Travel, Wildlife

A trip to Portugal’16

This year, my yearly venture to Portugal was slightly earlier than usual and was the first time I had gone without my mum!

Day 1:

This was not actually our first day but it was the first day that myself and Espen were together and the first day of birding. We stayed around the Villa in the morning and kick started our Portugal list. The usual suspects of Reed Bunting, Serin, White Wagtail, Cattle Egrets and


Stonechats were around but some of the good stuff made an appearance aswell with Black Redstart, Booted Eagle, Red-rumped swallow, Corn Bunting and Rock Sparrows all welcome additions to the list.DSC00708

In the afternoon, we visited Lagos which is a small town just to the east of where we were staying. There is an amazing steak house in Lagos right on the harbour and I had to take Espen there, they serve my absolute favourite steak! In Lagos, there is a small area where White Stork come to nest and they provide amazing views, we also saw a large number of Yellow Legged Gulls in all different plumages where myself and Esp could get our eye on some features, I’m not great with gulls so any additional features really do help me!

Day 2:

Day two saw us venture an hour east to Olhao, to visit Ria Farmosa Natural Nature Reserve. This is a place that I have always wanted to visit, we had only just arrived when Esp spotted some Crested Tits feeding in some pine trees, a lifer for the both of us! The usual Portuguese delights were seen: Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Hoopoe and Pallid Swift. There were a couple of species which I hadn’t seen in Portugal yet but managed to see them here, things such as Sandwich Tern, Whimbrel and Cetti Warbler. An experience for us both was seeing a small group of Greater Flamingo feeding on a pool!

On the way home we took a detour. We were given some gen by a fellow birder about a place to see some of our targets, so on the way home we visited Quinta de Lago golf course. There was a very frustrating Spoonbill feeding some distance away, we noticed that it had a leg flag and colour rings but couldn’t pick out the colours! The bird flew closer and we jotted down the colour combination and Esp sent off the information, so waiting to find out! Highlights from our visit were Marsh Harrier, Barn Owl and Purple Swamp-Hen! I also saw a Black-Headed Weaver which Esp missed.

Day 3:

Day three was a rather quiet day, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t eventful! We visited one of my favourite places in Portugal, Cape st Vincent in Sagres. Seawatching was somewhat lacking, we only managed to see Gannet! The rocks surrounding the lighthouse were definitely the highlights. A stunning male Black Redstart jumped around in front of us, proving myself and Esp with great photography opportunities, a female Blue Rock Thrush was sat on the lighthouse and a Porpoise was swimming around in the water below. The definite highlight of the day, and a close second to the overall trip highlight; was seeing an Alpine Accentor! I had struggled to see this species for almost four years now, Esp had got onto the bird and I jumped up and got onto the bird, we only got brief views and couldn’t get a photo but nevertheless it was a great experience!

Day 4:

We started the day by waking up at 6am ready to hit to road to visit the wonderful people at A Rocha. I love visiting the place and the people are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and so knowledgeable! We had the chance to help run the ringing session and got to show visitors the process of ringing, I had the chance to ring some great highlights for me which included Firecrest and Spanish Sparrow! 

After our visit to A Rocha and the nets were closed, we were given a site to try for some amazing species aswell as one of the species of owl I was desperate to see: Eagle Owl! The site was outstanding! We arrived and we greeted by raptors: Peregrine, Short-Toed Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle and Buzzard. We ventured down a little track to a small pool where the majority of the birds were gathering around, Esp got onto a Adult male Bluethroat which I only saw the back end of, around 100 Common Waxbills were flying around the field and pool. We had planned to stay until it got dark, so around 6pm we got into position next to a building to disguise ourselves so the Owl couldn’t spot us. The roosting birds were amazing! c150 Cattle Egrets, 3 Great White Egret, c50 Glossy Ibis, and a large group of Corn Buntings came over our heads. As it was just approaching dusk, a Short-Eared Owl came buzzing around the tiny building we were huddled by, the bird came so close to it, it was an amazing experience! The experience which I will never forget came a few minutes afterwards, we were just discussing how small the SEO must be compared to the Eagle owl when the bird popped up on the Telephone line we were focused on, it was massive! We spent almost an hour just mesmerised by this bird, it was preening and calling which made the experience even better.

Day 5:

The last major bird driven day was up north to Castro Verde. We visited Alcaria to have a scout for Black-Bellied Sandgrouse which we failed to see, but instead, we caught up with Great Bustard, Calandra and Crested Lark.  We only spotted for a little while but moved onto a small village called Alvares to look for Eagles, after waiting for some time with no luck, Esp had got onto an eagle and just waiting for it to come into a space where we could pinpoint and focus the scope onto it instead of using binoculars. After watching it for a couple of minutes, we concluded it was a Spanish Imperial Eagle! I went to write it down in my book (I suck at remembering sightings!) and Esp called me over saying he had another Spanish Imp! What initially was a slow start, turned into a great time with seeing these Eagles. The next and final stop before making the 2 hour journey back to the villa, was to a small town just north of Castro Verde where we were to visit some ruins where apparently there was a Lesser Kestrel colony. It took us some time to locate the ruins given that most of the buildings looked run down but having the ruin’s name did come in handy! We parked up and headed closer to the ruins where a couple of Kestrel sp were flying above the building, on closer inspection they were Lesser Kestrels! We had successfully added more of our targets onto our lists, and to top things off, on the way home we had a group of Black-Bellied Sandgrouse fly in the fly next to us which we pulled over for!

DSC01100

Full Trip List:

Seq. Species Scientific Name Date Location Key
1 Wigeon Anas penelope QDL RF: Ria Formosa
2 Gadwall Anas strepera QDL QDL: Quinta de Lagos
3 Teal Anas crecca QDL S: Sagres
4 Mallard Anas platyrhynchos N A: Alvares
5 Pintail Anas acuta QDL PR: Monte Paraiso
6 Shoveler Anas clypeata QDL, RF AR: A Rocha
7 Pochard Aythya ferina RF E: Estombar (nearby)
8 Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis RF V: Villa
9 Gannet Morus bassanus S L: Lagos
10 Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo S, L N: too numerous or widespread for specific site
11 Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis S
12 Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis N
13 Little Egret Egretta garzetta RF, E
14 Great Egret Egretta alba E
15 Grey Heron Ardea cinerea N
16 White Stork Ciconia ciconia N
17 Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus AR, E
18 Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia QDL
19 Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus RF
20 Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus PR
21 Red Kite Milvus milvus A
22 Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus N
23 Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus QDL, E
24 Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus ######## Near Estombar
25 Buzzard Buteo buteo N
26 Spanish Imperial Eagle Aquila adalberti A
27 Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos A
28 Booted Eagle Aquila pennata V
29 Osprey Pandion haliaetus QDL, E
30 Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni PR
31 Kestrel Falco tinnunculus N
32 Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus V, E
33 Moorhen Gallinula chloropus RF, QDL, E
34 Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio QDL, E
35 Coot Fulica atra QDL, RF
36 Great Bustard Otis tarda CV, PR
37 Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus PR
38 Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius E
39 Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula RF
40 Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola RF
41 Lapwing Vanellus vanellus A
42 Dunlin Calidris alpina RF
43 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago E
44 Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa RF
45 Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus RF
46 Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos RF
47 Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus E
48 Greenshank Tringa nebularia RF
49 Redshank Tringa totanus RF
50 Turnstone Arenaria interpres RF, L
51 Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus L
52 Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus L, RF, E
53 Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus N
54 Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis N
55 Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis RF, E
56 Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis CV
57 Rock Dove Columba livia N
58 Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus N
59 Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto N
60 Barn Owl Tyto alba QDL
61 Eagle Owl Bubo bubo E
62 Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus E
63 Swift Apus apus RF
64 Pallid Swift Apus pallidus RF
65 Kingfisher Alcedo atthis QDL, E
66 Hoopoe Upupa epops RF
67 Green Woodpecker Picus viridis Near Faro
68 Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra A
69 Crested Lark Galerida cristata N
70 Thekla Lark Galerida theklae S, A
71 Skylark Alauda arvensis PR
72 Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris N
73 Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica N
74 House Martin Delichon urbicum N
75 Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica N
76 Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis N
77 Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava V
78 Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea AR
79 White Wagtail Motacilla alba N
80 Wren Troglodytes troglodytes AR
81 Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris S
82 Robin Erithacus rubecula N
83 Bluethroat Luscinia svecica E
84 Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros N
85 European Stonechat Saxicola rubicola N
86 Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius S
87 Blackbird Turdus merula N
88 Song Thrush Turdus philomelos 2 flew over road
89 Cetti’s Warbler Cettia cetti E, RF, QDL
90 Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis N
91 Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala N
92 Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla V, E, AR
93 Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita N
94 Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus AR
95 Crested Tit Parus cristatus RF
96 Great Tit Parus major QDL
97 Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis N, mostly around CV
98 Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus N
99 Magpie Pica pica around CV
100 Jackdaw Corvus monedula N
101 Carrion Crow Corvus corone around CV
102 Raven Corvus corax N
103 Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor N
104 House Sparrow Passer domesticus N
105 Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis E, AR
106 Tree Sparrow Passer montanus V
107 Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia V
108 Black-headed Weaver Ploceus melanocephalus QDL
109 Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild AR, E
110 Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs N
111 Serin Serinus serinus N
112 Greenfinch Carduelis chloris N
113 Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis N
114 Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus V, E, RF, QDL
115 Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra N, especially around CV
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