Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Portuguese trip 26.04.13 - 30.04.13

A few days in The Algarve with a specific trip north to the Baixo Alentejo region, based around the pleasant town of Castro Verde.
Arriving after an early morning flight (6.35 from Stansted) meant I was at Faro station by 10.30 where grey plover, little egret and a black stork were noted. Yellow legged gulls were everywhere, as were white storks, common and pallid swifts. I arrived in Tavira by noon and out on to the salt pans. I have been here before but earlier in the year. Many migrants had moved on so not as much as previous trips. Waders, however were in good number, with dunlin, curlew sandpiper and sanderling in many of the low water salt pans.
black winged stilt

dunlin

sanderling

Tavira saltpans

curlew sandpiper and dunlin
Other good birds were greenshank, sardinian warbler, hoopoe, beeater, caspian, sandwich and little tern and lesser whitethroat. The latter is a rare migrant to The Algarve and a submission record has been made. This, if accepted, would only be the 5th record for the region. However, single person observation probably means it will not go on record.
Several yellow wagtail (ssp iberiae) were about, a few flamingoes and plenty of white storks and avocets added colour and interest. The most common bird however was the zitting cisticola, or in old money, the fan tailed warbler.
yellow wagtail

woodchat shrike

greater flamingoes

whimbrel
After a good wander, back to Tavira for an evening meal with friends David and Hilary with whom I was staying. A fado concert was also taken in along with a few drinks in the Pink Flamingo.
Fado concert in Tavira



zitting cisticola
The following morning, a train to Lagos, some 2.5 hours away. Some good bird watching from the train before a short walk to my usual pension in Lagos old town. Once the luggage was left I was out in bright but windy conditions for a walk along the beach towards the Rio Alvor and Meia Praia. Loads of clouded yellow butterflies and a solitary common wheatear in the dunes, goldfinches, serins and greenfinches but nothing apart for a single cormorant on the water. However, disaster struck: a gust of wind took my treasured straw hat for a 30 metre roll and into the sea. By the time I got to the water's edge it was already too far out.
My hat!!!




The plant life in April is magnificent, with these wonderful blooms a common occurrence in the dunes.
That evening, I purchased a cap as the wind was forecast to be gusty for the Sunday. I had planned a trip to Sagres but I knew that if it was windy in Lagos it would be very windy there, so I took the train to Mexilohiera Grande and wandered in a leisurely fashion the 15 miles back to base. Plenty of everyday Algarve birds were noted, including serins, azure winged magpies, red rumped swallows, corn buntings and another woodchat shrike. In the distance, high over a golf course a single booted eagle rode the thermals, identified by the white markings on the leading edge of the wings that are often referred to as "landing lights." I had no idea where I was, just wandering roughly in a westerly direction, so much amusement when I stopped at a village bar to ask where I was.
serin

white stork


out of over 20 shots, this was the best of a fly by red rumped swallow!!

wild flora, just superb.

corn bunting

clouded yellow

azure winged magpie
That evening a fine meal in a local bar before an early night as Monday was the big day, a dawn until dusk trip some 85 miles north east to the Baixo Alentejo with undoubtedly the best guide in The Algarve, Simon Wates his very useful website.
I was picked up at 6.30 for the drive to Castro Verde where we met fellow birders Alan and Diana. Talking with Simon was easy as it was with our new colleagues, a lovely and enthusiastic pair.
After a coffee we headed off to track down a local rufous bush robin but the temperature was struggling to get over 10C so it was neither singing nor showing. Corn buntings and nightingales were in fine voice with beeaters and storks overhead. A woodchat shrike posed on a fence post, but no bush robin. We moved on to pastures new where we quickly connected with short toed lark, black eared wheatear, great bustard and black bellied sandgrouse. Not a bad quartet! Just to keep us on our toes a few distant montagu's harrier and a short toed eagle.
Lagos: 6.30a.m.

distant and high short toed eagle

no rufous bush robin!

woodchat shrike

nest building short toed lark

fly away black bellied sandgrouse

great bustard

black eared wheatear

Several golden oriole were seen briefly as we headed to another destination. Red and black kite had already been ticked so our target was black winged kite. A single bird, distant but visible was seen in a tree as 4 male monties and a single female hunted over the field. At one point a black kite appeared to be heading for a harrier nest, but was quickly seen off. Very spectacular. As we drove on in search of subalpine warbler several Iberian grey shrikes were on posts and rollers were on the wires. White storks everywhere. No subalpine but a woodlark was seen and an Iberian green woodpecker was heard.
montagu's harrier

roller

lesser kestrel

Iberian grey shrike
 
Next, we were off to a farm where lesser kestrel and rollers were nesting and more monties before we stopped for lunch of Iberian black pork. Superb.
Then, off to the hills for raptors. Amazing views, as we drove up shingle lanes to good heights, of 3 black vultures. This was followed by a raptor watch where we scored with griffon vulture, bonelli's eagle, golden eagle, short toed eagle as well as black kite and a distant black stork.
Baixo Alentejo

black vulture

griffon vulture

vulture country
 
This was an amazing place but we were still after rufous bush robin so we headed for another spot. No luck here, with white stork ubiquitous, a little ringed plover and more nightingales and corn buntings.
So off to see a few more vultures, checking a new reservoir as we left. common sandpiper and black winged stilt were already present and considering the building work is still on going (only 4 months old) this site bodes well for the future.
More vultures were spotted before we headed off for little bustard. We got him in a field and also connected with a flyby great spotted cuckoo, my first since the one near Kelling.
little bustard

 
 
By this time it was getting late so we headed back to Castro Verde to drop off Alan and Diana. A final stop in the town to see, in the dusk, an amazing roost of 100+ cattle egrets in a single tree.
Simon and I then had a quick bite to eat before the hour and a quarter drive back to Lagos, arriving in the town at 10.30. A beer, shower and I was out like a light.
The following morning, Tuesday, was my last day, so I headed off to the saltpans around the north east of Lagos. Here I added great reed warbler, ringed plover, marsh harrier and waxbill to my list of 120+sp. Then, a train, bus and plane and I was in my local village pub for a meal by 9pm.
An excellent few days and one that I can highly recommend to any birder. Book Simon for an amazing day's birding. You won't find half the stuff he'll get for you and his knowledge of the area is second to none.


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This is me

This is me
At the end of another Norfolk Coastal footpath walk. 47 miles, 3 days 99 species of bird

Caley Wood view

Caley Wood view
sunshine through the canopy 29.05.08

A walk along the Warta Valley, Poznan, Poland. Feb 2007

A walk along the Warta Valley, Poznan, Poland. Feb 2007
Best birds on this walk: black and middle spotted woodpecker and short toed treecreeper

About Me

My photo
A primary school teacher for 30 years, I retired from teaching in July 2009 to set up my own science enhancement and communication company. The Primary Works offers science clubs, workshops and staged science shows nationwide. I have always been interested in bird watching since my early years. Apparently my first tick was after inquiring about a chaffinch and then receiving the Observer book of birds. By the age of 9 I had moved on to Tory Peterson's collins guide and was now involved on YOC birding holidays to Northumbria, Essex coast, Slimbridge and Yorkshire. My twitching rule is that I will willingly travel 1km for each gram the bird weighs. However, I have had many rarities just by being in the right place. I have travelled widely throughout Europe and also visited Australia and Sri Lanka. Further European destinations are planned and a bigger trip to The Crimea was planned for 2014 but now not possible. so 2014: Sri Lanka in January, Poland in April, Madeira in June and The Camargue in July. So far 2015 has been Sri Lanka in Jan, Poland in Feb, Sri Lanka in April and The Camargue coming up in 1st week of September.

Grey heron

Grey heron
Over the allotment 28.09.08

Southern Hawker

Southern Hawker
Ridge footpath 27.08.08

Juvenile green woodpecker (17.08.08)

Juvenile green woodpecker (17.08.08)
Note the stripes, denoting a bird fledged this year.

common blue

common blue
Ash Valley G.C. 15.08.08

Indian balsam (impatiens glandulifera)

Indian balsam (impatiens glandulifera)
River Ash

azure damselfly

azure damselfly
River Ash 28.07.08

marbled white

marbled white
Discovered at Westland Green 22.07.08

ruddy darter

ruddy darter
Bush Wood 21.07.08

honeysuckle 19.07.08

honeysuckle 19.07.08
growing in hedgerow in Chapel Lane

cinnabar moth caterpillar

cinnabar moth caterpillar
Photographed on ragwort 19.07.08

Bittersweet

Bittersweet
Study of petals 11.06.08

male yellowhammer

male yellowhammer
08.06.08

common blue butterfly

common blue butterfly
06.06.08

River Ash

River Ash
looking south from the bridge at Hadham Ford

Common poppy (papaver rhoeas)

Common poppy (papaver rhoeas)
in rape field 29.05.08

Caley Wood sunshine

Caley Wood sunshine
29.05.08

Millenium Wood fox

Millenium Wood fox
24.05.08

common comfrey (symphytum officinale)

common comfrey (symphytum officinale)
06.05.08 banks of the River Ash

Garlic Mustard or Jack by the Hedge,(Alliara petiolata)

Garlic Mustard or Jack by the Hedge,(Alliara petiolata)
flowers, leaves and fruit edible . Good in salad and pesto

April showers

April showers
Double rainbow 30.04.08

Caley Wood bluebells

Caley Wood bluebells
22.04.08

Yellow Archangel

Yellow Archangel
Chapel Lane (20.04.08)

sunlight 16.04.08

sunlight 16.04.08
looking south west from Bush Wood

snowy buds

snowy buds
06.04.08 in Bush Wood

Looking north west

Looking north west
05.04.08 evening shower approaching

Back Garden

Back Garden
Easter Sunday (23.03.08)

Brick Kiln Hill

Brick Kiln Hill
Looking east (23.03.08)

No play today

No play today
The 2nd hole at Ash Valley golf course

Teasel head

Teasel head
Bush Wood (21.03.08)

Reflections

Reflections
daffodils at Bush Wood pond (21.03.08)

Swollen River Ash

Swollen River Ash
The river at the bottom of Winding Hill 16.03.08

Daybreak over the chapel

Daybreak over the chapel
Thursday 13th March

Wild daffodils (narcissus pseudonarcissus)

Wild daffodils (narcissus pseudonarcissus)
growing in Bush Wood

January snowdrops

January snowdrops
Banks of River Ash, north of Much Hadham

Good Moon

Good Moon
From garden 24.01.08

Village Green

Village Green
Looking east towards Acremore Street

Looking south before Hadham Ford

Looking south before Hadham Ford
rare January blue sky

Useful sites

The following are some useful websites that may interest readers of this blog.
Firstly, Bishop's Stortford Natural History Society http://bsnhs.webplus.net/

Fellow birder, Gary Whelan's blog. Gives reports from our trips out together plus reports from his trips abroad. http://hairybirders.blogspot.co.uk
http://www.hertsbirdclub.org.uk/ The official herts bird club website. Frequently updated, listing bird sightings around the county. Offers links to many other websites. Both of these sites also offer links to yahoo discussion groups.
http://www.birdforum.net/ An international site. You can enter as a guest but become a member( free) to post comments, bird sightings and just about anything to do with wild birds. Good news updates, classified section for binoculars, cameras etc.
http://www.guidedbirdwatching.com/ A new site set up where you can contact people worldwide who will help you find good birds in their country. UK section being set up presently.
http://www.britainsbirder.co.uk/
Fellow birders blog. Strtford resident, Graeme Smith regulary birds the area south of Stortford as well as around Spellbrook and the River Stort from Spellbrook to Twyford Locks. Some superb bird photography: Graeme uses a digital camera attached to his powerful telescope to get detailled images of the birds he sees. Well worth a browse.
Two local sites that may be of interest can be found at
http://www.thehadhams.com/ www.thepelhams.net/content/section/12/139/

South Easterly walk

South Easterly walk
black, normal, red extended walk

South Westerly route.

South Westerly route.
Black usual, red extended

North Easterly walk

North Easterly walk
black short, walk. Red, extended

North West Patch

North West Patch
black route regular. Red route the extended wander