Newsletter August 2018

Welcome to our August Newsletter.

Thank you for being ‘A Friend’, we hope you enjoy this month’s articles.
Summer is here! Let’s hope we have a month of sunny weather!

Helen & Filipa


Rob Thomas

Age: 46

Nationality: Welsh

Job: Lecturer in Zoology at Cardiff University

My first visit to A Rocha Portugal was in 1993, shortly after my undergraduate degree. I had written to Peter Harris asking if I could be a volunteer, and I have ended up returning as a volunteer, PhD student, researcher and teacher for the following 25 years!
What does A Rocha mean to you? The centre, Cruzinha, has been very important to me over the years for physical, mental and spiritual refreshment, for encouragement and as a refuge from life’s storms. The care and kindness shown by the team is remarkable, and every visit feels like a homecoming. It is no exaggeration to say that A Rocha is the reason that I am still a Christian, and the reason that I am still a scientist. One of my great pleasures is now to be able to bring my students to Cruzinha and to see them gaining so much from being there.
With all our wonderful birds, which is your favourite? My favourite is the Storm Petrel –a bird which has fascinated me and mystified me for most of my life! One of the great highlights of my year is to visit Cruzinha in June to study these tiny seabirds, during their northwards migration past Portugal. This study was begun by Peter Harris and Colin Jackson ( in 1990, and is now one of A Rocha’s longest continuous datasets, revealing much about how seabirds respond to changes in the marine environment.

IFO’s – Identified Flying Objects…

Morphology: It is a medium butterfly from the Nymphalidae Family, with a wingspan between 44 to 50 mm. It has upper wings that are dark brown with orange areas with light brown banding and a large black sub-apical ocellus on forewing; the females are more colourful than males. It flies from March to October.
Habitat: Large variety of habitats, dry or damp, with grasses and flowers, forest edges, meadow steppe habitats, cultivated lands, parks and orchards.
Distribution: It occurs all over Europe up to 63 degrees North, it is absent from central and north Scandinavia, it is also present in North Africa and the Middle East.

Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina, Linnaeus, 1758)

Notes: The caterpillars feed on a large variety of grasses, from the Graminae Family. The adults can show a variable number of small eye spots on the underside hindwings. This species have different emergence times, which are controlled genetically; some type of genes will have short larval development producing early adults.

Tweet… Tweet…

Little Owl (Athene noctua)

Identification: The Little Owl is, as the name suggests, a small owl about the size of a blackbird, but with a round body and head and a short tail. It is overall brown with white spots; the white breast and belly are streaked brown. The face has very characteristic yellow eyes with white lines above which seem to give it a frowning expression. For such a small owl it has relatively long legs. The species is monomorphic, meaning that males and females look similar. They can also be recognized by their Kee-ew call or by their sometimes cat-like meowing.
Habitat and Ecology: Little owls are found in open habitat, such as low intensity agricultural land, pastures or meadows, provided with few trees and old buildings. They generally avoid forests or tall and dense tree areas, but they need some trees or buildings to provide nesting sites and hunting look-out perches. Small (organic) farms and old orchards are optimal habitat. They need the short herbage year round to hunt for their prey, which mainly consists of insects such as beetles, crickets and moths, worms, small mammals and birds, amphibians and sometimes reptiles. They hunt primarily at night, but are sometimes seen active in the day, sunbathing or perching on one of their look-out spots.

Distribution: It is a sedentary species that occurs in most of lowland Europe with temperate climate, parts of Asia and Northern Africa. The breeding pairs hold and defend territories that they may keep for several years. In Portugal it is more common in the South, in the Algarve region.
Threats: The species is of Least Concern according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list, but the European population is believed to be declining over the last decades. The main threats are the intensification of agriculture, due to the use of pesticides that reduce prey numbers and the loss of suitable nest hollows, due to the removal of old trees and the restoration of old buildings and ruins. Climate change also apposes a threat, as the Little Owl is extremely vulnerable to severe winters.


  • On the 22th of July, the official breeding season ended. At our ringing site, we catch juveniles of different species, and collect the information on the breeding species. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), Blackbird (Turdus merula), Great Tit (Parus major), Hoopoe (Upupa epops), Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) are some of the resident species we capture most often.
Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe hispanica)                                                                           Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)
  • On the 5th of July we caught a juvenile Black-Eared Wheatear (Oenanthe hispanica) this is an uncommon bird, and it was the first time one was captured at Cruzinha. On the 26th of July we caught two Little Owls (Athene noctua) and both were covered with ticks, which were removed before they were released.
  • In the Alvor Estuary, every week, our birdwatchers monitor birds. This month there were around 50 different species seen, including : Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus), Little Tern (Sternula albifrons), Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus), Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus), Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla), Bee-eater (Merops apiaster), Red-necked Nightjar (Caprimulgus ruficollis), Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis), Hoopoe (Upupa epops), Common Quail (Coturnix coturnix), Swift (Apus apus), Red-rumped Swallow (Cecropis daurica), Little Owl (Athene noctua), Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus), Audouin’s Gull (Larus audouinii), Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator) and Black Shoulder Kite (Elanus caeruleus).

Popped up

Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum)

Identification: The tomato plant belongs to the Family Solanaceae, together with the potatoes, the aubergines and the peppers. It is a vine perennial plant which can grow up 1 to 3 metres in height, with a weak stem that sprawls and with leaves from 10 to 25 cm long with a serrated margin; both the stem and leaves are glandular-hairy. The flowers are yellow.
Habitat and distribution: It is native from Western South America but nowadays it is cultivated in temperate and tropical areas around the world.
Notes: The tomato is a fruit, developing from the ovary of a flowering plant, but because of lower sugar content and its use in salads and meals is designated as a vegetable. The Aztecs and other people from Mesoamerica were the first to start growing tomatoes (500BC). The plant was introduced in Europe by the Spanish during the Discoveries Period. It is an important vegetable crop and it is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants.


At Cruzinha, volunteers come for different periods, for different kinds of research and from different countries.

Name: Emil Breustedt
Age: 20
Nationality: German
At the moment I’m still waiting to know which University I am going to, I applied for Neuroscience or Molecular Biology and I will start my degree in September.
When did you first come to A Rocha?
I came as an EVS volunteer, for 6 months (from February to August) to work on the Micro-plastic Project. I found out about A Rocha through the web site where you can check the projects for EVS programs. I wanted to do something about the Environment and I liked the fact to come to Portugal so I applied.
What does A Rocha mean to you?
The thing I like the most is probably the community. It’s really nice to live and work with so many different people and even more since we all get along quite well. In addition it is much more fun and motivating to do a project you have selected and are interested in, than something you barely care about. And I like the food. I can’t think of anything that I would dislike a lot, maybe except for Aslan’s barking in the night. But he is only trying to protect us, so he is excused.
With all our wonderful birds here, which is your favourite? I am not so much into birds like some people here but I have always liked the Mallard.

Name: Isa Timmer
Age: 19
Nationality: Dutch
I am currently studying Applied Biology in the Netherlands. I only have one year to go to finish my studies. I came here as a volunteer for 6 weeks to do an internship for my studies.
When did you first come to A Rocha?
My school gives us an opportunity to fulfil an internship in another country. That was a chance I definitely wanted to take. My classmate Ruben Poolman, went to A Rocha last summer. He told me great things about A Rocha and I was really interested. So I contacted them, and here I am! I arrived 2nd of June 2018.
What does A Rocha mean to you?
I really enjoy the atmosphere here. A Rocha is standing up for nature, which is beautiful here. I also like the fact that everyone has their own thing to do, but at the same time, everyone is very associated with each other. Everyone is really helpful and friendly. I like that a lot. Besides that, it is really amazing that A Rocha is bringing different cultures together, but we all have the same kind of interests in nature.
With all our wonderful birds here, which is your favourite?
The bee-eaters are flying around here often, I really love to see them!
What’s also really amazing is the huge cactus (a Fig-opuntia), which grows practically in the garden. I also love the really big Agaves, they grow here a lot and they can grow really big 😉


2th, 9th, 16th, 23rd and 30th of August ….. Cruzinha Bird ringing display & Moth Talk (10.15am to 12 am)
1st to 6th of August ………….. Sardine Festival in Portimão
10th to 15th of August …………. Sea Food Festival in Olhão
17th to 26th of August …………… Fatacil in Lagoa (Handicraft, Tourism, Agriculture and Business Fair)
15th of August…… Religious Holiday:

August: The first signs of birds migrating south are usually visible from August: Black Kites and Honey Buzzards, Waders (most of them still in breeding plumage) and Warblers. It is also the best month to see Eleonora’s Falcon in the Algarve. Check the website for more information on dates for organised tours

Thank you for supporting the Friends of A Rocha Portugal

Dr Roy Rodrigues
Av. Do Brasil, Qta das Palmeiras, Lt P2, R/c A, 8500-299 Portimão
(+351) 282180683

Urbanização Marachique, Lt 1, Loja B, 8500-045 Alvor
(+351) 919191941/ 282482409

Sítio da Amoreira, Lote 12,
Alvor, 8500-045 Portimão
(+351) 282412562/ 925433047

Lucy’s Final Report on her work here at Cruzinha

After spending a total of 10 weeks in the lab carrying out molecular analysis on bird blood samples collected at Cruzinha it is confirmed that for a range of species sampled there is a sex bias. Positively all individuals that were blood sampled, provided results in the lab.
Firstly, the most significant sex bias of monomorphic species were Chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus collybita), after sampling 36 birds 67% of individuals were females. For the dimorphic species the most significant bias was 100% females for both kingfishers and chaffinches. The resident Blackbird had 50% female so therefore this species has a balanced distribution of sex for the sample taken. As well as the sex bias we can confidently say that a range of species have been sexed correctly in the field, with 112 out of 116 being sexed correctly.
These results have allowed an insight into the populations of both migratory and resident birds which pass through Cruzinha.
Lucy Rowley

Thank you so much Lucy for your contributions to our Friends Newsletter about your scientific research. We wish you well in whatever you choose to do in the future and we hope that you will visit us soon!

A Thought

“Even small trees grow beautifully when they do not compare themselves to others.” Old Japanese folk tale
“Nature is not our right. It’s our responsibility.”

Bart Steen

Friends Event: The Sagres Wind Farm/Monday 24th September 2018/ €40 per ticket (*non – refundable)

A Day trip for 8 people (Friends ONLY) to Sagres and to the Wind Farm of Barão de São João, to watch the soaring birds. We will be guided by A Rocha expert Birder – Guillaume Réthoré (Gui) who will show us the places where we will hopefully see Griffon Vultures, Black Storks, Booted Eagles and other soaring birds.
The day will start from Cruzinha at 8.30, we then go by mini-bus (driven by Gui) to Sagres. We should arrive at our destination one hour later.
We go to the Cabranosa (elevation point) to see the soaring birds and some other migrants that might be around the pine trees (staying there for about 1 hour).
We then drive on a dirt road towards Vila do Bispo, where it will be possible to see Choughs, Kestrels. We will then drive to the Wind farm at Barão de São João, there we will watch the turbines and hopefully see Bonelli’s Eagle and Peregrine Falcon, we will picnic here under the pine trees.
We should be back at Cruzinha at about 4 pm.
There are only 8 places available for this special Friends Event, so book early so you are not disappointed.

*Tickets are for Friends ONLY and are €40.00 (this includes minibus travel & our guide).They are non-refundable due to the extremely low price of the event, to ensure costa are covered.
Your Check List for the day:
Please wear sensible walking shoes
It’s a good idea to wear a hat/or at least bring one in case it is very hot
Please provide your own picnic lunch

Book it here

Farming at Cruzinha – Emil Breustedt and Isa Timmer

During our time here at A Rocha Portugal one part of our work was to help take care of the garden. The garden is really big and has several patches with vegetables, herbs and fruits, it was established by Miguel, the gardener, before any of us were here.
We have spinach, two species of beans, peppers, a lot of onions and tomatoes. Also courgettes, pumpkins and strawberries can be found. In two patches we are growing herbs: mint, basil, curry, thyme and others some of which were planted by Emil in the spring. Beside the vegetables and herbs, we also have an orchard, with limes, oranges, plums and peaches, the orchard is not part of our responsibility.
We don’t use any chemicals, pesticides or anything similar. Everything is organic. We use a lot of our own products for our meals, but we give them away as well.
Due to the high temperatures the plants grow really fast, as long as they get enough water. To ensure this, we are irrigating them 3 times per week. Fortunately we can use two pumps located at the two water reservoirs on the property and hoses, to reach all of the patches. When Isa arrived here we split the patches between us, which makes the process a lot easier and faster.
Harvesting needs to be done several times per week as well, since the fruits are not all ripe at the same time and can go bad quite quickly if one doesn’t pick them. However this is quite easy and done in a short time.

Algarvian Salad (Salada à Algarvia)

3 medium tomatoes
1 cucumber
1 medium sized onion
¼ green pepper
¼ red pepper
1 teaspoon Oregano
Olive oil

Chop the tomatoes, the cucumber, the peppers and the onion in very small pieces (2 cm). Dress the salad with salt, olive oil, vinegar and oregano. Very easy and very tasty!

If you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact us:
Our office is open from Monday to Wednesday from 9:00 to 12:00 am
Or visit us on our open day: Thursdays from 10:15 to 12:00 am
See map
GPS coordinates
37°08’39.8″N (37.1444) 8°36’29.2″W (-8.6081)
(+351) 282 968 380
Thank you for supporting us!
Hope to see you soon!