TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT

Southern Portugal

Sunday 25th March - Sunday 1st April 2001


Leaders:
Mike Read
Will Wagstaff

Trip Diary

Fly to Faro and by bus to Armaçao de Pera

Everyone was in good time at the airport............except the flight! This was 2 hours later than anticipated. At the rescheduled time we took off and were soon above the clouds and leaving the cool, cloudy day behind in Britain. On arrival at Faro, we were met and taken to our bus and then to the Hotel Garbe in Armaçao de Pera. During the journey we saw at least 20 White Storks, a couple of Spotless Starlings, a fair number of House Martins and a few Barn Swallows. Also present in this coastal region were the usual Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

White Stork

Monday 26th March Quinta do Lago & Dunas Douradas

Our pre breakfast walk took us westwards from the hotel and we were soon seeing flights of Cattle Egrets moving east along the coast. Sardinian Warbler and Blue Rock Thrush were added, as was a flight of about 15 Alpine Swifts high overhead. A Kestrel flying in off the sea turned our attention in that direction and we were pleased to observe a westerly passage of Sandwich Terns taking place. A flight of 8 Common Scoters was also seen. As we made our way back along the beach we also saw a Common Sandpiper and a Little Egret.

After breakfast we drove to Quinta do Lago where a lowish tide provided ideal feeding conditions for various waders including Kentish, Ringed and Grey Plovers, Dunlins, Sanderlings, Greenshanks, Redshanks, Curlew, Whimbrel and a lone Bar-tailed Godwit. A couple of Crested Larks and a pair of Serins were on the golf course side of our route and when we reached the lake, we had exceptionally good views of some of the 7 Purple Gallinules and 6 Red-crested Pochards which were present; a Hoopoe (one of seven for the day) obligingly perched on a gate for many minutes. Black-winged Stilts elegantly waded along the shallows of a nearby lagoon while above them a couple of Caspian Terns looked huge by comparison. On the final pool we found a par of Avocets.

We ate our picnic lunches on the beach and a sea-watch yielded more Gannets and Sandwich Terns and a lone Arctic Skua.

Later at the Dunas Douradas, a male Little Bittern was the highlight but there were also many Gadwall and another Purple Gallinule. Within the pines we heard a Short-toed Treecreeper and were given tantalising glimpses of Azure-winged Magpies but as we returned to the coach, the pines seemed to be full of these lovely birds. In fact, our Portuguese driver seemed a bit bemused as we stood in front of the bus watching about 20 A-w Magpies, yet, as we drove away from the area, he suddenly stopped and pointed out a couple of close ones. Did we have something of a convert here?

Tuesday 27th March Foia, Caldas de Monchique & Odelouca Valley (with homeward diversion!)

Corn Bunting

For the pre breakfast walk, we headed for the eastern end of town where we overlooked the local marsh. A Corn Bunting gave good views, and then we heard a Quail calling in the distance. As we stood admiring the impending sunrise and the nearby Nightingale's song, a very distant Little Owl was sceptically accepted. Out on the dune area were a few Crested Larks and at least two Kentish Plovers.

Our drive to Foia took us past the Odelouca Estuary area where there were plenty of Little Egrets, eight Greater Flamingos and another new species: Black-headed Gull!

We drove to the summit of Foia (902m) and our first interesting bird was a Woodlark which perched on some overhead wires after a typical song flight; there were also a fair number of Stonechats present. As we set out on our gentle walk, a couple of Rock Buntings put in a brief appearance and further on Wrens seemed to be quite numerous. Further along a couple of Dartford Warblers were typically elusive before giving themselves up to the admiring group. Due to the surrounding habitat, calls from a Green Woodpecker and song from a Blackcap seemed out of place. Just before we boarded the coach to head on, three Red-rumped Swallows flew around an old building.

Lunch among some pines at Caldas de Monchique proved a little frustrating as we kept hearing things like Crested Tit and Firecrest, but none appeared. Just as we were leaving a pair of the latter species gave excellent views and an Iberian Chiffchaff dashed past giving a couple of calls.

Clouds were becoming more widespread (and thicker!) as we reached the Odelouca Valley, so after a quick pause on the road bridge to add Grey Wagtail and Little Ringed Plover, we began our walk up the valley itself. Three more Iberian Chiffchaffs were the first notable birds and then we had excellent views of a pair of Woodchat Shrikes. A field of sparse grasses and wild flowers held Corn Buntings, Linnets, Goldfinches and some Serins and an extended top to a telegraph pole was in fact our second Little Owl of the day. This was soon eclipsed by really fantastic views of our third a short time later. Over a distant hilltop three more Red-rumped Swallows dashed around in their constant search for insects, and a much more distant Short-toed Eagle searched for reptiles in cooling weather. Just as light rain began, the bus arrived to pick us up; this was obviously good planning by Travelling Naturalist! As we drove further along the valley, two more Little Owls put in an appearance and we had seen one more before we reached the hotel.

The return journey did take a good bit longer than expected as the driver and Mike both assumed that the other knew the quickest way back. In the end both realised that neither did but by now we had travelled many miles .............. in the wrong general direction! Two new species were added along the (extended) way namely Common Buzzard and Green Sandpiper.

Wednesday 28th March 2001 Inland to Ourique, Castro Verde and Mertola,

Again we took our pre breakfast walk west along the cliffs under gloriously clear skies but because of a cool northwest breeze, we were thankful when the sun rose and gave a little warmth. Plenty of Cattle Egrets were flying past and by the end of the walk we estimated that we had seen nearly 50. Other highlights included two Caspian Terns, about 20 Alpine and five Common Swifts, three Kestrels and excellent views of Sardinian Warbler.

During the drive to Ourique we added Jay, Mistle Thrush and Southern Grey Shrike to the list and also saw another group of Azure-winged Magpies and some Red-rumped Swallows. Beyond Ourique the quantity of nesting White Storks increased and during a walk along a farm road we obtained excellent views of some including one with a ring bearing the symbols +AD. However, we did add some unexpected species to the list at this place and it began when we glimpsed a Raven mobbing a Black-shouldered Kite. A little further on a group of 8 - 10 Rock Sparrows were feeding while two Hoopoes flew past and a Black Kite flew around .

Amongst a group of House Sparrows, a lone Spanish Sparrow seemed intent on attracting a mate to one particular tree hole. Two Snipes flew up from beside a pool as a superb male Montagu's Harrier flew past and a Nuthatch investigated nooks and crannies in a cork oak in its search for a meal. A number of Woodchat Shrikes looked superb while one specimen of its Southern Grey cousin looked odd without is long tail. No doubt it had had a lucky escape recently.

As we drove to and beyond Castro Verde we saw a few more 'Monties' and at our regular stopping point two females and a male flew around in leisurely fashion. Sparse, rough grassland held many Crested Larks and Corn Buntings and then we located the first of three male Little Bustards. Calandra Larks were also present but, despite prolonged searches, there was unfortunately no sign of Great Bustards. This situation was rectified shortly after lunch during the drive to Mertola when two flew up from a roadside field and gave us excellent views as they flew past on white, deep-beating wings. This journey also produced more Montagu's Harriers, plenty of nesting White Storks and at least 5 Black Kites.

At Mertola we took time to watch from the bridge at the northern end of town from where we were able to watch four Crag Martins flying over the river beneath us and in the distance perhaps seven Lesser Kestrels hawked for insects high in the sky above a hillside. A Kingfisher disappeared in a bright blue flash up river before we drove to the southern end of town in the hope of getting closer views of the Lesser Kestrels. Jackdaws were a useful addition to the list and just before we left, a Common Kestrel was well studied before its identification was confirmed and a female Lesser Kestrel was perched on a nesting box under a bridge. During the journey back to Armaçao de Pera, we saw numerous Red-legged Partridges and a few more Woodchat & Southern Grey Shrikes.

Mertola

Thursday 29th March Castro Marim area all day.

The marsh at the eastern end of town was the destination for our pre breakfast walk today and the birding highlights were a Sand Martin, which flew past at close range and gave us good views. With the tide being lower than on our previous visit, there was mud available for feeding waders. Amongst those seen were 35 Sanderlings and about a dozen Black-winged Stilts and two Spoonbills flew in and began feeding with their usual technique of scything their partly open bills through the water. Just before we began our walk back to the hotel, a Cormorant was seen to catch two eels in quick succession and have a fair amount of difficulty swallowing each one!

The Castro Marim area was our destination today and our first walk overlooked the tidal river as well as some saltpans. The first bird of real interest was a Short-toed Eagle which gave us much better views than the one in the Odelouca Valley a couple of days earlier. Stone Curlews frequently called a short distance away but remained elusive for some time; in the end we saw four individuals. A female/juvenile Marsh Harrier flew over the marsh in hunting fashion and flushed up a Little Bustard. The salt pans held plenty of Greater Flamingos and a good variety of waders including Kentish Plovers, Redshanks, Greenshank, Black-winged Stilts, at least 60 Avocets and a couple of Little Stints. Terns present were just singles each of Sandwich and Caspian but there were more gulls including a 'fly by' Mediterranean Gull.

Lunch near some salt lagoons coincided with the only rain shower of the day but this was only a brief occurrence and so we were able to take a short walk. Black-winged Stilts were numerous and we also managed to find two Grey Plovers, two Spotted Redshanks & one Greenshank. At one time we had all three 'shanks' in one telescope view, which gave good opportunities for comparison of plumage differences. A couple of Ruffs proved very nervous and disappeared as soon as we got them in view. Another Hoopoe perched on another ruined building and we had fair views of a male Marsh Harrier and a female Montagu's Harrier.

A brief stop on the way to our next birding area proved productive with a number of Dunlins and Little Stints feeding alongside a nice group of Curlew Sandpipers. Close to the bridge into Spain we drove into the car park (having disturbed another group of Ruffs on the way in) and began a walk in search of wildlife. Three and then another one Little Bustards flew off as we approached and a fine Yellow Wagtail perched on the low scrub. Unfortunately the hoped for larks remained hidden except for a quick fly-by which did not give us the opportunity to be sure of the species but it was certainly one of the Short-toed varieties. The final find of the day was a male Spectacled Warbler, which, after a brief song flight, gave good views for a species that usually skulks deep within the low bushes of its usual habitat.

Friday 30th March Ponta de Sagres & Cabo de Sao Vicente

The Group Things were a little quiet along the cliffs but this did enable us to get good views of species that were considered 'regular'. A group of Cattle Egrets fed on the lawn of a nearby apartment block while others flew east. A couple of Little Egrets heading in the same direction gave the opportunity to compare flight profiles. Two or three Sardinian Warblers sang or rattled their alarm calls; one male posed nicely on the top of a bush and views through the telescope had him almost frame filling. A fine male Blue Rock Thrush almost glowed in the early morning sunlight and shortly after he flew off in the direction of 'town', a female appeared for a few moments. Out at sea a few Gannets encouraged eyestrain (!) as did four Razorbills which were swimming west. A fifth individual closer to shore briefly gave better views but it soon disappeared behind a headland. High overhead at first, the usual Alpine Swifts were calling more than usual. Soon they were flying past almost at eye level and gave us the best views so far.

The journey to Punta de Sagres was interspersed with birds; the best of these being two distant European Bee-Eaters.

The walk around Punta de Sagres began with good views of Black Redstart and Thekla Larks and frequent sightings of these two species continued all the way round. A juvenile Great Black-backed Gull chased a Peregrine until the raptor was clear of its air space. A sea watch proved quietly effective with numerous Gannets heading west along with a few Razorbills, two Puffins, five Balearic Shearwaters and a lone Great Skua.

During and just after lunch at some heathland between Punta de Sagres and Cabo de Sao Vicente, there were up to 30 Red-billed Choughs and seven Jackdaws. A Dartford Warbler gave good but brief views but a Tawny Pipit was all together more co-operative as it perched on the top of a small bush not far away. Four Short-toed Larks proved much more elusive but everyone soon enjoyed good views.

From here we drove to Cabo de Sao Vicente where birds were somewhat absent with the exception of Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. A few Black Redstarts were well seen and two Red-billed Choughs flew past at very close range giving everyone good views including of their half-closed-wing gliding abilities.

Saturday 31st March Quinta de Rocha (the Alvor Estuary) & Odelouca Valley

The pre breakfast walk to the marshes at the eastern end of town saw the tide at its lowest level so far. Two Quails were calling, one quite close and the other at some distance across the far side of the marsh. Black-winged Stilts were much in evidence as were Kentish Plovers and Sanderlings and on any drier, bare ground Crested Larks seemed to be somewhat territorial. Three Sand Martins dashed past along with a steady trickle of other hirundines.

The Alvor Estuary proved well worth a visit and as we were driving down the track towards the parking area we added a new species as about 20 Common Waxbills fed in a weedy patch of someone’s vegetable garden. The walk around the sea wall began with fair views of a Whimbrel and further on a lone Oystercatcher fed on a sand bar. Terns were represented by a single Caspian and about 10 Sandwich and the Oystercatchers soon increased to 17. Other waders seen included three Turnstones, a Common Sandpiper, 50+ Sanderlings, a few Dunlins, Black-winged Stilts, Greenshanks, Whimbrel and just one Curlew. Out on the marsh a number of Yellow Wagtail races generated much interest and amongst them were three pairs of the Spanish race while overhead first one, then two Short-toed Eagles gave good views. Fan-tailed and Sardinian Warblers also put on a good show and as we were driving out of the area, a Little Owl was perched on a nearby gate pillar.

After lunch by the bridge in the Odelouca Valley, we began a walk in the warmest weather so far. We had a number of days during the tour which began clear but soon clouded up; today remained virtually cloudless all day. As the walk began along the river, European Pond Terrapins were seen sunning themselves along the bank. Further on a pair of Iberian Chiffchaffs were feeding and we then saw a pair of Woodchat Shrikes. Straining ears picked up the calls of European Bee-Eaters but it was some time before we eventually found two birds high overhead. Further on more were seen but again they were distant as was another Short-toed Eagle, which was first seen sitting on the top of a hilltop pylon. Another Little Owl was glimpsed by a few as we looked down on the river and after scanning the skies unsuccessfully for more raptors we wandered on. Soon, 21 Azure-winged Magpies flew across and we also saw two or three Blue Tits and a lone Long-tailed Tit. Just after these flew off, more Bee-Eater calls drew us to nine individuals, some of which were perched in the top of a dead tree. Through telescopes we had excellent views and could even see two involved in some sort of head turning displays. Just before the bus arrived to pick us up, we saw seven more Common Waxbills to complete another good day’s birding.

Sunday 1st April Pera Marshes

A short drive took us to the Pera Marshes for our final outing of the tour. Once we found the right road to the car park (!) we were soon overlooking a pool where one Dunlin, three Ringed Plovers, a Common Sandpiper and numerous Sanderlings were feeding. As we walked up the dunes, three Short-toed Larks flew up and for a brief time we had good flight views. The marshes themselves were more of a lake; there was certainly much more water about than in the previous two years. Purple Gallinules fed in partial cover here and there while Coots were very numerous. Little Grebes called frequently and there were plenty of them to be seen. A few Sandwich Terns flew about over the water but they soon moved to one side when a juvenile Marsh Harrier drifted along into the strong head wind.

Around the shallow edges of the area, well over 50 Black-winged Stilts looked elegant though some were quarrelsome at times. Close to the other side of the marsh, four Grey Herons stood preening or resting and the head and neck of two Purple Herons could be made out in the same area. A couple of Spoonbills, plenty of Mallards and Northern Shoveler and a few Pochards and Gadwalls seemed to make up the duck population until a Ruddy Shelduck flew into view much to everyone’s surprise. We made our way back over the dunes and were soon back at the coach and relieved to sit down out of the wind. After lunch at the hotel we headed for the airport and were in good time for our flight back to Gatwick.

SPECIES LISTS

BIRDS

Little Grebe

At least fifteen were seen on 26th at Quinta do Lago and Dunas Douradas. Twenty plus were on the main pool on Pera Marsh on 1st.

Black-necked Grebe

Three were at Castro Marim on 29th. This was the second year running that this scarce species has been seen here by a Travelling Naturalist group.

Balearic Shearwater

Five were seen heading westwards from Ponta de Sagres on 30th.

Northern Gannet

Twenty plus were noted passing Armaçaode Pera and Quinta de Lago on 26th. At least thirty were seen on 30th, mostly from Ponta de Sagres and Cabo de Sao Vicente. Six were seen from near the hotel on 31st with a last two seen offshore from Pera Marsh on 1st.

Great Cormorant

Small numbers seen offshore and in the estuaries most days. A flock of over twenty were at Portimao estuary on 30th.

European Shag

Four were seen from Ponta de Sagres and Cabo de Sao Vicente on 30th.

Grey Heron

One was near Castro Verde on 28th. Three were at Castro Marim on 29th with two near Sagres on 30th, two at the Alvor estuary and one in the Odelouca valley on 31st. Three were at Pera Marsh on 1st.

Purple Heron

Two were seen feeding in the flooded reed beds on the Pera marsh on 1st.

Cattle Egret

Small flocks coming from roost were seen every morning near hotel. Also seen daily near cattle or on wetlands.

Little Egret

Small numbers were seen daily in most habitats. Largest number was twenty plus in the Alvor Estuary on 31st.

Little Bittern

A male was twice seen in flight before showing briefly perched in the reeds at Dunas Douradas on 26th.

Greater Flamingo

Eight were seen from road crossing the estuary near Portimao on 27th. Several flocks totalling about two hundred and fifty were at Castro Marim on 29th. Males were seen and heard displaying in these huge flocks.

White Stork

Small numbers seen most days. Nests were seen on high buildings, telegraph poles, chimneys and trees. Most common near Castro Verde and Mertola on 28th when many nesting birds were seen.

Eurasian Spoonbill

Two were at the western end of Pera Marsh on the pre breakfast walk with another thirteen later that day at Castro Marim on 29th. One was at the eastern end of Pera Marsh on 1st.

Gadwall

Thirty plus were seen on Quinta de Lago and Dunas Douradas on 26th. Ten were on the Pera Marsh on 1st.

Mallard

Small numbers seen around fresh water on six dates.

Northern Shoveler

At least twenty five, mostly males, were on Pera Marsh on 1st.

Red-crested Pochard

Five males and one female were seen at Quinta de Lago on 26th. One male showing very well as it flew over the pool.

Common Pochard

One female was at Quinta de Lago and three males and two females were at Dunas Douradas on 26th.

Common Scoter

Three small flocks totalling twelve plus birds were seen heading west along the coast from Armaçao de Pera and Quinta de Lago on 26th.

Ruddy Shelduck

One very active bird frequented the far side of Pera Marsh on 1st. This was an addition to the Travelling Naturalist tour list for the area.

Black Kite

Two were near Ourique and five were circling near Castro Verde on 28th.

Black-shouldered Kite

Two were mobbing a Raven near Qurique on 28th. This species was another addition to the Travelling Naturalist bird list for the Algarve.

Short-toed Eagle

One was high over the Odelouca Valley on 27th. One showed very well over Castro Marim on 29th. Two were over the Alvor Estuary and three more were over the Odelouca Estuary on 31st.

Marsh Harrier

A male and a female were at Castro Marim on 29th. An immature male was over Pera Marsh on 1st.

Montagu's Harrier

At least twelve, mostly males, were seen in the Alentejo on 28th. A male and female were seen over the salt pans at Castro Marim on 29th.

Common Buzzard

One was flushed from beside the road near Alferce on 27th. Two were near Castro Verde on 28th. Singles were then seen high over Castro Marim on 29th and sat on wires near Silves on 31st.

Booted Eagle

One was poorly seen at distance over the Odelouca Valley on 31st.

Lesser Kestrel

Seven were seen hawking over Mertola on 28th. Some were later seen perched on the nest boxes under the arches of the bride to the west of Mertola.

Eurasian Kestrel

Small numbers were seen on six dates with a maximum count of eight on 28th.

Peregrine Falcon

A male was being mobbed by the only Great Black-backed Gull of the trip at Ponta de Sagres on 30th.

Red-legged Partridge

Singles were heard in the Odelouca valley on 27th and 31st. Ten were seen from the roads whilst driving around the Alentejo.

Common Quail

Singles were heard at the Pera Marsh on the pre breakfast walk and later in the Odelouca Valley on 27th. Two, possibly three were singing during the pre breakfast walk to Pera Marsh on 31st.

Moorhen

Small numbers were seen near wetlands on five dates.

Purple Gallinule

Seven were at Quinta de Lago and one was at Dunas Douradas on 26th. Up to five were at Pera Marsh on 1st. High water levels at the latter site reduced the number of birds seen this year

Common Coot

Small numbers were seen on permanent water on five days.

Little Bustard

Three males were near Ourique on 28th. One showing very well as it circled us during its display flight. At Castro Marim on 29th one was seen distantly in the morning when flushed by a hunting Marsh Harrier. A further five were seen during that afternoon near the main bridge to Spain.

Great Bustard

Two males showed very well in flight between Castro Verde and Mertola on 28th.

Eurasian Oystercatcher

A total of seventeen were counted on the Alvor Estuary on 31st.

Black-winged Stilt

Small numbers were common in coastal pools on six dates. The display calls usually alerting us to the presence of this species.

Avocet

Two were at Quinta de Lago on 26th. Two large flocks totalling over one hundred and fifty were at Castro Marim on 29th.

Stone Curlew

Four were seen and at least another four heard calling at Castro Marim on 29th. One was heard calling on the heathland near Cabo de Sao Vicente on 30th.

Grey Plover

At least twenty were on the mud flats at Quinta de Lago on 26th. Two were at Castro Marim on 29th and three were on the Alvor estuary on 31st.

Ringed Plover

Five were at Quinta de Lago on 26th. Some were heard calling at Castro Marim on 29th, three were at the Alvor estuary on 31st and two were at the Pera Marsh on 1st.

Little-ringed Plover

One was on a shingle bank in the river at the Odelouca valley on 27th.

Kentish Plover

Up to twenty were seen on five dates on coastal wetlands with totals of over twenty noted on 29th and 31st.

Black-tailed Godwit

Distant flocks totalling over fifty birds were at Castro Marim on 29th and one was on the Alvor estuary on 31st.

Bar-tailed Godwit

One was on the mud flats at Quinta de Lago on 26th.

Whimbrel

One was at Quinta de Lago on 26th and four were on the Alvor estuary on 31st.

Curlew

Three were at Quinta de Lago on 26th and one was on the Alvor estuary on 31st.

Spotted Redshank

Three were at Castro Marim on 29th.

Common Redshank

Small numbers were seen on five dates on most coastal wetlands. The maximum was of twenty plus at Castro Marim on 29th.

Common Greenshank

Up to six were seen on coastal wetlands on five dates.

Green Sandpiper

One was seen from the road near Alferce on 27th and another was at Castro Marim on 29th.

Common Sandpiper

Singles were on the beach near the hotel on 26th, at Castro Marim on 29th and from the bus on the way towards Sagres on 30th. Three were noted during 31st and two were at the Pera Marsh on 1st.

Turnstone

Eight were at Quinta de Lago on 26th and three were at the Alvor estuary on 31st.

Common Snipe

Two were at Quinta de Lago on 26th and four were near Ourique on 28th.

Sanderling

Small flocks were noted at the coast on five dates with a maximum of eighty plus on 31st.

Little Stint

A minimum of twelve were in the Castro Marim area on 29th, most in a mixed flock with Curlew Sandpiper in a salt pan seen from the road.

Dunlin

Twenty plus were at Quinta de Lago on 26th with a total of over thirty at Castro Marim on 29th. Eight were at the Alvor estuary on 31st and one was at the Pera marshes on 1st.

Curlew Sandpiper

A flock of twenty plus were in one of the salt pans with Little Stint at Castro Marim on 29th.

Ruff

A total of fifteen plus were noted at Castro Marim on 29th.

Great Skua

One was seen distantly from Ponta de Sagres on 30th.

Arctic Skua

One was seen during lunchtime off Quinta do Lago on 26th.

Great Black-backed Gull

The only record was of an immature was mobbing a Peregrine at Ponta de Sagres on 30th.

Yellow-legged Gull

Common, seen daily along the coast. Many roosted with the next species on the beach at Armaçao de Pera.

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Also very common along the coast and seen daily.

Black-headed Gull

Small groups were seen in the major estuaries and wetlands during the week.

Mediterranean Gull

A first summer bird flew over Castro Marim on 29th.

Caspian Tern

Two were at Quinta de Lago on 26th and two flew past the hotel during an early morning walk on 28th. Three were at Castro Marim on 29th and three were at the Alvor estuary on 31st.

Sandwich Tern

Small groups were noted in the estuaries and offshore on six dates with over forty offshore on 26th being the highest count.

Razorbill

Five were seen on the early morning walk along the cliffs from the hotel on 30th with a further ten seen from Ponta de Sagres later that morning.

Puffin

Two headed west past Ponta de Sagres on 30th.

Wood Pigeon

Five were seen in the vicinity of Monchique on 27th.

Feral Pigeon

Far too common, noted daily.

Eurasian Collared Dove

Small numbers seen around towns on four days with a maximum of eight on 28th.

Little Owl

An amazing total of six were noted on 27th, most of which were in the Odelouca valley. One was seen from the bus on 30th with another at Alvor and two more in the Odelouca valley on 31st.

Alpine Swift

Small groups, often calling and displaying were noted along the cliffs near the hotel on the early morning walks. Small numbers were noted from the bus whilst travelling. A flock of twenty plus flew north over the Alvor estuary on 31st.

Common Swift

Three were near the hotel on the early morning walk on 28th.

Pallid Swift

At least twenty were in the Castro Marim area on 29th.

Common Kingfisher

Singles were heard and seen in the Odelouca Valley on 27th and at Mertola on 29th.

European Bee-eater

One was heard over Castro Marim on 29th. Two were seen from the bus on the way to Sagres on 30th. Another was seen from the bus on the way to Alvor on 31st with several small groups passing overhead in the Odelouca valley that afternoon, before a group of nine were seen hawking from a dead tree giving super views in the afternoon sun.

Eurasian Hoopoe

Seen and heard in small numbers on five dates, with seven at Quinta de Lago and Dunas Douradas on 26th the highest daily total.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

One was seen and two heard in the Monchique area on 27th and another was seen on the way to Ourique on 28th.

Green Woodpecker

One was seen and another heard in the Monchique area on 27th. Singles were heard near Ourique on 28th and in the Odelouca valley on 31st.

Calandra Lark

Three were seen to the east of Castro Verde on 28th and one of the group saw at least six at Castro Marim on 29th.

Short-toed Lark

Four were seen on the heathland near Cabo de Sao Vicente on 30th and ten were at the Pera Marsh on 1st.

Crested Lark

Common seen daily on open ground. Many displaying males were seen and heard in most localities, often utilising a lot of mimicry of other species in their song.

Thekla Lark

At least twelve were in the grounds of Henry the Navigator's Fort at Ponta de Sagres on 30th.

Woodlark

Five were seen and heard at Foia on 27th.

Sand Martin

After one at Pera marsh on the early morning walk on 29th three more were in the same area in the early morning of 31st.

Crag Martin

At least four were seen from the main bridge at Mertola with another at the opposite end of the town on 28th.

Barn Swallow

Common, seen daily. Migrants appeared to be moving north through the region throughout the week, including birds noted as coming in off the sea from various locations.

Red-rumped Swallow

Small numbers were noted on four dates during the week, often seen from the bus. A pair were seen well gathering nesting material at the Alvor estuary on 31st.

House Martin

Seen every day, often in large flocks. Some birds were inspecting nest sites in suitable buildings.

Yellow Wagtail

Four of the Blue-headed race were at Quinta de Lago on 26th with a further four in the Castro Marim area on 29th. Six birds of the Spanish race showing the white throat typical of that race were at the Alvor estuary on 31st.

Grey Wagtail

Two were in the Odelouca Valley on 27th.

Tawny Pipit

One was on the heathland east of Cabo de Sao Vicente on 30th.

Meadow Pipit

Small flocks were noted on five dates, most noticeably near Ourique on 28th when more than twenty were noted.

Southern Grey Shrike

After a tail-less bird near Ourique on 27th up to nine more were seen that day including a real poser on the wires near Castro Verde. Two were at Castro Marim on 29th and one was noted from the road on way to Sagres on 30th.

Woodchat Shrike

After two very obliging birds perched in an orange grove in the Odelouca Valley on 27th. Scattered birds were then seen perched beside the road on six dates with a maximum of eight seen in the Castro Verde area on 28th.

Wren

Seen and heard on four dates. Most obvious at Foia on 27th.

Blue Rock Thrush

Up to three were seen on the pre breakfast walks east of the hotel on 26th and 30th. Two were at Foia on 27th and six were at Ponta de Sagres and Cabo de Sao Vicente on 30th. One was seen west of the hotel again on 31st.

Blackbird

Seen and heard daily in the more cultivated areas and around towns.

Mistle Thrush

One was seen on the way to Ourique on 27th.

Robin

One was seen and heard at Caldas de Monchique on 27th.

Common Nightingale

One was heard singing on the pre breakfast walk to Pera marsh on 27th. Two were singing in the Odelouca valley on 31st. A very elusive bird was seen was at Pera marshes on 1st.

Black Redstart

Up to twelve including several superb males were at Ponta de Sagres and a further three were at Cabo de Sao Vicente on 30th.

Common Stonechat

Seen in the open habitats on five dates. Best seen at Foia on 27th where the singing males performed very well.

Whinchat

One was noted by one lucky observer from the bus near Quinta de Lago on 26th.

Fan-tailed Warbler

The word ubiquitous was invented for this species. Seen and heard over a variety of grassland and other arable habitats as well as around any reedbeds and marshes.

Cetti's Warbler

More often heard than seen on four dates. One showed well at Quinta de Lago on 26th.

Sedge Warbler

One male insisted in staying out of sight whilst singing at Quinta de Lago on 26th as did another at Pera Marshes on 1st.

Blackcap

Several singing males were heard at Foia and Caldas de Monchique on 27th, Two were seen in the Odelouca Valley that afternoon. With another heard at Castro Marim on 29th. Two more were seen and a further four were heard singing in the Odelouca Valley on 31st.

Sardinian Warbler

This common species was seen and heard daily in a wide range of habitats. Some near the hotel showed very well on the early morning walks.

Spectacled Warbler

A male was seen and heard displaying at Castro Marim on 29th.

Dartford Warbler

Two were seen and further bird heard at Foia on 27th. One was seen on the heath to the east of Cabo de Sao Vicente on 30th.

Eurasian Chiffchaff

One showed well at Quinta de Lago on 26th.

Iberian Chiffchaff

One was at Caldas de Monchique with three more including a singing male at the Odelouca valley on 27th. The latter site contained two more on 31st.

Firecrest

Two showed very well at Caldas de Monchique on 27th

Long-tailed Tit

One was seen at the end of our walk in the Odelouca Valley on 31st.

Great Tit

Two or three were at Quinta de Lago on 26th with several being seen and head in the Monchique area on 27th.

Blue Tit

One was heard at Caldas de Monchique on 27th. One was seen and two more heard in the Odelouca Valley on 31st.

Nuthatch

Two were seen and heard east of Ourique on 28th.

Short-toed Treecreeper

More than one was heard calling at Dunas Douradas on 26th but could not be found.

Eurasian Jay

Three were seen from the bus as we travelled around the Alentejo on 30th.

Azure-winged Magpie

Up to twenty-five were at Dunas Douradas on 26th. Many were seen on 27th, some from the bus and others, including some very obliging perched birds, in the Odelouca valley on 27th. A flock of ten were seen from the bus on the way to Ourique on 28th with a further two on the return from Cabo de Sao Vicente on 30th. Two groups totalling twenty-eight birds were in the Odelouca valley on 31st.

Red-billed Chough

A flock of at least thirty birds were on the heath to the east of Cabo de Sao Vicente on 30th. Two were seen very well in flight from the lighthouse at Cabo de Sao Vicente later that day.

Eurasian Jackdaw

Up to ten were at Mertola on 27th with several small groups in the Sagres area on 30th.

Carrion Crow

The only bird was one near Castro Verde on 28th.

Common Raven

One was near Ourique and two more were in the Castro Verde area on 27th.

Spotless Starling

Two were near the airport on 25th. At least twenty were seen in the Alentejo on 28th with small numbers seen on two other dates.

Corn Bunting

Common around farmland where seen on six dates. The song of the males could be heard from most farmland habitats.

Rock Bunting

A pair showed very well beside the path at Foia on 27th.

Chaffinch

One was at Caldas de Monchique on 27th with the only other a single near Ourique on 28th.

European Serin

Common, seen daily. Males were frequently seen giving display flights over a wide range of habitat.

European Greenfinch

Widespread in small numbers around farmland.

European Goldfinch

More common than previous species. Often seen in small flocks.

Eurasian Linnet

Thinly scattered over open ground, usually seen and heard in flight.

Common Waxbill

A flock of about twenty in fields close to the Alvor estuary on 31st were followed by another seven in the Odelouca Valley later that afternoon.

House Sparrow

Very common in all habitats.

Rock Sparrow

A small group of about six near Ourique on 28th were an addition to the Travelling Naturalist list for the area.

Spanish Sparrow

A male was seen entering a hole in a dead tree stump near Ourique on 28th. An addition to the Travelling Naturalist list for the area.

OTHER TAXA

Brown Hare
Rabbit
Marsh Frog
Eurasian Pond Terrapin
Western Whip snake and several Lizards
Oil Beetle and Devil's Coach-horse
Broad-bodied Chaser Dragonfly
Locust.

BUTTERFLIES

Swallowtail
Scarce Swallowtail
Spanish Festoon
Large White
Small White
Bath White
Portuguese Dappled White
Black-veined White
Clouded Yellow
Berger's Clouded Yellow
Brimstone
Cleopatra
Brown Argus (Spanish version)
Common Blue
Silver-studded Blue
Red Admiral
Spanish Marbled White
Small Heath
Speckled Wood
Wall Brown.

MOTHS

Silver Y.

With 145 species of birds, 21 butterflies and a few mammals, amphibians and reptiles, this was a productive tour. At no time were we out in anything that could be called rain, though we did have a few spots in the Odelouca Valley on Tuesday; many days began with clear skies but it was not until Saturday that there was blue sky all day.

 

As usual, the group gelled together well and there was plenty of good humour .................. and then there were Mike's jokes too!!! Perhaps most noticeable among the laughs were when Mike forgot his binoculars on one pre-breakfast walk and when the driver nearly pulled over to investigate a strange engine noise only to realise that it was actually Will snoring!! Happy days.....................

See you on another tour?

Mike Read, Ringwood

Will Wagstaff, Isles of Scilly


© The Travelling Naturalist 2001