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Autumn Birding in Southern Portugal

Tour Code: PRT07

A relaxing 7-day holiday to enjoy the autumn bird migration, beautiful scenery and pleasant climate of southern Portugal.

7 days from £1495(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1245 SRS: £160


Lying at the far south-western tip of mainland Europe, on the eastern Atlantic 'flyway’, Portugal’s beautiful Algarve and Alentejo regions represent one of the continent’s top birdwatching destinations in late September. Beginning with a flight to Faro we will head to the Algarve’s flagship reserves where numerous wetland species inhabiting the saltpans and marshes are joined at this time of year by migrant birds and rarities. We’ll explore inland around Castro Verde looking for bustards, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, and a variety of larks and raptors, before heading to Cape St. Vincent and Sagres where the impressive migration-watching and a pelagic trip to enjoy seabirds and dolphins offers an exciting finale to our holiday.

  • Visit Algarve’s flagship reserves: Rio Formosa, Castro Marim & Quinto do Lago
  • Little Bittern, Spoonbill, Collared Pratincole & Audouin’s Gull
  • Look for Great & Little Bustards on the plains around Castro Verde, Alentejo
  • Impressive migration-watching from Cape St. Vincent & Sagres
  • Cory’s & Great Shearwaters, plus Great Skua
  • European & Wilson’s Storm-petrels, plus Common Dolphin on pelagic trip
  • Led by an expert naturalist guide

Food

All included in the price.

Accommodation

A 2-centre holiday, based in very comfortable 4-star hotels.

Hoopoe (Menno van Duijn)

Hoopoe (Menno van Duijn)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly Faro

Day 2/4 Rio Formosa Natural Park and environs

Day 5/6 Daily birding excursions from Sagres

Day 7 Fly UK

Lying at the far south-western tip of mainland Europe, Portugal’s beautiful Algarve region occupies a strategic position on the ‘eastern Atlantic flyway’, and is one of the continent’s top birdwatching destinations in late September. Famous for its golf courses, beaches and winter sunshine, there’s another side to the Algarve, away from the high-rise hotels and beach-bound holidaymakers — and on this tour we’ll take you off the tourist trail, to the windswept cliffs, sand dunes and heaths of the west coast, the marshes and saltpans of the south, and the Cork Oak forests and wide open plains of the Alentejo. Though often overlooked in favour of the much larger neighbouring landmass of Spain, Portugal has a very distinct identity of its own. A relaxed pace of life prevails away from the tourist hot-spots and we’re sure you’ll soon be seduced by southern Portugal — not only by its excellent birdwatching opportunities, but also by its beautiful language, charming people, and delicious food and wine. As we make daily excursions in search of the region’s special birdlife, we’ll also find ourselves immersed in the rich history and culture of the south, where fine Moorish architecture and the near-medieval subsistence agriculture of the Alentejo provide a stark contrast to the 21st century bustle of the Algarve coastline.

Our tour begins with a flight to Faro (flights available from around the UK) from where it’s just a short drive to our accommodation for the next four nights — a superb hotel in the heart of the Ria Formosa Natural Park. This is the perfect base from which to explore the lagoons, reed beds, saltpans and marshes of the Algarve’s flagship reserves: Rio Formosa itself, Castro Marim and Quinto do Lago. Among the many species that we will search for during gentle excursions each day are Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo, White Stork, Little Tern, Audouin’s Gull and Collared Pratincole. At this time of year the lagoons and saline-rich marshes along the coast provide an important stopover for migrant birds and rarities. While researching this tour we saw both Buff-breasted and Upland Sandpipers, as well as Little Bittern, Squacco Heron, Black-winged Stilt, Glossy Ibis, Kentish Plover, Caspian Tern, Red-crested Pochard, confiding Bluethroats and many more species.

From the coast we will also drive north for a day to the wide plains of Castro Verde in the Alentejo. Within the Castro Verde Special Protection Area we hope to see Europe’s largest flying bird, the Great Bustard, as well as Little Bustard, Black-bellied Sandgrouse and Stone Curlew. Several exciting raptors hunt over these open plains and we’ll survey the rugged steppe country from the region’s highest point, Sierra de Aracelis, for Hen Harrier, Black and Griffon Vultures, Black-winged Kite, the magnificent Spanish Imperial Eagle, and Little Owl. Next we head towards the River Cobres, a tributary of the Guadiana River, which provides an opportunity to enjoy the Alentejo’s famous ‘montado’ scenery of Cork and Holm Oak woods. Among the birds we’ll be hoping to find in the steppes and scrub here are Crested, Hekla and Calandra Larks, Corn Bunting and Azure-winged Magpie. Having explored the lagoons and wetlands of the central and eastern Algarve, we now travel west to our next base — a very comfortable hotel situated just a stone’s throw from a fort which served as Henry the Navigator’s 15th century School of Navigation. The volume and variety of bird species passing across the southern tip of Portugal each autumn is impressive and makes for some exciting migration watching, particularly of raptors. From our strategic viewpoint, and accompanied by Portuguese researchers and other keen birders from around the continent, we’ll be looking for circling Egyptian Vultures, Honey Buzzards, Booted and Short-toed Eagles, harriers, and many other birds of prey.

The seabird-watching between Sagres and the Cape can be equally exciting and during a morning’s boat excursion from Sagres we should see a mouth-watering selection of species including Balearic, Cory’s and Great Shearwaters, European and Wilson’s Storm-petrels and Great Skua, particularly if we are lucky enough to encounter a trawler. Add to this an exciting encounter with a huge pod of Common Dolphins and this ‘mini-pelagic’ could be the highlight of our Autumn week away!

Great Shearwater (John Willsher)Sooty Shearwater (John Willsher)Portugal pelagic! (John Willsher)Juvenile Northern Gannet (John Willsher)Wilson's Petrel (John Willsher)Picnic Lunch (John Willsher)Southern Grey Shrike (John Willsher)Cabo San Vicente (John Willsher)Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull with fish (John Crispin)Juvenile Greater Flamingo (John Crispin)Flamingos and Gulls (John Crispin)Evening light over the marsh (John Crispin)Greater Flamingo (John Crispin)Little Ringed Plover (John Crispin)Juvenile Black-winged Stilt (John Crispin)Sierra de Aracelis (John Willsher)Balearic Shearwater (John Crispin)Portugal Pelagic (John Crispin)Great Shearwater (John Crispin)Cory's Shearwater (John Crispin)Iberian Pond Frog (John Crispin)Purple Swamphen, Red-crested Pochard and Mallard (John Crispin)Great Bustards (John Willsher)Common Dolphin (John Willsher)Western Reef Heron or 'hybrid' (John Willsher)Little Bittern (Menno van Duijn)Algarve, Portugal (Menno van Duijn)Hotel Memmo Baleeira (John Willsher)Hotel Memmo Baleeira (John Willsher)
P.N.
September 2015
As a novice birder I am very grateful for all the information and tips that I received from both the leaders
B.S.
September 2015
Leaders were excellent spotters and particularly good at instructing us in the finer points of bird recognition.
C.S.
September 2014
Dave Nevitt took a great deal of effort in explaining bird identification using handbooks etc which all found extremely useful. Hotels and food were excellent.
J.W.
September 2014
I think the holiday was excellent. Pre-departure information is second-to-none in my experience and I would like to thank the office-based staff for their customer service skills and friendliness. The knowledge and dedication of the tour leaders is brilliant; locations gave good opportunities to see birds and other animals.Phil and Dave work hard to maximise bird spotting. Thank you you for a memorable week - you exceeded our expectations on birds! I also enjoyed our last afternoon early finish and visit to Cape St Vincent. The chance to see it, enjoy a drink with friends and shop briefly for souvenirs was appreciated. Many thanks for another wonderful Naturetrek holiday.
S.D.
September 2014
This was my first holiday as a single person. I was very comfortable with that and loved the caring/sharing policy of the leaders. I was the complete novice in a group of experts. I was not intimidated (well, only a bit!); everyone was so inclusive. Dave was especially patient. Both guides were so knowledgeable; it was a privilege to be part of the trip. Thank you Dave and Phil!
S.W.
September 2014
The organisation of the holiday was trouble-free and smooth, but, most importantly, our tour leaders were excellent. Their level of knowledge and willingness to explain were exemplary - they were also good fun, maintaining a friendly atmosphere throughout the holiday. We saw a lot of different bird species, including some rarities.
S.S.
September 2014
The hotel accommodation on the trip was outstanding - it seemed that Naturetrek was allocated some of the best rooms! The leaders, Dave and Phil, were outstanding in their knowledge of birds and their ability to identify - in the sky at great distance - was awe-inspiring! Phil was able to add his knowledge of plants and butterflies to his expertise on birds, and Dave his knowledge of moths as well, so we had all-round excellent cover on everything we wanted to know! Dave and Phil worked very hard to make the holiday run smoothly, and I have no doubt there was a lot going on behind the scenes to achieve this. Their enthusiasm for birds was amazing and we never missed an opportunity to spot a ‘first for the day’ - on one occasion as we left a cafe car park! Thanks to these two leaders we will travel with you again, and hopefully as time goes by learn a little bit of their undoubted skill in bird identification!
D.K.
September 2014
David and Phillip were very knowledgeable and passionate about their subject. They were great hosts and kindly put up with my really basic bird/flora questions with good grace. They have ‘opened my eyes’ to birdlife.
N.D.
September 2014
The content of the holiday was good. We enjoyed the trip altogether - it was excellent.
P.B.
Norfolk
I had a wonderful time in great company. Philip did a very good picnic for us every day. The highlight of the tour for me was the pelagic. We had perfect conditions and in the little boat, so low down to the sea, I could look the dolphins in the eye! Magic! Sitting quietly in the boat, 10 miles offshore, among all the shearwaters, gulls and petrels (not to mention the skua that came in) made me feel really privileged to share their world for a brief time.
S.S.
Hampshire
This was my first trip with Naturetrek and also my first birding trip. I was a little worried before I left thinking I may be out of my depth and find the whole experience too much. I needn't have had any of those fears as it was a very friendly group, with two very knowledgeable leaders. I came home having had a really good holiday and having learnt a great deal. I would love to go back to Portugal in the spring and see the contrasts between the two seasons. Many thanks.
J.F.
Essex
Both Philip and Dave knew the area well and, combined with their ornithological knowledge, enabled us to see a wide range of birds and other wildlife (we saw a chameleon!). I am so glad to have gone on the boat trip. Seeing the dolphins made this holiday extra special. Excellent picnics and 4* hotels just added to a very memorable holiday.
H.N.
Suffolk
I truly loved this holiday. Each day brought wonderful wildlife moments that will stay with me always. Dave and Phil were such wonderful guides, making sure that everyone was looked after and had seen the birds. I am sure we must have tested their patience to the limit. I am so missing their lunches!! I would definitely travel with your company again in the future. Thank you again to all concerned.
B.N.
Suffolk
I thoroughly enjoyed the trip to Portugal and am seriously considering your spring trip next year. Your guides, Philip Thompson and Davd Nevitt, were extremely informative and knowledgeable, and very patient with us as a group. I am sure that we will make more trips in the future.
J.M.
Kent
I particularly enjoyed the 'al fresco' picnics which meant we were watching birds all the time and not losing time inside. The birds were great too and my partner was very grateful for the extra attention he received, being a complete novice.
J.C.
Somerset
Phil and Dave worked hard throughout the holiday to give us the best of Portugal.
B.G.
Surrey
'Birding' in a new area was particularly pleasing.
R.R.
Chesterfield
Overall an excellent trip where both leaders took a great deal of trouble to ensure we saw the birds and that the trip went smoothly.
S.R.
Derbyshire
As a photographer more interested in photographing birds than spotting them I was concerned that the trip may not be suitable. This was not the case - I found both guides interested and sympathetic leaders who took into account my passion for photography. Andy Tucker was also a great help in influencing my decision to book the trip.
K.M.
Norfolk
The pelagic trip was excellent in every respect - exhilarating and the number of seabirds and dolphins was superb.
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Thu 13th September 2018 - Wed 19th September 2018

YES

£1495

more details

Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are available. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1375 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Thu 20th September 2018 - Wed 26th September 2018

YES

£1495

more details

Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are available. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1375 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: Portugal

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Andy Tucker
Operations Manager

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01962 733051

Tour Focus

Birds

Tour Reviews

As a novice birder I am very grateful for all the information and tips that I received from both the leaders
P.N., September 2015