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Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Montagues Harrier.

Adult male hunting!
Juvenile Harrier.

Splendid male Montagues Harrier!!

Awesome views were had!!!

Gorgeous plummage of the adult male..

He was so close to us!

Searching for small mammals and insects....

Juvenile resting up..
Another species that inhabits the Alentejo plains are the Montagues Harrier.During Spring time they return from their wintering grounds to breed amongst the lush crop fields that dominate the area!Once over, their nests would have been trashed by the machinery used to gather the crops,but times have now changed and farmers have been made aware of the importance of these birds to the area.My guide `Simon Waites` has been instrmental in the upkeep of the Harriers and now works closely with the landowners and farmers.,who are more than happy to help out!
At this time of year the youngsters have fledged the nest and are getting ready with the adults, to migrate South to Africa.There were at least seven birds present in the area and it was these that kept me and Simon intrigued for a good hour or so,they would regularly come to within 20 metres of the car affording me great photo opportunities.The males were absolutely stunning with their black and grey plummage shimmering in the sun.We could have spent all morning observing the birds but Simon pointed into the distance towards a small range of mountains about 15 miles away,`thats our next destination`he excitedly exclaimed,..`Vultures and hopefully Eagles come through there and the conditions are just perfect for them`, so with that in mind we left the lowlands of the Alentejo and headed for a spot of lunch at a small village restaurant Simon regularly uses,and that is another tale in itself which I`ll discuss in my next blog!!!!!!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Alentejo region of Portugal!!!

Savannah like plains!
Great views of one of the largest flying landbirds...

Easily spooked....

Drab Little Bustard!

Seen distantly...

They don`t usually hang around!!!
I decided that I wanted to see some of the rural parts of Portugal during my stay,so an hours drive North found me in the Alentejo region.This area is a wilderness covering some 800 sq kms.Farmed in the Spring and Winter for crops and then left desert like and barren throughout the Summer,this is one of the most important places for species such as Great and Little Bustard and the very wary Black Bellied Sandgrouse.All of Portugals raptors breed here too so I was full of excitement when I arrived early one morning!I`d got the phone number of a highly recommended guide called Simon Waites,he`s an Englishman that has lived out here for the best part of twenty years.Simon does a lot of work for the Portugese wildlife and Fauna societey and was an absolute joy to be with.As we approached a track leading to one of the many stubble fields, he slowed right down and gently rolled the car into a small lay by.Three days ago he`d found a small group of Great Bustard nearby, albeit some 400mts away,this time they were literally 70mts from the car, but they`d seen us approach and were slowly moving away.'Usually you just cant get near to these' he whispered',must be our lucky day!They are one of the largest flying birds in the world,just like an overgrown Turkey.Suddenly they spooked and were up and away,but not before I`d took a few shots with the camera!Great, what a start to the day.Simon reckoned there were some 500 adult birds throughout Portugal with most being here.
As we carried on through the stubble fields, Simon gave me a brief history about the area and its wildlife.Hares were prevelent here and many were seen, as well as a Fox scurrying away in the distance.'Keep your eyes out for Raptors' he enthused,as anything can be encountered here.Suddenly he stopped,look there on the ground 30 metres to the right,'male Montagues Harrier,they use this area as a roost but we should see some more later on'

Wow things were really beginning to hot up and we`d only just got here.
Ten minutes later and he`d located some Little Bustard,and we were treated to some more good views of these unusual birds.They seem rather drab and uncomprimising when amongst the stubble but their true colours can be seen when in flight with their broad wing bar and black primaries,beautiful!
The Black Bellied Sandgrouse were another proposition though,'they`ll spot us before we see them' Simon echoed',usually they`ll head away but come back to take a look at us, so get ready with the camera and you might get a few images!
True to form a small party were put up, but this time they kept on going before they were lost in the distance.Ah well two out of three aint bad I muttered.
I was looking forward to obtaining some decent raptor images and Simon promised me I would,so I`ll sign out for now and tell you all about it in my next blog!!!!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Adult Black Winged Stilt

Adult Black Winged Stilt, originally uploaded by PAULIFOS.

Plenty of these birds around on the lagoon amongst the Flamingoes!!

Flamingoes at Salgados Lagoon

Spoonbill feeding with Flamingo early morn.....
Stalking the shallows.....
Ready for take off..... Good flocks were encountered....
Coming in to land lower down the lake!
The flamingoes on the lagoon totalled more than 200 and they proved quite an attraction for numerous people to come and view.The lagoon was ideally suited for them to feed in, being only a few feet deep throughout! They seemed to favour the top end of the lagoon to roost but as the sun got up they headed further down towards the carpark,giving good close views!Usually as more cars came they would push further out towards the far side of the lake.

There seemed to be a lot of juveniles within the flock, with many of these carrying colour coded rings for identification purposes.I don`t know if they actually breed here or come in from the Camargue in France,a known breeding place.I`d spend a good hour enjoying the company of the Flamingoes in the first hour of daylight with one or two other birders before I`d make my way back to the apartment.By then Lisa and Harriet would be stirring ready for a day on the beach or by the pool.It was hard work getting up every morning at 6.00am but always worth the effort and I really enjoyed my early starts with the camera.

There were different waders to be seen and enjoyed at Salgados of which I`ll come onto in my next blog,so I`ll see you for now then.......

Monday, 13 September 2010

Salgados Lagoon (Gale)

Fantastic sunrises were literally guaranteed.
A rather odd looking bird is the Purple Gallinule,looks just like an oversized Moorhen in shape and size sometimes called Purple Swamphen.These birds are not at all common so I was fortunate to see one in the open!
This solitary Spoonbill happily fed amongst the Flamingoes.
Again distant views of this unusual bird berfore it disappeard into the reedbeds.

A roosting Hoopoe was encountered along the dirttrack to the lagoon,one of the only ones I saw perched up.

Not far from our apartment was an area of wetland called Salgados lagoon.On one side was the golf course and on the other side was an area of sand dunes leading to the beach.A ten minute journey in the car would find me there early mornings sometimes before first light.Its rather mystical being there alone watching the sun rise in the East,the calls of the birds echoing all around you!Many waders use the lagoon as a refuelling point on their way South but the main birds there were the Flamingoes with some 200 birds resident.A lot of these birds were juveniles but one or two adults were still in their breeding plumage.I`ll include a few pictures of the Flamingoes in my next blog.This was one of my first recces down to the lagoon, a little to early for quality shots, but I managed a few in the early morning light!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

From Cornwall to Portugal!

View from our apartment!
Hoopooe searching for ants and small larvae.

Woodchat Shrike abound in the scrubland.

Caught this Hoopooe in some nice light!!!

Close relative of the Siskin....Serin!

Handsome Northern Wheatear.

Common Waxbill!

The Woodchat Shrike pose really well for the camera!

Hard to get close to..Azure Winged Magpie...
Due to the inclement weather forecast,we decided to abandon our 12 day caravanning trip to Cornwall and look on the internet for some cheap flights to a sunnier destination.Some were found going to the Algarve from Blackpool, my wife and 14 yr old daughter didn`t need too much convincing about the location and I knew it wasn`t bad for birding either.Another hour or so later and the accomodation was arranged,the wonders of the internet eh!
Primarilly a familly holiday,I couldn`t help but pack my camera and 500mm lens as I knew Lisa and Harriet were inclined to lie in for a few hours after a hard days sunbathing etc.This would allow me a plenty time exploring the local woods and scrubland before the sun got up.August isnt the best time for birdwatching but I was going to make the most of the opportunity!
The area surrounding the apts looked decent territory and I was out and about amongst the scrub at first light.I`m not going to bore you with endless lists of birds that I saw but I did manage one or two half decent images of the more common variety.Woodchat Shrike were plentifull, with many of these birds on passage to Africa.Hoopooe and Azure Winged Magpies although quite numerous, I found difficult to photograph at first but patience payed off in the end and I managed a few close ups!
There were some open spaces with scattered trees and amongst these were numerous finches feeding on the seedheads of dead flowers.Greenfinch and Linnet seemed abundant here but there were also a few different species which initially I was uncertain about.After a bit of research I found them out to be Serin and small parties of Common Waxbill.Serin are very similar to Siskin, but their distinct calls gave them away.A bird that was very familliar to me was the Northern Wheatear and these migrants were readilly found around the rocky landscapes,although losing their breeding plummage they still are an elegant bird!
These early morning saunters around the apts usually took a few hours but I was itching to get further afield with the camera.Only a few miles from were we stayed was a huge shopping centre called funnily enough`Algarve Shopping.`I just knew Lisa and Harriet would love to be dropped off there for the day as shopping is one of their favorite pasttimes.With this in mind plans were already being made for some serious birding of which I`ll tell you about in my next blog!!!