Saturday, January 22, 2011


Almond blossom. A few days ago, just out my front door. Barn Swallows (Hirunda rustica) are arriving and Hoopoes (Upupa epops) and Serins (Serinus serinus) are singing. Also some of the wintering birds from the north sing - Robins, Blackcaps, Song Thrushes and Common Chiffchaffs.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Digiscoping - experimenting new cameras

I am using the Leica Apo-Televid 77 Telescope since about 10 years now and I am still very happy with it. It is a great Telescope. For digiscoping, I used the Nikon Coolpix 995 and a handmade adapter so far which worked very well until finally now the camera has a defect. I was looking for something new anyway, since it had only a 3 Mega pixel sensor, it is a camera from the 1990s. The photo series above are made with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-F4 near Faro this morning - the photos are not bad, but also still not what I expect.... so I guess I have to keep on looking !
This color-ringed Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) by the way is an almost 14 years old bird from the Netherlands (like a lot of Spoonbills we see here) and seems to winter since at least 10 years here in Ria Formosa. I have reported it already almost exactly 4 years ago from the same location. The life/history of the bird I received suggests also, that it migrates crossing through the Iberian Peninsula. If you ever see a color-ringed Spoonbill and can get the color-ring combination or the code, please send a photo or detailed description *including location, date, observer etc.) to o.overdijk[at] or visit this page (in Dutch) about the ringing program here:

These two digiscoping shots of a Booted Eagle (Aquila pennata) are made here some days ago with a Canon Powershot SX130 IS. The camera has a 12x optical zoom and 12 Megapixel (like the Lumix) but produces a horrible lot of vignetting when used at the telescope... no option, really...
All photos are processed with photo shop by the way (crop, sharpen, sometimes reducing noise, contrast, lightness etc. correction, but moderate... I usually avoid changing things like saturation or hue.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Alentejo impressions

Baixo Alentejo, 2011-05-01. Photo: GS

Springtime here in South Portugal begins just after Christmas, is what I usually say and it is true. Serins (Serinus serinus) and Spotless Starlings (Sturnus unicolor) are singing outside, and the first Bees and Butterflies are visiting the flowering meadows. In the Alentejo, the vast inland open Oak woods and grasslands of South Portugal, Calandra Larks (Melanocorypha calandra) and Corn Buntings (Milaria calandra)are singing, while the fields are full of Golden Plovers (Pluvialis apricaria) and Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus) and Red Kites (Milvus milvus) are circling above the scenery, to name but a few common species.

The area is a great place to observe raptors. 2011-05-01. Photo: GS

Yesterday, observations of a Spanish Imperial Eagle (immature) close together with an adult Bonelli's Eagle, have been among the highlights of the trip. But also well a dozen Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis) in total gave good views. Spring has only begun, and the Alentejo will be full of flowers until around mid May. In the next weeks, the first migratory birds, like the Great Spotted Cuckoo (Clamator glandarius) will arrive here, while such elusive bird species as the Rufous Bush Robin (Cercotrichas galactotes), European Roller (Coracias garrulus) and White-rumped Swift (Apus caffer) will only come back from tropical Africa around mid April or even in May.

The Great Bustard (Otis tarda) is the emblematic bird of the Baixo Alentejo grasslands. Thanks to the successful conservation programs run by the Portuguese NGO "Liga para a proteçaõ da Natureza" (LPN) in the area, this magnificent birds and other "steppe" birds are increasing again but distribution is very local.

Some people call the area the Paradise in Portugal and it is a fantastic place for birdwatching without any doubt, recently ranked on 37 of the best Birdwatching destinations worldwide by the American Birding Association (ABA) here: I met the author, Ted Floyd, on the Birdwatching Festival in Sagres in October 2009, when I was guiding a group of journalists and tour operators on behalf of the Algarve eco tourism company Sunquays. The event had been organized by the Tourism board of the Algarve.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2011 - Birds, birds, birds !

Wishing everybody a good year 2011 - healthy, happy, successful, prosperous and full of good birdwatching, of course !

Today has been an incredibly sunny day here around Faro, with temperatures close to 20 degree C and hardly any wind. The birds of prey liked it - Common Buzzards (Buteo buteo) performed display flights, "miauing" high above the Umbrella Pines and I counted a total of six Booted Eagles (Aquila pennata) in the area. Three Black-winged Kites (Elanus caeruleus) were also present.
In the afternoon, another Black-winged Kite was feeding on his catch on a telegraph post near Vilamoura, a couple of Marsh Harriers (Circus aeruginosus) was hunting nearby. Flocks of Spanish Sparrows (Passer hispaniolensis), lots of Corn Buntings (Milaria calandra) and a mixed flock of Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus) and Golden Plovers (Pluvialis apricaria) roosted on an acre.

Black-winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus) in Vilamoura today. Photo: Georg Schreier.

Extensive reed-beds in Parque Ambiental, Vilamoura. Photo: Georg Schreier

In the Marina of Quarteira, an adult Greater Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) was easy to find, sitting on his favourite boat-Cabin again. I observed this bird there a month ago already, and probably the same Ind. the previous winter. An Irish Birder visiting the Algarve from time to time - we have been runing into each other already years ago, in Ludo, where he had just found a Baird's Sandpiper (Calidris bairdii), photographed another, ringed adult there recently. He also made a great capture of a flock of Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra) just before I arrived near the Marina with a Birding group, also seeing these birds.

Adult Greater Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) in Quarteira today. Photo: Georg Schreier.

Adult Greater Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) with rings. Photo: Michael Davies.

Flock of 47 Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra), Quarteira, 2009-12-11. Photo: Michael Davies. There is just one adult male in the whole flock. Click on the picture to enlarge. Thank's Michael for sharing - a great shot, I really like it, it remembers me on one of the best observations during that afternoon !

Yesterday I observed an adult male Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) close to the observatory at the São Lourenço Golf-Course, a Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) was foraging close by, next to the ever present Azur-winged Magpies (Cyanopica cooki).
An apparently adult female Goosander (Mergus merganser) currently present at the Alvor-estuary (near Lagoa, west Algarve) is the first record of this species for the Algarve and not the only one in Portugal and Spain at the moment. Not a must for us being used to see these birds wintering further north but definitely a good Algarve tick.