Tuesday, April 20, 2010


If Woodchat Shrikes are the indicators that Spring is here (see previous post), the arrival of Bee-eaters to me suggests that Summer is not far behind; the day-long "trilling" call of these gorgeous birds is one of the pleasures of living in the Algarve.

I heard and saw my first Bee-eater on 27th March this year which is rather early for western Algarve (first week in April is more normal).

Many of the established nesting colonies near me have been destroyed by this winter's torrential rain with the low earth banks with nest holes collapsing due to water-logging.

The bird in these photos, and its mate, were photographed on 5th April while they were excavating a new nest hole on the edge of my land (the earth on its bill is clearly visible). Since then the weather has deteriorated again and we have had torrential rain, hail, thunder and strong winds. The birds appear to have abandoned their new home.

This really is the worst winter I can ever remember here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Sign of Spring

The winter of 2009/2010 has been the worst on record here in Algarve. We have had lower temperatures, heavier rain and stronger winds in previous years but this winter we have had a miserable three months of continuous rain.

For me, the indication that "spring is here" is the arrival of the Woodchat Shrikes. I saw my first one this year on 3rd March which is a few days later than usual, and they appear to be present in lower numbers than previous years.

In previous years I have had a pair nesting in a Pomegranate hedge in my garden and one or both birds arrived on 28th February every year except in a "Leap Year" when they arrived on the 29th!!! Regrettably, they have not been here for the past two years.

This female actually perched on my shoulder for a few seconds whilst I was working in the garden  -  total magic.
One Good "Tern" Deserves Another!

The very heavy rain in the early part of this year has meant that the water coming down from the mountains via the Odeaxere and Alvor rivers has been the colour of hot-chocolate and made fishing in the Ria de Alvor very difficult for species which hunt on "sight".

An over-wintering Osprey was reduced to running around in shallow water chasing very small fish because he simply could not see his usual prey of Grey Mullet and Sea Bass.

One of a dozen or so Caspian Terns was very resourceful: I saw it hovering over a group of Cormorants which were feeding communally in a loose circle and diving simultaneously to feed on their "corral" of small fish. As the water "boiled" with escaping fish the tern dived in to take advantage.