Sunday, May 28, 2006

Algarve I

Algarve – Friday 14th April to Easter Sunday 16th April

We left cold wet England in warm sunshine and arrived in hot sunny Portugal in torrential rain. We had booked a rental car with Avis for what seemed to be a very good deal, although the excess was indeed excessive. Seemed like a good idea at the time but when they underlined the fact that we would have to pay a £1000 excess in the event of an accident, regardless of fault, it suddenly didn’t seem so good so we upgraded to a deal which cost a small fortune. At least it gave us peace of mind which was a good idea in view of the fact that most Portuguese drivers are COMPLETELY MAD!

Our first couple of nights were to be spent at Quinta Fonte do Bispo, about half an hour’s drive north-east of Faro. The accommodation was of a high standard and excellent evening meals were available. Here we were introduced to the Portuguese speciality, green wine – worth visiting Portugal just for that.

On Easter Sunday morning we headed off to São Brás de Alportel to see the Easter festival of flowers. The streets were laid out with intricate patterns of flower petals and leaves and there was a colourful and noisy procession – all very impressive.

Festival of flowers, São Brás de Alportel (Portugal), 16-Apr-06
Festival of flowers, São Brás de Alportel (Portugal), 16-Apr-06
Festival of flowers, São Brás de Alportel (Portugal), 16-Apr-06
Festival of flowers, São Brás de Alportel (Portugal), 16-Apr-06
Festival of flowers, São Brás de Alportel (Portugal), 16-Apr-06
Festival of flowers, São Brás de Alportel (Portugal), 16-Apr-06
The festival of flowers at São Brás de Alportel on Easter Sunday

Birding in the Algarve was fantastic. The following sites were visited:

Montenegro University. Woodland to the west of Montenegro where I went accidentally while trying to find Ludo Farm. Nice site with lots of birds, including my first of many Azure-winged Magpies.

Somewhere between Ludo and Quinta do Lago. Turned off too early for Quinta do Lago and ended up on a little sandy track which passed by a small lake. Excellent area, probably as good as Quinta do Lago itself, and held both the speciality birds of Quinta do Lago, Purple Gallinule and Red-crested Pochard, as well as lots of other typical Mediterranean species and the introduced Black-headed Weaver.

Quinta do Lago. Huge holiday complex but at the end there’s an estuary full of birds and a golf-course lake which held more Purple Gallinules, Red-crested Pochards and Black-headed Weavers. Also a nice male Little Bittern and much more besides. We paid 5€ to park in the main car park but if we’d turned left just before it and then right down a track we could have parked for free and had less far to walk.

Vitty, Quinta do Lago, 15-Apr-06
Vitty at Quinta do Lago

crab, Quinta do Lago (Portugal), 15-Apr-06
There were hundreds of these crabs on the beach at Quinta do Lago

Purple Gallinule, Quinta do Lago (Portugal), 15-Apr-06
Purple Gallinule at Quinta do Lago - a southern Iberian speciality

ETAR Waterworks, Montenegro. Apparently a good site sometimes, but nothing remarkable when I went.

Hills north of Santa Catarina da Fonte do Bispo. Just north of where we were staying we found completely different habitat from the previous sites and a very different selection of birds. These included Short-toed Eagle, Thekla Lark and Rock Bunting. Excellent area for birding.

Woodchat Shrike, N of Bispo (Portugal), 15-Apr-06
Woodchat Shrike, just north of where we were staying - a common Mediterranean species

Click here for the next leg of the holiday - the Lisbon area, or if you want to jump straight to the full details and photos of the birds seen, click here.