Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170;   president@SEVolusiaAudubon.org


Bird Iberia with SEVAS by Ken Gunn


Mark your calendars and plan to visit Iberia with SEVAS starting from Lisbon on April 15, 2016.
I am organizing a trip for 14 people to Bird Portugal next April with an optional extension - Catalonia for Couth and Culture.  The Bird Portugal portion is being planned for thirteen days and the Catalonia extension for about another week.


The Portugal trip will start and end in Lisbon and will be operated by Birds and Nature Tours, an excellent Portuguese based birding company.  I have been on a one-day trip with this company and was impressed with their organization and expertise.  Duration is being planned for 13 days in country and will include South Portugal hotspots as well as one location across the Spanish border.  The itinerary will include the following:
   

•    Four days visiting different parts of the Tagus and Sado Estuary Reserves.  The Tagus Estuary is about 84,000 acres and the Reserve itself is 35,000.  It is comprised of inter-tidal mudflats, salt marshes, rice fields, reed beds, cork oak woodlands and farm and pastureland.  It has a species list of over 250 birds as well as wild and domestic mammals.     Sado Estuary Nature Reserve is about 57,000 acres and has a species list of 200 birds. It encompasses beaches, dunes, scrub, marshes, stone pine and cork oak woodlands, saltpans, and rice fields.  We will also take a boat trip up the Tagus to visit a heronry.

    •    Three days in the interior from a base in Mértola.  The Castro Verde area is a rolling plain with gently sloped hills and valleys, a large part of which is covered by the European Union’s Natura 2000 project and denoted as a Special Protection Area for endangered species of steppe birds.  The area is home to Olive groves and Holm and Cork Oak plantations as well as conventional farms and is wonderful bird habitat.                      Guardiana Valley Nature Reserve covers 150,000 acres through one of the most important migratory routes in Europe as well as providing prime nesting habitat for residents.  Granite hills and slightly rugged terrain yield a whole new selection of birds including many of the large soaring birds of Iberia and North Africa.

    •    Two days in Algarve, the south coast of Portugal, from a base in the old Moorish city of Tavira.          Castro Marim Nature Reserve, covers 4500 acres of the Rio Guardiana Estuary and is also listed among Europe’s important wetland sites.  It is comprised of dunes, salt marshes, canals, tidal mud flats, saltpans, fish cultures, lagoons, coastal pine woods, pastureland and cultivated fields.  It is a prime wintering and nesting area as well as a migratory stopover site for shore, swimming and wading birds, passerines and raptors, again including many North Africa species.  Ria Formosa Nature Park stretches along some thirty miles of coastline.  Vast sand dunes separate the sea from a maze of lagoons, inter-tidal mudflats, salt marshes and reed beds.  Inland, still within the park, stand tracts of pine forest.  Again, it affords the opportunity to see both resident and migratory birds and is home to several unique specialty species. We will also take a boat trip along the coast from Olhão.

    •    A stopover at the Salgados Lagoon to look at shore, wading and swimming birds as well as some shore nesting species.

    •    Two days at the fabulous Coto Doñana across the border in Spain.  Situated on the delta of the Guadalquivir River, just southwest of Seville, this is considered one of the world’s most valuable wetlands.  The marshlands, beaches, dune systems, woodlands and heaths provide a haven for up to a million migratory birds a year.  It is also home to one of the last populations of the world’s most endangered cat species, the Iberian Lynx.  It is comprised of a core area of wetlands and a buffer of mixed habitat which together cover more than a third of a million acres.  The park is said to harbor 250 species.

Our timing should hit spring migration almost perfectly so will include European migrants as well as residents such as the Great Bustard, Little Bustard, Iberian Grey Shrike, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Montagu’s Harrier, Black Stork, Eurasian Eagle Owl, Blue Rock Thrush, Griffon Vultures, Zitting Cisticola, Spanish Eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle, Squacco Heron and many others.  I want to add the Azure Magpie to my life list.  I missed it last time, but others saw it.  Overall we should record more than 180 species.
Birds and Nature Tours Portugal have websites with bird lists on the Portuguese sites we will visit.  They are listed below:
Tagus estuary - http://www.birds.pt/tagus-estuary-tours
Sado estuary - http://www.birds.pt/sado-estuary-tours
Alentejo (Castro Verde and Guadiana valley) - http://www.birds.pt/the-alentejo-tour
Algarve (Castro Marin and Ria Formosa) - http://www.birds.pt/the-algarve-tour
 

There are several websites on Doñana but I didn’t find any that I thought were all that great.  Wikipedia has a fair bit of dry information and two sites that give a bit more information are:
http://www.walking-holidays-spain.com/parks/Andalucia/Donana.htm and
http://birdwatching-spain.com/cubic/ap/cubic.php/doc/Birdwatching-at-Donana-National-Park-354.html
You may have better luck than I did.


The Catalonian Extension is still being investigated.  It may include an extra day in Lisbon to see the many attractions the city has to offer and will include the cities of Barcelona and Valencia on the Mediterranean Coast of Spain.  In Barcelona we expect to allow most of three days to see museums of the masters – Picasso, Gaudi and Miró – and the spectacular Sagrada Familia as well as other local color spots.  Believe me, I hate museums and am not interested in spending much time looking at paintings, but I can’t wait to get back to the several in Barcelona.  They are exceptional!  Valencia is one of the most beautiful modern cities in the world.  After visiting the city and maybe some of the museums, we hope to work in a final day of birding at Parque Natural de la Albufera.  This park has great viewing blinds and a lookout tower and we can take a boat trip through the reeds and into the open water of Lake Albufera.  Again we will catch spring migration plus residents such as the Purple Heron, Ferruginous Duck, Common Kingfisher, Tawny Pipit, Temmick’s Stint and Rufus Bush Thrush.


Madrid is not included in our plans but anyone wishing to spend a day or so in the Spanish capital can arrange a layover on their way home from Valencia.  Also, if your spouse is a non-birder, like mine, you can arrange for her to meet us in Lisbon or Barcelona and only do the Catalonian extension with us.
Cost of the Portuguese portion of the trip, starting and ending in Lisbon, is €3050 (euros) with a single supplement of €450.   It may be necessary to add a fuel supplement depending on prices next year.  Exchange rate is currently less than USD 1.15 per Euro.


Delta has connections to Lisbon and Barcelona from Daytona Beach and American Airlines has excellent connections from Orlando.  Both are currently under $1200.  United has less attractive scheduling and pricing.  TAP Portugal and Iberia Airlines are also worth investigating.  Flights between Lisbon and Barcelona are $50 to $75, depending on the carrier.


At this time, please express your interest to Ken Gunn, phone 386-478-3947, or by email at gunnsatbeach@cfl.rr.com .  We will probably require a down payment by early summer to hold reservations with the vendors in Portugal. 

Itinerary
Day 1 - Arrival in Lisbon. Visit the Portuguese capital. Overnight stay in Lisbon.

Day 2 - Travel to Tagus estuary (about 20 minutes). Visit the Alcochete area of Tagus Estuary Reserve. Overnight stay in Alcochete.

Day 3 - Visit the Ponta da Erva area of Tagus Estuary Nature Reserve. Visit a heronry by boat (about 2 hours) in the river Tagus. Overnight stay in Alcochete.

Day 4 - Travel to Portas de Ródão (about 90 minutes). Visit the Portas de Ródão area. Overnight stay in Alcochete.

Day 5 - Visit the Pancas area of Tagus Estuary Nature Reserve. Visit the north area of Sado Estuary Nature Reserve. Overnight stay in Alcochete.

Day 6 - Travel to Alentejo (about 60 minutes). Visit the Castro Verde area. Overnight stay in Mértola.

Day 7 - Visit the Guadiana Valley Nature Park area. Overnight stay in Mértola.

Day 8 - Visit other areas of the Castro Verde and Guadiana Valley areas. Overnight stay in Mértola.

Day 9 - Travel to the Algarve (about 60 minutes). Visit Castro Marim Nature Reserve. Overnight in Tavira.

Day 10 - Visit the Ria Formosa Nature Park. Boat trip in Olhão (about 2h30). Overnight stay in Tavira.

Day 11 - Travel to the Coto Doñana, in Spain (about 90 minutes). Visit areas of this National Park. Overnight stay in El Rocio.

Day 12 - Visit additional areas of the Coto Doñana. Overnight stay in El Rocio.

Day 13 - Travel to Lisbon (about 3 hours), stopping along the way to visit the Salgados lagoon (Algarve) and the south area of the Sado Estuary Nature Reserve. Overnight stay in Lisbon.

Guides
João Jara expects to guide our group himself, although last minute business pressures could cause him to provide a substitute.  I have birded with two of his guides and they were both terrific.  The following is a brief bio for Joao, borrowing heavily from information written in the promotion literature from a very large US company for whom he guides regularly.


João was born in Lisbon, Portugal and studied biology at Faculdade de Ciências de Lisboa.  His early career was in the pharmaceutical industry where he progressed to senior management positions and directorships with major multinational companies. 


João has some thirty years field experience and has extensive knowledge about birding in Portugal.  He has been a member of the board of SPEA (Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves – Birdlife in Portugal) and a voting member of PRC (Portuguese Rarities Committee) from 2005 – 2011 and was chairman of PRC from 2007 – 2011.  He is an author and co-author of many articles about birds and has taught bird identification courses for SPEA.  He founded his own company, Birds and Nature Tours Portugal in 2008 and has led numerous bird tours both in Portugal and abroad for his own company and for major foreign firms.  João is fluent in English, Spanish, French as well as his native Portuguese.