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WINGS Birding Tours – Narrative

Portugal in Spring

2015 Narrative

Great diversity and a fantastic selection of species were squeezed into our few short days as Southern Portugal is a great birdwatching destination. All this, with no need of lengthy travel. In fact, it was possible to travel from a Greater Flamingo habitat to a Great Bustard locale in just one hour driving, which reflects the concentration of habitats in a relatively small territory.

Twenty minutes after leaving Lisbon’s airport we saw charismatic species like Greater Flamingo, Purple Heron, White Stork, Glossy Ibis, Black-winged Kite, Hoopoe, European Bee-eater and a great range of waders, wildfowl, gulls and terns. After exploring the Lisbon estuaries for two days, we drove for about 60 minutes to start to record stunning birds such as Great and Little Bustards, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Spanish Imperial and Bonelli’s Eagles, Montagu’s Harrier, Lesser Kestrel, Collared Pratincole, Roller, Calandra Lark, and everywhere, absolutely everywhere, Azure-winged (Iberian) Magpies. After two days exploring the very special Alentejo region, we drove around another 60 minutes in order to visit beautiful spots in the Algarve, where we had great views of species like Squacco Heron, Purple Swamphen, Stone Curlew, Golden Oriole, Lesser Short-toed Lark and again, many other shorebirds.

I believe none of us will forget those views of the first European Bee-eaters of the tour, the immature Spanish Imperial Eagle hunting at the end of the day, the fantastic views of both Great and Little Bustards displaying, the breathtaking sight of the three male Golden Orioles calling in the same tree, the numerous noisy Great Spotted Cuckoos being harassed by other birds, the hundreds of White Storks nesting on the road poles, or the hundreds of Greater Flamingos in the salt pans at sunset!

Other interesting species we saw included hundreds of Curlew Sandpipers, Avocets, Ruffs, Little Stints, a colony of Collared Pratincoles, Audouin’s, and Slender-billed and Mediterranean Gulls. Add flocks of Eurasian Spoonbills and Cattle Egrets, a shy Black Stork, a few pairs of Red-crested Pochards, a spectacular flock of about 40 Black-bellied Sandgrouse, and flocks of Griffon Vultures with a few Eurasian Black Vultures among. Further, several Golden, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, Black-winged, Red and Black Kites and more than a dozen Little Owls.

There were plenty of passerines, including Iberian Grey and Woodchat Shrikes, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting, Sardinian Warbler, 6 species of lark, Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, European Serin, Iberian Green Woodpecker, and the list goes on.

It really was a bird-filled few days, supported by some lovely wild scenery, full of open spaces, empty roads and delicious food. We sampled fresh local seafood, delicious Iberian black pork and several conventional desserts, all washed down with great wine. All in all a great trip, the perfect compliment to those who want to spent some time viewing the sites of Lisbon after the tour finish.

Created: 01 May 2015