Thursday, 1 September 2011

Ringing Road Trip - Atenor

Following a morning of ringing that exceeded all expectations, we hit the road and, on the advice of António Monteiro, we headed for the praia fluvial (the river beach), the river in question being the Douro – wine country! After a brief swim, with Kingfisher, Common Sandpiper, Golden Eagle, Golden Oriole and Red-rumped Swallows for company, we settled down on the platform of an old train station to eat lunch. This nomadic ringing existence is certainly the life!

Taking a swim in the Douro

At lunch, Miguel does his funky chicken impression

We then headed further north into the National Park, to meet up with a friend of Paulo’s, Jose Jambas and his wife Barbara, in the small village of Atenor. After briefly meeting the family, we headed to the ringing site where, last year, Fred Lobo and Afonso Rocha completed a ringing session, catching good numbers of Subalpine Warblers, amongst others. The site looked more promising than Faia Brava (which had looked pretty quiet when we had arrived the previous day), with a small stream running through the site, with agricultural and grazing land adjacent. There were birds around from the outset and with the morning’s ringing still fresh in our mind, and text messages flying around the country boasting of successes, we were hopeful of a good catch once again. We put up a couple more nets than at Faia Brava, bringing the total to thirteen nets, mostly 15m, some of 12m, close to the stream and along hedgerows.

Once the nets were up, we headed into Mogadouro with Jambas, Barbara and little Francisco to sample some of the local produce, namely a ‘posta’ – a steak from a rare breed of cattle in the region. Jambas explained that eating this steak was a matter of conservation for the locals as without the demand from the local restaurants, the breed of cattle, which has no other value, would cease to exist. Despite Miguel’s best attempts, Tineke wouldn’t try the steak, however Miguel became preoccupied with the fact that Sporting lost at home to Maritimo – on Sundays have patience!

The next morning we woke bright and early to open the nets, returning briefly for breakfast but given that closest net was only ten metres from the campervan, we started the net rounds early, given that the nets were filling up fast! And so it began once again, the birds were coming in quicker than we could get them ringed, so Paulo resumed extraction duties, whilst myself, Miguel, Tineke and Jambas took care of the ringing sides of things.

Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla)

Paulo checks the nets

As with the previous day, Subalpine Warblers were the order of the day, although we were catching well for Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler and Whitethroat. A single Orphean Warbler, another adult, really captured the eye, such a spectacular bird! The number of Pied Flycatchers started to increase, although the main migration for this species in Portugal is only just beginning – the September sessions should through up more of these. With Beeater, Griffin Vulture and Golden Oriole overhead, it was difficult not to get distracted and run off with the binoculars!


Miguel pulls a bird

Juvenile Bonelli's Warbler (Phylloscopus bonelli)

A few Redstarts, Sardinian Warblers and Blackcaps made an appearance, but there was one bird that Miguel had been after all week, since Luís had caught one in Choupal, in Coimbra, the week before. It was Tineke that took it out of the bag, the grey head was a dead giveaway (for me, at least) and it was promptly passed over to Miguel, when he finally realised what it was, he was elated. Bonelli’s Warbler. Now that’s what I call a Brucey Bonus!

With the numbers of birds starting to tail off, the temperatures breaching 30 degrees, the nets were closed and taken down. With some birds left to ring, Barbara arrived from the village, a two minute drive, with the biggest ‘loaf’ of bread I have ever seen, so once the birds were finished, we toasted an outstanding session with a beer and fresh bread, whilst watching some of Jambas’ videos of Bonelli’s and Golden Eagle – truly spectacular footage!

Hard at work

Atenor has to be one of the most amazing ringing sites I have ever worked at, rivalling Riverside at the Pinery Provincial Park where I worked for two years whilst in Canada, the migratory potential is significant. As we departed, Jambas left us with a gift of soap – now whilst some might suggest he was hinting that I’m a scruff and need a wash, this wasn’t the case. Jambas and Barbara have a number of interests, including making soap from the milk of Donkeys. For more information on the soap (which is excellent by the way), visit the Tomelo website here.

29 August

Subalpine Warbler - 90
Garden Warbler - 30
Whitethroat - 20
Sardinian Warbler - 3
Orphean Warbler - 1
Blackcap - 12
Bonelli's Warbler - 1
Willow Warbler - 28
Serin - 3
Wren - 4
Short-toed Treecreeper - 1
Cetti's Warbler - 4
Grasshopper Warbler - 6
Reed Warbler - 9
Robin - 4
Pied Flycatcher - 5
Chaffinch - 7
Cirl Bunting - 3 (1)
Blue Tit - 15
Great Tit - 3
Blackbird - 3
Nightingale - 2
Melodious Warbler - 1
Redstart - 1
House Sparrow - 1
Kingfisher - 1

TOTAL : 262 (1)

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