Monday, 19 October 2009

World Tour of The Algarve, Part I

Saturday 10th October.

I don't mind admitting that through a combination of boyish excitement, and not wanting to miss the early morning flight from Birmingham, I didn't get any sleep. But when we landed at Faro airport, it's amazing how quickly you can perk yourself up! While Martyn was arranging the hire car, time to get my bins out for a scan around Faro airport. A single Swallow flew past.

I've never birded in continental europe before, so a stop at the brackish lagoons on the edge of Ludo farm, just a stone's throw from the airport, soon produced my first lifers. Namely Azure-Winged Magpie, Sardinian Warbler and Greater Flamingo. Also a good selection of waders, including Kentish Plovers, Whimbrel, Little Stints (clearly outnumbering the Dunlins and Ringed Plovers), a Booted Eagle overhead, lots of Fan-Tailed Warblers. And a few White Storks.

We felt that we ought to get one of the logistical operations of the trip out of the way fairly quickly, and find our apartment in Carvoeiro. Which thanks to the wonder of Satnav, we did rather successfully.

We decided to stay in Carvoeiro for two reasons. One, it's fairly central along the Algarve coast. Two, it's close to what we thought, after doing some research, could be a couple of good areas for birding. One of which is Carvoeiro itself, which has a headland with cliffs, scrub and a lighthouse.

Given the right weather conditions, we felt it could be a likely spot for migrants in the scrub and for seawatching. So after a spot of lunch, we did some exploring in the afternoon. Given the unseasonally hot conditions (hitting 30 degrees in October is unusual for here), birding was rather quiet. But some common migrants such as Wheatear, Stonechat, Chiffchaff and Blackcap gave us hope for tomorrow morning. Also around were a Crag Martin, more Sardinian Warblers and a flock of about 40 Azure-Winged Magpies.

Eventually we decided to get the second logistical operation done and out of the way, shopping for food and drink. Time for a shameless plug of Bimbo bread! Finding things like this is why I love travelling.

Sunday 11th October.

Back at the lighthouse in the morning. Cooler conditions and much more bird activity. Again a selection of common migrants around, a small number of visible migrants including Kestrels, Goldfinches, Linnets, Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and a Yellow Wagtail (don't ask me what type though). Also five Spotless Starlings (lifer).

The other nearby site is Pera Marsh (aka Lagoa Dos Salgados), which consists of a coastal lagoon, sand dunes, open ground and scattered bushes. We spent the late morning and most of the afternoon here exploring, and managed a haul of 51 different species.

A first look around the lagoon were a Black-Necked Grebe, seven Greater Flamingoes, six Purple Gallinules, a first-winter Med Gull and numerous common duck and Cattle Egrets. The water level was rather high so not too many waders, apart from Black-Winged Stilts.

Algarve birder Colin Key arrived at this point, and informed us of a long-staying female White-Headed Duck on the lagoon, that's one to find a bit later. An exploration of the open ground and bushes produced many Wheatears, Stonechats, Chiffchaffs and Sardinian Warblers; Willow Warbler, Whinchat, Crested Larks, Southern Grey Shrike (lifer) and a Red-Legged Partridge (they're wild birds over here!)

After some sandwiches (with Bimbo bread of course!), a scan of the northern edge of the lagoon produced largest numbers of loafing gulls and herons. We picked out a Caspian Tern in amongst the gulls, plenty of Spoonbill and Glossy Ibis, and a Great White Egret, quite scarce on the Algarve apparently.

There was also a escaped/introduced/plastic (use as necessary) Sacred Ibis around which appeared to flush most of the birds, we couldn't find the Caspian Tern when everything settled down. A walk along the boardwalk next to the sand dunes produced a Bluethroat, Sedge Warbler, Great Crested Grebe, stacks of Fan-Tailed Warblers and indeed the White-Headed Duck! There is also a hide along here, but not as we know it. Unfortunately it was inaccessible due to a flooded path.

When Martyn visited the Algarve in September, he found another lagoon at nearby Armacao De Pera. More of a tidal pool which had a large flock of gulls on, and a Caspian Tern, presumably the same bird from Pera Marsh.

Also around were seven White Storks, two Spoonbills and a cracking Black-Shouldered Kite. This picture really doesn't do the bird justice. But a good introduction to birding on the Algarve, without having to travel too far.

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