You may recall a few months ago we drove up to Campo Branco in the hope of observing Great Bustards (Abetarda). As always when visiting Alentejo we had a great day out. The only thing was we forgot to check the weather forecast and found ourselves in thick fog as we approached the area so didn’t spot any Great Bustards. This week we were far more sensible, checked the forecast and packed a picnic. Best thing we did as we had a wonderful day thanks to stopping for the picnic!
Not only did we get to observe over 40 Great Bustards, we saw them display, fly overhead and to top it all off we also saw a few Little Bustards. If you want to see the Little Bustards in my photographs then click on the photographs that look as though there is nothing there!
Great Bustards have suffered a significant decline over the past hundred years, and although that decline has been slowed in the last 20 years thanks to major conservation action their conservation status remains vulnerable.
If you happened to be driving in the Campo Branco area and spot something that looks like a large wild Turkey or perhaps a flash of white in the distance then you have spotted the Great Bustard. If you do see them and decide to observe and/or take photographs then please respect the Great Bustard observation code set out, practised and encouraged by the Liga da Proteção da Natureza. I first came across this on the excellent Algarve Birdman website, and it certainly helped us observe this very wary bird.
Great Bustard observation code as practised and encouraged by the LPN
- Keep to an absolute minimum distance of 600 metres
- Stay ‘part of the car’ – ie you can get out but don’t separate yourself visually from the car
- Stay on public roads and tracks
- Keep your movements very gentle and be very quiet
- Keep your observations to 20minutes or less
- Drive away slowly
By doing this you can enjoy the Great Bustards without making them nervous and risking their breeding
The only advice I would add to the code is take a picnic, plenty to drink and simply stop where you can on the N123 between Castro Verde and Mértola. You may have to sit for a while but there is a very good chance you’ll see them from the road. Do note though there is now a minimum speed limit on the N123 so you cannot dawdle, and the solid white line means you have to pull off the road if you want to stop the car. Even if you are unable to stop though there is plenty of beauty to observe when on these High Plains (Steppe).