Animals I saw today

May 4, 2022 • 11:46 am

We are at harbor in Portimão, Portugal, near the southwestern tip of the country (red circle). Tomorrow I fly home around noon:

We had a fine day up in the mountains, consuming a lovely lunch in a country restaurant, touring a museum that used to be a sardine canning factory (the sardine story is fascinating!), and seeing some wildlife. I’m in a rush for our Final Dinner, but here’s some of the wildlife I saw.

Matthew will identify this: I can’t, but he’s a fan of swifts and swallows. Or, readers can tell us:

OMG. Stork City! I have never seen white storks (Ciconia ciconia) so close, or so close to the ground:


Cork oak (Quercus suber). The “6” means it was stripped in 2016; they leave 9-12 years between successive peeling of bark. A cork tree first yields cork at about 25 years of age, but the first two harvests after that yield inferior cork. You don’t plant cork for yourself, or even your children1

The cork bark:

And our own favorite mammal, Felis catus tuxedosis:


17 thoughts on “Animals I saw today

  1. Looks like a House Martin – Delichon urbicum. Not 100% certain though. Alternative is a Sand Martin but the head doesn’t look right.

    1. Certainly House Martins; Sand Martins are pale brown, do not have a white rump, and nest in burrows (they are known as Bank Swallows on the other side of the pond).

    2. It is indeed. They nested on my primary school – wonder if they still do. Much rarer now sadly.

    1. Between October 1979& June1980, I was teaching English in Thessaly in a small yet ancient town(it is mentioned in book 2 of the I liad, known as ‘the catalogue of the ship’s as Olossona),the modern name isElasson(a) and it is close to mount Olympos near Larissa and Ekaterini. There were three storks’ nests in the town:all of them-pleasingly enough,on house chimneys, only one nest,as I remember,actually produced chicks, the adult birds seemed to have little or no fear of hi!and who! they would tolerate as close as about 10 metres. It was my custom every evening to visit the stream which ran through the town (alleged source -Mt.Olympos!!),to watch the bats gather and listen to them,one of the adult birds was a regular companion for me(foraging in the stream…)which is how I know about their toerance for people.. I now wish,I had thought to ask some of my acquaintance in the town about the’pelargoi'(Greek for’storks’) because I’m quite sure they would have had number of curious tales to tell,Icanrecall quite distinctly the din of clattering ofbills that would ensue whenever one of the adult birds returned to its partner on the nest(reminiscent of the honking of geese), which I assume was some kind of ‘ritual behaviour (cf.Konrad Lorenz on thebehaviour of geese).

  2. Jerry, it seems I found a (small) error in your book Why Evolution is True. You write that “Vitamin C is essential for proper metabolism, and virtually all mammals have the pathway to make it–all, that is, except for primates, fruit bats, and guinea pigs.” You’re quite right that humans and other haplorhines lack the ability to make vitamin C because the gene that codes for L-Gulonolactone oxidase has become degraded, and it’s something that makes no sense except in light of evolution. But some strepsirrhine primates do have the functional gene, per Wikipedia: “Loss of GULO activity in the primate order occurred about 63 million years ago, at about the time it split into the suborders Haplorhini (which lost the enzyme activity) and Strepsirrhini (which retained it). The haplorhine (“simple-nosed”) primates, which cannot make vitamin C enzymatically, include the tarsiers and the simians (apes, monkeys and humans). The strepsirrhine (“bent-nosed” or “wet-nosed”) primates, which can still make vitamin C enzymatically, include lorises, galagos, pottos, and, to some extent, lemurs.”

    Of course, that provides evidence that we share a more recent common ancestor with the other haplorhine primates than with strepsirrhine primates, something that only makes sense in light of evolution. I’ve never heard adherents of creationism (or its spin-off, ID) explain why large chunks of our genome don’t seem to code for anything.

    I’m guessing you know this and didn’t feel like going into the differences between strepsirrhines and haplorhines in a popular book. I understand that, but I think this provides more compelling evidence for evolution, as it shows we have a more recent common ancestor with other haplorhine primates than with strepsirrhines. Something to think about for future editions.


  3. Some of my best ever stork sightings, including some nesting on chimneys, also were in Portimão.

    1. And to think, I almost made it to the end of the day..,

      Ah well, I bid you :

      These are not the droids you are looking for.

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