Richard Wesley, 1 Kilbrandon Cottages, Balvicar, Oban, PA34 4RA
e-mail :- firstname.lastname@example.org
website :- http://spaces.msn.com/balvicar/
Ogston Bird Club Trip Members
Departure on 5 May 2001 Flight AMM 614C-AIR 2000 to Faro Portugal
Depart East Midlands Airport - 15.50 Hrs (Check –in 13.50 hrs)
Arrive Faro, Portugal Airport - 18.40 Hrs
Casa Da Primavera,
Cama da Vaca,
Arrive Saturday night
Return on 19 May 2001 Flight AMM 614D – AIR2000 to East Midlands
Depart Faro, Portugal Airport - 19.40 Hrs
Arrive East Midlands Airport - 22.25 Hrs
Introduction & Strategy
This was planned as a bird watching trip and holiday with the emphasis on bird watching. This entailed birding from dawn ‘til dusk most days with some time off for good behaviour. Although our base near Burgau was not ideal from the amount of travelling we should be doing it was rented at a very reasonable price and provided a quiet and very scenic location.
Accommodation and Transport
Casa Da Primavera was rented through a friend of Mike Conroy and furnished us with excellent accommodation. The villa had a pool and barbeque area, a luxury, which unfortunately we never found, time to take advantage of. There were two twin bedrooms, with a lounge, kitchen, bathroom and balcony. This provided the perfect base for the four amigos. The cost of the villa was £325 a week in May.
We also spent two nights in a pension providing bed and breakfast at Monte Gordo near the Spanish border. Each room had twin beds with an en-suite bathroom, a balcony and a sea view. I cannot recommend this pension too much; at a cost of £11 each per night including breakfast this really was value for money. The continental breakfast was excellent with as much tea or coffee as we could drink. This was so good that we also decided to stay for the evening meal. The total cost being £17 each per night; probably half that we would have paid in the United Kingdom. The price did not include the Cory’s Shearwaters; these were scoped from the balcony, and came free.
Our transport a Renault Megane 1.4 Estate was provided by LuzCar rentals. This was collected from Faro Airport on arrival and returned to the same car park on departure. There was ample room for our four cases and hand luggage and the four occupants. The vehicle was a pleasure to drive and considering we drove nearly 3000 miles in the two weeks, passed with flying colours. This was rented at a cost of £165 per week.
Our flight was booked with Lunn Poly and including insurance came to £197 each. The total price of this package including the stay in Monte Gordo was £478 per person.
The currency in Portugal is the Escudo abbreviated to ESC, PTE or $. In shops etc, 3,000 Escudo for example, would be shown as 3000$00. The exchange rate during the time of our visit was approximately UKP 1 = ESC 310, and this is the rate of exchange I have used in translating costs throughout this report.
The quality of local food was exceptional, widely available and was very reasonably priced. There were many restaurants to recommend but the best were the Beira Mar at Burgau and the Oficina Petisqueira at Mexilhoeira Grande. For a full English breakfast the Brizze Coffee Shop in Burgau is the business; with a large milky coffee and a sea view, birds could easily have come second.
The weather was pretty mixed during our trip and fairly windy during the first week being nearer to the West coast. The few showers we encountered were mainly short lived and in general, conditions were good with an average daytime temperature of around 24 degrees. Dawn was around 06:00 hours and dusk about 20:00 hours, mornings being noticeably cooler particularly in the hills.
Collins Bird Guide by Killan Mullarney, Lars Svensson, Dan Zetterstrom & Peter Grant.
A Birdwatching Guide to The Algarve by Kevin & Christine Carlson (Arlequin).
Where to Watch Birds in Spain and Portugal by Laurence Rose (Hamlyn).
Breeding Birds Of The Algarve by G.A.Vowles and R.S.Vowles (CEOA)
Finding Birds in Southern Portugal by Dave Gosney (Gostours)
Algarve Let’s Walk by Julie Statham (Peter Daughtrey and Len Port)
Mapa das Estradas de Portugal by GeoBloco
Trip Reports were obtained from www.birdtours.co.uk , Bird Watching Magazine and further searches on the Internet using the search engine Google.
These included the following:-
1. Southern Portugal, 19-26 September 1999 by Gruff Dodd
2. Portugal, 1- 15 May 1999 by John Jennings
3. Southern Portugal, Trip Report March 2001 by David and Nancy Massie
4. Portugal (Algarve and Alentejo) 1999 by Colin Davies
5. Portugal, July 1999 by Joan Thompson
6. Portugal, Algarve and Alentejo, April 2000(Last Two Weeks) by AlecChaney
7. Spring in Southern Portugal by Naturetrek (Internet search using Google)
8. Algarve Opportunities by Steve Whitehouse (Bird Watching-October 1991)
5 May 2001 – Travelling to the Algarve, Portugal.
6 May 2001 - Walking Locally Luz to Burgau, Sagres and Cape St Vincente.
7 May 2001 - Cape St Vincente, Sagres, Carrapateria and Alzejur.
8 May 2001 - Mount Foia, Casais Cork Woods, Odelouca Valley and Pera Marsh.
9 May 2001 - Alentejo (Rolao, Guerreiro, Figuerrinha, Penilhos, Joao Serra & Mertola).
10 May 2001 - Boca do Rio, Barragem de Bravura, Quinta da Rocha, and Pera Marsh.
11 May 2001 - Quinta da Rocha, Dunas Douradus, Quinta da Lago & Ludo Farm.
12 May 2001 - Alentejo (Rolao, Guerreiro, Joao Serra & Pulo do Lobo) and Pera Marsh.
13 May 2001 - Carrapateria, Borderia, Alzejur, Marmalette, Casais, Odelouca Valley.
14 May 2001 - Castro Marim & Azinhal.
15 May 2001 - Azinhal, Mertola, Mina do San Domingos, Serpa, Pias, Brinches
16 May 2001 - Azinhal, Martim Longo, Vaqueiros, Ribeira de Foupana & Pera Marsh.
17 May 2001 - Boca do Rio, Bordeira, Alzejur, Carrapateria, Vale do Bispo grasslands.
18 May 2001 - Mira Valley, Monta Rocha, The Plains Circuit, Mertola, Almodovar.
19 May 2001 - Boca do Rio, Quinta do Lago and Faro Airport to return home.
To my wife for condoning my first bird watching trip abroad without her.
Sunday 6 May 2001 - Luz to Burgau (Walking Locally - am)
We started out at 06:30 hours Sunday morning walking along the cliffs to Burgau to get ourselves accustomed with the area and to look for breakfast. On opening the villa door we were greeted with “Wet My Lips”; our first tick was to be Quail. This was to occur most early mornings at Casa da Primavera. We continued along a very pleasant cliff top path to Burgau. Other birds of note along here were Yellow-legged Gull, Red-rumped Swallow, Cattle Egret, Crested Lark, Woodchat Shrike, Blue Rock Thrush, Sardinian Warbler & Fan-tailed Warbler.
At 08:00 hours we reached Burgau and after fraternising with the locals discovered the Brizze Coffee Bar. Here we were treated to excellent milky coffee reminiscent of the ‘sixties’ and an even better full English breakfast.
Fully satiated we retraced our footsteps, continuing further along the cliffs to Luz, before returning to the villa. More birds of note were Hoopoe, Pallid Swift, Serin & Moustached Warbler.
It was necessary to purchase some provisions before our next excursion, so we drove into Praia da Luz and visited the Supermarket. On our return we spotted a large raptor hovering above a restaurant; this turned out to be the first of many Short-toed Eagle we were to see in the next two weeks. Before reaching the villa we were to see two more target birds, Azure-winged Magpie and Great Grey Shrike.
Birds Recorded :- Cattle Egret, Short-toed Eagle, Kestrel, Common Quail, Whimbrel, Yellow-legged Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Common Tern, Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Pallid Swift, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Stonechat, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Spectacled Warbler, Great Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Azure Winged Magpie, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Fan-tailed Warbler.
Sunday 6 May 2001 –Sagres (pm)
Following lunch we decided to make for Sagres and another of our target birds. Within minutes of arriving at the Fortaleza on Ponta do Sagres we were looking at a Black Redstart; again the first of several.
We continued on towards the lighthouse for a spot of sea watching. However this was fairly disappointing and only turned up Gannet and Shag. We now returned to our base ready for our evening meal at the restaurant where we had seen the Short-toed Eagle.
Birds Recorded :- Black Redstart, Shag, Gannet.
Monday 7 May 2001 - Cape St Vincente and the ‘West Coast’
Early morning at the Cape is the best time to see some of its specialties, and sure enough they were there on cue. Firstly two pairs of Chough displaying acrobatically in the wind and then a Peregrine Falcon drifting gracefully below us around the lighthouse.
Above us were the cries of Common Swifts and below the cliffs the daintier Pallid Swifts. However where were the Alpine Swifts which had also been elusive at Sagres the day before. Then to order they appeared, several powering through the commoner swifts, showing their speed and strength.
As we left the Cape a White Stork appeared to our left and as we stopped at the Fort de Beliche to search for more birds, a Dartford Warbler sat up obligingly on top of a bush. The Fort soon surrendered another Black Redstart, before we were heading to Sagres for our breakfast.
Following a good meal at Sagres we were soon heading up the ‘West Coast’ looking to add to our already growing list. The stunning beauty of this coast is hard to describe, but think of Cornwall multiplied by fifty and perhaps you can get some conception of its attraction. As you travel north from Vale do Bispo the roads become quieter and give you time to reflect on all its splendour.
The coast is never far away from the IC4 and it invites you to stop off at every turn. Our first excursion took us down a dirt track to a smallholding and several farms. This soon produced Spotless Starling, Red-legged Partridges and further White Storks. We then continued up the coast to Carrapateria and took the loop round to the coast and back. We had more views of a Short-toed Eagle being mobbed by a Great Grey Shrike. On the beach was Grey Plover and Sanderling.
After stopping for lunch we continued north, but before travelling a few kilometres we had pulled off left down a farm track by the side of a pine forest and a small river. There were birds in all directions, Bee-eaters, Kingfisher, Waxbill, Spotted Flycatcher, Jay’s and Cirl Bunting. There was a Nightingale singing along with several Cetti’s Warblers and in the fields adjacent to the farm about thirty Cattle Egrets. It was hard to leave this magical spot but we continued north knowing we would return before the fortnight was out.
We were now nearing Alzejur and I was looking for an attractive valley I had read about in a NatureTrek trip dossier. Driving to a Moorish Castle above Alzejur it was possible to gain a panoramic view. A mere 5 km takes you through farmland, orchards, river-bank scrub, gallery forest, scrub covered hills, water meadows, saltpans to a tidal lagoon, extensive dunes and a broad sandy beach. This valley is signposted from the IC4 just north of Aljezur as Praia Amoreira. This left turn is at the side of a Leisure Centre.
However on this first visit it was unable to produce too many quality birds. Grey Heron, Mallard, Yellow Wagtail and Curlew was added to our list but we left rather disappointed. One siting which did redeem this valley was our first Thekla Lark seen at the roadside and this was quite unmistakable.
Birds Recorded :- Grey Heron, Cattle Egret, White Stork, Mallard, Peregrine Falcon, Red-legged Partridge, Moorhen, Grey Plover, Curlew, Sanderling, Rock Dove, Alpine Swift, Pallid Swift, Common Swift, Kingfisher, Bee-eater, Thekla Lark, Yellow Wagtail, Nightingale, Cetti’s Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Great Tit, Jay, Chough, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Spotless Starling, Common Waxbill & Cirl Bunting.
Tuesday 8 May 2001 – Mount Foia, Casais Cork Woods, Odelouca Valley and Pera Marsh
We left early as usual so that we would arrive at Mount Foia the highest point in the Monchique Hills by 08:00 hrs. Although the sky was clear and blue most of the way, by the time we reached the summit, cloud and mist were affecting visibility. This did not prevent us from seeing our first Rock Bunting on rocks at the side of the road as we drove towards the top. Another first on this road was a Common Cuckoo that flew across in front of us.
The visibility was making the summit rather unpleasant so we dropped down lower to a layby off the road. Here the sun was shining and we were soon listening to Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker calling close by. After half an hour we returned to find the summit much improved. We soon discovered another Rock Bunting around the restaurant, which gave excellent views. Other birds included Common Buzzard, Whitethroat, Skylark and another Cuckoo. One of our target birds, Subalpine Warbler was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps it was too cold, I was certainly glad I’d taken along my fleece.
We were all ready for breakfast by now but everywhere appeared closed. Our next stop was to be Casais so we headed towards the Cork Oak Woods. The village surrended a small café and although the proprietress spoke no English she was soon away cooking up a storm. Fresh vegetables kept appearing from outside and she eventually produced to our surprise a great omelette with all the trimmings.
We continued onto the Cork Oak Woods following closely the directions from Gruff Dodd. Once parked up we were soon discovering another magical location. We immediately saw Nuthatch, quickly followed by Redstart, Chaffinch and then Crested Tit. The highlight for me however was the Short-toed Treecreeper my first lifer of the holiday.
If anybody is in doubt about the importance of using natural cork against plastic substitutes they should visit these woods and see what a wonderful habitat that has been created. To lose these woodlands would be an ecological disaster.
Heading back south towards the coast we took a diversion east towards Silves and soon reached our next site the Odelouca Valley. I had previously visited this area in autumn and did not realise its potential in spring. There were birds everywhere on the shingle islands and riverbed and the shrub held several Nightingales, Blackcaps, Cetti’s and Melodious warblers. Birds were visiting the river on a regular basis and Little Egret, Bee-eaters, Azure-winged Magpies, Little Ringed Plover, Turtle Dove, Waxbill, Rock Bunting and Grey Wagtail were all easily seen.
We continued further up the valley and were soon treated to views of Golden Oriole flying across in front of the car. They landed in tall trees on the opposite side of the river and became difficult to observe. However they were continually calling and it was great to hear their fluty calls. They eventually flew off and I had good views of several males and females returning back across the road.
We had decided to finish the day by calling at Pera Marsh, a site I had not visited before. Trip reports had shown a good selection of birds recorded here, but I was not expecting the diversity of species that greeted us as we drove towards the lake. Several Greater Flamingos were feeding gracefully in the clear water, whilst mixed among them were a smaller number of Spoonbills. They moved their heads from side to side as they fed in the shallow open water. To our right a Purple Heron landed in the reed bed and a Purple Gallinule was moving slowly along its edge. Waders were well represented with Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Dunlin, Redshank, Turnstone, Black-winged Stilt, Oystercatcher, Ruff, Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits. Also in good numbers were, Little grebe, Shoveler, Coot and Red-crested Pochard. Behind the reed bed, two Black Terns kept appearing and above them Little Terns were in good numbers.
Returning to Burgau we called at the Le Paradis restaurant in Ferragudo for our evening meal. This restaurant is situated on the Ferragudo to Carvoeiro road. We had an excellent mixed grill here served on its own hotplate. As always good value for money.
Birds Recorded :-
Mount Foia - Common Buzzard, Cuckoo, Skylark, Wren, Whitethroat and Rock Bunting.
Casais Oak Woods - Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker, Redstart, Crested Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Chaffinch.
Odelouca Valley - Little Egret, Little Ringed Plover, Turtle Dove, Grey Wagtail, Kingfisher, Cetti’s Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Blackcap, Golden Oriole and Common Waxbill.
Pera Marsh - Greater Flamingo, Spoonbill, Purple Heron, Purple Gallinule, Shoveler, Coot, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, Ruff, Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwit, Kentish Plover, Red-crested Pochard, Dunlin, Little Grebe, Turnstone, Little Tern, Black Tern, Redshank and Black-winged Stilt.
Wednesday 9 May 2001
The Plains :- Castro Verde, Rolao, Viseus, Guerreiro, Figuerrinha, Penilhos , Joao Serra, Mertola & Mina De San Domingos.
An early start brought us to Castro Verde by 08:00 hours, a journey of about one hour and a half. The IP1 north from Albufeira is a fast road with plenty of passing places. Once through Castro Verde heading for Mertola we took the second right to Rolao and Santa Barbara de Padroes. This is a single-track road with passing places and it was at one of these pull-ins that we first stopped to have breakfast. On a previous visit this had been a magical spot and produced many good birds. Today however was not as productive but we still saw Black Kite, Great Spotted Cuckoo & Little Bustard.
We continued on this road to a T-Junction at Viseus where we turned left towards Guerreiro. Shortly we came across a small lake on our left and stopped to check it out. This decision was rewarded with excellent views of Collared Pratincole, Montagu’s Harrier and a Little Ringed Plover. This lake was later to be named ‘Conroy’s Pond’ as Mike took a great liking to this location. Further along this road we stopped to look at a raptor sat on a rock, and to our amazement had good views of a Short-toed Eagle with a snake. Together with the pratincoles this bird made great video footage.
Ever since leaving Castro Verde we had been tracking a Dutch birder who was just keeping ahead of us. At our next stop we exchanged sightings and discussed the beauty of the area and the quality of the birds. As we talked he spotted two Black-bellied Sandgrouse flying away in an adjacent field, and then a Tawny Pipit in the ploughed field to the left. It was a ploughed field similar to this that had produced Black-eared Wheatear on my previous visit and a buzzing call soon attracted my attention to a pair of these birds.
After passing through Joao Serra we stopped at a small stream and as at most bridges of this type, found a Crag Martin hawking about. Ahead of the bridge were several telegraph poles all of which were occupied by White Stork nests. Most had well developed youngsters, which filled these huge nests. Underneath these incredible structures were hordes of Spanish Sparrows, which also used the same nest site.
Before rejoining the main road to Mertola we had good views of another male Montagu’s Harrier a common bird in these parts. Back at the main road there is a rubbish tip, which is always worth a look. Here White Storks show the more seedier side of there nature, sifting amongst the refuse and smoke along with two Ravens and with several Black Kites circling above.
Time was marching on and lunchtime was approaching as we continued to Mertola. Parking by the bridge above the town we stopped to look at House Martins swarming under the bridge to their nest sites. Across the road was our lunch appointment at Restaurante Boa Viagem. This seems a favourite with the locals and provides good traditional Portuguese food. We ordered pork steaks with salad and chips and were not disappointed at our choice. Wild Boar was also on the menu here!
After lunch we decided to head for Serpa via Mina De San Domingos in the hope of seeing the elusive Black-shouldered Kite. Unfortunately the weather started to deteriorate and after several miles we decided to retrace our steps. This was not before we saw the first of only a few Wood Pigeons but no sign of the kites. The habitat looked perfect but as with several further excursions in search of these birds we were unsuccessful. Was it the wrong time of year?
Back at Mertola we visited the Franciscan Convent and was soon rewarded with good views of Lesser Kestrel, which breed here along with several Azure-winged Magpies and White Storks. We now decided to start our journey back and hopefully a short cut south of Castro Verde. Stopping at another bridge just east of Santa Barbara de Padroes we had our only siting of Booted Eagle for the trip. As we were all feeling a little hot and sticky we stopped in the village for a drink and bought a melon, which was quickly devoured. We soon found the road to Castro Verde and returned to the IP1 bypassing the centre of the town.
We had a good journey back and after a refreshing shower made our way to Burgau for our evening meal, this time trying the beach restaurant, which again did not disappoint.
Recorded Birds :- White Stork, Black Kite, Booted Eagle, Montagu’s Harrier, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Lesser Kestrel, Red-legged Partridge, Quail, Little Bustard, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Cuckoo, Little Owl, Hoopoe, Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Collared Pratincole, Red-rumped Swallow, Swallow, House Martin, Crag Martin, Tawny Pipit, Stonechat, Black-eared Wheatear, Great Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Spotless Starling, Raven, Carrion Crow, Spanish Sparrow, Wheatear, Corn Bunting.
Thursday 10 May 2001
Boca do Rio
This morning we decided to cover one of our local patches at Boca do Rio between Burgau and Salema. This is an old reed bed which appears to have been drained, but which still seems to produce a good number of species. It was another good place to see Melodious Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler and Nightingale. It was also one of the only sites to see and hear Iberian ChiffChaff, Reed Warbler and Common Waxbill.
Quinta da Rocha
Following a full English breakfast at the Brizze Coffee Bar in Burgau we were set up for the day and made our way to Quinta Da Rocha. On route we searched in vain for a reed bed at Sargacal near Lagos and then called at Barragem de Bravura a large reservoir just north of Odiaxere. I had heard that this was a good place for Subalpine Warbler but again we were unsuccessful. The only bird of note was a Short-toed Eagle. Eucalyptus trees surround the majority of the reservoir, a habitat not conducive to birds.
We arrived at Quinta da Rocha at 11:00 hours and called at the field centre. Cruzinha was established in 1986 by the A Rocha Trust, a Christian charity, as a field study centre and bird observatory. Since then, the Centre has welcomed thousands of visitors from all over the world, with many students coming from within Portugal itself. This was my third visit and as usual we were made very welcome by Victoria Mountain and the new director Marcial Felgueiras.
On this visit the tide was out but there was still plenty of wader interest on the marsh, Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Kentish Plover, Ringed Plover and summer plumaged Knot. However the bird that took our full attention was a largish tern, which we had heard, was in the area, a Gull-billed Tern. The problem was separating this bird from several immature Sandwich Terns, which looked very similar. The crucial factor was the smaller all black bill which was half the length of the cap. Sandwich Tern, Knot and the Gull-billed Gull provided further new additions to our list.
Recorded Birds: - Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Common Kestrel, Quail, Bee-eater, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Knot, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Yellow-legged Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Sandwich Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Little Tern, Black Tern, Crested Lark, Swallow, House Martin, Fan-tailed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Waxbill, Blue-headed Yellow Wagtail, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet, Greenfinch.
This was our second visit to Pera and we were hoping for more good birds. We were immediately greeted by a Marsh Harrier gliding across the marsh, and soon added Avocet, Pochard, Gadwall and Ruddy Shelduck to our list.
I took a walk towards the sand dunes and beach and was soon rewarded by a Short-toed Lark singing above me. I watched this bird drop into the sand dunes and confirmed the sighting.
Recorded Birds : - Little Grebe, Little Egret, Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Ruddy Shelduck, Mallard, Shoveler, Gadwall, Pochard, Red-crested Pochard, Purple Gallinule, Marsh Harrier, Moorhen, Coot, Herring Gull, Grey Plover, Kentish Plover, Ringed Plover, Black-Winged Stilt, Bar-tailed Godwit, Avocet, Dunlin, Whimbrel, Sanderling, Turnstone, Short-toed Lark, Swallow, House Martin, Fan-tailed Warbler,
Quinta da Rocha
Before returning to Quinta da Rocha for the evening we decided to try a Portuguese restaurant called ‘A’ Oficina Petisqueira in Mexilhoeira Grande, which was recommended to us by a Portuguese driver whom Mike had befriended. The driver led us to the restaurant and introduced us to the proprietor. This was certainly one of the best Portuguese meals of the whole holiday, was very reasonable and is to be recommended.
We were returning to Quinta Da Rocha in the hope of at least hearing Red-necked Nightjars. We had been advised at Cruzinha that they were about and positioned ourselves on the bluff above the Car Park amongst some conifer trees. What initially sounded remarkably like European Nightjar turned out to be a large insect, but then we heard the unmistakable call of KU-TOCK, KU-TOCK confirming Red-necked Nightjar.
This evening we were also lucky to see Barn Owl a bird that was nesting in a box in the grounds of Cruzinha.
Birds Recorded :- Red-necked Nightjar & Barn Owl
Friday 11 May 2001
Quinta da Rocha
We made this our early morning call today, arriving at 06:30 hours to catch the high tide. As we walked along the footpath adjacent to the sea we picked up two Short-toed Larks and several Blue-headed Yellow Wagtails. Continuing further we were soon looking at our first Caspian Tern which was sat on a small sand bar a short distance from the raised pathway on which we were walking. This was backed by large numbers of summer-plumaged Knot and several Sanderling. There was also a Whimbrel on the marsh to our right with several Black-Winged Stilts and a Little Egret.
Corn Buntings were continually calling interspersed with Quail from different parts of the marsh. As we returned to the Car Park along the raised pathway we recorded Kentish Plover, Dunlin, Turnstone and Oystercatcher but we were surprised to see Northern Wheatear ahead of us on the path. As usual the commoner species Fan-tailed Warbler, Crested lark, and Sardinian Warbler were in normal abundance.
Recorded Birds : - Little Egret, Black-winged Stilt, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Turnstone, Oystercatcher, Whimbrel, Knot, Dunlin, Sanderling, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Quail, Yellow-legged Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Sandwich Tern, Caspian Tern, Little Tern, Black Tern, Crested Lark, Swift, Swallow, House Martin, Northern Wheatear, Short-toed Lark, Fan-tailed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blue-headed Yellow Wagtail, House Sparrow, Corn Bunting.
Following the N125 and E1 towards Faro we left the motorway for Almancil and followed the signs for Quinta do Lago. On the road between here and Quinta do Lobo we took the road signed Dunas Douradas and follow this to the beach at Praia Garrao. To the right of several restaurants are two natural ponds, edged with a thick reed bed, which we reached by 09:40 hours..
There is also a small pine woodland here, where we soon saw several Turtle Doves. The biggest surprise however was to find a group of Crested Tits flitting amongst the branches. This is a delightful oasis amongst a great deal of development and good birds kept appearing. We had a fleeting glimpse of a Little Bittern before it disappeared into the reed bed. Hoopoe, Azure-winged Magpies, Bee-eaters and Serin moved amongst the pines and a Red-Crested Pochard, Pochard and Gadwall were on the water
We concluded our visit here with a late breakfast at 10:30 hours at Julia’s Beach Bar.
Recorded Birds:- Little Grebe, Little Egret, Little Bittern, Bee-eater, Pochard, Red-Crested Pochard, Gadwall, Mallard, Moorhen, Coot, Hoopoe, Azure-winged Magpie, Swallow, House Martin, Little Tern, Turtle Dove, Crested Tit, Serin, Crested lark, Fan-tailed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, House Sparrow, Corn Bunting.
Quinta Do Lago and Ludo Farm
Continuing on towards Quinta do Lago our main goal for today was only a few minutes away. This area was developed mainly as a golf course but some consideration has been given to wildlife with trails and an excellent hide overlooking a small lake close to the marsh.
Eastwards from the car park is a marked trail running alongside the golf course to the left and the marshes to the right. Many waders feed on these mud flats at low tide and we were soon looking at Kentish Plover and Black-tailed Godwit. A Purple Heron eyed us with concern and soon flew away to find a more peaceful location.
We soon reached the lake and once ensconced in hide were enjoying good views of Little Bittern, Little Grebe, Red-crested Pochard, Gadwall, Mallard, Moorhen, Coot and Purple Gallinule. Swallow and House Martin were hawking over the lake along with Little Tern and several Blue-headed Yellow Wagtails inhabited the small islands. In the pines adjacent to the lake were, Goldfinch, Serin, Waxbill and Cetti’s Warbler could be heard and seen. We continued from the hide towards Ludo Farm with good views across the marsh. The pine woodland here contained Short-toed Treecreeper, Goldfinch, Serin, Corn Bunting and Waxbill.
Emerging from the woodland we were soon walking between saltpans towards the farm. Kentish Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin and Black-winged Stilts lined the edges of the pans. Bee-eaters sat calling from the telegraph wires and Turtle Doves purred from the scrub nearby. In the distance a Black Kite circled and moved towards the coast and below a White Stork adjusted its nest material in a large tree behind one of the saltpans. It was hard to believe we were so close to the Airport, but we were frequently reminded as flights descended towards Faro.
We passed the farm without incident and were soon looking across Ludo Farm Lake. Here we saw our first Great Crested Grebe and was soon treated to the unmistakable sound of Great Reed Warbler singing in the distance. We continued to the Quarry but then retraced our steps back towards Quinta do Lago.
It had been another long day and we were now ready for our evening meal. We broke the journey back to Burgau by stopping at the restaurant ‘A’ Oficina Petisqueira in Mexilhoeira Grande. This second meal here confirmed its excellence and gave a perfect end to the day.
Recorded Birds :- Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Purple Heron, Little Bittern, Mallard, Gadwall, Red-Crested Pochard, Moorhen, Coot, Purple Gallinule, Black-winged Stilt, Grey Plover, Kentish Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Bee-Eater, Yellow-legged Gull, Black-headed & Lesser Black-backed Gull, Little Tern, Great Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Yellow Wagtail, Cetti’s Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler, Azure-winged Magpie, Swallow, House Martin, Serin, Goldfinch, Common Waxbill, Short-toed Treecreeper, Corn Bunting.
Saturday 12 May 2001
Alentejo Plains (Ourique - Castro Verde - Viseus - Guerreiro – Figuerrinha - Penilhos – Joao Serra)
As usual we had an early start hoping to arrive about 08:00 hours, but after missing the turn for the IP1 we were slightly delayed. However shortly after eight we were soon amongst ‘The Plains’ and enjoying excellent views of Montagu’s Harrier, Woodchat Shrike, Hoopoe and a new bird for the trip, a Night Heron. This was seen flying as we travelled from Santa Barbara de Padroes towards Viseus. We stopped by a small bridge for breakfast and watched Common Kestrel, Red-rumped Swallow, Swallow, Common Cuckoo, Stonechat and Corn Bunting as the sun began to rise burning off a slight mist that hung over the fields.
We carried on past Viseus to Conroy’s pond where we were greeted by a Great Bustard, which flew directly in front of us just as we stopped. This was one of our target birds for today so this was a good start. Looking beyond the pond we picked up another two Great Bustards soon identified as a male and a female. We stayed by the pond for some time watching Collared Pratincole, Black-winged Stilt, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Little Ringed Plover and Crested Lark. Continuing on the same route as before through Penilhos and Joao Serra we again saw White Stork, Spanish Sparrow and another Little Bustard in flight.
Our next destination was up the east side of the River Guadiana through remote savannah country to the spectacular waterfall at Pulo do Lobo. Here the might of the river is forced through a gorge only metres wide. The valley here is very wild and the rock formations stupendous. Once on the road to Corte Gafo de Cima we soon stopped to watch a pair of Calandra Lark a short way from the road. I was surprised at their size and was much impressed by these birds, which before I had only seen at a distance. We stopped in the village for an ice cream as the temperature was rapidly rising and dinner seemed far away. This was our first stop for a Magnum, which was to become routine for the rest of our stay in Portugal. We continued northwards through Amendoeira stopping at a clearing at the side of the road where we heard Woodlark. We had trouble locating this bird but the call was unmistakable. Montagu’s Harriers and White Storks were also still common on this stretch of the road.
Eventually reaching Pulo do Lobo for lunch we settled down at a picnic table to take in the views. Despite its remoteness there were two other cars here with sightseers. On the rocks not surprisingly was Rock Bunting and Blue Rock Thrush. A Raven soared above the gorge and Crag Martins hawked over the waterfall, a beautiful location on this hot spring day.
We decided now to return to Castro Verde in search of Black-shouldered Kite. Checking on several sites shown in Dave Gosney’s guidebook for Southern Portugal we continued on towards Entradas just North East of Castro Verde. However these searches were all in vain and the onset of a thunderstorm and heavy rain prompted us to return early.
Our return journey took us past Pera again so it was too tempting not to call and check out the marsh, which had already been so productive. As usual there was a good selection of herons, egrets, waders and ducks but the only new bird was a Greenshank.
We stayed only half an hour; our previous meals had only been snacks so we could not resist calling again at the restaurant ‘A’ Oficina Petisqueira in Mexilhoeira Grande. These evening meals were certainly a highlight of the holiday and provided a fitting end to a good day’s birding.
The Plains and Pulo do Lobo
Recorded Birds :- White Stork, Night Heron, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Montagu’s Harrier, Kestrel, Red-legged Partridge, Little Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Little Bustard, Great Bustard, Cuckoo, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Collared Pratincole, Calandra Lark, Woodlark, Crested Lark, Tawny Pipit, Red-rumped Swallow, Swallow, Crag Martin, Stonechat, Blue Rock Thrush, Black-eared Wheatear, Great Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Nightingale, Raven, Spanish Sparrow, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.
Recorded Birds :- Little Grebe, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Mallard, Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, Purple Gallinule, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Greenshank, Turnstone, Sanderling, Dunlin, Yellow-legged Gull, Swallow, House Martin, Fan-tailed Warbler.
Sunday 13 May 2001
West Coast :- Carrapateira, Borderia, Aljezur, Marmalette, Casais Oak Woodland, Odelouca Valley & Quinta da Rocha.
Leaving at 06:30 hours we headed for the ‘West Coast’ to have another look at an area we had found on Monday just north of Carrapateira. The track here leads off to the left about ½ mile north of the village. There is a small stream and pine wood adjacent leading towards a farm.
As previously we were soon listening to Nightingale, Cetti’s Warbler and for the first time had good views of Melodious Warbler. Cirl Bunting again was easy to find and Bee – Eaters were everywhere. No new birds were discovered so we continued on up the coast.
At Borderia we turned right inland to try and find some cork oak woodland. In the next village we were soon looking at piles of cork, which had been harvested by the locals. We stopped at a couple of likely areas and at one had perfect views of a Nightingale singing and also several Blackcaps, which seemed to like this habitat.
We returned to the coast road and we were soon entering Aljezur, where we had an appointment for breakfast, Portuguese style. After coffee and pasties followed by cakes we were ready for the open road again. We continued north along the coast before we turned left on the road to Praia Amoriera and the beach. Returning along this valley we stopped to look back to the coast and had good views of a Peregrine Falcon. To our left suddenly a large raptor appeared gliding effortlessly around. Its pale underbody contrasted with dark carpal patches, which then led diagonally to the base of the body. The wing tips were dark with a broad terminal band on the under tail. It was gliding on flattish broad wings and had a distinctly pale grey tail. These features led me to believe we were looking at our first adult Bonelli’s Eagle.
Satisfied with sightings of one of our target birds we decided to head inland on the mountain road to the Monchique. I made the mistake of entering the village of Marmalette and nearly burnt the clutch out negotiating some of the steep cobbled roads. Eventually back on the main road we stopped by a cork oak wood, which had a good viewpoint. We had good views of Short-toed Treecreeper, Spotted Flycatcher and Blackcap here, but we were approaching a less productive time of day and it was quiet.
The main road led us past the Casais Oak woodland again so we were tempted to stop. However this was similar to the last site so we were soon moving on towards our second visit to the Odelouca Valley. Here the situation was improved and we were soon looking at Bee-eaters, Azure-winged Magpies, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Hoopoe and Kingfisher, amongst other more common species. As usual Nightingale, Cetti’s Warbler and Melodious Warbler were singing in profusion. However the heat of the day persuaded us it was time for our Magnum moment and visiting the local café I was pleasantly surprised to find a new species of Magnum, a Double caramel, a new tick for the trip. We drove along the valley stopping often to check the riverbed and surrounding fields. One bird that was proving elusive was Common Sandpiper, but despite it absence we spent some time observing the Kingfishers along this stretch of the river and achieved some good video footage.
It was time to start our return journey but we decided to call at Quinta da Rocha on the way back to Burgau. Apart from the usual waders, terns and warblers there was nothing new about, so it wasn’t long before we were heading back for dinner.
Recorded Birds :-
Little Egret, Cattle Egret, White Stork, Bonelli’s Eagle, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Quail, Oystercatcher, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Whimbrel, Curlew, Dunlin, Yellow-legged Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Little Tern, Turtle-dove, Cuckoo, Little Owl, Kingfisher, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Green Woodpecker, Crested Lark, Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Grey Wagtail, Wren, Nightingale, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti’s Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Crested Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Golden Oriole, Great Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Fan-tailed Warbler, Cirl Bunting, Corn Bunting.
Monday 14 May 2001
Castro Marim Reserve, Monte Gordo & Azinhal
The previous evening we had decided to spend a couple of days at Castro Marim Reserve and the surrounding area so we packed an overnight bag and set off early for the east. The motorway leads all the way to the Spanish border so by 08:00 hours we were nearing our goal. We turned off the IP1 for Monte Gordo and soon joined the N125 heading east. Within a mile we were turning left for Castro Marim and just before a bridge turned right along a dirt track towards the saltpans. We parked just right of the entrance to the works gates and had to wait for them to be opened before we could follow the trail anti-clockwise around the reserve.
Expected birds soon came into view Crested Lark, Little Egret, Woodchat Shrike, Black- winged Stilt & White Stork. However we were soon viewing about fifty Greater Flamingo and sixteen Spoonbill and new a bird for the trip a Stone Curlew. Other birds of note were Avocet, Collared Pratincole, Dunlin, Sanderling and Purple Heron. The path around the saltpans continued for miles, so we decided to retrace our steps to the car as hunger pangs were setting in and breakfast was the order of the day.
We made our way to Castro Marim and found a suitable café where we managed to order coffee and toast. This café was where Mike was introduced to the Portuguese kiss, a skill at which he became very proficient. Following breakfast we made for the castle, which we believed, had an information centre. Here we learnt that a new centre had been opened to the east of the town.
The new building was quite something with no expense spared. There was good viewing from here to a newly formed lake and wetland close to the border and the River Guadiana. This area produced Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Coot, Montagu’s Harrier, Red-Crested Pochard, Grey Heron, Gadwall and Little Ringed Plover. Dave Gosney’s guide had indicated that Lesser Short-toed Lark could be found in this area. Although it had now become quite windy, several small larks were singing close by. The technique was to follow these birds down to the ground and then try and identify them. This proved successful and we soon had Lesser Short-toed Lark under our belts.
Flushed with success we now made for Monte Gordo to look for accommodation. Here we soon found the local Turismo office and was provided with several addresses for Pensions. The first we found looked fine and after inspecting the rooms was satisfied they would be suitable for our stop over.
We decided to spend the remainder of the afternoon at a new site north of Castro Marim off the Mertola road at a place called Azinhal. Once through the village the road soon turned into a dusty track and we used the directions from the ‘Breeding Birds of Portugal’ as our guide. Our target birds here were Rufous Bush Robin, Spectacled Warbler and Orphean Warbler. The site consisted mainly of scrubland with dry riverbeds and patches of prickly-pear cactus. The weather was deteriorating and the wind becoming stronger. These were not good conditions for birding and limited our sightings to Kestrel, Quail, Corn Bunting and Peregrine Falcon.
We returned to the Pension and an evening meal. Our hotel was on the seafront and our balcony gave us sea views. The strong wind was bringing some sea birds in close and to our amazement we were soon watching Cory’s Shearwater from our balcony. There were also several Gannets, Yellow-legged Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gulls fighting to overcome the strong wind. After an excellent meal at the Pension we ventured out for a walk, but rain had now set in and the light was fading fast.
Recorded Birds :-
Little Grebe, Cory’s Shearwater, Gannet, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, White Stork, Greater Flamingo Spoonbill, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Montagu’s Harrier, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Quail, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Stone Curlew, Collared Pratincole, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Whimbrel, Redshank, Dunlin, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Little Tern, Feral Pigeon, Little Owl, Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Yellow Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Stonechat, Blackbird, Fan-tailed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Great Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Linnet.
Tuesday 15 May 2001
Azinhal, Mertola, Mina de San Domingos, Serpa, Pias, Brinches, Beja.
Before breakfast we made for Azinhal to see if we could improve on yesterdays sightings. The weather had improved and we were soon looking at a variety of species including Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Golden Oriole, Great Grey Shrike, Turtle Dove, Azure-winged Magpie, Cattle Egret and Little Egret. We continued on a full circuit back to the main road, with further sightings of Nightingale, Woodchat Shrike, White Stork and Fan-tailed Warbler. In a small portion of dense shrub we heard the calls of Long-tailed Tits but were surprised by their appearance. These were Iberian Long-tailed Tits looking much browner than our English counterparts. Another new tick along this section was Sparrowhawk, surprisingly the first of the trip and taking our total to 149 species.
Following a good breakfast back at the Pension we headed towards Mertola to take us further north to Serpa. We were soon taking a road diversion east and then north following the River Guadiana with Spain on our immediate right. We stopped at a bridge crossing and were surprised to be looking at our second Caspian Gull of the trip. After passing through the castle town of Alcoutim we turned west back towards the N122 and onto Mertola.
We stopped for a lunch snack in Mertola but we were soon on the road again heading for Mina de San Domingos. For the second time we were hoping for Black-shouldered Kite and Roller along this road, but again we were to be disappointed. We continued on to Serpa hoping for a change in fortunes. Following directions from a previous trip report we drove the Serpa-Pias-Brinches triangle
This area was unexpectingly poor with little grassland or trees. Only bird of note being our one and only Eurasian Magpie sat on a farm chimney. The day was ebbing away and we decided to head back to Monte Gordo. To return to Mertola we had to pass through Beja a large town. Mike had taken over the driving by now and was about to have a small adventure. Rather than bypassing Beja we made the mistake of entering the town, not realizing there was only one way in and out. Mike spent a frantic half hour taking us on an unexpected tour of the town. It was only thanks to a taxi driver that we found our way out of the maze. The rest of the journey was uneventful and we arrived back at our Pension ready for another good dinner.
Recorded Birds :-
Gannet, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, White Stork, Mallard, Montagu’s Harrier, Kestrel, Quail, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Caspian Tern, Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove, Turtle Dove, Cuckoo, Little Owl, Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Green Woodpecker, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Nightingale, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti’s Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Golden Oriole, Great Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Carrion Crow, Serin, Linnet.
Wednesday 16 May 2001
Azinhal, Vaqueiros, Martim Longo, Loule & Pera Marsh
We covered Azinhal again before breakfast and had some more new birds for the area. These included Purple Heron, Little Owl, Sardinian Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler, Great Tit, Stock Dove, Jay and Goldfinch. This was our third visit to this excellent site but unfortunately we did not find any of our target birds.
We returned to the Pension for breakfast and after paying our bill headed towards an area between Vaqueiros and Martim Longo another area highlighted in the book ’Breeding Birds of the Algarve’. This journey took us through Sentinela, Quebrados, Corojos and Estrada. Somewhere between Corojos and Estradas we took a wrong turning and got completely lost. The hills around here all look the same whichever direction you turn. The signs on these quieter back roads leaves a lot to the imagination and for an hour we went round in circles. All was not in vain however and after stopping at a river crossing we managed to find a Common Sandpiper a bird that had eluded us on several occasions. The same valley also produced a very confiding pair of Cetti’s Warbler.
Eventually we made our way back to the cross roads were we went wrong and got back on the road to Vaqueiros. This village had a small bar and provided us with our daily quota of Magnums and some drinks. It was now midday and getting rather warm. Once refreshed we carried on towards the area near Martim Longo which would give us another opportunity to find Rufous Bush Robin. At a sign indicating Ribeira de Foupana we followed the riverbeds upstream for some way but were only rewarded with Kingfisher and Little Ringed Plover.
We decided to cut our losses and head back to Burgau calling at Pera Marsh. However we had only travelled a short distant when Brian shouted “Large raptor to your right”. We piled out of the car and after a few moments realised we were looking at our first Griffon Vulture. Apparently this is a good area to see them as they come over the border from Spain sometimes in good numbers. This had made up for our other misses and we were in good spirits as we headed towards Loule. Once through Loule we were soon on the IP1 and quickly approaching Pera. We did not stop long at the marsh but was pleased to see six Greater Flamingo feeding here again.
Back at the villa we were in good time for a wash and brush up before taking the road to Burgau for our evening meal. Our target tonight was the Beira-Mar an English run restaurante near the beach. We had a smashing evening here and probably the best meal of the holiday.
Recorded Birds :-
Little Grebe, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Purple Heron, Grey Heron, White Stork, Greater Flamingo, Mallard, Shoveler, Griffon Vulture, Montagu’s Harrier, Kestrel, Red-legged Partridge, Quail, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Black-tailed Godwit, Common Sandpiper, Yellow-legged Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Little Tern, Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove, Turtle Dove, Cuckoo, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Swift, Kingfisher, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Grey Wagtail, Nightingale, Stonechat, Wheatear, Cetti’s Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Great Tit, Golden Oriole, Great Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Blackbird, Jay, Azure- winged Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet & Corn Bunting.
Thursday 17 May 2001
Budens Marsh, Bordeira, Aljezur, Carrapateira, Vila do Bispo
Decided to go to Budens Marsh again before breakfast, or as it is known locally Boca do Rio. The habitat comprises of marshy river valley, an old reed bed, scrub and some mature trees. As we drove to the marsh just west of Burgau we were surprised to see a Scops Owl on the telegraph wires. Little Owl was also common in this area.
Budens Marsh is a good area for Melodious Warbler and Nightingale and their song dominated the morning walk. There was a flock of Serin in a large tree and flocks of Linnet and Goldfinch in the scrub. Golden Oriole was heard and several Azure-winged Magpie were noted close by. One call that perplexed us initially was Iberian Chiffchaff for this was the only site to see them consistently. It was an ideal morning walk, producing twenty species.
There was only one place for breakfast now and that was the Café Brizze in Burgau with a ’Full English’ on the menu. After an excellent meal we headed for the West Coast as we attempted to find an old cork oak woodland at Espinhaco de Cao. This proved unsuccessful, but we did find one small oak woodland near Bordeira, with a viewable singing Nightingale. This was added to Bryan’s ever growing video snapshots.
Our next port of call was the beach road north of Aljezur River signposted Praia Amoreira This passes marshland, saltpans and sand dunes, with a good selection of typical species. The highlight of this second visit was a pair of Tawny Pipits on the road as we were leaving. We returned to Carrapateira for lunch finding a pleasant small restaurant on the beach road.
After lunch we explored a marshy river valley behind Carrapateira where a Purple Heron and several Bee-eaters were noted. We finished the afternoon by driving through the grasslands between Vila do Bispo and Sagres, stopping first in Vila do Bispo at a small café for our Magnum break. There is a maze of tracks in this area and it was easy to get lost. We were treated to good views of Turtle Doves as they walked along the side of the road and in the adjacent fields Short-toed Larks were in abundance. One bird that had proved elusive in this area was Dartford Warbler but again we were spoilt with superb views much to Brian Woods delight. We also had another bird under our belt as we caught up with Lapwing near the coast.
We returned to Burgau and the villa but not before visiting John and Madge Measures. They have a wealth of natural history knowledge and it was interesting to exchange information and discuss our exploits. They have written a book called ‘Southern Portugal, Its people, traditions and wildlife.’ John runs guided trips both in Southern Portugal and into Spain so is a useful contact if you do not have the confidence or experience to explore on your own. Their address is Quinta dos Almarjoes, Burgau, Tel No:- 282 697 152.
Recorded Birds: -
Gannet, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Purple Heron, Grey Heron, White Stork, Mallard, Kestrel, Red-legged Partridge, Quail, Black-winged Stilt, Lapwing, Yellow-legged Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Scops Owl, Little Owl, Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Tawny Pipit, Nightingale, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti’s Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Golden Oriole, Great Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Azure- winged Magpie, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet & Corn Bunting.
Friday 18 May
Mira Valley, Monta Rocha reservoir, The Plains and Mertola
The morning was to be spent looking at the two areas mentioned in the NatureTrek brochure. The first was the Mira Valley at Castro do Cola and the second was Monta Rocha reservoir to the west of Ourique.
This was my second visit and we were looking for Bonelli’s and Orphean Warblers. We were unsuccessful, but this a pleasant river valley with small areas of oak trees and cistus scrub on the higher ground. We heard more than we saw here; Melodious Warbler and Nightingale were in good song, along with Woodlark, Redstart, Cuckoo and Green Woodpecker. By the river we had good views of Kingfisher and circling above was a Common Buzzard.
We now moved onto Monta Rocha reservoir where our target was Black-shouldered Kite. Again we were to be disappointed but good views of Black Kite, Montagu’s Harrier, Sparrowhawk and Short-toed Eagle made it easier. The temperature was rising rapidly by noon and we sensed it could be good raptor day. After lunch we decided to head for Castro Verde and ‘The Plains’ and we were not to regret that decision.
As soon as we arrived at Rolao it was evident that we had made the right choice. From Castro Verde through Rolao, Viseus, Guerreiro, Figerrinha, Penilhos and Joao Serra raptors were abundant. In the two hours we stayed on ‘The Plains’ we observed eight Black Kite, one Bonelli’s Eagle, six Montagu’s Harrier, three Short-toed Eagles and the highlight of the day, distant views to the north of Black Vulture. From the size, shape and colour this bird was unmistakable. In May 2000 I had seen one in almost the same location. Along with our second Bonelli’s Eagle this was an afternoon to stay long in the memory.
We carried on east to Mertola and stopped at the bridge below the Moorish castle. John Measures had told us there were breeding boxes for Lesser Kestrel under the bridge but we were not to see them there. On the rocky steep slopes of the river we did catch glimpses of a Blue Rock Thrush and flying over a Raven.
Parking was difficult here so we continued over the bridge and drove into the Franciscan Convent where we were hoping to obtain some video footage of the Lesser Kestrel. The views from the Convent across the River Guadiana were spectacular but although we caught sight of one bird it was not possible to video. It was worth the visit just for the views and the interesting artwork inside the Convent.
It had been a long day and we had already covered many miles, but we still had a two- hour journey back to Burgau. Unfortunately it was time to depart not only the Alentejo but also the Algarve for tomorrow we were to return home.
Recorded Birds :- Little Grebe, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, White Stork, Mallard, Black Kite, Black Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Montagu’s Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, Bonelli’s Eagle, Kestrel, Lesser Kestrel, Red-legged Partridge, Quail, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Collared Pratincole, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow Legged Gull, Feral Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Cuckoo, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Swift, Kingfisher, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crested Lark, Woodlark, Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Wren, Nightingale, Common Redstart, Stonechat, Black-eared Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Cetti’s Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Blackcap, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Golden Oriole, Great Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, Raven, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.
Saturday 19 May
Budens Marsh, Quinta Da Lago
Before breakfast we made our last visit to Budens Marsh, and apart from our usual birds saw Waxbill here for the first time. We spent some time listening and watching the Iberian Chiffchaff, which again we had only encountered here.
Following breakfast we packed our cases and said our goodbyes to Casa Da Primavera and began our journey back to the airport at Faro. Our flight was not until 19:40 hrs so we did not need to be there until about five o’clock. We planned to spend our last few hours at Quinta Da Lago just a short distance from the Airport.
The holiday had produced new species every day, but today was to prove an exception. Perhaps it was punishment for leaving. Quinta Da Lago was enjoyable as usual but nothing was seen to add to our exhaustive list. We had managed a total of 156 species during our stay here in Southern Portugal.
We boarded the plane to East Midlands knowing we had not wasted one moment of this holiday and had many good memories to take home to Derbyshire. Portugal will always be a favourite destination of mine especially for the people, the scenery and the food but most of all for the great variety of birds.
Recorded Birds :- Little Grebe, Little Bittern, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Purple Heron, White Stork, Mallard, Gadwall, Red-Crested Pochard, Pochard, Quail, Moorhen, Coot, Purple Gallinule, Black-winged Stilt, Grey Plover, Kentish Plover, Whimbrel, Turnstone, Yellow-legged Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Little Tern, Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Yellow Wagtail, Nightingale, Stonechat, Blackbird, Fan-tailed Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Great Grey Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Linnet, Common Waxbill, Corn Bunting.