Castro Marin on the coast near the Portuguese-Spanish border has left some inconsistent impressions. Instead of a magnificent but magnificently built infocenter of almost deserted, information boards along the nature trail completely faded and unreadable. As if the funds for which these buildings were built could no longer pay for their operation. We left the wind coast and headed to the interior of the country. Even there, there is much to see in Portugal.
Along the Guardiana River we headed north. We could not resist visiting the historic town of Mertola with its magnificent medieval castle. Although it was clear that the castle was recently reconstructed, in its old walls, several pairs of Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) found enough nesting cavities. We continued on our way north. Almost everywhere around the road we could admire, as in many places in the Iberian Peninsula, the incredible concentration of the white stork (Ciconia ciconia) nests. Almost in every stork nest there was a Spanich Sparrow colony (passer hispaniolensis).
The town of Castro Verde has become an inland base, with a large bustard reserve nearby. We finally saw them, but only from a distance and when crossing the wide steppe landscape. But we got close to other beautiful birds. On the rooftops of traditional red roof tiles, colorful Rolers (Coracias garrulus) were prepared for nesting. As I found out, they are very fearless birds and constantly fights with their neighbors Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni). I spent the whole morning watching these fights.
There are many old former farmhouses in a not very intensively farmed countryside. Their buildings were completely disintegrated. However, they have so far provided refuge for very rare tenants. With a bit of patience and happiness, in these ruins we watched several times the beautiful Little Owls (Athene noctua).
Absolutely the most abundant bird species in Portugal is unrivaled Corn Bunting (Miliaria calandra). His singing is an essential backdrop for this part of the world. Hand in hand, the second place would certainly be occupied by the Stonechat (Saxicola torquata). A strong trio would then be complemented by a Crested Lark (Galerida cristata), perhaps only a little elevated. Very rarely did we see his cousin Thekla Lark (Galerida theklae).
Between the pieces of grazing cattle we occasionally spotted tiny, but due to its white coloring, a very observable Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis). Herons in Portugal have just exchanged herds of zebras and wildebeests, as we often see in documents about the African savannah, for grazing cattle.
A great challenge for the photographer was the Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala). An abundant species that is often only two or three meters away from the observer, but in the densest bushes. It seldom turns out beyond this natural shelter. In the end, however, a few photos were successful. Especially because I was waiting for these agile singers at a busy road where they were used to the presence of people.
A great experience, although rather birdwatcher than photographic, was the encounter with the elegant predator of the local dry steppes. Black-winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus) is a rare bird in Portugal. The paradox was that we were watching this species directly above the urban area.
Starling is much in Portugal, just like in our country. But it is not our common starling. His role is taken over by his southern European cousin Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor). The figure is very similar to our starling. It has just a little larger, on the top and back of the head, from time to time, a noticeably longer tuft and in its feathers there is no bright dotting. It’s all black with a metallic sheen.
Although the distinctive call of the Hoopoe (Upupa epops) in the south-west of Europe sounds from every hedge or garden, it is more of a coincidence to photograph it “out of hand”. Although they live in close proximity to humans, they are very shy birds.
There was only one lack of complete satisfaction in wandering around this wonderful country. Vultures. Although we were looking longingly for these emperors of the sky in each silhouette of a sailing predator, we did not see one. But still, it was wonderful.