Birds & Nature, as part of its ethos, is committed to supporting nature and biodiversity conservation; this objective is observed in every activity we organise. However, we want to go beyond that, so we have developed and are continuing to develop and support specific conservation projects in Portugal.
Conservation Project in the Guadiana Valley Natural Park
From the beginning of 2022, for every birdwatching holiday we organize, we shall donate a sum of between 30 and 60 € (depending upon the price of the tour) per participant to a fund to finance the installation of nest boxes, wildlife cameras, data loggers, the creation and maintenance of feeding stations and other activities for the benefit of, and as research aids for, rare and endangered species of the area, including Spanish Imperial Eagle, Montagu’s Harrier, Lesser Kestrel, Great Bustard, Little Bustard, Griffon Vulture and Cinereous Vulture. In this way, we visualise a growing and mutually beneficial relationship between ecotourism and nature conservation.
The fund has already financed the purchase of a GPS-Cellular-Solar ACC Tracker (weighing less than 6 gr.) which has been fitted to a Montagu’s Harrier chick which was hatched and reared under controlled conditions from an egg collected in the wild. The aim is for the tracker to provide information enabling the monitoring of the bird’s migration route(s), stopover sites and the timing of its movements. This information is vital to the protection of the species, which is in decline not only in Portugal but throughout its world range, and the conservation of its habitat.
Conservation Project together with Herdade da Apariça
Birds & Nature is proud to announce the launch, in October 2022, jointly with Herdade da Apariça, of an import new conservation initiative. Herdade da Apariça is located close to the village of São Marcos da Ataboeira in the heart of the Castro Verde plains and is notable as being probably the pre-eminent breeding site in Portugal for the stunning European Roller. Significantly, its fields are frequently visited by both Great and Little Bustards, as well as other steppe birds. Initially, the conservation project, which is to be funded by Birds & Nature contributing a donation in respect of every client it takes to Apariça on its popular birdwatching tours in the Alentejo, will concentrate on the renewal of European Roller nest boxes on the property and the expansion of this nest box scheme.
Short-break Birds & Conservation Programme in Southern Portugal (Lisbon Estuaries & Alentejo)
We have a programme (Birds & Conservation) in which you have the opportunity to join specific conservation projects involving nest-finding and trapping and ringing (banding) species of conservation concern. This special five-day programme includes one morning in which participants help to monitor colonies of Collared Pratincoles in the Tagus Estuary Natural Reserve and another morning contributing to the ringing of Lesser Kestrels and Montagu’s Harriers in the Guadiana Valley Natural Park. These activities offer a unique opportunity to add to our knowledge of threatened species at a European level and give the participant the chance of a lifetime to observe endangered species at ultra-close range.
Even more important, by taking part, participants are contributing directly to the conservation of these three species, since a significant part of the tour price reverts directly to the two protected areas, helping to purchase rings, radio devices and monitoring equipment for use on these birds. Included in the price is a fee of 160 Euros which is directly and exclusively used to purchase monitoring material for these three species (the fee is directly donated to both the Tagus Estuary Natural Reserve and the Guadiana Valley Natural Park by Birds & Nature Tours Portugal).
Monitoring Aquatic Birds of the Northern Bank of the Sado Estuary
In 2009, Birds & Nature launched a Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Project, involving monitoring throughout the year the numbers of aquatic birds visiting the northern bank of the Sado Estuary. This project was submitted to the Portuguese Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests (ICNF), following law changes in relation to tourism activities within protected areas, which encouraged companies to develop conservation projects. The project supports the year-round collection of data in respect of different aquatic bird species, with special reference to waders (shorebirds), and gathers information on their abundance, seasonal variation, as well as habitat changes and their impact on waders’ lives; in other words, the project seeks to obtain information that will contribute to the knowledge and conservation of birds in this protected area of great ornithological importance. In practice, the project concentrates on monthly counts of aquatic birds undertaken by volunteer teams coordinated by Birds & Nature at several sheltered high-tide sites. It is not necessary to have previous birdwatching and/or monitoring experience in order to be a volunteer; each volunteer joining the project receives specific training and is placed in a team with different levels of experience.
The project began with the first count in January 2010, so have now completed more than a decade of study.
The main objectives of this project are as follows:
- To obtain information about the seasonal variation/phenology of the different species populations occurring in the Sado Estuary.
- To identify the areas in the estuary which accommodate the greatest concentration of birds throughout the year.
- To obtain data that may help to understand the impact on birds of the different types of area previously occupied and used as pans for salt production.
- To obtain time scale data enabling an understanding of, and response to, the effects on bird species facing changes in their habitat.
- To complement the data gathered by other projects/entities, for example by ICNF.
- To promote volunteering in nature conservation projects.
The project covers an area of the Sado Estuary between Praias do Sado and Zambujal (Ribeira da Marateca river mouth), which for monitoring purposes has been divided into several sections; each section is covered by one team; each team has several volunteers, including a coordinator.
The fact that numerous aquatic bird species, especially waders, use the intertidal mudflats for foraging during low-tide, means that these birds are dispersed over huge areas, making it quite difficult to count them; however, during high tide when intertidal mudflats are submerged, these birds concentrate in shelter areas such as salt pans; thus, around high tide, it is possible to identify and count these birds rapidly and precisely while they are gathered in the salt pans. One count per month in each selected shelter area is undertaken resulting in 12 counts per year. Each count is performed on a Saturday, either side of the maximum daytime high tide. Counts are performed simultaneously by the different teams, each of them counting its designated section or sections.
The monthly information obtained is collated and analysed by species, by month, by location, etc.
At the end of 2022, an article was published in Waterbirds, the international journal of The Waterbird Society, summarising the results of monthly counts of wintering waders in the Sado Estuary over the ten-year period to 2019. Click here to access the article which is entitled Synchronous Declines of Winter Waders and High-Tide Roost Area in a Temperate Estuary: Results of a 10-Year Monitoring Programme.
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