Friday, March 17, 2023

Butterflies & more

Earlier this week, I went up into "Serra do Caldeirão", the mid mountain range (up to c. 589m) stretching across most of the Algarve's interior. Just follow (the now famous) "N2"- road from Faro to São Brâs de Alportel and continue further north. Spring has defenitely arrived now and it is quite a celebration! The green and lush season usually lasts till around mid May, then the summer-heat sets in and most of the grasses and annual herbs dry out fairly quickly.

Provence Hairstreak (Tomarus ballus) a small and rather scarce butterfly-species of South-Western Europe and North Africa. The main feeding plant for the caterpillar is Erophaca baetica (a white flowering species of milkvetch).The adult can be seen from late February or early March (weather depnding) to April. Serra do Caldeirão (Loulé), 15-March-2023. Foto: Georg Schreier.

I had noticed a population of the Provence Hairsstreak on walks in the area, in recent years, but never took any photos. Curiously, when photographing this butterfly at the roadside on this sunny mid morning, I noticed a shadow on the road and looked up: An adult (female) Bonelli's Eagle (Aquila fasciata) was circling above me, apparently checking me out! The male of this pair was nearby. The Algarve population of this magnificent bird of prey is tree-nesting. I took some pictures (see below) to capture the encounter, but did not have the ideal lens on the camera that moment. Spring migrants are quite late so far ("winter" lasted till early March this year...) but Iberian Chiffchaffs have arrived by now and I also saw the first Western Subalpine Warblers of the year that day. An early Common Cuckoo sang near Tõr (Barrocal) on March, 12th.

Bonelli's Eagle (Aquila fasciata) adult female. A resident breeder of the Algarve Serras. Loulé, 15-March-2023. Foto: GS.

But back to butterflies. Spanish Festoon (Zerynthia rumina) is another much sought-after species of the region and also found early in the season. Perhaps this is why its Portuguese name translates to "carnival-butterfly" (borboleta-carnaval). Or is it because of its "patchy" and multicoloured look, resembling the traditional carnival costumes in the north of the country, showing a lot of yellow and red?

Spanish Festoon / Westlicher Osterluzeifalter (Zerythia rumina) feeding on Fedia cornucopiae. The larvae lives on species of Pipevine (Aristolochia sp.). Salir-area (Barrocal), 12 -March-2023. Fotos: GS.

Iberian Scarce Swallowtail / Iberischer Segelfalter (Iphiclides feisthamelii) is one of the biggest and most impressive species in the area, perhaps together with Two-tailed Pasha (Charaxes jasius), the latter best seen in summer though. Serra do Caldeirão (Loulé), 15-March-2023. Foto: GS.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus) is an American species, famous for its migrations. The populations in Iberia and on the Macaronesian islands originate from specimen "blown across" the atlantic from the east coast populations in the US. Near Portimão, Algarve, 24-February-2023. Foto: GS.

Just to add some different colours, two photos from May last year: Adonis Blue / Himmelblauer Bläuling (Polyommatus bellargus) male. 25-May-2022, Salir, Algarve. Foto: GS.

Clouded Yellow / Wandergelbling (Colias croceus) near Salir, 25-May-2022. Foto: GS.

Restless and hard to photograph, but quite common in the region: Western Dappled White / Westlicher Gesprenkelter Weißling (Euchloe crameri). Comprehensive info (& more photos) on this species is here (D).

Friday, August 5, 2022

Pelagic season 2022

August and September are peak season for pelagics here in the Algarve. If you are interested, please contact me per e-mail. Check out the Info on my website here: Pelagic boat-trips 

Note: Due to a technical problem (a Windows 10-update containing malware) my website is out of date at the moment. My apologies. I've lost all the files and will have to built it new from scratch. At the moment, I can't make the slightest changes there, including updating any information, dates etc.

Here are some picts taken on a pelagic trip off Fuseta earlier this week:

Wilson's Storm Petrel (Oceanites oceanicus) c. 3 miles off Fuseta, 01-August 2022.

European Storm Petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus) off Fuseta, 01-Aug-2022.

Sooty Shearwater (Ardenna grisea) off Fuseta, 01-Aug-2022.

Sooty Shearwater (Ardenna grisea) off Fuseta, 01-Aug-2022.

Balearic Shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus) off Fuseta, 01-Aug-2022.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

The colours of spring

Red-legged Partridge / Rothuhn (Alectoris rufa), locally know as "Perdiz", is a common sighting on the field tracks in the region and also one of its main game birds.

The Baixo Alentejo region in Portugals interior south is characterized by a mix of grass- and pasture land, wide open cereal steppes and scatered Holm Oak Trees. In mid winter and spring it turns into a "sea of flowers" and is home to several endangered grassland bird species... and frankly a paradise for birdwatchers!

A male Lesser Kestrel / Rötelfalke / Penereiro-das-torres (Falco naumanni) about to land near a wooden nest box in a small town at the Guadiana-river, Alentejo, Portugal, 27-April-2021. Traditionally mainly nesting in colonies in abandoned farm buildings in the region, the breeding success and population size of the species could be increased by providing nest boxes and later also special designed, artificial buildings, by the Portuguese NGO "LPN" and the Guadiana Natural Park authorities.

These photos were taken during my Guided birding & Bird photography-tours in the Baixo Alentejo-region of south Portugal in April & May 2021. All photos: © Georg Schreier.

A different male of the same species with it's prey - a large Centipede, probably Megarian Banded Centepede (Scolopendra cingulata) to feed the incubating female or already the young chicks in the nestbox. The species arrives usually in the first half of February from its wintering grounds in sub-saharian Africa.

The same Ind. as above.

Landing approach - stooping down with "landing flaps" up (actually these feathers are called "Alula"). Watching Lesser Kestrels, you can not help to get the impression that they, like other bird of prey species, pretty much enjoy flying and dominating the air space around their nests.
A male showing some of the "key features" of the species compared to Common Kestrel: The greater secondary coverts forming a grey band along the upper wing, seperating the reddish-brown mantle (lacks black spots! Mantle spotted on Common Kestrel) and lesser upperwing coverts, from the blackish-brown wing feathers (remiges). The head appears uniformly bluish-grey, lacking almost completely the dark moustache that Common Kestrel shows running down in front of the eye along the cheeks. Bill base is pale and claws are whitish (not visible on the photo, but a good feature to distinguish the females of both species in the scope when perched). Frequently heard call, especially during the display flights of the male, is a harsh, two- or three syllable "Chè-Chè", example: Here

Calandra Lark (Melanocorypha calandra) is locally common in dry grassland, but only to be found in the central areas of the regions "pseudosteppe", where its song is ever present in spring, continuous and full of imitations of local bird species. Its Europe's biggest Lark-species and rather timid.

European Roller / Blauracke (Coracias garrulus)

Gull-billed Terns / Lachseeschwalben (Gelochelidon nilotica)

European Bee-eater / Bienenfresser (Merops apiaster)

Great Spotted Cuckoo (Clamator glandarius)

Spanish Sparrow / Weidensperling (Passer hispaniolensis)

Little Bustard / Zwergtrappe (Tetrax tetrax) male. A now critically endangered species also in Portugal, where the current intensification of agriculture has lead to massive habitat losses and population decline.

Spanish Eagle / Spanischer Kaiseradler (Aquila adalberti

Monday, September 21, 2020

Lesser Grey Shrike

One year ago yesterday, I found the first Lesser Grey Shrike (Lanius minor) for Portugal, at the cape-area near Sagres (Vila do Bispo), next to a farm known as "Vale Santo". The record has been accepted by the Portuguese Rarities Committee (CPR).

Lesser Grey Shrike / Picanço-pequeno / Schwarzstirnwürger (Lanius minor) 1st winter. Vale Santo (Vila do Bispo), Algarve, 20-Sept-2019. All photos: GS. The same Ind. in the pictures below.

Immature birds (here: 1st W) and some adults in winter plumage (mostly females) lack the black forehead, otherwise diagnostic for this species. Tricky and then easily dismissed as "just" another Iberian Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis) when not paying full attention... 

Note the extremely long primary projection of this long distant migrant and compare with the short winged L. meridionalis here. Obvious also the reduced amount of white on tertial tips (almost absent) and greater coverts and the absence of white tipped mantle feathers (compare L. meridionalis).

Lesser Grey Shrike showing rather squarish wing panel (formed by the white primary bases) reaching the second primary (P2) = the edge of the wing (P1 is very short and almost invisible). Wing formular different from L. meridionalis (P2 and P3 significantly shorter on the latter species and the primary patch does not reach the edge of the wing). Tail shorter on L. minor. Compare these features  here.

Bill shape roundish - shorter and higher in profile than in L. meridionalis and the "Grey Shrikes" of the L. exubitor-complex. Bill base colour greyish, black confined mostly to lower mandible and the bill tip. Finally, the bird also lacks the fine white line seperating the bill and the black eye mask from the grey forehead, as in L. meridionalis. The different "jizz" (overall impression), reduced overall size and different color tones, including the salmon color on chest and belly, as well as different tones of grey (the bird appeared "whiter" when seen stooping down on an insect and in flight) caught my initial attention.

Why is this species so rare in Portugal? Lesser Grey Shrike was very close to extinction in Iberia, with the only remaining breeding population in Catalonia, eastern Spain, reduced to one (!) pair in 2011-2013. A successful conservation program (more info: Trenca) was started and saved the species from extinction in Spain. The program now includes captitive breeding. Released birds are (color-) ringed and some are tagged with a small transmitter to learn more about their migrations and the wintering areas. The Sagres-bird was not ringed. This- and the fact that a heavy storm, with extreme easterly winds in the central- and western Mediterranean, took place just a few days before, supports the hypothesis that this bird had been "blown off course" and carried away during its (at first) normally eastbound migration, somewhere in the central- or eastern Mediterranean, finally making "land fall" shortly behind the Cape of São Vicente, north of Sagres, where it was seen for two days only by a few observers.

In the photo below: Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus), juvenile. Seen about 20 mins before (!) and only c. 200 m away from the above "shrike encounter". Also a rarity in Portugal, even though observations here, like everywhere else in western Europe, have increased in the last decade or so and the species nowadays even nests in the Netherlands, Spain and a few other European countries, where it used to be a rare vagrant not long ago (further Info is here).

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Dragonflies in the Algarve

This summer, I went somewhat deeper into exploring the dragonflies of the Algarve. Portugal is home to close to 70 species, the majority of which can be found here in the south. This includes several species restricted to Iberia- and a few areas around the Mediterranean. Namely dragonflies of African origin have begun colonising southern Europe in the last years and decades - some, like the Broad Scarlet (Crocothemis erythraea) have long reached central Europe. Violet Dropwing (Trithemis annulata) is already among the commenest dragonflies here and is found in rocky pools or river sections (most rivers and streams dry out at least partly here in summer) in hot areas with less vegetation. It shares habitat with its sibling species, the Orange-winged Dropwing (Trithemis kirbyi) first recorded in Portugal only in 2016 (link) so one of the most recent additions to Portugals Odonata -Fauna. I was surprised finding it at more than half a dozen different- and new locations in the central- and eastern Algarve over the past two month! So spreading rapidly, it seems. Another speciality we have here in the Algarve is the Ringed Cascader (Zygonyx torridus) known to occur in Portugal only at one single spot in the west Algarve, were we found it easy to see but difficult to photograph. I include here a number of photos taken during the past weeks. The camera I used is a small travel zoom camera from Panasonic with Leica optics: Panasonic DMC-TZ70 in macro mode. Birds are still my specialty but I like not to be ignorant of the many aspects of wildlife we encounter when being in the field.

Orange-winged Dropwing (Trithemis kirbyi) mature male. Alcoutim, 31-July-2020. All photos: Georg Schreier.

Orange-winged Dropwing (Trithemis kirbyi) mature male. Serra de Tavira, 21-Aug-2020. 

Violet Dropwing (Trithemis annulata) mature male. Serra de Tavira, 21-Aug-2020 .

Violet Dropwing (Trithemis annulata) mature male. Serra de Tavira, 21-Aug-2020 .

Violet Dropwing (Trithemis annulata) female. Alcoutim, 31-July-2020 .

Long Skimmer (Orthetrum trinacria) mature male. Alcoutim, 31-July-2020.

Epaulet Skimmer (Orthetrum chrysostigma) male. São Brâs de Alportel, 21-June-2020.
Ringed Cascader (Zygonyx torridus) west Algarve, 08-Aug-2020.

Ringed Cascader (Zygonyx torridus) copulation. Western Algarve, 08-Aug-2020.

Large Pincertail (Onychogomphus uncatus) female. São Brâs de Alportel, 14-July-2020.

Small Pincertail (Onychogomphus forcipatus) male. São Brâs de Alportel, 14-July-2020.

Lesser Emperor (Anax parthenope) Quinta do Lago (Loulé), 19-July-2020

Blue Emperor (Anax imperator) ovipositing. Serra do Caldeirão, 21-Aug-2020.

Copper Demoiselle (Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis) female. Loulé, 25-August-2020. A few streams in the limestone belt (Barrocal) of the Algarve have running spring water throughout the year.

Copper Demoiselle (Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis) male. Near Loulé, 25-August-2020. 

[Post edit:] Today (Aug., 27th) on the bordwalk back from Faro-beach, we noticed several large brown dragonflies hovering above the dunes and salt marsh (c. 20 Ind. in total) and I managed to get this record shot of one Ind. perched: Vagrant Emperor (Anax ephippiger) female. Amazing! This was a migratory event and they were apparently heading north!

[Post edit] Northern Banded Groundling (Brachythemis impartita) female perching on the golf green. The darker male in the photo above. Quinta do Lago (Loulé), 06-Sept-2020.

[Post edit] Black Percher (Diplacodes lefebvrii) male. Serra do Caldeirão, 29-Aug-2020.

Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii) mature male. Foia / Monchique, 08-August-2020. A dragonfly known to every birdwatcher here. At the cape area of Sagres, it can be extremely numerous during autumn (bird) migration, sometimes reaching hundred thousands (!) of Ind./day in the area, on northbound migration.