HOTSPOT FACTSHEET: SALGADOS LAGOON
Location: Salgados, Pêra / Vale de Parra; Silves and Albufeira municipalities, Central Algarve | Coordinates: 37° 5′ 41.8086″ N, -8° 20′ 5.6076″ W (Lat/Long); 37.094947 N, -8.334891 W (decimal degrees) | Code: SL1 | Completion Time: up to 2-3 hours | Best Time for Birdwatching: Spring, Autumn and Winter; all seasons offer good birding opportunities | Legal Status: None; however, it is considered an Important Bird Area (IBA – Birdlife International) | Activities: birding; nature walks; cycling, running & other outdoor activities; sightseeing; water sports; extreme sports;
[PLEASE CHECK SALGADOS’S BIRD SPECIALITIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE] The wetland is located at the confluence of two small streams, which feed the aquatic system during the usually short and erratic rainy season. The marshy area also receives a large proportion of its water from a treatment plant upstream: without it, the lagoon would likely dry out in the Summer. The main water body is detached from the adjoining marine environment by an extensive dune barrier, whose natural opening only occurs in times of intense rainfall. Its predominant vegetation cover consists of reeds and rushes. To the north and west, the lagoon is surrounded by farm and scrubland, scattered pine trees and a few small vineyards; in spring and summer, this area is flown over by the colourful Bee-eater and the duller Greater Short-toed Lark, whereas in winter it is the abode of the Richard’s Pipit; here, noteworthy passage migrants are Spectacled and Subalpine Warblers, Northern Wheatear and Whinchat. Residents include Waxbill, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Spotless Starling and Sardinian Warbler.
The eastern bank of the lagoon runs along a golf course enclosing several man-made ponds and lakes. It is always worthwhile to explore the golf course boundary, as this is the preferred habitat of the iconic Purple Swamphen. The former agricultural areas extending northwest will (in all probability) be replaced by a large resort. In spite of all the persistent efforts carried out by several Portuguese and foreign institutions – like the SPEA and the RSPB – the site completely lacks legal protection status, being therefore subjected to several environmental threats. Salgados shelters regionally significant populations of waterbirds, some of them endangered in Europe; those birds comprise breeding Little Bitterns, migrating and wintering Spoonbills, Glossy Ibis, Purple Herons, Black-winged Stilts, and the country’s only breeding Ferruginous Ducks, a globally endangered species. Together with the White-headed Duck and the Spotted Crake, this duck is one of rarest waterbirds occurring at the Salgados wetland. Commoner duck species include the Red-crested and Common Pochards, the Shoveler, the Gadwall, the Garganey, Mallards, Eurasian Teals and Northern Pintails. During autumn and winter, the quantity of ducks may increase rather substantially, reaching several hundred individuals. Ultimately, the amount of birds – and their breeding success – depends on the water level of the shallow lagoon. The most abundant waterbirds are, tipically, the Greater Flamingo, the Eurasian Coot, the Little Grebe and the Moorhen.
The Red-knobbed Coot, the Eurasian Bittern (both infrequent/rare) and the Black-necked Grebe also occur at the lagoon. Besides the Little Bittern, the existing halophytic vegetation is a haven to Squacco and Black-crowned Night Herons – in small numbers – wintering Bluethroats, as well as to resident Zitting Cisticolas and Black-headed Weavers. Waders showing up in significant quantities include species like the Wood Sandpiper, Kentish Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Sandpiper, Redshank and Greenshank. The unmistakable Caspian Tern winters in the area, and the much smaller Black Tern, a passage migrant, turns up in May-June and between late August and September. Other passage migrants include the Curlew Sandpiper and the Whiskered Tern. Gull-billed Terns occur throughout the summer. The wetland also draws several species of swifts, such as the Pallid and Alpine Swift; Chimney Swifts have been recorded at Salgados in the recent past. Among predators, the most common bird species are Peregrine Falcon, Kestrel, Little Owl and Western Marsh-harrier. Given its dimension, the lagoon is an impressive hotspot for rarities: Northern Bald Ibis, Ruddy Shelduck, Lesser Flamingo, Sociable Lapwing, Pectoral Sandpiper, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck, Green-winged Teal, Long-billed Dowitcher and Franklin’s Gull are a few examples of recently spotted species.
If you prefer quieter settings, the best time to visit the lagoon is always very early in the morning and on weekdays. During weekends the area surrounding Salgados and Praia Grande is visited by relatively large gatherings of people. However, the best lighting conditions occur in the evening. Throughout summer it might prove difficult to find available space to park a vehicle if visitors do not arrive very early in the morning. Sometimes, in extended dry periods, the lagoon dries out and birdlife all but disappears from Salgados. This is a relatively rare occurrence nowadays, though. Only accessible on foot or by bicycle, along the southern bank there is a walkway starting at the Praia Grande car park that provides a good overview of the dunes and the wetland. Running for about 5.5 km, there is also – but probably not for long: see why below – a signposted trail (the Praia Grande Interpretation Trail) crossing the farm and scrubland to the west of Salgados. Its path encounters another wetland, located at the mouth of the Alcantarilha stream, which usually shelters some waders and herons. Currently, the whole area around Salgados is under threat, because there are plans to build a mega-resort in its immediate vicinity. Portuguese and international NGO’s, as well as many national and foreign citizens, strongly oppose those plans. The final resolution regarding further land development is still under fierce public discussion.
By car, it takes about 30-35 minutes to reach the Alvor Estuary, the most important and diverse wetland in Western Algarve (you can check directions using the Google Map above: right-click on the map to get directions to or from a given location). Northeast of Salgados, in Paderne – and also about 30 minutes away – the Quarteira stream has carved a narrow, winding valley through the limestone hills (pictured above). There you’ll find a very particular Mediterranean flora, the ruins of a curious Moorish castle from the 12th century, and some bird species that are usually absent from the coast, such as the Orphean Warbler, the Red-rumped Swallow and the Iberian Chiffchaff, among others.
Spring/Winter | Rare
Greater Short-toed Lark
Winter | Rare
Apr. & Sep. | Rare
Winter | Rare
May-Sep. | Rare
Black-crowned Night Heron
Erratic | Rare
Mar. & Nov.