Great Bustard is one of Portugal’s special birds Photo: Pedro Marques
Portugal possesses a fine diversity of habitats and birds in a relatively small area. Within 30 minutes drive from Lisbon city center and its International Airport we find the Tagus Estuary and the Sado Estuary Nature Reserves, two protected wetland areas with extensive bird lists including Greater Flamingo, Glossy Ibis, Squacco and Purple Herons, Black-shouldered Kite, Little Bustard, Iberian Grey Shrike and Spotless Starling, and an excellent selection of ducks, waders, gulls and terns.
A further one hour’s drive takes us to the Alentejo with the rolling plains of Castro Verde, home to the magnificent Great Bustard, and the bluffs and hills of the Guadiana Valley Nature Park, noted for its raptors. A bit further on we come to the Algarve, a region rich in protected wetland areas situated on a major fly-way for migrants from Africa and notable in particular for waders and passerines.
Please note this year’s tour has been lengthened by a day.
Days 1-2: The tour begins on Day 1 at 1:00 pm at Lisbon airport.
We’ll begin by checking the nearby Tagus estuary with flocks of Greater Flamingos, huge numbers of nesting White Storks and lots of herons hopefully including Great Egret and Purple and the shy Squacco Herons. The time spent at the saltpans should produce Collared Pratincole, Black-winged Stilt, Ruff, Little Stint, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Green, Wood, Common and Curlew Sandpipers, Black-tailed Godwit, Avocet, Kentish, Little Ringed Plovers, Gull-billed and Little Terns, as well as the chance of a rarity or two. Black-shouldered Kite is a speciality of the area and Booted Eagle, Black Kite and Marsh Harrier are numerous. We’ll visit a heronry in the river Tagus by boat, where Cattle, Little, Grey, Black-crowned Night and Squacco Herons breed, as well as Eurasian Spoonbill and Glossy Ibis. The wet fields are good for Yellow Wagtails (of the Iberian race) but also for populations of three introduced species, namely Common Waxbill, Yellow-crowned Bishop and Black-headed Weaver, adding a slightly surreal touch to some wonderful Mediterranean birding. Other interesting passerines of the region, especially in the cork oak woods habitat, include European Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Woodchat Shrike, Short-toed Treecreeper, Sardinian Warbler, Pallid Swift and European Serin. Nights in Alcochete.
Day 3: After breakfast we’ll drive into the heart of the Alentejo region. Once we leave the coast we’ll be in bustard country and it is possible we may see our first Great Bustards before reaching our hotel. The rolling hills can hold good numbers of this species, which can often be easy to spot on the distant plains. Other birds we should find in this habitat include Little Bustard, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Griffon and Black Vultures, Short-toed Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Montagu’s Harrier, Stone Curlew, Roller, Calandra and Greater Short-toed Larks, Tawny Pipit, and Black-eared Wheatear. Spotless Starling and Spanish Sparrow nest on the many White Stork nests that line the roadside. Night in Mertola.
Days 4-5: Before breakfast we’ll scan the river Guadiana, just a few steps from our hotel. Kingfishers fly back and forth and we should hear and see Golden Oriole, Rock Bunting and Blue Rock Thrush. We’ll visit some spectacular river gorges to look for Spanish Imperial, Golden and Bonelli’s Eagles, Black Stork, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, and Red-rumped Swallow,, while busy groups of Azure-winged Magpies seems to be everywhere. During these two days we’ll hve the opportunity to visit again the great Castro Verde rolling plains, looking for any possible missing species. We’ll return to our hotel in time for dinner, maybe stopping along the way for Southern Grey Shrike, Green Woodpecker, Little Owl, or even an early Red-necked Nightjar. Night in Mertola.
Days 6-7: We’ll travel to the Algarve region where we’ll look at the complex of canals, salt flats and salt pans of the Castro Marim Nature Reserve and visit the reed beds, lagoons and pine woods of the Ria Formosa Nature Park and the Salgados lagoon. We’ll be looking for rare and highly localized species such as Audouin’s and Slender-billed Gulls and Lesser Short-toed Lark. However this region is rich in birds and we’ll encounter many other species such as Purple Swamphen, Little Bittern, Azure-winged Magpie, Eurasian Hoopoe, and European Bee-eater. Spectacled Warbler is particularly abundant here. Nights in Tavira.
Day 8: After breakfast we begin our journey back towards Lisbon, visiting on the way the inter-tidal, salt marshes, salt pans and rice fields at Comporta and Carrasqueira (Sado estuary). We’ll cross the river Sado by ferry, where we’ll have a good chance of seeing small pods of Bottle-nosed Dolphins. Just before arriving to Lisbon, we’ll visit the Pancas woods, in the Tagus estuary, a great place for passerines and raptors. In the afternoon we’ll continue to Lisbon airport where the tour ends at around 6:00 pm.
Updated: 21 October 2016
- 2018 Tour Price Not Yet Available
- (2017 Tour Price $2,750)
This tour is organized by our British company, Sunbird. Information on Sunbird and an explanation of Sunbird tour pricing can be found here.
* Tour invoices paid by check carry a 4% discount. Details here.
Maximum group size seven with one leader.