The Algarve, Portugal and SW Spain - 24-31 July 2011

James and Emma Packer

The Somerset Birder recommends Birdwatching Algarve

This trip was a beach holiday with some birds thrown in. We'd both been to The Algarve a few times before so there were very few new species for us, however there was one priority species, which was White-rumped Swift, everything else was a bonus!


For a change we thought we'd stay in Spain with the possibility of trying a few sites we'd not been to previously. We stayed on Isla Canela at the Riu Atlantico. The hotel was just fantastic, though I can't really recommend the location for birding. There were areas of Marismas and salt pans nearby, and the estuary had a few gulls and terns. Southern Grey Shrike, Melodious Warbler, Serin, Montagu's Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Hoopoe, Red-rumped Swallow were seen on the 'island' but other than the usual waders, not a lot else.

In summary, it was nice to stay in Spain and the hotel was brilliant for a beach holiday, but birding was far, far better on the Algarve. We birded several Spanish sites and probably saw more in a couple of hours at Castro Marim and Quinta do Lago than we did in several days birding Spanish sites. I'm not saying it's always like this of course - I imagine springtime in Donana would be a bit good, but it's mid summer and generally pretty birdless.


24 July 2011
Isla Canela

25 July 2011
Laguna De El Portil
Marismas Del Odiel

26 July 2011
Isla Canela

27 July 2011
Castro Marim
NE Algarve
Reservoir near Periero
Quinta Do Lago

28 July 2011

29 July 2011
Castro Marim

30 July 2011
Isla Canela

The Birds

This is a simple list of the species that might be of interest to British birders, it's not exhaustive.

Little Bittern
As usual, easy and frequent at Quinta do Lago only.

Cattle Egret
Widespread in small numbers

Cattle Egret near Castro Marim

Night Heron
A couple at Laguna de El Portil

Squacco Heron
Single at Laguna de El Portil

White Stork
Common and widespread. A small kettle over Ayamonte may have been moving somewhere?

Small numbers in most of the marismas and salt pans

Spoonbill, Castro Marim

Glossy Ibis
Single, Quinta do Lago

Greater Flamingo
Abundant in marismas and salt pans

Flamingo, Odiel marshes

Black Kite
Only small numbers noted, but a small flock of 20 or so over Seville

Montagu's Harrier
Singles widespread

Marsh Harrier
Singles over wetland areas

Booted Eagle
Single over Laguna de El Portil

Crested Coot
A single at Quinta do Lago in the tidal lagoon (not the place with the Little Bitterns and Purple Gallinule!). It was shocking to realise just how similar to Coot these are - it was bloody difficult to pick out.

Crested Coot, Quinta do Lago

Purple Gallinule
Quinta do Lago!

Black-winged Stilt
Widespread, wetlands. Obviously.

Black-winged Stilt, Tavira

Best site seems to be Tavira saltpans, though small numbers elsewhere

Kentish Plover
Widespread on wetlands

Grey Plover
Only a couple, Isla Canela

Just one, Isla Canela

Curlew Sandpiper
A few small flocks, for example, about 15 Isla Canela and about the same number Castro Marim

Little Stint
Singles at Isla Canela and Castro Marim

Singles widespread

One or two widespread

Mediterranean Gull
Frequent at Isla Canela, small numbers elsewhere

Slender-billed Gull
Three at Marismas del Odiel

Audouin's Gull
What I thought was a huge number at Tavira saltpans. A single saltpan held approximately 500 in all ages including many juveniles. I have to confess, I didn't count them but there were an awful lot!

Audouin's Gulls, Tavira saltpans

Sandwich Tern
Common, Isla Canela

Common Tern
Common, Isla Canela

Little Tern
Common, all wetlands

Juvenile and adult Little Terns, Castro Marim

Caspian Tern
Three at Castro Marim

Black Tern
Singles at a few wetlands, three at Castro Marim

Turtle Dove
Small numbers widespread

Pallid Swift


White-rumped Swift
You may have to use a guide to show you the main known site, and can recommend Birdwatching Algarve. The site is potentially vulnerable for several reasons, not least because the nest is about 3 feet off the ground! We saw four at this site and another unexpectedly at a reservoir near Periero. If you've got time, checking under bridges for new sites would be well worthwhile.

White-rumped Swifts

Small numbers widespread

Very widespread, some places common.


Crested Lark

Thekla Lark

Short-toed Lark
Reservoir near Periero

Crag Martin
Common in NE Algarve

Sand Martin
Reservoir near Periero

Red-rumped Swallow

Iberian Yellow Wagtail
Widespread in marismas

Rufous Bush Chat
At least one in the NE Algarve

Black-eared Wheatear
At least two in the NE Algarve

Fan-tailed Warbler
Widespread, particularly in marismas

Melodious Warbler
A couple at Laguna de El Portil and one Isla Canela, the latter probably a migrant

Sardinian Warbler
Abundant and widespread

Sard, Quinta do Lago

Western Orphean Warbler
A single at Tavira saltpans must have surely been a migrant

Crested Tit
Small numbers Laguna de El Portil

Southern Grey Shrike
Singles widespread

Woodchat Shrike
Small numbers widespread

Spotless Starling
Small flocks widespread

Golden Oriole
Small numbers widespread, NE Algarve

Azure-winged Magpie
Widespread in flocks, some large

Small numbers widespread

Corn Bunting
Small numbers, NE Algarve

Black-headed Weaver, Quinto do Lago. Yuk!

immature male Violet Dropwing, Quinta do Lago (cheers Andy & Dave!)

I don't pretend to know much about these, but this is a Long Skimmer Orthetrum trinacria. Seems to be rare in Europe. It was at Laguna de El Portil.




All site content, including photos © James Packer