Newsletter June 2020


Dear Friends,

Welcome to our June Newsletter, we hope you are weathering the storm of Covid 19 and you and your families are well.

Last month I wrote about the difficult circumstances that A  Rocha Portugal and the staff found themselves in, due to the complete shutdown of Cruzinha, the Centre for A Rocha, as all means to obtain any income were closed.

We started a Funding Appeal at the end of April in the hope of raising €20,000 by July 2020, to enable the staff to carry on with their good work and the Centre to remain functioning. All staff had been furloughed and the Centre was closed to visitors.

I am so happy to say we have reached our target and are thrilled to still be receiving donations, all of which will enable us to hopefully re-open in July and the staff will be able to get back to their full-time and part-time jobs. Times are still uncertain, so our Funding Appeal will continue as planned until the end of June. In the July Newsletter we will let you know more about the outcome of our ‘Funding Appeal’  and give you the total amount that was raised.

The support and generosity given by so many of you has been truly amazing & humbling, and it is with all our hearts we say a big THANK YOU.

If you would still like to donate please use this link  below


Helen Rodda


Ekaterina Egorova (Katia)

Age: 26

Nationality: Russian

I’m unemployed. I studied finance and economics at North-Eastern Federal University in Russia. I worked in the sphere of finance and investments for two years: first in the bank, where I was engaged in servicing current accounts of legal entities, then in Republic investment company as a project manager. Mostly I was in control over accounts receivable from subsidiary companies.

I came to A Rocha on 18th March 2020 as a volunteer. My project title is “Micro-plastics? Big problems!”. I decided to come here because I always wanted to try my hand at volunteering, I was especially interested in environmental studies. And I’m also just interested in traveling and discovering new places.

For me, participating in the project is an opportunity to learn as much about the environment as possible and to learn how to preserve nature. I am looking forward to the end of the quarantine to bring my treasure into A Rocha’s life.

For now, my experience here is only about observation. I am impressed with the beauty of nature and the diversity of birds and insects here. The most interesting thing for me during the quarantine was butterflies and birds. They opened to me from the other side, I started to pay more attention to them, and they became closer to me.

I like birds, but I haven’t decided which ones yet, I love everyone! 🙂 I only saw an owl once and it fell into my heart.  So probably the owls are my favourite birds here! 🙂

IFO’s – Identified Flying Objects…

Common Blue

(Polyommatus icarus, Rottemburg, 1775)

Morphology: It is a small butterfly from the Lycaenidae Family, with a wingspan between 28 to 36 mm; the upper side of the wings is bluish or violet blue with white margins and the hind wings have orange spots along the edge. The underside of the wings are a grey dusty colour with numerous white-ringed black spots, the hindwings also have orange spots along the edge; females are more brownish. It has 2 or 3 generations per year. The adults fly from May to September.

Habitat: Wide variety of habitats, grasslands, woodlands clearings, meadows, heathland and sand dunes; it is most abundant in chalk and limestone grasslands.

Distribution: Europe from Northern Scandinavia to the smallest islands in the Mediterranean, Middle East across temperate Asia to Northern China, North Africa and Canary islands.

Notes: The caterpillars feed on plants of the Fabaceae Family. The adults live up to 3 weeks. This species is very similar to P. celina, split based on DNA analysis. The P. celina occurs in the South of Spain, North Africa and Canaries Islands.

Tweet… Tweet…

Blue Rock Thrush

(Monticola solitarius, Linnaeus, 1758)

Identification: It’s a passerine from the Turdidae Family; it is between 17 and 20 cm in length. The males are uniformly black-bluish, with dark wings and slim dark bill; females and immatures are more brownish with paler and scaly underparts.

Habitat and Ecology: during the breeding season it’s seen on precipitous cliffs, rocky areas, sea cliffs and headlands, rocky coasts but also on ruins and isolated old buildings; in Southern Europe it is common in urban areas like house roofs, churches, castles and monuments. The nest is a shallow cup of dry grasses, some build in tree holes or on a cliff or rocky place, generally 3 to 5 metres above ground.

Distribution: Southern Europe, Northwest Africa and Southern Asia. It is mainly resident in it’s distribution area, but the populations that breeds in higher altitudes can do small migrations to lower areas. In Portugal it occurs a little bit all over the country but its distribution is not homogeneous, it is absent in some regions. In the Algarve it can easily be seen on the West Coast, close to Sagres.

Threats: Least Concern (LC) in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list. In some countries, like Spain and Italy this species suffered a decline due to new coastal tourism development.


During this strange period A Rocha has managed to carry on with some of its work, which has mainly been done by staff who are doing it on a volunantry basis. The work was mostly outside which enabled everyone to adhere to the social distancing regulations.

The scientific projects are an important part of A Rochas work, undertaken by volunteers. It was possible to continue with the bird ringing (Constant effort site), the butterfly monitoring and the wader counts. In May we started the Common bird Census (CAC). The information collected is very important as it has to be collected and recorded on a very regular basis.

Last month we recorded several species: Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca), Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis), House sparrow (Passer domesticus), Blackbird (Turdus merula), Spotted Starling (Sturnus unicolor), Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica), Cetti’s Warbler (Cettia cetti), Azure-Winged Magpie (Cyanopica cookie), Hoopoe (Upupa epops), Serin (Serinus serinus) and Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala).

Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca)
Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) with a deformed bill

Do you remember the short video last month of my “Neighbours”? Well they have grown up fast and flown from the nest. The parents haven’t stopped though and are already starting the process again! As you can see there have been busy days!

Goose barnacle (Pollicipes pollicipes)

The Goose Barnacle is a marine Crustacean from the Pedunculata Order and lives attached to hard surfaces of rocks in the intertidal ocean (area where the ocean meets the land between high and low tides).

Morphologically is divided in capitullum or nail and pedicel (see Fig 1). The capitullum is mainly to protect the animal from predators or from dehydration on low tide period and it is made of limestone shells. The pedicel is the low part of the Goose Barnacle, it is elongated and flexible, coated by small scales and protects the reproductive organs and the adhesive gland which produces the substance to allow the animal to stick to the substrate. They can reach around 12 cm long but most are about 5 cm long. The species forms numerous clusters and it feeds by filtering the water.

The natural distribution of this species is the northwest Atlantic between the West coast of Great Britain to Senegal, can also be found in the Western Mediterranean, specifically in the African Coast.

The Goose Barnacle is a much appreciated sea food in Portugal and Spain. According to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) red list this species is Not Evaluated, meaning there isn’t enough information of the population size. In Portugal (Western Coast of the Algarve and Alentejo) and Spain the harvest of this seafood is an important income for some families, although there wasn’t legislation for some time. Nowadays the harvest of this species is controlled and there are limits in harvesting.

The name Goose Barnacle comes from old times, before the knowledge of bird migration and evolution; it was thought that Barnacle Geese (Branta leucopsis) develop from this crustacean because they were never seen to nest in Temperate Europe, this was also supported by similarities in colour and shape. Goose Barnacle were usually found in driftwood and it was assumed that they were attached to branches before they fell in the water.


Family: Fagaceae

Identification: It is an oak evergreen tree, slow-growing medium size, can grow up to 25 metres in height, but normally between 10 to 15 metres. The top is broad and irregular, the leaves are simple dark green, shiny on upper face, paler and hairy underneath, the margin is slightly sawed. The trunk has a suberous and hard bark, the cork. The species is monoecious (flowers are either male or female), but both sexes can be found on the same plant. It flowers in April May. The fruit is an acorn.

Habitat and distribution: It grows in Mediterranean climate woodlands, it is rare in limestone soils, prefers moist soils; tolerates strong wind but not maritime exposure. Native from South of Europe and North Africa.

Notes: the cork enables the tree to survive the fire; the tree is a forestry species and the cork has a high economic value and is used for many industries (clothes, shoes, bags, wine stoppers, post cards). The fruit is used as animal food. Portugal is the biggest cork producer in the world!

Cork Oak Tree (Quercus suber, L.)


1st of June – Children’s Day

4th, 11th, 18th, 25th of june- Cruzinha Bird ringing display & Moth Talk (10.15am to 12 am) – To be confirmed

5th of June – International Environment Day

10th of June – Portugal Day (National Holiday)

11th of June – Corpus Christi (National Holiday)

13th of June – Popular Saint Day – Saint António (Lisbon holiday)

24th of June – Popular Saint Day – Saint Pedro

29th of June – Popular Saint Day – Saint João (Porto holiday)

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

Estrada principal Quatro Estradas de Alvor, nº 30

8500 – 045 Portimão

(+351) 911597735

Closed on Tuesdays

Physiotherapy, Massages (relaxation, sports, therapeutic)

Other therapies

Beauty (manicure, pedicure, hair removal, facials)

Open Monday to Friday

It’s never too early to think about what you will give as a present to someone for their Birthday. What about Gifting a Friendship for the Friends of A Rocha Portugal?

Gift Friendship

Thought of the month 

“Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.”

― Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955, German Physicist)


Reducing energy consumption is not just a way of being environmental friendly; it is also a way of saving money!

How to save Energy in your house?

Before buying an electric device be aware of the efficiency energy class, this is obligatory information inside the European Union and helps in choosing the most economic device.

Wasing machine

  • Always use your washing machine at the maximum capacity (never wash 2 or 3 clothes)
  • Use programs of low temperataures, better with cold water. Most of the energy is used to warm up the water
  • Keep the water filter clean
  • Choose an economic program for your washing machine (less water and energy)
  • Use a washing powder efficient to cold water
  • Limestone can destroy the electric resistance and can cause more energy consumtion, use an anti-calcareous product.



Temporary ponds are ponds which are a few centimetres deep, isolated from any permanent waters and not connected to any water lines. They are called temporary because they go through a periodic cycle of flooded and dry, they also have characteristic fauna and flora which is well adapted to this situation.

This ecosystems are typical from the Mediterranean basin and existed along the time together with traditional agriculture methods. The conservation of this ecosystems is very important, together with the traditional agriculture and livestock activities.

These ponds are threatened, they are ecologically fragile and their environmental value is unknown; they host a diversity and peculiarity of plants and some crustaceans which have a restricted distribution.

The Mediterranean temporary ponds are located in low depth depressions, around 50 cm, this characteristic allows the sun light to get to the bottom and then to be colonized by different kind of plants. The well preserved ponds are low in nutrients and organic material and have clear water.  The water accumulates due to a less permeable soil layer.

Temporary ponds are very important because they:

  • Are rich in biodiversity (hosting rare and threatened flora and fauna)
  • Are single and notable sweet water habitats in all Europe
  • Increase the connectivity with other sweet water habitats
  • Contribute to the diversity of landscape and human well being
  • Contribute to an important sweet water reservoir in climate change
  • Are a European cultural patrimony, reflecting the balance between nature and human

In Portugal the temporary ponds are important habitats along the Alentejo Coast and Vicent Southwest coast (Natural Park). Although the temporary ponds are protected with several Environmental laws, they are still very fragile and threatened habitats, the mains threats are:

  • Ignorance about this habitat importance
  • Invasion with exotic species
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Urban pressure and building
  • Forestry methods
  • Climate change
  • Agriculture
  • Intensive livestock activities

In 2013 a project was started funded by European Union: “Life Charcos” which aims to help with the Conservation of Temporary ponds on the Southwest Coast. Learn more about it here.

            Let’s get cooking !

Kaiserschmarrn (for 2 people)

3 eggs

100 ml milk

50 grms butter

15 grms sugar

8 grs vanilla sugar

salt qb

Grated skin of 1 lemon

100 grms Flour

25 grms Raisins

1 ml rum

Soak the raisins in the rum and leave to one side. Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Whip the eggs until they peak and leave.  Sometimes add milk, 15 grams of sugar, a pinch of salt and a lemon zest. Mix well and gradually add 100 grams of flour. Gradually wrap the egg whites gradually until they form a homogeneous but light mass. Preheat a sautéed nonstick and add the butter. When it is well melted, add or prepare earlier. Cook over a low heat for about 2 minutes. Drain the rum like raisins and add to the preparation you are cooking. With the help of two spatulas, go back or skip the contents. Cook for about 1 minute, always on low heat. With the help of spatulas or spoons of large pieces or “cake” that are formed in the meantime. On a stronger fire, save the broken pieces with the addition of vanilla sugar or powdered sugar for about 40 seconds or until caramelized. Serve hot with plum jam

Portuguese want increased efficiency in the fight against environmental crime

The Portuguese people consider environmental crime very important, and want increased efficiency in the fight against these crimes. This could include heavier sentencing. These are the conclusions of a study carried out by SPEA as part of the LIFE Nature Guardians project, which aims to improve the fight against environmental crime.

In a poll of 700 Portuguese citizens, 80% considered that the government does not take environmental issues seriously enough, and almost 90% considered environmental crime as equally or more important than other crimes.

More info:

Check the website for dates for organised tours  

The Birds of Ria de Alvor 2019

In 2019, a total of 181 species of birds were registered in the Ria de Alvor Natura 2000 site (which includes Odiaxere saltpans, the eastern part of Meia Praia, the Western Marsh, Abicada and Alvor dunes). One new species was added to the site list: Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca) and now the grand total of species recorded at Ria de Alvor is 320.

Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca)

Among the other interesting records we can mention: the wintering of a couple of Great White Egrets (Ardea alba), the many Purple Herons (Ardea purpurea) seen on migration, the biggest flock of Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) recorded in the area until now, various sightings of a Black Stork (Ciconia nigra) in winter, high numbers of Flamingos (Phoenicopterus roseus) almost all year, very low numbers of Black-winged Stilts (Himantopus himantopus), which disappeared from the Western Marsh, and Avocets (Recurvirostra avosetta), the unusual high number of sightings of Slender-billed Gulls (Chroicocephalus genei) in the area and also a possible record for the number of Audouin’s Gull (Ichthyaetus audouinii) seen, the numerous Bluethroats (Luscinia svecica) wintering in the area, very few sightings of Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis) and the increasing number of sightings of Magpie (Pica pica).

Photo and text by Guillaume Réthoré

The main “highlight” for the year was the collapse of part of the main dyke, making a big change in the area. At high tide, water floods the lower and upper Western Marsh. This change affected the landscape and vegetation. It already had an impact on the birds present in the area and will surely have long term effects which will reflect in the bird records during the next years.

In terms of birds, the highlights were Roseate Tern (Sterna dougallii), a long-staying Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) at Alvor, a Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) and a Rock Sparrow (Petronia petronia), a Temminck’s Stint (Calidris temminckii), a Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes), and the 3rd Great Northern Diver (Gavia immer) for the area.

Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis)

We would like to thank Roger McIlroy for the fantastic, informative articles and amazing photos that he has kindly contributed to the Newsletter each month for the last 12 months.  We hope that we can work together again in the future THANK YOU ROGER!

This month, Robin Harvey, A Rocha’s Friend, wrote this article to our Newsletter. We would like to thank him for his contribution.

Hottentot Fig – a wolf in sheep’s clothing!

On the face of it, this plant looks attractive and pretty harmless. Its scientific name is Carpobrotus edulis, it is a member of the family Aizoacae and YES, it is edible!  Its yellow or deep pink flowers up to 7cm across (Figure 1a&b) resemble those of the smaller Mesembryanthemums e.g. Livingstone Daisy, that we like to grow as decorative plants in gardens and public areas in Europe. These attractive plants originate from South Africa, like so many other exotics that we see in Southern Europe. They are all succulents, storing a lot of water in fleshy leaves. Those of the Hottentot Fig are around 8cm long and triangular in cross section, with frequent branches. Sadly, unlike its smaller relatives, this one is a real thug! Now introduced to many countries, it has thrived on sandy soil, in rockeries and even on steep cliffs. In England, the National Trust has spent a lot of effort removing it from sea cliffs, where it out-competes the native vegetation. In the Algarve it can be seen at many locations: on the seaward edge of the San Lorenzo golf course at Quinta do Lago, in the Alvor dunes and, perhaps worst of all, on the sea cliffs at Sagres (Figure 2) where it has ousted large areas of the wonderfully varied native flora. A single plant can cover an area of 50 square metres! It roots wherever it touches the soil and mainly spreads in this vegetative way. If its seeding was as successful as its spreading, it would be even more of a problem. While it is easy to pull up, the bare patches left behind are likely to be colonised by other ‘weed’ species, unless efforts are made to sow a seed mix of indigenous species. I have been visiting the Algarve for over 10 years now, and it is becoming more prevalent each year. My impression is that it is not taken too seriously by landowners/managers and those in charge of National Parks. If left unchecked, however, the glorious coastal spring flora of the Algarve could become but a memory. Perhaps it is time to form a ‘Friends of the Algarve Coast’ to combat it and alert more people to the danger it presents?

Robin Harvey

Figure 1a: Yellow flowers of the Hottentot Fig
Figure 1b: Pink flowers of the Hottentot Fig
Figure 2: Sagres landscape with  Hottentot Fig

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!