave the Lake hide! It was at a distance but still great views were had of it with bins and scope!!

Quinta Do Lago.....is a magical birding site!!


Alvor Estuary is always a delight to visit. First stop is a visit to the Field study Centre ( A Rocha, Cruzinha. Open to visitors Thursday mornings 9.30-12.30) to watch the bird ringing and also a welcome addition is to see the moths that are now trapped there. There is always a friendly welcome from the Ranger and his staff. After a coffee and a chat at A Rocha and saying goodbyes it was time to take the short drive down to the Estuary carpark. Normally a walk is taken along the sea wall to view the estuary and then continuing the walk along the embankments which circle brackish lagoons, and old saltpans but today was a no-go day for me. I had been bitten several times the previous couple of days on my legs and arms (despite plenty of repellent). my lower right leg was starting to become swollen making walking uncomfortable in the heat. In a nutshell the bites had become infected (the 3rd time this has happened to me in Portugal) and the following day I had to see a Dr who prescribed (at a great cost) Antibiotics! I will make sure I take a supply of AB's on my next holiday, I forgot to take them on this holiday, lesson learned!!! So walking was severely curtailed on this holiday and sunbathing!!! Sadly not much was seen from the carpark at the estuary all but the locals gathering cockles! Highlight birds at 'A Rocha' were Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler and Blackcap (m+f). Highlight birds at the estuary and surrounding area were Spotted Redshank, Kentish Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Godwit (distant), Greater Flamingos, Stonechat, Common Waxbill, Azure-winged Magpie, Hoopoe, Spotless Starlings, Kestrel and Rook.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Algarve Hol!!....25th Sept- 9th October 2010

I am finally getting around to posting about my Algarve holiday! Such a busy life I lead.lol!!
The first bird I photographed after unpacking and resting on arrival, was this juvenile Yellow-legged Gull at Lagoa dos Salgados (Pera Marsh), it did not flinch as the car pulled up alongside it on the parking area by the lagoon. When it eventually arose I could see why it was so confiding, it's right wing hung down and was almost scraping the sand. It stayed not far away the whole time I was there. The next day at Pera Marsh there were a group of people at the shore of the lagoon and as luck had it they were from RIAS, Center for Rehabilitation and Research Wildlife. They had just released several Duck species that they had recuperated. I told them of the Gull and surprisingly the Gull appeared out of the ploughed furrows surrounding the lagoon, as it could not fly it was never going to be far away I suppose. They managed to circle the bird and capture it. They are e-mailing me of the Gulls progress. The wing was broken, they immobolised the wing to allow the fracture to heal properly and after a couple of weeks they would begin a physiotherapy programme. The last e-mail from RIAS was on the 11th Nov and they informed me that the Gull was now in the artificial lake for some flight training and they hope to release the Gull very soon. I am so pleased that they were able to recuperate the Gull. Strange how events happen, seeing and talking to the very friendly people from RIAS on that Sunday at Pera Marsh was a stroke of luck for the Gull!

I will update as and when I hear more news on the Yellow-legged Gull, which RIAS inform me is a female.

Monday, 15 November 2010

O'er the fields!....13th & 14th November 2010

My weekend began with a surprise visitor early on Saturday morning! A Blackcap (m) in my garden feeding on the halved apples that I have started to put out on the apple trees now that the weather is decidedly colder! I have for the past 3 years had a pair of Blackcaps in my garden during the first week of December, so this was a welcome surprise to see one so early. I have to say I have not spotted one since, they normally linger on the apples which gives me a chance of spotting them!

Anyway, that was a great start to my day so off I went to the Fisheries with a bounce in my step (by car in reality.lol)!! My first sighting was a flock of Siskins, lovely to see and hear as they flew from one tree to the next. Scanning the fields I could see fairly large numbers of Starlings and Redwings feeding . A couple of Pheasants pranced about looking very agitated, nothing new there then.lol! Magpies, Woodpigeons and Carrion Crows were also numerous in the fields. A Buzzard was heard and then sighted, it was being mobbed by a couple of Crows. Sparrowhawk x 2, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Blue Tit, Robin and Blackbird were other species seen, surprisingly no Long-tailed Tits today. It felt a warm sunshine this morning so off came my gloves as I walked but the hat stayed on, well all your heat escapes from your head.lol!! After a couple of hours of 'Saturday solitude' I headed for home.

The weather on Sunday morning was not so inspiring being dull, gloomy and quite cold. The afternoon brightened a little, just a little, so a walk down Sugar Loaf Lane bridlepath was the chosen destination. Not too much to see down the bridlepath, the odd Blackbird was as good as it got, though Blackbirds 'bless em' are lovely to see at anytime. Instead of walking the length of the bridlepath a walk along the Public Footpath through one of the fields was a good idea as it turned out. The horses in the field looked friendly enough, thankfully they were.lol!! Fieldfares..at last!!! My first sighting of them this Autumn/Winter! Not close views were had of them but they were still great to see! Redwings were also seen in the berry trees along the hedgerow along with Blackbird, Robin, Wren, Dunnock and Chaffinch. The highlight (apart from the Fieldfares) were the Corvids coming into roost. Various sized flocks flew high above the fields and with the sun eventually appearing late afternoon the sunset made a super back-drop to the spectacle. The only thing that spoilt the view were the electricity pylons, then again these were being used for roosting so not all bad I suppose!