Portugal in Spring

Iberian specialities and superb spring migration in Portugal

  • 25 Apr - 02 May 2020
Max Group Size6 per guide
Duration8 Days
Price TBC, no single supplement.
Deposit £0

Portugal has a warm climate, superb scenery and an impressive diversity of breeding birds, which includes a number of species with a restricted range in Europe. We have organised this spring tour to southern Portugal to incorporate a mixture of wetlands, grasslands, oak forest, scrub, heath and rocky habitats, in order to include the largest diversity of birds possible.

Highlights might include some of the numerous raptors; Bonelli’s and Spanish Imperial Eagles, Griffon and Black Vultures, Black-shouldered Kite, Montagu’s Harrier and Lesser Kestrel. Wetlands will feature heavily and will be busy with breeding and migratory birds such as Purple Heron, Little Bittern, Black Stork, Purple Swamphen, Collared Pratincole, Audouin’s Gull, Caspian, Little and Gull-billed Terns and a good selection of waders. Open country and scrub birds should include Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Great and Little Bustards, Stone Curlew, Great-spotted Cuckoo, Roller, Pallid Swift, Calandra, Thekla, Short-toed and Lesser Short-toed Larks, Tawny Pipit, Red-rumped Swallow, Black-eared Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Orphean, Subalpine and Spectacled Warblers, Woodchat and Southern Grey Shrikes, Azure-winged Magpie, Cirl and Rock Buntings. Now visting Portugal slightly later in the spring we also have better chances of Red-necked Nightjar, White-rumped Swift and Rufous Bush Robin. In addition to this first class birding this tour will promises a fine show of spring flowers, plentiful sunshine and the opportunity of sample Portuguese wines and very tasty local cooking.

Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins. Full details from our office!

Day 1: Sat 6 Apr   Arrival and the Ria Formosa Nature Park

Arrival at Faro International Airport. After just ten minutes we will already be birding within Ria Formosa Nature Park. Between the lagoon and saltpans we will find plenty of waders, terns, egrets, Spoonbill, ducks and Flamingo. After this brilliant introduction, we will make the short trip to our hotel in Alte, our base for the next three nights.

Day 2: Sun 7 Apr   Cork Oak Woodlands and Benémola Spring

Today we will make a gentle exploration of the Cork Oak woodlands and traditional farmland areas (Barrocal) not far from Alte. This is a very typical man made Mediterranean landscape, managed in a non-intensive manner for centuries. The wildlife that has built up around this is therefore very diverse, rich in plant life and all wildlife. Several species of Cistus shrubs occur among the Cork Oak, Carob, Fig and Almond trees, some centuries old. We go first to Rocha da Pena, a magnificent limestone hill reaching 500m high. In these hills we can spot a wide variety of Mediterranean and Iberian specialities, like Bonelli’s, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Thekla Lark, Red-rumped Swallow, Woodchat Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Blue Rock Thrush, Subalpine, Dartford, Sardinian Warblers and Cirl Bunting. In the afternoon we will visit the Benémola spring. A limestone area where we will look for forest birds, like Iberian Green and Great-spotted Woodpeckers, Iberian Chiffchaff, Melodious Warbler and Short-toed Treecreeper. If lucky we may locate day roosting Red-necked Nightjar and we can also listed for them at dusk as we check into our hotel in stunning surroundings. Overnight Alte.

Day 3: Mon 8 Apr   Castro Marim Nature Reserve and Tavira

After breakfast we will drive east to the Castro Marim nature reserve in the Guadiana estuary, near the border with Spain. During the morning we will explore the extensive marshes and saltpans of Castro Marim. We will have plenty of waders and other waterbirds, including large numbers of Flamingo, Spoonbill, Little Egret, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Kentish Plover and Black-tailed Godwit. We can also see small numbers of Collared Pratincole, Caspian, Little and Gull-billed Terns and Audouin’s Gull. In the dry marshes and dry grassland we will try to spot many other interesting birds like Little Bustard, Stone Curlew, Pallid Swift, Lesser Short-toed Lark and Spectacled Warbler. In the afternoon we will visit the salinas of Tavira, in the Ria Formosa nature park, with another good selection of waterbirds. Overnight Alte.

Day 4: Tue 9 Apr   Salgados Lagoon and the Monchique Mountains

After breakfast we head west. Our first stop will be to explore the Salgados lagoon. This is a small coastal wetland teeming with waterbirds. Flamingo, Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill, Purple Heron, Little Bittern, Red-crested Pochard, Collared Pratincole, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Gull-billed and Whiskered terns and Purple Swamphen all possible. In the afternoon we drive to Monchique, the highest mountain in the Algarve. Here the landscape will get progressively greener, and we can have some special passerines like Woodlark, Dartford Warbler, Blue Rock Thrush and Rock Bunting.  Late afternoon we will drive back to our hotel in Alte. Overnight Alte.

Day 5: Wed 10 Apr   Alentejo and Castro Verde

After breakfast we drive north to the Alentejo region. Our route takes us by the hills of Caldeirão, with further chances for Bonelli’s and Short-toed Eagle. We will made a stop in Vascão river for plenty of small birds like Hoopoe, Bee-eater, Kingfisher, Red-rumped Swallow, Subalpine, Orphean and Melodious Warblers, Woodchat Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Golden Oriole, Hawfinch, Cirl Bunting and our first chance for Rufous Bush Robin. Crag Martin, White-rumped Swift and more raptors may be seen as we take lunch at a picturesque river location. fed and watered we continue north to our hotel in Castro Verde. In the afternoon we will explore the western part of Castro Verde grassland, and should see our first Great and Little Bustards, Lesser Kestrel and Montagu’s Harrier from Vale Gonçalinho nature centre. With luck we should have Black-shouldered Kite late in the afternoon too. Overnight Castro Verde.

Day 6: Thu 11 Apr   Castro Verde Grassland

Today we will spent all day exploring the dry grassland around Castro Verde, with a dense population of 1200 Great Bustard in the area. Here they display among a carpet of wild flowers. Besides this magnificent bird, plenty of other nice birds can be spotted in this grassland: Spanish Imperial Eagle, Griffon and Black Vultures, Montagu’s Harrier, Black-shoudered and Black Kites, Lesser Kestrel, Little Bustard, Stone Curlew, Collared Pratincole, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Great-spotted Cuckoo, Roller, Calandra, Thekla and Short-toed Larks, Tawny Pipit, Black-eared Wheatear, Rufous Bush Robin, Woodchat and Southern Grey Shrikes, Azure-winged Magpie and Spanish Sparrow. A real feast of Iberian birding! We take our picnic by the river Cobres, were we will look for Spanish Terrapins and dragonflies. Overnight Castro Verde.

Day 7: Fri 12 Apr   Guadiana Valley Nature Park

In the afternoon we will visit the Guadiana Valley nature park. We will start by the Moorish village of Mértola. In the village we should see Lesser Kestrel, Blue Rock Thrush and Rock Bunting. We will picnic by the Guadiana river in the Pulo do Lobo gorge. A breath taking rock and hills landscape that can produce Bonelli's, Golden and Short-toed Eagles, Black Stork and plenty of small birds, including Rufous Bush Robin. In the afternoon we will explore the old mine of São Domingos, for Roller and with luck an early White-rumped Swift. Overnight Castro Verde.

Day 8: Sat 13 Apr   Departure

After an early breakfast we will drive back to Faro International Airport. If we have time we will look for birds by the Quinta do Lago salt and fresh water lagoons. Here among plenty of egrets, waders and gulls, plus Glossy Ibis, Little Bittern, Red-crested Pochard, Purple Swamphen and the amazing European Chameleon.

Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).

What's included in your holiday price:

  • return scheduled flight from London Gatwick – Faro, airport taxes, baggage and hand luggage up to airline included limit.
  • airport transfers, ground transportation, accommodation and meals as specified.
  • the services of a Heatherlea leader and local guide.
  • The Heatherlea Pre-Flight Service offers everything you need at the airport, including hotels, car parking, airport lounges, regional flights, and upgrades. Let Heatherlea take the strain! Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge included free of charge subject to terms and conditions. Read more...

What's not included in your holiday price:

  • travel to and from departure airport before and after holiday, in-flight meal, baggage above airline included limit
  • incidental tips, expenses of a personal nature including drinks and personal insurance.

More holiday information

Accommodation is in comfortable hotels with all rooms en suite,
Food Breakfast is typical of Portugal, consisting of a roll with jam/cheese/ham. Fruit juice and tea or coffee are also available. Lunches are usually picnic style in the field. Evening meals are generally local dishes, which are good but often quite simple. Vegetarian and other diets are welcome.
Walking is generally light/moderate. There may be some uphill track and road walking, though generally an average level of fitness is required.
Weather Typically, temperatures will range from 50F in the early morning to perhaps 80F in the heat of the day. Sunshine should be plentiful, but cloud and rain are possible. Cold weather, with temperatures as low as 40F, are rare but possible.
Insects biting insects may be encountered, though not usually as a major problem.
Group size is restricted to 12 clients maximum.
Flights are by scheduled airline, from London Gatwick. We may be able to offer flight arrangements from another airport and/or or quote without flights so you can make your own arrangements. If you wish to add an extension either before or after your holiday, please contact us and we will be happy to arrange this for you.

Your Leaders:

  Mark Warren

Mark Warren joined our team in 2016, with many Heatherlea customers having already reaped the rewards from his widespread knowledge of migration and enthusiastic attitude. After guiding our Portugal tour in 2017 and 2018, Mark is looking forward to your company on this holiday again in 2019.

         Hugo Sampaio         

Hugo Sampaio joined the Heatherlea team in 2018. After finishing his degree in Biology at the University of Coimbra in 2006, Hugo has since then worked with SPEA studying and monitoring birds across Spain,Portugal & the Azores. He has guided extensively across the region and we look forward to having Hugo’s expertise on our Portugal in Spring departure again in 2019.

Why choose Heatherlea for your birding and wildlife holiday in Europe?

Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.

Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.

The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer. Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;

  • We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for over 25 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
  • Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
  • Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
  • All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
  • Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
  • Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland, and registered to pay VAT (applies to all holidays within the European Union).

About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: 01479 821248