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Birding Report [staying at Casa Rosa.]
Eastern Algarve February 2013
We spent a week in the Southern Algarve in early February, 2013. We flew from Birmingham airport and arrived at Faro in the early afternoon on Monday 4th. The pleasant sunshine was very welcome after the freezing weather in Birmingham. We had already reserved a car from a local company via the Casa Rosa web site, hoping to avoid car-hire queues. As promised, we were met at the airport and escorted to their mobile office in the airport car park. Paperwork concluded, we were on our way in only a few minutes, which was a great start to our holiday. We will definitely use the company again on our next trip.
Cattle Egrets having morning meeting at Casa Rosa
After a pleasant 30 minute drive on quiet roads we arrived at Casa Rosa and checked into our spacious apartments. Kjersti and Jan-Ketil are very welcoming hosts and the quiet location is delightful. We unpacked quickly as we were keen to explore the gardens and local walking- tracks. The main tracks lead to the nearby town, Moncarapacho, through pasture and almond groves, the trees already being in blossom. It is a lovely area to walk and watch birds locally. During the week, we saw Lesser Spotted, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, Azure-winged Magpies and Great Spotted Cuckoos in the garden at Casa Rosa.
We made several visits to the nearby Parque Natural da Ria Formosa at Quinta do Marim. There is an office here, where permits are issued and maps provided at a cost of only a few euros. Ample shaded parking is then available behind the reserve road barrier. The reserve has areas of woodland and low scrub as well as tidal flats, saltmarsh and lagoons. The diversity of habitat within the reserve makes it an excellent area for birds. We saw a large number of waders, including Whimbrel and numerous Kentish Plovers (which we don't see very often in the UK). It was great to see White Storks and a large flock of (Greater) Flamingoes flying overhead. The woodland and scrub hold lots of warblers, mainly Chiffchaff, Sardinian Warbler and Zitting Cisticola at this time of the year. From the hide by the freshwater pond we had close up views of Stone Chats and the symbol of the reserve, the Purple Gallinule.
On other days we visited different areas of the Ria Formosa reserve, Ludo Frm, Quinta do Lago proving to be a favourite. This is near the airport, with lots of parking and easy access though the 'entry prohibited' signs on the gate. You soon realise that this isn't a problem, with the main track being very popular with joggers, cyclists, dog-walkers etc. The track has lagoons and saltmarsh on either side, which are great areas for birds - waders, ducks and numerous warblers in the bankside scrub. We enjoyed very close views of Spoonbills and also saw Black-necked Grebe, Bluethroats, Booted Eagles and Water Pipits. The track leads to a golf course complex, which has a reed-fringed lake overlooked by a large 2-level bird hide. This is an ideal place to look for Little Bittern while you have your lunch. We were fortunate enough to get good views of the Little Bittern, Glossy Ibis and Purple Gallinules fighting over nest sites. Following the track adjoining the golf course, we also saw flocks of Waxbills feeding on the fairways, Hoopoes, Crested Tits in the pines and a Wryneck in the scrub behind the lake. We watched Serins and Siskins bathing in puddles along the path, amongst flocks of sparrows and finches. This is definitely a site well worth a visit.
Much of the Ria Formosa is a maze of channels, lagoons and tracks where good access is not easy to find, if you don't know the area. A local bird guide is highly recommended to get the best from your visit. We contacted Georg Schreier (from Casa Rosa web site) and booked two full days birding. One of these was spent visiting a number of sites in the Ria Formosa, around Tavira, Fuseta and also some areas further West. Georg is an excellent guide and provided us with some great sightings through his expert local knowledge. We had good views of Audouin's, Slender-Billed and Mediterranean Gulls, which Georg picked out of gull flocks with enviable ease. On both days he generously shared his knowledge, pointing out the crucial differences between similar birds and teaching us a lot in a short space of time. Highlights of the day for me were good views of Penduline Tits and the sight of 50+ Stone Curlews flying from their roosting area.
On one day we travelled inland to the Steppe grassland of the Alentejo, again with Georg as our guide. We hoped to see Great Bustards and possibly Great Spotted Cuckoos. Heading towards the Spanish border and then inland, it was a pleasant drive on very quiet roads, with a number of stops at places of interest. We were delighted to get good views of the cuckoos and many other birds along the way - larks, Southern Grey Shrikes and huge flocks of Corn Buntings. The Steppe grassland was actually a beautiful carpet of wild flowers at this time of the year, a wonderful area for birding. We saw Black-bellied Sandgrouse and a large number of raptors; Spanish Imperial Eagles, a close view of a Bonelli’s Eagle, Marsh and Hen Harriers, Black-winged Kite, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon and a lot of Common Kestrels, Buzzards and Red Kites. We watched a distant flock of Common Cranes feeding in a wet meadow, while we ate our lunch at a very picturesque spot, high on a hill next to an old church. It was one of those great birding days. After lunch, the Great Bustards proved elusive for a while, but Georg tried a number of sites until he found a flock of 40+ birds in a meadow adjoining a walking-track. It was a fantastic sight with great views through the telescopes - a real highlight of our trip.
Great Bustard flying
Many of the roads in the area are very narrow or single-track, with parking very difficult. It is not advisable to stop your car on the road, even though the roads are generally quiet, as a number of trucks and agricultural vehicles use the roads….quite speedily! Having Georg as our guide was a real advantage for us, as he knew the places where we could park safely and take short walks to good viewing spots in the rolling terrain. On the way back we stopped at a spot near the bridge at Mertola, where we saw 2 Blue Rock Thrushes. We also had time for a visit to Castro Marim, where Georg spotted the Long-tailed Duck that had been reported there. While we were watching the duck, a Great Spotted Cuckoo flew close by and gave us a great view as it perched in a tree next to the visitor centre.
We all really enjoyed our winter trip to the Southern Algarve; great weather, hospitality, excellent birding and local food (we enjoyed meals at Ponto de Amigos in Lagoao, Tapas e Pizza and Antonio’s at Moncarapacho). We are already planning a return trip in Spring or Autumn, when we hope to take a boat trip from Fuseta. For anyone planning a trip, you will definitely enjoy your stay at Casa Rosa (We would also recommend dinner in their splendid dining-room).
Many thanks to Kjersti and Jan-Ketil at Casa Rosa and to Georg for our two great days birding.
Some of our photographs from the trip can be seen at;
Birding Report [staying at Casa Rosa.]
Eastern Algarve February 12th-19th2006
Leaving a cold, seemingly endlessly grey, Britain seems like a good idea in February – and it was! Flying from Exeter was different, certainly no crowds to jostle through! Flight an hour late – lack of cabin crew –, which rather makes you worry that they know something that you, don’t! Strong tail winds made up all the lost time and we emerged at Faro to the chirping of House Sparrows, blue skies and the heat of a late spring day at home [a hot one for us]. Collected the car [pod] and were off to Casa Rosa seeing White Storks on nests already bill clattering, a sound which can carry for miles. Roads empty as per usual, perhaps they knew we were coming!
The difference from August is astonishing; everything is green. Sheets of yellow and white flowers interspersed with purple but still only a suggestion of what will be there in a few weeks time. Okay, there are many dead trees, resulting from last summer’s drought, around, especially the Almonds and Pines, but the winter rainfall has been kind. Swallowtail and Clouded Yellow butterflies were soon spotted amidst the hum of insects.
The Azure Winged Magpies were around this time – every evening they gathered in a flock of 30+, very loudly, in a pine tree at the end of the donkey track. Very atmospheric against the sunset. 25+ Cattle Egrets flew over along with a Buzzard. The Swallows had arrived and there were plenty of small birds. One had to look twice at the female Blackcaps with orange bibs – from the pollen on the flowers when sipping nectar one presumes. The males stayed clean! Hoopoes were around prospecting their nest site on the terrace. A young Hedgehog strolled across the drive – good job Fudge didn’t see him!
Hoopoe on terrace Hedgehog
The next morning both types of Chiffchaff were singing along the donkey track – the Iberian easily recognisable. Serins, Willow Warblers, Chaffinches, Tree Sparrows, LittleOwls and a good many Song Thrushes were obvious, plus numerous Crested Larks.
It is a lot quieter at this time of year though plenty of people were strolling at the town end of the promenade. A decent selection of waders was around including Whimbrel, Sanderling and always the Black Winged Stilts. I walked around some of the pans by the rubbish dump this time [there certainly is some rubbish – a lot of it airborne!] seeing a smart male Black Redstart, Chiffchaff, Meadow Pipits and White Wagtails. Crested Larks of course!
Lovely – no one around at all, a bit windy though. Fantastic close-up views of a Spoonbill. We sat on a bench and watched Sandwich Terns fishing a few feet away. A scattering of the usual waders and there’s always a Crested Lark or three!
On the Fuseta saltpans was a largish flock of Flamingos, a good selection of ducks including Shoveller, Pintail, Gadwall and Mallard. Waders included Greenshank and Avocet. A single Med Gull lurked amongst the others. The high light though was the sudden panic caused by the arrival of an Osprey. It circled rolled, spiralled and dived – the ducks left, fast and high. The osprey also left – I think it enjoyed the havoc! Did I mention the Crested Larks?
Sandwich Tern Spoonbill
Quite a few dead trees but there is no way you would have recognised this landscape after seeing it last August. Green and verdant with huge sheets of flowers. Pleasantly warm thank goodness. On the way Crag and House Martins were already nest building at bridges. Mertola had Lesser Kestrels but it was early and they were sitting in the sun at the entrances to holes in the castle walls. There were Spotless Starlings, Jackdaws, ‘Rock Doves’ and a Grey Wagtail by the river. Azure Winged Magpies everywhere and, occasionally the boring black and white type! There were White Storks on dozens of telegraph pole nests and a positive cacophony of bill clattering. [Later in the day every nest is deserted as they fly off to feed] A weird calling suddenly resulted in two Great Spotted Cuckoos – unfortunately at long range. We were on our third search for Bustards and, as usual, there were none to be seen! That is until, while trying to photograph some Spanish Sparrows at the bottom of a Stork’s nest, a little Bustard flew, with a loud wing clap, from the field besides me. Good views of the great white wing bars. Then, two minutes later. ‘Is that a bush on the horizon – no it’s moved!’ Two Great Bustards, miles away but still huge – good scope views. Got both Bustards at once! Also picked up in the area were a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Black Redstart, Woodchat Shrike, Southern Grey Shrike, Red Kite, Raven, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Hoopoes and many commoner birds. Unusual were a pair of Bullfinches near the Spanish border when we detoured.
Great Spotted Cuckoo
We have never seen a lot here but there were the usual Marsh Harriers, Fan Tailed Warblers, Serin, Corn Buntings, Black Redstarts and plenty of Willow/Chiffs. I also disturbed a Brown Hare. Crested Larks!
Always a pleasant stroll but very variable in what you can see depending on the tide, [which goes out to the other side of the world] or the time of year. Purple Gallinule on the pool as usual. All the expected waders in very small numbers, a White Wagtail or two and a Goldcrest in the pinewood. Crested Larks!
Kentish Plover Waxbill
I like it here, not much walking and the waders come close. This time the warm weather had gone and it was grey, windy and after the beautiful first three days – freezing!
Watched a local make a basket in no time at all from the grasses by the saltpans. New were Bar Tailed Godwits, Spotted Redshank and Common Sandpiper. Crested Larks!
Quinta do Largo
It is always green here! Nearly found it first time! At the lake there were several Purple Gallinule and a skulking Glossy Ibis. New ducks were Teal, Tufted and Pochard. Wigeon were on the saltpans. Great and Little Grebes, large numbers of Coot and Moorhen. The orange-bibbed female Blackcaps were here to, mystifying quite a few! Crested Larks!
Female Blackcap with orange bib.Purple Gallinule Great weather for the first three days then a bit grey but far better than anything back home! Birds varied but just a little early for the main influx of migrants. Still like to go again as there are plenty of places we have not been yet and plenty of birds we have missed - because it’s relaxing and fun.
White Stork with Little Egret
List not in order. Graham Watson
|Collared Dove||Feral Pigeon||Golden Plover|
|Azure Winged Magpie||Tree Sparrow||Shoveller|
|Blackcap||Grey Plover||Rock Dove|
|Chiffchaff||Kentish Plover||Grey wagtail|
|Sardinian Warbler||Curlew||White Wagtail|
|Fan tailed warbler||Whimbrel||Spotless Starling|
|Cettis Warbler||Black tailed Godwit||Lesser Kestrel|
|Robin||Bar Tailed Godwit||Little Grebe|
|Song Thrush||Ringed Plover||Great Crested Grebe|
|Blackbird||Black Winged Stilt||Corn Bunting|
|Barn Swallow||Osprey||Carrion Crow|
|Cattle Egret||Cormorant||Great Bustard|
|Little Egret||Great Black Backed Gull||Little Bustard|
|White Stork||Lesser Black Backed Gull||Great Spotted Cuckoo|
|Grey Heron||Yellow Legged Gull||Glossy Ibis|
|Buzzard||Black Headed Gull||Wigeon|
|Red Kite||Dunlin||Common Snipe|
|Marsh Harrier||Sandwich tern||Pochard|
|Red Legged Partridge||Flamingo||Woodchat Shrike|
|Great Tit Blue Tit||Med Gull||Southern Grey Shrike|
|Jay||Meadow pipit||Tufted Duck|
|House Sparrow||Dartford Warbler||Lesser Spotted Woodpecker|