Saturday, December 05, 2009

Parque Ambiental de Vilamoura

This giant reed-bed with pools and watercourses fed by the adjacent ETAR (sewage treatment works) is one of the Algarve's best-kept secrets. It is near the horrible marina town of Vilamora and next to the even more horrible golf complexes and I still managed to get lost trying to find the entrance, such is the rate at which new blocks of apartments are being built and new roads and roundabouts installed between my visits. There used to be a visitor centre at the northern end but that is now closed, but there are currently two bird-watching hides and a third elevated hide overlooking the sewage works (a magnet for gull, terns and ducks) is planned.

On 30th November I decided to have a bash at photographing the Penduline Tits which over-winter in quite large numbers (I have seen flocks of a dozen birds or more). I entered on the east side by the ETAR and immediately flushed an adult male Little Bittern and adult Squacco Heron from the old circular tank to the right of the track. A little further along this track and a juvenile Purple Heron flew out of the ditch which seperates the track from the ETAR (very late in the year for this species to be around).

Suddenly every gull and duck roosting on the treatment pools took flight, the result of a low-flying pale-phase Booted Eagle

What happened next was one of the most amazing birding sights I have witnessed: as the eagle skimmed over the top of a row of rather ugly, dense conifers which line the edge of the ETAR a flock of Black-crowned Night Herons erupted from the trees and circled above my head. I counted eleven birds, all apparently adults, and managed to get a few usable shots despite the low, bright sunlight making things rather difficult.

I did not find the Penduline Tits, and the weather rapidly deteriorated from bright, hot sunshine to grey cloud, a strong icy wind and a brief hailstorm so I departed, again pondering on just how long this wild, beautiful place can exist before it becomes engulfed by the shit which surrounds it.


Chris Tynan said...

Hi Colin,
I have birded around the Algarve a number of times on family holidays and only once managed to find this site when leaving. Im in comingh over on Thursday for 2 days so need to try and pick up the best birds quickly, do you think this time of year you would see better birds at Vilamoura or around Quinta do Lago?

Colin said...

Hello Chris,

I have not been to Qta do Lago for quite a while but understand that the reed-beds have been cut back and there are very few birds (although Little Bittern is still present).

I would say that Parque Ambiental de Vialmoura is a better bet, but then you have to be lucky!

In addition to the species mentioned in my last post, there were also several Marsh Harriers, a Black-winged (-shouldered) Kite, Caspian and Little Terns, Med Gull, Purple Swamp Hen, Ferruginous Duck, and a stack of commoner species. And, the Penduline Tits are certainly there, I just did not connect.

But, the two localities are not that far apart so you could "do" both.

Best of luck,


Junie said...

Hi Colin
Headline from Portugal News of 31/10/2009:

"Environmental group Almargem have threatened to submit an official complaint to the European Courts against the Portuguese State should the new Environmental Minister approve the construction of a tourist project in Vilamoura named ‘Lacustre City’."

Also, we have seen a few Night Herons recently including 12 behind Ludo Farm on 21st November.

Colin said...

Hello Junie,

Yes, I have seen all the articles in the local press (Algarve Resident, Portugal News and, today, Barlavento (in Portuguese).

Joâo Ministro, who works for the enviornmental organisation "Almargem" has been very vocal and supportive, but this is a real "up-hill" battle against both local and national governmental organisations.

The "outlook" at this moment in time is not very good.


Mike said...

Hello Colin, The Algarve area being our birding visit Apr/May 2010. We are based in Cabanas. Could you please point us to birding sites within the area? And, maybe a day's car drive away? We were there in 2007. But, spent far too much time looking for sites Ludo Farm etc, etc? That we tended to spend a lot of time around Castro Marim. Any/all information much appreciated. Regards, Mike Fox.

Colin said...

Hello Mike,

Just as a quick response you might like to take a look here:

You can contact me directly at chkey"AT" (just change the "AT" for @). Bit busy to do more for you just now.



digdeep said...

Hi Colin

We met along the seawall opposite the flamingos at Ria De Alvor. Your blog, pbase galleries and contribution to Bird Forum and all excellent - keep up the good work. I gave you a plug on my blog,



Stephen said...

Hi Colin,

Just thought you might like to know we visited the Fontes site near Estombar today (30th Sept). Saw sacred ibis together with several glossy ibis and more than 2hundred white stork