A change of scenery up on the slopes behind Loule. Usually we are some distance further east near Montcarapacho. As on our other trips the journey from Faro airport was short and easy with a good car organised by Rosa and Mick - our friendly and helpful hosts. Beautiful views from the apartment of a large chunk of the coast right along to Portimao; so breakfast, dinner and all drinking activities were on the terrace whenever possible! Excellent accommodation - to be recommended!
We were greeted by a singing Woodlark - a nice start. After shopping for essentials [liquids!] we took a short trip up into the lower hills nearby. Nightingales were singing everywhere, as were Blackcaps and some clearly identifiable Iberian Chiffchaffs. House Martins, Barn Swallows plus Crag Martin were abundant. By a stream and old buildings we had Blue Rock Thrush, Grey Wagtail, Beeaters, Red-legged Partridge, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Stonechat, Crested Lark and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Finally a Booted Eagle soared over the highest hills. Back at the Quintessential were the ubiquitous Sardinian Warblers, House and Spanish Sparrows, a solitary Rock Sparrow, Green and Goldfinches coming to the birdbath, Serin and Woodchat Shrike. A Hoopoe called.
April 29th - There are pleasant walks behind the apartments with a good selection of commoner birds, including Wryneck. Pyramid and Bee Orchids are abundant.
We visited the Pera Marsh about 40 minutes away. Good flocks of Greater Flamingo gave pleasing photo opportunities. Black-headed, Yellow-legged, Lesser-black Backed Gulls with a few Slender-billed mixed in. A good showing of Terns - Black, Little, Sandwich and Whiskered. The expected ducks were enlivened by a male White-headed Duck keeping pretty much to itself. A pair of Alpine Swifts passed over. A Purple Heron gave good views until disturbed by dogs [which are banned]! Waders included Black-winged Stilts, Common Sandpiper, Sanderlings, Kentish Plovers, Redshanks, Greenshank, Turnstones and Whimbrel. Only one Purple Gallinule was seen. Plenty of Egrets [Cattle and Little] Grey Herons, Little Grebes, Coots, Moorhens and Cormorants. Gannets from the shore. A Little Owl in a tree and a Kestrel over were the only birds of prey.
April 30th - Quinta do Lago. Always worth a visit or two at any time of the year. Green as ever. New here were Turtle Dove, Mistle Thrush, Azure-winged Magpie, 2 or 3 Wrynecks, Spoonbills, Cettis Warbler, Little Bitterns in flight, Great-crested Grebes Red-crested Pochards, and a real surprise, spotted by my eagle-eyed wife - a Spotted Crake on the fresh water lake. Ducks included Shoveller, Pochard, Gadwall and Mallard. On the estuary were a good flock of Red Knot, Curlew Sandpipers, Dunlins, summer plumaged Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit and Little Stint. Fan-tailed and Sardinian Warblers everywhere. On the salt-pans were Flamingos, Spoonbills and huge numbers of Coots.
May 1st - Castro Marim on the Spanish border. A really good start. While watching a Marsh Harrier a Black-shouldered Kite soared into view and ‘escorted’ the harrier away. Surprisingly few birds after that! New were Red-rumped Swallow, Corn Bunting, Black and Red Kites, Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Collared Pratincoles, Common Tern, Ruff, Ringed Plover, Pallid Swifts and a Dartford Warbler. A long rural drive back added only the last two.
May 2nd - The Alentejo. Via the A2 toll road for the first time, quick but boring and totally empty! We were looking for the Conservation Centre to the north of Castro Verde but it took a bit of finding as there are no signs until you get there. You just find a gap in the main road edge and slipthrough it on to the old road! No-one was at the centre [should have been] so we had half of Portugal to ourselves. There were Lesser Kestrels nesting on towers, dozens of pairs, Red and Black Kites, Griffon Vultures and a solitary Black, Short-toed Eagle and several Montagues Harriers. Beautiful Rollers always remained distant as did 2 or 3 Black-belliedSandgrouse. A single Great Bustard did a flypast and there were plentiful Ravens and White Storks. It got very hot which precluded walking the tracks. Other new birds in the area were Southern Grey Shrike, Whinchat, Black-eared Wheatear, Carrion crow, Wood Pigeon and little Ringed Plover. The staff eventually turned up and were polite and helpful.
May 3rd - Market day - never miss them! New birds were Common Redstart and Great Tit.
May 4th - Ria Formosa, Fuseta and Tavira. The reserve was temporarily closed - seemed to be due to a lack of staff. Fuseta produced a Water Rail [by the railway line!] and a flock of Common Waxbills which can turn up almost anywhere now. Tavira had Med Gulls and back at the Quintessential a Jay appeared.
May 5th - Carvoeiro lighthouse and cliffs. Hundreds of Alpine, Pallid and Common Swifts screamed overhead with me desperately trying to photograph them. Genuine looking Rock Doves were on the cliffs and out to sea a few Corrie’s Shearwaters skimmed the waves. On the way back we called in at the Pera Marsh again and were able to add a pair of obliging Short-toed Larks and Linnet.
May 6th - Tried the Ria Formosa reserve again. It was open this time and we were able to find Golden Oriole and what I think were juvenile Avadavats. 9 Spoonbill flew over but it was pretty quiet - nothing on the lagoons and very little on the fresh water lake but Purple Gallinule as always.
May 7th - Quinta do Lago again on our last day picking up Spotted Flycatcher and a single female Pied. A rare warbler on this trip - Melodious.
A lovely place to stay and the usual excellent selection of birds within reasonable travelling distance.
By Graham and Judith Watson