Monday, July 04, 2011

The ghost of Arnfeild reservoir,
I was suprised how pale and grey the western bonellis warbler looked as it perched atop a birch tree  for 20 seconds or so. It was very white below and pale grey on the mantle in the midday sun. It was heard to sing several times but proved very elusive this morning after our initial sighting. A nice tick for me after dipping on the W T robin.
A family party of siskins were bathing in the stream including this juv

Friday, May 20, 2011

Spain, Donana
Day7 20th May 2011
 My last day in Spain and today I was doing the big trip to the Jose Antonio Valverde centre. A 60 km distance from El Rocio that would take me about 2.5 hours on very bumpy, rough tracks. This journey would take me to the best area for bird watching in the whole of the Donana. Its birding all the way really but the centre with its massive flock of thousands of breeding glossy ibis,hundreds of flamingos,cattle egrets, little egrets, squacco herons, purple herons, night herons, spoonbills is a very impressive sight. Also the rare marbled duck was seen here,red knobbed coot, purple swamphen,gull billed tern, and whiskered tern.
  The birds of prey included black and red kite, booted eagle, short toed eagle,osprey, griffon vulture, marsh and montagu's harrier and kestrel. A truly wonderful place.
     A drive back to Portugal late afternoon and an overnight stay in Faro ready for my Saturday morning 8.45 flight back to Liverpool after an excellent birding adventure!
As the plane was ready for take off at the end of the runway I noticed several nesting little terns in the gravel beside the runway. Amazing!
                                                                   Marbled duck
                                                                  Short toed eagle
                                                     red knobbed coot
                                                                  red kite
                                                       purple heron
                                                     griffon vulture
                                                             little egret
                                                        cattle egret
                                                          spanish wagtail

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Day 6 19th May 2011
Today I visited an area called El Corredor Verde del guadiamar (the green corridor) that was created after a pollution diaster in 1998. Here I had Montagu's harrier booted eagle, osprey, kestrel, quail, turtle dove,Spanish wagtail, great crested grebe and nightingale.
 A strange mammal about 18 inches long with a long thin tail with a bushy black end to it, and short legs, scurried across the road on the way home near Villamanrique. I did a quick sketch of it and later identified it with the help of the warden at the SEO hide in El Rocio as an egyptian mongoose.  
Pale phase booted eagle
                                                         A remote-control black kite!

                                                  A black Kite picking food from the lake
                                                        night heron
                                                           Moorish gecko

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Day 5 18th May 2011

El Rocio is a strange place with no tarmac roads, just sand. Most buildings have a rail for tieing your horse to.The main street is dominated by a large white church dedicated to the virgin mary which overlooks a big lagoon. My first views of the lagoon produced 20 whiskered terns,3 flamingos, 10 black kites, singing great reed warblers everywhere and many spoonbills feeding in the shallow waters.
  I then visited the nearby El arroya de la Rocina reserve which is one of only 2 permanent sources of fresh water in the nattional park.Some of the birds seen here were Marsh harrier,booted eagle, black shoulder kite, black kite, griffon vulture, common buzzard, tree sparrow, cuckoo, green woodpecker, nightingale, wren, blackcap,long tailed tit and spotted flycatcher. Night heron ,little egret grey heron and glossy ibis, red crested pochard.

                                                             griffon vultures
                                                                    Booted eagle
                                                                   Bath White
                                                          Large Psammodromus
                                   Lots of nightingales but almost impossible to see never mind photograph.
                                                            A very big cricket/ grasshopper
                                                     spotless starling

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Day4 17th May 2011

Our last day in Portugal bird watching today. We left Tavira and headed towards Faro airport and then on to Quinto do Lago for some golf course birding. A hide that looks over a big reed fringed lake on the edge of an exculsive '150 euro a round' golf course gave good views of purple swamphen, little bittern, red crested pochard, pochard, gadwall and black headed weavers. The surrounding area had crested tit, nightingale, turtle dove, cettis warbler, hoopoe, marsh harrier and many azure winged magpie. A good variety of waders on the pools and salt pans also. A spectacled warbler in the scrub and an Iberian chiffchaff heard here but not seen .
 We then headed into Faro for some lunch and a Macdonalds was my sons choice. We had a nice pair of melodious warblers in a flowering tree close to the harbour before I dropped my son off at the airport for his flight home and I then travelled on into Spain. I arrived at El Rocio in the Donana about 9pm after a 2.5 hour journey. During the journey I had 2 montagu's harriers beside the very quiet motorway, one of them flying down the hard shoulder towards me.This motorway must be the most 'beautiful' road in Spain as the central reservation is just mile after mile of pink flowering shrubs.

A real tangle of legs and toes as a couple of purple swamphens sort out a dispute

The introduced black headed weaver? was nesting in the reed beds.
A pair of Melodious warblers in Faro city centre
Spectacled warbler

Monday, May 16, 2011

Day 3 16th May 2011.

A trip along the empty motorway north was an easy drive to Castro Verde. We paid the exit toll and took the Beja road to visit the LPN reserve just north of Castro Verde. This place was recommended to us by an english guy we had met at Castro Marim who had said there was a visitor centre and the staff had made him very welcome and were very helpful only yesterday. We arrived but unfortunately the centre was closed so we parked in the car park and scanned the surrounding fields. Rollers were on the roof of the building, lesser kestrels floated around the purpose built tower, a little bustard was calling and showing, and 3 great bustards flew across a distant hillside. Caladra larks,skylarks and crested larks gave display flights while cattle egrets passed over. 2 montagu's harriers floated across the plains with red kite,several black kites,with many storks feeding in the fields.
 We then took the N123 road to Mertola which is lined with stork nests with Spanish sparrows nesting in these nests. Also along this road we had red rumped swallow, southern grey and woodchat shrikes, crow and raven.
 We had lunch here in a cafe near the Mertola castle. Here we had crag martin, lesser kestrels, many jackdaws, bee eaters, serins and nesting storks.
  We then drove down the N122 and stopped at the many bridges that cross rivers which produced golden oriole, crag martins and more red rumped swallows. We called in at the village of Alcoutim which is on the river Guadiana and looks across to Spain. We then drove back to Tavira where we had dinner watching nesting Pallid swifts flying in and out of thier nest holes in the Palm trees here. 
  The plains of the southern Alentejo around Castro Verde are really beautiful with many wild flowers still in bloom in mid May and a real must visit place in Portugal.

A roller at the LPN reserve
A male lesser kestrel twisting and flicking its wings in display over the castle at Mertola
Hoopoes heard calling their names .

Calandra larks were singing and displaying today
Spanish sparrows nesting in nests of storks

distant great bustards

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Day 2, 15th May 2011

A visit to the Castro Marim area today. An excellent area of  marshland with salt pans, pools, scrub and crop fields just north of Vila Real De Santo Antonio on the Spanish/Portuguese border and the River Guadiana. There is a huge visitors centre here but it is closed on Sunday so we did not get a chance to see inside and look closely at the large lagoon it overlooks.The first montagu's harrier of the trip was seen as we arrived on site quickly follwed by red rumped swallow, woodchat and southern grey shrike, hoopoe, bee eaters,pallid swift, zitting cisticola,serin, red legged partridge, azure winged magpie and common magpie and lots of corn buntings,
A good selection of waders were feeding on the saltpans with 3 collared pratincoles, 5 little stints, dunlin, 18 curlew sands with some in full summer plumage, ringed, little ringed and kentish plovers, black winged stilts, avocets,grey plover, a knot,common sandpiper and best of all a nice temmincks stint.
 A montagu's harrier floated over the salt pans and flushed all the waders while little terns plunged in the pools feeding. A short toed eagle appeared above being mobbed by a buzzard with black kites nearby.
   Red crested pochard, gadwall, mallard, coot and moorhen
  An Iberian hare was in the car park as we pulled in and crested larks, zitting cisticolas and stonechat sang in the bushes and a snake of some sort scurried across the road as we drove off.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Portugal and Spain

Day 1 Saturday 14th May 2011
We arrived at Faro airport at 3 pm, picked up the hire car and we were off.  My son Andrew and I were on a birding holiday for 4 days in Portugal and 3 days in Spains Donana. We were staying in a hotel in Tavira for 3 nights as a base to our bird watching in Portugal. We had Gosney's 'where to find birds in southern Portugal' and 'where to watch birds in Donana' by Moreno and Gutierrez as reference guides plus plenty of interenet research before we arrived.
 On the way to the hotel we visited the Natural Park of Ria Formosa reserve which is signposted just as you leave Olhao heading towards Tavira on the N125.The park features a visitors centre and varied habitat with woodland, salt pans, pools, salt marsh, dunes and shore. White storks, bee eaters, azure winged magpies, woodchat shrike, spanish wagtail, crested lark, cuckoo, melodious warbler, sardinian warbler, spotless starling. Waders including kentish plover with young, bar tailed godwit, greenshank, grey plover,ringed plover ,lrp, black winged stilt, dunlin,and whimbrel. Yellow-legged gull, little tern and cormorant also. We then headed to the hotel Porta Nova in Tavira and after a quick shower we were watching pallid swifts,common swifts and house martins from the roof top bar before strolling into town for something to eat.