On the morning of 28 October, I did visit Peniche to do my routine seabird count and checking a few spots for rare birds. When I was checking the fields around the sewage treatment pond, I noticed on the horizon a flock of around 200 Golden plovers, flying in circles above the fields that connect Peniche to Baleal. With time constraints I had to go home, but it stayed in my mind that I had to return and check that flock a little closer. And so I did, that afternoon.
The flock was very mobile and did fly around for some time before it settled in the middle of the open field, feeding very actively. I sat on the slope, and with my eye on the scope, I start checking every bird.
What a joy to see so many Golden plovers, different ages, and moult progressions. About 20min into the flock, there was an obvious juvenile American Golden plover! A bold white supercilium, greyish upperparts and greyish-brown underparts and more athletic. Was interesting to notice the feeding action compared to the European Golden-plovers, the bird did run a little more while feeding, making it easy to track among the busy flock. A few minutes later the bird took off and, with my zoom down to the 30x, I could appreciate the brownish underwing pattern contrasting with the European Golden plovers.
A few birds caught my attention, but I could never be sure of their Id and definitely, more work should be done with this flock.
Before sunrise, I arrived at a small sheltered beach, on the south side of Peniche, looking for rare birds that might be protected from the persistent north wind. This spot, (Portinho da areia Sul) has a small garden with tamarisks and other evergreen bushes, and a couple of fig trees. Also, has an almost concealed little stream surrounded by cane (Arundo sp.). I started visiting this area, this autumn, and it looks promising.
I parked the car, and start walking towards the beach, to scan the algae for any wader. Instantly I heard a single sharp call from a Rock pipit (Anthus pretrosus), I scanned the beach and there it was walking along and feeding quite busy. I tried to pick my camera from my backpack, and the bird flew away, out of sight, and quite a distance. No photo or sound recording, that´s a pity! I know that other pipits are creatures of habits, and like to return to the same area to feed, so I persisted and just continued to bird around, but keeping my eye and hear towards the beach. A Spotted flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) in the fig tree, a freshly arrived Chiffchaff (Phyllsocopus collybita) in the bushes and that was pretty much it for migrants. And then the pipit came back again, sharply calling above my head, and landed on the beach again.
Finally some photographs, the low light made the small sensor of my camera work hard, but for record shots, it´s not too bad. I guess the low weight of a bridge comes with a price. By that time I had already my recorder running and got also some nice calls.
Rock pipits, although they are considered a rare bird in Portugal, its seems they are quite frequent, the low number of observers allied to poor coverage of suitable habitat (Rocky coasts), contribute to the low numbers of records each year.
Birding Portugal & Spain - Blog
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I was born in west Portugal and began birding at the age of 11. I have particular interest in bird ringing (banding), moult, seabirds and rarities. Currently I work as a guide for Birds & Nature Tours.
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