25th to 30th May 2016 - Portugal

After a great weekend in Madrid for a friend's birthday, we flew to Portugal for a week away. The first couple of days were spent in Porto and Lisbon being tourists (eating lots of seafood and drinking lots of port and vinho verde). It was then time for some proper holiday activities - birding!

On the first day, we navigated Lisbon roads (eep!) to head to Paul de Barroca. It was a great first stop, with a variety of species, including Spoonbill, Purple Heron and plenty of Stonechat. After about half an hour we spotted a bright yellow bird and after further investigation discovered it was a Black-headed Weaver, our first lifer of the trip. A second soon followed as we heard and saw our first of many Zitting Cisticola of the trip. For some reason I had expected them to be larger than they are, they're very short and stubby! A great final bird for the location was a flypast Little Bittern.

Black-headed Weaver
It was then on to the Sítio das Hortas for the afternoon. There was a distinct lack of the waders we were expecting, but we had our first (again of many!) views of Azure-winged Magpie, a bird I was incredibly excited about seeing. It is such a gorgeous bird. We also had our first Hoopoe for the trip, Stuart's favourite bird.

A couple of other sites were visited in the evening, but none produced very much apart from pretentious photos for Instagram. Ha.

The next day we were going down to the Algarve and so did a bit of birding in the Parque de Arrabida before we hit the motorway. It wasn't overly productive, but after many many attempts in different countries, we eventually saw our first Blue Rock Thrush! It was quite far away, but what a gorgeous colour.

Little Bittern
We were staying close to Albufeira, which happens to be close to the amazing Lagoa dos Salgados and this is where we spent the evening. In an hour with not much moving around, we managed a list of nearly 40, which I thought was pretty decent. There were Greater Flamingo, Black-winged Stilt and the first Purple Swamphen of the trip. Bee-eater were flying around making their cute burbling noises and a lone Dunlin was hanging out with some Avocet. We weren't expecting it, but Alpine Swift were fairly numerous and three Glossy Ibis flew behind the lake.

Greater Flamingo
The next day it was time to explore more of the Algarve, mainly the Western part around Sagres. At Cabo de Sao Vicente we attempted some seawatching, but all that we could see going past were a lot of Gannet with their young. However, on the rocks was a lifer, Rock Dove. Yup, never seen one before! Elsewhere around the point were Black Redstart, Sardinian Warbler and a pair of Chough. A long lunch was then taken and followed by a gentle drive around the neighbouring area. Here we had two lifers at practically the same time, Red-rumped Swallow and Pallid Swift. Having not seen either before, we had worried they would be so subtly different from the ones we're used to that it would be hard to distinguish them, but that definitely isn't the case! The rest of the evening until sunset was spent wandering around Quinta da Rocha. Here I had my first ever Woodchat Shrike (Stuart saw one in the UK a couple of years ago) and there were plenty of other species we were getting used to seeing.

Little Owl
Saturday was spent with the wonderful Rui Eufrásia, a day organised by Joao Ministro, who in turn was recommended by Georg Schreier. We spent the day in the Alentejo region, looking for a few of the specialities that we really wanted to see. The first target was Lesser Kestrel and we were not disappointed, seeing many in the Castro Verde region. A second lifer was entirely unexpected, a pair of Gull-billed Tern that flew past whilst we were sheltering from a downpour.

 Once the rain had stopped, we carried on with our day and almost straight away saw Calandra Lark, a chunky lark.  I thoroughly enjoyed hearing Quail whilst watching the larks and heard many more throughout the day!  We made a stop off to find Black-eared Wheatear and were successful nearly immediately, seeing both male and female, beautiful birds.  Whilst scanning a small pool, we had our first views of Griffon Vulture drifting over.  The next stop was at a colony of Spanish Sparrow, there were hundreds of birds there and the noise was incredible!  The next unexpected sight was a falcon coming towards us - a small amount of confusion before Rui realised it was a Red-footed Falcon!  Not that common a bird in Southern Portugal, so a great one to see.  The last two lifers before lunch were Short-toed Lark and amazing huge Black Vulture.

We had a wonderful lunch, then carried on with our birding day.  The afternoon started very well with a Short-toed Eagle lifer and carried on with the raptor lifers with Bonelli's Eagle and Spanish Imperial Eagle.  Amazing!  We were seeing lots of Black Kite over and it was interesting to see them a lot closer and for longer than any previous times.  

White Stork and baby!
Moving on, we were looking for some bustards.  We'd heard the smaller of the two making its amusing noise earlier in the day but not seen it.  It was proving quite hard to find any, possibly because of it being so windy that they were hunkering down out of sight in the long grass.  However, Rui eventually found some Great Bustard, swiftly followed by Stuart spotting a lone Little Bustard (although we could hear plenty more calling around us).  Very exciting!  

We finished the day with Rui with two more amazing lifers, 2 pairs of Rufous Bush Robin and a cute Black-winged Kite. Rui was then kind enough to give us some locations for a couple of other birds we were hoping to see and we ended the day with excellent views of Red-necked Nightjar (and a mahoosive bat!).
Collared Pratincole
We followed another of Rui's instructions the next morning to see another lifer, Collared Pratincole. They are just adorable. We also added another species to the trip list with a few sleeping Audouin's Gull. We were pretty exhausted by this time so we had a tasty chicken meal in Guia, then filled our mini fridge with Portuguese beer and had an excellent afternoon on the balcony of our room, comparing bird lists and watching Hoopoe, Azure-winged Magpie and a Yellow-legged Gull thinking it was a duck, all mere yards from us. Too cool.
Before our flight out the next afternoon we had a little wander around a site near Faro Airport. There were excellent views of Purple Swamphen, plenty of the stereotype of Hoopoe on a golf course and we added Great Crested Grebe to the trip list. It was a lovely ending to a great trip.

Trip list: 103
Lifers: 23