Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Visitors from the high north

click image 
Today a Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis) adult male and only yesterday, a Red (Grey) Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarus) are both rare winter visitors here in the Algarve, coming from the subpolar regions of Eurasia.

Why not spending the winter where it is less cold? Clever birds! (I still remember what winter around the north sea feels like...)

Here are two hand-held videos taken through the scope: 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Some recent photos from my tours...

Booted Eagle / Zwergadler / Aguia-calçada (Aquila pennata) juvenile pale morph photographed during a tour in Ria Formosa Natural Park near Tavira on 1st of October 2015 (GS.) The species is a fairly common passage migrant and local wintering bird n the Algarve (same bird in the above photo).

Adult male Little Bittern / Zwergdommel / Garçote (Ixobrychus minutus) right in front of the bird observatory of Quinta do Lago. Although somewhat "overrun" at times, this is still a great place to watch birds.

Cory's Shearwater / Sepiasturmtaucher ("Kanarensturmtaucher") / Cagarra (Calonectris d. borealis) a few miles off-shore Fuzeta (on boat-trip with Passeios Ria Formosa, Fuzeta, October 1st, 2015). In summer and autumn this is a common seabird off the Algarvian coast.
Great Shearwater / Großer Sturmtaucher / Pardela-de-barete (Puffinus gravis) photographed during the same trip.

Ferruginous Duck / Moorente / Zarro-castanho (Athya nyroca) are very rare breeding birds in the Algarve. Sometimes more than 30 Ind. can be found wintering near Vilamoura, where the species might also nest. The extension of the Marina of Vilamoura westwards will however consume most of the remaining reed bed of the area (Parque Ambiental) for the sake of a 900 Million € luxury resort. Bad news, because it is also the main breeding site for Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) in the entire Algarve. Also Otters live here, among others. (The photo below showing a male at the same location, both photographed on the 2nd of October 2015).

Lesser-crested Tern / Rüppell-Seeschwalbe / Garajau-bengalense (Sterna bengalensis) at Sagres fishing harbor on October 21st 2015. One of many rarities of this atumn season. This bird whos next breeding colonies are in Lybia, had been found the day before by the team of "Strix" (Riacardo Tomé et al.) who survey the birds of prey around the wind farms of the area, during a severe southerly storm...

Also present in the harbor when I arrived there in the morning after the storm had passed, were well a dozen Black Terns, some Common and two Arctic Terns, the usual Sandwich Terns and this interesting Tern (above two photos) I considered Roseate Tern (Sterna dougallii) adult winter. But grey on outer tail feathers for instance excludes this species (thanks Pedro Ramalho) and it remains just another nice Common Tern (Sterna hirundo).

Black Tern / Trauerseeschwalbe / Gaivina-preta (Chlidonias niger) at Martinhal lagoon (Sagres) on October21st 2015.

Whiskered Tern / Weissbartseeschwalbe / Gaivinha-dos pauis (Chlidonias hybridus) adult winter, east of Faro on October 26th, 2015.

On of at least two Yellow-browed Warblers / Gelbbrauenlaubsänger / Felosa-bilistada (Phylloscopus inornatus) near Sagres ("Cabranosa") on October 13th, 2015. Like the previous atumn, we experience quite an influx of this Siberian species in SW-Portugal. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Autum passage begins

Collared Pratincole (Glareola pratincola) at a small reservoir near Mértola (Alentejo-region) 20th May 2015.
Photo: Georg Schreier

On August, 3rd the subsequent song of a Western Bonelli's Warbler (Phylloscopus bonelli) heard when arriving in "Ludo" near Faro, for a morning tour with a German family, marked the beginning of autumn migration to me this year. The Warblers stayed for some days and three weeks later, some days ago, Bonelli's Warblers were still stopping over in the hinterland of the cape area of Sagres, in the western Algarve.

Both Photos showing Western Bonelli's Warbler (Phylloscopus bonelli) in the hinterland of Cabo São Vicente,
Sagres-area, Algarve, Portugal on August, 19th 2015. Fotos: GS.

Of course some sort of migration, "up" north- or "down" south is going on at almost every day in the year. In June, sometimes as early as the 10th of June, the first Black-tailed Godwits and Green Sandpipers show up here in the Algarve, coming straight down from their nesting grounds in Scandinavia and around the north sea, where they start- (and therefore also finish-) breeding quite early in the year. At the same time the very last Greater Ringed Plovers or Bar-tailed Godwits stop over in the lagoon system of the Ria Formosa Natural Park still on their way north...
June is also the month of the fledged juveniles here and shortly after, from July onwards, the local summer birds, like Bee-eaters and Sylvian Warblers start to disperse over the countryside and gather up around sites with higher food availability, often next to wetlands, since particularly the interior from mid summer onwards suffers from a draught and food shortage as a consequence. By mid August, neither European Rollers nor Collared Pratincoles could be found in the Baixo Alentejo plain anymore since this summer was particularly hot. However, Great- and Little Bustards, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Sp. Imperial- and Golden Eagle and many others could be observed on a tour on August, 12th. Also Black-eared Wheatears and Calandra Larks, as well as some Lesser Kestrels and Montagu's Harriers could still be seen.
Monday, 17th this week, a European Roller stopping over at Lagoa dos Salgados (Silves) was a nice surprise. Collared Pratincoles bred again at the site this year. For the second year now, since the earthworks at the site, creating a dam to hold back part of the water when the lagoon is drained and the construction of artificial islands for the nesting of birds, were finished. The investment done of around 1 Million € at this site is probably unique in the Algarve. The final results remain still to be seen. At the moment, the site has lost attractivity to waders in particular, because of both, a too high water level and the replacement of soft mudflats for hard soil banks. Vegetation on the islands will grow high quickly, too, having perhaps the positive effect of the possibility of a Egret/Heron colony forming in Tamarisc bushes.
On the next day, Tuesday, 18th, a White-rumped Swift (Apus caffer) gave still good views at a small lagoon near Alcoutim (Algarve). Short-toed- and Thekla Larks, Black-eared Wheatear and Black Vultures were also seen that day, when Short-toed Eagles and Booted Eagles were crossing the country side and Bee-eaters seemed to be perched on almost every telegraph wire in the area.
In Sagres, two days ago, 2 juvenile Egyptian Vultures (Neophron percnopterus) gave close views and a thermal of 28 Black Kites (Milvus migrans) was typical for the date, since the species is known to peak early in the season. Many Woodchat Shrikes were on the move already, mainly juveniles and a 2nd cy male Montagu's Harrier puzzled us a bit, because it had pretty much the "jizz" of a Hen Harrier, appearing unusual heavy build and broad winged for the species. Little Bustards and a Tawny Pipit were among the local breeding birds we saw. Yesterday evening, 12 Stone Curlews were on a stubble field east of Faro, plus a Willow- and a Melodius Warbler in the same area.

My year list for continental South Portugal (south of Lisbon) is on 245 species at the moment.

Juvenile Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) near Sagres. August 19th, 2015. Foto: GS.

Thursday, August 6, 2015


Yesterday morning, August 5th 2015, we did a c. 3 hours boat-trip off Fuzeta (east Algarve). Besides many Common Dolphins (Delphinus delphis) close to the boat and an Ocean Sun Fish (Mola mola) it was a very successful trip regarding pelagic sea birds:

Cory's Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea)      c. 70-80 Ind.
Great Shearwater (Puffinus garvis)                 c. 20-25 Ind.
Balearic Shearwater (Puffinus maureatanicus)           6 Ind.
Sooty Shearwater (Puffinus griseus)                         1 Ind.
Wilson's Storm Petrel (Oceanites oceanicus)           12 Ind.
European Storm Petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus)          2 Ind.
Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus)                          8 Ind.
Great Skua (Stercorarius skua)                                1 Ind.
Pomarine Skua (Stercorarius pomarinus)                  1 Ind.
Skua species (Stercorarius sp.) probl. Pom.Sk.         1 Ind.
Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)                               1 Ind.
Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis)                        2 Ind.
Little Tern (Sternula albifrons)                                2 Ind.
Med. Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus)                   3 Ind.
Audouins Gull (Ichthyaetus audouinii)                      1 Ind.

I want to share some photos I took during the trip here:

More Info about this offer is on my website here: Pelagic boat trips

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Influx of Red-footed Falcon

Ad. female Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus) a few kms west of Entradas (Beja) on 15-May-2015. Foto: GS

The same female with an adult male. Date and location as above.

Since Wednesday, May 14th, at least 50 Red-footed Falcon, sometimes in groups of 5 or more birds (one of 21 Ind.), have been seen and reported in south-west Portugal. In the west- (NE of Vila do Bispo, near Burgau, near Ria de Alvor and SE of Silves) and also the central Algarve (east Faro and east Quarteira), but mainly the Baixo Alentejo around Castro Verde and Beja, roosting and hunting in steppe-like areas, irrigated fields, near rice fields and in other kinds of open country side, where they often perch on telepraph wires or even on the ground. Before they arrived here, an influx to eastern Marrocco had been reported. Strong easterly and south-easterly winds carried them far north-west and probably even out on the Atlantic, from where they must have been coming back into SW-Portugal, most of them staying at one location only for hours and moving one the same day, others staying over night in the same area. In the meantime, small groups of RFF have been already reported from south Germany (Bavaria) on their way to their nesting areas in eastern Europe and the Asian steppes.
The next days it might be still worth to keep the eyes open for them here.

The season for Pelagic boat-trips is starting - here are the new scheduled trips for the next months:

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Africa-migrants returning to the Algarve

European Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster) are widespread in the Algarve an usually arrive here in late March.
(Photo: Ludo (Faro), 04-04-2015, Georg Schreier)

The first European Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster) arrived during the last week here in the south of Portugal, as could be expected with the warm weather (up to 30 degrees C) we finally experience. A rather late date, as cold, northerly wind blocked migration for about two weeks.
Rarities of the last weeks included up to three Little Crakes (Porzana parva) at Quinta do Lago, of which I saw one female on March, 26th. The species seem to stop over at this site during migration (mainly March and September) on a regular basis.

At the same location, a "suspicious" Sandpiper (Actitis sp.) I found caused a bit of confusion, showing charakteristics of a Spotted Sandpiper (A. macularius) including a very short tail-projection, plain tertials, lacking any serration, yellowish leggs. However, finally obtained flight shots showed a bold white wing bar reaching the body, reveiled that it was a infact a first winter Common Sandpiper (A. hypoleucos) moulting its tail feathers (compare photos below.)

The first winter (probably female) Red-brested Flycatcher reported here before, was last seen on the 21st of March.
Little Bittern, Glossy Ibis, Black-headed Weaver and many more were very obliging in front of the hide at the same time. One (or possible two) singing Savi's Warblers (Locustella luscionides) at "Boca do Rio" (Budens) on March, 27th and a male Common Redstart (Phoenicurous phoenicuros) yesterday (04/04/15) are further arrival dates of migratory Passerines this spring.

The Alentejo plains have been marvellous over the past few weeks, with Great Spotted Cuckoos, Lesser Kestrels, displaying Great- and Little Bustards, displaying Spanish Imperial Eagles, Eurasian Black Vultures (up to 6 Ind. together on March, 25th, near Mértola) an immature Golden Eagle (same date) and many more.

Great Bustards (Otis tarda) in flight. Near Castro Verde, March 2015. Foto: Georg Schreier.

A male Great Bustard (Otis tarda) in full display, surrounded by several females.
CastroVerde-area, March 2015. Foto: Georg Schreier.

The wide, open landscape is a sea of wild flowers, as usual at this time of the year.

Purple Viper's Bugloss (Echium platagineum) in the Baixo Alentejo, March 2015.

Golden Wreath (Acacia saligna) near Quinta do Lago, Loulé, March 2015.

Peony (Paeonia broteroi) is endemic to the Iberian Peninsula. Rocha da Pena, March 2015.