Monday, September 9, 2013

Last weeks tours

A few consecutive days with moderate temperatures during the last week in August pushed the beginning autumn migration. Flocks of Bee-eaters, mixed flocks of Hirundies and groups of White Storks, including some bigger thermals of 50 to 100 were passing over frequently here in Faro-area.
My birding-week started early on Monday, 26th with a day-tour up to the Alentejo-plain, accompanied by an Australian birder and biologist and his German biologist friend. Bird of the day was an immature Rueppell's Vulture (Gyps rueppellii) feeding a on a carcass (sheep) in midst of well 150 Griffon Vultures and 5 Eurasian Black Vultures. On the digiscoping-shot I add here below, the difference in size (about 10% smaller and lighter built) and color (much darker and greyer brown, almost no contrast between mantle and wing feathers) are obvious. It is the third record of this African species I made in this region, the last one, made in company of a Swedish group in October 2012, I submitted to the Portuguese Rarities Committee (for other records, see here). I also know the species from the Strait of Gibraltar, where I saw it last September, near Algeciraz. There are also annual records for the Sagres-Peninsula now, made during the October/November passage of Griffon-flocks through the cape area.

Immature Rueppell's Vulture Gyps rueppellii [the bird in the centre, note difference in size and color; click to zoom] with Griffon Vultures and one Eurasian Black Vulture. Baixo Alentejo (Mértola-area) August 26th, 2013. (Photo:GS).
Several Short-toed Eagles were perched on pylons or soaring high, 3 Booted Eagles and also two Spanish Imperial Eagles were among other raptors we saw, also a high soaring adult pair of Bonelli's Eagles, as well as two juvenile Montagu's Harrier and a few Lesser Kestrels, apparently still not in migration-mood. A juvenile Black-Stork and a European Roller were other birds pretty much welcomed. Great Bustards were rather difficult to find under this conditions and at this time of the year, but we got reasonable views of two "youngsters" (previous years males).

Two days later, I have been in the area again, accompanied by an English photographer. The Black-bellied Sandgrouse were on our side that day, and we had them flying over close by. Also saw a large flock of about 100 Calandra Larks, the Iberian Grey- and Woodchat Shrikes, as expected, a juvenile Black Vulture and a few Griffons, Short-toed- and Booted Eagles and an impressive flock of Great Bustards flying by -  a situation of which I am curious to see a photo... both, Black-eared Wheatears and Northern Wheatears were passing through, Little-ringed Plovers, Green- and Common Sandpipers and also some Black-winged Stilts were easily seen around small reservoirs in the area. A single Collared Pratincole was stopping over at a coastal lagoon on our way back. One remarkable situation I recall from the tour, was a Little Owl on a little wall beside the road, right next to the car, staying there and making the most extraordinary up- and down moves, expressing its state of alert (video would have been better!). I got one shot just with my compact camera through the car window (below).

Friday, 30th then, a morning in my "home-patch" here near Faro - with a French-American party of six. Willow- and Melodious Warblers, Spotted Flycatcher, Common Redstart, Sand Martins, Golden Oriole, Woodchat Shrike and Turtle Dove were among typical early autumn migrants here. Booted Eagle, the Black-winged Kite you see on top of this blog-post, Little Bittern, Glossy Ibis, Black-headed Weaver, Common Waxbill, Purple Swamphen, Flamingos, Spoonbills, of course the Azur-winged Magpie and several wader species, made it a successful morning.

Two days later, September 1st, I repeated this tour, with a Lady born in Peru. A rather rare sighting made that day was an Egyptian Mongoose (Ichneumon herpestris) showing up at a reed bed and then swimming a lake for about 50 meter to the reeds on the opposite side. Some aquatic birds nest very late, we saw a Great-crested Grebe with chicks that were only a few days old. A Sacred Ibis, technically also a rarity, fed near a large group of Spoonbills and Little Egrets.

Last Wednesday I have been guiding a birdwatching tour with the Algarve Siência Viva Centre here in Faro. They offer summer activities around science and nature for kids and their parents. Group size was 16 people and the language Portuguese!

Another Tour to the steppes, last Friday, including good views of two Golden Eagles and a walk here in Ludo, near Faro, were also productive, but I begin to look forward to trips to the cape-area now, our regional hot-spot for bird migration, as well as for further pelagic boat-trips, the next one being scheduled for this Saturday (September 14th) and almost fully booked. To be continued.

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