Iberian Lyons

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday, 25 July 2017 20:17

Birding in the Algarve, even in July was really awesome. It's probably down to the fact that I have never been to the Iberian Peninsula before but I was blown away by how good it was, right from the get go. Azure-winged Magpies, possibly the commonest bird I encountered there (maybe joint with Collared Dove) did not disappoint. They really reminded me of big Long-tailed Tits the way they group together, suddenly passing through the garden like a squad of marines, at least one always remaining still and providing cover. Then they'd suddenly all squabble over something before flying off. We saw between 50 and a 100 of these each day, the first spotted before picking up the hire car at the airport. The rasping Jay-like sounds become a real part of the mood of the place.

Here is the whole list of all the birds seen in the seven days we were there. Species in bold were lifers for me (ten in all - I added Iberian Green Woodpecker thank to Seth Gibson) and those underlined were seen from the accommodation:

Little Grebe
Cattle Egret - everywhere!
Little Egret
Grey Heron
White Stork - everywhere!
Glossy Ibis - (two flocks of around 50 birds flew over airport, never saw them again!)
Spoonbill - two flew over
Flamingo - seen from the plane and later in flight
Griffon Vulture - several with the two species below in Castro Verde
Black Vulture - two juveniles (one fighting with below)
Spanish Imperial Eagle - one juvenile
Short-toed Eagle
Booted Eagle
Red Kite
Black Kite
Marsh harrier
Montagu's Harrier
Lesser Kestrel - in Castro Verde
Red-legged Partridge
Great Bustard - two families in Castro Verde
Black-winged Stilt
Little Ringed Plover
Ringed Plover
Kentish Plover
Grey Plover
Knot - one
Common Sandpiper
Black-tailed Godwit
Bar-tailed Godwit
Black-headed Gull
Yellow-legged Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Little Tern
Sandwich Tern
Feral Pigeon
Wood Pigeon
Collared Dove
Turtle Dove - one in the National Forest
Tawny Owl
Barn Owl - one dead by road in Castro Verde
Little Owl
Scops Owl
Red-necked Nightjar
Pallid Swift
Hoopoe - only saw three, one in the garden
Roller - about 30 in Castro Verde
Iberian Green Woodpecker
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - one family in the national forest
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Crested Lark
Thekla Lark
Red-rumped swallow
House Martin
Spanish Wagtail
Rufous Bush Robin
Stonechat - only in Castro Verde
Blue Rock Thrush - one male in Tavira
Sardinian Warbler
Fan-tailed Warbler
Great Tit
Blue Tit
Short-toed Treecreeper
Woodchat Shrike
Iberian Grey Shrike
Azure-winged Magpie
Magpie - quite uncommon
Crow - uncommon, only seen in Castro Verde
Raven - one pair in Castro Verde
Spotless Starling
Golden Oriole - one noisy family group
House Sparrow
Corn Bunting - lots in Castro Verde

Quite a list for high summer!
There are more Golden Orioles (aka Papa Figos) in this photo than I have ever seen before!

Bee-eaters are everywhere!

White Storks are ten-a-penny.

So are these leggy mates or Black-winged Stilts as i call them.

Roller was probably the most sought after bird but they provided disappointing views, often being flighty or frustratingly far away. This was the only shot I managed thinking I'd get better ones later but then they all disappeared! They look like they're made of Play Dough!

I've also never seen so many Red-rumped Swallows, they're everywhere!

I'm not sure what the highlight was. Seeing a Black Vulture fight a Spanish Imperial Eagle in the air with Black Kite and Griffon Vulture was probably the most intense. Seconds later, they all completely vanished!

However, I think the encounter with the Red-necked Nightjar was the most memorable. On the day we arrived I played a recording of the song online as I knew it sounded different to Nightjar but didn't know how different. I was amazed just how different it was. I awoke at 5.45 am, it was mostly still dark. From the balcony looking towards this hill was the unmistakable sound of Red-necked Nightjar! It was a few miles away though and I really don't know if I would have picked up on it if I hadn't listened to it the day before.

So on the last night we climbed the hill at dusk. Saw an impressive green flash, the ISS and an Iridium flare. But best of all, prolonged and point blank views of Red-necked Nightjar!

We climbed the hill on the last morning and there at the top was this feather. Not only is this a Red-necked Nightjar feather but it's one of the few feathers that can identify it as it shows the paler shoulder compared to that of Nightjar. I would love to go back to Portugal, I could imagine the spring being out of this world and the autumn raptor migration must be amazing! The highlight of the whole trip was not a bird though. That will have to wait for another day...

27/07/17 UPDATE: Thanks to Seth I realised I had a tenth new bird, Iberian Green Woodpecker. I had heard what I assumed were Green Woodpeckers from the accommodation all week but found it odd that I had not even caught a glimpse of one in flight. On the evening we saw the nightjars, I finally got a glimpse of male and was surprised at how much red it had on its face and how dark it was underneath. I also thought they sounded different, a little higher-pitched. I wonder if they are also a little shier? I heard one Green Woodpecker back here and immediately looked up and saw it fly. These birds were far from obvious in flight, often calling from one bush only to be heard from another nearby without being seen in flight.

2 Response to "Iberian Lyons"

Gibster Says:

Your Green Woody will be the Iberian Green Woodpecker Picus sharpei, been split now. You dirty rotten armchair ticker ;)

Graeme Lyons Says:

Ooh, that's exciting. Thanks Seth, there's a story there too to add in when I get a chance...

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