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A Report from

Lisbon and Central Portugal, 7 - 15 March 2008 ,

Mark Easterbrook


A Birdwatchers’ Guide to Portugal & Madeira by CC Moore, G Elias & H Costa.

The Collins Guide to birds of Britain & Europe, with N Africa and the Middle East by Hermann Heinzel, Richard Fitter & John Parslow.


With friends living near Cascais (35km west of Lisbon), the invitation to visit them and do some bird watching around the Lisbon area was irresistible.  So leaving some hideous British weather behind we headed off from Luton airport on 7th Mar and retuned on the 16th having missed the biggest storm of the British winter – what a result!

Car parking at Luton cost £42 for eight days, car hire in Portugal cost £63.08 for eight days with the local firm – Guerin and the flights cost £139 return for two adults with Easyjet.  The total cost was a good price for an enjoyable week birding in the sun.  If I hadn’t eaten so much Chicken Piri Piri and drank so much beer it would have been even cheaper.  The price of petrol had gone up since my last visit however I only used about 25 euros per day, so it wasn’t that bad.

Day 1 – 8 Mar

After a short flight from Luton to Lisbon, a frustrating time hiring the car that had been booked and a drive to our friend's house we arrived at Murches; a small village outside Cascais where the Sintra hills featured as a back drop.

Serins were much in evidence and a quick walk around the scrubby, rocky area at the back of the house revealed a male Siskin, Sardinian Warblers, several common woodland birds and a male Blue Rock Thrush.

Day 2 – 9 Mar

A visit to Cabo de Roca produced four Balearic Shearwaters, several Gannets and two Shags with accompanying Yellow-legged Gulls.  Later around Murches the only Dartford Warbler a Buzzard and three Spotless Starlings were seen.

Day 3 – 10 Mar

An early start and a long drive to the International Tagus reserve on the Spanish border via several N (National) roads.  White Storks became common and House Martins, Swallows and Cattle Egrets put in an appearance.  The highlight near Constancia Sul was a large roost of cormorants and a single Black Stork flying up the river.  The first Black Kite was also seen here.  East of Castelo Branco near Ladoeiro two Southern Grey Shirkes were noted along with seven Azure-winged Magpies.  A brief stop at a roadside pool on the N353 produced a Bluethroat, two Reed Buntings, several Snipe a Great White Egret.

Continuing to Rosmaninhal via Idanha da Nova, two Red-legged Partridges were by the roadside and just North of Rosmaninhal a showy Black-shouldered Kite was seen perched on roadside telegraph lines.  South of Rosmaninhal in the Vale de Morena, International Tagus reserve, two Black Vultures, five Griffon Vultures, a Hoopoe and at least 30 Azure-winged Magpies brightened up a fairly soggy day.

The return to Lisbon via Boquilobo Marsh produced a Redstart, Grey Wagtail and a pair of Brambling one of which was a stunning male.  Sadly this area has suffered from a number of dry winters and the marsh area is much reduced.

Day 4 – 13 Mar

A cultural day out in Lisbon today was vectored into the visit to our friends, which was very enjoyable.  Several Natas, coffees, a few beers and lunch had us heading for an early night.

Day 5 – 12 Mar

A journey to the Tagus Estuary area just North of Lisbon started with a visit to the Pancas track area, through Cork Oak woodlands.  Two Black Kite were encountered and the only Red-rumped Swallows of the trip.  A pair of Kingfishers put in an appearance and a Black Redstart perched on the buildings at Bate Orelhas.  Several common species were observed including Hoopoes, Fan-tailed Warblers and about sixty distant Greater Flamingos on the estuary proper.

A short drive to Barroco Marsh was rewarding where at least a1000 Black-tailed Godwits and 137 Glossy Ibis were feeding.  A pair of Marsh Harriers entertained whilst a Water Pipit and a pair of Penduline Tits were still present from the winter.  Summer plumaged Iberian Wagtails were seen and of the exotics, Village Weavers were numerous.

In the afternoon at Cascais sea front a Sandwhich Tern was seen, however the “Frango” chicken Piri Piri and a cold beer deserved more attention.

A quick drive around the Sintra Hills in the early evening was rewarded with a pair of Wood Pigeons, a Short-toed Treecreeper and in conifers near Murches a Firecrest.

Day 6 – 13 Mar

A day out south of Lisbon over the 25th April bridge saw a visit to Albefeira Lagoon which was a little disappointing followed by an enjoyable walk around Cape Espichel.  Upon arrival at the Cape two Cory’s Shearwaters, two Balearic Shearwaters and several Gannets were seen attending a fishing boat.  The only Pallid Swifts of the trip were noted and two singing male Cirl Buntings were seen.  A Willow Warbler and a c25 Spotless Starlings finished off the visit.

Negotiating Satubel found me arriving at Prais de Sado saltpans at about lunchtime, which produced numerous Black-winged Stilts, several Kentish Plovers, a Grey Plover, two Dunlin, a Greenshank, three Avocet and four Greater Flamingos.

Driving south in search of the track to Panheiro had a light phase Booted Eagle drifting over me, whilst the track itself is now gated about a mile from the road stopping further access.  However a drive around the local area and other likely looking tracks produced a Great Spotted Cuckoo, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Buzzard, a singing Woodlark and a Nuthatch.

Whilst returning north I stopped at Zambujal Marsh which held c1000 Black-tailed Godwits and c150 Glossy Ibis; probably the same concentration of birds noted a Barroco Marsh two days previously as when I returned there later in the week no birds were present.  Seventeen Spoonbills, c300 Avocet and three Mediterranean Gulls (two of which were impressive in their breeding plumage) brought the day to a conclusion.

Day 7 – 14 Mar

Today brought an early morning start and another visit to the Tagus Estuary area, the Ponta de Erva plains and surrounding areas.  Driving through the cultivated fields in the early morning saw two Black-shouldered Kites leaving the roost, numerous Green Sandpipers in the drainage canals, several Marsh Harriers and a Common Sandpiper.  Whilst leaving the area, heading north the expected Calandra Larks were located in display flight.

Driving further north from Porto Alto, I visited Muge Dam and was fortunate to see another light phase Booted Eagle, an Osprey, several Black Kites, three Buzzards and three singing Iberian Chiffchaffs.  Returning south and heading for the Vasco de Gama Bridge, I once again followed the same route as the other day through Pancas to Barroco Marsh, which was rewarding.  The only Jays of the trip were observed; a Southern Grey Shrike, another Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker were seen.  On arrival at Borroco several Little Stints, at least six Common Sandpipers, a Greenshank, three Kentish Plovers and a surprise Purple Gallinule were noted.  More Village Weavers were very vocal and were joined by four Yellow-crowned Bishops.

Day 8 – 15 Mar

A trip to see our friends’ son play football for the local Portuguese side was not completely bird less with Chiffchaffs, a Fan-tailed Warbler and the only Western Orphean Warbler of the trip being observed in trees surrounding the pitch at Pyred.

Systematic Species List

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis Present in small numbers in suitable habitat
Cory’s Shearwater Calonectris diomedea 2 from Cape Raso and 2 at Cape Espichel
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan mauretanicus 4 from Cape Raso and 2 at Cape Espichel
Northern Gannet Morus bassanus Several from coastal locations
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis Common in suitable habitat
European Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 2 at Cabo de Roca
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis Widespread and numerous
Little Egret Egretta garzetta Good numbers at Zambujal Marsh and 1s & 2s elsewhere at wetlands
Great White Egret Egretta alba 1 North of Ladoeiro at a roadside pond
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea Common
Black Stork Ciconia nigra 1 flying up the river at Constancia Sul on the 10th
White Stork Ciconia ciconia Nesting on every pylon
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus C150 at Barroco and Zambujal Marsh – probably the same migrating group.
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 17 at Zambujal Marsh on the 13th
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus rubber Good numbers in the Tagus Estuary & 4 at Prais de Sado
Gadwall Anas strepera Several at Albefeira Lagoon and a few at Barroco Marsh
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos Common & Widespread
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata Good numbers at Albefeira Lagoon and Barroco Marsh
Common Pochard Aythya farina 1 female at Albefeira Lagoon
Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus 1 just north of Rosmaninhal on the N533 and 2 leaving the roost early morning at Ponta de Erva Plains
Black Kite Milvus migrans 1s & 2s encountered almost anywhere
Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus 5 at International Tagus reserve
Black Vulture Aegypius monachus 2 at International Tagus reserve
W Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus Pairs at Wetland areas
Common Buzzard Buteo As for Black Kite
Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus 1 near Panheiro Track and 1 at Muge Dam
Osprey Pandion haliaetus 1 at Muge Dam
Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus Common and Widespread
Quail   2 heard at Ponta de Erva plains
Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa 2 on the N353 south of Idanha da Nova and 1 at Cape Espichel
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus Present in small numbers in wetland areas
Purple Gallinule Porphyrio porphyrio 1 at Barroco Marsh on 14th
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra Common in wetlands
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus Numerous in salt pans and wetlands
Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta C300 at Zambujal and 3 at Prais de Sado
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus Small groups in suitable habitat
Grey Plover Pluvailis squatarola 1 at Prais de Sado
Little Stint Calidris minuta At least 5 present at Barroco Marsh on the river bank
Dunlin Calidris alpina 2 at Prais de Sado
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 1 at Barroco Marsh and 7 by a roadside pool just North of Ladoeiro
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa C1000 at Barroco Marsh on the and Zambujal Marsh on the were probably the same flock
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 1 at Zambujal Marsh
Common Redshank Tringa tetanus Small numbers in suitable habitat
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia Singletons at Zambujal Marsh, Prais de Sado and Barroco Marsh
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus Common in drainage channels on the Ponta de Erva plains
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos hypoleucos 1 at Ponta de Erva and at least 5 near Barroco Marsh on the river bank
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 3 present at Zambujal Marsh
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundas Numerous in suitable habitat
W Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinnans michahellis As above
Sandwhich Tern Sterna sandvicencis 1 at Cascais seafront and 1 at Point de Erva
Woodpigeon Columba palumbus 2 in the Sintra Hills
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto Common & Widespread
Great Spotted Cuckoo Clamator glandarius 1 at Pinheiro track
Pallid Swift Apus pallidus 4 at Cape Espichel
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 2 Pancas track at and 1 at Barroco Marsh
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 3 in various suitable habitats
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major 2 at Pancas Cork Oaks and 1 at Panheiro track
Crested Lark Galerida cristata randonii Common & Widespread
Woodlark Lullula arborea 1 at Pinheiro track
Skylark Alauda arvensis harterti Common on the Ponta de Erva plains
Calandra Lark   3 displaying at the Ponta de Erva plains
Sand Martin Riparia riparia Several at marshy locations
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Many flybys in widespread locations
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica rufula 2 near Pancas
House Martin Delichon urbica Present in villages when driving through
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis Numerous at Ponta de Erva plains and small groups elsewhere in suitable habitat
Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta 1 at Barroco Marsh
Iberian Wagtail Motacilla flava 1 at Prais de Sado, several at Barroco Marsh and Ponta de Erva plains
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 1 at Boquilobo Marsh
White Wagtail Motacilla alba Common and widespread
Robin Erithacus rubecula 1’s seen everywhere
Bluethroat Luscinia svecica 1 at a roadside pond north of Ladoeiro
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros gibralteriensis Common at Cape Espichel and 1 male at Bate Orelhas at the end of the Pancas track
Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus 1 at Boquilobo Marsh
Common Stonechat Saxicola torquata Common and widespread
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius 1 at Murches
Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula mauretanica Common and widespread
Song Thrush Turdus philomelos Present in small numbers in wooded areas
Cetti’s Warbler Cettia cetti

Common and widespread heard mostly but seen well at Borroco Marsh

Zitting Cisticola Cistocola juncidis Common and widespread in grasslands
Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus 1 heard singing at Barroco Marsh
Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata 1 male at Murches
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala The most numerous warbler – common and widespread
Orphean Warbler Sylvia hortensis 1 at Pyred
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla 1s & 2s seen in suitable habitat
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita Fairly common and widespread
Iberian Chiffchaff Phylloscopus brehmii 3 singing at Muge Dam
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus 1 at Cape Espichel
Firecrest Rugulus ignicapillus 1 at Murches in conifers
Blue Tit Cyanistess Small numbers in Cork Oak woodlands
Great Tit Parus major excelsus As above
Nuthatch Sitta europaea 1s in Cork Oak areas
Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla mauretanica 1 in the Sintra Hills and 1 at Panheiro track
Penlduline Tit Remiz pendulinus 2 at Barroco Marsh on 13th
Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis Several near Ladoeiro and 1 at the Pancas track
Jay Garrulus glandarius 2 birds on the Pancas track
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyana Common at Int Tagus and a small group just north of Ladoeiro
Magpie Pica pica 1s & 2s seen E of Castelo Banco
Carrion Crow Corvus corone Small numbers but widespread
Common Raven Corvus corax tingitanus 2 seen South of Rosmaninhal - Int Tagus
Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor Common at Int Tagus, Cape Espichel and Murches
House Sparrow Passer domesticus tingitanus Common and widespread
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs Common in Cork Oaks
Brambling   A male & female at Boquilobo Marsh
European Serin Serinus serinus The most common bird everywhere
European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris Small groups in many locations
European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis As for Greenfinch
Siskin Carduelis spinus 1 male in trees at Murches
Eurasian Linnet Carduelis cannabina Small groups at Ponta de Erva plains and Cape Espichel
Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus 1 male singing at Cape Espichel and 1 near Pancas
Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus 1 at a roadside pond north of Ladoeiro and 1 at Barroco Marsh
Corn Buntin Emberiza calandra Common in suitable habitat
Village Weaver Ploceus cucullatus Common at Barroco Marsh
Yellow-crowned Bishop Euplectes afer 4 at Barroco Marsh


This proved to be a really enjoyable week in a relaxed part of the world.  Several good and several surprising species were seen whilst also fulfilling the shopping and drinking obligations.  Without travelling too far from Lisbon a wide range of habitats may be encountered which are adjacent to each other maximising the chances of stumbling across a good spread of species.  With limited prior planning it is possible to visit several sites in one day.  The “N” (National) roads and Toll roads make travelling easy between sites, which enables more time for birding.


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