Photo Galleries: Southern Portugal: Birds & History Barry Lyon

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As we expand our diversity of European tours, we are very excited about our inaugural tour to Portugal, Southern Portugal: Birds & History. This trip will debut May 3-14, 2014, and will be led by VENT leader David Wolf and João Jara, a bilingual Portuguese native who is one of the country’s most knowledgeable birders.

As with much of Europe, Portugal is a beautiful country brimming with culture and a complex history spanning thousands of years. In our opinion, a tour here should encompass much more than birding (as wonderful as it is), which is why we’ve designed this specialty trip that capitalizes on both the country’s marvelous birding opportunities and its rich history.

Our starting point is Lisbon, the oldest city in Western Europe and the Portuguese capital where centuries-old traditions and architecture conjoin with the excitement of a growing and dynamic modern city. Here, our activities will include birding trips to the Tagus and Sado estuaries in addition to a walking tour of the city’s premier historical sites.

From Lisbon we’ll head southeast into the pastoral interior where rolling plains dotted with oaks and olive trees surround picturesque towns and timeless hilltop cities. Our birding pursuits will target an array of spectacular open country birds such as Great and Little bustards, Eurasian Thick-knees, Azure-winged Magpies, and Booted Eagles, while walking tours and visits to historical sites in the towns of Évora and Mértola will reveal clues to the Roman, Moorish, and Christian “Reconquistas” who dwelled here in succession in the distant past.

We’ll also reach the southernmost part of Portugal, where rocky headlands and wave-washed beaches mark the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Down here, in the vicinity of Tavira, we’ll partake in more excellent birding opportunities. A complex of wetlands, salt pans, and woodlands host many more birds including Greater Flamingos and a host of other waders and shorebirds, while a short distance inland we’ll search for the Spanish Eagle, arguably Portugal’s most highly sought bird.

This trip is timed for the middle spring, when the weather is at its best, many birds are still migrating while others are starting to nest, and the crowds of summer have not yet arrived. Please enjoy this collection of images that capture nicely Portugal’s varied birdlife, charming cities, lovely landscapes, and enduring historical landmarks.