Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater in the Algarve

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater / Abelharuco-persa / Blauwangenspint (Merops persicus) in Fuzeta-saltpans (Algarve)
on April 18th, 2016. Foto: Georg Schreier.  This is only the 2nd record for Portugal.

It was Monday, late afternoon, when I sat in a bird hide near Faro for some "easy birding" in my own pace, to relax after an eight days group-journey I had been guiding. The phone rang and my friend João Tiago Tavares brought me the news, that a Blue-cheeked Bee-eater had just been found by João Ferreira (whom I do not know) west of Fuzeta, near the saltpans. After making shure I got the directions to the exact location, I was on my way. Shortly after I parked my car near the spot, other observers familiar to me arrived. We spread out over the area - a mix of arid farmland and gardens, abandoned fruit orchards and a small sand pit with two- or three nest tunnels of European Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster) which were feeding in the area and perched occasionally on the telegraph wires. But no sign of the bird. Soon it was clear to me, that the Bee-eaters present were only the local breeding birds and "our" bird must have been with Bee-eaters still on migration and therefore already passed on. I informed the others, that I would go and try my luck on the other (east) side of the village, where I was going to look out for flocks of Bee-eaters in the salt pans. After a little search there, I found a gathering of about 15 Ind. on the east side of the saltpans, close to Arroteia de Baixo, feeding and perching on wires. I approached the area on foot and finally - was that Bee-eater catching the insect just now and perching on the wire not greener than the others?? A look in the Bins confirmed - Yes, here it was! Quickly taking a few photos ( I was perhaps still 100m away) and calling the others. Still on the phone, the entire flock got up in the air and came my way. The marvellous "Green" Bee-eater with them flying by now in about half of the distance, showing its red underwing and the extremely long tail skimmers. Me, still on the phone, missing the third hand to get the flight shot and having to let the bird pass by and moving on...
The following search for the flock that have seemed to move on eastwards, following the coast line and stopping over in suitable habitat from time to time, for feeding, did not produce any result.
So I remained the one lucky guy, who was able to get a photo of this bird and the only one, who saw it after the finder.
Earlier that day, Western Orphean Warbler (Sylvia hortensis) and Melodious Warbler (Hippolais polyglotta) both near my home near São Brâs de Alportel, had been new birds for this year for me. The rather wet and windy April so far had not been great for spring migrants and birds arrived rather late. But some strong southwesterlies were responsible for bringing this "green jewel" into these parts, overshooting on its spring migration to its northernmost breeding grounds in Marokko supposedly. A good candidate for the bird of the year!

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater / Abelharuco-persa / Blauwangenspint (Merops persicus) in Fuzeta-saltpans (Algarve) 
on April 18th, 2016. Foto: Georg Schreier.  This is only the 2nd record for Portugal. One of only a few record shots I managed to take out of some distance, before the flock (of European Bee-eaters) moved on further east and disappeared with this bird. 
European Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster) at the same site. The "carrier species".

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