Bird watching Algarve Portugal CASA ROSA Villa Apartment Holidays
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Algarve 16 to 23 July 2006
A gentle week's birding based at Casa Rosa between 16th and 23rd July 2006. Summer is not the best time of year to visit this area, but for those who have commitments in the classroom there is often no alternative! Each day began with Phil's early morning walk in the grounds of Casa Rosa and along the donkey track between 6:30 and 8:00, followed by fresh croissant for breakfast. A full day's birding then followed, mostly to locations that were accessible by car as Gill had difficulty in walking any distance. Each day ended with a swim, sundowners by the pool and then an excellent meal at Casa Rosa's Bistro, together with good company from our hosts.
At this time of year, almost every day is warm and sunny with 36C a typical temperature. This was certainly the case at 6pm each evening when I went for a swim in the pool. We had one day of overcast conditions which felt rather humid (and coincided with curry for dinner), but this was unusual. Inland, Castro Verde area, it was somewhat hotter but bearable, though we were pleased to have a car with air conditioning.
Casa Rosa and the donkey track produced Collared Dove, Sardinian Warbler, Woodchat Shrike and Barn Swallow every day. There were also plenty of Common Swift, although I did not manage to convince myself that any were Pallid Swift, and House Sparrow. Blackbird, Greenfinch, House Martin and Red-rumped Swallow each made several appearances. Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen once in the grounds of Casa Rosa as was Short-toed Treecreeper, Little Owl, Great Tit, Grey Heron, Hoopoe and, after being assured by Roger that it appeared at 9pm every day, an appearance by Red-necked Nightjar on our fifth evening. I also saw Little Owl along the donkey track. A small flock of Bee-eaters graced us with their presence on 20th July.
Several times we tried the minor roads that led South off the N125 between Fuzeta and Tavira. Results were variable and the state of the tide probably dictated what was likely to be seen. The best was probably the road at Livrapento. Sightings included Grey Heron, Little Egret, White Stork, Spoonbill, Oystercatcher, Black-winged Stilt, Kentish Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, Crested Lark, Red-rumped Swallow, Goldfinch and Whimbrel. We also went into Tavira and added Avocet, Greater Flamingo (but only three here) and a (possible) Water Pipit.
Our first trip to Castro Verde failed to produce a convincing sighting of Great Bustard, although we thought we saw two in a field beside the N2 just South of Castro Verde as we sped past. Therefore, we repeated the trip four days later and saw three Great Bustards in more a less the same spot, although paying more attention this time. However, it was not really safe to stop here and this was our only sighting. In the Castro Verde area (see "Finding Birds in Southern Portugal" by Dave Gosney) White Stork was abundant as was Cattle Egret, and we also found our first Azure-winged Magpie for the trip plus our only Roller. The bridge over the Rio Cobres 5km East of Castro Verde yielded Kestrel and an audio Cetti's Warbler. On the N123 between Sao Marcos de Ataboeira and Mertola we found White Stork nests on the utility poles with Spanish Sparrow sharing the living space. The very pleasant return drive by the Rio Guadiana gave us our first view of Bee-eater and Short-toed Eagle. The single track road South from Sao Marcos de Ataboeira produced our only Spotless Starling, plus excellent views of Black kite and Montagu's Harrier. On both trips to this region we visited Mertola but failed to find the Lesser Kestrels. However, we did have another Short-toed Eagle, several Crag Martin and a flock of Jackdaw over the very picturesque gorge.
We visited Quinta do Lago twice and were amazed at the liberal use of water on golf courses and villas in this drought-stricken region. Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gull were plentiful and we added Grey Plover, Turnstone, Little Ringed Plover, Curlew and Common Sandpiper to our list of waders. Little Terns were much in evidence and performed well at close range, particularly over the ornamental lake. Turtle Dove and Yellow Wagtail also made an appearance here. The golf course lake with its rickety tower hide was a revelation for this time of year. The highlight was a Little Bittern which disappeared into the reeds after allowing a few minutes viewing. There were also plenty of Little Grebe, Pochard, Mallard, Gadwall, one Grey Heron, Coot, Moorhen and one Red-crested Pochard. We also saw Hoopoe on the nature trail leading to this lake.
At Castro Marim, virtually at the Spanish border, we added Little Stint, Black-headed Gull, Fan-tailed Warbler and Southern Grey Shrike (although we may have seen one earlier at Ria Formosa). This site also had a flock of 45 Greater Flamingo as well as Spoonbill and Hoopoe.
Two other sites we visited were Cabo de Sao Vicente, which proved unproductive, and the Alvor Estuary, which had similar birds to Ria Formosa.
A note for disabled birders: As Gill was unable to walk far (she was using crutches), we managed to access all the above sites by car, except for the my morning walk along the donkey track at Casa Rosa. She did walk a few hundred meters at Quinta do Lago in the direction of the golf course lake and this would probably be accessible by wheel-chair users.
Dave Gosney's "Finding Birds in Southern Portugal" proved very useful despite being ten year's old. However, we did not make it to the small reservoir mentioned on page 15 as it looked a bit dubious without a 4-wheel drive vehicle.
Phil and Gill Bailey, email@example.com
Great Crested Grebe
Little Ringed Plover
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Southern Grey Shrike
Bird-watching from just west of Faro to Spanish border.
July 1-14 2010
By Stephen Davies, Auckland, New Zealand
Mid-summer birding is quiet because there are few migrants, many birds are breeding, and nothing moves during the long heat of thee day!
Common to abundant in suitable habitat (with many of these species breeding):
Little Tern, Little Egret, Little Grebe, Great Black-Backed Gull, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Grey Heron, White Stork, Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Black-winged Stilt, Kentish Plover, Redshank, Collared Dove, Swift, Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin, Crested Lark, Fan-tailed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Blue Tit, Blackbird, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch, Greenfinch
Quinta do Lago and Ludo saltpans
Comments: Obviously great migration site. Nature trail of golf complex. Neighbouring wetland. Variety of habitats. Some hides. Easy access and bird-watching conditions.
Location: West of Faro. Approaching Almacil on 125 from east, left turn at first traffic light and take left fork when road divides after 100 metres. Later go through six roundabouts/islands. Covered parking with charges (but not collected midweek when we visited).
Total species (2 trips): 60
Not seen elsewhere:
Shoveller, Pochard, Red-crested Pochard, Purple Swamphen, Great-crested Grebe, Little Bittern, Great-Spotted Woodpecker, Turtle Dove, Cetti's Warbler, Savi's Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Reed Warbler, Great Tit, Black-faced Bishopbird
Gadwall, Greater Flamingo (northern saltpans), Spoonbill, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Green Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Kingfisher, Hoopoe, Red-rumped Swallow, Pied Wagtail, Spanish Yellow Wagtail, Rufous Scrub Robin
Ria Formosa (park centre)
Comments: Obviously great migration site. Higher variety of habitats than most sites. Better at low tide.
Location: Just east of Olhao. Signposted. South from 125.
Total species (4 trips): 50
Not seen elsewhere:
Turnstone, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Magpie, Wren
Gadwall, Cattle Egret, Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover, Kingfisher, Bee-eater, Red-rumped Swallow, Stonechat, Starling, Skylark, Short-toed Treecreeper
Park centre of Sapal NR (Castro Marim)
Comments: Obviously great migration site. Wetland/saltmarsh. Great hide finished but not yet open. Interpretation Centre fronts great lake but has hardly any windows! Staff not helpful.
Location: Exit 18 of A22 motorway marked as Castro Marim - turn left under motorway, take first right (dirt road that turns back under motorway)
Total species (2 trips): 42
Not seen elsewhere:
Shelduck, Marsh Harrier, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Kestrel, Water Rail, Greenshank, Black Redstart, Corn Bunting
Pochard, Flamingo, Spoonbill, Grey Heron, Cattle Egret, Green Sandpiper, Pied Wagtail, Spanish Yellow Wagtail, Stonechat, Skylark
Cerro do Buffa (salt factory that is part of Sapal NR)
Comments: Salt factory and adjacent land (all marked as Private)
Location: 2 km sw of Castro Marim on 125 to Altura turn off to left - (the mountain of salt can be seen from the road)
Total species (1 trip): 25
Not seen elsewhere:
Stone Curlew, Collared Pratincole, Little Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper
Flamingo, Spoonbill, Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Stonechat, Rufous Scrub Robin
Comments: Nature trail (4k) at Centro de Educação Ambiental do Vale Gonçalinho (closed Monday). Managed steppe habitat. (Some different species and conditions in winter.) Staff helpful. A good website is http://algarvebirdman.com/default.asp?o=10479
Location: Take N2 north via S. B. de Airportel, Ameixial, Almodovar - windy road - check out cork oak areas en route (see below) - at Castro Verde, take road to Beja - parallel to this is old road - get on this as soon as possible and turn right to Centro de Educação Ambiental do Vale Gonçalinho (about 6 km from Castro Verde)
Total species (1 trip): 16
Not seen elsewhere:
Montague's Harrier (3), Booted Eagle (including five together), Lesser Kestrel (10+), Greater Bustard (3 groups, 15 individuals), Lesser Bustard (1 group, 25 individuals), Roller (6), Lesser Grey Shrike (4), Raven (2)
Cattle Egret, Hoopoe
Black-bellied Soundgrouse, Black-eared Wheatear
Pine/Cork Oak Woodland
Comments: Woodland holds species not seen near coast
Location: areas north of S. B. do Airportel
Total species (1 trip): 16
Not seen elsewhere:
Nightingale, Chaffinch, Nuthatch, Long-tailed Tit, Crested Tit
Starling, Short-toed Treecreeper
Montados (cork oak plains)
Comments: I did not check out the montados but they are said to be good for birds
Location: north and south of Almodovar
Incidental not elsewhere: Linnet
12th July to 20th July 2013
Ed Drewitt and Liz Shaw
See also the blog by Liz http://ramblingsofazoologist.com/2013/08/08/birdwatching-in-the-algarve-part-1/.
Friday 12th July
We arrived at Faro Airport at 9.30am – as we came in we saw flamingos, gulls and ducks on the lagoons close by at Quinta do Lago. As we went through customs House Sparrows were chirping from inside the building. And as we got our hire car, a flock of 12 Greater Flamingos drifted overhead!
We settled into our room at Casa Rosa before setting off to the town of Olhão where we got our food for the week. Near the harbour we could see some Yellow-legged Gulls. Back at our room we snoozed for a few hours while Azure-winged Magpies got up to mischief outside and the odd Sardinian Warbler rattled away. Swallows, House Martins and Swifts were often foraging nearby. A Melodious Warbler sang at one point too.
That evening we wandered down to the restaurant at the bottom of the road – a small group of European Bee-eaters were feeding overhead.
Saturday 13th July
After an easy morning start and listening to the liquid song of a Golden Oriole outside, we headed down to the Ria Formosa National Park centre and explored the reserve close to the Olhão. After paying a small fee and parking we headed out to look for chameleons but with no luck. Passing through the pine woodlands and sand dunes, Azure-winged Magpies were constantly in the background, as was the song of a male Golden Oriole. We found feathers of Hoopoes and one from a bee-eater. A Kingfisher dashed past through the woodland. Down by the dunes a pair of Crested Larks was using the boardwalk as a look out post – the male was ringed too. Out on the exposed mud and low water, Little Terns were busily hovering and diving for fish. Mullet were feeding below in the shallows. On the mud Curlews were busy feeding along with the odd Redshank and Little Egret. Great Egrets and Spoonbills occasionally flew overhead. Red-rumped Swallows were common, and one pair was even nesting on the old tide mill building, a lovely funnel-shaped nest made out of mud. On the nearby lagoon fiddler crabs and shore crabs were spread out across the mud, and suddenly disappeared as we edged closer. Yellow-legged Gulls were also on the mud along with a few White Storks.
As we continued round we found another lagoon where Little Terns were nesting (and had well grown young). We also saw a Black-tailed Godwit, at least seven summer-plumaged Dunlin, numerous Kentish Plovers, a few Yellow Wagtails, and Black-winged Stilts. On the edge by the trees a Woodchat Shrike was perched. From the hide looking out onto a freshwater pool we spotted at least twenty Little Grebes, including many juveniles or chicks. One small group of adults were fighting, and chasing each other, rather like Coots do. Four Little Egrets rested in the shade, and a few Moorhens and Coots lurked around the edges of the reeds. Back outside we disturbed a Hoopoe, and a pair of storks sat on top of an enclosure (part of a rehabilitation centre). They each had a yellow colour ring with black letters. One was marked J+1, and the other J+3. Throughout the walk Greenfinches, Linnets, Serins, Blackbirds, and House Sparrows were also present. As the temperature hit the late twenties, we headed back for lunch, watching a family of Woodchat Shrikes on the way – the parent was catching insects in the air and immediately feeding them to a chick! Fast food, eh! A lizard caught our eye and while it sat in the sunshine Liz captured some photos – it was a Large Psammodromus. We lunched on a picnic table in the shade and watched sparrows, a Blackbird and a Hoopoe also having their lunch!
In the afternoon we spent an hour or so in Olhão – as we walked along the sea front Swallows were feeding low over the water and by the sea wall. Yellow-legged Gulls glided past, and we also saw at least eight Mediterranean Gulls, mostly full adults (one 2nd year) feeding on bread and drifting past. House Sparrows, Little Terns, Feral Pigeons, and Spoonbills were also frequent; and a flock of 30 White Storks circling overhead was a real treat. These were already on their migration south.
Back at Casa Rosa we watched an Azure-winged Magpie kill a Cicada which was still singing before it was eaten! Late afternoon we headed down to the beach at Fuseta. Despite the wind, we managed to sit on the beach for a short while and watch Little Terns battling against the wind whilst looking down for fish. An Audouin’s Gull flew past too, while most of the others were Yellow-legged Gulls. Crested Larks fed nearby on the beach along with House Sparrows. In the sand there was a variety of shells, including some tiny spiral-shaped shells only millimetres long!
On our way out of Fuseta we stopped to see flamingos which we had seen on the way in – from near the station we could see Greater Flamingos, Black-winged Stilts, Yellow-legged Gulls, and Avocets. We went down a side road and along some saltpans where we spotted a single flamingo, Kentish Plovers, and stilts, including some juveniles and the odd chick.
As we relaxed in the evening back at Casa Rosa we heard the song of a Red-necked Nightjar amongst the calls of the crickets.
That morning outside our room we also saw or heard Short-toed Treecreeper, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, and Collared Dove.
Sunday 14th July
We left at 9.45am, and after filling up on petrol we headed east to Spain. It took around 30 minutes to the border, then another 30 minutes to our junction where we then headed south. We began to see raptors including Black Kites and every pylon had a stork nest or four! After another half an hour we arrived at El Acebuche! Four young stalks were stood at their nest on top of the visitor centre building.
We had an amazing day, spending four hours visiting the Coto Donana reserve – at the reserve we went to a number of hides. The first was quiet, but with a little patience revealed a Kingfisher, a hunting White Stork, a Moorhen, while Woodpigeons, Swallows and Black-winged Stilts flew past.
At the next hide there was a flurry of activity with a large group of Little Egrets, a dozen Spoonbills, and some White Storks feeding in the shallows of an ever-decreasing pool of water. One of the storks and one of the stilts was sat down with their legs flat on the ground. Various juvenile stilts were present amongst some adults. At the next hide we saw a few Common Waxbills, with their bright candle-red bills. One of the juvenile Spoonbills was colour-ringed as was a White Stork which flew in. After struggling to read their rings I went back to the car to get my scope – it was very satisfying to then read their rings! The Spoonbill was easy – white ring with black letters NUN. But the stork had a broken ring and I could only ever see the numbers! After some time the bird finally turned and I could read the full ring number, 19M1. Earlier it had flown in and greeted another stork with beak clattering and display, revealing the bright red skin on the underside of the bill.
On the board walk itself we spotted a Carbonell’s Wall Lizard, a Large Psammodromus, a gecko (which looked like a fat brown slug!), and various ant nests with pottery-like entrances. We also had a Small Copper butterfly (which looked large!) and a Small Blue-tailed Damselfly.
We lunched under the pine trees in the presence of a family of Azure-winged Magpies, House Sparrows, and a few shy Magpies.
With the heat now touching 30 degrees C, we made out way back but stopped after spotting flamingos. We came off at the next junction and pulled up to some hides at El Rocio where we counted over 500 flamingos! There were also hundreds of Black-winged Stilts, a group of 100 Spoonbills, Yellow Wagtails, and a Glossy Ibis. Overhead Black Kites were soaring, and a Booted Eagle was toppling down from the sky, while similarly marked but longer-winged storks glided past above. House Sparrows and a Greenfinch were in the nearby trees. After stepping in to a beautiful church we headed on our way in the scorching heat.
Half an hour later we arrived at the Odiel Marshes near the port town of Huelva. The bright, hot sunshine we stopped at the visitor’s centre – it was closed, but by the entrance road there was a pool full of gulls and waders. There were a few hundred Black-tailed Godwits (many in moult), and a few hundred or more Black-headed Gulls. Dunlin, Redshank, Spoonbills, 20+ Kentish Plovers and Mallards were also present. One pair of Kentish Plovers had two young chicks. The other Kentish Plovers were scattered across the sandy island and with the naked eye were invisible. Some of the godwits were colour-ringed and we spent some time trying to get all the colour codes!
On the other side of the road 30+ flamingos were feeding while Yellow-legged Gulls, Black-headed Gulls and some Mediterranean Gulls rested.
After this bonanza we headed up the road through the marshes and over a bridge. The tide was coming in so there was little birdlife to see further along, although a Marsh Harrier hunting by the road for a new bird for the trip.
We headed back to Casa Rosa, and an hour later we were back in our room. On our way back we spotted an eagle species, Buzzards, kites, storks and a flyover Green Woodpecker. We sat outside by the pool where 12 European Bee-eaters were calling and feeding overhead.
Monday 15th July
After a lazy start we headed for Tavira where it was very hot and sunny. After pottering around for a short while we nipped into the tourist information to pick up a few maps. Above an older building with a tiled roof, over 20 House Martin nests were lodged, some with the odd baby poking their head out. We decided to take the ferry to Tavira Island – the tide was out and as we sailed over we spotted a Curlew, a Whimbrel, a Turnstone, Redshank, flamingos, Avocets, and Kentish Plovers. A few Little Terns were flying around. Around us we could hear the songs of various Serins which were abundant on the island, as were House Sparrows and the odd Goldfinch. We spent the afternoon sunbathing and swimming in the sea. A few Mediterranean Gulls drifted over along with Yellow-legged Gulls. We caught the 5pm ferry back and as we waited Swallows flew around nearby, as did a few Little Terns. On the boat we saw an Audouin's Gull pass by and an Oystercatcher. Sailing back we spotted a Glossy Ibis, a Whimbrel, flamingos and Little Terns. Before we left Tavira we headed up the spit, Estrada das 4 Águas, where we stopped to watch around eight flamingos, including one which was ringed with a yellow colour ring and black letters, CPAF. Avocets were also feeding nearby, including one which kept attacking the flamingos. In this pool there were at least two half grown Avocet chicks (looked like compact adults!), while in the adjacent pool there was a small, young chick. On the nearby mound a Kentish Plover had two very small chicks. Small groups of Black-tailed Godwits flew overhead and behind us, in another pool, there were some godwits and Redshanks. A Zitting Cisticola also flew by.
In the evening back at Casa Rosa a bee-eater was calling and flying around while some Sardinian Warblers were giving out their alarm call.
Tuesday 16th June
This morning we got up at 6.30am and got ready for a journey west along the coast. As we got ready a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker called outside.
We headed for Lagos, around 50 minutes on the A22 (plus various tolls) and then another ten minutes into town. I spotted a Black-winged Kite on the way, and we reckon both Common and Pallid Swifts. We arrived around 8.45am and paid for our tickets. Out first call was a dolphin trip with Bom Dia. We met at 9.30am and eight of us joined the R.I.B to set off out to see. We spent the first 45 minutes five to six miles out at sea seeing very little – although we did spot 15 to 20 immature Gannets and over half a dozen Cory’s Shearwaters. A small group of three or four ducks were probably Common Scoters. A few splashes in the distance was likely tuna, an unusual sighting these days – when we got to the site there was certainly no sign of any dolphins. A little further on we came across a few Mediterranean Flying Fish, Cheilopogon heterurus and much larger than what I have seen before. They were hurtling across the sea for some distance. After half way we continued west and suddenly saw some splashes – dolphins! We headed their way and kept our distance so as not to disturb them. It was a school of female Common Dolphins with at least six babies, only days old. They were on a mission and kept going – after a while some decided to check us out and came right to the boat. A few had teeth streaks around their neck and torso. The young were tiny and when they surfaced a little off balanced with their tail! We enjoyed them for five minutes or more before turning back. We made our way back passing some more Gannets and a Balearic Shearwater, arriving back around 11am.
Our next event was at 1pm – we were going on a sailing boat along the coast for 4.5 hours with Bom Dia. As we left the port a Common Sandpiper flew passed and a few Common Terns flew past heading into the harbour. It was very hot by now (31 degrees C) and we enjoyed sailing along the coastline up to Praia da Luz and back. We saw beautiful sandstone cliffs, clear sea water, and amazing views. We stopped at Praia da Luz for a while so we could all dive in and have a swim – it was a bit cold but fun. We headed back and anchored up near Ponta da Piedade, outside of Lagos, surrounded by incredible sandstone cliffs. In three separate groups we transferred to a small speedboat and headed to the cliffs to look around the eroded sandstone rock, full of seashells millions of years old. The fishermen have called different names for the cliff grottos – the kitchen, the bathroom, the garage, the living room, and one entrance looked like the head of an elephant. The outer cliffs were busy with nesting Yellow-legged Gulls – young were fledging, while inside the grottos Feral Pigeons were busy nesting. A few Kestrels were also flying around, while swifts were busy chasing each other and some appeared to be nesting in a cliff archway. After our tour we headed back to the main boat where we had dinner – some delicious and huge chicken pieces, crisps and salad, plus a drop of white wine. We spent the next few hours enjoying the sunshine, and at 4pm we drifted around using just the sails of the boat. We arrived back at 5.30pm and headed for an ice cream before making our journey back to Casa Rosa. On the way back I spotted a few White Storks, and a Black-winged Stilt.
Wednesday 17th July
This morning we had a nice lie in – we woke however around 5.30am and could hear one or two Red-necked Nightjars calling. It was just beginning to get light.
After paying our toll fees at the post office in town, we headed for the Ria Formosa National Park. We arrived around 11am and spent the next three hours exploring – we heard and saw a Green Woodpecker while Collared Doves called relentlessly in the trees! After popping in to the centre and seeing an amazing display of shells we continued in the heat (up to 33 degrees C). The tide was in this time and on one of the pools we spotted lots of summer-plumage Dunlin (20+), mixed-plumage Knot (8+), Kentish Plovers (lots!), Little Terns (60-70+), Sanderling (1), Redshanks, Black-tailed Godwits, Turnstone (50+), one Grey Plover, Lesser Black-backed Gull (1), Yellow-legged Gull, Yellow Wagtail, a Common Sandpiper, and a few Ringed Plovers. Nearby we watched a Swallowtail Butterfly which wouldn’t stop long enough to photograph!
We then spent some time in the pond hide – there was plenty of Little Grebes, Moorhens, Little Egrets, Common and Pallid Swifts (swooping to drink), Little Terns (also coming to drink), a juvenile Coot, Mallard, sunbathing Pond Turtle, and…..Liz then spotted a Purple Gallinule! It was much bigger than a Moorhen, blue-purple with a white bottom! We watched it disappear, but it wasn’t long before it had appeared further along the pond edge, it a little obscured. It had its back to us and was tugging at the roots of a plant. We could clearly see its bright red bill, red shield and pink legs. What a bird!
As we exited the hide I disturbed a Hoopoe, and as we headed back over 40 White Storks were drifting over on migration. A family of Woodchat Shrikes were noisily feeding close by. Just before we sat down for lunch we stalked another Hoopoe feeding nearby – it was a shy bird but we managed a few photos as it fed.
After lunch we went back to Casa Rosa where we spent the afternoon by the pool enjoying the heat and sunshine – the odd Swallow passed over while Collared Doves were always calling!
In the evening we enjoyed a delicious meal cooked by Kjersti and Jan-Ketil – a tomato salad, a pork filet with mushroom sauce for main, and a Triffli, a delicious mix of chocolate cake, crème fraiche and strawberries. Swallows, House Martins and the odd Red-rumped Swallow flew past to roost, while Azure-winged Magpies spent some time in the pine trees near Casa Rosa. As the light faded a Red-necked Nightjar flew past the building, and a few pipistrelle bats and a larger bat began flying.
A little look in the habitat behind Casa Rosa gave some further views of Red-necked Nightjar. We also heard the calls of both adult and baby Little Owls, while other owls could be heard calling from down the valley. Another bat, a Serotine, was picked up flying overhead, while a few smaller bats flew lower.
Geckos were hurrying away out of sight from the walls of Casa Rosa, and a mystery mammal was lurking in the cacti rustling and making a quiet, screeching sound. Liz spotted its eyes reflecting from the torchlight – a small mammal, perhaps Garden Dormouse.
Thursday 18th July
This morning we set off at 5.30am for A Roche Portugal, about an hour’s drive away. It went down to about 15 degrees C on the way, and the light slowly came up. On nearing junction 4 of the A22 we spotted a Black-winged Kite, followed by another just off the junction. We over shot the turning and at the end of the lane spotted around 50 flamingos – apparently these were the first here for months! On arrival at A Rocha we quickly went out on the first net round to see what bird’s had been caught in the ringing nets. Over the next six hours we caught over 30 birds including numerous House Sparrows (many juveniles), juvenile Blackbirds (much lighter, sandier coloured than ours), five juvenile Azure-winged Magpies, a brightly coloured male Greenfinch, and a few Great Tits. As we waited between net rounds we watched lots of Common Swifts, Pallid, Swifts, House Martins and a single Alpine Swift. Meanwhile, a pair of Red-rumped Swallows was perched on the wires nearby and often flying around too. A Kestrel made a few flights over, while Greenfinches and Goldfinches were busy feeding and calling. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker called behind us and a Hoopoe flew in front of us. A flock or two of Common Waxbills were busying themselves in a small patch of reeds. And while doing the net rounds one Red-necked Nightjar which was disturbed and flew above the trees; and another ringer saw two on an earlier round. A Wren sang occasionally – possibly a young bird and missed off the last part of its song. Lots of butterflies were around including Swallowtail and Speckled Wood. At the end of the session around 1pm we said our goodbyes and popped down the end of the lane to eat lunch and spot some birds. The briny pools were busy with Black-winged Stilts, Black-headed Gull, Yellow Wagtail, and the odd Dunlin. A few Cattle Egrets flew overhead along with a Little Tern and a Little Egret.
After a nice rest later afternoon Liz and I went for a walk along the donkey track to the side of Casa Rosa. It was rocky and spiky, but we saw lots of Meadow Brown butterflies, a small group of Red-legged Partridges (a few young birds), a few Common Wall Geckos (Moorish Geckos), House Sparrows, Swallows, House Martins, Cattle Egrets, Sardinian Warbler, a Crested Lark, Blackbirds, and a Little Owl which flew away in front of us.
After dinner we went out along the track in the dark – there was a rustle in the trees and Liz spotted something glinted its eyes back in the light. I could hear it moving but just couldn’t see if with the leaves and branches. However, Liz got a good view of its pale, white belly and long tail – when we got back we identified it as a Garden Dormouse. We also saw a few bats – a Pipistrelle bat (which we heard on the bat detector), and another large bat, probably a Serotine. We could hear some baby Little Owls in some trees by a field below us, while those near Casa Rosa were also calling. Red-necked Nightjars were singing, both below us down the valley and behind us near the garden.
Friday 19th July
After a nice lie in, we had breakfast and headed for Moncarapacha to pay our toll fee from Tuesday.
We then set off for a Fonte da Benémola, a lovely river valley with constant flowing water, and hence lush vegetation and wildlife. Just before we arrived we heard a Nuthatch call. Here we were up in the hills, the habitat full of cork oak woodland. At lunch we passed a lorry full of cork oak bark parked up and the men all having their lunch.
The first part of the walk was dry and hot – we saw mainly bees, Southern Gatekeeper Butterfly, White Featherleg Damselflies, a White Wagtail, and heard a few Blue Tits. However, once we got to the water there was a hive of activity. The water was so clear, and on the surface hundreds of large pond skaters while small and medium-size fish lurked in shoals below. A Grey Wagtail was feeding nearby, and the common damselfly here was Copper Demoiselles, plus a Western Willow Spreadwing and lots of White Featherleg Damselflies. Three Pool Frogs were seen – a darker one on the far side of the river. Liz disturbed two, and we had good views of one of them; bright yellow-green and with cheek bubbles which inflated when it sang! A few male Broad Scarlet Dragonflies were perching nearby, and Emperor Dragonflies were hawking the waterways. Spanish Pond Turtles were common and frequently at the water’s surface or sunning on the bank. They were quick too when they wanted to return back to the water. The odd small bird flitted around in the trees – most probably Melodious Warblers while Meadow Brown butterflies were common along with the odd Wall Brown and Speckled Wood Butterfly. Three or four Crag Martins foraged overhead along with the odd Red-rumped Swallow. We headed back up the river on the other side this time finding an Iberian Bluetail Damselfly and a Small Pincertail plus a few more White Featherlegs, Copper Demoiselles and a Western Willow Spreadwing. As we passed the hot, dry rocks and vegetation, the only flowering plant was one which looked a little like Thyme. The insects loved it including a huge black Carpenter Bee, with purple-coloured wings. Small White Butterflies were common along with Clouded Yellows. Another Southern Gatekeeper was seen along with three or four Sage Skippers – fast and hard to keep up with, their body hairs had a blue tint. We spotted at least three lizards, the Large Psammodromus, including a lovely male with an orange chest, throat and face and speckles of blue and green. Back at our starting place a male Golden Oriole was singing while Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Azure-winged Magpie called in nearby trees. The odd Melodious Warbler had given a little song, and a Blackcap was singing on our return. We also passed a group of Long-tailed Tits. While we ate our lunch and enjoyed the song of the Golden Oriole, a female Wryneck called briefly.
We set off to a nearby village, Salir, for a cold refreshment in a café and a pastel de nata each! We then headed back through the hills with incredible views of the cork oak wooded valleys. We stopped at the supermarket in
Moncarapacha and on our walk there from the car passed six House martins nests together, each with a young bird poking its head out!
Around the garden I photographed a few Geranium Bronze butterflies. Six Cattle Egrets flew past at dusk on their way to roost.
Saturday 20th July
After a nice lie in, we spent the first half of the morning packing and having breakfast. Once we were packed, we set off to the western side of Faro, to
Quinta do Lago. The surrounding area is a very classy and expensive area of mansions and restaurants. Almost there and we stopped quickly as I spotted a Purple Heron – it was feeding in a watercress farm and was much darker than a Grey Heron. A Common Waxbill, Goldfinches, Little Egrets and hirundines were also present.
Our final stop was down a discrete track where a newish hide was standing a short way down. The saline pool in front of us had a few Kentish Plovers and Little Terns. Just before we got going a family had found the shed skin of a long snake in the hide.
We set off along the sandy track and it wasn’t long before we found a Purple Gallinule stood on some reed stems, calling like a horn. A little further along we found another with a half grown youngster which began eating a reed stem. The area was lush with reeds and bulrushes and further on the water opened out into a large lake adjacent to a verdant green golf course. Behind us a Crested Tit and a Serin were calling and feeding in the pines. Gadwall were very numerous and a great chance to watch them closely in good light. Most of the male ducks were in eclipse. Some were resting with a Glossy Ibis and a few Pochards. At the hide looking out across the lake we saw over one hundred Coots, including many juveniles. In amongst them were Gadwall, Mallards, Red Crested Pochards, a few Great Crested Grebes, a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and lots of Yellow-legged Gulls (mainly juveniles). The male Red-crested Pochards were in eclipse but still had a bright red bill. A few Little Bitterns flew past at separate times – possibly on feeding flights to a nest. A juvenile bird was watched close to a sleeping Mallard, winding its way through the reeds to feed and occasionally raising its head and neck upwards. Black-faced Weavers noisily called from the reeds – and occasionally we saw a bright yellow male, or a duller, streaky female. Some were flying back into the reeds with thin reeds stems. A Purple Gallinule sat on top of some reeds while Moorhens lurked on the water. We headed back to the first hide for lunch, finding the predated eggs of a turtle on the way – one still had the baby turtle inside. At lunch the saline pool was filling up as the tide was coming in. A Little Egret, a few Little Terns and a Redshank were nearby, while in the distance we could see a small group of White Storks. After eating we headed back along the track, going on further beyond the golf course – a Hoopoe, House Sparrows and Azure-winged Magpies were feeding on the lush, wet green grass. At our turning point over 50 Greater Flamingos were resting along with a group of storks, stilts and ducks. A couple of Crested Larks fed in front of us by old Roman ruins – the remains of brick tanks used for fermenting fish to produce garum.
Two or three Black Pennant dragonflies were flying around – usually they flew off to quickly, but one perched allowing for photographs and identification. This species has only recently been discovered here and is on its westernmost range. There were also Violet Dropwing dragonflies, females, flying around and perching, dropping their wings as they did so. Liz also photographed a Migrant Hawker Dragonfly.
As we headed back we stopped for a while in the hide overlooking the lake. We had further good views of at least three different Little Bitterns (and four probably overall), including the juvenile bird closer by. A Little Grebe was washing and flapping its wings in the water amongst the Coots and Gadwall. We spotted an eclipse male Tufted Duck and Shoveler, while a few male Pochards in breeding plumage were around. A female Pochard was overseeing five or six ducklings which were busy diving. Spanish Pond Turtles and at least one Red-eared Terrapin were spotted sunning themselves on the small raised banks amongst the ducks. House Martins, Swallows and a few Red-rumped Swallows were usually flying around.
We headed back to Casa Rosa and had a surprise on our arrival! Jan-Ketil had found a Mediterranean Chameleon. He had put it in a black bucket with some carob pods – and it had turned black! As soon as Jan took it out the reptile quickly began to turn green. It climbed up the hose pipe and plumbing before we took it over to release it back into the bushes. By now it was bright green. To hold it was very thin and narrow, like a Water Rail! It hissed a little, but once it relaxed it happily crept along our hands and arms. It moved quite quickly and when we put it back in the bush it soon disappeared.
We gave ourselves plenty of time to get back to the airport and time seemed to go by quickly. Before we knew it we were on the plane and ready for take off by 8.50pm. I had a window seat and watched a Grey Heron and a few Black-headed Gulls fly past. Taking off we followed the coastline for a short while before heading north-west inland, passing Setubal, Lisbon, Porto and Matosinhos.