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A Report from

Portugal (Algarve and Alentejo)1999,

Colin Davies


This was a family holiday based at Vilamoura on the Algarve, from 29th May to 12th June 1999. Vilamoura is a good resort for birders, because it is close to some of the best birding sites in southern Portugal and has one outstanding site of its own. I hired a car for one week.

Site details

Riba de Quarteria marshes and Laguna Golf course, Vilamoura.

This is a largish area of reeds and open water to the west of Vilamoura. It is an outstanding site for Purple Gallinule and Purple Heron, and also had many other interesting species such as Waxbill, Great reed Warbler, Little Bittern, Cattle Egret, Cetti’s warbler, Bee-eater, Stone-Curlew, Pallid swift, White stork, Azure winged Magpie and Spotless starling.

There are two main parts to the site. The first is an open area of water, crossed by a road to the west of Vilamoura marina. Take the road that runs at the back of the marina on the west side (heading towards Felesia beach). About half a mile from the Felesia beach car park you come to a roundabout, at which you can either go straight on for the beach, or right, across a stretch of open land. Take this road, and after about 100 metres, the road crosses a reedy pool. Either view from the bridge or walk down the track on the left hand side of the bridge (walking west). This is an especially good site for Purple Heron and Waxbill.

The second part of the site is Laguna golf course. Take the western road out of Vilamoura (as if heading for Albuferia). Around the point where the dual carriageway ends, a minor road heads of to the left. Park by this road and walk down the minor road. From here you can quite easily see Purple Gallinules walking on the golf course. Early morning or evening is best. I walked around the footpaths on the golf course itself, and had wonderful views of the Gallinules, but you do run the risk of being asked to leave.

Quinta do Lago

A similar sort of site to Laguna golf course. Most of the same species can again be seen on or around a reedy pool on the edge of a golf course, including Purple Gallinule. The site also has Red crested Pochard and Red necked Nightjar, as well as the rare Chameleon. If you follow the track to the east of the hide, you eventually come to a large area of salinas, which hold all the usual salt marsh species.

Take the road from Almancil to Quinta do Lago. As you reach the resort, you come to a series of numbered roundabouts. A ‘before dawn’ stop at any likely looking area of pine woodland in this area is likely to yield Red necked Nightjar. When you reach roundabout 6, turn left and then bear right for about two miles, until you come to a track that heads off towards the saltmarsh. You can drive or walk down this track, and after about 100 metres you come to a hide overlooking the reedy pool.

After leaving the hide, continue down the track for about a mile and you will come to the excellent salinas. You can walk for miles here, and eventually will reach Ludo Farm, a third site for Purple Gallinule. The salt marsh is always close by on your right.

Southern Alentejo

This is an amazing area of large, rolling plains and cork oakland. You really could spend a week in this area alone, but with limited time, I chose to concentrate on the road from Ourique to Castro Verde and on to Mertola. There are so many good sites here, that is impossible to recommend any one in particular. Just stop and look! The area is said to be good for Black shouldered Kite, and it certainly looks good, but I failed to see any. There were plenty of other birds, however, including both species of Bustard, Montagu’s Harriers, Black Kites, Rollers, masses of White Storks, Rock sparrows and Calandra Larks.

Convent de Sao Fransisco – Mertola.

Scenically the best site I visited on the holiday. Mertola stands on the edge of a gorge of the River Guadiana, and from a birding point of view, the main interest is the castle and convent, which both have colonies of Lesser Kestrels. An important point to stress here is that you can see the birds from the spectacular bridge that crosses the river. Good views can be had here, but if you want truly breathtaking views, you really need to visit the convent. Here you can see the colony at a distance of just a few feet, but you must ask the owners first. The convent is just south of the town, on the road to Castro Marim, and welcomes visitors.

 Cape St. Vincent

The most westerly point in Portugal, just head west to Sagres on the coast road, and then keep going for a few more miles. It’s a popular tourist spot, and does get a little busy at times, but is still very much unspoilt. The cliffs here have Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart, Alpine Swift, Spotless Starling,

Stonechat, Dartford Warbler and in Autumn there is apparently a good passage of raptors.




Little grebe

Common in suitable habitat.

Great crested grebe

A few Quinta do Lago.


Occasional at sea.


A few Cape St. Vincent.

Little Bittern

Fairly common at Vilamoura and Quinta do Lago.

Purple Heron

Fairly common at Vilamoura.

Grey heron

A few Vilamoura.

Cattle Egret

Many, especially Alentejo.

Little Egret

Common on saltmarsh.

White stork

Common Algarve, very common Alentejo.


A flock of 23 at Quinta do Lago Salinas.

Greater Flamingo

200+ at Quinta do Lago Salinas.


A few at Quinta do Lago.




A few at Quinta do Lago.

Red crested Pochard

About 10 at Quinta do Lago.


A few at Quinta do Lago.

Black Kite

Many Alentejo, one at Quinta do Lago.

Montagu's Harrier

Many Alentejo.


Many Alentejo.


Fairly common.

Lesser Kestrel

Occasional birds seen in Alentejo, colony of at least 15+ pairs and Mertola.


One calling in Alentejo.

Red legged partridge

A few Alentejo.



Purple Gallinule

At least 10 birds at Vilamoura, and a further 4 at Quinta do Lago.



Little Bustard

Fairly common in Alentejo. One flock of 20+ birds near Castro Verde.

Great Bustard

Two groups of five and three birds between Castro Verde and Mertola.

Black winged stilt

Common on the saltmarsh.


A few at Quinta do Lago Salinas.


Fairly common in Alentejo, one or two at Vilamoura.

Collared Pratincole

Three at Quinta do Lago.

Kentish Plover

Common on the saltmarsh.


One at Quinta do Lago Salinas.


A few at Quinta do Lago Salinas.

Black-Tailed Godwit

A few at Quinta do Lago Salinas.

Black headed Gull

A few.

Yellow legged Gull

Common in coastal areas.

Little Tern

Present in small numbers at all coastal sites.

Turtle Dove

Very common everywhere.

Great Spotted Cuckoo

One in Alentejo.

Little Owl

One or two in Alentejo.

Red necked Nightjar

At least three at Quinta do Lago.


Common, especially inland.

Pallid Swift

Common, especially on the coast.

Alpine Swift

A few Cape St. Vincent


Fairly common everywhere.


One Alentejo.


Common everywhere.

Calandra Lark

A few Alentejo.

Crested Lark


Thekla Lark

A few Alentejo.

House Martin

Very common.



Red rumped Swallow

Fairly common in Alentejo.

Yellow Wagtail

Fairly common on the saltmarsh.

Blue Rock Thrush

A few Cape St. Vincent.

Black Redstart

A few Cape St. Vincent.


A few at various locations, especially Cape St. Vincent.

Black-eared Wheatear

A few Alentejo.



Mistle thrush

A few at Quinta do Lago.

Cetti's Warbler

Fairly common in marshy areas.

Fan-tailed Warbler

Common throughout.

Reed Warbler

Common in reedy areas.

Great Reed Warbler

A few Vilamoura and at Quinta do Lago.

Dartford Warbler

A few Cape St. Vincent.

Sardinian Warbler



One singing at Quinta do Lago.

Golden Oriole

Two at Quinta do Lago.

Great Grey Shrike

Common in Alentejo.

Woodchat Shrike



One at Vilamoura.


Many Cape St. Vincent.

Carrion Crow

A few.


One Alentejo.

Azure-winged Magpie

Fairly common everywhere.

Spotless Starling

A few at Quinta do Lago and Cape St. Vincent.

House Sparrow


Spanish Sparrow

A few Alentejo (in stork nests).


Fairly common at Vilamoura.


Fairly common at Vilamoura and at Quinta do Lago.





Corn Bunting

Common in Alentejo.


Bird Books:

Colin Davies (June'99) - e-mail me

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