Saturday, May 22, 2010

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Isabelline Warbler (Western Olivaceous Warbler)

A singing Isabelline Warbler (Hippolais opaca) doubtless was the highlight of today's trip around Faro. We found the bird near the hide at the Quinta do Lago Golf-course this morning, where it has been singing out of the dense crowns of the Umbrella-Pines at this place. After a while we also got views of this bird climbing through the dense vegetation and sitting in the open every now and then just for a moment. The bird lacked any yellowish or greenish color-tone of the possible confusion-species Melodius Warbler (Hippolais polyglotta). The song also differs - it resembles a bit a Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) which does not sing out of the crowns of Pine-Trees and shows some reddish-brown in the plumage.

João Tiago Rocha Tavares managed to get the following photos of the bird:

A link to an external site on the ID of Melodius Warbler versus Olivaceous, including sound files, is here.

This his apparently a bird on spring migration - they are very late migrants.
There is only one known breeding-record for Portugal over the last years (Alentejo). This bird is rare - but also easy to overlook, and ID in the field is very difficult, especially when the birds don't sing (autumn-migration).

Links about the splits of Hippolais-Warblers are here and here.

This is also interesting.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Western Orphean Warbler a.o.

The northern range of the Serra do Caldeirão (11th of May 2010).

A long day-tour yesterday, starting in the central Algarve and into the adjecent Alentejo, produced very good observations of a male Western Orphean Warbler, Rufous Bush Robin (couple), Melodius Warbler, Egyptian Vulture (adult) and Griffon Vulture, Bonelli's Eagle (subadult/3rd cy), Short-toed Eagle (calling a lot), Little Bustard, Collared Pratincole, Tawny Pipit... Black-crowned Night-Heron, Barn Owl and Red-necked Nightjars.

We could not have asked for better views of the Orphean Warbler and the Bush Robin - which have been the main target species for this tailor-made Tour. I would like to post some photos here, but I only do a bit of "digiscoping" through my Leica-Telescope during the trips and this is not the right method nor the equipment to get "snapshots" of Passerines. Since the Internet is full of bird-photos - these photos are almost as good as what we saw - link - if you "click" them for magnification (works also on this blog).
We found the bird singing in a valley, where I recorded it 2 years ago for the first time. Another site visited before and occupied the previous year, didn't produce anything this time. The song of this big Sylvian Warbler resembles a Blackbird, but mostly with repetition of a shorter and simpler phrase and an even lower and more "throaty" tone or pitch than the Blackbird.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Collared Pratincoles

Collared Pratincole (Glareola pratincola) photographed during a Tour in the Alentejo this Friday.

We were walking on a farm track near a small reservoir and surrounded by about 25 of the Pratincoles, flying around us, landing on the acre close to us or hunting for insects above the meadows and among the cattle and sheep, calling and performing with elegance in the air, like giant Swallows. Well a dozen of Bee-eaters were using the same area and perching on nearby fence-posts, a Southern Grey-Shrike and several Short-toed and Thekla Larks were around, when a dark Booted Eagle (Aquila pennata) approached the scenery circling low above us - a very dark bird, a marvelous sighting - and flushed every bird in the area, causing quite a panic among them.
We also found Hoppoe, Raven, Little Ringed-Plover, Black-winged Stilt and Little Egret at this place. Other species, earlier this day, had been Rufous-tailed Bush Robin (Cercotrichas galactotes) - my first one for this year, Golden Oriole, Black-eared Wheatear and Dartford Warbler (all Eastern Algarve), Montagu's Harrier, Black-shouldered Kite, Griffon Vulture, European Roller, Little Bustard, Great Bustard, Stone Curlew, Calandra Lark, Spanish Sparrow and Alpine Swift.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


One of the magnificent European Rollers (Coracias garrulus)
we saw (Photo: Harry Hill).

Doing a Tour up into the Alentejo today has been fabulous - more than 60 Great Bustards, Griffon-(about 25), Black-(5) and Egyptian Vulture (1), Lesser Kestrel, Black-shouldered Kite, Booted Eagle (2), the ever present Montagu's Harriers and Black Kites, and the highlight - two Spanish Imperial Eagles (subadults, but apparently a pair).
3 (!) couples of European Rollers, including very close views on a farm track 2 or 3 times (photo), Bee-eater, Hoppoe, Little Owl... Collared Pratincole, Black-bellied Sandgrouse (just heard, because you can only look into one direction at a time), Little Bustard (always calling), Black-eared Wheatear, Spanish Sparrow, many Short-toed-, Thekla- and Calandra Larks... and not to forget, lovely Sandwiches and a sip of Wine on a hillside with a spectacular view over the plain... a very sunny day, almost no wind, just a bit over 20 degree C.
Recently a Nature-Tour Operator and Biologist from the UK stated after a day in the Alentejo - that this was, quite unexpected, probably the best "steppe" birding he had ever done. No further comments.

Griffons (Gyps vulvus) with one Eurasian Black Vulture (Gyps monachus) above the plain.(Photo by Harry Hill)

These Great Bustards are looking good on a local bus.