Bird watching Algarve Portugal CASA ROSA Villa Apartment Holidays
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(With many thanks to Tony Duckett)
We visited the Algarve for the first time last April, finding Casa Rosa a very friendly small complex in a peaceful rural setting. Its location gave good birding sites within easy reach. The habitat around the villa also held resident and migratory birds. From here you are with in easy reach of the Alentejo on quiet, but fast roads, where you can see some of this regions specialities. As I had seen most of my target species last year this holiday was going to a relaxing holiday with a couple of long drives viewing the countryside. If I was lucky then some birding goodies might come my way.
We flew from Heathrow via Frankfurt on Lufthansa Airways, it took a lot longer than I would normally have liked, as I tend to like getting to places as quickly as possible. My wife persuaded me that this was the better option as included in the price was car hire. Which saved us having to find another dealer, the price being almost the same as the direct flights. Lufthansa planes also had more room and the food was reasonable.
Once we had collected the car we drove to the villa via Faro and the supermarket. This route would I hope give me a chance to gain better views of Collared Pratincoles than the very distant one I had last year. This time birds were hawking insect in a field just by the road. I drove along this stretch of road several times during the week and always had sightings of Pratincloes, anywhere between the roundabouts on the west of Olhao and the east of Faro. As we drove up the lane to Casa Rosa we passed an area of recently burnt ground that was fortunately put out before it damaged any properties.
The following morning I up was early and doing the circular walk down the donkey track and around behind the builders’ yard. The species were as to be expected with scolding Sardinian Warblers, a pair of Crested Larks in amongst the Olive Trees. The pair of Little Owls had reared 2 young, an adult tried to lure me away from the area. Meeting the newly surfaced road I turned left away from the villa and up the hill to an area where last year a pair of Wrynecks had been displaying, I couldn’t hear or see any sign of them, a family of Hoopoes called and showed well instead. Heading back for breakfast I called in at the old water pump looking for Barn Owl, Serin and Bee-eaters showed well on the wires. My attention was then drawn to a beautiful turquoise coloured largish bird flying in my direction. Its plumage was as striking as certain species of parrots, it veered slightly, it was a Roller. This I had not bargained for, it perched briefly, but too briefly to take a photo, this was a lifer.
That morning we drove the short distance down to the Rio Formosa Reserve at Marim. We liked this little reserve , cheap entry fee and nice easy walking and birds every where. We came across a leaking fire hydrant, a tap for a hose really.
Birds were bathing in the fresh water. Unfortunately a recently fledged Serin had become water logged. After moving him on so he could dry off, we continued on down towards the salt pans. To my surprise another lifer 2 Rufous Bush Robins were feeding amongst the scrub and tall reeds. The salt pans had a lot of waders resting as it was coming up to high tide, nothing out of the ordinary, though. two Gull-billed Terns flying above our heads and calling was very handy in the event of me seeing this species in the UK. After several hours here it was off to the shops and then back to the villa, to relax by the pool.
As usual the next day I was awake just after dawn and off out. This time I was going to try for the Pratincoles just west of Ohlao by the radio mast. The turn off the coast road is quite tight, between two run down looking properties by the main road. I drove down the track and scanned the area. The problem here was the early morning sun is in your eyes, so the birds were silhouetted. Avocets and Stone Curlews were much in evidence calling a chasing around, time to move on. Once back on the main road within ¼ mile there is an area to pull off where the sun does not hinder your viewing and the birds can be scoped. The Pratincloes were just resting, probably to early in the day for the insects to be flying. I carried on towards Fuseta, turning off at the major cross roads with traffic lights, driving on over the railway line turning left to park at the end of a track that leads out into the salt pans. Out of the car Nightigales were singing from tall reeds alongside the small stream. The birds here were typical of that type of habitat; Melodious Warblers were a new site bird. Black-winged Stilts seem to take exception to me being there and were calling just above my head. Then the real reason for their anxiety an Indian Mongoose ran along the bank opposite a total surprise. The salt pans held lots of Kentish Plovers with accompanying young of differing ages, some fiened broken wings, to distract me. A Stone Curlew also showed well here. As I was about to leave my attention was drawn to a very white bird hovering over an area of rough ground by the railway line. Looking more closely I was gob smacked to see a Black-winged Kite. This was a bird that I hadn’t expected, thinking that a long drive to The Alentejo would have been needed. After breakfast we drove down toward the Stone Pine woods near Monte Gordo hoping for a nice walk and new birds. We were not to keen on the area, so we retraced our steps. Parking at Cacela Velha a raised fort perched above the eastern end of the Rio Formosa, very quaint, with lots of sleepy cats. Sally admired the view as I looked for birds, there is a walk along the edge of the water. Birds here include Purple Heron, Nightingale, Cettis Warbler, waders and a large flock of Serins. It was then home for lunch and relaxation.
The following day we decided to drive to Foja, a large amount of forest in this area had been damaged by fire. This was our first visit here; the tourist shops were full with the occupants of coach parties. Just a short stroll and you leave them behind; you can then enjoy the view even if it was a little hazy it was still spectacular. Enough of this what birds were on show, Blue Rock Thrushes sang from the buildings, several Rock Buntings fed on the ground and Melodious Warblers skulked in the nearby vegetation. The only raptors on show were Buzzards and 1 Booted Eagle. If I had stayed longer no doubt others species could have been seen. A little way back down the hill we managed to beat a coach into a very nice restaurant that was perched on stilts but offered stunning views while we ate. We then drove slowly around the countryside, Nightingales sang by the roadside and Rock Buntings were seen several times.
The rest of our holiday was spent close to base, with little excursion in the morning and relaxation by the pool in the afternoons. We did undertake a pleasant drive along the bank of the Rio Guadiana as far as Alcoutim; Azure-winged Magpies were plentiful, Golden Oriole songs echoed in the valley and a Short-toed Eagle soared overhead. Heading back along the N122 we stopped just before the bridge over the Ribeira da Foupana and walked along what then was an almost dry river bed. Here there was a small colony of Crag Martins, Little Ringed Plovers, Common Sandpiper, Rock Buntings and several commoner species.
I managed to see a few species close to Casa Rosa that I didn’t connect with last year were few. I did see Golden Oriole, Cirl Bunting, Short-toed Lark and by creeping up to the well I was able to catch a glimpse of the Barn Owl. The bird I had hoped to hear if not see was Red-necked Nightjar. It was on our last evening, after enjoying a meal at the Bistro. I listened and heard at least one Nightjar, I offered my excuses and headed up into the trees, I saw 2 birds circuiting the area.
The Following day it was back to England after another very enjoyable holiday.