The bee-eaters, golden orioles and many of the eagles may be long gone and are enjoying life in the southern hemisphere, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything worth braving the cooler mornings.
I’m often asked if there is anything interesting during the winter to look out for and where are the best places to go. For me, I always look more at the south coast wetland areas during the winter season as there are plenty of interesting species to look out for. Some are resident species but some winter here in the Algarve.
My favourite species to look out for in the reeds of the coastal wetland areas is the stunning bluethroat (Luscinia svecica). This robin-sized bird is often overlooked due to its size, but the males’ bright blue and orange throat is a giveaway. The female is similar but lacks the bright pattern on the throat. These small birds breed in the northern regions of the planet but arrive here in November for the winter and can easily be spotted amongst the reeds and grasses.
I mentioned the European robin (Erithacus rubecula) earlier and you may notice the numbers increase. Many people believe that they are more visible in the winter due to their plumage, however, the resident numbers increase because many robins from the northern regions of Portugal move to the south for warmer temperatures.
This is the best time of year to observe the greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) in many of the wetlands. The Salgados lagoon near Praia Grande de Pêra and Ludo near Faro Airport are currently two amazing locations to view them. There are plenty of opportunities to watch them feeding with their heads upside down, hence the oddly-shaped bills which they use to filter out food. They quite often squabble, which is fun to watch, and, of course, the sight of a flock in flight can be breathtaking. Keep a look out for spoonbills amongst them, too.
Whilst you are at the wetlands, always keep an eye open for the amazing osprey (Pandion haliaetus) hunting for fish. This is another species that winters here in the Algarve (although you can spot them occasionally during the summer months, too). Even though they are a large bird, they are easy to miss and can often be misidentified as a large gull due to their similar shape in flight. Watching one swoop down and pluck a large fish from the water is a fantastic sight. They can be found at any of the wetlands, but my favourite location is Ludo next to the west end of the runway at Faro Airport.
The red kite (Milvus milvus) prefers the cooler north of the country in the summer and, therefore, can be found returning to the south in the autumn to over-winter. This is not really an Algarve bird and can be spotted far more easily on the plains of the Alentejo, however, you will occasionally spot one in the Algarve. I have spotted one regularly to the west of São Bartolomeu de Messines. It’s always great to see photographs of any birds spotted at anytime of the year, but even more so in the winter. If you snap any photographs of these or any other species, come and share them in the “Algarve Photo Fun” Facebook Group.
By Craig Rogers
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