Bird watching Algarve Portugal CASA ROSA Villa Apartment Holidays
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Tuesday 27th March
Flying from Exeter again makes it seem a really short journey—just over two hours and in no time at all [once you have been through the rugby scrum of car hire!] you’re out in the wide-open spaces of the eastern Algarve. (A new car and the brakes were on steroids!)
After a quick trip for the necessary groceries, mainly liquid, we down the donkey track to show us some orchids. A nice surprise was the call of a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker which then obligingly flew over and landed nearby. It had been around for a few weeks but we didn’t see it again. The usual ‘scared’ Blackbirds were in fleeting evidence — it took all week to get a pic of one. The orchids were beautiful, especially the Woodcock [see pics] and Mirror.
Bee, Mirror and Woodcock Orchids
After the photography session we popped down to Fuzeta [my favourite easy birding place] and picked up Black-winged Stilts, Curlew Sandpiper, Kentish Plover, Red and Greenshank, Grey Plover, Little Stint, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Sanderling, Common Sandpiper and Whimbrel plus the expected gulls, Cormorant and Sandwich Tern. Gannets could be seen beyond the islands. Back at Casa Rosa the Hoopoes were around; Barn Swallows, Swifts [common] and House Martins flew over, a group of Azure-winged Magpies passed through. Blackcap and Sardinian Warbler skulked around and Green and Goldfinch were in the garden along with Collared Dove and masses of House Sparrows. A pair of Great Tits and a Song Thrush put in a late appearance. I wandered across to the well to find an adult Barn Owl with a chick in a hole a couple of metres down. A great end to the day!
Barn Owl Chick.
Wednesday 28th March
We made the run to Cape St Vincent which took two hours mainly because I don’t bother to read road signs! It’s very scenic but also very, very windy - you couldn’t stand up! The seas are rough and there was no sign of any sea birds. We did have close flight views of Choughs and a pair of Black Redstarts but there was little else except Linnets, Rock Dove, Kestrel, Stonechat and Spotless Starlings. We drove back to the Pera Marshes which were showing much more mud than on our last visit but few birds. There was still a cold, northerly wind. The highlight was at least five drake and three female Gaganey. There were a least ten Purple Gallinule, a good few Snipe and Iberian Yellow Wagtails. Other new birds were Cattle Egret, Spotted Red Shank, Greater Flamingo, Moorhen, Coot, Ruff, European Magpie, Shoveller, Teal, Mallard, Black-tailed Godwit, Little Grebe, Little Ringed Plover, Gadwall and Zitting Cisticola. Back at Casa Rosa we saw a Wood Chat Shrike from the kitchen window. I also found a bright yellow Crab Spider matching its flower beautifully.
Thursday 29th March
The usual visit to the green oasis - Quinta do Lago! It was sunny but still the cold northerly winds. No sign of any Warblers and not as many birds as we expected. The water levels were very high on the lake. We walked the full circuit through Ludo Farm and back along the coastal path. The highlight was two fly-over Andouins Gulls and a Red Kite. New birds were Serin, Crested Lark, Corn Bunting, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Red-crested Pochard, Cettis Warbler, Chiffchaff, Little Egret, Great-crested Grebe, Spoon Bill and a single Gull-billed Tern flying along the estuary. Calling in at the Ria Formosa reserve in Olhao on the way back there was a dearth of birds. The lagoons were devoid of water although the woodland was green. Not even any Waxbills but we did find a Robin!
Friday 30th March
The obligatory trip to the Alentejo, which we really enjoy. Via Castro Marim and up the long, empty, smooth dual carriageway. It was still windy and quite cold but sunny. The bridge at the border had no Crag Martins this time but there were House Martins, Spanish Sparrows and Red-legged Partridges. At Mertola, after watching a lorry scraping all the new concrete off the very narrow bridge, we were fortunate to watch half a dozen Lesser Kestrels take to the air from the castle and soar above us in a blue sky – translucent and beautiful. There were also Rock Doves, Crag Martins, Jackdaws and a showy Little Owl. We then drove the minor road to Castro Verde and started seeing the Great Bustards. They see you first and walk away before flying if necessary. On the reserve were 50 plus – altogether nearly 70! It was a good day for raptors with many Red and Black Kites, an immature Golden Eagle, Hen and male and female Montagues Harriers, Kestrel, Buzzard and a probable Bonellis Eagle. Also new were Red-rumped Swallows, Calandra Lark, Southern Grey Shrike, Carrion Crow, Raven, Green Sandpiper and the first Wood Pigeons we have seen in Portugal. Not to mention a pool full of Marsh frogs and the ubiquitous Terrapins. A great day’s birding.
Lesser Kestrel and Great Bustards.
Saturday 31st March
A grey, misty start with rain following! We drove to the Castro Marim reserve on the Spanish border where the rain turned into a deluge and the tracks into thick, sticky mud. At 10.30 am it stopped and we quickly climbed the hill. Plenty of Avocets and an Osprey on a telegraph pole. Then a last scan, a black blob and there was a handsome male Little Bustard! A Marsh Harrier distracted us and it had disappeared never to be seen again. We drove round to the salt-works and had a ‘purple patch’ – thirty minutes great birding. Only three gulls in the lagoon but one of them was a Slender-billed Gull. While watching it a Great Spotted Cuckoo flew over and landed on a nearby telegraph pole. At that moment three Bee Eaters chose to appear, circling round and landing on the wires. A few minutes later, around the corner, we came across a flock of Collared Pratincoles - quite approachable and swooping like giant swallows. Two ‘lifers’ in that short time! There were also Iberian Yellow Wagtails ,Short-toed Larks, Grey Herons, Common Sandpiper, Spoonbill, Bar-tailed Godwits and Pallid Swifts. A really good, enjoyable – in the end - day.
Sunday 1st April
A good morning at Mocarapacho market with lots of ‘bargain buys’ and a bit of ‘touristy’ wandering around – although this did include Sandwich and a Whiskered Tern on the Olhao seafront!
Monday 2nd April
We escorted an American couple to Castro Marim. The young lady was very ‘jet lagged’ but Callyn was a keen birder. There was a passage of raptors but too high to identify. Fortunately a superb Booted Eagle was quartering the hilly part of the reserve. Then we picked up a partially hidden pair of Stone Curlew. These are stunning when they fly – the wing patterns are really striking. A Southern Grey Shrike posed for us and the other previously noted birds were there – except - of course, the Little Bustard! Also of note were Spotted Redshank and Little Stints. The Pratincoles were still at the salt-works – Callyn’s ‘best bird ever’ and we able to conduct a ‘master class’ in wader identification as there were so many species different to the American species.
Great Spotted Cuckoo.
Migration was noticeably late – cold northerly winds - no warblers, herons etc. The birds were arriving as we were leaving! Isn’t that what always happens to birders?
Another great week in a wonderful birding spot. I defy you to not enjoy it!
Graham and Judith Watson April 2007
Graham explains European bird-watching techniques the Callyn.
Casa Rosa Birdwatching Holiday
Date:- 31/03/09 to 07/04/09
Clive & Sharon Jones – Hampshire, UK
Having just returned from our first bird watching holiday staying at the Casa Rosa apartment near Moncarapacho, Portugal we wanted to let other bird enthusiasts know about this amazing place. We arrived at Faro airport, picked up our pre-arranged hire car and set off to Casa Rosa. The roads were good and with the directions that Jan and Kjersti had given us we were able to find the apartment easily. We arrived mid-morning knowing that we were very early for the normal afternoon check in time . We were warmly greeted by Jan and Kjersti who kindly allowed us to settle into our apartment straight away.
Casa Rosa is an attractive white washed Villa, consisting of 6 apartments with its own beautiful pool and sunbathing/relaxing area. Our apartment was on the ground floor, lots of space, lovely big clean bathroom and a well equipped kitchen.
During our stay Jan and Kjersti couldn’t have been more helpful regarding local information or answering any questions we had. They were able to put us in touch with a bird guide if we needed one and when we asked Jan about one of the bird areas we wanted to visit but we weren’t sure of which area to go to he immediately said he would find out some information. Sure enough the next morning as we were about to set off he met us giving us the relevant information.
Kjersti also invited us to an evening home made meal that she organises once/twice a week depending on the time of year. Sadly we had made other plans and we were unable to go, reading the comments other guests had made in the guest book , I think we missed a lovely evening.
As for the bird watching in this area it was FANTASTIC!. We had planned our trips hoping to visit the Ria Formosa National Park, Castro Marim, Quinta de Largo, Tavira Salt pans and the Alentejo region. We managed to go to all the areas we wanted to and we were never disappointed. As we are enthusiastic bird watchers but not hugely knowledgeable, we had prearranged for a bird guide to spend the day with us to explore the Alentejo region. It is such a vast area that we felt unless you knew the area well expert help would make the day so much better, Georg, our lovely bird guide met us Casa Rosa for an 8.00 am start to what turned out to be a truly special day with over 45 different sightings of birds . Amongst which we saw, Great Bustards, Little Bustards, great Spotted Cuckoo, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Golden Eagle , Black Eared Wheatear, Crag Martins, Bee Eaters and many many more. He was a wonderful guide and we would never had seen the amount of birds, or been able to identify them all, without his help. His enthusiasm was more than equal to ours and we both had a really great day.
To arrive back at Casa Rosa after a long days birding was lovely and peaceful. There was always a warm shower/bath followed by a cup of tea with local cake to enjoy in the sun by the pool as we made a daily list of our sightings, checking them off in our bird book. When we finally turned in for the night the cosy duvets meant a good nights sleep was had before we faced a new day wondering what bird treats were in store for us.
Olhao, a larger town near by provided all we needed in terms of food as they are well served with supermarkets. The harbour is famous for its fresh fish and is well worth a visit. Tavira is not far away for a bit of street walking, shopping or sitting by the river relaxing.
Casa Rosa is a great place for birdwatchers as it is within easy reach of a number of fantastic hotspots. Not forgetting that Casa Rosa has its own resident Hoopoe’s, Azure Winged Magpie’s, Sardinian Warblers, Woodchat Shrike and subterranean Barn Owl. It was a great week and we would be very happy to revisit Casa Rosa and the area again.
Casa Rosa Birdwatching Holiday
Date:- 17/03/12 to 25/03/12
David and Sarah Harvey
We enjoyed our visit to Casa Rosa, 17-25 March. Many thanks to Kjersti and Jan-
Ketil Nyborg, who have they been particularly helpful and friendly, but also so
efficient with arrangements. Casa Rosa was a good base for us to explore the eastern
Algarve, after a week in the west. A varied beautiful country with clear light and
wonderful oranges. The weather seemed perfect - sunny and temperatures 18-20C.
The track at the end of the lane takes one quickly to Moncarapacho. The
supermarkets are reasonable, and we favoured the one on the main square which is
much used by locals and good value.
The swimming pool was covered most of time, but warm as a result. Consequently
our only swim (mid March!) was amazingly warm.
Barril beach . Stroll out over a pontoon bridge and a board walk to the outer sand
dunes between Fuetza and Tavira. Try the narrow gauge railway which runs
Santa Luzia A small esplanade town approaching Tavira; you can watch waders
from the comfort of a café on the front.
Tavira. A very pleasant town for wandering around.
Castra Marim. This is a delight for little boys of all ages, with not one but two
castles. The walk round the salinas and salt factory was wonderful for scenery and
birds. It starts as a track on the westof the N122 midway between Castro Marim and
Futeza. Lovely small seaside & port town. The salinas on the opposite side of the
port is full of waders including flamigos.
Monchique. From the top of the highest hill, Foia, the view is stupendous, covering
all Algarve. We saw a blue rock thrush where the parapentistes meet behind the
fenced off miltary site.
Many new flowers; we brought back dozens of photos, and also the realisation that
many plants and bushes that are planted in English gardens are growing in the wild in
So many seen,
The top destination for us was the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa site on the east of
Olhao just beyond the railway, signed from the N125. Lots of waders (from tiny
kentish plover to great flamingos) and warblers. There is a hide on the freshwater
lake from which we first saw purple gallinule. Much non-bird interest too.
Quinta do Lago. Signed from the main street in Alamcil, this millionaire resort is a
part of the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa has two signed walks along the shore with
information panels and two hides. Improbably we saw several purple gallinule on the
golf fairways. Also little grebe, hoopoe, purple heron, woodchat shrike, gadwall...
Castro Marim. A different mix of waders and wildfowl, plus small birds. Black
necked grebe, cattle egret, black tailed godwits…
We took ’Walking in the Algarve’ book by B&E Anderson (pub Sunflower) which
was useful. The first route was from Sao Bras de Alporte out round village of Tareja.
We visited Tavira national forest – through eucalyptus forest then the dry matos
covered country around the tiny villages of Malada do Peres and Daroeira.
Food and wine
We went to one of the cafes outside the Ria Formosa park at Olhao – there are two
just outside the entrance. We took the one on the left / round the corner as it was well
attended, primarily by Portuguese. A lovely meal of grilled mixed fish, thee courses
and coffee for EUR 8. Indeed it was so good that we went back on another day. The
fish can be selected from the cabinet at the entrance, but we just put our trust in the
staff – a good move!
Portuguese wines have been a discovery – the whites crisp and interesting, reds fruit
balanced by acidity and tannin – all dry, all so well matched to the food, especially
olives, cheese, bread, sausage. Alantejo mainly, Duoro white was our best. We only
tried one Algarve wine, but it was not the best.
We bought carrier bags of oranges at the roadside, which were the most delicious ever
tasted. Oranges with everything, especially little almond cakes.
Birdwatching Reports Algarve
Casa Rosa Birdwatching Holiday
TRIP REPORT – SOUTHERN PORTUGAL
18th – 23rd MARCH 2013
This was our first trip to Portugal after frequent visits to many parts of Spain. It was organised as a last getaway to a new birding destination.
We flew from London to Faro with easy-Jet and hired a car from Europcar. Having read up about the electronic tolls we decided to rent an automatic vignette so that we didn’t have to search for obscure places to pay the tolls. As this was a short break of only 6 days it seemed like a good idea and it did indeed save a lot of time. The A22/IP1 toll road was virtually empty whereas the main N125 coast road was busy most of the time and generally quite slow.
We found Casa Rosa on the internet and decided to stay there as it seemed to fit our requirements and it was available at the short notice. It proved to be a good base for touring with no destination more than 1.5 hours away on the toll road, and several good locations with 30 minutes.
Our room at the rear of the house provided interesting birding with a dawn chorus of collared doves, cuckoo, drumming great-spotted woodpecker, serin and hoopoe. Azure-winged magpies dropped in from time to time and there were common waxbills in the small vineyard opposite the entrance gates to the house.
Most of our time was spent at Quinta do Lago and Castro Marim along with two excursions to the Castro Verde / Mertola area and one trip to the Sagres peninsula in the south-west.
The weather was mainly bright but with a cool breeze and daytime temperatures between 15 - 20ºC. There was rain for two full mornings and one overnight thunder storm. Over the course of the 6 days we recorded 111 species of bird.
Quinta do Lago
This area is sign-posted from the coast road in the centre of Almancil. Follow the road straight through the golf resort to a car park by the beach (free during the spring and winter). At the shore, turn left and take the nature trail to the east. There are two hides, the first overlooks the salt-marsh and the second is situated on the edge of a freshwater lagoon.
The walk along the inter-tidal area produced a few European spoonbills, several Kentish plovers, grey plovers, sanderlings and whimbrels. On the reed-fringed lagoon close by the second hide there were 4 little bitterns, several easily viewed purple gallinules, red-crested pochards, black-headed weavers, Cetti’s warblers and red-rumped swallows. The adjacent stone pines held crested tits, hoopoes, serins and azure-winged magpies. Our most prolonged views of the little bitterns were in the late afternoon / early evening but they were active through the day.
The main part of the reserve is signposted from the N122 immediately north of the toll road interchange. Every time we arrived here it started to rain. There were not a large number of birds in the area but there was certainly a good variety. There are salt pans, scrub, meadows and flooded pools.
One pool had a single little ringed plover, green sandpiper, common sandpiper and wood sandpiper another had common redshank, spotted redshank and greenshank. Great for anyone wanting to practice their ID skills for similar species! On the main pans, viewable from the visitor centre (which seems to be closed at weekends!) there were 8 greater flamingos, pied avocets, black-winged stilts, and a good selection of wildfowl including red-crested pochards and a lone long-tailed duck. A pair of subalpine warblers frequented the scrubby mound just outside the centre. Along the driveable access tracks there were cattle egrets, Eurasian spoonbills, marsh harriers, southern grey shrikes, stone curlews, zitting cisticolas, common stonechats, Iberian yellow wagtails and a chorus of corn buntings.
From the road between Castro Marim and Villa Real we recorded 2 Caspian terns, a Sandwich tern and a pair of great spotted cuckoos.
Castro Verde – Mertola
We spent a whole day in the Castro Verde area in bright sunshine. Recent wet weather meant that there were flowers in abundance but despite this, butterflies were virtually absent. We managed to find only one southern festoon, one clouded yellow and a couple of “whites”.
We drove a circuit around the rural roads between the N123 and the N267 and found a total of 38 great bustards and 14 little bustards, plus two black-bellied sandgrouse, and a few stone curlews. Some of the great bustards were displaying though mainly at a distance. The best views were obtained on the NW edge of the village of Penhilos where up to 14 were present. Smaller numbers were seen close to Sao Marcos de Atobeira and Rolao, Sete and Figueirinha. An additional group of 40 birds, some of which were displaying, was found 3.9km NW of the IP2 on the road between Entradas and Monte dos Pocos. Most of the great bustards seemed to move to higher ground from mid-morning to rest close to ridge tops and rocky outcrops.
Twelve of the little bustards were seen in flight at the village of Sete. A further 2 males were watched at close quarters in the evening just east of Penhilos on the road to Sao Joao.
Other birds of note included 3 male Montagu’s harriers, 2 red kites, 1 black Kite, 3 great spotted cuckoos, lesser kestrels, calandra larks, large numbers of azure-winged magpies, Spanish sparrows (breeding in white stork nests) and little owls on most of the rock piles that we bothered to check.
The second trip concentrated on the area east of Mertola where woodchat and southern grey shrikes were particularly plentiful. The road between Moreanes, Santana and Picoitos was the most productive with more stone curlews, 6 great bustards, a couple of black-eared wheatears and a few hoopoes.
Cape St Vincent, Sagres
Our one visit to the south-west tip did not produce many birds despite the sunny skies and south-easterly winds. However, the variety of cliff top flowers was wonderful. We concentrated on the area 0.5 km from the fort because the fort was very busy with other tourists. Three peregrines were very evident around the cove north of the lighthouse. There were also three blue rock thrushes, a pair of red-billed choughs, several black redstarts and plenty of Sardinian warblers. Northern gannets were fishing offshore along with one European shag.
The cliff-top flora was beautiful with a wonderful array of flowers and shrubs.
Cape St Vincent
Great Spotted Cuckoo
In summary, we found Casa Rosa a good base for touring the Algarve and southern Alentejo, particularly with its easy access to the toll road. We appreciated Jan-Ketil and Kjersti’s hospitality and especially the fresh bread and rolls that were delivered to the door each morning (on request).
The spring migration was rather late in 2013 so a number of species had not arrived and birds of prey were certainly rather poorly represented but we enjoyed our visit and would happily return.
Richard & Tracey