Between 8th and the 15th of March, myself and Katie visited southern Portugal, mainly the Algarve area. It’s an area very familiar to me as I’ve visited numerous times, each time bring a new species and new places to visit.
Day One – Lagos
We arrived the day before and our first actual day we decided to visit the town of Lagos. It’s a popular tourist town but we managed to see the numerous nesting White Storks around the town, we ventured further up to the river which runs through the town and noted a number of common waders such as Curlew, Dunlin and Turnstone. On our walk to the bar for a drink and some food, we found some crabs which were running in and out of the rocks, it left us puzzled for quite some time, and still puzzled me how these were living in the harbour wall and not going into the water.
Day Two – Ria Formosa
Ria Formosa National Park was our destination for today as it was a fairly warm day so the hopes for seeing some birds in better light were improved on yesterday. We first ventured along one of the main paths where we came across some common species; Hoopoe and Azure Winged Magpies, both of which proved hard to get clear shots of. This track then lead us down to the coastal routes where we visited the two hides, one overlooked a small lake noting wildfowl species of Gadwall, Shoveler, Mallard, and House Martins were in abundance feeding on the banks. The hide opposite proved great for seeing Greater Flamingo feeding amongst waders.
Moving further along the track, we reached the coastal pools where there was a small group of Gulls feeding in the water. After scanning through them I picked out what I thought was a Winter plumage Slender Billed Gull, however it looked offish to decided to take as many shots through the heat haze as I could to look into it further later. The bird was the same size as the Black Headed Gulls and had no other marks that would indicate Slender Bill other than the lack of a moulting hood, bill colour or dark ear patches, as we were watching the Gulls, we were approached by a French guy asking to use Katie’s phone.. it was a rather odd situation as it all developed but somewhat funny – as Katie was still speaking with him I continued looking at the gulls in the air and pulled out a couple of Slender Billed Gulls and Black Winged Stilts whcih luckily landed on the pool to get some shots of. After all our efforts, we made the return journey back where we watched Caterpillars making their way across the path, as we were taking photos of them another French person on her motorised bike told us they were dangerous and we will die if we touch them.
Day Three – Sagres
After a couple of successful days, we ventured west to Sagres. It was a great opportunity for a different scenery and a chance to see some larks and blackstarts, aswell as an amazing sunset. We arrived early afternoon at the Fort due to my poor sense of direction but watched some amazing waves nevertheless. We then continued on the right road to Sagres and Cape St Vincent, despite the strong winds it was easy enough to pick up the Thekla larks calling and didn’t take long to see some. Among the tourists aimlessly wandering through the scrub and flushing the majority of birds, there were still some blackstarts hoping along the rocks. I spent a while searching all gulls in the hopes of finding an Audouin’s but my attempts resulted in failure – but managed to see a decent sunset and some great landscapes.
Day Four – Alvor
Again, we opted for a change of scenery and headed to Alvor. Amongst this town, there’s a boadwalk that takes you through different habitats, we started on the track that headed down towards the river Alvor itself, although it was stunning scenery, there was a lack of birds so we continued round towards the scrub area where we saw numerous Crested Larks, Stonechats, Sardinian Warblers and Meadow Pipits. Moving on towards the opening of the river which leads to the sea, it was amazing how many waders were feeding along the shore in small groups. We had some Redshank fly past with some Dunlin, and further along the boadwalk we came across a group of Sanderling, more notable for me was the number of Kentish Plover feeding along the rocks – a species which I fell in love with years ago.
Day Five – Ponta da Piedade
Today was absolutely awful weather wise! Despite this we made an attempt to get out after spending the morning birding around the Villa, we opted to head for some landscapes and went to Ponta da Piedade or known as ‘the Grottos’. Once we arrived, we spent a little time trying to find out how to get down to the caves themselves, we followed this little track down until we finally found the steps leading down. It was an amazing site and the number of Yellow Legged Gulls that were beginning to nest was ace! After spending a couple of hours here and getting soaked through, we ventured to the pub for some food.
Day Six – Ponda da Piedade and Lagos
We made our way back down to the Grottos as it was a much brighter day and wanted to visit the surrounding cliffs and beaches. Whilst Katie photographed the amazing scenery, I climbed around the cliffs in search of Rock Thrushes, despite my efforts it only resulted in two male Blue Rock Thrushes and a possible Ruffous although it caught me off guard and flew straight into the cliffs. After more exploring and climbing of the cliff tops, I came across some Crag Martins whizzing in and out of crevices in the cliffs, I took some video and left the top. Katie made her way down to the beach itself whereas I stayed halfway up the walkway to watch more of the Crag Martins and hoped to get some shots of the Sardinian Warblers.