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Old Tuesday 7th June 2011, 13:52   #1
apbarr
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Portugal 26th May to 2nd June 2011

My wife and I stayed in a hotel at Olhos D’Aqua between Albufeira and Vilamoura. I had arranged two days guided birding with fellow Birdforum member Simon Wates during our stay. The weather was generally fairly hot and sunny but we did have a couple of days with rain. Birding around the hotel area produced my first lifer of the trip Azure-winged Magpie which proved to be common in most areas we visited. Other birds of note seen locally were Hoopoe, breeding on a villa near the hotel, Yellow-legged Gull, Bee-eater, Pallid Swift and Red-rumped Swallow. Simon picked us up at 7am on Saturday 28th and we headed north to the Baixo Alentejo region looking for the speciality species of the area. We arrived back at the hotel at nearly 11pm having had a long and varied day. I saw 10 lifers starting with Black Kite seen from the motorway and again later giving better views, the first of several Iberian Grey Shrikes, calling Little Bustard, Short-toed Eagle, Red-knobbed Coot, a pair of Rufous Bush Robins, two Black-eared Wheatears at different locations. A visit to a raptor watch point gave great views of Griffon Vulture and late in the day two male and one female Black-bellied Sandgrouse were seen in flight and good views of Calandra Lark completed the tally.
Other birds of note seen in no particular order were Great Bustards in flight and on the ground, Stone Curlew, Lesser Kestrels, Golden and Booted Eagles, Black Vulture, Roller, Woodchat Shrike and several Montagu’s Harriers. White Storks were present in large numbers with nests dotted along the roadside at regular intervals in some areas. Spanish Sparrows took advantage of the Storks nests to build their own within the base.

The second day with Simon was on Monday 30th when we headed for Castro Marim and the area near the Spanish border. I managed to see eight and a half lifers during the day with the half being a Pratincole seen in flight briefly as we were driving between sites. Given that Collared is the only Pratincole present in Portugal I’ve ticked it in pencil until I get better views in the future. The other lifers for the day were Crested Lark seen well in a Motorway service area and in other various locations later, Spectacled Warbler which gave good but brief scope views, Greater Flamingo which were present in fairly large numbers and in the same area Slender-billed Gulls including two very pink breasted adults. These gave fairly distant views but were surprisingly easy to pick out from the Black-headed gulls which were also present. Later in the day we visited a nesting site for White-rumped Swifts which gave great views on several occasions, we were also fortunate to see a second pair at another site during our drive home. A stop at a location known to Simon produced Melodious Warblers singing and another site Short-toed Treecreeper feeding on Cork Oaks. A small diversion gave views of a Woodlark perched on a power line.
There were several other birds noted during the day including at least 5 Short-toed Eagles, Gull-billed Tern, Kentish Plovers, Audouin’s Gull, Spoonbill, Black-winged Stilt, Nightingale Red-rumped Swallows and Crag Martins.

I agreed an extra “half-day" with Simon to try and target some species missed during the first two days and Simon picked me up at the hotel at 3pm on our last day and this time headed west. We had several more Short-toed Eagles, a party of Woodlarks and Alpine Swift for the trip but failed to positively ID any Bonelli’s Eagles although two possibles were sighted in the distance. We were luckier with Rock Bunting however and had good views of an adult with a juvenile. We then moved to another location and had views of Blue Rock Thrush and Choughs before hearing a male Eagle Owl hooting. Both birds of the pair gave us great scope views in the fading light before we headed off to try and see Red-necked Nightjar which proved elusive although we did hear one bird calling. We arrived back at the hotel around midnight. I would highly recommend Simon’s services if you are visiting the Algarve, his rates are highly competitive and I would have struggled for most of the species seen without his help. Overall this was a great trip with 22 lifers including the Collared Pratincole and I can highly recommend the Algarve as a base for a birding holiday.
Pictures to follow

Last edited by apbarr : Tuesday 7th June 2011 at 16:20.
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Old Tuesday 7th June 2011, 14:26   #2
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First Pics
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Old Tuesday 7th June 2011, 17:32   #3
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More Pics
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Old Tuesday 7th June 2011, 17:45   #4
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Yet more
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Old Tuesday 7th June 2011, 18:58   #5
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Last one and a couple of Butterflies
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Old Wednesday 8th June 2011, 23:11   #6
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Thanks for that. Even more reason for me to sort out a trip to that part of the world. Tavira, a town a little further east along the algarve coast, seems an ideal location for a birder.

Some great pics in there too.
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Old Thursday 9th June 2011, 05:03   #7
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Nice one Alex, collared pratincoles are not uncommon in the area although most wll find them hard to get good views of.
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Old Thursday 9th June 2011, 07:51   #8
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Originally Posted by wolfbirder View Post
Nice one Alex, collared pratincoles are not uncommon in the area although most wll find them hard to get good views of.
We tried a couple of sites for them without any luck and the one we saw flitted over the road and disappeared downstream with both Simon and myself saying "pratincole" simultaneously.
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Old Thursday 9th June 2011, 07:58   #9
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Originally Posted by Digbert Doobrey View Post
Thanks for that. Even more reason for me to sort out a trip to that part of the world. Tavira, a town a little further east along the algarve coast, seems an ideal location for a birder.

Some great pics in there too.
We passed close to Tavira on our way to Castro Marim and the Spanish border area. Personally I would probably head further west next time.
Thanks for the comments on the pics, quality is reduced greatly for posting but gives a flavour of what's available
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Old Thursday 9th June 2011, 21:43   #10
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Wherever you stay in the Algarve, you’ll need to do some travelling to see the full range of available species.

We would agree with Digbert; we chose Tavira as our base because of its geographical position, roughly equidistant from Cape St Vincent, the Castro Verde area and Doņana and because the local birding, within easy reach and involving little travelling, is excellent. Waders are our particular interest and for much of the year the Ria Formosa is full of them and (dare we say it!) in the breeding season Collared Pratincoles really aren’t too hard to find.

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Old Friday 10th June 2011, 08:31   #11
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Sorry should have been a bit clearer, my post was not meant to suggest that Tavira was not suitable but that I would want to be further to the west as I liked the area.
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Old Saturday 11th June 2011, 11:14   #12
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Alex - thanks so much for your kind comments!

You did well to get ANY photos of the wonderful White-rumped Swifts. The Southern Scarce Swallowtail picture is a winner and although the Rufous Bush Robin gave you a run for your money it has come out at least showing its tail! I seem to remember you got a side view that looked pretty good on your camera (?).

As you know, I thought we didn't have so much luck during your time - we had to work pretty much harder than normal for many of the specialities. On other recent occasions in the same areas things were a lot easier. Examples of this that really come to mind were:

Collared Pratincoles, they were a lot easier in the days just before your visit. At one site in the Baixo Alentejo we visited I was counting 40+, when we visited there were none! I suppose birding is just like that! They change their inland breeding sites year by year according to land use although the coastal sites are more reliable they breed only in small numbers. I really thought I had them "set up" for you. On retrospect we could have driven 10kms further north to an active breeding site - we didn't as not to miss other sites for other birds. Ah well, decisions decisions!

Spanish Imperial Eagle - as you know us missing these really got my gut. Again, a couple of days previous we had 6 separate inds in a day - in fact 3 different territorial pairs inc. one pair perching on rocks at close range. On one day, a week before your visit, we got really lucky and enjoyed superb views of the 5 eagle species. Despite us spending some hours in all the right areas - no joy. I would have expected at least a distant flight view.

Bonelli's Eagle - these are well known for being discreet, however despite being in at least 5 territories throughout our travels and giving them time we hit a blank - nevertheless the pair you spotted at 3-4kms range really were Bonelli's but were worse than not seeing them at all! This pair is one that I have been involved in monitoring as part of an ongoing survey around a windfarm in the west. As for my positive ID at a distance, all I can say is that many times, when on the raptor survey, my colleagues will radio through to alert sightings to others on the survey so we get used to seeing distant birds like this.

Although we worked hard, I'm glad we managed most of your targets and saw many of them really nicely. I thought the highlights were the head hight close range views of the soaring Golden Eagle and those 2 favourites of mine the Rufous Bush Robins and the White-rumped Swifts.

Thanks again Alex!

Best wishes

Simon
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Old Saturday 11th June 2011, 11:33   #13
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Originally Posted by pdedicoat View Post
Wherever you stay in the Algarve, you’ll need to do some travelling to see the full range of available species.

We would agree with Digbert; we chose Tavira as our base because of its geographical position, roughly equidistant from Cape St Vincent, the Castro Verde area and Doņana and because the local birding, within easy reach and involving little travelling, is excellent. Waders are our particular interest and for much of the year the Ria Formosa is full of them and (dare we say it!) in the breeding season Collared Pratincoles really aren’t too hard to find.

June & Peter
www.algarvebirders.com
Its a tough decision - I chose the far western Algarve because its a lot cooler (4-5ēC on average) in the summer and early autumn and especially because the autumn migration (from late August to mid-November) around the far west is very entertaining. Lots of scarcities/rarities turn up to keep us on our toes apart from a very long list of regular raptors, passerines and seabirds. Also, because its less built up on the coast its still wild and wonderful.

As I mentioned we had bad luck with Collared Pratincole and yes, normally they are pretty easy and give great views!

Cheers

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Old Saturday 11th June 2011, 16:29   #14
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Simon,

If we saw everything we went for it would become boring, leaves me some targets for my next visit
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Old Saturday 11th June 2011, 16:37   #15
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Sorry if i was suggesting Collared Pratincoles were easy - what I meant to infer was that pratincole species seen there would certainly be collared pratincoles. The poster suggested he was only marking it in pencil until he got good views as he was not sure if they would be collared. Of course that is his choice, but i have happily ticked poorly observed birds as long as i am positive they are what they are.

I have always found Collared Pratincoles very hard to obtain reasonable views of too!
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Old Saturday 11th June 2011, 18:17   #16
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Sorry if i was suggesting Collared Pratincoles were easy - what I meant to infer was that pratincole species seen there would certainly be collared pratincoles. The poster suggested he was only marking it in pencil until he got good views as he was not sure if they would be collared. Of course that is his choice, but i have happily ticked poorly observed birds as long as i am positive they are what they are.

I have always found Collared Pratincoles very hard to obtain reasonable views of too!
I didn't read your post to mean they were easy, I know it was 99% certain to be Collared but there's always that niggle, hence the tentative tick. Oriental's the only other Pratincole I've seen but views of that were great.
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Old Tuesday 14th June 2011, 10:21   #17
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Very nice report, always good to find out what we're missing in the Algarve.
Always good to read your input too Simon.
Best
Mick

P.S. I would be interested in a residents point of view on the recent "trouble"
in the Algarve.
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Old Tuesday 14th June 2011, 11:57   #18
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Alex - thanks so much for your kind comments!

You did well to get ANY photos of the wonderful White-rumped Swifts. The Southern Scarce Swallowtail picture is a winner and although the Rufous Bush Robin gave you a run for your money it has come out at least showing its tail! I seem to remember you got a side view that looked pretty good on your camera (?).
Best wishes

Simon
This one I think, still to do any RAW editing which should give me some better end results
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Old Saturday 18th June 2011, 05:31   #19
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This one I think, still to do any RAW editing which should give me some better end results
Lovely image Alex, cracking bird!
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Old Saturday 2nd July 2011, 17:01   #20
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Thanks for the report.
My wife and I are heading to Tavira in October so your report nicely whetted our appetite.

Loved the pics.
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