Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Altura Reservoir

For anyone visiting Castro Marim or the Tavira saltpans there is another easily accessible locality at a man-made lagoon to the east of the town of Altura.

Leave the A22 motorway at junction 17 (signposted "Monte Gordo") and travel south for 2km. At the T-junction turn right onto the EN125 and travel west for 0.5km to a roundabout and turn left (towards Altura) into the Avenida 24 de Junho - the lagoon is on the left after a couple of hundred metres. The road here is a dual carriageway so you will have to go to the first opening in the central reservation (opposite the entrance to Altura) and do a U-turn. Park with care on the grass verge. This is the west side of the lagoon which can be scanned by 'scope in the afternoon, but in the morning you will need to get onto the east side by going further north to the point where the lagoon meets the road, just after which there is a gap in the fence. Lots of dog-walkers and other "busy bodies" who will come to see what you are doing. I drove through the gap in the fence intending to use the jeep as a hide but was immediately pounced upon by an irate Portuguese man on a motorbike waving his arms and shouting "Privado" - I retreated.

I first visited this locality after learning that a Crested Coot (Fulica cristata) had been seen there in October 2006 with a group of 400 Common Coot. There were also a number of Ferruginous Ducks amongst a variety of other duck species. A more recent visit produced 31 Mediterranean Gulls with large numbers of commoner gull species.

It is probably best to visit at high tide since this lagoon is only a short distance from the sea and is clearly used as a high tide roost. I have the feeling that this could be a very productive site with more frequent observation.

Alpine Accentor 2007

For a long time the Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris) was one of our "bogie" birds. I had had glimpses at Foia (around the horrible cafe complex) and we knew that they occurred overwintering around the cliffs at Cape St Vincent. After many fruitless hours watching the sea cliffs to the north and south of the Cape it was Roger Skan who (in a state of "high excitement") found three birds feeding on the cliff edge in 2004. Since then we have seen them regularly and managed to also get this as a "lifer" for Jim Winsper, but the birds were always distant and moving very quickly making photography impossible.

On 30th December 2006 Peter Dedicoat, June Taylor and Georg Schreier found five birds feeding around the cliff top and Peter managed a good digiscoped shot. On 13th January this year Roger and I found two birds adjacent to the car-park at Cape St Vincent but two huge coach-loads of noisy Spanish tourists disturbed them. Eventually the "Espanols " departed, the birds returned and were very confiding, and I at last managed to get some good shots just before another coach-load of Germans arrived and walked between me and the birds!!