As part of the Portuguese Migration Atlas, APAA (The Portuguese Ringers Association), has taken responsibility for arranging a series of ringing sessions, one month apart, in different regions of the country. One of the advantages of including such efforts, is that birds that might not normally be observed or heard, due to their reclusive nature, can be ringed and recorded, giving an idea of presence and volume.
For this reason, myself, Tineke, Paulo and Miguel headed off to the northern interior of the country, visiting the Douro International Natural Park, completing three ringing sessions in three different places in three days. Our vehicle of choice was a campervan; allowing us to sleep where we ringed which was often in remote areas, with a certain degree of comfort and civility!
For all the years that I have visiting Portugal, this was my first time in this region and based on the sights, the people and the birds, it is safe to say that this will become a regular stop for me!
After eating a lunch with a beautiful vista, looking over the river towards Spain, watching a Griffin Vulture circling just 10m away from us, we headed to Faia Brava to put up the nets for the next day. Faia Brava is a relatively new reserve and boasts nesting Golden and Bonelli's Eagle, as well as four pairs of Egyptian Vulture within the reserve and a further four just outside that are closely monitored. Vegetation on the reserve is sparse and we chose net locations situated in olive groves with some around fig trees, the nets were pretty spaced out as well, upto 500m apart (which made for a long net round!).
It took us quite a while to get the nets up, but once we had, we left two open and caught two birds before we closed, a Subalpine Warbler (new for Miguel) and a Great Tit. We tried, unsuccessfully, for Nightjars, before watching some moth trapping as part of the European Night of Moths - blogged about here by ATN. I dont really know much about moths, so it was interesting to take a look and try to identify them using the guides, after a while though, I gave up and headed to bed.
The nets were opened at 6am, and checked for the first time at 7am, and there really was an air of anticipation, I had no idea what we were going to get, I would have been happy with a small catch of Subalpine, Orphean and Garden Warblers....
Then it started.
On the first net round, we split up due to the net locations, I was taking the two nets at the 'bottom' of the site - as I walked down the hill, there were birds everywhere, by the time I got to the nets, they were sagging under the weight of sixty-odd Subalpine Warblers and two Orphean Warblers. It was a similar situation in the other lines, so by the time we got back, the ringing got going and I didn't stop until after midday. Tineke and Miguel did the majority of the ringing, with António Monteira and Joao (from ATN) also contributing whilst Paulo did the net rounds!
I should mention that the whole session was filmed for a documentary based on the work of NGO's in Portugal in preparation for some work that will happen in East Timor - it was pretty interesting and quite a hectic session to be filmed on.
In amongst all of the Subalpine Warblers, we caught one Rock Sparrow - my first, and one Red-rumped Swallow, probably one of the many that was roosting in the trees close to where we were camped.
The birds of the day had to be the Orphean Warblers, in total we caught five, of which only one was an adult. They were much larger in the hand than I had expected, taking a 'C' ring (equivalent of a 'B' in the UK), a pretty chunky Sylvia in all.
Amongst the rest, a Reed Warbler was a suprise, so far from the reed beds of the coast, three Redstarts, an Azure-winged Magpie (new for Tineke) and a Southern Grey Shrike (new for Miguel).
By the time that we were all packed away, the temperature has started to rise, so we headed for a swim in the Douro River, before heading to Antenor, for Day 2!
Subalpine Warbler - 1
Great Tit - 1
Subalpine Warbler - 96
Willow Warbler - 39
Whitethroat - 7
Orphean Warbler - 5
Garden Warbler - 26
Sardinian Warbler - 6
Cirl Bunting - 3
Blackbird - 10 (1)
Azure-winged Magpie - 1
S.Grey Shrike - 1
Blue Tit - 2
Iberian Chiffchaff - 2
Rock Sparrow - 1
Pied Flycatcher - 1
Red-rumped Swallow - 1
Redstart - 3
Reed Warbler - 1
Nightingale - 1
Great Tit - 1
TOTAL: 209 (1)