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Central Portugal Is a Bird Watchers Paradise

Coming from the UK I have been lucky enough to see all sorts of birds that I have never seen before. I hardly have to stray from the garden. My home is in Carvalhal de Santo Amaro and overlooks the Louro Valley.

I do regularly see the Common buzzard soaring lazily on the thermals but on one occasion last week I saw a bird of a similar size flying in the valley with a bit more purpose. I realised straight away that it was not a buzzard and I got a good look at it and it distinctive markings. When it was out of sigh I checked my old book, The Hamlyn Guide to Birds of Britain and Europe (first published in 1970) and I discovered that it was a Bonelli's Eagle. It is very similar in size to the Buzzard but an uncommon bird, even in Portugal, and apparently an aggressive hunter.

Well it was quickly gone and I haven't seen it since; not that I sit around all day looking. On that same occasion as I searched the skies with my binoculars for a last glimpse I spotted a disturbance that could hardly be seen by the naked eye. A small falcon which I thought to be a Hobby was being mobbed by Swifts! The falcon, quite unruffled, had a bird in its talons which I suspect was another Swift. The Swift as its name suggests is very fast and the Hobby is the only bird of prey capable of catching it; an impressive feat in itself. Had I been a few seconds earlier I might have seen it in action!

Yesterday as I was cutting back dead branches on an apple tree, hoping that my kind act would result in a larger fruit, I noticed a small bird busy in the long grasses and vines collecting insects. It was boldly marked, mostly in black and white, with a distinctive red eye ring, and it was busy rushing in and out of a dense bramble thicket with the food, where, I suspect, its partner was sat on a nest. I did recognise it as a Warbler but again nothing like I had seen before. So in gleeful anticipation I consulted my old book and discovered that it was a Sardinian Warbler, generally a bird of the Mediterranean. He was quite unfazed by my presence as he obviously had more pressing matters; a demanding spouse.