Friday, June 25, 2010

Soaring Vultures - surfing Egrets...

Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis) "surfing" on a sheep's back.

They come to catch insects and small vertrebrates flushed by the flock. Why not using the comfortable "mobile post" right in the middle ?

"Summer time..." - yes, even the fishes are jumping. It's nice and warm, but not too hot to go out for birding !

A Day Tour yesterday produced a pretty long list of good birds. At 7.00 we went up into the "steppes" of the interior south of Portugal, where we started our Birding with observations of Lesser Kestrel, European Roller, Great- and Little Bustard, Collared Pratincole, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Black-bellied Sandgrouse and Montagu's Harrier... Later in the morning, when it became warmer, we searched and found Vultures - and a lot. We had some seen soaring in thermal and found later that they were feeding nearby on the ground. More and more came and we observed around 80 Griffon Vultures and a single Black-Vulture around this place. Booted Eagle, Rufous-Bush Robin, Kingfisher, Black-eared Wheatear and a lot of Bee-eaters during the morning were also most welcome.
After lunch, we returned to the coast, were temperatures are still moderate (perhaps also we had seen most of the birds we came for). At a sweet water marsh with reed beds we observed Purple Swamphen, Purple Heron and Black-crowned Night Heron among others. A first adult Mediterranean Gull (Larus melanocephalus) in full breeding plumage was also remarkable. Many chicks of aquatic birds were present. Black-headed Weavers at their nests and a couple of Ferruginous Ducks (Aythya nyroca) finaly made this a successful birdwatching Trip.
On another Tour earlier this week, Eagle Owl (Bufo bufo) and White-rumped Swift (Apus caffer) - a couple, were among the highlights.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pelagic Boat-Tours in the Algarve

Great Shearwater (Puffinus gravis) by Thomas Moor.

Pelagic boat-trips to watch Storm Petrels, Shearwaters, Skuas and many other seabirds in the coastal waters of the Algarve.

Starting this summer Birdwatching-Algarve offers Pelagic Boat Tours going out from Fuzeta (a fishing village between Olhão and Tavira) in cooperation with the operator Passeios de Ria Formosa.

Visit for further information !

Black-headed Weaver a.o.

On two recent Tours into the Baixo Alentejo plains, yesterday (Monday, the 14-06-2010) and the past Friday (11-06-2010) we saw among others:

Black Vulture (Aegypus monachus) - on both Tours.
Griffon Vulture (Gyps vulvus) - both Tours.
Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) - both Tours.
Booted Eagle (Aquila pennata)- Friday. Pale and dark morph.
Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) - Friday. Adult with a fledged juvenile.
Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis) - both Tours.
Collared Pratincole (Glareola pratincola) - Monday, close views.
European Roller (Coracias garrulus) - both Tours.
Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) - Friday. A male.
Great Spotted Cuckoo (Clamator glandarius) - Friday. Close views.
Rufous Bush Robin (Cercotrichas galactotes) - Monday, close views.
Black-headed Weaver (Ploceus melanocephalus) - Monday. Several males near the nest (Algarve).

Black-headed Weaver (Ploceus melanocephalus) a male in breeding plumage. The species has established small colonies in several wetlands along the Algarve-coast. They nest in reed beds. Many thanks to David Rayner for this wonderful photo.

At Lagoa dos Salgados (Pêra Marsh) we witnessed spring migration "meeting autumn migration". A Knot (Calidris canutus) on its own, not yet completely moulted into breeding plumage has been still on its way from (South-)West Africa to the breeding sites of the species, somewhere around the arctic. With a little delay perhaps, but nesting only takes place there from June onwards anyway.
A flock of close to 100 adult Black-tailed Godwits (Limosa limosa) roosting in a another part of the lagoon, must have just arrived from Central or Northern Europe, where the species starts nesting in March already and therefore their breeding season is over by this time of the year. The juveniles, however, will arrive here later.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Tawny Pipits a.o.

The species arrives from March onwards in the Algarve - but the majority of birds shows up during May only in the Alentejo plains - probably still on passing through.
The following photos were made by James Robson (UK) on a Day-Tour into the area. We had several observations of Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Griffon- and Black Vulture, European Roller, Collared Pratincole, Rufous-Tailed Bush-Robin, the "wanted" Rock Bunting and a late Northern Wheatear on passage during that trip on the 18th of May.

Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris) in the Alentejo, 18th of May 2010. Photos: James Robson.

Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) of the "Greenland-subspecies" O.o.leucorhoa, note the orange extending all the way down (female). Tricky: Note the leg colour - should be blackish on all Wheatears. It is just a layer of fine, whitish dust in this case !

Rock Bunting (Emberzia cia) is best detected by their fine, high pitched contact-calls. They are quite common in Serra de Caldeirão, north of Faro.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Finland 2010 - Oulu and Kuusamo

I had the opportunity to join a little adventure on short notice - a Guided Birdwatching-Tour to Finland (23. - 29th of May 2010) organized by the German Tour-Operator birdingtours, together with the knowledgeable and experienced local Guide Matti Kumolainen from Finnature.(check this site for excellent photos !). We were 11 people in total and I drove one car for the 1600 km's through the magnificent Taiga, starting near Oulu, at the Baltic sea and heading in north-eastern direction towards the region around Kuusamo, close to the Russian border and only less than 100km south of the polar circle. The bird life was stunning. Owls and Grouses among the main attractions. My bit of digiscoping aside unfortunately only could caught a few impressions... not the male Pine Grosbeak in a spectacular old boreal forest at a mountain top (Oulanka-National Park) - where we also saw and heard the first Red-flanked Bluetail of the journey. Not the magnificent (and widespread) Black-throated Divers (Gavia arctica) - one pair on each of the numerous lakes, apparently. And also not the Golden Eagle (adult) soaring right above us on a sunny day right next to the fence of the border to Russia, where the Taiga seems to continue for ever. The western end of Siberia.
This was an extraordinary experience !

Siberian Jays (Perisoreus infaustus) can be pretty tame. This one showed up at bird-feeder in a forest near Kuusamo, together with Siberian Tit (Poecile cinctus).

The European Elk (Alces alces) is widespread. Warning signs along the roads are supposed to help avoiding collisions with these giants - a bull can be as tall as 2,20 cm (shoulder height) and up to 550 kg heavy. This one crossed our road on the way back from Kuusamo on the morning of the 29th of May.(Photo: Ulrich Noack).

A male (Northern) Hawk Owl (Surnia ulula) on its post at a clearing in the boreal forest (above) and singing (below).

The song resembles somewhat a Whimbrel and you can listen to it here (click: Typical voice). It really fits into the whole scenery in this region of "infinite" forests, where the separation between day and night seems to be vanishing (24-05-2010, Kemi-area).

Female (Northern) Hawk Owl (Surnia ulula) on the nest (24-05-2010, Kemi-area).

Rustic Bunting (Emberiza rustica) here the male, occurs in the forest. The song sounds like an in between of Dunnock and Blackcap to me. The 200 or so pairs of Yellow-brested Bunting (Emberiza aureola) nesting in the Bay of Liminka up to a few years ago however, disappeared completely for reasons unknown.

Whooper Swans (Cygnus cygnus) - probably non-breeders roosting and feeding on a field, together with Common Cranes, Greylag- and Bean-Geese (A.f.fabalis). We saw about 1000 Ind. of Whooper Swans during that day.

To be continued.