The Tagus estuary (Estuário do Tejo) is an important stop-over on the East Atlantic Flyway. The birding delights of the estuary are a 30-minute drive from the Lisbon worldwide airport. So shut, you’ll suppose there’s nothing one can do to enhance the placement of this implausible birding spot. Nevertheless, the Portuguese authorities thinks in any other case and intends to place the worldwide airport on high of the birding – certainly a lot nearer and but, not an enchancment.
The entire estuary is world class with pasture for preventing bulls, rice fields, mudflats, cork oak forests, salt pans and open water. The Lezírias de Vila Franca de Xira (typically and erroneously named Ponta de Erva after probably the most southerly tip) are an extensively farmed space within the north of the estuary. To get there, drive from the airport north on the A1 motorway and take the exit 3 in the direction of Elvas-Evora-Vila Franca de Xira. Cross the bridge and instantly flip proper on the signal “observação de aves“. Alongside the 7 km to Porto Alto there are lots of entrances however solely the primary one doesn’t require a keycard. Gate opening occasions are aligned with the opening occasions of the EVOA – Espaço de Visitação e Observação de Aves. And don’t fear, I’ll write about EVOA in Spring.
Most individuals go to Portugal in July or August to benefit from the three issues Portugal is known for: solar, sand and seafood. Birders are totally different – in case you didn’t know but – and birders ought to keep away from these exact same months because the plague. Typically talking, one of the best months in Portugal are April and September/October however the Lezírias are good year-round. I like to shut the 12 months with a go to as birds are like English pensioners in Benidorm – they flock in winter.
The Lezírias present each high quality and amount. It’s the Cristiano Ronaldo of birding spots – a number of objectives and good to take a look at (I’m informed). For high quality, contemplate visiting the realm known as 38 Moios, subsequent to EVOA. It’s the Portuguese reply to the Patagonia Picnic Desk. There’s a powerful checklist of vagrants which were seen there. Nevertheless, for me it’s the sheer amount of birds that impresses and continues drawing me to the Lezírias. Large flocks of Shiny Ibis actually darken the sky. A rice area can have 1000’s of Black-tailed Godwit, simply think about going by these numbers searching for these Bar-tailed Godwits and Lengthy-billed Dowitchers hiding amongst them. And sure, I understand I’ve misplaced my non-birding, non-nerdy readers at this level…
Just like the aforementioned English pensioners many songbirds fly south, and Portugal could also be far sufficient south to go. Bluethroats, Cetti’s and Chiffchaff could be discovered within the brush alongside the canals and the estuary. The Skylarks and Northern Wheatears within the barren fields entice all 4 European species of harrier (however no Montagu’s for Christmas, sorry). Merlin and Brief-Eared Owl are virtually a “lifeless cert” in winter. Virtually.
The one assured sighting can be the Zitting Cisticola.
Giant teams of Little Bustard aren’t unusual in winter. I’ve seen them yearly for the final decade or so.
And after some intense birding it’s lunchtime already. There are three issues which might be nice about Portugal: wine, espresso and the meals. Go away the realm by the gate once more and switch proper in the direction of Porto Alto. The Casa das Queijadas presents queijadas – cottage cheese pasties. They’ve many various varieties, and I selflessly tasted/examined a dozen totally different varieties. The unsponsored struggling I need to endure for this weblog… These pastries are superb, however if you’re a bit peckish: on the Casa they serve a great lunch too. For the fanatics that need to return to birding asap: seize a “bifana” or “prego no pão” to go.
You may also flip left on the gate, go to Vila Franca de Xira and luxuriate in one of many many eating places close to the river. If the place is jam-packed, it is going to be good. Clearly, you may be spending top quality lunch time and birding might drop in your checklist of priorities for the day. For those who really feel responsible about that, scan the river for geese and geese and take a look at the muddy margins.