Wednesday, 22 April 2015

More Than a Hint of Cornwall in Portugal

There are aspects of Portugal that are very much like Cornwall; some of the coastline, the surf, the clear clean air, certainly the coastal wind and also the laid back attitude (apart from with their driving!).  What we didn't expect to see in Portugal is something so utterly Cornish that it appears on Cornwall's Coat of Arms; the chough.

We had taken a morning stroll over the cliffs and to the next beach along to check the surf (and to avoid driving the long, bumpy and dusty track to do the same).  As is often the case with Phil he suggested continuing past said beach (the surf was no good on this particular day) to 'see what was around the next corner'.  Some minutes later, and after a steep ascent of the clifftop on the other side, we were picking our way along the clifftop through the random tracks among the fragrant shrub when we heard a familiar shriek.  Two glossy black birds tumbled and swirled briefly overhead before plunging headlong and disappearing over the sudden and dramatic cliff edge.  We both looked at each other in disbelief.  Surely they couldn't have been choughs all the way down here in Portugal?  Neither of us were aware of them being this far south.  

In the brief overhead flight of the two black birds, we had not had time to spot any glint of orange on beak or leg.  We needed a closer look so our walk along the cliff turned into a patient and enjoyable sit on the sunny clifftop to listen and watch for any further evidence of the characterful chough. 

Perhaps we had imagined the sighting in a combination of Cornish homesickness and sunstroke? However, very soon the evidence was surrounding us in a demonstration of noisy and acrobatic flight with flashes of orange beak and legs clearly visible in the flutter and swoop of black feather. They were indeed choughs.  

We sat transfixed as along various parts of the cliff east and west we saw no less than six pairs. This indeed was a treat to the eye and camera lens (luckily I had a relatively long lens with me to capture the wonders in front of us). 

If it hadn't been for the need to return back to the van for water, which we had neglected to take with us for the originally short walk we had planned, I have no doubts I would have still been sat there now watching them!  

A search on the internet once back in wi-fi range did indeed confirm the existence of choughs in Portugal. They are locally extinct in many parts of the country but, although in decline, remain in this particular area of the Algarve.  It seems that Phil's constant desire to see what was around the next corner paid off big time in this case.  

I was more than choughed!  Now I know where you can search them out in Portugal I am sure to return to this spot next year with a bigger lens, sun cream and a big bottle of water.

For details on one of our Cornish viewings of choughs have a read of this previous post from last year. 

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