Portugal - May/June 2023

From 31 May to 14 june 2023, my wife and I went on a self-organized 15-day vacation to Portugal.
It wasn’t a dedicated birding trip (my wife would rebel if it were!), but I certainly did fit in some birding while there. 


Wed 31 May: Flight Amsterdam – Faro (17:20 – 19:30): Night at Ferraguda (R&J)
Thu 1 June: Night at Ferraguda (R&J)
Fri 2 June: Night at Ferraguda (R&J)
Sat 3 June: Visit to Sagres (1h). Drive to Lisbon (3h). Night at York House Lisboa Hotel, Lisbon
Sun 4 June: Drive to Porto (3h). Night at InPatio Guesthouse, Porto
Mon 5 June: Night at InPatio Guesthouse, Porto
Tue 6 June: Night at InPatio Guesthouse, Porto
Wed 7 June: Night at InPatio Guesthouse, Porto
Thu 8 June: To Coimbra (1.5h). Night at Granja da Cabrita, Coimbra
Fri 9 June: Night at Granja da Cabrita, Coimbra
Sat 10 June: Night at Granja da Cabrita, Coimbra
Sun 11 June: Night at Granja da Cabrita, Coimbra
Mon 12 June: Night at Casa Branca, Tavira
Tue 13 June: Night at Casa Branca, Tavira
Wed 14 June: Flight Faro – Amsterdam (12:30 – 16:30)


With friends Ruud & Jane
Address: Ferragudo.

York House Lisboa Hotel, Lisbon
GPS: 38.706120, -9.159160. Characterful historic hotel (it’s a very old former monastery) in a great area with local atmosphere, and within walking distance from the center, the river and lots of family owned cafes and restaurants. The courtyard is used for breakfast. You have to take many steps to reach your room and the reception area, so be prepared.

InPatio Guesthouse, Porto
For GPS: please use the address Rua Mouzinho da Silveira nº 68 (the entrance to our Guest House is guarded by a green gate with the sign "Solar do Patio" on top). GPS: 41.142006, -8.614414
Brilliant location in the heart of the historic center, close to Metro links and the river. The decor was lovely, so clean and the extra little touches of homemade biscuits in our room etc. were just lovely. The owners Olga and Fernando were gracious, warm and friendly. The breakfast was wonderful with plenty of freshly baked products, fresh fruits and cheeses with meats.

Granja da Cabrita, Coimbra
GPS: 40.176979, -8.438951. We booked a Family Room with Terrace. Large, comfortable and modern rooms. Spacious bathroom, all brand new! The breakfast is served very well and the hosts are very attentive. Great pool and garden to rest. A quiet place close to the city of Coimbra (8 min drive).

Casa Branca, Tavira
GPS:  37.139783, -7.710502. We enjoyed our 2 nights here, but it was not as great as expected. We felt that the property could have been better maintained and it gave us a bit of an old-fashioned feeling. It is just outside the center of Tavira. Breakfast is very good. Very large garden albeit it little messy; the swimming pool is not very large but ok. There is a spacious parking lot that is fully secured.

Birding Hotspots

Porto area

Douro Estuary Nature Reserve (GPS: 41.135803, -8.663004)
The Douro Estuary Nature Reserve is located on the south bank of the Douro River and encompassing an area of 62 hectares. It is an important resting place, feeding and shelter of many species of migratory birds (especially waders that move along the Atlantic coast). You can walk the short boardwalk from the visitor center to two observatories, namely one facing the marsh and another, just a few hundred meters away, goes to a vast sandy area that, according to the tide, is sometimes exposed. When I visited, it was rather quiet and I only saw a few Yellow Wagtails, European Goldfinches and European Stonechats.

Observatório Ribeira da Granja (GPS: 41.147927, -8.653629)
On the northern bank of the Douro river, opposite to the Douro Estuary Nature Reserve on the southern bank, this observatory has a clear view over the small island right in front of it and the river. The small island is basically a sandbank and only visible at low tide. The observatory itself is a building in which - I think - a restaurant is located, so of not much use for birders. Park on the west side (GPS: 41.148094, -8.652406) and walk 3 min to the observatory. When I visited the only birds here were Egyptian Geese, Barn Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins

Barrinha de Esmoriz
Barrinha de Esmoriz (20km south of Porto) is a protected area with close to 400 hectares of coastal lagoon. One of the special features of the lagoon are its brackish waters, because periodically there is a connection with the sea through a channel in the dune cord. The area is a sanctuary of biodiversity. A network of walkways (the Passadiços da Barrinha de Esmoriz) invites birders to walk trails between the lagoons. More than 100 species of birds can be seen, among which are Purple Heron, Little Bittern, Grey Heron, Great Cormorant, European Stonechat, Sandwich Tern, Water Rail, European Turtle Dove, Kentish Plover, Common Scoter, Marsh Harrier, Grey Wagtail and Sardinian Warbler.

The Esmoriz Walkway has an approximately circular shape and has several entry points and route options. The circular walk around the lagoon is about 4,5 km long ( see the map). Pedestrian only. You can park next to the Esmoriz Football Field (on the south side: GPS: 40.957579,-8.640512) and start you walk from there.

Ria de Aveiro
45m South of Porto, near the coastal town of Aveiro, known as the "Venice of Portugal" for its canals and colorful boats. Ria de Aveiro is a coastal lagoon that is home to various waterbirds like flamingos, spoonbills, and avocets. There is a 9 km pedestrian path along the channels of the Ria de Aveiro where many water birds and sea birds can be observed. You can park at Praia da Vaguiera (GPS: 40.560050,-8.757199) and walk from there North and South.

Coimbra area

Choupal National Forest
Choupal National Forest (Mata Nacional do Choupal) is a short distance from the city center of Coimbra and runs alongside the Mondego River. This grove of poplar trees was planted in an attempt to stop the floods of the Mondego river. Since the 19th century many other trees have grown in the area. The forest feels more like a big city park and is a popular place for recreation, exercise and picnics. But still a nice area for birding and more than 100 different bird species have been seen here. Besides that it is a beautiful area for strolling around with lots of small bridges, waterways and paths to explore the area. There are two bird hides on the far west side; one gives a great view on the river and marsh. I visited twice and found Purple Heron, Grey Wagtail, Common Kingfisher, Common Waxbill etc. Also Black Kites circling above the forest and sitting in the tall trees.
Parking at the far east side: GPS: 40.216968,-8.439067.

Paul de Arzila Nature Reserve
The Paul de Arzila Nature Reserve (10km West of Coimbra) was created to preserve an important and natural wetland in Ribeira de Cernache, near the Rio Mondego River. The area has three gullies Vala do Moinho, Vala do Meio and Vala da Costa, and a forest area. As the name suggests (paul = marsh), the main feature of this area is its abundant water, which provides a very varied vegetation that attracts numerous birds. Many ducks and various species of herons nest here. Special is the Purple Heron which was chosen as the symbol of this reserve. I visited twice and really liked it. I saw Little Grebe, White Stork, Little Egret, Black-crowned Night Heron, Spoonbill, Marsh Harrier, Black Kite, and heard Water Rail calling everywhere. Also introduced red swamp crayfish everywhere! There is 2 km trail from the visitor center (Parking: GPS: 40.182431,-8.553839). Opening hours: from 9:00 am to 12:30 am and 2:00 pm to 5:30 pm.