Christmas birding

17 Jan , 2016  

While everyone else was thinking about family and presents, I have to say I was birding. For the second consecutive year I co-guided the “Algarve at Christmas” trip for Naturetrek with the great Neil MacMahon, based in Memmo Baleeira in Sagres. It was a fine easygoing week birding, with fair sunny weather and another fantastic group of 16 friendly and keen naturalists. This is not a trip report, but just some personal notes focused on the birding.

Whatching Little Bustard at Vale Santo. Nuno Barros

Whatching Little Bustard at Vale Santo. Nuno Barros

We spent two days in Vila do Bispo and Aljezur counties. Among the birds seen, some of the more interesting were in my opinion a Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus in Aljezur village, at least three Crested Tits Parus cristatus on a pine patch, one Little Bustrad Tetrax tetrax in Vale Santo along with the local Choughs Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax and a rare Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus in Baleeira harbor. The wintering passerine selection and beautiful landscape at Boca do Rio was also a highlight.

Black-shouldered Kite at Aljezur. Neil McMahon.

Black-shouldered Kite at Aljezur. Neil McMahon.

The other three days were spent around Monchique, Salgados Lagoon, Ria Formosa and Castro Verde. The highlights for me were a Bluethroat Luscinia svecica and about a dozen Ferrouginous Ducks Aythya nyroca at Salgados laggon; more than 20 Purple Swamphens Porphyrio porphyrio adding up the ones from the latter lagoon and the ones at Quinta do Lago; Dartford Warblers Sylvia undata, Rock Buntings Emberiza cia and Blue-Rock Thrushes Monticola solitarius at Fóia; Three lovely Siskins Carduelis spinus and a pair of Bonellis´s Eagles Aquila fasciata in Monchique village; One Little Gull Larus minutus and a Tufted Dusk Aythya fuligula at Quinta do Lago; One adult Audouin´s Gull Larus audouinnii and some Little Stints Calidris minuta at Olhão Salinas; And in the steppes of Castro Verde, about 75 Great Bustards Otis tarda, 20 or so Stone Curlews Burhinus oedicnemus, two Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis and about 180 Common Cranes Grus grus, the latter feeding in an open Cork patch. A close one, but maybe this one was the best image of the week for me.

Common Cranes at Castro Verde. Neil McMahon

Common Cranes at Castro Verde. Neil McMahon

I didn´t add it all up yet, but I am confident we topped the 150 species mark in those five days birding. It was another great week, and I hope had some good birds and a glimpse of the region, and enjoyed themselves this Christmas – which in the end is what it was all about!

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