Updated: May 10, 2019
I was hoping to write this blog from Portugal but my limitations with a tablet and lack of time and technical know how prevented me!
We had a great time starting at "Cabo de S.Vicente" the most western point of mainland europe which albeit windy was very productive with great views of Crested larks, Wheatears, Woodchat shrikes, Stone chats and Black redstarts as well as various gull species and Gannets. Slightly east of the point we were lucky enough to see flocks of Red billed choughs, Sardinian warblers, a single Tawny pipit, Serins, Spotless starlings, Cattle egrets, Sub alpine warbler and many other passerines a fantastic start to our tour.
The weather was pretty cool varying between 15 and 20 but quite windy most of the week so felt a little cooler. We visited Mountains to see Dartford warblers, Blue rock thrush found several species of Orchid along limestone escarpments. Sat behind viewing screens on large wetland areas and watched many waders and saw flocks of flamingo one with more than 100 birds in it.
One of my personal favourite places was the steppes of Alentejo above the Algarve region, few inhabitants and vast areas of extensively farmed land ( no chemicals, low stocking of cattle, and rotational cropping ) There were cork oak plantations where the habitat offer huge diversity of species and our hire car was splattered with dead insects when we had finished the day. ( Not so good for those insects but a sad reflection from memories of when we all used to clean the windscreens of our cars from flying insects, I can't remember doing that for many years ). The area is great for Raptors and didn't disappoint, Red kites Black kites, Montagu's harriers, Lesser kestrels, Booted eagles and we watched 2 Griffon and one Black vulture being buzzed by Kites as they were feeding off of a dead sheep. The region is famous for the huge but elusive Great bustards and towards the end of the day we were treated to one taking off and flying a few metres away from the car to be followed a short time later by a Little bustard ( no thats not me !! ) strutting around a field quite happily calling away probably looking for a mate.
We enjoyed the last day with a boat trip around the Ria Formosa one of the most famous and largest protected national wetlands in Europe. Always interesting with many species of wader and the highlight for us a pair of Little terns sitting quietly on a sand bank a few metres from the boat, normally we see Ospreys but it was the first time that I had not encountered that species. Finally we had a quick visit to a small lake in a fairly busy coastal area near the airport and golf courses and saw several of the iconic Purple swamp hen the species used to promote the Ria formosa. ( photo by Hilary Adrian, merci Hilary )
A great visit once again and one to do again next year so if this has whetted your appetite let me know and I'll keep you informed of potential dates.
On my return I had several messages to say Swallows have been seen and a friend had heard the first Cuckoo heralding in the spring, fantastic. I noticed on my walk with Rafa that the Black caps have arrived and are singing away, more flowers are opening, generally bird song is building into a crescendo, a friend saw and heard her first Black woodpecker which is great. I watched a Greater spotted woodpecker popping in and out of a tree hole and enjoyed the sight of a male Cirl bunting singing in our field. Apart from the weather taking a turn for the worst the leaves are beginning to open on the trees so take this opportunity to go out and study the tree tops for birds before they are camouflaged and hidden by the encroaching foliage.
Rafas walks will continue in the next episode.