Portugal - The Algarve, 2nd - 9th November 2002

Published by Surfbirds Admin (surfbirds AT surfbirds.com)


By Mark Easterbrook


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.

1. Introduction

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

Day One

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.

Day Two

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.

Day Three

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.

Day Four

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!

Day Five

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.

Day Six

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)

Day Seven

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.

Day Eight

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 Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis Common at Pera Marsh, Castro Marim and Quinta do Lago golf course

Cory's Shearwater Calonectris diometea Numerous past Cape St Vincent on the

Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus Numerous past Cape St Vincent on the

Gannet Morus bassanus Numerous past Cape St Vincent on the and from the hotel window.

Cormorant Phalacrocorax 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 Heron Ardea cinerea Seen almost anywhere in suitable habitat

White Stork Ciconia ciconia 2 at Quinta do Lago golf course on a nest and 15 in the Castro Marim area

Spoonbill Platalea 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 Goose Branta (Canadensis) canadensis 1 at Pera Marsh on the morning of the 9th (status unknown)

Gadwall Anas strepera Numerous at Quinta do Lago golf course and several at Pera Marsh

Teal Anas crecca 1 at Pera Marsh

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos Quinta do Lago golf course and Pera Marsh

Pintail Anas acuta 3 seen at Pera Marsh

Shoveler Anas clypeata Quinta do Lago golf course and Pera Marsh

Pochard Aythya ferina Quinta do Lago golf course and Pera Marsh

Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula Quinta do Lago golf course only

White-headed Duck Oxyura 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 Harrier Circus 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)

Buzzard Buteo 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 Falcon Falco peregrinus 2 in the Cape St Vincent area and one at Pera Marsh on the 8th and 9th

Red-legged Partridge Alectoris 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 Gallinule Porphyrio porphyrio 11 seen at Quinta do Lago golf course and 14+ seem at Pera Marsh

Coot Fulica 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 Stilt Himantopus himantopus 3 at Quinta do Lago and numerous at Castro Marim saltpans and Pera Marsh

Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 2 at Pera Marsh on the morning of the 9th

Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula Common at Quito do Lago

Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus Fairly common at Quito do Lago and several noted at Castro Marim saltpans

Golden Plover Pluvialis squatarola A flock of 11 seen in the area to the north of Cape St Vincent

Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola Several at Quinta do Lago and one at Pera Marsh

Lapwing Vanellus vanellus Numerous north of Cape St Vincent, Castro Verde reservoir and Pera Marsh

Knot Calidris canutus 2 at Pera Marsh on the evening of the 8th

Sanderling Calidris alba 3 at Quinta do Lago

Little Stint Calidris minuta 50+ seen in the Castro Marim saltpan area

Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea Several at Castro Marim saltpans and Pera Marsh

Dunlin Calidris alpina Fairly numerous at Quinta do Lago

Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 2 at Castro Marim saltpans amd at least 8 at Pera Marsh

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa Numerous at Pera Marsh and Quito do Lago

Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica 8 seen at Quinta do Lago

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 2 at Quinta do Lago

Curlew Numenius arquata Several at Quinta do Lago

Redshank Tringa totanus Seen anywhere in suitable habitat

Greenshank Tringa nebularia 3 seen at Quinta do Lago

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus 1 at the bridge on the road between Guerriero and Alcarias (see Massie & Massie 2001)

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos Several at Quinta do Lago and 1 at Pera Marsh

Turnstone Arenaria interpres Numerous at Quinta do Lago

Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 1 1st Winter at Pera Marsh on the 8th

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus Fairly common at coastal lagoons and 8 inland at Silves along the river

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus Numerous coming to roost on the beach at Albufeira and Pera Marsh

Yellow-legged Gull Larus atlantis Numerous and common at coastal locations

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 1 at Quinta do Lago

Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1 over the river at Castro Marim

Rock Dove Columba livia 2 considered to be this species at Cape St Vincent

Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto Common around Albufeira

Little Owl Athene noctua 2 at Albufeira scrub above marina, 1 at Quinta do Lago golf course

Common Kingfisher Alcedo 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 Woodpecker Dendrocopos minor 1 in the woods to the West of Casais

Calandra Lark Melanocorypha 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 Lark Galerida theklae Numerous if identified. Several positively identified at various locations – The fields to the north of Sagres and Castro Verde.

Woodlark Lullula arborea 5 at the radar station at Foia

Skylark Alauda arvensis Common and numerous in suitable habitat

Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris A colony of 60+ at the sea cliffs next to the Rocomar hotel Albufeira

Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis Common and widespread in suitable habitat

Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta 2 at Quinta do Lago golf course

Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 1 at Quinta do Lago golf course and 2 near the sewage works at Albufeira (overlooking the marina)

White Wagtail Motacilla (alba) alba Seen at Portomao, Quinta do Lago and Pera Marsh

Wren Troglodytes troglodytes Seen on the road to the East of Foia

Robin Erithacus rubecula Widespread in ones and twos

Bluethroat Luscinia svecica 1 at Castro Marim and one at Pera Marsh

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros Numerous seen almost anywhere

Stonechat Saxicola (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 Warbler Cettia cetti Heard only in various locations - numerous at Quinta do Logo

Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata 1 in scrub at Albufeira and 2 at Cape St Vincent

Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala Widespread and numerous in scrubby habitat

Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla 1 at the scrub overlooking the new marina at Albufeira

Chiffchaff Phylloscopus 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

Nuthatch Sitta 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

Chough Pyrrhocorax 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 Starling Sturnus unicolor 2 north of Cape St Vincent, numerous in the Castro Verde "triangle" and 8 at Pera Marsh

House Sparrow Passer domesticus Widespread and numerous

Spannish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis Several seen south of the N123 near the junction to Alcarias (see Massie & Massie 2001)

Common Waxbill Estrilda 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

Greenfinch Carduelis chloris Several seen at the Albufeira cemetery

Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis Widespread and numerous

Linnet Carduelis cannabina Several at Portimao, Foia and Pera Marsh

Corn Bunting Emberiza hortulana Flocks of 100s in the fields north of Cape St Vincent and the fields in the Castro Verde area

4. Summary

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.