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The town of Faro is separated from the sea by a number of marsh
islands that emerge at low tide. This area, known as Ria Formosa is a
paradise for bird watching and it has the particularity of being
accessible by boat only.
The area described here comprises the ria itself, including sites that can only be visited by boat. Some areas
belonging to the natural park, which are accessible from land (such as Ludo, Quinta do Lago and the Santa
Luzia salt pans) are described on separate pages.
The Ria Formosa is composed of a dense network of channels, separated by small islands of salt marsh
and sand. Several boat companies, based in Faro and Olhão, provide daily connections to the islands, right
through this area. Here one can see many waterbirds, especially Little Egret (which can be seen throughout
the area), Grey Heron and Spoonbill. Sometimes a Marsh Harrier turns up. Waders are very abundant;
species include Oystercatcher, which here is especially numerous, often with flocks of several hundred, Grey,
Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Whimbrel, Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits, Common Redshank, Common
Sandpiper and Turnstone. Other species that can be seen here are Sandwich Tern and Kingfisher. During
winter it is common to see some Black-necked Grebes feeding in channels of the estuary.
The Barreta island (ilha da Barreta, also known as ilha Deserta) is made up of dunes and is about 7 km
long. Boats connect this island to Faro several times a day. The southern tip of this island is called Cabo de
Santa Maria, which is the most southerly point of mainland Portugal. Along the harbour it is easy to see
several species of gulls, such as Mediterranean, Lesser Black-backed and Yeloow-legged. In front of the
lighthouse, already in the open sea, it is not uncommon to see Gannets flying by. The island itself said is
covered by shrubs and a few trees, there are very few buildings, almost all of them are made of wood. A few
marked trails make it possible for visitors to walk around. There are not many land birds around here; the
most common include Crested Lark and Sardinian Warbler. In winter, there are many Stonechats, Meadow
Pipits and flocks of Linnets.. However, it is during periods of migraton (both in spring and autumn) that this
site has more potential, as there can be falls of migrant birds (especially when the winds blow from the east).
Species recorded here on passage includeTurtle Dove, Woodchat Shrike, Northern Wheatear, Common
Redstart, Whinchat, Spotted and Pied Flycatchers and several species of warblers. There is a group of small
trees just north of the harbour, which is a good observing site.
Sanderlings can be seen on the beach of this island, feeding along the water line.
Where it is: the eastern half of the Algarve, covering about 50 km of coastline between Faro and Tavira. The
town of Faro can be used as a starting point for exploring the area.
If you want to know other places to watch birds in this region, we suggest:
|Boat is the main way of transportation in the ria Formosa
|The Barreta island separates the ria Formosa from the sea; the soil is sandy and the vegetation cover consists of small bushes
Most interesting species:
Black-necked Grebe, Spoonbill, Kentish Plover, Mediterranean Gull, Woodchat Shrike
Gannet, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, White Stork, Marsh Harrier, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover,
Grey Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Curlew, Common
Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull,
Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Turtle Dove, Kingfisher, Crested Lark, Meadow Pipit, Yellow Wagtail,
Whinchat, Stonechat, Common Redstart, Northern Wheatear, Sardinian Warbler, Common Whitethroat,
Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Linnet