The Algarve Nature Reserves

With its great diversity of habitat providing first landfall for thousands of migrants and a fine range of resident birds on the coast and inland, the Algarve has some of Europe's finest bird watching, and an outstanding flora.

Add to this a range of varied and beautiful landscapes, a rich history, friendly people and some fine food and wine, and you have the makings of a great week!

Walk and explore the Algarve. This tour has been specifically chosen to give you the chance of enjoying the very best of Algarve’s bird life.

Includes visits to Ria Formosa Natural Park, to the Castro Verde Special Protection Area , in Alentejo, to the Salt Marsh Nature Reserve of Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo António and a boat trip in the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve.

Birding locations include a variety of different habitats and dependent on season and tides we will visit Salinas (saltpans), lakes, salt marshes, hills, steppe grasslands and woodlands.

In spite of tourist development in some central coastal regions, there are still footpaths along wild, unspoilt stretches of coastline to explore for flowers and birds. Inland, the rolling hills of the limestone barrocal, hiding pretty villages, extensive fruit growing areas and an abundance of flowers, invite detailed exploration.

Check the Highlights section for more details about the nature reserves we’re going to visit.

The picturesque town of Tavira makes an ideal base, whatever the time of year, for a wonderful walking and bird watching tour in the Algarve.

Ria Formosa Natural Park

The Ria Formosa Natural Park on the southern coast of Portugal is made up of 18,000 hectares of tidal marshes protected by a spectacular 60 km long system of sand-dune islands separating the land from the continuous advance of the ocean. Due to its geographical location, natural richness & high biodiversity the area is vital for wildlife, especially for water birds. Reflecting its international significance, Ria Formosa is included in the prestigious Ramsar Convention, a status given only to the most important wetlands around the world. Furthermore, within Europe, the Ria Formosa has been declared an IBA (Important Bird Area) and is included in the Natura 2000 network of specially protected sites.

In spring/summer, local breeding species include European Bee-eaters, Red-necked Nightjars, Little Terns, Avocets and Kentish Plovers. Booted Eagles, Short-toed Eagles and Honey-buzzards; Griffon Vultures, Blue Rock Thrushes and Black Redstarts are commonly seen and we would expect to see Thekla Larks.

Other species that can be found include (according to season) Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Calandra Lark, Lesser Kestrel, European Roller, Griffon Vulture, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Red Kite, Black Kite, Montagu's Harrier, Common Crane and Little Bustard.

Salt Marsh Nature Reserve of Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo António

The Salt Marsh Nature Reserve of Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo António has 2312 hectares, and is a highly protected nature reserve flanked by the Rio Guadiana bordering Spain in the extreme southeast of the Algarve. Its birdlife makes this site quite unique in the context of Portugal. This extremely valuable area consists mainly of pristine, unaltered salt marshes and transformed marshes, which, in the main, are saltpans, many of them still active and producing high quality sea salt. Breeding birds are well represented and include important populations of Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Kentish Plovers and Little Terns around the wetter parts.

Castro Verde Special Protection Area

The Castro Verde Special Protection Area (SPA) is the most representative steppe area in Portugal, with a total area of 85.345 hectares.

In this SPA the extensive farming practices are predominant. The fallow lands are generally used as pasture for sheep and cattle, and there are also holm oak groves, scrub forests and small olive plantations. The diversity and abundance of steppe birds is the responsible for the protection status of this SPA, in particular of the Great Bustard (Otis tarda) and of the Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni).

This SPA also holds important populations of Black-bellied sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis), Calandra Lark (Melanocorypha calandra), Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus) and Montagu’s harrier (Circus pygargus) and, furthermore, it is a breeding area for the Bonelli’s eagle (Aquila fasciata) as well as the main breeding area of the European Roller (Coracias garrulus) in Portugal.

During the winter we can find important densities of Cranes (Grus grus), Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus), Golden plovers (Pluvialis apricaria) and Skylarks (Alauda arvensis). There is a regular presence of winter birds of prey such as the Red Kite (Milvus milvus) and the Hen harrier (Circus cyaneus). The fallow lands and pastures are important feed zones for the Black Vulture (Aegypius monachus), the Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus), the Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aquila adalberti) and the Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetus) (ICNB 2006).

Comfortable 4-star accommodation.
Sociable evenings spent in local restaurants.
A fantastic itinerary of walks and birding expeditions, developed and perfected by local resident Portuguese tour leaders, very knowledgeable of the region, and experienced bird tour leaders.
The hospitality and warmth from the local poulation, whilst enjoying dining out at local restaurants every evening.

The tour includes

Airport transfers.

En-suite accommodation in comfortable four-star hotels, beautifully located.

Breakfasts taken at the hotel and dinners in local restaurants.

All transport costs in conjunction with the programme.

Services of a dedicated leader.

Please note:

The walking and sightseeing programs are integral with each other. However because we have dedicated transport with the group there will be considerable flexibility within the program for individual clients.

A wait at Faro Airport may be necessary to enable all passengers to travel together to and from the hotel.

Photo Gallery

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A wonderful serenity has taken possession of my entire soul, like these sweet mornings of spring which I enjoy with my whole heart. I am alone, and feel the charm of existence in this spot, which was created for the bliss of souls like mine.

I am so happy, my dear friend, so absorbed in the exquisite sense of mere tranquil existence, that I neglect my talents. I should be incapable of drawing a single stroke at the present moment; and yet I feel that I never was a greater artist than now.

When, while the lovely valley teems with vapour around me, and the meridian sun strikes the upper surface of the impenetrable foliage of my trees, and but a few stray gleams steal into the inner sanctuary, I throw myself down among the tall grass by the trickling stream; and, as I lie close to the earth, a thousand unknown plants are noticed by me: when I hear the buzz of the little world among the stalks, and grow familiar with the countless indescribable forms of the insects and flies, then I feel the presence of the Almighty, who formed us in his own image.

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