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A Report from

Southern Portugal, June 24th - July 8th 2003,

Trond Haugskott

All the images in this report are clickable!

Even if this was a typical family holiday with wife and kids, I was still hoping to find time to enjoy some good birding. And I really did, in less than two weeks (June 24th and July 8th were merely "transport" days) I did see plenty of interesting birds, many of them new to me. Considering this was late June/early July with few or no migrants around, I was very impressed and pleased.

To make the birding as "family friendly" as possible, I went out very early in the mornings and came back at 10-11 o'clock when the rest of the family awaked. This didn't matter too much as it was too hot to do much serious birding later in the day anyway.

We stayed at a hotel in the old part of Albufeira. Albufeira itself isn't a birding spot worth mentioning, but its location centrally in the Algarve makes it a good starting point. I could reach all the best sites within an hour or less.

I downloaded the following reports from this excellent site: David and Nancy Massie (invaluable for finding the best sites), Mike Taylor, Stephen and Pat King, Mick Bell, Ben Miller, Colin Davies and Joan Thompson. Thanks to them all! I regret I didn't download ALL the reports available from this site for Southern Portugal, though, that would have helped me even further. Because this holiday was booked with only a few days notice, I didn't have time to order any books.

I rented a Fiat Punto from a local provider for 10 days. It cost me 245 Euros, including "everything". It seems to me that the prices in Algarve generally have become higher with the introduction of the Euro, at least compared with the prices mentioned in the reports I downloaded. Being a very unhappy owner of a Fiat Regata back in the early 1980ies, I was a bit sceptical about renting a Fiat, but the Punto turned out to be a both flawless and pleasant little car. I found driving in Portugal pretty easy as long as I stuck to the main roads, but quickly got lost trying to navigate the smaller ones. As for Portugese drivers, they were no worse than Norwegian ones, and the roads were in fact generally much better.

Alltogether me and the rest of the family had a very pleasant stay in Portugal, and we would love to go back there sometime in the future. Next time I'll try to cover some of the sites east of Faro as well, especially Castro Marim.

Sites visited (for directions see Massie's report):

Albufeira  The first few days of our stay I just took a few morning walks in the area around Albufeira.

Pera Marsh  I visited this site five times, tree morning trips (June 28th, July 1th and 3rd) and two late evening (July 3rd and 6th). It is an excellent site, literally packed with birds!

Quinta Do Lago  I visited this site two times, both early morning (June 30th and July 2nd). It was easy to find the site, but I managed to get myself a bit lost on the way out on both days! Like Pera Marsh, it's an truly excellent site!

Southern Alentejo  I had planned for one full day up here, but ended up with one full day (June 29th) and two early morning trips (July 6th and 7th). The first day I basically followed Massie's instructions, but still got lost a few times, notably I took the wrong track at the farm towards the "look-out" point. On the second trip I decided to check out the areas along N2 north of Castro Verde. On the third trip I went straight up the dirtroad leading out to the "look-out" point, only to find the entrance occupied by 400+ sheep! Instead I took the next dirt track (only a few yards up road) on the same side. It was barely driveable in my Punto, but eventually took me to a small pond on my left where there were plenty of good birds around. As for birding, the trips to Alentejo were undoubtedly the highlights of the holiday.

Monchique/Foia  I was up here two times, one as a family trip (June 30th) (including Silves) and one as an early morning birding trip (July 5th).

Sagres/Cabo de Sao Vicente  We did one family trip here on July 1th. We arrived pretty late in the day and the place were more or less packed with tourists and souvenir shops. It was still impressive, though!

I had planned for Castro Marim as well, but that will have to wait for the next time. Also did some birding during "non-birding" trips, resulting in some nice observations.

Systematic List

1. Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Very common and numerous at Pera Marsh, up to 100+ here (including young birds), also numerous at Quinto do Lago. 1 seen at pound near "lookout point" Alentejo June 29th.

2. Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus)
A few seen at Quinta do Lago.

3. Cory's Shearwater (Calonectrics diomedea)
1 seen offshore from Praia do Grande July 3rd.

4. Gannet (Sula bassana)
A few seen from Praia do Grande.

5. Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus)
2-4 seen at Pera Marsh and 1-2 at Quinta do Lago. Seen on all visits to these sites.

6. Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
Very common, especially so in Alentejo.

7. Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
Very common in wetlands.

8. Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
A few seen on several sites.

9. Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea)
1-4 seen at Pera Marsh, seen on all visits. One juvenile in small pound near "lookout point" Alentejo June 29th.

10. White Stork (Ciconia ciconia)
Common, especially so in Alentejo.

11. Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)
4 at Quinta do Lago, 1-2 at Pera Marsh.

12. Greater Flamingo (Phaenicopterus falcinellus)
Up to 300+ at Pera Marsh. Several flocks seen overflying Quinta do Lago.

13. Canada Goose (Brabta Canadensis)
1 at Pera Marsh. A bit surprising to find this one so far south, but it is also mentioned in Mark Easterbrook's trip report. Probably the same bird? Appeared a bit dark and smallish to me, but difficult to say because I hadn't anything to compare with.

14. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
Very common at Pera Marsh and Quinta do Lago.

15. Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Very common at Quinta do Lago, 150+ seen here, including several females with ducklings. A few seen at Pera Marsh, including a female with ducklings.

16. Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
A few seen at both Pera Marsh and Quinta do Lago.

17. Pochard (Aythya farina)
8+ at Pera Marsh and 10+ at Quinta do Lago.

18. Ferrugionous Duck (Aytha nyroca)
A big surprise! A female with 7 ducklings and a male at one location.

19. Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina)
20+ at Quinta do Lago.

20. Black Vulture (Aegypius monachus)
Another big surprise! Alentejo, June 29th: As I got back to the main road after following Massie's descriptions to the "lookout point" (which I didn't find due to me taking the wrong track!), I took off to the right at the road-sign "Alcarias", this only took me to the closest farm. Suddenly I noticed a HUGE, dark bird soaring over me at pretty close range. I was completely caught off-guard and it took me quite a few seconds to recover; an adult Black Vulture! After studying it for several moments I drove back to the main roads, following this for a few houndred metres and took off to the right towards Penilhos. After driving this road for a mile or so, I stopped and took up my binos to check what I thought were a flock of storks soaring. To my surprise it was a mixed flock of 6 Black Vultures and 7 Griffon Vultures! To say that this was unexpected is an understatement!

21. Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus)
See comment on Black Vulture.

22. Short Toed Eagle (Circaaetus gallicus)
3 in Alentejo June 29th. 1 over Pera Marsh July 3rd.

23. Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus)
Alentejo: 2 near Rolao June 29th and 1 near Castro Verde July 6th.

24. Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus)
Alentejo: 2 near Ortique June 29th, 2 north of Castro Verde (along N2 road) July 6th. Splendid views on both dates!

25. Black Kite (Milvus migrans)
Fairly common Alentejo. I was hoping for Red Kite as well, but didn't see any.

26. Montagu's Harrier (Circus pygargus)
Very common Alentejo, never seen so many!

27. Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)
Fairly common Alentejo.

28/29. Kestrel/Lesser Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus/naumanni)
Very common in Algarve/Alentejo. However, I only felt completely sure identifying adult males. Adult male Lesser Kestrels were seen almost daily over Albufeira. I didn't become aware of the Lesser Kestrel colony at Mertola until after I had left Alentejo June 29th.

30. Peregrine (Falco peregrinus)
One pair at Foia June 30th, one juvenile at Cabo de Sao Vicente July 1th .

31. Red Legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa)
Common in Alentejo, up to 50+ seen together.

32. Quail (Coturnix coturnix)
Common (mostly heard, but also several seen) Alentejo. 2 calling at Pera Marsh.

33. Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus)
1 heard at Quinta do Lago July 2nd.

34. Moorhen (Gallinulus chloropus)
Very common at Pera Marsh and Quinta do Lago.

35. Coot (Fulcia atra)
Very common and numerous at Pera Marsh and Quinta do Lago.

36. Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio porphyrio)
4-10, including juveniles, seen at both Pera Marsh and Quinta do Lago.

37. Great Bustard (Otus tarda)
Several seen in Alentejo, June 29th: 2 females near Rolao, 3+2+1 (3 males) along the dirtroad to "lookout point" and a male near Castro Verde. July 6th: 3+8 along N2 road just north of Castro Verde. July 7th: 3+5 near Rolao, 2+2 ind. near pond along "the other dirt road" (see explanation under "Sites").

38. Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax)
None seen in the Alentejo June 29th (BIG dissapointment!). But somewhat unexpected I did see 5 on one of the fields near Cabo de Sao Vicente July 1th. 1 seen near Rolao and 3 seen near pond along "the other dirtroad" (see explanation under "Sites") July 7th.

39. Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Common at both Pera Marsh and Quinta do Lago, up to 40+ seen at the former, up to 20+ seen at the latter. Probably breeding at Quinta do Lagos.

40. Black Winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)
Very common at Alvor & Pera Marsh (breeding at both places), also seen at several other wetland sites and small pounds in the Alentejo.

41. Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus)
None seen in Alentejo 29th, but 1 seen near Castro Verde July 6th and 20+ seen around pond at the "other dirtroad" (see explanation under "Sites") the day after. 1 heard at a field near Cabo de Sao Vicente July 1th. 1 seen on the sand dunes near Pera Marsh July 1st and 3rd.

42. Collared Pratincole (Glareola pratincola)
Alentejo: A few seen near "lookout point" June 29th. 18+ ind. (both adults and juveniles) seen at pond along "the other dirtroad" (see explanation under "Sites") July 7th.

43. Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius)
Most small pounds in Alentejo seemed to have one pair.

44. Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)
1 seen at Quinta do Lago July 2nd.

45. Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrius)
Common at Pera Marsh and Quinta do Lago.

46. Turnstone (Areanaria interpres)
A few seen at Quinta do Lago.

47. Dunlin ( Calidris alpina)
Up to 70+ seen at Pera Marsh.

48. Common Sandpiper (Tringa hypeleucos)
A few seen at Pera Marsh and Alentejo.

49. Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus)
A few seen Alentejo and one at Pera Marsh.

50. Redshank (Tringa tetanus)
Common at Pera Marsh and Quinta do Lago.

51. Black Tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)
Common at Pera Marsh (up to 139) and Quinta do Lago.

52. Bar-Tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica)
1 at Quinta do Lago June 30th.

53. Curlew (Numenius arquata)
1 at Quinta do Lago June 30th.

54. Black Headed Gull (Larus riribundas)
Only fair numbers seen on most days in Algarve, but 300+ at Pera Marsh July 7th.

55. Yellow Legged Gull (Larus cachinnans)
Very common in Algarve.

56. Lesser Black Backed Gull (Larus fuscus)
Common, especially at Pera Marsh and Quinta do Lago.

Audouin's Gull (Larus audouinii)
Not seen by me, but a British birder I met at Pera Marsh saw 5 at Tavira June 29th.

57. Little Tern (Sterna albafrons)
Common, up to 50+ at Pera Marsh and Quinta do Lago.

58. Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocota)
Very common.

59. Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur)
Common in Algarve, especially so at Quinta do Lago.

60. Rock Dove (Columbia livia)
Several at the cliffs at Cabo de Sao Vicente, also one pair at Albufeira Beach (at least they looked like the real thing...).

61. Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)
1 at Foia July 5th.

62. Great Spotted Cuckoo (Clamator glandarius)
One juvenile by N2 road north of Castro Verde July 6th.

63. Little Owl (Athene noctua)
Common, both in Algarve and Alentejo. Never seen one before in my life, so every sighting was great! I had also hoped for Barn Owl and Scops Owl, but didn't see any.

64. Red-Necked Nightjar (Caprimulgus Ruficollis)
1 seen hunting early morning at Quinta do Lago June 30th. 1 seen hunting early morning same place July 2nd. 1 seen hunting near Pera Marsh late evening July 3rd. 1 seen hunting early morning near Portimao July 5th. Actually, none of these could said definately to have been Red-necked ones, but I'm not sure of the status of common Nightjar in Algarve.

65. Swift (Apus apus)
Very common.

66. Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus)
Common, especially along the coast.

67. Alpine Swift (Apus melba)
Common along the coast, especially many seen over Albufeira and Praia do Grande/Pera Marsh.

68. Hoopoe (Upupa epops)
Common, both in Algarve and Alentejo.

69. Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
1 seen at pond near "lookout point", Alentejo June 29th. 1-3 seen at Quinta do Lag0.. 1 seen at small pound by N2 road north of Castro Verde July 6th.

70. Bee-Eater (Merops apiaster)
Common, both in Algarve and Alentejo.

71. Roller (Coracias garrulous)
None seen in Alentejo June 29th (big dissapointment!). It was mainly because of the Roller I chose to scan the N2 road north of Castro Verde on July 6th, the British birder I met at Pera Marsh pointed out this area as good for Roller. And I did see a family group of 5 birds plus a single bird along this road. In addition two were seen near the farm towards the "lookout point" on July 7th.

72. Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis)
A few seen at Quinta do Lago and at the Monchique - Foia area.

73. Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopus major)
A few seen at Quinta do Lago and several at the Monchique - Foia area.

74. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopus minor)
1 heard drumming near Monchique June 5th.

75. Crested Lark (Galerida cristata)
Very common.

76. Thekla Lark (Galerida thecae)
Only two were definately identified as such; 1 seen very well, singing from a tree in the wooden areas North of Pera Marsh June 28th and 1 seen very well in the Alentejo June 29th.

77. Woodlark (Lullula arborea)
1 seen at Foia on both visits here.

78. Greater Short Toed Lark (Calandraella brachydactyla)
Fairly common, both in Algarve and Alentejo. I had planned for a trip to Castro Marim to see Lesser Short-toes, but didn't get that far.

79. Calandra Lark (Melanocorypha calandra)
Alentejo: 200+ on a ploughed field near Rolao June 29th. 2+ near pond by "the other dirtroad" (see explanation under "Sites") and 50+ seen at a ploughed field near Santa Barbara de Padroes July 7th.

80. Crag Martin (Ptytonoprogne rupestris)
2 seen at the second bridge along the road in Alentejo described by Massie.

81. Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
Very common.

82. Red Rumped Swallow (Hirundo daurica)
Common in Alentejo and also fairly common Algarve, including several at Foia.

83. House Martin (Delichon urbica)
Very common and numerous.

84. Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris)
1 seen North of Castro Verde July 6th.

85. Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
A few seen in Alentejo, always near small ponds.

86. Yellow Wagtail (Motacillas flava iberiae)
Fairly common Quinta do Lago.

87. Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common in the Monchique - Foia area.

88. Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
1 near Castro Verde July 7th.

89. Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos)
1 seen at the first bridge after Castro Verde towards Mertola June 29th.

90. Black Redstart (Pheonicurus ochruros)
One pair plus an adult male seen at Cabo de Sao Vicente.

91. Black Eared Wheatear (Oenanthe hispanica)
Alentejo: None seen June 29th, but several were seen both on July 6th and 7th. All observations were near ploughed fields.

92. Stonechat (Saxicola torquata)
Very common Foia and especially Alentejo. Several also seen at Cabo de Sao Vicente.

93. Blue Rock Trush (Monticola solitarius)
1 seen at Albufeira Beach June 25th, two males at Foia June 30th, tree males Cabo de Sao Vicente July 2nd and two males plus a female Foia July 5th.

94. Mistle Trush (Turdus viscivorus)
5+ seen Albufeira June 26th, 1 seen Quinta do Lago June 30th, 2 seen near Ortique July 6th.

95. Blackbird (Turdus merula)

96. Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)
Common in the Monchique - Foia area.

97. Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala)
Very common.

98. Whitethroat (Sylvia communis)
Several seen on Foia on both visits.

99. Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans)
A calling pair along the road from Monchique to Foia.

100. Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata)
1 seen at the first bridge after Castro Verde towards Mertola June 29th. None were seen at Foia June 30th, but several (15+) were seen in the scrubby areas around the installations July 5th.

101. Fan Tailed Warbler (Cistola juncidus)
Very common, especially so at Pera Marsh.

102. Cetti's Warbler (Cettia cetti)
A few seen at Quinta do Lago.

103. Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
A few seen at both Pera Marsh and Quinta do Lago.

104. Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus)
Several seen and heard at both Pera Marsh and Quinta do Lago.

105. Melodious Warbler (Hippolais polyglotta)
3+ around Pera Marsh June 28th and 4+ Foia July 5th.

106. Firecrest (Regulus ignicapillus)
July 5th: 15+ seen and heard along the road, starting about 5 miles South of Monchique, continuing up to Foia. I stopped about 10-15 times along this road to search the woods, and Firecrests were seen and/or heard on almost every stop. 

107. Great Tit (Parus Major)
Fairly common.

108. Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus)
Common around Monchique.

109. Crested Tit (Parus cristatus)
A few seen Quinta do Lago, several seen or heard in the Monchique - Foia area.

110. Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus irbii)
One pair just South of Monchique July 5th.

111. Wood Nuthatch (Sitta Europaea)
Common around Monchique.

112. Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla)
A few seen Quinta do Lago, several seen along the road, starting about 5 miles South of Monchique, continuing up to Foia July 5th.    

113. Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator)
Very common, both in Algarve and Alentejo.

114. Great Grey Shrike (Lanius exubitor meridionalis)
Very common in the Alentejo. Didn't seem to be so "hot" on catching passerines as their northern cousines, smaller birds didn't seem to be afraid of them at all, this in sharp contrast to the nominate race.

115. Azure Winged Magpie (Cyanopica cyana)
Very common Quinta do Lago and in parts of the Alentejo. Also seen in smaller numbers several other places.

116. Jay (Garrulus glandarius)
Fairly common in the Monchique area and Alentejo. A few seen also on other sites.

117. Jackdaw (Corvus monedula)
20+ at Sagres. I was also hoping for Red-Billed Clough, but couldn't find any at Cabo de Sao Vicente.

118. Carrion Crow (Corvus corone corone)
A few seen in Alentejo on all trips.

119. Raven (Corvus corax)
A few seen in Alentejo on all trips.

120. Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor)
Very common in small flocks in Alentejo. A very large flock (2000+) was seen North of Castro Verde July 6th. Only a few seen outside Alentejo.

121. Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus)
One female/young seen near Picarras, Alentejo July 7th.

122. House Sparrow ( Passer domesticus)
Very common.

123. Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis)
Very common in Alentejo.

124. Tree Sparrow ( Passer montanus)
10+ seen inside the Moorish Castle at Silves June 30th, one near Monchique July 5th.

125. Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
One female near Monchique July 5th.

126. Linnet (Carduelis cannabina)
Common. Several seen on Foia.

127. Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
Very common.

128. Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris)

129. Serin (Serinus serinus)
Very common at Quinta do Lago, common around Monchique, relatively few seen elsewhere.

130. Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus)
A pair gave splendid views along the road between Monchique and Foia July 5th.

131. Corn Bunting (Miliara calandra)
Very common in Alentejo, common also on Foia.

132. Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia)
Common on Foia (10+), a few also seen along the road downwards to Monchique, and one even seen about one mile South of Monchique July 5th.

133. Common Waxwing (Estrilda astrild)
12+ seen at Quinta do Lagos July 2nd.

"Black-headed cage-bird" (sp.)
Undoubtedly an escaped cagebird. One male and 4-5 females/youngs seen at Quinta do Lago on both visits. It preferred to stay in the reed-beds, but now and then it did move a bit away from the pond. It was as big as a House Sparrow or slightly larger. At first I actually thought it was a Black-headed Bunting, but color of back, behaviour and sounds were clearly different. The females/juveniles looked a bit like female House Sparrows, but were "cleaner", paler and with a yellow tone to underparts. Calls: Sounded a bit like Yellow wagtail, but more powerful, lower and richer. I'll be thankfull if anyone can identify this one (see drawing).

Trond Haugskott

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