The Algarve - easy birding in southern Portugal
A week of easy birding in beautiful southern Portugal, staying in four star accommodation.
21 – 28 September 2022
Single Room Supplement – £450
Return flight London Gatwick to Faro. Local transport as specified in itinerary. Seven nights accommodation, full board.
Refreshments. Gratuities. Travel insurance. Covid tests and associated costs.
Minimum 5, maximum 11.
Our holiday will explore the varied bird-rich habitats of the Algarve, from the coastal wetlands and salt pans to the heaths and cliffs of the rugged Atlantic coast. Relatively undeveloped compared to other parts of the Mediterranean, the area is home to exciting birds such as Purple Swamp-hen, Greater Flamingo, Azure-winged Magpie and the introduced Common Waxbill, along with a wide variety of waders, terns, herons and wildfowl. The week will give us a good introduction to observing and identifying many of the larger groups of European birds: sea birds, waders and waterfowl, raptors and a good variety of migrating warblers and other passerines.
Near the dramatic Cabo Sao Vicente, the southwesternmost point of mainland Europe, we will visit a migration watchpoint where we will hopefully enjoy one of the great spectacles of the birding world as migrating storks, eagles, kites and other birds of prey head south.
Another highlight of the trip will be our excursion into the rolling steppe and cork oak forests of Alentejo. Here we learn about the conservation work going on to protect Europe’s heaviest flying bird, the Great Bustard. Other bird highlights should include Little Bustard, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Spanish Imperial Eagle and Black Vulture.
We spend the first half of our holiday based in the historic Hotel Vila Gale Albacora set in the heart of the Rio Formosa national park near Faro, followed by the contrastingly modern surroundings of Hotel Memmo Baleeira in Sagres, both with four star accommodation.
Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.
Day 1 After arriving at Faro, we transfer to the Hotel Vila Gale Albacora, on the edge of the Ria Formosa natural park.
Day 2 Today we head eastwards along the coast towards the Spanish border and the salt pans and saltmarsh of Castro Marim. This is an internationally important site for water birds over winter and during migration, and we hope to encounter many species such as Greater Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Osprey, Spoonbill and many varieties of waders. We should also keep a look out for some late-summer butterflies, perhaps including the Long-tailed Blue.
Day 3 Time to head north into the rolling steppes of the Alentejo, where we will look for the steppe specialities, such as Great Bustard and Little Bustard (both of which will be gathering into large flocks), Black-bellied Sandgrouse and Black-winged Kite. During the day we hope for Spanish Imperial Eagle and Black Vulture to pass overhead.
Day 4 This morning we will head to nearby Faro, from where we will swap the roads for the water and take a boat trip to explore some of the outer parts of the reserve not accessible on foot. Afterwards there will be some time to explore the walled old town of Faro before we continue our explorations of the Ria Formosa Natural Park around the hotel where we will try and seek out Audouin’s and Slender-billed Gulls, and the introduced Common Waxbill.
Day 5 We head along the coast a little way to Quinta do Lago to spend the morning exploring the salt pans and wetlands, looking for Purple Swamp-hen, Little Bittern and Red-crested Pochard, while the Azure-winged Magpies will make their presence known! After lunch we head further west and will visit Lagado de Selgado, an important spot for migrant waders and wildfowl before heading onto Sagres, home for the next three nights.
Day 6 We start our day with a pelagic boat trip (duration c. 2½ hours) to look for seabirds and cetaceans. We should see Cory’s Shearwater aplenty, and there is a good chance of Sooty and Great Shearwaters as well, along with European and Wilson’s Storm Petrels. With luck we may also come across Common or Bottle-nosed Dolphins that are frequently recorded on these trips. In the afternoon, we will spend some time birding around the farmland behind Sagres where we will be looking for migrants stopping off on the most south-westerly point of Europe before crossing to Africa. Here, there is the possibility of finding Stone Curlew, Dotterel and a variety of warblers.
Day 7 We spend today on and around the most south-westerly point in mainland Europe, the dramatic Cabo Sao Vicente. The cliffs of the Atlantic coastline are bizarrely topped by sand dunes and outcrops of bare limestone. We spend some time looking for seabirds close in land while Peregrines patrol the cliffs and Eleonora’s Falcon are occasionally recorded about this time. We then head inland a little way to a raptor migration watchpoint where, given the right conditions, an array of raptors such as Short-toed and Booted Eagles, Egyptian Vultures and possibly both Black and White Storks will pass at various heights over our head.
Day 8 After breakfast, we head back towards Faro, enjoying more birding on the way (time permitting), before we must go back to the airport and our flights home.
Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.
On the Algarve we will stay in the historical, 4 star Hotel Vila Gale Albacora, set in the middle of the Ria Formosa natural park near Tavira. The hotel was originally a settlement for tuna fishermen and the renovation has retained many of the original features. Further west, we stay at the 4 star Hotel Memmo Baleeira in Sagres, a contemporary hotel situated in the Costa Vicentina Natural Park, with views out over Baleeira harbour.
The holiday is full board. We will have a mixture of picnic lunches and meals in hotels or local tavernas. Requests for special diets can be accommodated.
Our travel in the Algarve will be by small coach or minibus.
Group flights are with Easyjet from London Gatwick to Faro.
21 September depart London Gatwick 11.50, arrive Faro 14.55
28 September depart Faro 18.35, arrive London Gatwick 21.30
You can reach Faro by train from London, with overnight stays in Paris and Madrid, or San Sebastian and Vigo. Contact us to find out more, and to make your holiday flight-free.
Portugal is in the same time zone as the UK.
If you hold a British passport you can travel to countries in the Schengen area (including Portugal) for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. You must have at least six months left on your passport to travel to most countries in Europe.
At this time of year the weather is usually sunny but not too hot. There may be some cooler weather and rain. We will adapt the itinerary to the local conditions.
On most days, we are walking for much of the day, albeit at a slow pace. It is necessary to walk on rougher ground and up some slopes, although none of the walking is strenuous.