The municipality of Mértola is a territory of excellence for birdwatching. Its vast area offers a diversity of habitats and welcomes therefore a wide variety of species. The Mediterranean thicket, the shores and riverbeds of the water courses and the rocky blossoms allow the presence of a truly rich birdlife and are primordial for the refuge and nesting of birds that are highly threatened such as Black Stork, Black Vulture, Bonelli’s Eagle, Golden Eagle or Eagle-owl. These areas are also great for species like Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Blue Rock Thrush and Rock Bunting.
In the rolling plain areas, the heavens are dominated by the flights of both the Iberian-Imperial Eagle and the Eurasian Griffon. These steppe lands are also home for species like Great Bustard, Little Bustard, Black-bellied Sandgrouse or Montagu’s Harrier. Along the roads and paths one can easily see White Stork, Hoopoe or Azure-winged Magpie.
The town of Mértola is home to the last national urban colony of a rather rare and threatened species – the Lesser Kestrel. At Mina de S. Domingos, the ruins of the old mine complex are the nesting place for White-rumped Swift. In the territory there are five birdwatching routes for you to explore:
Itinerary 1: MÉRTOLA, A REFUGE TO THE LESSER KESTREL
The walls and castle as well as other historic structures are the ideal shelter for the town’s most emblematic species – the lesser kestrel.Along an itinerary through the town, along the riverbanks and the surrounding forest up to the Herdade da Bombeira vineyards you can still see white stork, jackdaw, rock thrush, magpie, bee-eater, litte egret, grey heron, kingfisher or blackbird. The Bonelli’s nests close along the cliffs of the river Guadiana. A 10 km itinerary just outside of Mértola.
Download here Birdwatching Trail 1_ A refuge for the Lesser Kestrel
Itinerary 2:THE OLD MINE TERRITORY
Once a large mining population, Mina de São Domingos is now a place full of past history and recent memories. The only thing left from the impressive structure of the mine are the old ruins that house several species of birds. The white-rumped swift as well as the red-rumped swallow nests within the inner walls of some of the deserted structures of the old mine. This species is a very rare breeder in Portugal. In here you can also frequently see kites, jackdaws, vultures and both golden and imperial eagles, as well as a slew of passerines like rufous bush robin, blackeared wheatear and thekla lark.
Download here Birdwatching Trail 2_Old Mine Territory
Itinerary 3: THE BANKS OF THE GUADIANA RIVER
The Guadiana river is flanked by banks of rocky cliffs where several endangered species find there refuge. This is the territory of the golden eagle, the eagle-owl and the black stork.
The scenery along the route varies between croplands and pasture and areas of holm oak forest and Mediterranean scrub. As the river approaches, the diversity of flora highlights shrubs like the montepelier cistus, the spanish lavender, the rosemary or the rockrose. The area is of particular interest for bird watching, but it is not always easy to distinguish the various warblers that occur here.
Download here Birdwatching Trail 3_The banks of the Guadina
Itinerary 4: BETWEEN THE STEPPE AND THE “MONTADO”
These are lands of shale and steep crags, the home of the wild Guadiana and the refuge for many birds of prey and other endangered species such as the golden eagle, eagle owl, the Montagu’s harrier, the hen harrier or the black stork. This itinerary takes you to “Pulo do Lobo” – a waterfall,17km north of Mértola, which name means “wolf’s leap”. Its said that only a brave man or a wild animal when chased could leap over the gorge that was created by the waterfall. This place is the heart of the Natural Park.
After the village of “Azinhal” begins an extent plain area called “Campo Branco” (meaning “White Field”) because of the pale colour of these very poor soils. This is a good area to observe species like the bustard, the black-bellied sandgrouse or the little bustard.
Download here: Birdwatching Trail 4_Steppe &Montado