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A Report from

Portugal, 28th April - 5th May 2010,

Mike Fox, Sean Murphy and Colin Murphy

This was our seventh birding trip as a trio and this year we choose to go to Portugal for our ’ Jolly Boy’s ’ Spring Birding week. We were based at the Cabanas Park Hotel in Cabanas de Tavira. Mike arranged the flights from Gatwick via Easyjet which were pretty much on time, and the hotel which we would all highly recommend.

Our rooms, as requested, overlooked the Rio Formosa Reserve (pics below). The food and rooms were excellent and for those wishing to, there was a free Sauna and massage. This all sounds expensive but in truth was very reasonable. This year we were also armed with Dave Gosney’s Birdguide which proved to be invaluable.

Arriving at our accommodation around 6.00 in the evening we decided that the best thing to do would be to sit out on our balconies and watch the comings and goings of the birds over the lagoons. The tide was out and therefore exposing some muddy fringes which held Little Egret, Grey Plover, Whimbrel, Redshank, Turnstone, Little Ringed Plover, Yellow-legged Gull and Little Terns were up and down fishing in the shallow waters. Also flying around the hotel were House Sparrow and a single Blackbird. After a hour or so we headed down for dinner and a few beers where we found two Hoopoe feeding on the lawn by the swimming pool.

29th April 2010 - Sunny all day with Temperatures around 75/80 deg F

Starting the day on our balconies with a coffee we again saw many of the birds the previous evening plus Serin, Kentish Plover, Cormorants, Mallard, Swift, Swallow, House Martin, Oystercatcher, Spoonbill, Bee-eater, (pic below) White Stork, Goldfinch, Zitting Cisticola, Black-winged Stilt, Grey Heron, Magpie and Collared Dove. This was all very enjoyable but the call of a fried breakfast was far to strong. The decision was made that our first trip would be a visit to Castro Marim.

We made a couple of stop off’s before reaching the Saltpans where we saw Woodchat Shrike, Corn Bunting, Stonechat, Southern Grey Shrike, Cattle Egret, Crested Lark, Stone Curlew, Cuckoo (red phase), Sardinian Warbler (pic below) and a very lucky sighting of three Black-bellied Sandgrouse which were no sooner in view then vanished into the undergrowth. Down at the saltpans we added to our list Avocet, Greater Flamingo, Spotless Starling, Kestrel, White Wagtail, Black-tailed Godwit, Moorhen, Common Sandpiper and Common Tern.

After some lunch we headed to Monte Gordo to explore the pine woods and small lake. Here we saw our first Azure-winged Magpie’s of the trip plus Greenfinch, Coot, Purple Heron, Redstart, Short-toed Treecreeper, Jay, Crested Tit, Spotted Flycatcher and Turtle Dove.

With our List standing on fifty five species we headed back to Cabanas to enjoy sitting on our balconies watching the bird activity on the Rio Formosa.

30th April 2010 - Sunny all day with Temperatures around 75 deg F

Today we decided to take to the hills and plains of Castro Verde in search of Bustards. On our previous visit we failed to see either Little or Great Bustard but we now had Dave Gosney’s guide which enabled us to find the right roads. As always we made a few stops on route where we saw an array of excellent birds including Red-legged Partridge, Azure- winged Magpie, White Stork, (pic below) Red-rumped Swallow and Carrion Crow. At one stop we had wonderful views of Black Kite, Red Kite and Montagu’s Harrier but the best was yet to come. As we crested the brow of a hill we could see a farmhouse and the field alongside it had a dozen or more birds hawking for insects. When we pulled over we were treated to an amazing display by a party of Collared Pratincole’s, the highlight of the holiday for me. All being very happy we continued our journey again with great fortune as we added Common Buzzard plus what was a surprise for us a single Black Vulture and yes eventually a solitary but obliging Little Bustard. We headed for Mertola for some late lunch and a look for the Lesser Kestrel around the fort of which there were a few flying and calling plus we added Crag Martin and Jackdaw here. A marvellous day.

1st  May 2010 - Sunny all day with Temperatures around low 75 deg F

Today we thought we would have a look around the Rio Formosa Nature Reserve near Olhao. Much to our surprise we found that it was closed for three day’s over the Spring Bank holiday. However one of the Rangers kindly let us and some other visitors in. We spent a couple of hours there seeing such birds as Azure-winged Magpie, Golden Oriole, Waxbill, (pic below) Dunlin, Ringed Plover, (pic below) Kentish Plover, Black-winged Stilt, (pic below) Little Grebe, Mallard, Gadwall, Moorhen etc. We also saw a Yellow-legged Gull that appeared to have taken up residence in a Stork nest. (pic below)


After some lunch we decided to try and find Ludo Farm by Faro airport which we had failed to locate on a previous visit. This time we were lucky and found it without to much trouble. There was a scattering of the usual waders including Whimbrel, Kentish Plover, Ringed Plover, Redshank etc. and a bonus being a single Curlew. After spending some time there we headed back to Cabanas for a coffee on our balconies and a leisurely hour watching the birds along the marsh, which today included a flight of 100+ Greater Flamingo gleaming brightly in the sun. (pic below)

2nd May 2010 - Sunny all day with Temperatures around 75 deg F

After a very enjoyable fried breakfast we decided to stay fairly local and explore the area around Cabanas\Tavira. We spotted a sign for a Nature Reserve called Parc de Lazer so set off in search of it and as usual the sign’s disappear when you most need them. However more by luck than judgement and a very circular route we managed to stumble upon it. Although it was sunny there was a fairly strong and cold wind blowing which kept most of the birds hidden away but we did manage to see a Short-toed Eagle, Kestrel, Azure-winged Magpies and a few Crested Larks. During our travels we added a couple more to our trip list in the form of Great Tit and Chaffinch. Later in the afternoon we walked out onto the marsh in front of our hotel and added Knot to our list some of which were just coming into their bright red plumage. We beat a hasty retreat when the tide turned as did the waders. Back on our balconies we sat and watched the birds which included a single Collared Pratincole and a couple of Spoonbills. (pic below).


3rd May 2010 - Weather sunny with cloudy patches - mid 70’s again

Today we went back to the Castro Marim to see if we could find the visitors centre as mentioned in Dave Gosney’s guide. As usual we made our regular stops on route with quite an array of birds including Woodchat Shrike, Southern Grey Shrike, Stonechat, Hoopoe, Cuckoo, Bee-eater, Purple Heron, Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo, Avocet, (pic below) Redshank plus a few new birds for the trip in the form of Shelduck, Mediterranean Gull, and Yellow Wagtail. We found the visitors centre which was shut but wanderer out onto the reserve. It was getting quite windy by this time but did find Avocet, Black-winged Stilts, Montagu’s Harrier and a Marsh Harrier. As we were leaving we bumped into a German birdwatcher who told us he had seen Curlew Sandpiper on the saltpans opposite the Reserve track, so we headed over there and indeed we found a flock of Curlew Sandpipers in varying plumage. We also added Little Stint (pic below) to our list and enjoyed excellent views of Kentish Plover, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper etc. Our trip list was now at 85 species and we were all pleased with that.


Later that evening while enjoying the excellent food at our hotel plus the very welcome beers etc. we discussed where we should go on our last day’s birding. Mike fancied a trip over to the western Algarve with which we all agreed.

4th May 2010 - Again bright and sunny - Temp mid 70’s F.

This was our last day’s birding as we would be leaving early the next day and as planned we headed off to the western side of the Algarve with Quinta da Rocha as our intended destination. It was a bit of a journey so Mike took to the motorway. After about an hour and 30 mins we found ourselves in the vicinity of where we were heading so stopped off for a coffee at a very hospitable restaurant. The lady there spoke excellent English and told us the was a lake we could walk to that had lot’s of birds, so off we went. Lot’s of birds was possibly an exaggeration but we did see White Stork, Grey Heron, Zitting Cisticola, Black-winged Stilt plus two new birds for the trip in Linnet and Alpine Swift. After wandering around there for a while we went back to the restaurant for a spot of lunch which was very nice and amazingly cheap.

Leaving there we found our way to Quinta da Rocha where they have a ringing and educational centre. It looked to be a very well run place and they were very happy to talk to us and give us information about the reserve. There was a party of schoolchildren there with notepads and sketchpads that looked to be having a great time. We drove down to the beach area which was very picturesque. There were a number of the usual waders and a few Little Terns about and I would guess could be very good at the right time of day. On the road down we saw plenty of Bee-eaters, the odd Woodchat Shrike and a Little Owl.

Tomorrow we fly home and will be leaving quite early so all we can do is have a last look over the Rio Formosa and enjoy the sights and sounds of the birds.

Out trip list = 90 species with a few others that were heard but not seen Quail, Cetti’s Warbler and Nightingale.

(Full list:)

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