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A Report from

Portugal, July '99,


By Joan Thompson

Following Colin Davies quick trip report from Villamoura-the resort became the our family holiday destination.   Booked at relatively short notice.  It turned out that the apartment block was actually at the back of Quarteira rather than Villamoura, though a road passing nearby went to Villamoura as well.   Although near a golf course it was not the one that
Colin talked about and as I was only about 20-25 minutes from Quinta do Largo I made this my early morning patch.

Even though it was late July it was brilliant.  Quinta is the northern end of the Ria Formosa Reserve and was right beside the Hotel of the same name in the what we nicknamed Disneyworld Portugal resort of Quinta do Largo.  Still, early in the morning, you have the place almost to yourself and Azure-winged Magpies line the verges and road just as Magpies do at home if you are out early.

There is a large reedfilled pool near the golf course with a small stilted hide facing North which gave superb close views of Purple Gallinule and Little Bitterns, which were seen well most mornings.  Red-crested Pochard were also seen from this hide with Little Egrets and if you really are in the hide very early you can watch the Cattle Egrets leaving the reedbed roost.  I only saw this towards the end as there were too many early distractions on the way other days such as Black winged Stilts, Kentish Plovers and Crested Lark.  I never did see a Thekla there-perhaps they were all the ones I never got a good enough look at.  Flocks of Serins, Hoopoe, Purple Heron , Sardinian and Fan-tailed Warblers and Short-toed Treecreeper.  Lots of other more British type waders which being in landlocked Herts I couldn't just pass over quickly all the time...   Once I got beyond the hide I turned up Woodchat shrike, Spoonbill and lots of White Storks and one day a flock of Flamingo's.  One day two Night Herons flew from low down into the distance.  I only found on my next but last
morning a juvenile Great Spotted Cuckoo which I saw again on my last morning.

If I had spent more time looking I am sure I would have found more warblers but in the limited time I just enjoyed watching Purple Gallinule and Little Bitterns going about their daily lives.  To see them filling the view through the scope was wonderful.

What is more I only ever saw three other birders in all the time I was there, in a place which would give Minsmere a run for its money.  It was really incredible to have a place like that to yourself.

On another part of the Quinta estate I found Bee Eater and heard Red-necked Nightjar early morning.  I persuaded the non-birding family to accompany me one evening and I had the good fortune for a bird to fly towards me and land about ten yards away for a few seconds.  When my daughter pointed, the bird flew off and another followed.

Common Waxbills breed on a nearby pond, introduced from Africa and very much at home.

We went, one day, up to the Castro Verde and Mertola area.  It was incredibly hot but this day had started out overcast until mid to late morning.  Did find three Great Bustard but any chance of seeing Lesser Kestrels at Mertola had gone as the birds had left mid July.  Did also see Golden Oriole, Black Kite and Montagu's Harrier. Being with the family, there was not much chance to scan around and what I saw was more or less what I saw when driving along apart from the Bustards which was a lucky break.  When I saw a bird fly into a tree which I thought might have been another oriole,  I persuaded my husband to stop the car.  I couldn't quickly relocate the bird but I did get the chance to scan the more distant areas where the three Bustards were found feeding.   Bee eaters and Woodchat Shrikes were very common in this

Other family trips brought a superb Short Toed Eagle which perched on the other side of the valley during a picnic stop. Bee-eaters were at this point as well and a pallid swift flew by.  Three Alpine Swifts, a Red-rumped Swallow and a Firecrest feeding a fledged juvenile where other highlights.

This was a really good family beach resort destination where there is good early morning birding for those that can get away first thing.

I would have liked to have been there earlier in the year when the birds were singing rather than the quiet time, but it was still very good.

Joan Thompson  (10/8/99)

-- May luck go with you in Birding ------------------------

Watford RSPB
Hertfordshire, UK College Lake Wildlife Centre, Tring


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