Arrive at Faro airport in the afternoon. Drive to Santa Luzia salt pans, near Tavira, in the Ria Formosa Natural Park, for the first birdwatching trip of the week.
There it will be possible to see a big variety of waders and Flamingos. This is also the best site for the Slender-billed Gull, and a good one for Audouin’s Gull.
After a couple of hours birdwatching, we drive to the A ROCHA Portugal field study centre, Cruzinha, in Mexilhoeira Grande, between Lagos and Portimão where the group is accommodated during the tour.
The day ends with dinner at Cruzinha, where there is never a lack of good food and animated conversation.
After a good night’s sleep, the group starts the day by travelling to the most western point of the Algarve: Cape St Vincent in Sagres. Ancient people thought that this was the end of the world because you cannot see anything on the horizon besides the sea. It is, for sure, an excellent place to see a good variety of species such as Blue Rock Thrush, Thekla Lark, Little Bustard, Chough and Southern Grey Shrike.
Lunch is a picnic prepared specially by the A ROCHA Portugal team, full of regional and typical Portuguese food. This is also be an excellent opportunity to enjoy the landscape and carry on birdwatching.
During the afternoon, we continue exploring the area.
We return to Cruzinha at the end of the day for dinner, rest and relaxation.
Note: Between early March and mid-April, it is possible to stop on the way to see orchids, depending on the group's preferences.
Because the Algarve is not only beach and sea, this 2nd day is spent in the Monchique hills, famous for its beautiful landscape and Cork Oaks. After spending part of the morning birdwatching at the top of the hills, the group drives down to Caldas de Monchique, a charming spa village, to have our picnic.
The afternoon is more relaxing, spent walking in Caldas de Monchique and looking for species of passerines not seen during the day (Grey Wagtail, Firecrest, Nuthatch), and we finish the day enjoying a drink at the nice open-air cafe of the village.
The day starts with a walk from the Montes de Alvor dam to the Roman ruins of Abicada, which has an excellent view over the Abicada and Alvor marshes. This is a good opportunity to see and photograph Flamingos on the lake. Winter is an ideal time to see Spoonbills, ducks and Bluethroat here, but in the spring you can also see Purple Heron, Black-winged Kite and hear Quails.
We have our picnic near Alvor beach, and in the afternoon discover the incredible bird richness of the dunes. This fragile place is the breeding place of threatened species such as the Little Tern or the Kentish Plover.
As we are on the beach, if you choose a trip in the hotter months (between May and early October), you will be able to enjoy a swim or an ice cream before going back to Cruzinha.
In the morning, the group is invited to take part in the activities happening at the A ROCHA Portugal field study centre as it opens to the public, such as moth identification, a walk on the nature trail, bird ringing demonstrations, and getting to know what A ROCHA is and stands for.
In the afternoon, the group explores Salgados Lagoon, a hidden but still threatened wetland. This place does not have any legal protection status but the diversity of bird seen here over the last few years (more than 160 species) makes it a very important birding place. It also one of the only places in Portugal where Flamingos have been known to breed, with 2 nests discovered by our guide.
We take the opportunity to relax and enjoy the beautiful sunsets here, and (of course) you can continue to photograph the birds and landscape around us.
On Friday, we travel to the Alentejo, or more precisely the pseudo-steppes around Castro Verde. This is a completely different landscape from the Algarve, with very different bird species from the ones seen until now.
In the morning, we spend some time in the Liga para a Proteção da Natureza (a partner conservation NGO) property, where we are able to see Lesser Kestrels and Rollers in spring and Great Bustards all year round. In the afternoon, we explore the area around Castro Verde, looking for more species such as Harriers, Kites or Vultures.
Before returning to Cruzinha, we enjoy dinner in a local restaurant, as the Alentejo is well known in Portugal for its cuisine. It’s also a great opportunity to send the message that bird conservation can be good for the local economy.
On Saturday morning we go to the cliff near Lagos for a short walk. It is one of the only places in Portugal where wild Rock Doves breed. There, it is also possible to see Peregrine Falcon and sometimes Gannets so close that you do not need binoculars.
The afternoon is free to either enjoy walking in Lagos, go shopping or even book a boat trip in Lagos bay to see marine birds. This is not included in the tour, it costs 45€ per person and is subject to weather conditions and availability of the boat.
This small walk starts at Cruzinha (A ROCHA field study centre) and goes to the Ria de Alvor marsh. The track to the marsh goes between fields used for grazing or with old orchards, so it is possible to see species such as Cattle Egret, Azure-winged Magpie, Little Owl, Woodchat Shrike and Bee-Eater in spring. By the marsh, Stonechats and Crested Larks can be seen perched on fences. Black-winged Stilts are usually present in the marsh and they are very loud in spring when they have chicks.
At this time of the year, Kentish Plovers and Little Terns also nest in the marsh. If the tide is low, waders are feeding in the mudflats while people are collecting clams and cockles. If the tide is high, most of the waders are resting in the marsh: Dunlins, Sanderlings, Redshanks, Greenshanks, Whimbrels, Bar and Black-tailed Godwits, Ringed and Kentish Plovers. In winter, a few Caspian Terns can be seen with the Gulls. Early in the morning, a Black-winged Kite can be seen hunting and in the evening in winter, it is a Short-eared Owl.
Abandoned salt pans can be busy with waders and gulls if the water level is right. The last bit around the marsh is good to see passerines such as Corn Bunting, Zitting Cisticola, Linnet, Yellow Wagtail, Crested and Short-toed Lark, Stonechat and Chiffchaff. We walk back to Cruzinha on the same path as we came.
This tour is done in partnership with Beachut Water Sports and leaves from Praia da Luz or Lagos. We will be at sea in Lagos bay and try to see species hard to see from the coast. They will be attracted by bait prepared previously. It will be possible to see Gannets, various species of Shearwaters, Storm-Petrels, Gulls, Skuas and Phalaropes. This trip will also provide nice views of the coast and maybe dolphins!
Pelagic Boat Trip
Minimum number of participants: 7