Trip report: Southern Portugal (Algarve)
12th-21st September 2000
 By Toby Robertson


Birding highlights from a 10-day holiday with my partner Irene in Southern Portugal between 12th and 21st September 2000, during which we stayed in three locations on the Algarve: Faro, a location just inland from Luz, and Tavira.

Sites visited

I watched birds at the following sites on or near the coast, listed here in order of their location as you move from the Spanish border in the east, round to the border with the Alentejo region on the west coast. The best areas were the Ria Formosa around Faro, especially Ludo Farm/Quinta do Lago, and the area around Sagres at the south-western tip of Portugal. The Ria Formosa is a 60km stretch of protected marshes and saltpans and is alive with birds at this time of year. Sagres is at Portugal’s Land’s End, a rocky coastal zone with two headlands about three miles apart, one the site of a fortress (Fortaleza de Sagres) and the other (Cabo de Sao Vincente) the site of a lighthouse.

Reference books

I used C. C. Moore, G. Elias & H. Costa, ‘A Birdwatchers’ Guide to Portugal and Madeira’ (Prion 1997) for local information and carried the Collins Bird Guide with me in the field. The trip was arranged at a day’s notice and the Birdwatchers’ Guide was the only book on Portugal in stock at Foyle’s bookshop in London. I found it fine for basic orientation to the top sites, though a more detailed guide such as Dave Gosney’s would be required by anyone going after specific local birds. I also looked at one or two trip reports on the Web, in particular Gruff Dodd’s excellent write-up of a trip at a similar time of year in 1999. In retrospect I regret not printing out a copy and visiting some of the inland sites he mentions.

Annotated species list

  1. Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) : several on the reedbed pools at Quinta do Marim (13th) and Ludo Farm (20th)
  2. Cory's Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) : steady passage past Fortaleza de Sagres & Cabo de Sao Vincente (16th)
  3. Manx/Balearic Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus/mauretanicus) : steady passage past Fortaleza de Sagres & Cabo de Sao Vincente (16th); max. 15 together
  4. Gannet (Morus bassanus) : common at sea
  5. Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) : 1 Cormorant/Shag in flight on Rio Alvore estuary (15th)
  6. Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) : common on agricultural land or with cattle
  7. Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) : common on Ria Formosa
  8. Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) : common on Ria Formosa
  9. White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) : fairly common, with a flock of hundreds of birds gathering before sunset at Ludo Farm, nr. Faro (20th)
  10. Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) : 29 Tavira (21st)
  11. Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) : numerous Ludo Farm (19th & 20th); 9 Castro Marim (20th)
  12. Gadwall (Anas strepera) : 6 Quinta do Marim (13th); more numerous at Ludo Farm (20th)
  13. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) : common on Ria Formosa
  14. Shoveler (Anas clypeata) : 1 Quinta do Marim (13th); numerous at Ludo Farm (20th)
  15. Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus) : 8 in total from watchpoint nr. Sagres (16th & 17th); max. 3 together
  16. Black Kite (Milvus migrans) : 1 in heavy moult Fortaleza de Sagres (16th), seen later over pine woods in company first with a Red Kite and then with a Hen Harrier; 3 next day at Cabo de Sao Vincente (17th) including same bird; 1 Sagres beach (18th)
  17. Red Kite (Milvus milvus) : 1 poss. juv. near Cabo de Sao Vincente (16th)
  18. Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) : 1 imm. from watchpoint nr. Sagres (17th)
  19. Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) : 1. from watchpoint nr. Sagres (17th)
  20. Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus) : 1 fem. near Cabo de Sao Vincente (16th)
  21. Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) : 1 from watchpoint nr. Sagres (16th)
  22. Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus) : 1 dark phase from watchpoint nr. Sagres (17th)
  23. Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) : 1 imm. Ludo Farm (20th)
  24. Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) : common
  25. Quail (Coturnix coturnix) : 1 briefly at close range Belo Horizonte hotel (18th)
  26. Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) : small numbers on reedbed pools at Quinta do Marim (13th) and Ludo Farm (20th)
  27. Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio porphyrio) : ad. feeding juv., Quinta do Marim (13th); ad. & juv. Ludo Farm (20th)
  28. Coot (Fulica atra) : numerous on reedbed pools at Quinta do Marim (13th) and Ludo Farm (20th)
  29. Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax) : 7 seen briefly in flight nr. Cabo de Sao Vincente (16th); 3 with free range farmyard birds nr. Belo Horizonte hotel (19th)
  30. Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) : fairly common on Ria Formosa; max. 46 Ria de Alvor (15th)
  31. Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) : common on Ria Formosa
  32. Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) : fairly common on Ria Formosa, especially on saltpans; largest number at Castro Marim
  33. Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) : small numbers on Ria Formosa
  34. Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) : very common on Ria Formosa
  35. Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola) : fairly common in small numbers on Ria Formosa
  36. Sanderling (Calidris alba) : 4 Tavira (20th); 3 Castro Marim (20th)
  37. Little Stint (Calidris minuta) : fairly common on Ria Formosa
  38. Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) : fairly common on Ria Formosa
  39. Dunlin (Calidris alpina) : very common on Ria Formosa
  40. Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) : fairly common on Ria Formosa
  41. Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) : common on Ria Formosa
  42. Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica) : fairly common on Ria Formosa
  43. Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) : Castro Marim (20th); Tavira (21st)
  44. Curlew (Numenius arquata) : fairly common in small numbers on Ria Formosa
  45. Redshank (Tringa totanus) : very common on Ria Formosa
  46. Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) : fairly common in small numbers on Ria Formosa
  47. Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) : 1 Ria de Alvor (15th); 1 north over Belo Horizonte hotel (16th); 1 Montenegro waterworks, nr. Faro (19th); 1 Ludo Farm, nr. Faro (19th)
  48. Common Sandpiper (Tringa hypoleucos) :
  49. Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) :
  50. Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus) :
  51. Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus) :
  52. Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis) :
  53. Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis) :
  54. Little Tern (Sterna albifrons) : 2 in Faro harbour (12th); Tavira (21st)
  55. Rock Dove (Columba livia) : 20+ on cliffs below Fortaleza de Sagres (16th),
  56. Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) : heard at Quinta do Marim (13th)
  57. Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) : very common
  58. Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) : still fairly common
  59. Little Owl (Athene noctua) : 1 or 2 seen and heard around Belo Horizonte hotel (14th–19 th); 2 Ria de Alvor (15th); also heard at 2 other locations
  60. Swift (Apus apus) : 1 Almadena (18th), strikingly dark with little pale on face
  61. Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus) : c.60 at dusk at Faro harbour (12th), and singles at several locations throughout. Almost all the Swifts I could identify seemed to be Pallid.
  62. Alpine Swift (Apus melba) : 10+ Almadena (18th)
  63. Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) : Ludo Farm (19th & 20th); Castro Marim (20th)
  64. Hoopoe (Upupa epops) : common
  65. Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) : heard Ludo Farm (20th);
  66. Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla) : 1 Ria de Alvor (15th)
  67. Crested Lark (Galerida cristata) : common
  68. Thekla Lark (Galerida theklae) : common on stony ground around Sagres
  69. Woodlark (Lullula arborea) : 4 nr. Aljezur (18th)
  70. Sand Martin (Riparia riparia) : 1 Ludo Farm (19th)
  71. Swallow (Hirundo rustica) : many locations; largest number c.25 south over Fortaleza de Sagres (16th)
  72. Red-rumped Swallow (Hirundo daurica) : many locations; largest number c.20 Aljezur Castle (18th)
  73. House Martin (Delichon urbica) : still present; max. c.20 Vila do Bispo (17th) and Aljezur (18th)
  74. Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava) : heard at Quinta do Marim (13th); 3 at farm nr. Cabo de Sao Vincente including adult male iberiae (16th); 6 south Belo Horizonte hotel (18th); 2 Castro Marim (20th); several Ludo Farm (20th)
  75. White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) : 3 in flight, Almadena (13th)
  76. Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris) : several nr. Cabo de Sao Vincente (16th & 18th);
  77. Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) : common around Sagres
  78. Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) : ad. m. Ilha de Tavira (21st)
  79. Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra) : 2 Ria de Alvor (15th); 5 nr. Cabo de Sao Vincente (16th); 1 Belo Horizonte hotel (17th); 1 Ludo Farm (20th)
  80. Stonechat (Saxicola torquata) : common
  81. Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) : 4 nr. Cabo de Sao Vincente (16th); 1 Castro Marim (20th)
  82. Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius) : fairly common around Sagres
  83. Blackbird (Turdus merula) : common
  84. Cetti's Warbler (Cettia cetti) : several heard Ludo Farm (20th)
  85. Fan-tailed Warbler (Cisticola juncidis) : fairly common
  86. Melodious Warbler (Hippolais polyglotta) : 1 Ilha de Tavira (21st)
  87. Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata) : several on clifftop vegetation nr. Cabo de Sao Vincente (16th & 17th)
  88. Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans) : 1W male by watchpoint nr. Sagres (17th)
  89. Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala) : very common
  90. Whitethroat (Sylvia communis) : several around Belo Horizonte hotel (14th–19th)
  91. Chiffchaff sp. (Phylloscopus collybita/brehmii) : 1 Belo Horizonte hotel (17th)
  92. Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) : extremely common migrant; max. c.100? along short stretch of road between Sagres and Vila do Bispo (17th)
  93. Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) : very common migrant
  94. Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) : extremely common migrant
  95. Great Tit (Parus major) : 2 Belo Horizonte hotel (14th); Ludo Farm (20th)
  96. Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis) : Belo Horizonte hotel (16th & 19th); Castro Marim (20th)
  97. Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator) : juv. Belo Horizonte hotel (14th); 1 watchpoint nr. Sagres (17th); juv. Castro Marim (20th)
  98. Azure-winged Magpie (Cyanopica cyana) : very common Ludo Farm in loose flocks of up to 30 birds
  99. Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) : 2 or 4 nr. Cabo de Sao Vincente (16th); 2 between Sagres and Vila do Bispo (17th)
  100. Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) : common
  101. Raven (Corvus corax) : 2 nr. Cabo de Sao Vincente (16th)
  102. Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor) : small numbers in most locations away from habitation
  103. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) : very common
  104. Common Waxbill (Estrilda astrild) : 2 Faro harbour (13th); 5 Ria de Alvor (15th); and various other locations
  105. Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris) : one or two locations
  106. Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) : common
  107. Linnet (Carduelis cannabina) : common
  108. Corn Bunting (Miliaria calandra) : c.80 at sunset Ria de Alvor (15th)
Please send comments or questions to Toby Robertson

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