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Miranda du Douro..... (1 Viewer)

rollingthunder

Well-known member
England
From tomorrow i shall be in Northern Portugal for a week of mountain and hillside birding :cool:

We travel from Brum to Porto at 7am tomorrow morning.

First and last night in Porto and the other 5 right at the top end of the Douro Valley at Miranda du Douro - half a mile down a road to the Spanish border. This is a repeat trip from 12 years ago and is because, like everyone else, we have been kept cooped up like battery hens by a Government who imho still does not want us to travel. I have never visited Rwanda so there is potential but from what i gather it’s only one-way.

Miranda has a great variety of habitats that includes rocky gorges as the valley steepens and intersects with 2 others only a few miles away. I borrowed a bike for a day last time and will try and do so again. It is still the only place i have seen Rock Sparrow so hopefully the colony is still there. Woodlarks sing from wires, Hawfinches feed around parkland pines and Turtle Doves nest on the ground under overhanging rocks. Griffon, Egyptian and Black Vultures float past local restaurant verandahs. Early hours yielded Scops, Long-eared and 3 Eagle Owls calling from scrubby forested hillsides. Cetti’s and Nightingale are everywhere along with Rock Bunting, Subalpine Warblers and Blue Rock Thrushes. Nearby are both Goldies and Bonelli’s. Not forgetting localised subspecies like Iberian Chiffchaff, Green Woodpecker and Flava wags.....

What’s not to like! - i will post notes and pics to liven up the thread ;-)

Good birding -

Laurie -
 

rollingthunder

Well-known member
England
Wed 15th



Arrived Porto Airport 10am local although travel logistics to get from Stourbridge to Birmingham BHX meant we had been up since 0030.

Prior to our flight booking and until recently Portugal had been sweltering in 40>45c with ‘danger to life’ warnings being given if one should be foolish to move around during the bulk of the daylight hours!



That all ended with the arrival of the Black Country Rain God and his partner known to all our friends as ‘Im-bib-er”. We dropped through cloud from 37k’ to about 2k’ and bounced upon landing - I actually thought we had been shot down. It was warm and humid ca25c but then proceeded to shower and rain harder as the day progressed c/w plenty of thunder and lightning. This does not bode well. The forecast fortunately was very mixed for the Porto > Lisbon coast and immediate hinterland but not for the upper Douro…..



Birdwise I just scanned the skies from the sanctuary of sheltered outside bar areas and it consisted of Swifts and Yellow-legged Gulls. I didn’t pick up any Pallid and any overwintering Plain is above my pay grade as they say. The only species of note were a small party of hawking Crag Martins at the airport and I photographed the young being fed in the only nest I saw.



Thur 16th



6.5 hours to get up to Miranda du Douro comprising 3 on the train, 2 on the coach and 1.5 hour wait at a local restaurant and bar.



Birding from the train and coach inevitably leaves you frustrated as anything smaller than a pigeon unless close and distinctive isn’t worth bothering with imo. A White Stork nest here and there several Turtle Doves, calling Golden Orioles and Red-rumper from the train were noteworthy. The coach yielded more exiting fayre in the form of Spotless Starling, Monty’s female, Crested Lark, and Booted dark-morph.



Half and hour around the billet at Miranda saw Serin, White Wagtail 4x Griffon and a lone adult Egyptian from the restaurant to finish a 2nd knackering day.



Good birding -



Laurie -
 

rollingthunder

Well-known member
England
Fri 17th

Thankfully the weather up here virtually on the Spanish border and 150+ miles away from the coast means that although hazy and distinctly lacking in the Blue sky department is dry and warm. At 6am it was 21c and at 4pm it was 37c. All this means it is very pleasant but actively birding from 11-5 is uncomfortable to say the least and I will do it from a sedentary position from the bars affording a good view of the hills and a continuous supply of hydrating fluids. Whilst I still have a spirit of adventure I am prepared to compromise and let’s face it - there’s only one Jos Stratford ;-)

This morning I selected a 3 hour mooch that took in maquis scrub and a disused quarry both adjacent to the Douro which at this point is barraged to supply hydro-electric power. An excellent range of species as follows:

Spotless Starling

Black Kite - in addition to about 20 yesterday several more. I have been told that they are a relatively new addition to the area. I do not recall seeing any 12 years ago.

Serin - frequent around the town.

Hoopoe - single feeding on one of the few watered grassy areas still left.

Cirl Bunting - several singers and family parties.

Golden Oriole - birds singing and flitting.

Short-toed Eagle - unexpected as I did not record the species last time. A smart adult.

Cuckoo - single heard.

Egyptian Vulture - single adult seen over the water.

White Wagtail - several smart males seen feeding around town.

Black Redstart - several males seen during the day.

Booted Eagle - several of both morphs noted.

Lesser Kestrel - smart male on a pylon but I haven’t found any breeding yet.

Nightingale - a handful of singers.

Melodious Warbler - several confiding singing individuals noted.

Hawfinch - ground feeding party, something that was very frequent on my last visit.

Rock Bunting - calling birds and a couple of family party.

Sardinian Warbler - a single male.

Griffon Vulture - very close individual and other during the day.

Alpine Swift - mixed in with the Martins and Swifts over the water.

Rock Sparrow - single noted.

The afternoon was spent languishing but birding with a range of species seen - Red Kite and Linnet were new for the holiday list. There are a good number of common birds seen but I am only annotating the goodies.

Good birding -

Laurie -
 

rollingthunder

Well-known member
England
Local stuff.
 

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rollingthunder

Well-known member
England
More.
 

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rollingthunder

Well-known member
England
Sat 18th Jue

7am > 9am - Same quarry walk as yesterday and surprisingly quiet by comparison.

Juvenile White Wagtails were on an Astroturf pitch dunking their heads and drinking from the overnight shower - nice to know the stuff has a use.

Serin
Hoopoe
Subalpine Warble - male
Cirl Bunting
Sardinian Warbler - pair with food
Blue Rock Thrush - female, briefly in flight
Golden Oriole - males from the Portuguese side dieting with males across on the Spanish side
Rock Sparrow
Nightingales
White Stork - one flew over the town
Cetti’s Warbler - overdue but several heard
Black Kite - single
Melodious Warbler - I freed a bird that had become tangled in very fine Bramble threads. So fine that I thought the bird had become entangled in Vetch tendrils but closer inspection showed very small hooks - good deed for the day…..





Miranda has a semi wild parque in the centre that has a good range of habitats including a small lake due to the damming of the Rio Fresno at this point. I spent from 10am to midday mooching.


Serins
Kingfisher
Golden Orioles - about half a dozen singing males
Booted Eagle - smart pale-morph bird
Nightingale - lots
Griffon Vulture
Grey Wagtail - only the 2nd of the trip
Reed Warbler - single, chugging away somewhere
Egyptian Vulture - single adult
Cetti’s - more frequent now
Bonelli’s Warbler - 2-3 singing on an embankment with sparse understory and scattered Pines
Short-toed Treecreeper - presumably


Both Blue Rock Thrush and Hawfinch have not been encountered as frequently as the previous trip.


Today hit 35c following the previous 2 @ 37c - the forecast is for cooler and showery by at least 10 degrees. I am ok with birding 25-30c but if temperatures persist my energy level saps and above 25c is too tiring and birding from a sedentary position is desirable.

Good birding -

Laurie -
 

kb57

Well-known member
Europe
My son and daughter-in-law have just been on holiday in the Douro valley, travelling by train. Although not birders, he told me they had seen a lot of what he thought were black kites - a species I've pointed out to him before in places like Geneva - sounds like he was right.
 

rollingthunder

Well-known member
England
Yes, checked my notes and I did not record the species at all at the same time of year 12 years ago. In addition 3 of the ca20 I saw during the train trip were carrying what appeared to be fish. I have seen BK picking up fish discarded by trawlers on the Bosphorous so they might also be taking small stuff close to the surface.

Laurie -
 

rollingthunder

Well-known member
England
Sunday 19th June

Temperatures plummet to 14c at 6am and a measly 25c by teatime………..whilst Blighty melts.

Back down to the Parque pre-brekkers 630-9.

Golden Orioles from the balcony herald the dawn with Serins in support.


Black Kite en-route. Nightingales noisy but elusive and upto half a dozen Bonelli’s Warbles flitting in the Pines. Several Cetti’s Warblers and a very approachable trio of 3 juvenile Black Redstarts and a trip tick of a Garden Warbler from the bridge over the Rio Fresno brings the list to 62 - it’s about quality not quantity.....

It was still only 8 so I decided to hit the quarry again.

An early party of 8 Griffons with Crag Martins and a lone Booted Eagle above, both Sardinian and Melodious in the scrub and a juvenile Hawfinch kept the interest up finishing with an appearance from a Short-toed Creeper and a very close Gypo

Mid-morning was spent balcony birding as compared to other locales it offered panoramic views of this section of the Douro Valley. Lots of Alpine Swifts, a flighty Woodlark, x2 Egyptian Vultures, several Black Redstarts and a close feeding party of Alpine Swifts were noted.

Laurie -
 

rollingthunder

Well-known member
England
More.
 

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rollingthunder

Well-known member
England
Stuff.
 

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rollingthunder

Well-known member
England
Monday 20th June.

Noticeably cooler with a max of 22c by 5pm, cloudy and light showers during the afternoon - it is what it is…..

A 3 hour circular walk further up the Douro Valley where the local Fincas are less of an influence and the landscape is dominated by Granitic terrain with outcropping boulders and associated wild vegetation.

Serin, Nightingale, Hoopoes, Jay, Blue Rock Thrush, Woodchat Shrike, Turtle Dove, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Sardinian Warbler, Red-legged Partridge, Subalpine Warbler, Great Tit, Golden Oriole, Chaffinch, Spotless Starling, Cirl Bunting, Azure-winged Magpie and Alpine Swift made for a very enjoyable session of ‘Mediterranean’ birding.


Parque do Fresno 1630-1800.

A late afternoon session due to clement conditions so another mooch to the Rio Fresno was in order…..

Black Kite, Crag Martin, Pallid Swift, Golden Oriole, Bonelli’s Warbler, Black Redstart, Blue Rock Thrush, Kestrel, Nightingale, Booted Eagle, Cetti’s Warbler, Cirl Bunting.

Ok more of the same but the diversity in such a small walking distance from the hostel is excellent and bear in mind I will be back in the West Midlands in 48 hours…..

Good birding -

Laurie -
 

rollingthunder

Well-known member
England
Nearly done for today.
 

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MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
Sounds like a nice area with some very nice birds, but the pic made it look surreally like a Surrey suburb - especially the red post box!

Cheers
Mike
 

rollingthunder

Well-known member
England
I see what you mean Mike! Some of these hill towns like to make the travelling motorist fully aware of where they are arriving at but don't be fooled by the garish block, almost pop art, reception.

Only 500 yards away you are in rolling gorge country. Indeed the area is in the centre of the oldest magma-derived rocks in the Iberian peninsula. The rounded granitic quartzite rocks are very impressive and the cooling has yielded endless variety of shapes and clefts in upto house-sized boulders. The Douro gorge cliffs from here on up have ledges for Vultures, caves for Eagle Owls and 'hanging' woods of Cork Oak for Black Storks etc. Indeed the largest and oldest Juniper woods of the region occur here and there in the damper micro-habitats some of these trees being medieval in antiquity iirc. Any Fincas, cultivation and vineyards have to fit in with the landscape and thus allows room for the wildlife that would naturally occur there. There are even cultivated cereal fields on the plateau tops and it is in these that characteristic species like Montague's Harriers, Black-eared Wheatear and Tawny Pipit find their niche. On my 2 trips I have seldom bumped into anybody but a local visiting their allotment and have always been met with a very accommodating attitude which contrasts with the 'get orf my laaand' that you will generally get back in Blighty. The range of micro-climates in the Douro yields an amazing range of local wines both Red, White and fortified into the classic Port types and must be tasted. The area is big on 'Rustica Tourismo' and both local tracks and linked distance footpaths are options. Unfortunately there did not appear to be an cycle hire and as I only wanted one for 2 days at most I did not want the expense and trouble of taking one of my folding Bromptons. Consequently I did not mooch further afield than about 5 miles from the town centre. That said the local birding is excellent if you dawdle like I do and 3 of the 5 days were too hot for me from about midday to 5pm so I birded from the hostel balcony and one of 2 bars offering views of the gorge and surrounding hills.

I will make one more post and a few more photos with regard to the trip and include one or 2 thoughts about the travel etc.....

Good birding -

Laurie -
 

rollingthunder

Well-known member
England
Last day - longest day……

Mon 21st June

Had 2 hours before breakfast so I decided to walk for an hour towards the Val du Aguiles and turn back when the town clock struck 8. En-route there were a couple of dogs I wanted to give some leftover meat scraps from the previous night. Hunting dogs are kept in little compounds commonly on the scattered Fincas and although provided with shelter and food etc they are starved…..of affection and it is an important part of my trips to say hello. Indeed a number of times I have found a piece of rope, taken them for a walk, then returned them with the owner being none the wiser!

I expected more of the same but the light was good and to my surprise I was able to add several more species to the trip list. More Serins and Cirl Buntings then a brace of Corn Buntings and a group of freshly fledged Crested Larks. No less than half a dozen Hoopoes responding to each other from a mix of boulders and stunted Cork Oaks along with several flighty Blue Rock Thrushes. I picked up a contact call similar to the sort of thing from a loose party of Long-tailed Tits but it had a trill with it and sure enough about a dozen juvenile Crested Tits appeared with an adult bringing up the rear - more seen later on. In quick succession Subalpine, Sardinian and Bonelli’s Warbler showed. I had set off looking for a longed-for Bonelli’s Eagle but as luck would have it one appeared to be looking for me! A flappy, purposeful, bird shot across the track ahead of me and disappeared to sit on a distant rock. It wasn’t either an adult or a juvenile so it was something inbetween and in primary moult. Never a guaranteed sighting these birds are worth their weight in Gold. My last sighting was several years ago in the Draa Valley of the High Atlas when I watched a bird work its way down a dry Oued and stoop at the only Tristram’s Warbler I have yet seen - a stonking male.

The bell tolled so time to turn back. With thermals starting to form both Griffon and Gypo were noted as was Black Kites and a pale Booted. A very noisy and distinct party of Azure-winged Magpies argued in-flight and a rather smart male Woodchat Shrike was scolding something. Golden Orioles fired up and a party of Spotless Starlings worked a ploughed field. The raptors hadn’t finished and to my surprise a fleeting Goshawk flew low over the scrub. Finally a solitary White Stork circled over the town and that was that as they say.

We faced a 6 hour coach journey back to Porto as I have done the train journey several times now. Several Monties were noted in addition to species already mentioned. The last night was spent on the lash with tapas. I had totalled 72 species of accessible quality birding so I was more than happy. When you factor in the habitat, people, food, weather etc and of course the Bride who although doesn’t come out on the jaunts does have ‘bins and keeps a list from both verandah and bar! Upon my return I was surprised to see I made 85 species 12 years ago and that is entirely due to being able to cycle upto 20 miles from Miranda.

I will add one more short post with regard to travel etc later on in the week…..

Good birding -

Laurie -
 

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