26 November and we where heading to Portugal ,strangely my first visit , just never got around to it but with the cost at only £185 pounds each for flight ,accommodation & car hire for two people it seemed a bargain, perhaps not the best time to go to the Algarve region, it was decided to stay at Villamoura its on the coast and close to Parque Ambientale, not far from the airport and also close to Quinta do Lago, which I thought was fantastic and visited it several times.
With the intention to just go have a relaxing few days in the sun and not drive long distances every day I did not do much planning just picked out a couple of interesting areas, and a visit to Cape St Vincente, driving in Portugal is not as straight forward as Spain and I found it a bit of a pain, numerous built up areas to go through and numerous roundabouts to miss the correct turn ,but it was probably just me as it always seemed to take less time to get back from anywhere. I found the road signs lacking at places and too many at others, trying to read them all to find your route.
Parque Ambiantele was only a short distance from our appartment and I visited a few times I liked the peace and quiet,it would make a great local patch and the Falesia Bridge that you pass to is always worth a stop, two hides at the reserve one has a great entrance walk always birds in the bushes either side ,but the outlook onto the pool was poor, overgrown with not much water visible ,Google shows it as a fairly extensive area, I viewed it from a bridge further east one day,where it looked as though development had been halted ,but no doubt only temporary.
The other hide to the west is fairly new construction, but no cover as you approach is not helpful but no doubt it will grow, I flushed Purple Heron twice despite creeping along as best I could,this pool although only held Little Grebes,Mallard,Shoveller,Little Egret,Crag martins,Marsh Harrier but the area between two pools Booted Eagles, Hoopoes,Black Redstart,Blackcap,a flock of 45 Azure Winged Magpies,Jay ,Serin Penduline Tit,Waxbills, Night Heron, Kingfishers,Crested Larks........on the first visit one field was absolutely lifting with birds with 70+ Cattle Egrets spread out ,Crested Larks everywhere, Azure Magpies along the edge 40-50 Black Headed Gulls , and a mixed flock of Linnets,Greenfinch & Goldfinch ,with Warblers flitting out fly catching most Chiffchaff, but Sardinians also numerous Stonechats. The nearby waterworks held a huge number of gulls and Corrmorrants constantly flying over,very limited viewing from the main entrance but there is no access,there must have been some viewing in the past as old reports list waders seen here, I had a couple of Dragonflies briefly Emperor probably and one bluish but smaller than them but none settled .
Quinta do Lago as I have already said I loved this place , it took some finding but after that it was easy to get too from Villamoura/Quintaria just going straight through, driving through the development on the six or so roundabouts as you approach its super smart ,should I have wore a tie to come here I think to myself ,uniformed security on the gates of some places and some of the smartest/poshist/largest/most expensive villas I have ever seen,well you think your never going to get there till you pull into a large covered carpark with security guard walking around, I had heard it was about 5 euros to park here but it was free on our visits.
At first I thought this is going to be awfull too developed for me ,but as you walked along the shore with birds again everywhere I changed my view rapidly, it was fantastic, we walked west about as far as you can go easily, bearing in mind I was carrying scope tripod, two cameras, one for digiscoping ,bins we must have just caught the tide right Whimbrels in good numbers also large numbers of Grey Plover, Dunlin,Turnstone, Kentish Plover, and a couple of Litle Stints, a large shallow pool had Spoonbills, Flamingoes, and a couple of Med Gulls , with later Caspian Terns fishing, it was here we had Red Viened Darter, and later in the week Swallows, Bluethroats where numerous on the first visit but none on other visits ,it was the same withe Sardinian Warblers showing on the first vist and I thought I'll get some good shots later but no, so never put off till another day "fill your boots" when you can.
A few Butterflies here Speckled Wood Common as in most places,Painted lady, Small Copper,and on the last day over on Faro beach area a Monarch (which I will regret not getting a photo of till I actually get one somewhere, they where supposed to be on Fuertaventura but not for us).Walking east(past Golf course) the path takes a left (straight on for the road behind the airport ) it's elevated so you can see easily over the mud but you are mostly looking into the light towards the sea,on the other side the constant flitting of Chiffchaffs catches your eye , but for me it was the Bluethroats on the path and you also had the distraction of Spoonbills or White Storks going over, a few Sandwich Terns seen. pools in the distance held huge numbers of duck , Egrets & Flamingoes, I had left the scope in the car it was getting warm and with the security on felt it was OK , I checked these pools out on a later visit and added Red Crested Pochard and Pintail.
going past the saltpans and the huge piles of salt you come back to the edge of the Golf Course, I passed the site of a Roman salt works ,just to the side of the track and eventually came onto a hide, I would not have known of this had I not met a Lady birder that told me how to get to it ,it's probaly well documented but at the time I did not know, this was great for just sitting down and checking out , Gadwall,Shoveller sit just along the edge and the closest views you can get of Purple Gallinules, 2 Glossy Ibis just a few yards away , Cettis are common in most places but this was the best place to see them,be it ever so briefly, Squacco Heron dropped in on the bank side, and Little Bittern in the Reeds. Large flock of Gulls but keeping there distance, found 7 Meds here 2 1st,2 x 2nd & 3 Adults, Green Sanpiper and also Common Sanpiper indeed common, and nearly forget Black Winged Stilts all over . It was odd to view such good birds with a Golf course in the background , I know nothing of Golf but watching some of them was a bit of a laugh, I saw one guy blatly cheat as he kicked his ball to a better positon, and despite having some expensive looking kit,a lot of time was spent looking for lost balls ,two ladies in matching pink oufits came to the pool edge to find their balls bizzare, the hide was just good to sit in a two storey job giving good views over the pool, but birds could easily be seen along the edge just work out the limit of approach and snap away.
We had onbe day overcast with a few showers and endeed up here after going to Lidls for some food, beer and loads of wine ( I am no wine snob as long as its red and my glass is full it's fine )
there was water here although reports I had before going was thet it was dry ,so I was not going to bother,going along the boradwalk Zitting Cisticolas a plenty sat in full view on the ropes,but as is always the case when birds or just feet away the rains came, through the gloom I picked up a Black Winged Kite hovering on the far side of the pond it came slightly nearer as it crossed the pond and we saw a bird on the way to the cape, and one briefly at Quinta, it was my only photo oppurtunity.
We paid another visit here finding the track down to the carpark so I could view from the car, it was here we met Pam-m(birdforum) and family ,she told me of birds I missed like Southern Grey Shrike , don't know how I did not see ome anywhere, they also had Little Owl nearby and reading thier report a few other things missed( link to this a the bottom, it' s a good read)it was I think thier 9th visit to the area, so they knew the way around, but unfortuanatley had the car broken into at Villamoura and lost most of thier gear like camera and bins ,but the scope and tripod to big to get out the broken window .
Marsh Harrier took a Lapwing and I digiscoped it , also a very large Peregrine sat preening on a rock, as it circled the pond you could see a radio tag ariel I have looked on the net but can find nothing ,no jesses attached to the bird , it later passed over us all carrying prey.(SEE PHOTO OF THIS BIRD BELOW FOR LINK AS TO ITS ORIGIN)
I could see how this would be a fantastic place given the right protection, we also witnessed three large dogs roam all over which in the breeding season would cause havoc .
It was here I saw the only two Hares, smart looking animals ,a few Avocets in the distance another couple of Med Gulls, Great Crested Grebe, Shovellers in the hundreds it was only the lure of better photo oppurtunites at Quinta that I did not vist this site more, as again it was not far from our appartment which by the way was excellant value I took a dip in the indoor pool on December the 1st.
Cape St Vincente
Again this site looks a fantastic area I would have loved to vist when raptors where mooving, bird wise nothing much to add a brief view of Dartford Warbler, but I got the impression they where fairly common ,not sure if Theklas are here larks kept thier distance , a brief look at the sea a few Gannets and lots of Auks moving (Razorbill in the marina at Villamoura) White Storks playing in the air not sure if they breed on the sort of island outcrop, it was odd to see a Little Egret sitting on the side of the cliff preening, and its here the fisherman cast into the sea far below any fish caught would be dried out before getting to the top !!, some climb down to lower levels to fish made me feel dizzy looking over they seem to mix a sort of chum before setting out ,some very nice flowers here also, a very wild spot the furthest west you can go in mainland europe !!!!
We stopped to look at a group of corvids hoping for Choughs but we got Jackdaws instead the only ones I saw, at a sort of ruined castle as you went through an arch and out of the wind it was a perfect sun trap hoping for some Butterflies but no, broken car window glass here so I did not want to go far numerous Black Redstarts.
The drive back was much easier than going only taking the wrong turn at one roundabout.
To sum up I enjoyed my first visit to Portugal can't argue at the price , but would I go back at the time I said no, and still not bothered if I do or not but if I get reading of tales from the cape of raptors or good seawatching who knows ........I did see a deal at the local travel agents for January 28DAYS IN THE ALGARVE B&B FOR £360 besides Iv'e bought a map now could'nt waste 7 euros now could I.
The area is well documented ,but feel free to contact me if you wish any information.
Link to pam-m's report on their trip to the Algarve , they visited several times so will know the area far better than I ... http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=158624
I cant seem to get the link to show,cut and paste.