Sagres birdwatching festival in Portugal

This video is about a crested lark singing in Algarve in Portugal.

From BirdLife:

Why you should be excited about the 2015 Sagres birdwatching festival

By Sanya Khetani-Shah, Mon, 14/09/2015 – 13:48

To the uninitiated, birdwatching may sound like an esoteric hobby reserved for scientists and people obsessed with birds. However, numerous international bird festivals – such as the Birdwatching Festival and Nature Activities in Sagres, Portugal – have sought to change that over the years.

The sixth edition of the fest, which will be held from 1-4 October, 2015, includes not just birdwatching, but also bird ringing, dolphin watching, scuba diving, hiking and workshops on environmental education, among other things (full list here), to make it more accessible to a larger audience of families, students and casual nature lovers. Register here for the event of your choice.

The event, part of the Europe-wide Euro Birdwatch 2015, is organised by the municipality of Vila do Bispo, with Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA, or BirdLife in Portugal) and the Almargem Association as partners.

Sagres in southwest Portugal is a great place for birdwatching: It has a large diversity of habitats, from sea cliffs and coastal maquis to farmlands, woodland, sand dunes and the sea itself. Due to its geographical location in the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, migrants that follow the coastline or the coastal valleys gather in Sagres from August to November before continuing their journey south.

The region is Portugal’s major migratory corridor for storks, eagles, vultures, buzzards and falcons. It is also a great place to watch many seabirds (thousands of Northern Gannet, petrels, Cory’s Shearwater and Balearic Shearwater pass along the coast), steppe species and passerines. This is why the festival’s dates, in early October, are strategically scheduled: the diversity of birds of prey is starting to peak, many long-distance seabird migrants are still around, passerines are still passing through and wintering birds are starting to arrive.

Over the years, the area has also been witness to a number of rare species, such as the Eurasian Dotterel, the Spanish Imperial Eagle, Sabine’s Gull and the Red-breasted Flycatcher, among numerous others.

There is a more serious science aspect to all of this as well: the migratory birds passing through will be counted at counting stations manned by experienced birdwatchers and scientists. The numbers will be collected by SPEA and then passed on to this year’s European counting centre in the Netherlands, which will publish a report on the migration of birds through Europe.

And it’s not just the birds and birdwatchers that benefit. “The event has been contributing to consolidate Vila do Bispo as an important destination for nature tourism, attracting more and more domestic and foreign visitors,” says Adelino Soares, president of the Vila do Bispo municipality. “The investment in this initiative, which takes place in low season, has a positive effect in the remaining months of the year, with tourists to return and take advantage of the services of local businesses partners of the festival.”

Swinhoe’s storm-petrels in the Atlantic

This video from Scotland says about itself:

Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel – 2nd Fair Isle record! 2 in two weeks!

7 August 2013

Ringing and Documenting Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel – Oceanodroma monorhis – August 7th 2013 2:30am. 8th record for Britain – 2nd for Fair Isle and Shetland! Both Fair Isle Records in the past 2 weeks! Caught at night with mist nets and sound recordings. Congrats to Dr Will Miles & Fair Isle Bird Observatory Warden David Parnaby. Also present Shetland Legend Denis Coutts & the young Logan Johnson the only birders to come to Fair Isle in the hope that the 1st Swinhoe’s would be recaptured but they were rewarded with a new unringed bird! Read more here.

From the Journal of Ornithology:

24 June 2015

Searching for a breeding population of Swinhoe’s Storm-petrel at Selvagem Grande, NE Atlantic, with a molecular characterization of occurring birds and relationships within the Hydrobatinae

Mónica C. Silva, Rafael Matias, Vânia Ferreira, Paulo Catry, José P. Granadeiro


Long-distance dispersal plays a critical role in population dynamics, particularly in species that occupy fragmented habitats, but it is seldom detected and investigated. The pelagic seabird Swinhoe’s Storm-petrel, Oceanodroma monorhis, breeds exclusively in the NW Pacific. Individuals have been regularly observed in the Atlantic Ocean since the 1980s, but breeding has never been confirmed.

In this study, we searched for evidence of breeding of Swinhoe’s Storm-petrels on Selvagem Grande Island, NE Atlantic, between 2007 and 2013. During this period, six individuals were captured, sexed and characterized molecularly for two mitochondrial loci, cytochrome oxydase I and the control region, to confirm species identity, survey genetic diversity and estimate evolutionary relationships within the Hydrobatinae.

These individuals were confirmed to be Swinhoe’s Storm-petrels, and all except one are females. Phylogenetic analyses suggest sister relationship with Matsudaira’s Storm-petrel and dismiss misidentifications with other dark rump species. Patterns of genetic variation suggest that dispersal occurred likely by more than a single female. Despite the record of a pair duetting in a burrow, breeding could not be confirmed.

Swinhoe’s Storm-petrels are regularly occurring at Selvagem Grande, but capture/recapture patterns suggest that a possible breeding population is small and likely not self-sustaining. In seabirds, long-distance dispersal events may facilitate colonization of new habitats created in the context of predicted climate change impacts on the marine ecosystems.

Saving seabirds in Portugal

This 2014 video is about a young Cory’s shearwater on the Berlengas islands in Portugal.

From BirdLife:

Exotic plants, invasive rats, and fishnets

By Nuno Barros, Fri, 03/07/2015 – 15:21

Crystal clear waters, rough steep cliffs and vibrant seas teeming with marine life are a typical scene off Portugal’s mainland and offshore islands. It sounds like a vacationer’s or scuba diver’s paradise, but for some seabird species it’s also the perfect place to nest and feed. Although they are amongst Europe’s most threatened group of birds, seabirds can still be found breeding in Portugal’s Azores, Madeira and Berlengas Archipelagos.

SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal) has been doing a great job to make sure it stays this way. They have been demonstrating how site specific protection works, and that Natura 2000, Europe’s largest network of protected areas established under the Birds and Habitats Directives, can serve as a foundation for marine conservation.

The Berlengas, only 6 nautical miles from the Portuguese mainland were initially set aside to protect the Common Guillemot. But because of a history full of neglect, the very species the reserve was created for is now sadly only part of the islands past as it has not been seen nesting here in over a decade. To stop other seabirds from sharing a similar fate, the islands are now at the heart of an EU LIFE Project run by SPEA. They are doing whatever they can to restore the Berlengas islands to their natural condition for seabirds and endemic/native plants, or at least, as close as possible to what they once were.

This has meant removing exotic plants and replacing them with native species and battling against invasive species like rats which often eat seabird eggs and chicks. Artificial nests are also being added and are quite effective because they offer protection against bad weather, from predators and other seabirds competing for space. They’ve also been working with fishers to find ways to prevent birds from getting accidentally entangled in fishing gear. Cory´s Shearwater, European Shags, and the only “continental” population of Band-rumped Storm Petrel are some of the seabirds that will benefit from all these activities. Sounds like an ambitious venture, but SPEA has shown it’s achievable because of a similar project recently finished, Safe Islands for Seabirds, in the remote Corvo Island in the Azores. It was so successful it even won one of 2013’s ‘Best LIFE’ Nature Projects award.

SPEA has also been working in the Graciosa Islets of the spectacular Azores Archipelago. The Azores is the only place in the world where Monteiro´s Storm Petrel is found, so it is a very special place indeed. There are just 250-300 pairs in existence and they only breed on two of the islets here. So far these petrels have been safe from ground predators, but there is always a risk that an invasive mammal species such as rats will swim ashore and cause disaster. It wouldn’t take much to wipe out these colonies completely. SPEA is now working on developing an action plan for the petrel so that the government will have the knowledge and tools in place to safeguard the species into the future.

Perhaps one of SPEA’s oldest fights has been convincing their government that the first step in conservation of sensitive marine areas should be the extension of Natura 2000 to the marine environment through the designation of Special Protection Areas (SPAs). So far only the Madeiran SPAs and little more have been established, but SPEA hasn’t given up this fight and there is some optimism that the Portuguese government will listen soon…

Portuguese birds, new Internet site

This is a lesser spotted woodpecker video from Portugal.

From BirdLife:

Portugal’s birding at your fingertips

By Nuno Barros, Tue, 26/05/2015 – 14:50

Now available at your fingertips, all you need to know about more than 100 species of bird and birdwatching in mainland Portugal, the Azores and Madeira archipelagos. Yes, you can find all the information you need to know about all the best birding sites that the country has to offer, itineraries, and many other interesting facts and figures on the Portuguese Society for the Study of Bird’s (SPEA/BirdLife partner) new website.

Found in the south-western part of Europe, Portugal is a small but beautiful country, home to friendly people, a huge myriad of habitats, and many southern European bird species. In the last few years, more and more birdwatchers have come and discovered the many wonders of birding in Portugal, mostly in the Alentejo and Algarve regions. The country’s year round great weather conditions and ease of spotting elusive birds like the Black-winged Kite, Little Bittern, Great Bustard or Azure-Winged Magpie draws birders from far and wide.

Even in the peak of winter you can expect to see more than 100 species in a week, and with a bit of luck, enjoy some sunny days. And Portugal is so small, so it’s easy to jump from one amazing birding hot spot to another, and along with the local cuisine, culture and landscapes, a visit is simply a must.

There are certainly many other places to go birdwatching in Portugal and it’s islands, but this platform provides birdwatchers with what SPEA thinks are all you need to know about the “best” birding sites around, places that not surprisingly overlap with Important Bird and BiodiversityAreas (IBAs), the conservation background that is SPEA’s stronghold.

So all bird lovers, we invite you to come and explore our website, and see what this magnificent corner of Europe has to offer. You can also come to our next Sagres Birdwatching and Nature activities Festival, from 1-4th October, to celebrate some of Portugal’s birdwatching wonders.