I have just returned from a two week ringing session in Portugal with my wife Helen and Heather Coats. We stayed at A Rocha near Alvor in the Algarve. A Rocha Portugal is involved in the study, monitoring and conservation of the Ria de Alvor which started back in the 1980's. They are devoted to scientific research and to conservation and environmental education.
The plan was to be there for the Autumn migration, ring from daybreak and finish at lunch time when the ringing slackens off. Heather has been to A Rocha annually for many years and knew the layout very well. We had eleven 60ft nets set up which were left set up but furled at the end of ringing each day. Winds from a northerly direction were needed but unfortunately they came from the south and were holding migration back. It was nice and warm though.
As expected because of the wind direction ringing was slow and remained like this throughout the first week and for most of the second week.
This bird is a Short Toed Treecreeper, my first new ringing tick. It is so similar to the Eurasian Treecreeper but has a longer bill and distinct whitish diamond shaped tips on the primaries.
The Kingfisher is one of those birds that always lifts the spirits. This female was the first of three we processed.
My second ringing tick. In fact this was the first time I had ever seen a Nightingale. It is a bird that is more often heard than seen and when in the hand is surprisingly plain looking. To the inexperienced, care has to be taken to ensure it is not a female Redstart. The obvious difference is the Redstart tail feathers are a red rusty colour with centre feathers dark and the Nightingale like the picture above.
The Waxbill a member of the finch family is a native of sub Saharan Africa but now resides in many other parts of the world with a warmer climate like Portugal. It is a bird that has been kept in captivity and its spread is partly due to birds escaping or being deliberately released.
Kingfisher number 2 a male.
This is not my first aquantence with this bird a Melodious Warbler which was quite unexpected. My first was when I was ringing on Skokholm Island off the SW coast of Wales.
The Melodious Warbler held by Guy who is a bird guide at A Rocha.
Not all birds but thought I would include this picture of this Preying Mantis. There are approximately 2000 species in the world. They feed on other insects and the female will often eat her mate.
I have photographed many Little Owls over the years but this is my third new birding tick and to photograph it at close range and to hold it in the hand was absolutely wonderful.
Every morning Little Owls were screeching before daylight, so we put the MP3 Little Owl call on, and placed it on nets 6 and 7. We were hopeful but not confident and eventually one morning on the first net round we extracted it from net 7. Those eyes!!!!!!!!
On the last week end of our stay was the IV Sagres Birding Festival. Sagres peninsula is the only place in Portugal where soaring birds can be observed It was organised by SPEA (Portugese Society for the Study of Birds) catering for the young and old alike. Of particular interest to me was the soaring birds and bird ringing. The male Redstart above was caught and ringed at Sagres by the A Rocha Bird Ringing Group who spent everyday of the festival doing Ringing Demonstrations which was well attended..