BIRDS, BIRDS, BIRDS!
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Arrival and Ria Formosa
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.
Abicada and Alvor Dunes
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, 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.
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 a snack at Castro Verde, 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.
Ponta da Piedade
Saturday will start as usual with a delicious breakfast, before going to an area of rice fields near Estombar. There, we will explore the area, looking for Marsh Harrier, Glossy Ibis and Purple Swamphen. We will have lunch at Sitio das Fontes before heading back to Cruzinha.
The rest of the afternoon will be free.
Ria Formosa and departure
On this last day of the trip, before going to the airport, we spend the morning visiting the West part of Ria Formosa, one of the protected wetlands of the Algarve.
This is certainly one of the best places to see Little Bittern and Purple Swamphen, as well as terrapins, and in the winter the lagoons host a great variety of ducks.
This post is also available in: French