Birdwatching in the Algarve – Part 2

Greater flamingos at the Marismas del Odiel, SpainFollowing on from my previous post about my birdwatching trip to the Algarve, Portugal, here’s a summary of some of the other places Ed and I visited and a few of the species you might be able to encounter there. For a full list of the wildlife we saw, see the Casa Rosa birdwatching website.

Doñana National Park

Ok, this impressive national park is actually in Spain, not Portugal, but it’s worth a mention as it is within easy reach of the Algarve (about a 90-minute drive from Casa Rosa) and I’d definitely recommend a visit. We weren’t sure quite how many birds to expect, as the wetlands dry up in the summer months and the spring and autumn migrations are not underway. However, the park still had plenty to offer, and a bit of patience at some of the hides really paid off.

We started our visit at the main visitor centre at El Acebuche. (For anyone intending to visit – you need to turn right off the A-483 south of El Rocio at about km38 – not km29, as our guide book told us!). This centre has several hides overlooking a lake, as well as a cafe, shop, visitor centre and picnic area.

White stork, El Acebuche, Doñana National Park Common kingfisher, El Acebuche, Doñana National Park

From the hides, we spotted white storks, spoonbills, black-winged stilts, little egrets, golden orioles, common waxbills, a kingfisher, and black kites, as well as dozens of hirundines. A highlight was a young wild boar casually strolling in front of the hide!

The boardwalks between the hides also revealed several lizards and butterflies, while the car park was full of hungry azure-winged magpies!

Wild boar, El Acebuche, Doñana National ParkCarbonell's wall lizard (Podarcis carbonelli), Doñana National Park Large psammodromus (Psammodromus algirus), Doñana National Park

Flowers at Doñana National Park Butterfly at Doñana National Park

Azure-winged magpie, Doñana National Park Azure-winged magpie, Doñana National Park

On the return journey from El Acebuche, we stopped off briefly at the town of El Rocio, where from the town itself we had good views of several hundred flamingos as well as dozens of spoonbills, black-winged stilts, herons and a glossy ibis.

Near the border with Portugal, we also stopped off at Las Marismas del Odiel, just to the west of Huelva – although the visitor centre was shut, we were still able to park just off the road and watch black-tailed godwits, flamingos, gulls and various wading birds in nearby pools.

Lagos boat trips

For anyone looking for a dolphin-watching trip in the Algarve, there are plenty of tour operators to choose from. We decided to take a trip with Sealife in Lagos, which is booked through Bom Dia Boat Trips. A 90-minute trip out on a RIB gave us great views of the coastline on an incredibly flat sea, and after a bit of waiting we finally found a pod of female common dolphins and their calves, which were only a few days old and still a bit uncoordinated! We also had close views of flying fish, which really do look like they’re flying over the water.

Common dolphins with calf Common dolphins, Algarve

Common dolphin surfacing, AlgarveLater in the day, we took another trip with Bom Dia, this time a 4.5-hour cruise along the coast. With blazing sunshine, superb food, a trip into some caves and grottos and a cooling dip in the sea, it was the perfect way to spend a relaxing afternoon, and highly recommended.

Bom Dia's sailing boatCoastline near Ponte da Piedade Inside a grotto at Ponte da PiedadeFonte de Benemola

Fancying a trip up into the mountains, we spent our second-to-last day visiting a lovely site to the north of Loulé, named Fonte de Benemola. The map below shows the location of the car park, from which there is a circular walk that takes you up to a natural spring:

Although the area was lush compared to the lowlands, the first part of the walk was fairly quiet in terms of wildlife. However, the spring itself was a veritable oasis, full of dragonflies, frogs, fish, butterflies and huge pond skaters.

Fish at Fonte de Benemola Pond skater, Fonte de Benemola

Dragonfly, Fonte de Benemola White featherleg damselfly, Fonte de Benemola

Dragonfly, Fonte de Benemola White featherleg damselfly, Fonte de Benemola Oleander, Fonte de Benemola

We didn’t spot many birds, but there was a golden oriole singing somewhere in the valley, as well as crag martins flying overhead and a possible wryneck calling – some more species for our list! It was great to enjoy all the insect life around the crystal-clear pools, including various butterflies and huge carpenter bees. There were also turtles basking along the banks, and we found the remains of some turtle eggs.

Clouded yellow butterfly, Fonte de Benemola Carpenter bee, Fonte de Benemola

Turtles at Fonte de Benemola Turtle egg, Fonte de Benemola

All in all, we had a fantastic, wildlife-packed week in the Algarve. There were still many places we would like to have visited if we had had more time, but that gives us a good reason to go back one day! I thoroughly recommend the places we visited for anyone who’s after some wildlife-watching in the Mediterranean.

Damselfly at Fonte de Benemola

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