This tour first stop was on a complex of abandoned saltpans, just outside the town of Alcochete. There, we started off with very close views  (<100 m) of a good group of Greater Flamingos (100+ indiv.) feeding in the pools, followed by an unusual very good view of a singing Cetti’s Warbler, usually a “heard only” species. At this spot it was also possible to observe a male Sardinian Warbler; a flying Purple Heron (offering very decent views, though); 10+ Black-winged Stilts; Spotless Starlings; Zitting Cisticolas (5+, seen perched and singing above our heads); Reed Warblers (heard only); the exotic Common Waxbills; a pair of  Marsh Harriers and a Black Kite. Along this stop we were also continuosly “greeted” by a pair of Red-rumped Swallows flying just above our heads.

We then headed off to an area of rice fields and flooded pastures, crossed by a few reed-lined ditches. This area is the best to observe the Squacco Heron in Portugal. Unfortunately the birds were not in the usual place, where they can be seen quite close. Nonetheless, we still (luckily) managed to pick one more distant bird, which was close to a group of 20+ Glossy Ibis. Other highlights of this stop included a couple of singing Great Reed Warblers, with their unmistakable loud verses, Cattle Egrets, 10+ Spoonbills, White Storks, Pallid Swifts, and the exotic Black-headed Weaver.

Our third and final stop was in a nearby cork oak area (locally called “montado”). This is a very important habitat for mediterranean birds and an excellent example of balance between socio-economic development and biodiversity conservation. Despite the multiple economic uses of this system (agriculture, livestock rearing, hunting, honey production, etc), most of its economic value comes from the sustainable extraction of cork to produce bottle stoppers. Without this income this bird-rich agro-forestry-pastoral systems would certainly be abandoned. The first bird detected here was a distant singing Nightingale. Other species recorded included Serin, Crested Lark, Melodious Warbler, Short-toed Treecreeper, Hoopoe, Bee-eater, Red-legged Partridge, Rock Sparrow and Western Bonelli’s Warbler. Sixty-five species were recorded in total during this tour.

Good observations!

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