Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Springtime birding in southern Portugal

The Algarve and Alentejo regions of southern Portugal are less well known to birders than neighbouring Andalucia and Extremadura and yet the birding is just as good, with a long list of exotic Mediterranean species, especially in the spring, when the local residents like Hoopoe, Blue Rock Thrush, Sardinian and Spectacled Warblers, Zitting Cisticola, Iberian Grey Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Spotless Starling, Spanish Sparrow, and Rock and Corn Buntings are joined by a wave of migrants, streaming north from Africa, such as Short-toed Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Pallid and Alpine Swifts, Bee-eater, Roller, Red-rumped Swallow, Tawny Pipit, blue-headed Yellow Wagtail, Nightingale, Western Bonelli’s Warbler and  Woodchat Shrike.

The ideal base for this ‘festival of birds’ is Villa da Oliveiras, near Loulé. This family owned luxury villa, offers two twin rooms upstairs, with balconies and en-suite bathrooms, and two twin rooms downstairs with a shared bathroom. There is a large furnished lounge with dining table and a TV which receives British channels. Outside, there is a swimming pool, a hot tub and garden birds like Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Serin! There is even a restaurant just around the corner, which is very popular with the locals. During your stay you can visit the top coastal sites like Castro Marim, Pera Marsh, Quinta do lago and the Ria Formosa where you can expect to see a wide range of wetland birds like Little Bittern, Purple and Night Herons, White Stork, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Red-crested Pochard, Marsh Harrier, Purple Swamphen, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Collared Pratincole, Kentish Plover, Little Stint, Whimbrel, Spotted Redshank, Wood Sandpiper, Mediterranean, Slender-billed and Yellow-legged Gulls, and Caspian, Gull-billed, Little and Whiskered Terns, as well as Stone Curlew, Wryneck, Crested Lark, Short-toed Treecreeper, Common Waxbill and even Black-headed Weaver! On top of all these Algarvian delights, you can also have a day further north in the beautiful sparsely populated Alentejo region, where the traditionally farmed plains and cork oak forests will be awash with wild flowers. Birds here include Black and Griffon Vultures, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Montagu’s Harrier, Red, Black and Black-winged Kites, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Little Owl, Thekla, Calandra and Short-toed Larks and Black-eared Wheatear, with the added excitement of displaying Little and Great Bustards!

Chris Hall Operates New Horizons bird watching tours and courses. and has kindly agreed to provide us with several articles relating to Birdwatching holidays in Portugal. Over the course of the coming weeks we will post Chris' report on his most recent trips to the Algarve. 

For more information on Birdwatching holidays in Southern Portugal, visit their site www.newhorizonsonline.co.uk or look out for availability at Villa da Oliveiras on Bidabooking.