Iberian Wildlife Tours - Wildlife Holidays in Spain and Portugal
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Southern reaches: Carrasqueira and
the Açude da Murta

From the northern outskirts of the village of Comporta, a track leads northwards through a mosaic of rice fields, brackish pasture and small pools with fringing reedbeds, the whole criss-crossed with ditches often choked by the highly invasive water hyacinth, native to tropical America. This treeless expanse, known as the Sapal da Carrasqueira, Purple Gallinule © John Muddeman Purple Gallinule
Porphyrio porphyrio
© John Muddeman
is a favourite haunt of herons and egrets in winter, and is also home to a renowned winter roost of short-eared owl. Reedbeds near the northern tip provide suitable habitat for breeding water rail and Cetti's, reed and great reed warblers, with purple gallinule having recently colonised the area, as well as attracting grasshopper and sedge warblers on passage; winter brings an influx of marsh harriers and the occasional penduline tit.

On the seaward side of the Carrasqueira retaining wall lies one of the best examples of saltmarsh vegetation in the estuary, carpeted with purple and perennial glassworts, annual and shrubby sea-blites, Arthrocnemum macrostachyum, sea-purslane, small cord-grass, Spartina versicolor, common saltmarsh-grass and annual beard-grass, and punctuated by stands of sea club-rush and patches of common sea-lavender, golden-samphire and the wormwood Artemisia caerulescens; immediately below the low tide mark lie extensive meadows of eelgrass. In winter this Sado Estuary and Tróia Peninsula © Teresa Farino Sado Estuary and the Tróia Peninsula © Teresa Farino area is often occupied by feeding black-necked grebes, greater flamingos, red-breasted mergansers and avocets, with the taller saltmarsh vegetation providing a refuge for migratory bluethroats.

On the southern margin of the estuary lies the Ašude da Murta: a narrow, artificially dammed freshwater lagoon which has been declared an SPA (498ha) incorporating a 36ha Ramsar site. The waterbody is fringed with a belt of common reed, bulrush, lesser bulrush, great fen-sedge, brown galingale, cyperus sedge and marsh fern, coloured by bog-myrtle, marsh and wavy St John's-worts, purple-loosestrife, marsh pennywort, Myosotis lusitanica (endemic to Portugal), yellow flag and water-plantain, with white and yellow water lilies, Hampshire purslane and rigid hornwort in the water itself.

Common tree frog, western polecat and otter have been cited here, along with breeding little and cattle egrets, purple heron (two pairs), little bittern, marsh harrier, water rail, nightingale, great reed, reed, Cetti's and fan-tailed warblers and common waxbill. During passage periods, look out for squacco (has bred twice in the past ten years) and night herons, plus penduline tit and reed bunting in winter. The lagoon is surrounded by one of Portugal's largest stone pine forests, with breeding booted and short-toed eagles, great spotted cuckoo, lesser spotted woodpecker, crested tit, short-toed treecreeper, woodchat shrike and azure-winged magpie (the latter now considered a different species - Cyanopica cooki - from similar-looking relatives in eastern Asia).

 
 

Reports of other wildlife trips to Portugal:

BSBI Botanical Tour in Western Portugal - Trip Report 2006

Related information:

Wildlife of western Portugal - Serra da Arrábida
Read about Teresa Farino
Wildlife tours and natural history excursions in Spain & Portugal
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