Saturday, 15 April 2017

Iberia: Algarve 15 April

Today was our first ‘day off’, but involved getting up even earlier than usual. This was in order to make good time for our birding trip to the Algarve. There were a few birds that we wanted to twitch, plus some good birding to be had.
Our first port of call was the town of Tavira. We were here for early morning and immediately had some success (I felt, having not birded much of Europe) as Sardinian Warblers were abundant, as were many wader species; Avocet, Whimbrel, Kentish Plover and Curlew Sandpiper. We here had our first Northern Wheatear of the trip (Obviously a trip highlight), and I ‘ticked’ Common Waxbill and Iberian Yellow Wagtail. The latter was a cracking little bird, the Spanish race of Yellow Wagtail, and one of the highlights of the whole day. Better views of Serin and Red-rumped Swallow were also afforded here.
-Red-rumped Swallow
-Sardinian Warbler
-Iberian Yellow Wagtail
-Common Waxbill
Next we headed south to the Ria Formosa Headquarters. This was a cracking reserve. Its habitat was extremely similar to the Dorset heath, with open coniferous woodland in sandy soil with a few small areas of mudflat and open water. Azure-winged Magpie were very common in the park, affording great views but somehow always against the light for photos. Besides them the birding consisted of species we were familiar with now from across Portugal, although we did get a number of new additions to our Portugal species list; Pochard, Shelduck and Purple Heron. The real highlights were seeing two of my most wanted species for the whole trip, although sadly not birds. The first was Spanish Festoon butterfly. We saw 2 of these fantastic insects in total, really stunning. The next was European Pond Terrapin, my most wanted reptile. I was surprised to learn that there are two species of native terrapin, European Pond and Iberian Pond, plus the invasive Red-eared Slider. We saw all three here and at other sites later in the day.
-Spanish Festoon
At the headquarters we met up with a couple of Portuguese birders that we had met earlier in the week. Acting as our guides, they helped us no end with saving time traveling, plus giving us information on birds to expect through the next few weeks. Our first stop was Quinto Do Lago, an estuarine/wooded area next to a golf course. The area itself was the most affluent area of Portugal, with Cristiano Ronaldo’s house now added to my house list. The main attraction was a small pool on the edge of the course. A little crake had been seen here but we failed to connect. Purple Swamphen was common here, and quite approachable too apparently though we didn’t try particularly hard. Birding here was nice; Azure-winged Magpie was still extremely common, and we added both Common Snipe and Common Sandpiper to our trip list. Little Bittern was occasionally seen flying across the reedbeds, and we had our second Category C of the day; Black-headed Weaver. One of my most wanted birds of the day was Audouins Gull. We had a single fly over us here, but just up the coast we connected with plenty more. Terrapins were also common here, all three species, and our first dragonflies of the trip; Violet Dropwing and Emperor. Iberian Bluetail was also present.
-Purple Swamphen & Red-eared Slider
-European Pond Terrapin
-Violet Dropwing
-Spanish Terrapin
-Black-headed Weaver
Audouin's Gull
Once we moved on from the Audouins Site we made our move to Silves to hopefully see the sora there. We failed, but possibly as a result of the tides. Realising our efforts here were in vain, we chose to move on after less than an hour. However we did see a few bits here; Grey Wagtail and very excitingly a couple of Moorish Gecko.
-Moorish Gecko
Second on our twitching extravaganza was the harbour in Portimao. Here an American Herring Gull had been identified by one of the top gullers in Europe. Unfortunately nobody in our company knew why. This presented a problem. Our Portuguese friends pointed out the bird, but due to confusion earlier in the week with a Yellow-legged Gull (Which were abundant), we are still a little unsure if we have in fact seen the correct bird. It certainly looks like it, but we await confirmation. The other gulls present were crimes against nature. The state of these birds was something else. It was a horror show to say the least.
-American Herring Gull (?)
Moving quickly on from the gull nightmare we headed to Lagoa dos Salgados, for the far more straightforward drake Ring-necked Duck. Being one of my most dipped species I was not overly optimistic but picked up the bird as soon as we were on site. The supporting cast was really nice too, I only got brief views of Collard Pratincole, but Iberian Yellow Wagtail, Pintail and more Audouins Gull all showed well. We also did a little Seawatching. It was pretty barren out at sea, but Great Skua and Balearic Shearwater livened things up. Our Portuguese friend was extremely pleased when I picked up a Razorbill, not a common bird in these parts.
-Ring-necked Duck
We made another stop for the sora before dark but it was not to be. Regardless it was an outstanding day. I got five lifers (Waxbill, Weaver, Audouins, Ring-necked Duck & American Herring Gull), and saw a host of other awesome species. A really nice day out! Massive thanks to Bruno for all his help with finding sites and birds.

Species List:
Tavira: Azure-winged Magpie, Jay, Feral Pigeon, Blue Tit, Serin, Grey Plover, Turnstone, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Avocet, Red-rumped Swallow, Whimbrel, Little Tern, Kentish Plover, Redshank, Siskin, Oystercatcher, Common Waxbill, Iberian Yellow Wagtail, Northern Gannet, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Sandwich Tern, Common Swift, House Martin, Barn Swallow, Yellow-legged Gull, Blackbird, European Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Collard Dove, Mallard, Spotless Starling, Northern  Wheatear, Greater Flamingo, Brown Rat
Ria Formosa Headquarters: Pochard, Little Grebe, Purple Heron, Shelduck, Azure-winged Magpie, Hoopoe, Bee-eater, Zitting Cisticola, Collard Dove, Blackbird, House Martin, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Sardinian Warbler, House Sparrow, Common Swift, Dunlin, Little Ringed Plover, Gadwall, Mallard, White Stork, Cattle Egret, Coot, Moorhen, Crested Lark, Cettis Warbler, Red-eared Slider, European Pond Terrapin, Iberian Pond Terrapin, Spanish Festoon, Clouded Yellow, Green-striped White, Large White
Quinto do Lago: Coot, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, Shoveler, Mallard, Gadwall, Common Sandpiper, Common Snipe, Cettis Warbler, Little Bittern, Sardinian Warbler, Black-headed Weaver, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, White Stork, Blackbird, Collard Dove, Common Swift, House Martin, Barn Swallow, Little Tern, Cormorant, Yellow-legged Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Audouins Gull, Purple Heron, Nightingale, Great Tit, Zitting Cisticola, Cattle Egret, Hoopoe, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, European Pond Terrapin, Iberian Pond Terrapin, Red-eared Slider, Emperor Dragonfly, Violet Dropwing, Iberian Bluetail Damselfly,
Silves & Portimao: Reed Warbler, Grey Wagtail, Blackbird, Moorhen, Mallard, White Stork, Grey Heron, House Sparrow, House Martin, Barn Swallow, Common Swift, Great Tit, Cormorant, Feral Pigeon, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, American Herring Gull, Cettis Warbler, Moorish Gecko, Iberian Pond Terrapin, Red Admiral,

Lagoa dos Salgados: Ring-necked Duck, Collard Pratincole, Black-headed Gull, Pintail, Shoveler, Marsh Harrier, Grey Wagtail, Iberian Yellow Wagtail, Glossy Ibis, Little Bittern, Great Skua, Balearic Shearwater, Razorbill, Gull-billed Tern, Sardinian Warbler, Audouins Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Pochard, Red Crested Pochard, Zitting Cisticola, Crested Lark, House Sparrow, Coot, Moorhen, Corn Bunting, House Martin, Barn Swallow, White Stork, Gadwall, Mallard, Blackbird, Sandwich Tern, Azure-winged Magpie, Goldfinch, Linnet, Iberian Marbled White,

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