Friday, 3 February 2012

Hot & Cold

I'm torn between blogging some more pictures of the 34c October vistas and birds from Southern Portugal and keeping on top of the winter birding here at home. So as time for blogging seems to be getting squeezed ever tighter, I thought I might mix it up a little and mash two posts into one.

In fact once I started thinking about it there were so many common elements that I wondered why I hadn't thought of it before. Two villages, both picture postcard perfect, two rivers and two monasteries, oh and some half decent birds too.

Mertola in Alentejo, an early morning stroll much like he one I took south of Alnmouth on Thursday might produce Blue Rock Thrush, Southern Grey Shrike, Lesser Kestrels from the boxes visible in the white building with the arches, Black Redstarts, Sardinian Warblers, Cetti's Warblers and maybe the odd Stonechat. 

Thursday ADMc and I at least managed the Stonechats with a pair behind the dunes on the south side of the Aln, the temperature was a whole 30c lower and the birds had a distinctly British winter flavour. Two Velvet Scoters picked out by Andy as they powered north and 3 Great Crested Grebes were the highlights whilst 10-15 Red-throated Divers  were spread over 2 miles.

As we walked south through stubble, eight Whooper Swans in nearby rape were the best we muster, though later a track across the saltmarsh under the shadow of the former church produced a female Pintail. In contrast the ploughed fields pictured above are the haunt of another grazing giant, that fantastic beast that is the Great Bustard. 
One of these bursting from the stubble yesterday would have livened up proceedings a little. Further south we caught up with the wintering Spotted Redshank as it burst from underneath the new footbridge at Warkworth Gut shouting the odds at our presence before dropping 30m downstream to offer great views.
Here we managed five Stonechats, two pairs and a seemingly solitary male as we trekked south along the path behind the dunes. Five Snow Buntings quickly became eight and were happy to feed a couple of metres away on the high tide debris. At the breakwater a single 1st-winter Little Gull added to the day's birds new for the year. The estuary teemed with Dunlin, with smaller numbers of commoner waders. On another day the sound of Skylarks would unquestionably have tumbled down from above. On another walk, a few months ago another lark sang from nearby posts. I'll let you sort out which one.


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