This week we spent a glorious few days in Alentejo. It is such a beautiful region, and easily accessible from the Algarve as well as Lisbon. We didn’t do a huge amount over our three days, but we did enough for me to be able to write at least seven posts on our adventures. I thought I’d start with a rather wonderful yet unexpected event that occurred on Thursday. We were happily driving across the plains from Mértola to Serpa, when I shouted at MrB to find somewhere to stop the car asap. I wasn’t sure at this stage what they were but I could see that they were big and that there were lots of them.
Do you know what they are? Their size, the spiralling by the group and the visible ‘fingers’ of as well as the upturn of their wings are all clues. Try clicking on the gallery for a closer look before you scroll down further!
They are Eurasian Griffon Vultures, known as Grifo in Portugal. These are big birds, far bigger than eagles. And as we observed once they find the rising thermal currents they can glide great distances. The first time we saw them was mid morning and they were some distance away, but then in the late afternoon we came across another group or perhaps it was the same group again. It was on this second sighting I was able to capture a few shots where (if again you click on the gallery) you can see more clearly the upturn wings as well as the lightly coloured head and neck, and brown wings. It was thanks to these photographs we were able to confirm the identification.
It was an extraordinary sight, and to have come across them twice was an incredible piece of luck. Think there must be something about birding on a Thursday in Alentejo, as it was also on a Thursday last year when we saw lots of Great Bustards. We have been so very lucky on our birding trips in Alentejo.
By the way this was meant to be a short post for me because not only is it a Six Word Saturday I was worried we might have another power cut today which would have meant no post. Keep it short I said to myself, however having flown vultures at the Hawk Conservancy Trust near my home in England, I have a rather soft spot for these birds, so had to share a little bit more. Most of us tend to react to their looks, and so these wonderful birds are not much loved. But they should be! They have so much character and have a huge positive ecological impact on our environment. Worryingly though vultures are some of the most threatened birds in the world. Many populations especially those in southern Africa and south Asia are under immense pressure with some species facing the very real risk of extinction. We can’t afford to lose these birds. To find out more about how you can help please do take a moment to visit the Hawk Conservancy Trust website.