A trip to Portugal (11-23 to 11-30-2008)

Just a few fix from a great trip. The first three are a Hoopoe at Quinta do Lago.

hoopoe12

hoopoe31

hoopoe21

The next 2 are Greater Flamingos from Castro Marim.

flamingo11

flamingo21

Finally, a poor shot of a Kingfisher. There are so skiddish.

kingfisher1

Here the full report with all the gory details:

Southern Portugal 11-22 to 11-30-2008:
======================================

Stefan Schlick
Hillsboro, OR, USA
greenfant@hotmail.com

1. Itinerary

11-22: Flight to Lisbon
11-23: Arrive at 8am; bird Tejo Estuary near Alcochete and Samouco; then bird Sado Estuary around Aguas de Moura; drive to Albufeira; overnight at Choromar Apartments
11-24: Drive to Sagres early and bird there all day; drive back to Lisbon late; stay at Recidential Princesa
11-25 to 11-26: Explore Lisbon, Belem and Sintra; only very little birding
11-27: Drive to Quinto do Lago early in the morning and bird there all day; overnight in Faro at Best Western Dom Bernardo
11-28: Drive up to Castro Verde early morning and bird the lower Alentejo (N123 to Mertola) with a quick side trip to the mine at Santana de Cambas NE of Mertola; drive back south to Castro Marim area; overnight at Quinta da Rosa Linda in Vila Real de San Antonio
11-29: Bird Castro Marim all day; drive back to to Castro Verde; overnight at Aparthotel do Castro
11-30: Drive back to Lisbon for a 10:30am flight back home

2. References

-A Birdwatcher’s Guide to Portugal and Madeira by Moore, Elias and Costa (1997 Prion)
-Online trip reports  
-Lonely Planet’s guide to Portugal

3. General stuff

– Car rental through holiday autos (cheap and good)
– Toll from Lisbon to the Algarve (where A2 ends) is about 18 Euros. The highways are in great shape and there is no traffic. The A22 is not a toll highway.
– Temperature was mostly below average with moderate to high winds
– Trip Species: 124

4. Day-by-day highlights and comments

11-23: The first stop of the trip was the Tejo access at Samouco. Once in town coming from Alcochete, veer to the NE – that should get you there. There, I had the only Oystercatchers of the trip and my first Flamingos. The area described as Alcochete in Moore et al was somewhat disappointing. It is a vast area, so I’m sure with a litte bit of time you can get some good birds at that spot. After about 3 hours at the Tejo, I ventured over to the Sado. The road to Zambujal was fantastic (access at around MM54 off N10 east of Setubal), load of birds, including my only Glossy Ibises of the trip. The access road (sandy track) about 5km south of Aguas de Moura was good, but there were hunters and I had the feeling that the area was private property. The road
also does not go through to Pinheiro, but ends after only a few kilometers at a couple of gates.

11-24:
Highlight was the Eleonora Falcon at the Sagres Fortaleza early in the morning. Blue Rock Thrush was easy there as well. Of about 2.5hrs of seawatching, all I could get on were 4 Balearic Shearwaters
 and 4 Great Skuas. It was frustratingly slow. I completely missed Red-billed Chough – they just weren’t there. The spot for the Golden-Plovers was near the first farm along the road north signed as “Praias”, this is only about 1-2km in. I parked the car and walked west. Late in the day I stopped at Pera Marsh. Good spot, looks like the Spoonbills are still guaranteed there.

11-25: It was amazing that the Castelo de Sao Jorge was full of small birds early in the morning (it wasn’t that early; they open at 9am and it is 5 Euros to get in; there were NO people at all). Scanning the shoreline from the castelo, I noticed a large gathering of gulls just off the Praca de Comercio
. Probably worth a stop when you are doing city stuff. Another spot with a lot of gulls is the park across from Mosteiro dos Jerónimos in Belem.

11-26: Bring your bins when heading out to Sintra. It is very green and the hike up to the Castelo dos Mouros is rewarding. I had a Long-tailed Tit mixed in with the other regulars. The 270-degree view at the Castelo dos Mouros makes for some good hawkwatching.

11-27: Overall, my day at Quinta do Lago was disappointing. Even though there was a soaring Booted Eagle, I could not get an ID on a small kestrel disappearing quickly over the wooded sections of the golf course. Not being familiar with the call of the Cetti’s Warbler, I could not pull one out with certainty as my ipod earphones had suddenly vanished. You want to time it right to be at the lagoon at low tide. There still is a guard watching over the cars in the parking lot. To get to the pond and the hide, take the trail to the east. Don’t neglect the beach itself as there can be large gull flocks and also some shorebirds.

11-28: The highlight on this great day were the 13 Great Bustard off N123. Magnificent birds indeed. I had 3 sightings of Black-bellied Sandgrouse in the Bustard Refuge. Be prepared to see these birds in flight only as they are almost impossible to spot even in a plowed field. I flushed 2 birds while walking around a drainage within the refuge. Be prepared to hike around a little bit for them. The Bustard Refuge is on the south side of N123 just opposite the village of San Marcos da Ataboeira. There are 2 green gates, the easternmost one was most productive. The gates were open when I arrived, but I noticed that they were closed later at around 4pm. This was on a Friday. Amazing also for me was the Little Owl just before sunrise. This little bird was really aggravated when he saw me looking at him. He did several push-ups, before I was just too much for him to handle and then flew off. The side trip to the mine east of Mertola described in Moore was well worth it, not only for the vulture kettle near Alves that had at least 4 Griffons in. About the other birds I can only speculate. To get to the mine from Santana de Cambas, follow the “Minas” sign in the village and proceed on a well-drivable dirt road down and up to the mine area. I was hoping for Rock Bunting there, but didn’t see any. On my hike up the tallest hill with ruins on it, I found a couple of relatively cooperating Dartford Warblers. I did stop at the Convento de San Francisco in Mertola – looks like there really are no Lesser Kestrels there in the winter.

11-29: Castro Marim is well worth the trip. Great place! I was really surprised to see 9 (!) Ruff that day. 4 Spotted Redshank together in a little flock were also unexpected. The best area was the saltworks access for sector C (this is off 125-6 near a bridge). For best viewing, barely enter the gate of the salt plant and stay on the levee walking generally towards Monte Gordo. After only walking about 150m, I entered gull nirvana. There were 100s of Mediterranean Gulls and 1 Audouin’s. Walking just a little further, I left gull nirvana and eased into shorebird nirvana. There was even a flock of Golden-Plovers on a plowed field away from the saltpans. I looked hard for Stone-Curlew at several spots, but there were none. Little Bustards eventually flew into the area just north of Vila Real de SA. I was briefly fooled by the fact that Birds of Europe by Killarney at al was not showing the male in winter plumage. Leave Vila Real north on N122 and pull over at the first pullout after the bridge (there should be some tracks). Then scan the area to the east, the birds were on higher ground, i.e. don’t look in the salicornia for them. Also, check this area at the end of the day, as the lighting will be perfect then. The southwestern access point for sector C is still just west of the gas station. You will have to climb over a rusty gate. The walk on the cake-like muddy trail towards the airstrip was worth every penny: It yielded 2 Slender-billed Gulls floating on the Carraqueira, visible from the railroad crossing. The northern (Monte Francisco) access for sector A was disappointing except for the first few pools. This road has recently been regraded and is in an excellent shape even when it’s rainy. It ends at a visitor center (or something like that) – I didn’t go in. I walked off to the SE from there; wasn’t worth it. I also missed Lesser Short-toed Lark completely being unprepared about how there calls go.

5. Species Accounts: Note that the locations of the sightings use the terminology from Moore, Elias and Costa.
   
Red-legged Partridge – 8 off the road to Salto off N123, 1 in Bustard Reserva Biologica, 8
off the road between Castro Verde and Santa Barbara de Padroes; ~10 flushed out of wooded area at saltworks entrance in sector C – Castro Marim  
Greylag Goose – 3 at SW entrance in sector C – Castro Marim; several in the distance off Alcochete access in Tejo Estuary  
Gadwall – Many at Quinta Do Lago and Castro Marim
Eurasian Wigeon – 100s on Tejo off Samouco; a few at each Quinta do Lago and Castro Marim
Mallard
Northern Shoveler – Quinta Do Lago and Castro Marim
Northern Pintail – Quinta Do Lago and Castro Marim
Common Teal – Quinta Do Lago and Castro Marim
Red-crested Pochard – 2 pairs at Quinta Do Lago
Common Pochard – A few at Quinta Do Lago
Tufted Duck – 2 at Quinta Do Lago  
Eurasian Hoopoe – Common everywhere in the Algarve; 3 at mine at Santana de Cambas east of Mertola;  
Common Kingfisher – 1 at Quinta Do Lago; 2 at saltworks entrance in sector C – Castro Marim 
Little Owl – 1 on pole in the outskirts of Castro Verde on the road towards Mertola   
Rock Dove 
Eurasian Collared-Dove   
Little Bustard – 8 on southern access trail of sector B just north of Vila Real de SA – Castro Marim
Great Bustard – 13 off N123 near pole 402   
Water Rail – 1 near blind at Quinta do Lago
Purple Swamphen – many at Quinta do Lago and Pera Marsh
Common Moorhen
Common Coot
Black-bellied Sandgrouse – 2 twice and another 4 at Bustard Refuge
Common Snipe – 1 at Pera Marsh, 2 at Castro Marim, 2 at Quinta do Lago 
Black-tailed Godwit – good numbers off the road to Zambujal – Sado Estuary, at Quinta do Lago and Castro Marim
Bar-tailed Godwit – ~15 at Tejo access at Samouco; a few at Quinta do Lago
Whimbrel – 2 at Quinta do Lago
Eurasian Curlew – A few at Quinta do Lago
Spotted Redshank – 4 at the first couple of pools at Monte Francisco access at sector A – Castro Marim
Common Redshank – Common everywhere in suitable habitat
Common Greenshank – 2 at the first couple of pools at Monte Francisco access at sector A – Castro Marim; 1 at Quinta do Lago
Green Sandpiper – 1 down a dirt road off N123 just east of San Marcos da Ataboeira
Common Sandpiper – A few a Quinta do Lago, Pera Marsh and Castro Marim
Ruddy Turnstone – Several at Tejo access at Samouco, Quinta do Lago and Castro Marim
Sanderling – Several at Tejo access at Samouco, Vila do Bispo beach, Pera Marsh and Quinta do Lago
Little Stint – ~10 off the road to Zambujal – Sado Estuary; ~15 at Castro Marim at several spots   
Dunlin – Common in suitable habitat
Curlew Sandpiper – 4 at saltworks entrance in sector C – Castro Marim  
Ruff – 4 at the first couple of pools at Monte Francisco access at sector A – Castro Marim; 5 along the road to saltworks entrance in sector C – Castro Marim
Eurasian Oystercatcher – 12 at Tejo access at Samouco
Black-winged Stilt – Several off the road to Zambujal – Sado Estuary, Quinta do Lago; many at saltworks entrance in sector C – Castro Marim
Pied Avocet – Several off the road to Zambujal – Sado Estuary; many at saltworks entrance in sector C – Castro Marim
European Golden-Plover – ~50 in field north of Cape St. Vincent (take the road signed Praias north to the first farm; then walk west); ~20 in field near saltworks entrance in sector C – Castro Marim; ~25 in a plowed field along the road between Castro Verde and Santa Barbara de Padroes
Grey Plover – Common in suitable habitat
Common Ringed Plover – Common in suitable habitat
Kentish Plover – Common in suitable habitat
Northern Lapwing – Common in suitable habitat including Pera Marsh and Castro Marim 
Great Skua – 4 off Cape St Vincent 
Audouin’s Gull – 1 adult at saltworks entrance in sector C – Castro Marim
Yellow-legged Gull – Common near Sagres, otherwise present in small numbers
Lesser Black-backed Gull – Common everywhere
Black-headed Gull
Slender-billed Gull – 2 floating on Carrasqueira accessed from the SW entrance in sector C – Castro Marim
Mediterranean Gull – 1 at Quinta do Lago; 100s at saltworks entrance in sector C – Castro Marim  
Caspian Tern – 2 at Pera Marsh   
Sandwich Tern – A few at Tejo access at Samouco, Quinta do Lago and Castro Marim 
Little Tern – ~10 off bridge just north of Vila Real de SA – Castro Marim; a few more at saltworks entrance in sector C – Castro Marim    
Osprey – 1 off Alcochete access in Tejo Estuary   
Black-winged Kite – 3 along A2 in the Alentejo in the evening; 1 of the Alcochete toll station along A12; 2 along the N2 between Castro Verde and Almodovar  
Red Kite – ~10 along N123 between Castro Verde and Mertola
Eurasian Griffon – 4+ in a kettle near Alves east of Mertola  
Western Marsh-Harrier – 3 in Castro Marim
Northern Harrier – 2 males along N123 between Castro Verde and Mertola
Common Buzzard  
Booted Eagle – 1 at Quinta do Lago soaring over golf course  
Common Kestrel
Eleonora’s Falcon – 1 over Fortaleza at Sagres    
Little Grebe – Many at Pera Marsh, Quinta do Lago and Castro Marim 
Great Crested Grebe – 2 at high tide in lagoon at Quinta do Lago   
Northern Gannet – Common offshore in the Sagres area; 1 offshore at Quinta do Lago
Great Cormorant
European Shag – 4 off Cape St Vincent and the Sagres Fortaleza
Little Bittern – 1 flushed off the trail near the blind at Quinta do Lago
Little Egret – Common in the right habitat
Grey Heron – Everywhere in small numbers   
Cattle Egret – Common everywhere   
Greater Flamingo – ~30 at Tejo access at Samouco; 100s at saltworks entrance in sector C – Castro Marim; ~50 at Quinta do Lago; ~20 in sector B – Castro Marim    
Glossy Ibis – 40 off the road to Zambujal – Sado Estuary  
Eurasian Spoonbill – 8 at Pera Marsh; 4 at Quinta do Lago and about 12 in sectors A and B towards the Guardiana – Castro Marim  
White Stork – Common everywhere; a few birds standing on nests; a rookery was along N2 north of Alportel 
Balearic Shearwater – 4 off Cape St. Vincent  
Southern Grey Shrike – A few birds just about everywhere  
Azure-winged Magpie – Common everywhere in the Algarve and Alentejo 
Eurasian Jay – 1 calling at Castelo dos Mouros in Sintra
Carrion Crow – Many along A2 and in the wooded portions near the Sado Estuary   
Blue Rock-Thrush – 2 at Sagres Fortaleza; 2 at mine at Santana de Cambas east of Mertola;  
Eurasian Blackbird – Common everywhere  
European Robin – Common everywhere   
Bluethroat – 1 along road to Zambujal – Sado Estuary; 2+ just east of parking lot in saltmarsh at Quinta do Lago   
Black Redstart – Common in the Algarve   
Common Stonechat – Common everywhere  
Common Starling – A large flock seen at Castro Marim on the last day
Spotless Starling – Common along N123 between Castro Verde and Mertola; common also at around Sagres   
Wood Nuthatch – 5 birds on road from Palma to Pinheiro just west of Palma – Sado Estuary    
Short-toed Tree-Creeper – 1 at Castelo Sao Jorge – Lisbon early in the morning; 1 at Castelo dos Mouros in Sintra
Winter Wren – Many near Castelo dos Mouros in Sintra   
Crested Tit – A few birds along the sandy track to Pinheiro about 5km south of Aguas de Moura – Sado Estuary 
Great Tit – A few at Castelo Sao Jorge – Lisbon early in the morning; several at Castelo dos Mouros in Sintra 
European Blue Tit – Several at Castelo dos Mouros in Sintra    
Long-tailed Tit – 1 at Castelo dos Mouros in Sintra 
Eurasian Crag-Martin – 3 at mine at Santana de Cambas east of Mertola; ~8 at SW entrance in sector C – Castro Marim 
Barn Swallow – A few at SW entrance in sector C – Castro Marim; 2 at Quinta do Lago   
Firecrest – 1 at Castelo Sao Jorge – Lisbon early in the morning    
Zitting Cisticola – Common in the Algarve; 1 at Alcochete access – Tejo Estuary   
Eurasian Chiffchaff – Common everywhere 
Blackcap – Present in small numbers in the Algarve; several in Sintra   
Sardinian Warbler – Common in the Algarve   
Dartford Warbler – 3 at mine at Santana de Cambas east of Mertola; 1 off airstrip at SW entrance in sector C – Castro Marim (all secretive)   
Calandra Lark – Common in Bustard Refuge and in sectors A and B near the Guardiana at Castro Marim (best identified by call)  
Crested Lark – Fairly common everywhere 
Thekla Lark – 5 properly identified birds on the road from Sagres to Cape St. Vincent;  
Sky Lark – Common in fields north of Sagres and at Castro Marim    
House Sparrow   
White Wagtail – Very common; sometimes in large flocks feeding on fields  
Grey Wagtail – 1 at Quinta do Lago and 1 at Alcochete access – Tejo Estuary   
Meadow Pipit – Very common along N123 between Castro Verde and at Castro Marim   
Water Pipit – A few in the fields north of Sagres  
Common Waxbill – A flock of about 15 birds just east of parking lot at Quinta do Lago    
Chaffinch – Common in cork oak forests in the Sado Estuary   
European Serin – A few at Quinta do Lago and Castro Marim   
European Greenfinch – Fairly common everywhere   
European Goldfinch – Fairly common everywhere   
Cirl Bunting – 4 in the fields along the sandy track to Pinheiro about 5km south of Aguas de Moura – Sado Estuary   
Corn Bunting – Common near Sagres, in the Alentejo and at Castro Marim

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Author: birdmeister

Obsessed with birding, I started taking a pictures in '01 after a brief personalized intro by the incomparable David LaPuma. In July '09, I acquired a Canon EOS 50D with a 100-400mm IS lens to be able to shoot the fast-moving lbjs that were so difficult before. In Dec '14, I upgraded my body to a Canon 7D Mark II and immediately noticed a big improvement. Nevertheless, I'm first and foremost a birder, then a photographer. Please note that all pictures on this site were taken by birdmeister (the owner of this site) except for where otherwise mentioned. All pictures on this site are copyrighted.

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