Sunday, 27 September 2015

Portugal, My First Time Abroad!

On the 14th August I stepped on board a Ryan Air plane and set off on my first ever trip abroad. Excited doesn’t even cover it! During the flight I managed to get some great photos of the views using my phone from my window seat on the plane. We were rather lucky as it wasn't too cloudy, and as we were flying from Liverpool, we also flew right over Frodsham Marsh, which was amazing to see from a bird’s eye view.  

The rest of the flight was just as good and I got some fantastic views of all the urban and rural areas scattered across the UK. I realised just how big our societies actually are. 

We arrived quite late at night in Portugal, so we decided to spend a night in Porto rather than drive all the way up to Paredes de Coura in the dark (and dad hadn’t driven on the right for quite a few years).  Our hotel room had a balcony looking out across Porto and the next morning I did my first bit of birding from it; before even leaving the hotel I had already seen a Black Redstart and a Serin.  

The houses we could see from the balcony had quite a few bird traps set up along the fences, which wasn’t quite so nice to see.  These were probably for the pet trade.

Next morning we headed off to collect our hire car and my next great bird was a Yellow Legged Gull surrounded by tourists as it paddled in one of the fountains in the middle of Porto. 

The drive up to Rubiães (where we were staying for 2 weeks) produced even more new birds; seeing my first White Storks and Spotless Starlings. However, it wasn't just the birds that caught my attention, all of the scenery was absolutely amazing and it was great to see the different culture the Portuguese had to the English in the way they farm and all of those sorts of aspects.

The landscapes were so interesting, as all you could see were hills.  There was no flat land anywhere you looked, the hills even rolled right down to the sea in places where they gave way to amazing wide and inviting estuaries. 

Once off the main toll road, we need to pass through the hills, twisting and turning and never too sure what was round the next corner. And when I say twisty I mean twisty! I noticed that  part of Portugal, was littered with small towns and villages, however unlike the UK having lots of major towns and cities, all the communities were in little small holds, growing their own crops, rearing a few live stock and providing for themselves (which seemed a lot more environmentally friendly).

Everywhere always felt like you might see something amazing, as the amount of wildlife was unbelievable. There seemed to be a habitat for so many species, especially around our villa (which also gave us some cracking views and scenery). One day we were just in the pool when a Hoopoe flew down and joined us.  

The tree outside my bedroom window was full of Serins every morning.

During the course of the two weeks in Portugal, I was pretty busy visiting places, swimming,  relaxing after a busy time at school and of course I squeezed in quite a bit of birding, managing to see a total of 100 species, which isn't bad considering I wasn't supposed to be on a birding holiday! I also got 29 new species, some of the highlights included:

Short Toed Eagle
Rock Thrush
Gull Billed Tern
Black Eared Wheatear
Woodchat and Southern Grey Shrike
Aquatic Warbler
Blue Throat
Sardinian Warbler
Turtle Dove
Cirl Bunting
Melodious Warbler
Sardinian Warbler
Black Kite

Every morning we had a Hoopoe coming to our garden which gave us some spectacular views (and sometimes more than one bird). We had some fantastic views of Pallid Swift in a Portuguese town called Caminha, where we were also watching a Gull Billed Tern, Roseate Terns and a single Montague's Harrier. We also had Turtle Dove, Fan Tailed Warbler, and Cirl Bunting outside where we were staying.

As well as birds, there were some incredible butterflies, such as the Swallow Tail (including a scarce sub species) and also some great moths, including Latin, Scarce Merville du Jour, and Green Silver Lines, we also had Praying Mantis coming to our house lamps.  Every night we joked about putting the moth trap on and simply turned on the outside lights.

Another great place we visited was a waterfall with a deep plunge pool where we swan in the icy fresh water. This pool was populated with so many stunning electric blue Demoiselles.

We spent a day out in the Peneda Geres National Park, but on the way we stopped at an amazing viewing point where you could see for miles and miles.

The actual park had single lane tracks with steep drops down each side, but it was worth it for the views we got and the wildlife we saw up there from lizards to shrikes. Wild ponies wandered along the tracks and long horned cattle were free to roam and graze. Just amazing.


In the evenings, we had BBQs of fresh fish, roasted vegetables, breads  and local meats and spent a lot of time talking and relaxing, or going in the pool of course.

An absolutely fantastic holiday, and a brilliant one from the view it was my first holiday abroad. I won't forget this for a long time, and I'm sure there will be more brilliant ones to come.

I will leave you with a few more pictures from the trip.

Salted cod

Ponte de Lima




View from the villa


  1. Hello, sounds like an awesome trip. Lovely scenery and beautiful birds. Great series of photos, thanks for sharing your visit.

  2. WOW! Now thatwasanamazingtrip for you andI am sure and the scenery was wonderful. Thanks for sharing, so I suppose you are back to school again. Have a good week ahead.

  3. Awesome - never been to Portugal...must go!!!!!!

    Shame about the bird catching :-(



  4. Wonderful to see Findlay... Mandys sisters live in Marbella and Dubai and see some lovely birds.. Hoopoes are common in Dubai but I've never seen one.

  5. Ex citing times ... this post and t h e one below. And I am very very sure there are more ahead for you.

  6. Looks a great place to visit but I'm not sure how I'd react to the bird traps though. However it seems unlike here they have plenty of birds. Serin and Hoopoe visiting daily us a treat but I'd give my left arm for Pallid Swifts

  7. cool! You started travelling. You have a lot to experience ahead of you. It will make you rich in memories and learning about the world. :) I would love to see the Hoopoe up close. I have only seen it in a distance. Great serie of images :)

  8. What a great trip. Bonus you added 29 birds to your life list! You took great photos too.

  9. Pretty exciting trip summary here. I've always wondered what the birding was like in Portugal. Glad you had fun and found birds along the way:) Best kind of trip!

  10. Great photos - I especially like the Hoopoe

  11. Great pictures ;-)
    Céline & Philippe

  12. You have spotted beautiful birds in your journey in Portugal.

  13. Wow!
    Wonderful photos!

  14. We came upon a trap in Costa Rica once. We let the bird go and kicked the trap into the jungle. We always hoped we did the right thing. Wonderful photos.

  15. What an incredible trip! And an awesome list of bird sightings! That hoopoe and the osprey and others were great shots! And I loved the sunset shot at the end.

  16. That looks good - and I get the feeling that this will not be your last trip overseas - there's a whole world of nature to see!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  17. I have fantastic memories of my first trip abroad, and it was in Italy. Great discussion about all the birds you saw on your trip. I am somewhat of an bird watcher myself. There are some Yellow Legged Gulls in Italy as well. Always fun to see those.

    Marci Deegan @ Twin Pine Casino and Hotel

  18. Hi! Sounds like you had a great time in Portugal. Thanks for sharing all about your Portugal trip along with details of the spotted birds. I always wonder what birding in Portugal seems like. I have already applied for my Portugal visit visa and I’m excited to spot different species of birds.