Ria Formosa, Algarve, Portugal - 5th - 12th May 2016

Published by Mark Graham (helen.graham7 AT btinternet.com)


We stayed at Robinsons Hotel in Quinta Da Ria between 5th May to 12th May.It lies between Cabanas and Fabrica in the Ria Formosa Natural Park east of Tavira. Cabanas is the nearest town.

A rural, peaceful area, as far removed from the tacky over developed Algarve resorts, as you could imagine. The advancing villas and rows of hotels haven’t reached here - and long may it continue.

The hotel was first class - the food was seriously good, the grounds were immaculate, the rooms spacious and quiet, and the staff were marvellous.

Enjoyable, easy birdwatching with enough birds and walks locally to avoid having to hire a car.

Local specialities were Little Tern, Woodchat Shrike, European Golden Oriole, European Bee-eater, Audouin's Gull and yes, lots of Hoopoe on the golf courses.

The island and coastline

You can walk the narrow beach east to Cacela Velha or west to Cabanas. It gets completely covered at high tide so beware!

The only way to reach the island at high tide is by the complimentary hotel shuttle boat.

We visited every day - mostly we had the place to ourselves.

A wonderful habitat for birds which warrants better protection and some sort of management [fat chance of that!].

There were a lot of Little Terns every day with a maximum of 80 on 10th May

There were so many Kentish Plover, Sanderling and Turnstone all over the island, I didn’t bother to count them.

On the 6th May there was a roosting flock of 23 Knot on 11th May and a flock of 26 Dunlin appeared.

A few Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Little Egret and Ringed Plover were seen as well as a Curlew and one Grey Heron and a White Stork.

Whimbrel were around every day with a maximum flock of 18 on 5th May.

I recorded Avocet on two days with two on one day and a single on the other.

Spoonbill were seen regularly - a maximum of 6 on 6th May.

During high tide there were a good number of roosting Yellow-legged Gull and a few Lesser Black-backed Gull. Three Yellow-legged Gull were feeding on a huge dead sea turtle on 11th May.

Audouin's Gull were seen most days with a maximum of 8 on 6th May.

Northern Gannets were passing through all the time, some very close to shore during high winds.

Linnets, Hoopoe and Crested Lark were recorded on the island regulary.

Walking along the mainland shore many of these birds could be seen. I also noted Common Sandpiper, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Sardinian Warbler, Goldfinch, Linnet, House Sparrow, Common Kestrel and many Barn Swallow and Red-rumped Swallow.

The Back Roads

One of the best aspects of this area is the quiet back roads and dedicated cycle track which goes to Cabanas.

Turning left out of the hotel one of the best areas was the track, second left, to the coast.

There was a Common Nightingale, Golden Oriole, Common Waxbill, European Bee-eater and Woodchat Shrike along here.

As usual, Sardinian Warbler were abundant as well as one Chiffchaff.

Azure-winged Magpie are as common in this area and several were seen.

Retrace your steps and head north, cross the busy main road and carry on till you see the road to Nora. Turn right and when you get to Nora turn right, and walk south till you reach the road back to the hotel.

There was a flock of 25 Azure-winged Magpie chasing away a Carrion Crow just as the road heads towards Nora.

Red-legged Partridge were seen in the fields beyond here.

Woodchat Shrike were spotted along the route - eight in all. Obviously a good habitat for them.

There was a huge ploughed field just before Ribiero da Junco which attracted scores of Yellow-legged Gull, Mallard, Collared Dove, Rock Dove, Crested Lark and a few Cattle Egret. I saw my one and only Wood Pigeon here.

Scan the wires and you are sure to see European Bee-eater.

Just at the Ribeira da Junco junction two Fan-tailed Warbler put in an appearance.

There is an overgrown field at the junction. Some days it attracted hundreds of Red-rumped Swallow and a few Barn Swallow.

Also noted along this route: Serin, Linnet, Common Jay, Greenfinch, Spotless Starling, Goldfinch, House Sparrow and Common Magpie.

There is an avenue of pine trees just before the hotel entrance. Six European Golden Oriole flew out of here on the 6th May.

I have never seen so many Hares. They were here there and everywhere with a few Rabbits too.

The Hotel Grounds

The hotel is set in the middle of two huge golf courses bounded by gardens, trees, shrubs, hedges, rows of pines, orchards and a steep coastal cliff with dense shrubs and trees.

There was an impressive number of birds here with 43 species recorded.

Rarest was three Audouin's Gull which were blown in with Yellow-legged Gull after a stormy day.

Several Lesser Black-backed Gull were seen too.

The course had several man made lakes.

The most productive was the westernmost lake on the fringes of the Quinta De Ria course.

It hosted a Black winged Stilt, Common Sandpiper, Little Egret and an Arctic Tern which hung around every day.

A Common Nightingale was heard around this area most days.

There were several Gadwall, Little Grebe, Moorhen, Coot and Mallard on here and the other lakes too.

A Common Kingfisher was seen on the lake with the bridge on the route to the beach.

European Bee-eater were regular by the beach bar as well as a Common Nightingale, Fan-tailed Warbler, Linnet, Crested Lark and Sardinian Warbler.

White Stork were seen on the fairways along with Gadwall, Whimbrel, 4 Azure- winged Magpie and Yellow Legged Gull.

White Wagtail,Common Waxbill, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Magpie, Common Jay, Spotless Starling, Collared Dove, lots of Hoopoe and many Blackbird were around the hotel grounds and golf course.

A Woodchat Shrike was seen around the 16th hole tee area, on the Quinta De Cima course.

Hundreds of Red-rumped Swallow, many Barn Swallow, House Martin, a few Sand Martin and a handful of Common Swift were constantly flying around the fairways and lakes.

The 6 European Golden Oriole I saw from the main road flew from the pine trees bordering the hotel grounds.

Four Spoonbill flew over the hotel on 7th May.