|Black-headed Weaver seems to be thriving in the marshes of the Tejo Estuary near Lisbon.|
With a morning flight from Terceira in the Azores to Lisbon but then a five-hour delay before the connection back to London Heathrow, I had some time in mainland Portugal crying out to be put to better use than the food hall of Terminal 1. And what better way of achieving that than hooking up with João Jara of local tour company Birds and Nature.
Lisbon is within a stone's throw of some great birding sites, notably the Tejo (or Tagus) Estuary, and it's hard to imagine anyone knowing them better than João. A former member of the Portuguese Rarities Committee whose time ended just before mine began, he greeted me with the news that he'd recently found Lesser Flamingo and American Golden Plover on the estuary. Our planned targets were rather more prosaic, with Black-headed Weaver and Yellow-crowned Bishop being two locally established - and therefore 'countable' - Category C species which are difficult (if not impossible) to see elsewhere in the Western Palearctic. But equally, I was also hoping for a quick fix of mainland Iberian birds.
|Doubtless stunning in full plumage, male Black-headed Weavers are still arresting when moulting their black and lemon-curd yellow breeding garb.|
|Juvenile Black-headed Weaver: note the pale gape line and dark iris.|
|Among numerous heron species present along the Tejo marshes was Squacco Heron.|
Before I knew it our time was up and João whisked me back to Lisbon, airport bang on schedule. We had seen a great deal in a short space of time, and I knew it was just a taste of what would be possible on a longer trip around the area. I'll certainly aim to hook up again for more top-drawer Portuguese birding when in Lisbon in future, and thoroughly recommend Birds and Nature for anyone else thinking of doing the same.