A First For Me – A Garden Warbler Passing Through

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The Garden Warbler is does not breed in the southern half of Portugal but can be seen in trees and bushes as a passing migrant. This morning I was trying to photograph some very eluding Robins that have arrived in the garden for the winter (for this month’s Algarve Resident article) and I spotted a bird foraging through the branches of an Oak Tree. Eventually, it popped out on to an exposed branch and I grabbed a quick shot before it disappeared.

The Garden Warbler is well known for being a bit plain-looking with no features and I wasn’t sure but thanks to friend and bird guru Frank McKlintock (Birding In Portugal) for the confirmation.

It’s always a good feeling when I get a first spot along with a photo. I’ve also spotted a pair of Black Caps in the garden too. I’ve seen many of these, but again, never in the garden. This year, I have thinned a lot of bushes and shrubs which have seemed to have attracted more birds.

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Kingfisher Project Is Back On, Plus A Few Other Birds

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For those that Follow Me On Facebook will know that I have continued my Kingfisher Project due to the location of the autumn morning sun lighting a river pool. Whilst walking the dogs, we watched an adult female perched in amazing light on a tree branch, so can’t waste an opportunity like this. I positioned a perch and setup my popup hide yesterday and was at the river this morning. It didn’t quite go as planned as the Kingfisher didn’t use the perch. It seems as now the water level is so low, she prefers to perch higher up to be able to watch a larger area of water. I have now installed a high perch and will return tomorrow morning.

However, all was not lost, I was able to sit and watch this adult female diving and catching fish many times and on one occasion she came up with a Crayfish. I snapped these images. Notice the wet marks on the branch, this is where she was hitting the Crayfish to kill it before eating. I suspect this is “Princessa” that I photographed when she was a juvenile but as I can’t confirm this I am calling this girl Tufty due to her feathers on the back of her head sticking up. Not sure these are permanently like this or just because she was wet.


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Another Kettle Of Migrating Griffon Vultures

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I was enjoying a late breakfast (ok it had gone 12pm, but it was a late night!!) in the garden when I looked up and a Kettle (collective name in flight) of Griffon Vultures were directly overhead and fairly low at that. There wasn’t as many birds as the Kettle a few weeks ago, there were around 50 birds. An amazing sight to watch them soaring with no effort.

Although these birds are en route to Africa, this Kettle came from the South and headed off in a North-Easterly direction.

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A Kettle of Migrating Griffon Vultures
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A Huge Kettle of Griffon Vultures On Migration Today

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Firstly, a massive thanks to Jan Rowe for the contacting me today to let me know that there was a large group of Griffon Vultures, without you I surely would have missed this spectacle.

After my disappointing time this morning in the Reflection Hide I had a large glass of Milk followed by a large Coffee (this is relevant to the story) and was sitting at my desk writing the blog about it. A message came in from Facebook friend Jan who lives in a nearby village. The message was to tell me that “hundreds of birds of prey, probably Vultures” were soaring above her village. I grabbed both cameras, one fitted with a 500mm and another with an 80-400mm and jumped in the car and headed towards them.

It didn’t take long until I saw them, my original thoughts of Griffon Vultures was correct and there were hundreds separated into 2 kettles (the name for a group of Vultures in flight). The skies had some hazy clouds and it was mid-afternoon therefore, terrible for shots of birds in the sky. They were soaring quite high too so no good for close-ups, instead I tried to capture the size of the groups.

The photos do not do it justice, I estimated that between the 2 groups there were around 300 to 400 birds. Soon enough, the 2 groups merged to become one huge kettle and started to fly in a northerly direction.

The earlier Milk and Coffee now demanded a, er, natural-break in which I then lost sight of them. I jumped back in the car and searched for 10 minutes before finding them again. However, after following them for another 10 minutes they headed across terrain that I could no longer follow.

Griffon Vultures are large with a wingspan of up to 2.8 meters and like all Vultures are scavengers, they are usually the last of the migrating birds seen in Portugal at the end of November, early October. This group was made from many youngsters with a few larger adults present.

Here are some of the quick snaps I managed to get.


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Sagres Bird Migration 2018

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Throughout September, October and the beginning of November, Sagres on the South Western tip of Portugal becomes an amazing sight to watch migrating Birds of Prey. Birds flying across to Africa will always select the quickest route across open water which in South Western Europe is the Strait of Gibraltar. So why do they end up in Sagres? They follow the Western Coastline in a Southerly direction until they reach the South coast where they will then make their way along the Southern Coastline to the short crossing at Gibraltar. This results in some spectacular views of the birds soaring in the sky including this Juvenile Egyptian Vulture. More pictures below.

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Egyptian Vulture - Abutre do Egipto - Neophron percnopterus
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