A Birdwatchers' Guide to Portugal & Madeira CC Moore, G Elias & H Costa.
Collins Guide to the Birds of Britain & Europe with N. Africa & The Mddle East.
Trip reports posted on the Web.
I saw a total of 113 species, not a bad total for this time of the year, but bolstered by the arrival of some winter visitors. This was not a "total birding" holiday; it was a lastminute.com holiday with First Choice just to get away from the rain. Time was split between my wife's passion - shopping and birding. I did however negotiate one day in order to travel to the Castro Verde area.
Birding in Portugal is well documented so I will not give site directions, however I will make reference and give thanks to all those people who have previously contributed trip reports to various trip report Web pages - thank you all; the trip would not have been so enjoyable without your valuable information.
Car hire cost Î138 for 5 days (1.2 VW Polo) pre booked over the Internet with Europcar, petrol is not surprisingly cheaper than the U.K. and the standard of driving is very good. If you compare it with somewhere like Cyprus it is positively fantastic. The standard of road is excellent and all the sites I visited were within one and a half hours of my hotel. We stayed at the Rocomar Hotel in the old part of Albufeira - towards the Western extremity.
2. Daily itineries
The flight from Stansted to Faro took about two and a half hours, from the airport to Albufeira, where we were staying took about an hour, as we had to drop off other travellers on route. I noted 4 Cormorant, House Sparrows and 3 Cattle Egret from the bus and a Little Owl perched on a telegraph wire.
Today was a Sunday. We decided to have a lazy day and familiarise ourselves with the local town and do a bit of "vegging out". As such I did not hire the car until day three, which worked out OK. The weather was about 24 degrees C on average throughout the week - and no rain, just a bit of cloud at times. Anyway birds - a colony of Crag Martins had taken up their wintering quarters next to the hotel on the sea cliffs, Gannets, Shags and Yellow-legged Gulls were noted over the sea and Sardinian Warbler and Chiffchaff were seen in the scrub by the hotel.
It got dark about 6pm and first light was at about 7am. I went for a walk away from the hotel to the West at about 4.30pm, to an area of scrub overlooking the new marina - this proved to be very productive. Black Redstart, 2 Little Owl, 2 Grey Wagtail and a Serin along with a surprise Spectacled Warbler and some more Sardinians were also seen from here.
I picked up the car at about 9am, and after that we planned a visit to Portimao market and then onwards to the Sagres and Cape St Vincent areas. The market, well, was a market but behind the stall area was an area of scrub that I walked around whilst my wife was shopping. Nothing spectacular here but a few "trip ticks" including Fan-tailed Warbler (Zitting Cisticola), Crested Lark and Stonechat.
The shopping over, onward to Sagres and Cape St Vincent. On route, 5 Booted Eagle were seen including one superb light phase bird and then a real surprise a short view of an Eleonora's Falcon (dark phase) over the scrub, before disappearing below the cliffs. I was familiar with this bird from living in Cyprus, but was surprised to see one here!
A little sea watching from the Cape produced Cory's and Balearic Shearwater in good numbers along with more Gannet. The scrub area produced Spectacled Warbler and Black Redstart. 4 Chough were also noted here giving fantastic close flight views as they performed aerobatics above the cliffs. I began to travel the documented track to the North. I scoped larks along this track and eventually secured assuring views of a Thekla Lark, further along, two Spotless Starling were noted and another Booted Eagle sat in a field.
A Peregrine Falcon chased hundreds of Corn Bunting, whilst Golden Plover and Lapwing were also noted.
I rose early today in order to reach Quinta do Lago at first light. I was a little early at 6.30am, but could hear Curlew calling. The area produced many waders as expected and the area by the tower hide gave fantastic views of at least 10 Purple Gallinule and 12 Azure-winged Magpie. 2 White Stork were seen on a nest and the only 2 Kingfisher of the trip were also seen here. The grassy area to the right of the hide allowed good views of 2 wintering Water Pipit and a group of Common Waxbill "zipped" by.
The rest of the morning at Albufeira market and an afternoon of sunbathing and boredom ensued, however life is all about compromise!
Off to Quarteira market to begin with (same sketch - different place). After this onward to the east and Castro Marim. This is an excellent area and the 3 hours I spent here wasn't really enough to explore the area thoroughly. Of interest here were 15 White Stork, a male and female Marsh Harrier, numerous Black-winged Stilt, 3 Southern Grey Shrike, the only Little Stints of the trip, a Bluethroat and an Osprey.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped at Quinta do Lago for another look at the Azure-winged Magpies and then home for an early bath.
I had previously negotiated this day as a "birding" day. Consequently, I set out alone at 5.30am in order to reach the Castro Verde area for first light - this I achieved.
I spent the whole day driving around the area and stopping to scan likely areas for the likely species. In any event I had close flight views of 2 Great Bustard on the track signposted to Monte Cumeada Nova and another view of a bird on the track to Monte de Hortinha stood on a hill, before flying toward me at about 100m distance giving superb flight views. 27 Little Bustard were seen at the bridge on the N123 just before the turning to Santa Barbara de Padroes (see Massie & Massie 2001) in the fields to the south of the road. These were flushed by one of the numerous Red Kite, before settling in a depression, which was out of view. An obliging farmer allowed me to wander over his land and eventually I secured close views of the Little Bustards feeding for about 20 minutes. Several Azure-winged Magpie were seen at the end of the track signed Monte Cumeada Nova (see Dodd 1999) and along the N123 to Mertola. A ringtail Hen Harrier was also seen quartering at the bridge on the road between Guerriero and Alcarias. Red Kite and Spotless Starling were numerous as were Calandra Lark along the track to the left from the white farmhouse near the turning for Alcarias (see Massie & Massie 2001)
We visited Monchique and Foia today via some ceramic and pottery shops and then ended up birding the wooded areas near Casais. A number of species seen in these areas were not seen anywhere else during the week. The radar station and restaurant area at Foia produced 4 Woodlark, a male Blue Rock Thrush, and a Wren down the track to the East of the restaurant. The woods just beyond Casais with its "brown armchair" (which remains in place - see Massie & Massie 2001) produced Jay, Crested Tit, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blue Tit and as I was leaving a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.
We returned to the hotel via Silves and the Cork Museum, booking ourselves into the theme night that evening, which proved to be very enjoyable.
On arrival at the hotel I had a spare two hours before we had to depart for the theme night. I had read about Pera (signposted Parra) Marsh (see Massie & Massie 2001), so decided to visit here, as it was only ten minutes from the hotel. Although not well documented, this location proved to be a fantastic winter location. Many species were seen here (see consolidated species list) that were not seen elsewhere. Highlights included the following: 14+ Purple Gallinule, 3 Spoonbill, 2 Knot, a first winter Mediterranean Gull and 2 Greylag Goose.
Due to the success of the previous evening and because I had to give the car back at 9am, I decided to re-visit Pera Marsh for first light and this proved to be a good decision. Several new birds were added to the trip list including the accidental male White-headed Duck, 2 Avocet and a surprise Canada Goose consorting with the 2 Greylag from the previous evening. I am not sure of the status of Canada Goose in Portugal as it is not mentioned in the Birdwatchers' Guide to Portugal and Madeira.
3. Consolidated Systematic Species List
Little GrebeTachybaptus ruficollis Common at Pera Marsh, Castro Marim and Quinta do Lago golf course
Cory's ShearwaterCalonectris diometea Numerous past Cape St Vincent on the
Balearic ShearwaterPuffinus mauretanicus Numerous past Cape St Vincent on the
Gannet Morus bassanus Numerous past Cape St Vincent on the and from the hotel window.
CormorantPhalacrocorax carbo Good numbers at Pera Marsh and Quinta do Lago
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotilis Several seen low over the sea from coastal locations
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis Common seen almost anywhere
Little Egret Egretta garzetta Not as common as Cattle Egret but a large roost at Pera Marsh
Grey HeronArdea cinerea Seen almost anywhere in suitable habitat
White StorkCiconia ciconia 2 at Quinta do Lago golf course on a nest and 15 in the Castro Marim area
SpoonbillPlatalea leucorodia 3 at Pera Marsh on the 8th and 9th
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber 55 in the river at Castro Marim and 80+ at Pera Marsh
Greylag Goose Anser anser 2 at Pera Marsh on the 8th and 9th
Canada GooseBranta (Canadensis) canadensis 1 at Pera Marsh on the morning of the 9th (status unknown)
GadwallAnas strepera Numerous at Quinta do Lago golf course and several at Pera Marsh
Teal Anas crecca 1 at Pera Marsh
MallardAnas platyrhynchos Quinta do Lago golf course and Pera Marsh
Pintail Anas acuta 3 seen at Pera Marsh
ShovelerAnas clypeata Quinta do Lago golf course and Pera Marsh
PochardAythya ferina Quinta do Lago golf course and Pera Marsh
Tufted DuckAythya fuligula Quinta do Lago golf course only
White-headed DuckOxyura leucocephala 1 male seen at Pera Marsh on the morning of the 9th
Red Kite Milvus milvus At least 20 noted in the Castro Verde "triangle"
Marsh HarrierCircus aeruginosus 2, one male and 1 female at Castro Marim near the bridge to Spain and one at Pera Marsh on the morning of the 9th
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus 1 ringtail south of the 233 towards Mertola near the bridge on the road from Guerriero and Alcarias (see Massie & Massie 2001)
BuzzardButeo buteo Half a dozen noted in the Castro Verde "triangle"
Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus 5 seen along the road between Sagres and CapeSt Vincent
Osprey Pandion haliaetus 1 over the river at Castro Marim
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus Fairly common seen anywhere
Eleonora's Falcon Falco eleonorae 1 dark phase around the cliffs between Sagres and Cape St Vincent
Peregrine FalconFalco peregrinus 2 in the Cape St Vincent area and one at Pera Marsh on the 8th and 9th
Red-legged PartridgeAlectoris barbara 6 only from the track signed Monte de Hortinha on the road between Estradas and Carrogueiro
Moorhen Gallinula chloropus Seen anywhere in suitable habitat
Purple GallinulePorphyrio porphyrio 11 seen at Quinta do Lago golf course and 14+ seem at Pera Marsh
CootFulica atra Seen in all wetland areas
Little Bustard Tetrax tetrax A flock of 27 seen on the 233 from Castro Verde to Mertola near the bridge before the turning to Santa Barbara de Padroes via Rolao (see Massie & Massie 2001)
Great Bustard Otis tarda 3 noted all in the same area. 2 in flight and one standing, in the area of Monte Cumeada Nova between Estradas and Carrogueiro from the tracks that branch off the main road (see Dodd 1999)
Black-winged StiltHimantopus himantopus 3 at Quinta do Lago and numerous at Castro Marim saltpans and Pera Marsh
AvocetRecurvirostra avosetta 2 at Pera Marsh on the morning of the 9th
Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula Common at Quito do Lago
Kentish PloverCharadrius alexandrinus Fairly common at Quito do Lago and several noted at Castro Marim saltpans
Golden PloverPluvialis squatarola A flock of 11 seen in the area to the north of Cape St Vincent
Grey PloverPluvialis squatarola Several at Quinta do Lago and one at Pera Marsh
LapwingVanellus vanellus Numerous north of Cape St Vincent, Castro Verde reservoir and Pera Marsh
KnotCalidris canutus 2 at Pera Marsh on the evening of the 8th
SanderlingCalidris alba 3 at Quinta do Lago
Little Stint Calidris minuta 50+ seen in the Castro Marim saltpan area
Curlew SandpiperCalidris ferruginea Several at Castro Marim saltpans and Pera Marsh
DunlinCalidris alpina Fairly numerous at Quinta do Lago
Common SnipeGallinago gallinago 2 at Castro Marim saltpans amd at least 8 at Pera Marsh
Black-tailed GodwitLimosa limosa Numerous at Pera Marsh and Quito do Lago
Bar-tailed GodwitLimosa lapponica 8 seen at Quinta do Lago
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 2 at Quinta do Lago
CurlewNumenius arquata Several at Quinta do Lago
RedshankTringa totanus Seen anywhere in suitable habitat
GreenshankTringa nebularia 3 seen at Quinta do Lago
Green SandpiperTringa ochropus 1 at the bridge on the road between Guerriero and Alcarias (see Massie & Massie 2001)
Common SandpiperActitis hypoleucos Several at Quinta do Lago and 1 at Pera Marsh
TurnstoneArenaria interpres Numerous at Quinta do Lago
Mediterranean GullLarus melanocephalus 1 1st Winter at Pera Marsh on the 8th
Black-headed GullLarus ridibundus Fairly common at coastal lagoons and 8 inland at Silves along the river
Lesser Black-backed GullLarus fuscus Numerous coming to roost on the beach at Albufeira and Pera Marsh
Yellow-legged GullLarus atlantis Numerous and common at coastal locations
Great Black-backed GullLarus marinus 1 at Quinta do Lago
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1 over the river at Castro Marim
Rock DoveColumba livia 2 considered to be this species at Cape St Vincent
Collared DoveStreptopelia decaocto Common around Albufeira
Little Owl Athene noctua 2 at Albufeira scrub above marina, 1 at Quinta do Lago golf course
Common KingfisherAlcedo atthis 2 at Quinta do Lago golf course
Hoopoe Upupa epops 1 near Quarteira and 2 at Pera Marsh
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major 2 in the woods to the West of Casais
Lesser Spotted WoodpeckerDendrocopos minor 1 in the woods to the West of Casais
Calandra LarkMelanocorypha calandra Numerous in the Castro Verde area especially along the track to the viewpoint (see Massie & Massie 2001)
Crested Lark Galerida cristata Widespread and numerous
Thekla LarkGalerida theklae Numerous if identified. Several positively identified at various locations – The fields to the north of Sagres and Castro Verde.
WoodlarkLullula arborea 5 at the radar station at Foia
Skylark Alauda arvensis Common and numerous in suitable habitat
Crag MartinPtyonoprogne rupestris A colony of 60+ at the sea cliffs next to the Rocomar hotel Albufeira
Meadow PipitAnthus pratensis Common and widespread in suitable habitat
Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta 2 at Quinta do Lago golf course
Grey WagtailMotacilla cinerea 1 at Quinta do Lago golf course and 2 near the sewage works at Albufeira (overlooking the marina)
White WagtailMotacilla (alba) alba Seen at Portomao, Quinta do Lago and Pera Marsh
WrenTroglodytes troglodytes Seen on the road to the East of Foia
RobinErithacus rubecula Widespread in ones and twos
BluethroatLuscinia svecica 1 at Castro Marim and one at Pera Marsh
Black RedstartPhoenicurus ochruros Numerous seen almost anywhere
StonechatSaxicola (torquata) maura Numerous and seen everywhere
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius 1 male at the radar station at Foia on the 8th
Blackbird Turdus merula Numerous and common
Cetti's WarblerCettia cetti Heard only in various locations - numerous at Quinta do Logo
Spectacled WarblerSylvia conspicillata 1 in scrub at Albufeira and 2 at Cape St Vincent
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala Widespread and numerous in scrubby habitat
BlackcapSylvia atricapilla 1 at the scrub overlooking the new marina at Albufeira
ChiffchaffPhylloscopus collybita Fairly common in scrub and bushes.
Crested Tit Parus cristatus 4 seen in the woods to the west of Casais
Blue Tit Parus caeruleus Seen in the woods to the west of Casais
Great Tit Parus major 1 seen at the end of the track signposted to Monte Cumeada Nova (see Dodd 1999) in the Castro Verde area
NuthatchSitta europaea 2 seen in the woods to the west of Casais
Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis 3 in the Castro Marim area and fairly common on wires in the Castro Verde area
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus Parties of 10+ seen at Quinta do Lago, along the road between Castro Verde and Mertola and along the road to Monchique
ChoughPyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 4 at Cape St Vincent
Carrion Crow Corvus (corone) corone Fairly common in the Castro Verde area
Raven Corvus corax 4 seen near the Castro Verde reservoir
Spotless StarlingSturnus unicolor 2 north of Cape St Vincent, numerous in the Castro Verde "triangle" and 8 at Pera Marsh
House SparrowPasser domesticus Widespread and numerous
Spannish SparrowPasser hispaniolensis Several seen south of the N123 near the junction to Alcarias (see Massie & Massie 2001)
Common WaxbillEstrilda estrild A large flock seen at the Quito do Lago golf course
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs 3 noted on the climb from Monchique to Foia
Serin Serinus menachensis 1 near the cemetery in Albufeira and one heard at Quinta do Lago golf course
GreenfinchCarduelis chloris Several seen at the Albufeira cemetery
GoldfinchCarduelis carduelis Widespread and numerous
Linnet Carduelis cannabina Several at Portimao, Foia and Pera Marsh
Corn BuntingEmberiza hortulana Flocks of 100s in the fields north of Cape St Vincent and the fields in the Castro Verde area
Portugal is a friendly country with excellent facilities. The weather was great at this time of year, although this is not always the case! Getting around is very easy and the chance of finding a rarity is always a possibility. The main sites are well documented and there is little to add to the excellent directions and descriptions that have already been written. A week is enough to catch up with the target species, although further exploration would be worthy of a two-week trip at least.