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Just before reaching the ocean between Quarteira and Vale do Lobo, the Almargem stream runs into the narrow dunes and large sand strip of Cavalo Preto beach. These sandy landforms act as fragile barriers, originating a serene coastal lagoon and one of the best sites in the Algarve to observe wintering Penduline Tits and Tufted Ducks, in addition to an assortment of waders, gulls and ducks.

HOTSPOT FACTSHEET: FOZ DO ALMARGEM BIRDING SITE

Location:  Foz da Ribeira do Almargem / Praia do Almargem, Quarteira, Loulé municipality, Central Algarve | Coordinates: 37° 3′ 54.4134″ N, -8° 4′ 52.1286″ W (Lat/Long);  37.065115 N, -8.081147 W (decimal degrees) | Code: LL3 | Completion Time: up to 2 hours | Best Time for Birdwatching: Spring, Autumn and Winter; Summer is the least interesting season | Legal Status: None, regarding specifically its birdlife; the area is under the Reserva Ecológica Nacional (meaning “National Ecological Reserve”) status  | Activities: birding; nature walks/hiking; cycling, running & other outdoor activities; sightseeing;

[PLEASE CHECK ALMARGEM’S BIRD SPECIALITIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE] Since it is created by a seasonal flow system, the brackish lagoon tends to suffer from large water level fluctuations; in summer, its maximum depth reaches only 6.6 feet/2.0 meters. In winter, on the other hand, the sea often breaches the natural barriers and floods the lagoon’s mouth at high tide. Bounded by pinewoods on both sides, this ellipse-shaped wetland displays a marked difference between its upstream, intermediate, and downstream segments.

The area further upstream has the densest vegetation cover, being clearly dominated by reeds and sedge. This is the best place to observe birds such as Red-crested Pochard, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Little Grebe, Eurasian Wigeon, Coot, Moorhen and Common Pochard. There are also small numbers of Purple Swamphens (resident) and Little Bitterns (from April to September), together with Grey Herons and the occasional Purple Heron, Ferruginous Duck or Glossy Ibis. Here, the thick reedbeds are the favoured habitat of the resident Zitting Cisticola and the wintering Bluethroat (infrequent), Reed Bunting, and Penduline Tit. Along the intermediate segment, the banks and adjoining ditches are mainly covered by rushes and african tamarisk. On these small tamarisk trees – which exhibit long, showy spikes of pink or white flowers between mid-February and late April – it is relatively easy to observe Waxbill,  Sardinian Warbler, and a variety of finches. The views over the lagoon become increasingly unimpeded further towards the beach.

This fact allows bird watchers a first glimpse of the large gull roosts that are usually present throughout the winter, especially on stormy days. When seas are rough, Common Scoters often rest on the calm waters of the lagoon. Gull species include Lesser Black-backed, Yellow-legged, Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls. Stretched, deep-black wings of Great Cormorants are also a frequent sight. It is always worthwhile to carefully search these bird gatherings for atypical species: local rarities or scarcities such as the Little Gull, the Velvet Scoter and the Red-knobbed Coot have been observed in Almargem in the recent past. In the area further downstream, which encloses the largest water surface, marshy vegetation is present only on the banks. Waders, such as the Kentish Plover, the Little Stint, the Dunlin, the Greenshank, the Curlew Sandpiper and the Green Sandpiper are often present at the water’s edge. The surrounding wooded patches provide shelter to the Iberian Azure-winged Magpie, the Hoopoe, the illusive Iberian Green Woodpecker, the probing Wryneck and the Short-toed Treecreeper.

IMPORTANT TIPS & SUGGESTIONS

Try to visit early in the morning or on business days, as Foz do Almargem attracts large crowds on weekends. Unless you’re another avid beachgoer, avoid visits during summer: birdlife is at its nadir, sun seekers at their zenith. The eastern bank of the lagoon is a much more pleasant place than the western bank; however, the lagoon is almost levelled with the main track along the western side, allowing visitors to better scan the banks.

PLACES OF INTEREST NEARBY

The reedbeds of Vilamoura are located just 15-20 minutes away by car, to the east. On the opposite direction, and also about 20 minutes away by car, there are a couple of small coastal lagoons in Vale do Lobo (Almancil). The Dunas Douradas and Garrão lagoons are good for Little Bittern, Purple Swamphen, Gadwall, Black Tern, Wryneck, Black-headed Weaver, Short-toed Treecreeper and occasionally, Spotted Crake, Purple Heron and Eurasian Bittern. Both are pleasant places. However, by being nestled snugly on vast secondary dunes and covered by thick pinewood, the lagoon at Garrão can be very hard to find.

BIRD SPECIALITIES: FOZ DO ALMARGEM | LOULÉ COASTAL LAGOONS BIRDING HOTSPOTS
Acrocephalus-arundinaceus-great-reed-warbler-algarveAcrocephalus arundinaceus
Great Reed Warbler
Mar.-Aug.
Apus pallidus Algarve Apus pallidus
Pallid Swift
Mar.-Oct.
Ardea purpurea Purple Heron Algarve Ardea purpurea
Purple Heron
Mar.-Sep.
Aythya nyroca Ferruginous Duck AlgarveAythya nyroca
Ferruginous Duck
Spring/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
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
Fulica cristata Red-knobbed Coot AlgarveFulica cristata
Red-knobbed Coot
Winter | Rare
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
Luscinia svecica Bluethroat Algarve Luscinia svecica
Bluethroat
Jan.-Mar./Aug.-Dec
Merops apiaster Bee-eater Algarve Merops apiaster
Bee-eater
Mar.-Sep.
Netta rufina Red-crested Pochard AlgarveNetta rufina
Red-crested Pochard
Resident
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
Remiz-pendulinus-penduline-tit-algarve Remiz pendulinus
Penduline Tit
Oct.-Mar.
Serin-Serinus-serinus-AlgarveSerinus serinus
Serin
Resident
Sturnus unicolor Algarve Sturnus unicolor
Spotless Starling
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