Monday, 22 October 2012

Black Headed Weaver birds breeding on the Algarve Portugal

In the Spring of 2012, I spent a couple of days at Vilamoura and the Ria Formosa Natural Park both on the Algarve trying to photograph these lovely little birds. Originally from Kenya they are doing well now here in Portugal. They have become quite a generality in some areas. Around the artificial lakes and golf course at Quinta de Largo walkers are often treated to a flash of yellow as these bright males fly through.    

  Male Black-Headed Weaver. 

The female black-headed Weaver.

The male bird seems to be responsible for the main nest construction.Here you can see how he has found a favoured leaf, of rush as he has already taken a previous strip maybe two, see the step in the leaf!

Here is the nest, see the way that it has been weaved using the rush stems.

The females seem to be responsible for the soft inner lining of the nest

 Nearly all the birds seen have been ringed for identification and continuity.

She has no problem in cracking open the seed head.

The male arrives to perch under the nest, you can just see the dried out remains of last years nest above.

Female watching progress at the nesting site.

The males hover under the nests communicating with the female inside.

A beautiful little bird but so hard to photograph, so low down in the rushes. 
But worth the wait!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Spring Watch on the Algave Portugal 2012 part 2

Part 2
We arrive on the Ilha de Faro southwest of the town itself. It is a good base for us, being able to cycle, walk out onto the Parque Natural de Ria Formosa. There is only one problem, yes the weather, a very strong easterly (Levante) is blowing and rain threatening clouds racing across the sky, not what you want in late March. Saturday morning we decide, despite the gloomy weather to visit the Lakes at Quinta do Lago at least we can shelter in the two storey bird watching hide! 

Not long after our arrival this pair of Purple Herons try leaving the cover of the reeds to continue their migration. The easterly wind was now so vicious they were lucky not to suffer injury before crashing back into the reeds.

Purple Heron

Wood Chat Shrike

The wind just continued to blow during that last week of March, blowing lots of migratory birds off their normal routes. Early on one of these mornings I counted no less than twenty two Wood Chat Shrikes sitting on any conceivable perch the normal here would be two or three as they make their way up from Africa to breed in lower Europe.

On the thirtieth I had the pleasure of watching a mixed flock of Yellow wagtails, seventeen in total bathing in a left over puddle.

Probably washing off the salt after the rough crossing.

Yellow Wagtail

For us this is a first to see a Greater Crested Grebe carrying the nestling, they also carry them in flight.

Parent having a early morning snooze. 

Time for a preen as male keeps watch for unwelcome visitors.

Sorry could not resist it, Click Click!

Proud parents.

Another lovely little arrival a Bonelli's Warbler

So smart this male Black- Earded Wheatear sitting in the pouring rain (should have stayed in Africa).

Male Redstart looking splendid

Love is in the air! twenty five pairs of Common Waxbills were shading in this conifer all paired off,at times one would rest, eyes closed while the other watched for danger.

Stealthy hunter a Little Bittern female.

Now we know why we could not find the Ferruginous Duck earlier in our trip, all on holiday at Vilamoura on the Algarve. 

Sedge Warbler may be small but he can imitate one hundred and forty bird calls to impress a mate.

Squacco Heron looking magnificent in breeding colours.

Little Crake at Vilamoura

By early April good numbers of European Bee-Eaters were arriving back at their nesting sites along the Algarve.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Spring Watch on the Algarve Portugal 2012 part 1

Part 1

On the journey south to the Algarve we made a few selected stops in the hope of some nice bird 
photos.That was the hope but the weather had other ideas! the countryside and views were a pleasure.
Our first stop was at Vila Vela de Rodao to try and see a Ruppells vulture,on arrival we had trouble seeing a sparrow let alone a exotic species.

Castelo de Belver. During the time of the Moors the rio Tejo here and abouts marked 
the Portuguese border, with the Moors reclaiming most territories to the south.

Lovely historical countryside, shame about the rain.

Our destination for the day the "Portas do Radao"(Gates of Rodao)This picture taken the next morning shows the little train passing through the striking rock faces on the way down river to Abrantes.

Further up river no vultures but we chance on a lot of feeding crag martins.

Just south of Nisa we make a stop at the beautiful barragem da Povoa a haven for 
Sylvian warblers.

This little Sardinian warbler watching their nest site.

From rain to overnight heatwave as we arrive in Castro Verde the temperature has sored so much so it is now not possible for long distant photography using a large lens, as you can see it magnifies the heat haze. Unfortunately that puts an end to any more Great Bustard shots as it is nearly impossible to get near them

Walking back across the fields we pass a old farm and feel that we are being watched, then spot this Little Owl, only the head turning as we pass by.

Crested lark enjoying the sun

Cattle egret wandering through the endless wild flowers.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Northern Portugal and heading south

Late in the day we slip out of Galicia in Spain and into Portugal. Some years ago going in the opposite direction we had used the ferry boat across the rio Minho from Caminha to LaGuardia in Spain. This time it is the road straight to Ponte de Lima a charming little town built along the Rio Lima.

The riverside Alameda (promenade) at Ponte de Lima and
the Torre de Cadeia which for a time served as the towns

Early the next morning we have a lovely view of the old roman
bridge of which the town is named after.

We had heard that the bridge formed part of the military route 
from Braga to Astorga in Spain but had not expected to see a 
Roman legion about to cross!

Large bronze status adorn the town and you know kids!

We buy lovely cakes (bolos) serious business here and say
West of Ponte de Lima are the protected wetlands, Lagoas de Bertiandos e Sao Pedro de Arcos.
We stop for coffee and leave twenty four hours latter. There is a good campsite and they sell home made cider!

In truth we did not see a lot but a beautiful day for a cycle ride and walking.
Male Serin singing for a mate. 

Whilst we enthuse over our cakes this female Blackcap does the same to little Berry's.

As we walk the peaceful river walks Linda spots Lamprey swimming and then this little weasel spying on us, a good day out and about!