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Algarve November 2014. (1 Viewer)

john-henry

Well-known member
Algarve Trip 6th-21st Nov. 2014 - J. H. Johns.

November's here again, time for another trip to the Algarve for some decent birding. I wasn't going to bother with a report but a couple of people have asked me to so here it is. A bit long-winded as usual but I like to include most of the birds seen in each area to give a fuller picture for those that haven't been to the Algarve and enjoyed the excellent birding during the winter months.
I ended up with 113 species without trying to rattle up a large list, concentrating more on photography, I managed a few half decent photos although the light was pretty poor on several days 1/400th f8 iso800 with a 300mm f2.8+2xTC and hadn't brought a tripod with me (wouldn't need one usually, the light is so good).

Thurs. 6th Nov.
Flew out to Faro after a long 5½ hour overnight coach trip to Bristol Airport and another 5½ hour wait until my flight took off at 08.00 so time to have a snooze on the plane before landing at Faro Airport at 10.20 hours in glorious sunshine.
Quickly through the airport formalities and collecting a pre-booked Renault Clio from Travelrent Car hire I set off for Tavira on the N-125 happy to be back in Portugal again.
The idea was to spend the afternoon at Santa Luzia and Tavira saltpans, one of the top sites along the Algarve in my opinion, before heading to my accommodation at Cabanas.
Although the Santa Luzia pans were not at their best due to very low water levels they still produced a good variety of birds:-
Flamingo, Spoonbill, White Stork, Little Egret, Black-winged Stilt, Redshank, Greenshank, Dunlin, Sanderling, Ringed, Kentish and Grey Plovers, Black-headed, Mediterranean, Slender-billed, Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls, House and Spanish Sparrow, Stonechat, Crested Lark, Greenfinch, Linnet, Sardinian and Fan-tailed Warblers. Chiffchaff, Kingfisher and Common Magpie.
Moving on to the Tavira pans along the 4 aguas road gave my first 2 male Bluethroats of the trip, Sardinian Warbler, Audouin's, Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls and good numbers of Mediterranean Gulls, several Sandwich Terns and a Caspian Tern, c.50 Spoonbills and a White Stork.

A trip to Lidl's supermarket to stock up with food and drink then it was time to book into my accommodation for the first six nights at the Cabanas Park Hotel, just 3 km east of Tavira and very convenient for sites east of Faro to the Spanish border.
I was quite impressed with the hotel and it's excellent location for birding, with saltmarsh, saltpans and the Ria Formosa estuary all quite visible from the balcony of the one bedroom self catering apartment I had, very clean and tidy and kept so by the staff daily during my stay, also, more importantly, there was a good selection of birds to be seen, just sitting on the balcony with a cuppa produced Bluethroat, Sardinian Warbler, Kingfisher, Whimbrel, Curlew, Redshank, Greenshank , Grey Plover, a flock of Flamingos, 15 Spoonbills, Little Egrets, and a few gulls, a good start to a leisurely holiday.
In the apartment next to me were a lovely couple, Alison and Ulrich from Bury St. Edmonds, also here for some birding, so it was great to have their company for a few days.

Frid. 7th Nov.
A beautiful, sunny and warm start to the day and a walk alongside the saltmarsh gave 3 Bluethroats, Sardinian Warblers, Waxbills, Stonechat, Serin, Greenfinch, Blackbird, Robin, White Wagtail, Hoopoe, Common Magpies, House Sparrows, Common Sandpiper, Swallow, Crag Martin, Kestrel, Cormorants, Mediterranean, Black-headed, Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, good numbers of Spoonbills, Flamingos (these came in to roost every night, up to 50 in total), Little Egrets, 3 Little Grebes, Redshank, Greenshank, Grey Plover, Curlew, Whimbrel and a Little Owl calling.
Just up the road from the hotel several Cattle Egrets were feeding in a field, too good an opportunity to miss for a few photos so I spent some time here before moving on to Forte do Rato across the river. Only Water Pipit, a few waders and Spoonbills to be seen so headed for the 4 aguas saltpans in Tavira. Several Bluethroats, (one male in particular being very showy and didn't seem concerned about me sitting in the car with the camera lens sticking out the window was a bonus), Sardinian and Fan-tailed Warblers, Stonechat, Crested Larks, Kingfisher, Linnet, Common Sandpiper and a variety of other waders etc. but not so much on view as yesterday, obviously due to the Osprey patrolling the area.
Weather - After a sunny start it turned to showers throughout the rest of the day, some quite heavy.
 

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john-henry

Well-known member
Algarve Trip 6th-21st Nov. 2014 (part 2)

Sat. 8th Nov.
After a stroll around the local saltmarsh and area I headed over to the 4 aguas again for a try at Bluethroat photos, the usual birds also seen plus Waxbills, several White Storks, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew and Whimbrel. A look around the Santa Luzia pans was basically the same as on the 6th plus Marsh Harrier and Water Rail. Carrying on through Santa Luzia to Pedras D'el Rei, I picked up an Iberian Green Woodpecker on the side of a telegraph pole and plenty of gulls along the seafront, then doubled back to the 4 aguas where I met a Portuguese birder looking intently through the numerous gulls present, which in turn led to a long discussion on gull ID etc.
Back to Cabanas where Alison and Ulrich were just returning from their day so compared sightings etc.
Weather today a mix of sun and cloud but not at all cold then heavy rain overnight.

Sun. 9th Nov.
After the local saltmarsh walk, seeing the usual species plus a Southern Grey Shrike, I set off for Castro Marim, thinking it would be quieter here, (there's usually lots of walkers and cyclists out and about on Sundays), it didn't quite work out that way though, shortly after arriving at the saltworks side 2 quad bikes and 3 off-road motorbikes came screaming along the track around the saltpans, needless to say everything went up and I left too, seeing only a flock of 60+ Flamingos, a few White Storks, plenty of Shoveler and a Kestrel.
Around at the main reserve side a Marsh Harrier gave good views, as did a Southern Grey Shrike and a group of Azure-winged Magpies, with Corn Buntings, Stonechat, Crested Larks, a large flock of Starlings, Cattle Egret and a Caspian Tern also seen, it was blowing a gale here so the smaller birds were staying in cover.
A quick stop at the smaller reserve area closer to Castro Marim turned up the usual Stone Curlews in "their" field then it was back to Tavira and the Santa Luzia saltpans, still low numbers of waders but Lapwing was new and more White Storks. Next I tried the pans set back from the track to Tavira, good numbers of waders here including Black-tailed Godwits and a Spotted Redshank, a Peregrine flew over and Mediterranean Gulls were coming and going to bathe and preen all the time.
A quick look at the pans nearer to Tavira turned up 3 Black Redstarts, including a brilliant male, Grey Herons, Cormorants and a Caspian Tern all fishing in their own ways in a saltpan and a few White Storks. Last stop of the day was the 4 aguas road again where 150-200 Mediterranean Gulls sat on the river and 5 Avocets had joined the waders etc. in the pans.
Weather - Sunny, warm with cloudy periods but dry, light winds at Tavira but very windy at Castro Marim.

Mon. 10th Nov.
A sunny start to the day so a photo spell at Cabanas for Bluethroat, S.G.Shrike, Waxbills, Grey Plover, Flamingos, Spoonbills and Little Egret in flight. Also 2 Swallows and quite a few Med Gulls overhead.
On to Santa Luzia harbour for some yellow-legged gull photos then Santa Luzia pans for Slender-billed gulls. Three Black-necked Grebes plus Curlew Sandpipers, were new in.
Finished up at Tavira Market pans again, for a few photos of Grey Heron, Sandwich and Caspian Tern then
it started to rain at 15.30 so headed back to Cabanas. From the balcony 4 Corn Buntings and 20 or so Med Gulls flew over heading inland (seems they fly over the hotel to go to roost in the evening and come back over again in the mornings), c.200 Cormorants flying by in several groups and 2 Hoopoes.
Weather - Heavy rain and winds during the night.
 

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john-henry

Well-known member
Algarve Trip 6th-21st Nov. 2014 (part 3)

Tues. 11th Nov.
Last full day at Cabanas today. 2 Iberian Hares seen in the saltpans across the river.
Tavira again for Bluethroats, 200 Med Gulls and 40+ Audouin's in pans. S. Luzia still low on waders.
Tried the track at Salinas village that takes you down to the saltpans opposite Cabanas Park but it was in poor condition so came back to Forte do Rato, which was pretty much dead for birds, then came back along the road and took the track that passes the greenhouses/tunnels which ended up at the small bridge over the river that leads up to the waterworks, you can park here and cover the saltpans on the Tavira side of the river.
Back at Cabanas Park a Stone Curlew was calling from the other side of the river in the evening and 3 Night Herons flew down river as it got dark.
Weather a mix of sun, showers and cloudy periods, cooler today.

Wed. 12th Nov.
Booked out of Cabanas and after a few more photos of the local Cattle Egrets headed for Quinta do Lago. After being detoured around the back streets of Almancil I finally picked up a turning for Quarteria and taking this arrived at Quinta about 10.30.
I suppose it's all down to costs but some maintenance is certainly needed on the reeds again, you can hardly see over them from the path and the islands barely have room for the birds to sit on. No great numbers of waterfowl, mainly Shoveler and Gadwall with a few Tufted Duck, Pochard, Teal and Wigeon, Little Grebe, Coot, Moorhen, 8 Purple Gallinules and a Snipe. A glimpse of a crake seen briefly in flight, small, greyish black upperparts and wings with no visible markings was one that unfortunately got away so I settled down in the hide for an hour or two but it didn't show again. However as usual there was still plenty to see, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Black-headed Weaver, Serin, Goldfinch, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Sardinian, Fan-tailed and Cetti's Warblers, Robin, Blackbird, Hoopoe, Az-winged Magpie, Waxbill, Great Tit, Crested Lark, Little and Cattle Egrets and Cormorant, with the stars of the day being 3 Little Bitterns giving great views. Not many birds on the Roman ruins lake this year, only 6 Storks, a few waders, duck and Great-Crested Grebes but several 100 Black-Tailed Godwits in Ludo saltpans along with Black-winged Stilts, Redshank etc.
I stayed until about 16.00 here then headed for the Oasis Village, Vilamoura for my next 9 nights accommodation. I had booked a superior studio online but was kindly offered a luxury 1 bed apartment on arrival in the Parque Mourabel but, much to the annoyance of the receptionist, turned it down to stay in the Oasis simply because it's good for birds there, he looked at me as if I was nuts and was probably right!!
Weather - a beautiful, sunny day with light winds.
 

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john-henry

Well-known member
Algarve Trip 6th-21st Nov. 2014 (part 4)

Thurs. 13th Nov.
This is what makes the Oasis so good, sitting on the balcony having breakfast and watching Azure-winged Magpies, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Black Redstart, Chiffchaffs, Robin and a couple of Crag Martins, beats a luxury room anytime.
Off to a good start I headed for the nearby Ambiente Reserve 5 minutes drive away. A Squacco Heron, Little Bittern and Kingfisher were at the concrete tank as in previous years. 3 Booted Eagles (2dk, 1 pale phase) and a Marsh Harrier before I reached the first hide was even better. I couldn't see a thing out of the first hide due to the reeds having grown so high. but the second hide was much better, 3 Purple Gallinules, a few Coot and Moorhen, 2 Mallard, Wigeon, 2 Teal, Tufted Duck, Kingfisher, Penduline Tit, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Grey Wagtail and a Little Bittern calling. Other birds seen between the two hides include Stonechat, Corn Bunting, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Serin, Skylark, Crested Lark, Robin, Waxbills, Sardinian, Fan-tailed and Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Grey Heron.
Coming back to the bridge over the river near the main road 2 Black-headed Weavers, Waxbills and Azure-winged Magpies were on the golf course there. Then carrying along the main road and taking the turn for Falesia Beach I found several Azure-winged Magpies feeding on the grass verges so stopped for a few photos, 3 Hoopoes were also feeding nearby and 2 Little Owls calling to each other.
Falesia Lagoon next, but apart from very vocal Cetti's Warblers and Waxbills not much was seen.
As I drove into Vilamoura to pick up some groceries it started to rain and by the time I got back to the Oasis it was pouring down, but it had been a great day for birding.
Weather sunny with cloud in am, cloudy and dull in afternoon then rain.

Frid. 14th Nov.
2 Iberian Green Woodpeckers on the same tree at Oasis, a Mistle Thrush singing, Hoopoe and 4 Crag Martins over at breakfast time.
Thought I'd give Pera Marsh a try today and spent most of the day there. It was so full of water there was no muddy edges for waders to feed and all I saw were Lapwings on the grassy areas, plenty of duck - Mallard, Shoveler, Gadwall, Pochard and 1 Egyptian Goose!!, only a handful of Little Grebes, no Purple Gallinules on view but were probably on the golf course, Water Rail, Coot, Moorhen, Black-headed, Mediterranean, Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 2 Caspian Terns, Cormorants, 4 White Storks, Grey Heron, Little and Cattle Egrets, Red-legged Partridge, several Bluethroats, Sardinian, Fan-tailed and Cetti's Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Corn Bunting, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Stonechat, Skylark, Crested Lark, White, Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Kestrel and a pair of Marsh Harriers.
It was good to see plenty of water here but I thought the levels were going to be controlled via a sluice valve to stop the sandbank being bulldozed, hope it doesn't go back to this happening all over again.
Back at the Oasis 20 or so Cattle Egrets were coming in to roost across the road from my apartment.
Weather - Sunny in morning then cloudy with spots of rain rest of the day and noticeably cooler.

Sat. 15th Nov.
Woodpecker and Azure-winged Magpies showing well again this morning, Mistle Thrush singing again etc. 40 Cattle Egrets flew inland from their roost.
Quinta do Lago today, starting off on the right hand track from the car park. A very vocal Short-toed Treecreeper in the first trees, 2 Bluethroats, the usual warblers, Crested Lark, and a Common Magpie were the only passerines seen, the tide was in so very few waders seen, Spoonbill and Grey Herons on the small amount of saltmarsh not covered by the tide and a Sandwich Tern fishing the lake was all I managed.
Around to Sao Lorenco lake and hide next, 2 Glossy Ibis, Little Bitterns calling and 1 male seen in flight, several Serins in the pines opposite the hide were singing their hearts out, the rest as about the same as my previous visit on the12th.
On leaving the car park a pair of Hoopoes were feeding on the grass verge giving the chance of a few photos.
Last stop of the day was Falesia Lagoon, just in time to see an Otter swimming from one side of the lagoon to the other, what a stroke of luck, my first in Portugal and something I never expected to see here.
Back at the apartment at least 2 Little Owls were calling in the distance.
Weather - Sunny warm and dry until evening then the wind got up and brought some rain with it.
 

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john-henry

Well-known member
Algarve Trip 6th-21st Nov. 2014 (part 5)

Sun. 16th Nov.
A pre-breakfast visit to Falesia Lagoon gave an Osprey fishing briefly before flying back to the coast, 2 Little Bitterns calling, Purple Gallinules, Water Rail, Black-headed Weaver, Penduline Tit, Sardinian, Fan-tailed and Cetti's Warblers, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Waxbill, Kingfisher etc. Then back to the apartment for breakfast and ended up sitting in the sun here for most of the day just relaxing.
Back to Falesia for the last hour of daylight, usually a good time for Black-shouldered Kite to hunt the area, luckily it was still here but quite distant, a Marsh Harrier quartered the reeds. Azure-winged Magpies and Corn Buntings still fly over the road to their roosts as in previous years.
Back at the Oasis a Short-toed Treecreeper was singing as it went to roost in a large tree, 130 Cattle Egrets came in to roost at dusk and after dark a Tawny Owl started calling from a tree outside the apartment.
Weather - Sunny and warm until 2pm then turning cloudy, but dry.

Mon. 17th Nov.
Green Woodpecker still showing well feeding on the lawn, 2 Siskins overhead, Black Redstart, Crag Martins and Cattle Egrets leaving their roost started the day.
Quinta do Lago again today until 13.30 seeing the by now usual Little Bittern, Black-headed Weavers etc. Grey Wagtail and Snipe plus many more waders seen today with the tide being out and 2 Spotless Starlings along the road on the way in.
On the way back I stopped off at Forte Novo, in Quarteria, where 2male and a female Red-crested Pochard were among the few duck and Little Grebes present, also seen were Hoopoe, Jay and Short-toed Treecreeper.
Back at the Oasis the egrets were coming in to roost and several small bats were coming out for the night.
Weather - Mainly overcast with some broken sun in pm, dry.

Tues. 18th Nov.
3 Song Thrushes flying out of a tree they must have roosted in at the Oasis plus the usuals.
Quinta da Rocha today. Tide was in on arrival and a stiff onshore breeze meant there would be good numbers of waders on the flashes and saltpans. Caspian and Sandwich Terns fished offshore and about 40 Cormorants sat on a sandbank.
A circular walk from the car park turned up Dunlin, Sanderling, Little Stint, Ringed, Kentish, Grey and Golden Plover, Turnstone, Redshank, Greenshank, Whimbrel, Oystercatcher, Black-winged Stilt, 26 Flamingos, 20 Spoonbills - some with coloured rings on their legs, Little and Cattle Egrets, the usual 4 species of gull, Bluethroat, Sardinian and Fan-tailed Warblers, Linnet, Serin, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Corn Bunting, Skylark, Crested Lark, Stonechat, Red-legged Partridge, Kingfisher, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, House and Spanish Sparrow, Kestrel, Little Owl, 1 dk.ph. Booted Eagle, an Osprey at the fish farm and best of all a Black-shouldered Kite near the railway crossing as I was leaving.
Back at the oasis 2 Tawny Owls were calling from different areas.
Weather - A promising start to day with sunshine but turned cloudy with showers as day went on.
 

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john-henry

Well-known member
Algarve Trip 6th-21st Nov. 2014 (part 6)

Wed. 19th Nov.
Rain overnight. Cloudy and windy most of the day with some light rain.
It looked a bit lighter to the east so set off for Tavira, mist and fog on the inland side of the A22 near Faro didn't bode well and Tavira was also overcast but not as bad as Vilamoura.
Santa Luzia saltpans held a nice surprise with a male Hen Harrier and many more waders on view than on previous visits, good numbers of Avocets and gulls especially Med Gulls and 7 Black-necked Grebes now. Heading towards Tavira along a nearby track Med gulls were coming in to a pool in a field (this was dry when I left Tavira on the 12th) to bathe so pulled in and spent some time photographing them, pity it was so dull only 1/400th f8 at iso 800! There were also 3 White Storks at the other end of the field so managed a few pics of these too. Just the other side of the road from here I could see a huge cloud of Med Gulls in the air, certainly several hundred, I assume there must be a field being ploughed or something similar. A few Skylarks and Corn Buntings were also present. Eventually got to the 4 aguas road about 3pm, there were hundreds of Med gulls here too plus loads of waders including Black-tailed Godwits, Avocets, Curlew Sandpipers, Dunlin etc.

Thurs. 20th Nov.
Rain again overnight and the day started with light rain, thunder, lightning and strong winds. Rest of the day was mainly dull.
Last full day today so decided to spend it at Quinta do Lago so left about 10.30 when the worst of the weather seemed to be over. Windy here but more duck on show than previous visits. A p.ph. Booted Eagle gave good views but most other birds stayed out of sight due to the windy conditions. A quick stop at Falesia lagoon gave 2 Marsh Harriers and a dk.ph. Booted Eagle in the distance. As it looked like another weather front coming in I headed for the Oasis getting there just before the thunder, lightning and heavy rain did.

Frid. 21st Nov.
Up at 06.30, finished packing and checked out of the Oasis by 08.00, arriving at Faro Airport 25mins. later.
Dropped off the hire car with no problems and checked in for my 11.10 flight to Bristol arriving 25 min. earlier than scheduled to a bitterly cold day. So that's it, another enjoyable Algarve holiday over, roll on the next one.
 

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dandsblair

David and Sarah
Similar experience

Algarve Trip 6th-21st Nov. 2014 (part 3)

I stayed until about 16.00 here then headed for the Oasis Village, Vilamoura for my next 9 nights accommodation. I had booked a superior studio online but was kindly offered a luxury 1 bed apartment on arrival in the Parque Mourabel but, much to the annoyance of the receptionist, turned it down to stay in the Oasis simply because it's good for birds there, he looked at me as if I was nuts and was probably right!!
Weather - a beautiful, sunny day with light winds.

Nice report and some great photos particularly like the Bluethroats.

We had a similar problem at the Sheridan resort in Palawan earlier this year. We had booked a room with good birding from the balcony, they upgraded us to a pool view suite and couldn't understand it when we insisted on our original room. Mad birdwatchers was most polite thing we were called.
 

John In Ireland

Well-known member
Ireland
John, this is a most superb detailed and well written trip report. You should either write a book or take a job with a Portugese or British travel agent. Lots of questions to ask! Well done my friend. Can't wait for your next trip.
 

jforgham

Birding for fun
Interesting report. Visited the saltpans either side of 4 aguas road on many occasions. Always a great place with the birdlife changing daily. One bird that continues to elude me wherever I travel, is bluethroat. Nice shots. Hoping to catch up with it in Poland later this year.
Cheers,
Jono
 
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