Those who have read my previous articles and followed my presence on social media will know that my nature photography has been centred around the Algarve ‘Serra’ (hills).
However, I recently decided to make a life change and move to the outskirts of Portimão, a contrast to the remoteness of the hills.
I am amazed at how much birdlife there is to see in the city areas and, if you watch and listen, it soon becomes noticeable that the cities are full of birdlife.
Most large towns and cities in the Algarve still retain open countryside and I was amazed to be lying in bed listening to the distant calls of tawny owls recently.
Sitting in a nearby communal park area in Portimão, in just one tree I spotted a pair of black caps, common chiffchaffs and goldfinches, all going about their daily foraging whilst the city is alive around them.
The small black cap is instantly recognisable with the male and female distinctly different. At just 13cm in length, both are similar with greenish grey upperparts with a pale neck, but it’s the “cap” that differentiates them. The male sports its namesake with a bold black cap and the female has a reddish-brown cap.
Common chiffchaffs are small at just 12cm and can be spotted amongst trees and bushes foraging. Their feathers have a light green and yellow colour, with both sexes being similar.
They are winter visitors to the Algarve, although the less frequently seen Iberian chiffchaff returns from Africa in the summer and is almost identical. Both have the typical “chiffchaff” call, with the Iberian chiffchaff usually adding a small trill to the end.
The beauty of the European goldfinch is often missed due to their size of just 13cm, but, on closer inspection, you can’t miss the stunning display of colour. A bright red face with contrasting black head, and yellow, black, and white wings.
Their song is as wonderful as their colouring with a constant mesmerising twittering. If you spot one, you’ll be sure to spot many as they usually stay together as flocks, sometimes with other finches too.
Apart from the calls of the tawny owl, a local dog walk route takes me across an open green space where I’m serenaded by the calls of little owls, a very common Algarve inhabitant. They have a variety of calls, but the most commonly recognisable is the “kiew kiew”.
As the name suggests, the little owl is small at just 22cm in length and can often be heard and seen during the daytime either on ruined buildings, walls or trees (especially dead trees). They can be quite difficult to spot with their camouflage, but if you find yourself walking through green spaces in the towns and cities, keep a lookout for these cute flat-topped headed owls.
Whilst it is great to explore the wonderful varying countryside the Algarve has to offer, you don’t have to leave the towns and cities to witness a variety of birdlife.
By Craig Rogers
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Craig Rogers is a wildlife and nature photographer from Wales now living in the Algarve, offering photography workshops. For more information, photographs and his blog visit www.craigrogers.photography