The Parque Natural da Ria Formosa was totally different from the salt mountains I mentioned in the last post. These wetlands are internationally important; consisting of costal dunes, barrier islands, peninsulas, marshes, canals, sandbanks, salt evaporation ponds, freshwater ponds, streams, woods and pine forests. What I didn’t expect was for our guide to walk us into a golf course…
Amidst golf carts, yells of “fore” in the background and golf balls whizzing overhead, 12 of us traipsed along with cameras, binoculars, telescopes, id guides and notebooks. Such an odd experience wandering around a golf course and seeing hides. Golf courses are a great habitat for wildlife, they are well managed and this was a fantastic chance to see how outdoor activities and recreation can work together with wildlife conservation. In the picture above you can see us wandering though the golf course and to the left you can see a birdwatching hide!
We saw plenty of birds. The Purple Swamphen (above), Little Bittern, Red-rumped Swallow, Wryneck, Little Tern, and Sacred Ibis were some of my favourites. But it wasn’t just birds…
This amazing Mediterranean Mantis is a fabulous creature that is a widespread species of praying mantis native to Europe… Cool huh?
Castro Verde is within the most important steppe area of Portugal, providing a habitat for a while range of different creatures. It is a designated Special Protection Area (SPA) that is included in Natura 2000, a network of protected areas in the European Union. The SPA designation was afforded due to the diversity, conservation and abundance of a number of steppe birds, as well as the abundance of plants, amphibians and mini-beasts.The cereal steppe is a strange habitat as it almost looked barren, but it provides a superb habitat for a range of birds. During the spring and summer these fields would be swathed with flowers. The Liga Para a Protecção da Natureza (LPN) looks after the area for wildlife by working with farmers in the area, creating suitable nesting locations, marking pylon wires and barbed wire fences (to stop the birds flying into them), as well as community and education work to increase awareness.
A young Spanish Imperial Eagle (above), Great Bustards, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Black and Griffin Vultures were my highlights from Castro Verde.
A night bird watch in Sagres with the Sociedade Portuguesa Para o Estudo das Aves (SPEA – Portugal’s BirdLife partner) showed us what some of the fabulous staff and volunteers do to monitor migrating birds in the area.
It was a great birdwatching outing although the owls were not playing ball. They can’t have read the itinerary!