My first visit to Cabranosa of the Autumn proved to have some quite outstanding sightings today. A check on the Vale Santo area before Cabranosa revealed the resident Little Owls are still occupying the old farm buildings.
Around the farm were the usual Linnets, a few Spotless Starlings, 2 Yellow Wagtails and a Corn Bunting flew through.
The local Red-billed Chough flock appeared, very vocal as usual and numbering around 40 birds.
The pines below Cabranosa were busier with small migrants than I remember last year. The trees held plenty of flycatchers, both Pied and Spotted. Subalpine Warblers were noticeable too.
1st w Pied Flycatcher
I joined two of the Portuguese watchers at the Watchpoint and learned that a good number of raptors had already shown up including, 2 Spanish Imperial Eagles, 8 Honey Buzzards, 2 Ospreys and several other species.
For some reason, the raptors today were extremely high up, many of them, mere specks in the sky and regrettably my photos will reflect that. My first encounter was a young Egyptian Vulture which seemed to attract other birds to it. Sometimes in company with Booted Eagles, then a couple of Short-toed Eagles.
juv Egyptian Vulture
I counted 17 Booted Eagle and 7 Short-toed Eagle during my stay, together with 4 Osprey, 2 Common Buzzard and a Peregrine.
A good sighting was a thermal of around 40 Black Kite with Booted Eagles, 1 Osprey and 2 juvenile Black Storks.
Osprey followed by juv Bonelli's Eagle.
juv Bonelli's Eagle, possibly 2nd year bird with dark carpal patches.
This image shows the juv Bonelli's Eagle (top) and a pale Booted Eagle (below right). An adult Bonelli's Eagle is approaching from the left and what happened next was quite astounding.
The adult Bonelli's struck the Booted Eagle and tangled with it for a while until, securely captured, it carried its prey down to the forest ahead of us and was lost in the trees.
The juvenile watches as the adult Bonelli's strikes the Booted Eagle.
Joined by a second juvenile, the adult (bottom) begins to fly off with the Booted Eagle in its talons. As I said earlier, all this was going on at a considerable height but it was clear to see what was happening. I haven't witnessed anything like it in large raptors, but it clearly happens!
Migration among mainly juveniles will continue here at Sagres for the next couple of months. The Sagres Bird Festival runs from 4th to 8th Oct this year, during which time, there will be seawatching from boats and shore, raptor watching here, and ringing demonstrations at various sites.
Conveniently near the apartment, a breath-taking walk along the cliffs in the direction of Luz will take around an hour.
It's a good idea to keep one eye on the path as you go - we don't do fences, notice-boards, wardens and entry times out here. The Atlantic stretches from East to West and passing Gannets are frequently offshore.
Looking towards Luz.
Along the cliff edge, there are many House Martins and Red-rumped Swallows in the air, probably breeding here, judging by the number of juveniles. One Alpine Swift literally whizzed past me on the path and as I turned around, he was almost gone and not seen again.
The bare, stony track was beginning to show signs of Autumn migration with 1st winter Northern Wheatears found along the way in small numbers.
The House Martins and swallows took to a frantic flight as this female Sparrowhawk hunted the clifftop. It had a strangely uniform grey head, maybe just a variation.
Away from the cliff, tracks run here and there through an area scattered with myrtle bushes, tamarisk trees and small pines. In the bushes I soon found a few Chiffchaffs and a nice Whinchat.
I must have seen at least three Hoopoes pass through the bushes.
Best find was probably this Sub-alpine Warbler as a change to all the Sardinian Warblers flitting about.
Back on the cliff top, a Common Buzzard was seen out at sea and remained there for some time before returning to land.
Arrived in temperatures just over 30 degrees and a little time was required settling in to the Algarve climate, which has been hot and completely without rain for months now. The familiar countryside is now a golden brown throughout, after relentless high temperatures.
This morning was much fresher, still with cloudless sky. A 'cold' Northerly wind was given as a weather warning and in fact, through the night the strength had increased to near gale-force.
The first point of call was the harbour at Sagres as I thought there could be some sheltering seabirds. It proved not to be the case, around 100 Yellow-legged Gull, 1 Lesser Black-backed and a Common Sandpiper accounted for the birds braving the wind.
Sagres harbour during lunch!
After lunch, the temperature was 22C and the wind still blowing hard. The Peninsula was going to be difficult and probably unproductive in these conditions but, I decided to start around the farm fields at Vale Santo. Previous experience told me to find a field with the shortest vegetation and start looking for a Tawny Pipit.
I was lucky, as there wasn't a bird flying, I found this Tawny Pipit keeping well down after a short search.
Only Linnets, Goldfinches and two Yellow Wagtails showed on the ground, even the farm's Little Owls had their heads down today. Two Booted Eagles remained stationary in the wind, towards Cabranosa in the East.
Another piece of luck was encountering this Short-toed Eagle perched by the roadside. The images clearly show the feathers being battered in the wind, as it held on to the pylon. It looks like an adult, judging by the heavy barring on the breast.
Hope the wind drops tomorrow and I get to grips with the super bright conditions!!
In the coming days, I'm getting ready for my Winter birding in the Algarve once more. In September and October I hope to spend much of my time on the Sagres peninsula, down to Cape St. Vincent. Together with the Portuguese recorders, I hope to document much of the raptor migration during this period and, hopefully find a much sought after Ruppell's Vulture.
Once the migration is over, it's time to relax and take in the unspoilt expanse of Southern Portugal. Until I get set up there, I'll leave a few images of last Winter.
I had just walked into the front garden when I heard the unmistakable 'yaffle' of a Green Woodpecker. Looking in the road, I saw it perched low down in a cherry tree, no more than 20 metres away. I sprinted inside for my camera and managed one shot, before it flew off to a higher tree some distance away.
Closer inspection showed it to be a juvenile female Green Woodpecker. An excellent record in our cul-de-sac!
A light South-Easterly wind and drizzle along the coast sounded quite promising for some new bird arrivals this morning. Drizzle there certainly was and quite murky early on.
At Kilnsea Wetlands, good numbers of Dunlin were around the hide and I soon picked out a Little Stint among them.
Yesterday's Red-necked Phalarope wasn't apparent at this time, 4 Greenshank were noted including this one close to the hide.
No Little Gulls and few Terns about this morning however, there were Mediterranean Gulls in several locations.
Along Easington Straight a juvenile Marsh Harrier hunted over the fields, 2 Kestrels, a Sparrowhawk and this Common Buzzard were in the same area.
The skies brightened towards midday, but there was little evidence of fresh arrivals. Lesser Whitethroat and several Willow Warblers were seen, along with damp Reed and Sedge Warblers near the canal.
4 Whinchat were on the fencing in Walker Butts Field.
I turned my attention to finding the juvenile Rose-coloured Starling which has been frequenting Kilnsea gardens in the last few days. The local Starling flock numbers many hundreds at the moment and I did see it early on, perched on power lines with 40 or so Starlings, in the drizzle at the Wetlands.
I was more fortunate later on, to find the young Eastern vagrant, fly on to wires close to where I was searching. The short (compared to Starling) bill which is yellowy showed well at close range, along with the grey juvenile plumage.
I had it in mind to catch up with two particular species this morning. Firstly, an opportunity to get close to Little Gulls as they roost annually during August, at Hornsea Mere.
When I arrived, there were twenty two gulls, mostly adults moulting to winter plumage.
A truly smart gull with its short black bill and red legs. The black spot behind the ear is typical of the change to winter plumage but the pinkish hue underneath is leftover from summer.
On the banks of the Mere, two Common Sandpipers were found and the shoreline bushes still held a small number of warblers.
.... and a skulking Reed Warbler.
My second target this morning was a Spotted Flycatcher, not a numerous bird in East Yorkshire by any means. It wasn't too long before I came across one, in nearby woodland. Careful searching gave me three different individuals and all were keeping high up in the trees.
Also in the woodland were a Treecreeper, 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker and a flock of 6 Mistle Thrushes was unusual.
A short journey this morning to see the male Common Redstart which has been present for the last few days, feeding along the North Hedge.
The hedgerow was lively with other feeding migrants, including Reed Warblers, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Whitethroat and Blackcaps. Also the juvenile Green Woodpecker flew in briefly.
I began the month with the stunning adult White-winged Black Tern and, as the month ends, a juvenile bird has spent the last few days at Far Ings in North Lincs.
A quick trip across the river and I was meeting up with old friends from both sides of the Humber Bridge, at a lake known as Pursuit Pit.
The Tern wasn't at all obliging for quite a while, resting on the edge of the reedbed among Lapwings. It became more energetic later and began feeding, mostly in the middle area of the pit which is rather distant. Two or three times, it returned to the reedbed on the far side of the lake and that was where I was able to catch up with it.
It is assumed that this is the same juvenile White-winged Black Tern, as the one seen at Kilnsea Wetlands on 26th July.
A good sighting at my small feeding station this morning, came in the form of two young Bullfinches. I've seen both male and female pass through on occasions or heard them flying over. I would imagine it's likely they have bred quite locally.
The male made an appearance within a few minutes too.
Not the best shots through modern 1" thick double glazing!!
Throughout the summer, I've only had 3 Swifts around here and, attempted some flight shots the other evening before they leave.
Quite a challenge when they're screaming about.
One of the local Common Buzzards was taking it steadier. There are a few pairs between here and the Humber Bridge now.
I'm getting to know a few of them, this one has lost/moulted a P5 primary on each wing and I sometimes see it with its mate.
Just to be different, I had a Woodpigeon build a nest (of about five twigs!) in the wisteria, and today noticed two little heads beside the parent. It's not often you see a fledgling Woodpigeon!
This morning's sun showed the lilies off beautifully and the agapanthus are like exploding fireworks!
The vineyard is coming along nicely too, although I'm not holding much hope for a case of wine in this climate!!