Monday, 7 March 2011


Driving towards Castro Verde, perched above the plains that surround it, you would be forgiven for thinking it a boring little town, but once you explore the streets you will find old Portuguese architecture, houses of the merchant class, all beautiful, some tiled, shades of faded glory in bygone days. An old Basilica Real with blue and white tiles depicting the battle in 1139, when Alfonso Henriques defeated the Moors.

This area is hugely important to the birds of the steppe, Great and Little Bustards, Black bellied Sandgrouse, Lesser Kestrel, Stone Curlew, and many more. The reason they breed here is because the traditional farming methods have been preserved and agriculture changes elsewhere have forced a huge decline in their populations. The LPN here manage 1,700 hectares of biodiversity reserves for their conservation, we are hopeful to see some of them!

Full of expectation we cycle off to the LPN reserve, just North of Castro Verde, and see not a lot, yes there are days like this! apart from a very obliging Red Kite and some beautiful Lesser Kestrels, making ready to nest, but where oh where are the Bustards! On the way back we spot two Great Spotted Cuckoos, unfortunately they spot us first!

Red Kite.

Another day dawns and Mike ventures forth alone in search and is rewarded with the sight of about 200 Little Bustards, Stone Curlews and Great Spotted Cuckoos.

Great Spotted Cuckoo.

Corn Bunting.

In case you all think birding is a rather soft option, Mike ventured forth once more and on hearing Stone Curlews calling, climbed over a fence, with bike, to find that it was electrified, but strode on manfully across the field, on a mission, to find the reason for the rather strong fences... an enormous bull, snorting and pawing the ground, Stone Curlews forgotten, a very painful exit is made via the electric fence by  our intrepid team, one of which was safely back at base camp!

Southern Festoon Butterfly.

Swallow Tail Butterfly.

Forgotten our Moth book, help needed please!

We have seen so many butterflies and caterpillars here, all so beautiful and so diverse and in such huge numbers, because no pesticides are used here.

Little Bustards, at last!!

We set off together to an old deserted farm in search of the Little Bustards and crawling on hands and knees, carefully, we peered over a grassy hill to see at last, Little Bustards, which we were able to photograph, at long distance, just as luck would have it, some Common Cranes flew over and put them to flight!

Female Lesser Kestrel.

Male Lesser Kestrel

Walking to the old ruined farm, we hid ourselves in the derelict buildings and got some excellent shots of both the male and female Lesser Kestrels ( beautiful bird)
So now we leave this very special area of steppe land and realise how very important it is for the survival of so many species and how good it is when man has not interfered with weedkillers, pesticides and modern farming methods. Nature takes over and populates every part with beautiful wild flowers, wildlife and streams covered in white flowers.

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