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Portugal - The Algarve

27 October - 4 November 2005 

James J. Packer

This report has been designed to be read in conjunction with my previous report of a trip from 3-17 August 2004.  This previous report can be found HERE.  

Introduction

As the school half term in Somerset was two weeks in 2005; Emma, my wife (a teacher), and I decided to go back to The Algarve.  I'm not a fan of re-visiting previous holiday destinations but the prospect of a range of different bird species and cost meant that this was an attractive proposition.  As with the August trip, I was certainly not disappointed.

I'm not sure how much the trip cost, as we booked EasyJet tickets well in advance, a Holiday Autos Hire Car, and an apartment at The Old Village Apartments in Vilamoura found on the internet.  All arrangements worked fine, except for terrible directions to the apartment in The Old Village. We nearly ended up sleeping in the car because we couldn't find the key, which was supposed to be left under the mat.  After checking under the doormats of about a dozen random apartments, we eventually found it with great relief.

The Old Village Apartments were OK.  We had 12 BC Church Square, two floors and a roof terrace.  It had two bedrooms, but only two of us were on the trip, so if we'd gone with two others the whole trip would have been even cheaper.  The Old Village has a couple of nice bars and an excellent restaurant, Casa Do Largo.  Not particularly good for birding the grounds, but near the central park with loads of Azure-winged Magpies and other Pine woodland species and Sardinian Warbler, Hoopoe and Hummingbird Hawkmoth in the gardens.

Vilamoura is a good base, being fairly central in The Algarve, though it is most certainly not typically Portugese.  The whole town is a purpose built resort, although this is not as terrible as it sounds.  The streets are very clean, except for a fair amount of graffiti (sorry, street art) and a lot of the town is built around Pine woodlands.  Most of the green areas are gold courses, which are out of bounds unless you're a golfer, but looking into them with a pair of bins' is OK, you just might get some funny looks (hey, you're a birder - no problem then?).  I hated the marina, but Emma likes it!

The western edge of Vilamoura is flanked by an area of marshland, though sadly this is becoming encroached by development.  Even between my visits in August 2004 and October 2005 it was clear that this area is threatened.  The Laguna and other golf courses have already been built on much of the marsh.   Apparently Vilamoura has won some Environmental Awards, but this all seems a bit of a con.  You might also find reference to an Environmental Park within the marshland with hides - no more, it's gone! [update - apparantly it is still there? If you have been recently, can you let me know how to get to it because I'm obvously looking in the wrong place!]   What's left has some excellent birds, but for how long is debatable.

Itinery

27 October - Arrive in the dark

28 October - Vilamoura marshes; Quinta de Lago

29 October - Pera Marsh; Tavira Salt Pans; Pedras Del Ray; Barril Beach; Vilamoura marshes

30 October - Sagres area; Alvor Estuary; Pera Marsh

31 October - Castro Verde area; Vilamoura marshes

1 November - Vilamoura marshes

2 November - Quinta de Marim (HQ of Ria Formosa); Tavira Saltpans; Pedras del Ray

3 November - Pera Marsh; Vilamoura marshes

4 November - Quinta de Lago; Ludo Farm; Fly home.

My previous report and the Carlson and Gosney guides give directions to most of the sites except Pera Marsh and Vilamoura [update: directions to Pera Marsh (Lagos dos Salgados) are in Carlson but they are so crap that I didn't even realise they were there] - both of which had excellent birds.  To find Pera Marsh, follow the following directions I nicked from another report (thanks!):

"from N125 east of Alcantarilha at traffic light junction, take road to Armação de Pêra and almost immediately take a minor road left across a narrow bridge. Over the bridge veer right (straight on goes into Pêra) and follow this road around the outskirts of the town, going up a slight incline to an "island" at the top of the rise (circular building in fields to the right) and turn right (main road carries on to Albufeira) taking the small road down to the beach. This road and Pera Marsh are to the west of the golf course - Salgardos. The minor road eventually deteriorates into a track to the main beach car park. Tracks to the left, off this main track go right to the waters edge."

The following map might help you track down some good areas in Vilamoura:

 

Systematic List

Great Crested Grebe

At Quinta de Lago and Vilamoura.

Little Grebe

Probably up to 100 at Pera Marsh before it was drained.  Others on most ponds.

Gannet

A few past Vilamoura and Sagres

Cormorant

Common at many sites

Little Bittern

A brief view of a probable male at Quinta de Lago.

Squacco Heron

One at Pera Marsh, seen in flight several times at the back of the marsh, adjacent to the gold course.

Cattle Egret

Common and widespread. 

Little Egret

Common and widespread.

Little Egret x Western Reef Heron

In August 2004 I found a bird at Tavira which I put down as a dark morph Little Egret.  It clearly wasn't a Western Reef Heron on bare part structure.  Photos of it can be seen in the trip report.  This year in almost exactly the same place at Tavira was a bird that looked a lot more like a Western Reef Heron, being darker and more uniform.  However, it just wasn't quite right, bill being all dark grey and relatively slim.  I can only assume that this bird, and probably last years too, is a hybrid Western Reef Heron x Little Egret.  Queries have recently been raised whether there's such a thing as a dark morph Little Egret - all these birds may be hybrids.  Can the fact that these birds were seen in exactly the same place two years running suggest that maybe nearby there's a regular breeding pair of Western Reef Heron x Little Egret?  Comments welcome.

Grey Heron

Common and widespread.

White Stork

Far less abundant than in the summer, but small numbers over a wide area.  Four birds were feeding in the park in the middle of Vilamoura throughout. 

Glossy Ibis

One at Quinta de Lago.

Spoonbill

Large numbers at Pera Marsh and Tavira saltpans, with at least 90 at Tavira.

Greater Flamingo

At Pera Marsh, Tavira and Ludo Farm. Most, about 50 at Pera. 

Wigeon

Small numbers on RF and Quinta de Marim

Mallard

Common.

Gadwall

Common and abundant at freshwater pools

Teal

Small numbers on RF in various places

Pintail

Single at Quinta de Lago and up to ten at Pera Marsh

Shoveler

Common at freshwater pools

Pochard

Small numbers at freshwater pools

Tufted Duck

Small numbers at freshwater pools

Black-shouldered Kite

Single at Vilamoura marshes throughout.  Often perched in a preferred tree between Super Mini Golf and the 'beach pool'.  One near Castro Verde in exactly the same tree as one was seen in August 2004!

Marsh Harrier

At least 3-4 at Vilamoura throughout and 1 or 2 at Tavira, Quinta de Lago, Quinta de Marim and Pera.

Common Buzzard

Small numbers at Sagres and Castro Verde

Booted Eagle

Singles at Vilmoura and on the N125 west of here.

Osprey

One over Pera Marsh appeared to fly out to sea.

Kestrel

Singles at several locations.

Red-legged Partridge

Abundant at Castro Verde and a small party at Vilamoura.

Water Rail

Only heard at Vilamoura.

Moorhen

Common

Coot

Abundant at all freshwater pools.  Checked for Red-knobs but failed.

Purple Gallinule

Easy peasy at Vilamoura marsh pools and Laguna Golf Course, Pera Marsh (probably at least 10) and Quinta de Lago and Marim. 

Great Bustard

A single by the reservoir near Castro Verde (which was dry) and a group of at least 10m from the old road adjacent to the fast road between CV and Entradas.

Little Bustard

Frustrating view of one near the road Castro Verde but couldn't stop!

Oystercatcher

Small numbers on the RF

Black-winged Stilt

Common and abundant on the RF and Pera Marsh

Avocet

Single at Pera Marsh and hundreds at Tavria Salt Pans.

Ringed Plover

Common all over RF

Kentish Plover

Common RF

Grey Plover

Common RF

Turnstone

Small groups on RF and most beaches

Grey Phalarope

One 1st winter at the channel at the entrance to Pera Marsh.

Sanderling

Small groups on most beaches.

Curlew Sandpiper

Small numbers at Tavira Salt Pans

Dunlin

Small numbers at Tavira 

Little Stint

Small numbers at Tavira

Curlew

Singles over RF

Whimbrel

Heard at Pedras del Ray

Black-tailed Godwit

Hundreds, if not thousands at Tavira Salt Pans

Bar-tailed Godwit

Only at RF near Quinta de Lago

Redshank

Small numbers over all marshes

Greenshank

One of two at Tavira and RF

Wood Sandpiper

One at Pera Marsh

Green Sandpiper

Only two at Pera Marsh

Common Sandpiper

Singles at many freshwater pools and marshes

Audouin's Gull

15-20 at Tavira Salt Pans in exactly the same roosting place as August 2004.  Take the track to the salt pans between St Lucia and Tavira, about 100 metres before the gate look across the salt pans towards Tavira at the gulls in the distance stood on top the banks.  They're Audouin's!

Mediterranean Gull

Common.  Most at Pera Marsh where there was up to 30.

Black-headed Gull

Common and abundant.

Yellow-legged Gull

Common 

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Common

Caspian Tern

Three of four at Tavira Saltpans and one at Alvor Estuary

Sandwich Tern

Regular in small numbers at most coastal areas and wetlands

Common Tern

One at Vilamoura. On the nets.

Little Tern

Only five at Tavira.

White-winged Black Tern

One at Pera Marsh on 30/10/05.  This species is a Portugese rarity! 

Rock Dove

Several on the cliffs at Carveiro

Collared Dove

Common

Barn Owl

One seen near Old Village Apartments in street lights (see last year!)

Little Owl

Several around Castro Verde

Kingfisher

One or two at most freshwater

Hoopoe

One of two at many locations, including singing at Old Village and Pera Marsh

Wryneck

One heard calling near Pera Marsh

Calandra Lark

At least one near the reservoir, Castro Verde (see Gosney)

Skylark

Hundreds, Sagres

Crested Lark

Common and adundant

Thekla Lark

I really couldn't be bothered after a while.

Red-rumped Swallow

One or two in an amazing little hirundine flock at Pera Marsh

Crag Martin

One or two in an amazing little hirundine flock at Pera Marsh.  Particularly appreciated!

Barn Swallow

One or two in an amazing little hirundine flock at Pera Marsh

House Martin

One or two in an amazing little hirundine flock at Pera Marsh

Meadow Pipit

Common especially near wetlands

Water Pipit

One on the golf course near Quinta de Lago

Grey Wagtail

Singles scattered over many places

White Wagtail

Common at wetlands

Bluethroat

At least three, including a singing male, along the silly railway at Pedras del Ray.  Out in the open often sitting on the railway tracks.  Also at Alvor.

Black Redstart

2-3 at Sagres and one at Castro Verde

Stonechat

Common everywhere

Black-eared Wheatear

One near Sagres

Blackbird

Common at Vilamoura

Fan-tailed Warbler (Zitting Cisticola)

Common

Reed Warbler

One seen well at Quinta de Marim

Cetti's Warbler

Common at wetlands

Dartford Warbler

Two at Tavira saltpans

Blackcap

Only one or two at Alvor

Sardinian Warbler

Common and abundant

Chiffchaff

Common and abundant

Willow Warbler

One near Quinta de Lago

Blue Tit

Singles in a couple of coastal resort areas

Great Tit

Singles in a couple of town areas

Penduline Tit

One at Vilamoura marshes

Southern Grey Shrike

Singles at Pera Marsh and Quinta de Marim and three or four near Castro Verde

Spotless Starling

Much more common than in the summer.  Small flocks of up to fifty coming into Vilamoura marshes at dusk.  Many other small groups.

Jay

Several at inland Pine woods

Azure-winged Magpie

Common and abundant, especially in Vilamoura

Chough

About 30 in a field near Sagres

Jackdaw

Small numbers widespread

Carrion Crow

At Sagres and Castro Verde

House Sparrow

Common and very abundant

Spanish Sparrow

Small numbers at Tavira saltpans, Alvor Estuary and in storks nests at Entradas and Quinta de Marim

Common Waxbill

Common, especially Vilamoura and RF

Serin

Small numbers in many places

Chaffinch

Small numbers in Pine woods

Greenfinch

Small numbers in many places

Goldfinch

Small groups in many places

Siskin

Two drinking at a puddle in the park near the Tennis Club at Vilamoura

Linnet

Common

Cirl Bunting

One female near Sagres

Corn Bunting

Large flocks up to 100 near Sagres. Singing at Pera Marsh

 

 
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