Monday, January 26, 2015

What's been around recently

Penduline Tits (Remiz pendulinus) can be found  in small numbers in reed beds in all Algarve during winter, but are not known to breed in the region. 23 Jan 2015, near Quarteira, Foto: GS.

The rarities reported in my previous blog-posts here, are still around - the Red-brested Flycatcher, the Red-knobbed Coot and also the North American Wigeon.

During a half-day tour around Faro last Thursday morning, the species-list included Ferrugineous Duck, Greater Flamingo, Little Bittern, Black-winged Kite, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Purple Swamphen, Little Stint, Pied Avocet, Red-brested Flycatcher, Red-rumped Swallow, King Fisher, Hoppoe, Azur-winged Magpie, Common Waxbill and Black-headed Weaver, among others.

Last Saturday, January 24th, a nationwide count of Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) took place, on initiative and coordinated by Gonçalo Elias. In total, 72 - 81 Ind. were counted in all Portugal that day (link to table of results here) I participated together with two friends and we covered the areas of the Ria Formosa Natural Park west of Olhão, all the way to Quinta do Lago, where we got at least 6 Ind., possibly 8 different Ind. (its hard to exclude double counts entirely, hence the unsharpness) Still we probably might have overlooked a few birds, since we could not cover all of these areas. Impressive! Ringed birds photographed during the census came from Germany and Latvia. These are wintering birds. During peak migration, in March and September/October, numbers might be significantly higher in these areas. Other the the lagoon system of Ria Formosa, Ospreys can be seen with a little luck at all coastal lagoons, estuarys, the bigger rivers, inland dams. An reintroduction program for the species at the Alqueva reservoir in the Alentejo region, close to Spain, aims to build up a breeding population again. The last breeding pairs were found at the west coast of the Algarve (Aljezur-area) nesting on sea-cliffs, but dissapeared during the 1990s. Since then the species was extinct in Portugal. A report of the reintroduction program at the Alqueva dam (2013) is here:

First winter Osprey (Pandeon haliaetus) at Ria Formosa Natural Park, between Faro and Olhão, showing moult in inner primaries, 21 Jan2015. Foto: GS.

The following close up photos of Passerines are all made (on a rather dull day) near a small coastal lagoon east of Quarteira at the end of last week.

Male Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melnocephala) showing the red eye ring. Surely the widestspread and most common Sylvian Warbler in the Algarve. Found in almost all habitats all year around.

Crested Tit (Parus cristatus) is not uncommon in Pine forests along the coast, but can also found in mixed Corkoak forests of the hinterland - such as in Serra do Caldeirão or Monchique mountains, where it is as abundant as Great- or Bluetit.

 Hoopoes (Upupa epops) are surely emblematic birds of the Algarve, still and always a "looker"...

Red-crested Pochards (Netta rufina) and Common Coots (Fulica atra) feasting on Algae at a coastal lagoon, west of Faro.
Besides the same two species in the photo above - can you spot the Red-crested Coot (Fulica cristata) ?
One last observation of interest: Storm Petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus) - at least 17 Ind. about 1km off Vilamoura-beach on January, 23rd and 11 Ind. off Quarteira before sunset today.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

What's been around this week

A weekly summary about what I have been seeing on my Tours here in the Algarve and other parts of south Portugal is what I intend to post here by the end of each week from now on, hoping to keep you interested in following this blog.
Last Sunday, Jan 11th, a Red-knobbed Coot (Fulica cristata) was found by João Ministro at Lagoa Foz do Almargem (Quarteira). I went to see the bird, which was within a considerable flock of Common Coots and took some digiscoping shots. 21 Red-crested Pochard at the same location are also worth mentioning. The RC Coot was still seen yesterday. By the way, also the RB Flycatcher (see previous blog post) was still present at the location yesterday.

Red-Crested Coot (Fulica cristata) at Foz do Almargem on Jan 11th 2015.

At a nearby fishing harbor there was also an adult Greater Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) that same afternoon. Near Vilamoura, I could get close up photos of a dark morph Booted Eagle (Aquila pennata) - the fotos below - and also observed a first winter Merlin (Falco columbarius) and a female Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus) as well as a Black-Winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus). Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) were present in Ria Formosa Natural Park around Faro, as every winter. By the way - on the Saturday, the 24th of January, a nation wide count of this species takes place. If you are in Portugal and see any Osprey that day, please send me an e-mail with the exact location, I can forward it to Gonçalo Elias, the initiator of the count. The idea of course is to get an overview, how many Ospreys winter in /pass through Portugal, hence the simutaneous count.

Dark morph Booted Eagle (Aquila pennata) near Vilamoura, 09 Jan 2015. GS. 

At Lagoa dos Salgados ("Pêra marsh") on Monday, January 12th, there was still the first winter Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) present at the location (near the wooden bridge on the board walk) where I found it with a group in early December 2014.

The first winter Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) I found was still present at Lagoa dos Salgados on Monday, 12th. GS.

Other birds a the same site were Peregrine Falcon, Marsh Harrier, Penduline Tit, Bluethroat and Reed Bunting, besides many water birds and wildfowl, Among those were also two Garganey (Anas querquedula) quite an unusual date. The hybrid Blue-winged Teal x Northern Shoveler (Anas discors x A. clypeata) a male, was also still there. The bird was found by Peter Dedicoat and June Taylor a while ago.

Adult Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) at LdS. GS.

Hybrid Northern Shoveler x Blue-winged Teal (A. clypeata x A. discors) at LdS on January, 12th. Foto:GS.

On the 14th of January, I found a male American Wigeon (Anas americana) at a sewage work near Faro. Besides large numbers of both Wigeon (Anas penelope) and also many Pintail (Anas acuta) in present in the same area. As nervous as the rest of the waterfowl at the place, for me clearly a wild bird. A first winter Little-ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius) and a Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava ssp.) were both rather unusual winter guests.

An adult American Wigeon (Anas americana) was a nice discovery I made near Faro on the 14th of January 2015. GS.

Little-ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius). GS.

On January, 15th, a day with very strong southerly winds (5-6 Bft.), a considerable mixed flock on Hirundies, consisting of about 30 to 40 Crag Martins, 15-20 Red-rumped Swallows, at least 5 House Martins and two or three Barn Swallows above Foz do Almargem (Quarteira) must have been just "blown in" from the north African coast, in my opinion. Barn Swallows anyway arrives back in the Algarve from January onwards on a regular basis each year. Watching the Swallows and Martins in the strong winds above the lagoon, was quite a spectacle. For a moment I thought I might have spotted a Brown-throated Martin (Riparia paludicola) among them, but soon lost the bird and did not find it back. One of these moments in birding that keep a bit of time to "digest"... however, spring is out our front doors here and soon also plenty of Orchids will be flowering in the Barrocal-area of the Algarvian hinterland. See you soon !

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Have a great Birding Year 2015 !

What colors ! Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) at "Quinta do Lago" today, January 6th, 2015.

Glorious sunshine, in early January, in Europe's sunniest corner at this time of the year - the Algarve has it. And not only - the birdlife was stunning, too. As stunning, as it is here, basically all year around...

The above Red-brested Flycatcher (Ficedula parva), a first winter bird, was still present here near Faro today, since well about 3 weeks now and it was possible to watch it close up catching insects from its preferred perch with great enthusiasm. Wintering of this long distant migrant in Europe must be an exception, It is a bit "off-track", since this easterly species winters in India and south-east Asia mainly.

A flock of 10 Brent Geese (Branta bernicla) swam near the bus stop to Praia de Faro (Faro-beach) Ria Formosa Natural Park, yesterday afternoon (5th of January 2015). Portugal experiences an unusual strong influx of this species this winter. The flock had been reported last week by Peter Dedicoat already. I spent the last week in Germany (Cologne-area) where I watched many hundreds of Greater White-fronted-, Greyleg- and Barnacle Geese in the lower Rhine-area near the Dutch border (Xanten) and also saw species like Marsh Tit and Goldeneye - birds we don't get here in the south. And, yes, also got some snow!

Booted Eagle (Aquila pennata) winters in the Algarve, particularly around Faro and Vilamoura. This pale morph is at least four or five times more common than the dark one. 

Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) is also wintering in increasing numbers. About ten years ago, only single adult males could be observed in mid winter here, meanwhile a large part of the population seems to stay. This past December I observed birds near Portimão, at Lagoa dos Salgados, in Vilamoura-area, at Lagoa Foz do Almargem, in Ludo and in Quinta do Lago-area, at the latter site also today.

Below you can see this (past) years Christmas card - showing, what was most probably the bird of the year here in Portugal in 2014 - an adult Ivory Gull (Pagophila eburnea) first for Portugal (and Iberia) found in the harbor of Nazaré at the west coast about an hour north of Lissbon by two travelling birders from abroad - not far from where brave surfers ride the world largest waves. The bird stayed for about 7 days. I went with a couple of friends to twitch it, because it was clear, that this is an unique chance and I have to say that it was well worth the journey. I have got tons of pictures and perhaps will post here a few more.