A fabulous birdwatching tour in the Algarve and Alentejo with excursions in search of southern Portugal’s resident and migrant birds. The trip includes visits to Cape St Vincent, Alentejo, Castro Marim Nature Reserve and a boat trip in the Ria Formosa Natural Reserve. The Algarve is famous for its fine beaches, golf courses and beautiful coastline but the region’s attraction as a birdwatching destination has tended to be overlooked. However, it really does provide top-class birding. Its wonderful variety of habitats and geographical location attract a wealth of breeding and wintering species and at migration times it is an important stopover area for countless birds making their way to or from Africa.
Price includes: 7 nights twin ensuite part board accommodation; all excursions and transport; airport transfer meeting certain flights. Single rooms available if you book early – £15 pn supplement.
Not included: flight to Faro and lunches.
Itinerary Please note that the itinerary is subject to change
DAY 1 Arrival. Short introductory walk around Tavira. Free time until evening meeting and dinner to explore Tavira and relax.
DAY 2 Tavira and the salt pans. Located in the heart of the Ria Formosa Nature Park, a wetland area of international importance recognized under the Ramsar Convention. Salinas and salt marshes attract a wide range of birds according to season. Autumn and winter bring Spoonbills, hundreds of Greater Flamingos, Audouin’s Gulls and Slender-billed Gulls and as many as 20 species of wading birds, including Stone-curlews.
DAY 3 Today we visit the Castro Verde area where one of our main targets will be the Great Bustard, one of the world’s heaviest birds. It inhabits a huge area of uniform countryside in the Baixo Alentejo and can sometimes be difficult to see. Other species that can be found include (according to season) Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Calandra Lark, Lesser Kestrel, European Roller, Griffon Vulture, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Red Kite, Black Kite, Montagu’s Harrier, Common Crane and Little Bustard. It is also an important breeding area for White Storks.
DAY 4 Today we visit Ria Formosa Nature Park of Quinta de Marim, close to the town of Olhão. We will be walking the trails through the park, where it is possible to enjoy the splendour of this natural wilderness. The resident population of birds increases during autumn and spring with many species calling in on their migratory routes. Flamingos, White Storks and Black-Winged Stilts are familiar sights throughout the year. It is splendid to see such large and spectacular birds in their natural habitat. There is also a tide mill on the reserve (A late 13th-century invention, tide mills were once very common in the lagoon and river estuaries along the Portuguese coastline. Power was obtained by utilizing the change in water levels associated with shifting tides. The example on the Ria Formosa is the last of 30 that used to operate). There are also the remains of Roman saltpans, where 2,000 years ago seawater was evaporated to leave behind the salt, important at that time for preserving foodstuffs. The Research and Visitor centre at Ria Formosa highlights the importance of this wildlife haven. A breeding program of the rare Algarve water dog has been undertaken here. These attractive and placid animals look like large poodles but have webbed feet enabling them to swim with great efficiency and dive to depths of six meters. Water dogs were previously a common sight in the Algarve, working on fishing boats where they assisted with the fishing.
DAY 5 This morning we drive inland to the village of Santa Catarina da Fonte do Bispo. The hills and valleys inland are home to a good variety of raptors including Booted, Bonelli’s and Short-toed Eagles, with the possibility of wintering Alpine Accentor and migrant Ring Ouzel on the higher ground and Iberian Chiffchaff and Hawfinch, together with Short-toed Tree creeper, Woodchat Shrike and Crested Tit in the woods below.
DAY 6 A day visiting the Reserva Natural do Sapal de Castro Marim e Vila Real de Santo Antonio, an enormous area of wetland, salt marsh and saltpans at the eastern end of the Algarve which is home to a wealth of bird life. One of the major attractions here are the Greater Flamingos at least some of which can be found all the year round. A varied selection of gulls, wildfowl and wading birds can be expected in spring, autumn and winter.
DAY 7 Ludo Farm and Quinta do Lago are located west of Faro. Between them they have an excellent mix of habitats including Salinas (saltpans), woodland, reed beds, and salt marshes. It is well known as one of the easiest places in the Algarve to see Purple Gallinule, but at any time, the area is home to an excellent variety of species and in winter thousands of wildfowl and waders are usually present.
DAY 8 Free time until transfer from Tavira to Faro Airport.