Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Winter Birding around Faro

Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild - an introduced species that has successfully conquered the Portuguese wetlands. I heard it been called "Tamagochi" by some local birders...

The second common exotic species here is the Black-headed Weaver Ploceus melanocephalus - here a female. The males are bright yellow with a brown hood. These birds also prefer wetlands with reeds, where they nest in autumn.

Audouin's Gulls Larus audouinii in Tavira

The Booted Eagle Aquila pennata - photos showing the dark and the pale morph - winters in the Algarve, particularily around Faro. These birds are surprisingly vocal.

First Caspian Terns Sterna caspia arrive on the Algarvian coastline in the last days of August or early September already and some Individuals are staying here until late April...

The Ferrugineous Duck Aythya nyroca - here two males - is a rather rare and vulnerable Duck-species in Europe and can be found wintering near Vilamoura with some regularity.

Bar-tailed Godwits Limosa lapponica are mainly seen in the channels of the Ria Formosa. This Ind. has been photographed near Tavira.

Faro-area is also the centre of the winter-distribution for Hoppoes Upupa epops in Portugal. They often feed on Golf courses. This one does so, accompanied by a Meadow Pipit.

Unbeatable colours - the Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio.

The Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus is a regulary guest - when will the species start nesting in the Algarve ?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ring-billed Gull in Castro Marim

Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis (1st Winter) Cerro de Bufo (North-Western part), Castro Marim Reserve, 12th of December 2009.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Penguins in Ria Formosa ?

Today: Juvenile Razorbill Alca torda at the harbour of Ilha da Culatra, Ria Formosa.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Surf Scoter in the Central Algarve !

Today I received a phone call from a friend and experienced Birder and Ringer here in the Algarve, saying that he found a Velvet Scoter on the sea just out a small lagoon between Quinta do Lago and Quarteira (Praia das Dunas Douradas). I was quite busy with other stuff at the moment and actually decided I would not go, though I had never seen this species in Portugal, but knew it well from Germany. Few minutes later the phone ringed again:"Its a Surf Scoter Melanitta perspicillata !" Now that was more convincing and 5 Min later I was in the car. Just before arriving I received the message that the birds (the bird was found in a group of 14 juvenile Common Scoters Melanitta nigra) had just left. We met at a nearby beach few km's east an could relocate the flock - but before we could aproach it, the birds flew again and moved back to the first place ! There, we finaly came close enough to see them well (its a juvenile) and make some record digiscoping-shots of the bird, before they moved on again.... A super-rarity in Portugal, most European records are made in Ireland. (Observers: João Ministro, Miguel Mendes, Georg Schreier)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

(Un-) Common Gulls in the Algarve

Common Gull (Larus canus)- here an adult bird in winter plumage, Ilha de Faro, 01.Dez. 2009 (seen with João Ministro).

Another Common Gull (Larus canus) - in 1st winter plumage. Lagoa dos Salgados, 29. Oct. 2009.

Todays bird is, as far as I remember, the first adult I saw here. Juvenile / first winter birds, I find one or two per year.

This is a new Forum/discussion-group about Gulls in the internet.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

White-rumped Sandpiper at Martinhal today

Another rarity has been found in the Cape-area near Sagres today - a juvenile White-rumped Sandpiper Calidris fuscicollis at the small lagoon at Praia de Martinhal. When I arrived at the late afternoon, the light was getting low already I did not get a good photo. Anyway, this has been one of the biggest twitches I have seen here so far - with more than 15 people showing up at the location during the afternoon. The bird was very tame and did not bother photographers crawling closer than 10m.

Note the extremly longish body-shape and the primaries extending well beyond the tail as well as bill-length compared to Little Stint, for instance.

The brownish base of the lower mandible is an important feature to seperate the species from Baird's Sandpiper, wich could be the confusion species. Brownish cap and greyish neck indicating a juvenile bird. The bird is moulting into first winter plumage of course, but some chestnut-brown scapulars are still retained and the edges of most of the tertials are not showing this colour tone anymore but have been replaced by the white edged ones of the first-winter plumage.

The body shape seen from the front would be broader on Baird's Sandpiper.

When a walker in a signal-yellow jogging-dress passed close by the waters edge on the opposite side of the very small lagoon, the bird showed a behaviour wich I have never seen any wader doing - it pressed itself down to the water-level and stretched out as much as possible, to hide from the approaching, potential threat. It was then holding this position for about 20 seconds or so ! Only coming out, when the danger had passed away. Amazing. It reminded me on a bevaviour, Little Grebes show in similar situations, when they hide themselves in the water, in an in-between position, between swimming and diving, and stay there, with only their head and a part of the neck above the water level.

Note again how longish the bird is !

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus) at Altura

Another surprise - a Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus has been found by Carlos Vilhena at the tank of Altura in the eastern Algarve yesterday. I went to see the bird in the afternoon. It was roosting next to the tank and I got the impression, that it was very exhausted. I could not see its legs, but others did and the bird is not ringed. It really looks like a wild bird to me ! Would be the second record for Portugal. I know that Whooper Swans sometimes join flocks of Common Cranes Grus grus on migration, of wich big numbers are wintering each year in the South of Portugal (inland) and Spain, like in Doñana, Andalusia. Lots of birds are already there. The yellow-brownish colour tone on the birds neck and head might come from pigments in the water it has been feeding in (Iron-Oxid or similar) but could also indicate that it is a second year bird. However, I miss the reference to clearify this at the moment. Bill colour defenitly excludes a 1st Winter bird. Its often young birds wich tend to "exaggerate" their passage and end up far beyond the actual wintering distribution of the species. In this case this would be the northern parts of central Europe, with the big lakes at the northern margin of the Alp mountains as the southern limit.
You can check a map of the wintering distribution of the species in Germany here, and in the UK here.
Its remarkable that 8 Whooper Swans (of how many in total ?)have been reported flying westwards on the north-western Tip of Galicia a week ago. And many northern Ducks and Geese has been reported. These Ind. could have reached the Algarve in the meanwhile. Here is the original note from www.rarebirdspain.net
Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus (1-8)
(1-8) A Coruña Eight birds were seen flying W from O Barqueiro, A Coruña on 13.11 (Ricardo Hevia)

Altura-reservoir actually is an rather ugly concrete-tank that does not look very attractive to waterbirds one should say, but it is filled with a Makro-Algae and therefore does attract many Common Coots (and Red-Crested Coot occasionaly) wich also feed on this plants, like Gadwalls and Swans...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Long-billed Dowitcher and Buff-breasted Sandp.

This Long-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus scolopaceus was still present today at Lagoa dos Salgados (again !). It is a juvenile, moulting into first-winter plumage and has been reported there since the 18th of this month, when it had been found in a group of Common Snipes. It resembles these species pretty much in silhoutte and movements, when feeding. This is going to be the fifth record for Continental Portugal.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper Tryngites subruficollis juvenile, also present today and since at least the 21st of September. The two birds were seen less than 100m away from each other. The rather "tiny" Buff-breasted preferably feeds on land and was pretty "tame". This is record number 8 for the species in Portugal (Continental). The lagoon - also often refered to as "Pera Marsh" is THE hotspot for wader-rarities in Southern (Continental) Portugal !

Friday, July 31, 2009

White-headed Duck and Red-knobbed Coot

On Tuesday I met up with a couple of friends visiting the Algarve. It has been Magnus Robb ("The sound approach to birding" http://www.soundapproach.co.uk/ ), Pim Wolf (former member of the Dutch rarities committee) and Joao Tiago Tavares (a Portuguese ornithologist working on Bonelli's Eagles over the past years) - so, a nice bunch of birders, actually....
After a Coffee, we went to Ludo, were we saw a Red-crested Coot (Fulica cristata) and to Quinta do Lago, where five or more Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus-juveniles mainly) were observed and heard near the hide. Purple Gallinule with chicks, an 2nd Summer Audouin's Gull (Larus audouinii) and several Mediterranean Gulls were present. Little Terns (Sterna albifrons) and Kingfishers (Alcedo attis) were fishing right in front of the hide. The Little Grebes (Tachybabtus ruficollis) were still on the nest or had small chicks and several Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina) were mixed under all the Gadwall and Mallard on the lake. Black-headed Weaver (Ploceus melanocephalus) were present at both sites. And many Iberian Magpies gave good views, a lot of them juveniles. A Hoppoe and a Black Kite, Greater Flamingos, Avocets and Curlew Sandpipers were seen, as well.
Our next target was Lagoa dos Salgados, west of Albufeira. Arriving there, after a bit more then half an hour driving, a flock of about 300 Greater Flamingos in the lagoon could be seen from a distance already. Hundreds (probably thousands) of House Martins, Common- and Pallid Swifts were feeding above the lagoon. We spotted a few Alpine Swifts (Apus melba) among them.
Next to were we stood, a female White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala) was swimming. Two females have been present here during the past weeks and an adult male had been observed for at least two weeks in spring 2008, until the lagoon had been drained once more, to avoid it flooding the nearby Golf course... This place definitely has potential for a breeding site for this highly endangered species - if only there would be a management of this wetland and an approved conservation plan...
In the evening, around sunset, a flock of about 180 Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) arrived and landed on the opposite side of the wetland to roost here for the night, gathering with the 30+ birds which were present already. An adult Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) was one of the last birds for the day. When leaving the site, Stone Curlew (Burrinhus oedicnemus) called loudly and near the access to the motorway, a Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) perched on a telegraph wire near a pine forest - quite an unusual sighting. All in all a successful and not at all boring birding-trip.
Even more so, if one knows, that the others had seen birds like Spanish Imperial Eagle, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, European Roller and White-rumped Swift during the morning in the Alentejo already...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

American Golden Plover (Pluvialis dominica) at Lagoa dos Salgados today

Elegant adult bird in full breeding plumage. This is a typical date for the species, regarding adult birds. Had a Pl. fulva at the same spot at the 22nd of July 2007, wich has been the second acknowledged record for Continental Portugal !

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Golden Eagle and starting wader-passage

when doing my field-work around the wind-farm in the Caldeirao-mountains last week, about three quarters of an hour north of Faro, I had a first for the area: An immature Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos (3rd calender year male) - fantastic bird ! The eagle flew along a slope, very low above the ground, perhaps intending to flush a Hare, a Rabbit or a Red-legged Partridge with this technique and finaly perched in an Cork-Oak Tree. Later it just lifted wings again and then crossed the valley high, then gliding and finaly diving down to disappear somewhere near the Odelouca-River. An immature Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus perched on a telegraph-post next to the road has been another nice observation during these samples. The bird was probably just crossing through the Serra - on the way from the breeding grounds in the Alentejo-plaines to wintering areas near some Algarve wetlands or pasture areas.
In the saltmarshes and saltflats of the Algarve-coast the first Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa arrived, all adults and still in breeding plumage. Another wader indicating "autumn migration" is already on the way, is Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus - wich I saw on a reservoir in the Castro verde plaines as well as in Castro Marim Reserve during last week. In Castro Marim, where I was accompanied by a small group of people, we observed also 3 to 4 juvenile Great-spotted Cuckoo's Clamator glandarius, one apparently still being fed by their favourite host-species, an European Magpie. A family of Lesser Short-toed Larks Calandrella rufescens and a couple - still in full breeding plumage - of Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis has been remarkable, too. For the Grebe its quite an early date.
On the beach, besides the local Little Terns there, also the first Mediterranean Gulls Larus melanocephalus show up now. An adult breeding Mediteranean Gull in soar, with the sunlight shining through the feathers and nothing but sea and sand behind it, is one of the most beautiful sightings I can imagine, I just found out.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summer Birds

Now summer definitly arrived and drought takes place where ever you look. June is the month of fledgeing young and juvenile dispersion. According to this, a Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus) hangs arround the roadcrossing of the N 125 towards the airport just north of Faro a lot. Many juvenile Iberian Yellow Wagtails (Motacilla flava iberiae) can be seen in Ria Formosa and other salt marsh habitat along the coast. I saw juvenile Grey Wagtails as well today, at a reservoir near Ribeiro de Alamo, few km west of the Castro Marim reserve. Besides Great- and Common Reed Warbler, also Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) was present. I observed a male attacking (!) a Fereal Pigeon, wich flew by, intending to drink, and chasing it away. I guess he was overdoing a bit in defending his territory, but who knows, never trust domestic animals...The Red-necked Nightjars, wich I can sometimes hear at night when I leave the window open, or see just after sunset, hunting for insects near some Pine trees, wich I am looking at, when I step out of my front door, are silent at the time. Probably incubating. But the Little Owls, inhabiting a nearby ruin, are noisy as most of the year. Now matter wich side of the sandy track leading to the house I take - there are Bee-eaters perched on the telegraph wire along the track.Last Wednesday I went into the eastern Algarve Serra, the secondary valleys west of the Guadiana river, in particular. The purpose was to get White-rumped Swift (Apus caffer) wich is a very scarce breeder in the area, as well as to see Western Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin (Cercotrichas galactotes) wich is not uncommon along the streams in the area.I did not go alone. Pedro Marques, a Portuguese photographer based in Lisbon, and perhaps one of the best wildlife photographers in the country, accompanied me. To cut a long story short, this has been a succsessfull trip ! You can see some of the results below. Pedro later told me, he went to visit the site again the next day, and was surprised to see a couple of Black Storks (Cigonia nigra) including one bird flying about 3m above his head...! We also had good views of Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius) - carrying food, as well as a rather pale Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus)hovering and passerines like Thekla Lark, Rock Bunting, Subalpine Warbler, Craig Martin and Red-rumped Swallow. Remarkable also, that Common Sandpiper, Little-ringed Plover and Water Rail apparently all breed at this site. The wonderfull
photos at the following post - the best I have seen so far from this species actually, are clickable to enlarge.

Western Rufous-tailed Scrub-Robin (Cercotrichas galactotes) Algarve, June 2009. This and the following photos are made by Pedro Marques.

White-rumped Swift (Apus caffer) Algarve, June 2009. Photo: Pedro Marques.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

About my Tours

The following text is a brief description about myself and the tours, in near future further information will be available on http://www.birdwatching-algarve.com/
Living in Central Algarve, right next to the beautifull Ria Formosa Natural Park, I can guide you through all Southern Portugal. Tours can be tailored to your individual needs – various itineraries and target species are possible – head out in search of your “lifer” and see the highlights of the season – nearly 100 different bird species can be seen on a day-tour. Areas of main interest include:
Steppe-like Plains of the Southern Alentejo:
The rolling plains form a vast ocean of grassland, flowers and cereal fields with some scattered oak trees. White stork nesting is widespread, often accompanied by Spanish Sparrows. Great and Little Bustards can be spotted, and Black-shouldered Kite, European Roller, Western Rufous Scrub-Robin (May-July), Lesser Kestrel, Black-bellied Sandgrouse and Montagu´s Harriers breed. Vultures occur, especially in summer and the Golden Eagle, as well as the Spanish Imperial Eagle occur occasionally. Cranes overwinter, as well as large numbers of Lapwing and Golden Plover.
Coastal wetlands of the Algarve:
The Ria Formosa Nature Reserve, with its channels, salt marshes and salt flats – as well as other lagoons and estuaries – is home to Flamingos, Spoonbills, Egrets as well as various waders and waterfowl. Purple Gallinule and Azure-winged Magpie are typical, summer-birds include Collared Pratincole, Little Bittern and Red-necked Nightjar as well as Audouins- and Slender-billed Gull. Wintering of Booted Eagle, Osprey, Black-shouldered Kite, Blue-Throat and Penduline Tit is common. Raritys with some regularity include Richard´s Pipit, Red-knobbed Coot and others.
About myself: Born 1968, birdwatcher for 25 years with detailed knowledge about the birds of Portugal and the Western Palearctic. I studied biology and geography in Germany and worked there as a teacher and started a project for the protection of a wetland area with success. I am familiar with the regional birdlife of all Southern Portugal for more than 10 years. I am a member of the Portuguese Society for bird studies (SPEA) and work as a Tour-guide for several Operators for birdwatching-travel from Germany and Swizzerland (birdingtours, Albatros-Tours, Arcatour) as well as for the Golf-Resort of Quinta do Lago and the University of Faro occasionally. Besides the work as field-guide I am surveying the impact of windfarms on bird populations, in particular on birds of prey, in the Serra de Caldeirao. I speak fluently German and English as well as basic French and Portuguese.