Thankfully I didnt spend the whole of the week confined to the hotel area. On the wednesday I had a full day out in the mountains and plains of the Alentejo. It turned out to be a terrific day! We got off to an interesting start when we crossed the border into Spain to fill the car up with petrol. Apparently its a lot cheaper than in Portugal! Car filled, we headed straight to the mountains. The first thing I noticed was the amount of Short Toed Eagles there were. They were on nearly every post we passed. Later in the morning as the day warmed up the Vultures came out looking for breakfast. At one point we had 5 Griffon Vultures circling above us, and as we were enjoying the spectacle they were joined by another Vulture, a different Vulture. It turned out to be a Black Vulture, which was a new species for me. Unfortunately it was the only one we seen throughout the day but we did get lots more Griffons. A further five species of Raptor were seen, including a few Lesser Kestrels and a great adult male Montagus Harrier. Ravens were quite plentiful, as were Iberian Grey Shrikes. A stop off at a little bridge got us a big flock of Crag Martins, along with a smaller flock of Pallid Swifts. I was also lucky to get another new bird while in the mountains, a terrific male Blue Rock Thrush. It was a very good morning.
Having had a lovely picnic lunch we headed for the grasslands of the Alentejo. Our target bird was the Great Bustard (top picture), and at first this proved very hard to find. We tried three or four well known sites but had no luck. We did however see a couple of another target species, the Black Bellied Sandgrouse (above). At first we just had flyovers but eventually we seen a flock of five birds feeding in a field not far from the car. After over an hour we eventually spotted a small flock of our main target, but unfortunately these Great Bustards were miles away. We decided to have a slow drive around the surrounding area to see if any more Bustards were around and thankfully we did indeed come across a lot more birds, some of them very close to the car. I was amazed at how big they were 'in the flesh' so to speak. Mission accomplished we decided to see what else was around. While doing so I saw my first ever Thekla Larks and also my first Tawny Pipits. The only other standout bird were a couple of Hoopoe, my first of the trip.
As we had a little bit of spare time we decided to head for the marina in Tavira to see if I could pick up one more new bird, a Slender Billed Gull (above). Thankfully we picked up one fairly quickly but it turned out to be the only one there. As the picture above shows this is an absolutely beautiful Gull, easily one of the prettiest I've seen. Another good looking Gull is the Audouins Gull, and there were a handful of these Gulls around as well. On the way back to the hotel we came across one more species that I really love to see, the Stone Curlew. There were four of these birds in a field not too far from my local lagoons. Unfortunately it was the only time I seen them.