The weather was great- warm and sunny with not a cloud in the sky. In other words typical Portuguese weather. Paulo as per usual was well organized for the trip with great food and cold Super Bock. Our destination was Vimioso which is near Miranda de Douro in the north east of the country. We arrived after dark and while Paulo slept in the camper van I as an 'old man' was treated to a room in a small hotel.
Left Liverpool at 9.30am and arrived in Porto at 11.30am courtesy of Ryanair. Was met immediately by my great friend Paulo Tenreiro (PQT) and treated to a tour of the Douro valley. This was a new experience for me even though I have visited Portugal over 30 times. Some very spectacular scenery and the wine terraces were amazing. Douro wines are some of the best in the world - just ask Alex Ferguson after meeting Jose Mourinho. The region is not only famous for its Port wine.
Paulo was up bright and early and had the day planned. We were to look for a good ringing site for the course he was running on Saturday and Sunday as well as touring the area. He had identified a couple of sites where roads crossed over rivers. The first site was a few kms outside Vimioso on the road to Miranda. It looked immediately very promissing. Cirl bunting was singing and a small party of Red-rumped Swallows were hawking over the river. The hillside seemed to be alive with birds and we identified a number of potential net sites.
We then headed off after seeing a cracking male Black Redstart and some Rock Buntings to the spectacular Douro gorge seeing Red Kites on the way. Lots of Chiffchaffs were in the bushes and Woodlarks were in good voice. Unfortunately, the vultures did not show with the Egyptians having the excuse of being in Africa at this time. We moved north to Miranda - a beautiful town and then further north to lunch at another site overlooking the Douro. What a place - lots of birds including Crag Martins and I am sure at the right time lots of Warblers.
Then on to another potential site but this had houses near the river which were not marked on the map. So off we set to the first site. Rides were cut with the Cirl Buntings singing away. Nets were erected and then furled so everything was ready for the following morning. Then after dark back to Vimioso to meet up with Paulo Ferreira (PJF) and Miguel Araujo. Emanuel Ribeiro joined us and PJF drove us to Mogadouro where we had a fantastic steak - the biggest and best I have ever had.
Out to the nets so they were all open before dawn. It a was bright and sunny morning but very cold. Birds were everywhere and we soon had some good birds.Two Firecrests and a young male Green Wood pecker were in one line. Firecrest has been a bogey bird for Peter so I expect he did not appreciate my text. Paulo Had to leave to go back to Vimioso for 9 to give the course but not before he handed PJF a bag. The look on PJF's face when he took out his first Bullfinch, a stunning male,was a sight to behold.
The day soon warmed up and bags had to be kept in the shade as there was not a cloud to be seen. Miguel is full of life (does he ever stop talking) and Paulo were great company. It was a memorable day with 99 birds ringed including Siskins,Black Redstart,Rock Buntings, Cirl Buntings, Kingfishers and Grey Wagtail. We also caught Dunnocks which made them very happy. They were amused by my comment 'there is only one thing worse than a Dunnock and that is a retrap Dunnock'. The day was rounded off very nicely with a Blackcap carrying a Dutch ring. Hilbre I hear also got one within a day or two of this.
A nice sight was a Goshawk being mobbed by a Sparrowhawk.
Another early start but a quieter day.with only 28 birds ringed in the morning. It was a practical session for rthe course members. Paulo is a great communicator and teacher and he really held their attention. I am sure they gained a great deal from his presentations and explanations.
I had to leave the ringing early to go to Mass in Vimioso at noon. It coincided with the visit of the local bishop and lasted just over an hour. In that time all the nets were taken down and i was joined for lunch by the rest at 1.30. Then back to Brasfemes to spend the next few days at Paulo's.
Way back in 1977 I participated in the Iberian Ringing Group visit to Portugal. I was based at the northern site at Lameira, Arzila. I had a great time and found the local people extremely friendly and generous. We could leave the camp unattended with all our valuables there without fear of anything going missing. Paulo is based at Arzila which is now a protected area and it was great to come back and visit it today. We put up a few nets and caught a few Chiffchaffs. Blue Tits and a Blackcap. One of the Blue Tits had grotty leg which is the first time I have seen it on this species. Chaffinches and Sedge Warblers are the usual species I see it on. While walking around the area I saw a Purple Gallinule and flushed A Barn Owl. Elsewhere Marsh Harriers and a Booted Eaglewere good sightings.
An early start to arrive before dawn at Salreu, Aveiro.What a site! It is huge and the scope for ringing is enormous. It is the site where Julio Neto- another great guy rings. He has often invited me to come to Salreu and now I have finally made it. Paulo and I were joined by Paulo (even though it was his wife's birthday) and Joao Pedro Neves another good friend. Julio is in Sweden so was not with us.
The site is extremely important for the sub-species Lusitanicus of the Reed Bunting and we caught it along with the nominate race. They are much smaller and have a different bill.
It was another excellent session with 125 birds ringed as well as 2 British controls - a Chiffchaff and a Reed Warbler.64 and 10 respectively of these species were ringed aswell as 15 Reed Buntings.
Around the marsh Marsh Harriers and Black-shoulded Kites as well as lots of White Storks werte seen. Water Rails were were very evident from their squeals and a Common Sandpiper flew down the channel.
After lunch in a local restaurant we adjourned to PJF's where a few coffees and ports were taken. Then back to Brasfemes and to await the Prodigal Son's arrival from ringing in the north with Tó and Rui.
Up again and off to Taipal with Paulo and Peter. Arrived before dawn and two lines of nets set up. Breakfast taken in Montemor and a single net set up for Firecrests to lay Peter's bogey. Another brilliant session with 89 birds ringed. The bogey was laid to rest with 3 Firecrests ringed. there were still some Reed Warblers about and lots of Chiffchaffs. I also encountered my first Penduline Tits since ringing on the Ebro Delta in 1975 with Dave Okill. Adult and juvenile birds helped get our eye in on the ageing criteria. We were once again struck by how clean our Treecreepers are compared to the Short-toeds.
After lunch, we made a short visit back to Arzila and then back to Brasfemes for our final night in Portugal before flying back to Liverpool from Porto on Thursday at mid-day in time for my wedding anniversary.
My thanks go to Paulo, Isobel and their daughters Ana and Daniella for as ever making us feel so much at home. They wine and dine us so well and make us so comfortable. Truly a great family and great friends.