Southern Portugal: Birds and History: May 03—14, 2014
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Please contact us if you would like more information on upcoming departures for this tour.
Past Field Lists:
Lesser Kestrel— Photo: Faísca
A multi-disciplined tour to lovely Portugal promises an abundance of spectacular birds, beautiful landscapes, history, and culture.
VIDEO: Watch a trailer for a new documentary about biodiversity in the Castro Verde region of Southern Portugal, and a 25-minute video, Between the Sky and the Tides, about the Sado Estuary, areas we will visit on our tour. Both films were made by Daniel Pinheiro of Wildlife Films.
Lying on the western edge of Europe’s Iberian Peninsula, Portugal is a beautiful and popular travel destination rich in art, architecture, food, and landscapes. Bordered on two sides by water, Portugal sits at a geographic crossroads that both people and birds have found irresistible for thousands of years.
Our Southern Portugal: Birds and History trip to the country’s southern half visits the most important birding areas and landscapes while exploring a vivid history shaped over thousands of years by the rising and falling tides of some of the world’s greatest civilizations. Marvelous birding is assured, with good chances for many of Europe’s most spectacular and highly sought birds, as are visits to famous historical sites.
From the capital city of Lisbon, on the Atlantic coast, we’ll travel to the granite hills near the border with Spain and then south to the white sand beaches rimming the cobalt Mediterranean Sea. We’ll visit the famous Tagus Estuary and Sado Estuary nature reserves outside Lisbon, Portugal’s premier locations for waterfowl and shorebirds; we’ll travel to the Alentejo, where we’ll seek a range of hawks, larks, and other open country birds amid rolling plains interspersed with Holm and Cork oaks and Olive trees; we’ll explore the hills and forests of the Guadiana Valley Natural Park where Spanish and Bonelli’s eagles occur; and we’ll journey to the coastal Algarve, a scenic region of bluffs, hills, and beaches boasting protected wetland areas, nature parks, and reserves, and situated on a major migratory flyway.
The Praça do Comércio, Commercial Square, of historic Lisbon dates from the 1700s. — Photo: Photo archives
Our trip is timed for the latter half of spring migration and the onset of the breeding season; consequently, we anticipate encounters with a wonderful variety of birds, including Little and Great bustards, Black Stork, Red-legged Partridge, Cinereous Vulture, Short-toed and Booted eagles, many shorebirds and waterfowl, Audouin’s Gull, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Red-necked Nightjar, European Bee-eater, European Roller, many species of larks and wagtails, Rufous-tailed Scrub-Robin, Iberian Magpie, and Eurasian Golden Oriole.
Interweaving with our natural history pursuits will be an emphasis on Portugal’s history, a history populated with Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, Moors, Christian “Reconquistas,” and the larger-than-life figures that appeared during the golden Age of Discovery, principally Henry the Navigator, Pedro Álvares Cabral, Vasco da Gama, and Fernão de Magalhães (Ferdinand Magellan). At various times we’ll be joined by licensed historians who will lead us on walking tours of the historic districts of Lisbon, Évora, Mértola, and Tavira, where we’ll wander over winding streets through historic plazas and squares en route to an array of castles, cathedrals, museums, Roman ruins, and modern promenades and cafés.
Complementing our days in the field will be numerous opportunities to sample Portugal’s many culinary delights including its famous wines. With its multi-themed approach this program is designed to satisfy the needs of the serious birder while offering an intimate look at one of Europe’s most dynamic and diverse countries.
Very good accommodations and food; birding activities intermingled with walking tours and visits to historic sites; light physical demands; warm and dry weather conditions expected.