Sunday, 23 April 2017

Iberia: Campo Maior 21 - 25 April

Day 12 21.04.2017
Having moved north to Campo Maior yesterday afternoon we today started our work in the fields just outside the city. Not gonna lie, today was pretty rough. I was attacked by bees, which resulted in my right eyelid becoming rather swollen from the stings, thrown off the land by the farmer, drenched by a sprinkler and there were not even many birds to enjoy. A couple of Iberian Yellow Wagtails was about the best of it, although they are obviously lovely birds. In the evening I checked out a small site where the few remaining Great Bustards in the area were residing, which I counted 14 in total. Another distant Black-winged Kite was nice and I also had a few Gull-billed Terns go over. So not an awful days birding but compared to Castro Verde it was certainly a step down.
-European Bee-eater

Species List:
Campo Maior: Black-winged Kite, Gull-billed Tern, Woodpigeon, Zitting Cisticola, House Sparrow, Crested Lark, Red-legged Partridge, Corn Bunting, Great Bustard, Stone Curlew, Great Tit, Spotless Starling, Common Kestrel, Cattle Egret, Grey Heron, White Stork, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Iberian Grey Shrike, Iberian Yellow Wagtail, House Sparrow, Mallard, Montagu’s Harrier, Bee-eater, Sardinian Warbler, Hoopoe, Little Owl, Magpie,

Day 13 22.04.2017
After the horror show that was yesterday I was pretty keen to have a much better day today. And I was rewarded with one. Today’s transect was further south, in an area called Elvas where great bustards no longer occur. On the dry fields here I counted 3 pairs of Stone Curlew, as well as a breeding ground of Collard Pratincoles, which we watched mob a Montagu’s Harrier, and a few Little Bustards. There was also some small wooded areas where we began to have, at last, some migrants. I heard a single Willow Warbler but saw at least four Whitethroats. Finding one of my most wanted birds for the trip along my transect was pretty exciting; Western Bonelli’s Warbler. The bird was singing from the bushes, and soon flew over to the tree which I was standing under. Sadly it did not sit still, making it difficult for me to get a decent record shot. It proved hard work and gave up when the bird stopped showing. And just when I thought the morning had peaked, I found another lifer along my transect. This time I was just checking under some rocks in a small wood when I looked up to flush a Nightjar from the floor. My initial thoughts were that it was a Red-necked Nightjar. It looked to go down again, so tried to contact Yoav (Who still needed it) before attempting to relocate. It took a while to contact him due to signal problems, so half an hour later we were ready. We refound the bird with ease but failed at any point to see it on the ground. However the views we obtained were conclusive the bird was a Red-necked Nightjar. A cracking lifer! It was just a shame not to see it on the ground. And finally in the bushes whilst looking for the nightjar we found a Melodious Warbler, my third lifer of the day. However, once we finished nightjar hunting Yoav took us back to a Melodious he had found earlier which showed much better. A fantastic morning!
-Western Bonelli's Warbler
-Melodious Warbler
In the afternoon we went out with one of Yoav’s supervisors to trap and satellite-tag Little Bustards. We had a nice evening, with one successful capture of a superb male. Really smart to see these birds up close! We also had three Alpine Swift fly past us whilst we waited, a nice trip tick for the evening.
-Little Bustard

Species List:
Elvas: Collard Pratincole, Montagu’s Harrier, Black-winged Kite, Marsh Harrier, Stone-curlew, Magpie, Quail, Red-necked Nightjar, Blue Tit, Common Whitethroat, Sardinian Warbler, Western Bonelli’s Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Willow Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Corn Bunting, Crested Lark, Stonechat, Black Kite, Common Buzzard, European Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Little Bustard, Common Swift, House Martin, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Mallard, House Sparrow, Spotless Starling, Gull-billed Tern, Iberian Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Alpine Swift, Griffon Vulture,

Day 14 23.04.2017
After another week of working transects we decided to have a day off today. We chose to head Alqueva Dam, the largest dam in Iberia. We had only a rough idea of where to bird, so first headed to an area on the south side of reservoir where we found the birding to be slow and steady. That said, we did still have some good birds; another Black-winged Kite was obviously really smart, Woodchat and Iberian Grey Shrikes were common, and overhead we had a pale phase Booted Eagle and a few Black Kite. The birding highlight was a pair of Rock Sparrows that we encountered whilst on our way back to the car. They were not as striking as I had imagined but our angle of viewing was not ideal. Still a nice bird to see! Pied Flycatcher was a nice Portugal trip and I also had a butterfly lifer in the form of Western Dappled White.
-Woodchat Shrike
-Black Kite
-Western Dappled White
-Rock Sparrow
We then moved round to the northern area of the dam. The scrubby habitat here provided us with a few more birds. A uncooperative Western Subalpine Warbler was obviously the highlight. Although views were acceptable, its movements made it impossible to photograph. Azure-winged Magpies were also common here, and we had our first Long-tailed Tits of the trip, of the Iberian race irbii. Another butterfly lifer here was False Ilex Hairstreak. Down by the reservoir itself there was not much happening. We had a few Black Terns, as well as trip ticks of Egyptian Goose and Greylag Goose. On the way back we had an incredible moment when an Egyptian Mongoose ran across the road in front of us.
-European Bee-eater
-False Ilex Hairstreak
-Western Subalpine Warbler

In the afternoon we headed out again to a smaller reservoir (Although still sizable) nearer to Campo Maior; Albufeira da Barragem do Caia. We spent most of our time birding the woodland adjacent to the reservoir and added my third lifer of the day; Short-toed Treecreeper. We had three birds flitting around but they were not showy (The theme of the day really) and I only managed record shots. Overhead were a number of Pratincoles flying towards the reservoir, they were really cool. After dark we tried to pin down a Red-necked nightjar but only succeeded in hearing one distantly. However we did get an amphibian lifer in the form of Spiny Toad. A pretty cool day off in the end.
-Short-toed Treecreeper 
-Collard Pratincole
-Spiny Toad

Species List:
Alqueva Dam: Common Kestrel, Common Buzzard, Black Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Black-winged Kite, European Cuckoo, Mallard, Gadwall, Greylag Goose, Egyptian Goose, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Cormorant, Sardinian Warbler, Western Subalpine Warbler, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Spotless Starling, Thekla Lark, Crested Lark, Corn Bunting, Common Sandpiper, Kentish Plover, Azure-winged Magpie, Common Magpie, Woodchat Shrike, Iberian Grey Shrike, Black Tern, White Stork, Grey Heron, House Martin, Sand Martin, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Cattle Egret, Great-crested Grebe, Coot, Collard Dove, Woodpigeon, Hoopoe, European Bee-eater, Blackbird, Pied Flycatcher, Jay, Goldfinch, Clouded Yellow, Western Dappled White, False Ilex Hairstreak, Brown Argus, Meadow Brown, Small Copper, Painted Lady, Red-veined Darter, Egyptian Mongoose, 
Albufeira da Barragem do Caia: Collard Pratincole, Black-winged Stilt, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Zitting Cisticola, Serin, Short-toed Treecreeper, Sardinian Warbler, Common Swift, Red-rumped Swallow, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Crested Lark, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Common Sandpiper, Mallard, Gadwall, Woodpigeon, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting, Spiny Toad,

Day 15 24.04.2017
Back to the transects and point counts today, working on the pastures outside Campo Maior. There was nothing different, but there was still a nice selection of species to keep us busy. I had a few Little Bustards and a pair of Black-winged Kite showing very nicely indeed, but still too far for photos. A Nightingale was singing all morning right in the middle of my transect loop, giving me a sweet backdrop for the morning. I also had a distant Bonelli’s Eagle and a few Griffon Vultures soaring overhead. In the evening we headed out to another location out west of Campo Maior near the town of Vila Fernando. The birding here was extremely slow, but that could be as a result of the weather, which was rather heavy and hot. I did get exceptional views of both Thekla and Short-toed Larks, although the latter was well into dusk and too dark for photos. Other birds worth mentioning; a pair of Egyptian Geese flew over me at one point, and I had a pair of Great Spotted Cuckoos knocking around. Another distant Black-winged Kite was always nice, but a fairly slow afternoon overall.
-Zitting Cisticola
-Thekla Lark

Species List:
Campo Maior: Chaffinch, Bonelli’s Eagle, Booted Eagle, Eurasian Griffon Vulture, Black-winged Kite, Common Kestrel, Little Bustards, Nightingale, Sardinian Warbler, Sedge Warbler, European Bee-eater, Common Magpie, Great-spotted Cuckoo, White Stork, Common Buzzard, House Sparrow, Crested Lark, Corn Bunting, Spotless Starling, Red-rumped Swallow, Common Whitethroat, Zitting Cisticola, Goldfinch, Linnet, Woodpigeon, Collard Dove, Feral Pigeon, Blue Tit, Iberian Marbled White, Green-striped White, Common Blue, Brown Argus, Small Copper, Painted Lady,
Vila Fernando: Chaffinch, Black-winged Kite, European Bee-eater, Common Magpie, Great-spotted Cuckoo, White Stork, Common Buzzard, House Sparrow, Corn Bunting, Spotless Starling, Red-rumped Swallow, Sand Martin, House Martin, Barn Swallow, Common Swift, Goldfinch, Short-toed Lark, Thekla Lark, Gadwall, Mallard, Egyptian Goose, Black-winged Stilt, Common Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Woodpigeon, Collard Dove, Blue Tit, Grey Heron, Cattle Egret, Spoonbill, Hoopoe, Black Kite, Green-striped White, Small Copper,

Day 16 25.04.2017
Today we finished off our transects in the pastures around Vila Fernando. Early morning was a challenge due to the onset of thick fog, but it cleared up fairly quickly and the birding was really good. Besides the regular species I had my first Calandra Lark for some time, as well as good numbers of Sardinian Warblers, some of which actually showed quite well. I found a fledged family of Iberian Grey Shrikes which were really nice. The undoubted highlight of the morning was a rather surprising lifer which I found sat right out in the open and singing away; Spectacled Warbler. I was able to watch it for about 5 minutes before it dropped into the crop and I failed to refind it. A cracking little bird and really nice to connect with! I was then moved to another transect where I had 5 Great Bustards and really good views of Griffon Vultures as they soared overhead.
-Sardinian Warbler
-Spectacled Warbler
-Griffon Vulture

Species List:

Vila Fernando: Calandra Lark, Sardinian Warbler, Spectacled Warbler, Collard Dove, Woodpigeon, Thekla Lark, Crested Lark, Iberian Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Griffon Vulture, Chaffinch, European Bee-eater, Common Magpie, Great-spotted Cuckoo, White Stork, Common Buzzard, House Sparrow, Corn Bunting, Spotless Starling, Red-rumped Swallow, Sand Martin, House Martin, Barn Swallow, Common Swift, Goldfinch, Gadwall, Mallard, Blue Tit, Grey Heron, Hoopoe, Black Kite, Booted Eagle, Jackdaw, Quail, Red-legged Partridge, Griffon Vulture, Green-striped White, Iberian Marbled White, Small Copper,

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