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The small Garrão lagoon signals the westernmost point of the rich and large Ria Formosa Natural Park. Encircled by luxury resorts, a bit further west you’ll find the slightly wider Dunas Douradas lagoon, which is surely one of the best places in the Algarve to observe the elusive Little Bittern. Despite their size, both lagoons provide food and shelter for a variety of waterfowl.

HOTSPOT FACTSHEET: DUNAS DOURADAS & GARRÃO LAGOONS

Location:  Dunas Douradas (Vale do Lobo) and Vale do Garrão, Loulé municipality, Central Algarve | Coordinates – Dunas Douradas: 37° 2′ 39.0258″ N, -8° 3′ 10.3572″ W (Lat/Long);  37.044174 N ,-8.052877 W (decimal degrees) |  Coordinates – Garrão Lagoon: 37° 2′ 27.6786″ N, -8° 2′ 44.2746″ W (Lat/Long);  37.041022 N , -8.045632 W (decimal degrees) |Code: LL2 | Completion Time: up to 2 hours | Best Time for Birdwatching: unknown concerning Garrão; all year-round regarding Dunas Douradas | Legal Status: None; the Garrão Lagoon is part of the Natura 2000 network  | Activities: birding; nature walks/hiking; cycling, running & other outdoor activities; sightseeing;

[PLEASE CHECK BIRD SPECIALITIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE] Here, widespread species like the Moorhen, the Mallard, the Coot, the Common Pochard, the Garganey, the Little Grebe, the Gadwall and the Teal are often accompanied by scarcer birds such as the Purple Heron, the Glossy Ibis, the Little Bittern, the Squacco Heron (quite rare) and the Black Tern (a passage migrant). Crag Martins and Shovelers are a very common sight throughout winter. The Purple Gallinule – a.k.a. Purple Swamphen – also makes occasional appearances; however, the best place to observe this striking bird is undoubtedly in nearby Quinta do Lago.

Those are two brackish water bodies edged by lacustrine vegetation, vast dunes, Mediterranean scrubland and pinewood. These endangered habitats add further biological diversity to these underwatched sites where woodland species like the Iberian Azure-winged Magpie, the Iberian Green Woodpecker, the Turtle Dove, the Crested Tit and the Short-toed Treecreeper are frequent sights. In winter, it is also possible to find the Common Firecrest, whereas in spring and summer birders may come across Wrynecks, Bee-eaters and Hoopoes. With its aromatic shrubbery and low-lying umbrella pines, the woods surrounding Garrão are very pleasant places; because this place is located in a small sheltered valley, visitors may feel a sense of remoteness at odds with the presence of the sprawling villas to the east and west. Here, in addition to exotic Black-headed Weavers and Waxbills, you’ll find Serin, Cetti’s Warbler and a variety of finches. In summer, the petite lagoon often dries out and all the waterbirds abandon this secluded gem; that doesn´t happen with the larger Dunas Douradas lagoon. However, its water level frequently drops by a large amount, exposing the muddy floor along the banks. This event provides a good opportunity to observe waders like the Black-winged Stilt (the archetypal Algarvian wader), the Kentish Plover, the Snipe and sometimes the Eurasian Spoonbill.

IMPORTANT TIPS & SUGGESTIONS

Visitors may reach the Dunas Douradas lagoon both from the east and the west. The east bank has a small but quite thick wooded area which provides a suitable hide for birders; on the west bank there is a decrepit wooden bird hide, as well as a shaded trail that affords great views over the small wetland. If you are visiting during summer, try to arrive very early in the morning or 1-2 hours before sunset. At midday, the area is utterly crowded with cars and their respective sun seekers. Also, unless you are a beachgoer, avoid visiting Garrão during summer. The lagoon will be probably devoid of birdlife and the summer throngs may be maddening. The Garrão lagoon is not identified by signage and is best approached from the east. It is also hard to find: to reach it, just head to the wooded area at the lowest point along the little valley.

PLACES OF INTEREST NEARBY

Two of the best places to appreciate Ria Formosa’s natural beauty and diverse birdlife are Quinta do Lago and Ludo. If you are willing to walk, just proceed due east along the dunes or the coastal pinewood and you’ll reach Quinta do Lago beach, which provides access both to the saltpans in Ludo and to the Quinta do Lago lakes. To the west of Dunas Douradas, there is a larger coastal lagoon good for Tufted Duck and Penduline Tit, the Foz do Almargem lagoon.

BIRD SPECIALITIES: DUNAS DOURADAS & GARRÃO LAGOONS | LOULÉ COASTAL LAGOONS BIRDING HOTSPOTS
Apus pallidus Algarve Apus pallidus
Pallid Swift
Mar.-Oct.
Ardea purpurea Purple Heron Algarve Ardea purpurea
Purple Heron
Mar.-Sep.
Botaurus stellaris Eurasian Bittern AlgarveBotaurus stellaris
Eurasian Bittern
Winter | Rare
Bubulcus ibis Cattle Egret AlgarveBubulcus ibis
Cattle Egret
Resident
Calandrella brachydactyla Greater Short-toed Lark AlgarveCalandrella brachydactyla
Greater Short-toed Lark
Resident
Calidris ferruginea Curlew Sandpiper AlgarveCalidris ferruginea
Curlew Sandpiper
Winter | Rare
Calidris minuta Little Stint Algarve Calidris minuta
Little Stint
Autumn-Winter
Short-Toed-Treecreeper-Certhia-brachydactyla-AlgarveCerthia brachydactyla
Short-toed Treecreeper
Resident
Charadrius alexandrinus Kentish Plover Algarve Charadrius alexandrinus
Kentish Plover
Resident
Chlidonias niger Black Tern Algarve Chlidonias niger
Black Tern
May-Jun./Aug.-Sep.
Ciconia ciconia Algarve Ciconia ciconia
White Stork
Resident
Cisticola juncidis Algarve Cisticola juncidis
Zitting Cisticola
Resident
Cyanopica cooki Iberian Azure-winged Magpie Algarve Cyanopica cooki
Iberian Azure-winged Magpie
Resident
Estrilda astrild Waxbill Algarve Estrilda astrild
Waxbill
Resident
Galerida cristata Crested Lark Algarve Galerida cristata
Crested Lark
Resident
Himantopus himantopus Black-winged Stilt Algarve Himantopus himantopus
Black-winged Stilt
Resident
Ixobrychus minutus Little bittern AlgarveIxobrychus minutus
Little Bittern
Apr.-Sep.
Wryneck-Jynx-torquilla-AlgarveJynx torquilla
Wryneck
Apr.-Oct.
Crested-Tit-Lophophanes-cristatus-AlgarveLophophanes cristatus
Crested Tit
Resident
Merops apiaster Bee-eater Algarve Merops apiaster
Bee-eater
Mar.-Sep.
Picus-sharpei-iberian-green-woodpecker-algarve Picus sharpei
Iberian Green Woodpecker
Resident
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus AlgarvePlegadis falcinellus
Glossy Ibis
Sep.-Mar. | Rare
Ploceus melanocephalus - Black-headed Weaver AlgarvePloceus melanocephalus
Black-headed Weaver
Resident
Porphyrio porphyrio Purple Swamphen galinulle AlgarvePorphyrio porphyrio
Purple Swamphen
Resident
Ptyonoprogne rupestris AlgarvePtyonoprogne rupestris
Crag Martin
Autumn-Winter
Serin-Serinus-serinus-AlgarveSerinus serinus
Serin
Resident
Sylvia melanocephala Algarve Sylvia melanocephala
Sardinian Warbler
Resident
Tachymarptis melba Algarve Tachymarptis melba
Alpine Swift
Mar.-Sep.
Upupa epops Algarve Upupa epops
Hoopoe
Resident