Sunday, July 31, 2022

Common Shelduck

The common shelduck is a duck inhabiting portions of Europe and Asia and just a few spots in far northern Africa. It has a reddish pink bill, pink feet, a mostly white body with chestnut patches, a black belly, and a dark green head and neck. 
Shelduck near a greater flamingo. 

We saw a solo shelduck on a rocky ridge in a pond that I believe may have been nesting. It was very hard to see and my photos are blurry at best, but at least discernable. 
Later at open water on the estuary we saw a flock of them flying very, very far away and they are only discernable because of the basic colors. 

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Eurasian Nuthatch

Our guide Bernard had an uncanny ability to spot birds that could hardly be seen. One was a Eurasian nuthatch that was flitting around in a large tree. I was looking and looking for movement and when I finally saw it I couldn't get the lens to focus on it. I took about 20 photos and only one was in focus, the one below. 
It was in the Sado Estuary, south of Lisbon, Portugal, perhaps an eighth of a mile from the water. There are about 20 subspecies and I was glad to get at least one decent photo.  

Friday, July 29, 2022

White-Breasted Nuthatch

There are 29 species of nuthatch and I've now seen three of them. I've previously blogged on the red-breasted nuthatch which I saw on Prince Edward Island in Canada and I've seen the white-breasted nuthatch on the bird feeder in our backyard in California. It has light blue-gray upperparts, whitish underparts with a reddish tinge on the lower abdomen, and males have a black crown and nape. 

They are found throughout most of the U.S., down though most of the center of Mexico and up into large parts of mostly southern Canada, although it gets close to Yukon Territory. 

Thursday, July 28, 2022

European Goldfinch

The European goldfinch is found in Europe, west and central Asia and small pieces of northern Africa. We were in the Sado Estuary in Portugal when our guide noted a "goldfinch" in some weeds. I took a couple of photos, then enlarged my result in my viewfinder and was in shock at the bird before my eyes, not what I would have thought of as a "goldfinch." The front of its face was red, with black blotches on the eyes. The back of the head was black with a white stripe and yellow within it. The back was brown, with a black blotch at the forewing followed by lots of bright yellow. This was a crazy looking bird and I got excited. 
There are lots of different subspecies that are divided into two general subgroups. In the western part of the range they have a black crown, what I saw. In the eastern part of the range they have a gray crown. 

Steglitz, a borough of Berlin, is named after the European goldfinch. Because it eats thistles, it is associeated with Christ's Passion and his crown of thorns. It appears in paintings of the Madonna and Christ child representing the foreknowledge of Jesus and Mary of the Crucifixion, including Raphael's Madonna of the Goldfinch and Barocci's Holy Family where it is held in the hand of John the Baptist. It is also associated with St. Jerome and appears in some depictions of him. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Yellow Crowned Bishop

The yellow crowned bishop is a spectacularly beautiful yellow and black bird native to Africa which has been introduced to other countries, including Portugal, and sticks out despite its small size. Because of its small size, and perhaps because of the color as well, I had a hard time getting a good clear photo despite seeing it quite a few times. 
The breeding male, which I saw in the Tagus River Estuary south of Lisbon, Portugal, is golden-yellow and black. The bill, lower face, throat, breast, belly and collar on the hind-neck are black. It has a golden yellow forehead, crown, nape, shoulder, rump and back. The wings and tail are brown and the feet and legs are pinkish brown. In non-breeding season the male looks like the female.  

This photo, and the next, were taken by our guide, using Judy's cell phone through a spotting scope. They turned out better than mine. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Iberian Yellow Wagtail

The western yellow wagtail is the third of 13 species of wagtail I've seen (I've previously seen the Cape wagtail in South Africa and the African pied wagtail in Kenya). It is olive above and yellow below. There are 12 subspecies differentiated by the heads of breeding males. The Iberian yellow wagtail subspecies is characterized by a white throat and chin, and darker gray, almost black, behind the eyes.  

I saw this bird in the Tagus River Estuary south of Lisbon, Portugal. It had an insect in its mouth and was in an area with lots of water among flamingos, black-winged stilts and Kentish plovers. 

Monday, July 25, 2022

European Black-Tailed Godwit

The black-tailed godwit has four subspecies. I saw the European black-tailed godwit, one of the four, near the Sado River Estuary in Portugal. Its breeding plumage, which I saw, has a pale orange chest, neck and head. It also has a back tail which I wasn't able to see. Although I saw it in breeding plumage, it was in its wintering range. 

Euroopean black-tailed godwit range from Wikipedia: blue is wintering, yellow is breeding and green is year-round. 

Sunday, July 24, 2022

White Stork - Portugal

White storks in France and Turkey and Morocco  have been prior blog posts. I now supplement those posts with white storks in Portugal. We saw many, many storks nesting on high power poles, Judy counted 17 nests on one power pole, but what really stood out to me were the numbers we saw on the ground, in the fields, feeding. They are very big and beautiful. 

Saturday, July 23, 2022

White-Bellied Barn Swallow

There are six species of barn swallow and I'd previously blogged on one of them, H. r. erythrogaster, the North American subspecies found at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. It has redder underparts and a narrower, often incomplete, blue breast band. I recently saw the nominate European subspecies, sometimes called the white-bellied barn swallow, H. r. rustica. 
This is the North American barn swallow.

This is the European, white-bellied, barn swallow. 

Friday, July 22, 2022

Iberian Magpie

The Iberian magpie is another bird I hoped to see in Portugal. True to its name, this magpie is mostly limited to the Iberian Peninsula which is inhabited by Portugal and Spain. Looking at the distribution map on eBird, it looks like there is some spillover into far northern Morocco and into a few dollops of southern France and Andorra. It is absent from almost all of northwestern Spain, the portion over Portugal, including the pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela, and swaths of eastern Spain. 

I grew up near City Creek Canyon in Salt Lake City climbing trees to look into twig nests for baby magpies (black-billed magpies). One year, as a young boy, I brought a pre-fledgling magpie home to raise as a pet, feeding it with an eye-dropper. As it developed I transitioned it into life in the wild and Pica's (named after its scientific name, Pica hudsonia) world grew from our backyard into the canyon. I saw Pica less and less and she eventually quit coming back to our home, but I had reports of Pica for several years, the friendly magpie that was not afraid of people. All this to help explain why I had an extra interest in this Darwinian iteration of magpie. 

The Iberian magpie seems more California scrub-jay than magpie. The body and wings of gray/brown and blue fitting that mold. It also has a black hood that covers most of its head and neck until it meets a white chin and breast. 
Fuzzy photos that give some idea of what it looks like in flight. 

This magpie is more offish than the magpies of my youth, more difficult to get close to. It likes the cork oaks of Portugal that we fell in love with. We saw it in both the Tagus and Sado River estuaries although it was not a common sight. 

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Eurasian Hoopoe

The Eurasian hoopoe is an incredibly cool bird, one I'd hoped to see in Portugal. It is a version of potato head, put together with random pieces: it has funky thick black and white striped wings which really stand out against its tan neck, breast and head; followed by a dark eye; a long, slightly curved bill; and a shiny tan/orange American Indian headdress of feathers with dark black tips. When the headdress is not arrayed in its full splendor, it is pulled back into a point like the African hamerkop.  

It has nine subspecies and is found across much of Europe, Asia and Africa. We saw a couple of  them south of Lisbon beyond the southeastern end of the Vasco de Gama Bridge of the Tagus River Estuary. I hope to find it again, get better views, including a view of the head with the feathers in full array, and spend more in-depth time on it. For now I'll leave it at this.