Newsletter December 2021

Welcome to our December Newsletter

Dear Friends of A Rocha

2021 has been another year that has tested our resolve and determination in the pursuit of continuing the work of A Rocha Portugal and the Friends of A Rocha. Life has not been easy for many people, or for charitable organisations over the last twelve months, but thanks to your continued support in helping us financially and spiritually, we have survived !

Our fundraising campaign ‘Giving 2021’ is coming to a close, one off donations throughout the year were lifesaving and the donations of a set amount each month for 12 months gave us a welcome and necessary monthly income.

We can’t believe that we are coming to the last few weeks of 2021, and that means those of you who so kindly agreed to contribute each month, that that agreement is also coming to an end.  All donations have been wonderful but these regular donations have made an amazing difference to the stability of the everyday working life of those at Cruzinha.

We ask you all for your continued support by renewing your Friends annual membership in 2022, and if possible continuing with a further year of regular monthly donations, or making a one off donation.


The year ahead will bring new challenges, we look forward to starting the Friends Events and hope that they will be as well attended as in previous years. Let’s wish and aim for a fabulous year ahead and be prepared, wearing a smile, for whatever life throws at us.

It’s the Christmas season so maybe a Gift Membership for a family member or friend would be an ideal, eco- friendly Christmas present: click here

We hope you have a very Happy Festive Season and a Wonderful New Year.

THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts.

Best wishes, Helen and Filipa



Age: VIII Century BC

City (since 1540)

Population: 64 560 (Census 2011)

Area: 202,57 Km2

Faro is the capital of the Algarve; it is limited in the north and west by São Brás de Alportel, in the East by Olhão, in the West by Loulé and in the South by the Atlantic Ocean. Faro is divided into 4 Parish: União de Freguesias de Faro, Montenegro, Santa Bárbara de Nexe and Conceição e Estói.

The first human presence in the area were the Phoenicians in the VIII BC, during that period Faro was part of an important commercial system, trade of agriculture products, fish and ore. The Phoenicians named the area “Ossónoba” (Osson ébá) meaning marshland store. During several century’s the area was under the domain of Romans and Visigoths, until 713, when it was conquered by the Moors. The name Ossónoba prevailed until the XI century, after that the area started to be called Santa Maria Ibn Harun (Harun was the name of the Arabic Family who was ruling the city); the name Harun was adapted to the Portuguese language to “fárom” and finally Faro.

Faro was conquered to the Moors by King Afonso III in 1249; in the following centuries Faro became a flourishing area due to its geographic position, an important commercial port and trade of salt and farmland products from the inner Algarve. In 1540, King John III, elevated Faro to city and in 1577 it became the capital of the region Algarve (before it was Silves). Like many other regions in the Algarve, Faro was partly destroyed with the earthquake of 1755.

In 1965, was opened the Faro Airport, an important infrastructure which enabled the area to prosper. One of the most important and beautiful areas is the Ria Formosa, the biggest wetland in the Algarve, limited in the south by a complex system of barrier islands. It is worth visiting it to discover the beauty of this wetland and the amazing diversity of birds.

IFO’s – Identified Flying Objects…

Photo by Isabel Soares

Cleopatra Butterfly

(Gonepteryx cleopatra, Linnaeus, 1767)

Photo from BioDiversity4all

Morphology: It is a medium butterfly from the Pieridae Family, with a wingspan between 50 to 65 mm. The upper side of the wings is yellow with an orange patch on the forewing, in males and pale yellow in females, both have brown dots in the centre of each wing. The underside of wings is pale greenish yellow. The forewing has apical hook shape. The adults fly from March to August, with two generations per year (bivoltine); in some regions can be seen almost all year round.

Habitat: Open and sunny woodlands and scrublands.

Distribution: Mediterranean region (occurs in 15 European countries). In Portugal it is common in the centre and south regions.

Notes: The larvae feeds on Mediterranean Buckthorn (Rhamnus alaternus). The colour, shape and venation of the wings make it resemble a leaf, being perfectly camouflaged.

Tweet… Tweet…

Photo by Filipa Bragança

Common Chaffinch

(Fringilla coelebs, Linnaeus, 1758)

Identification: It is a small passerine from the Fringillidae Family, with a wingspan between 24 and 28 cm and 14 to 16 cm in length. The males have a grey-blue cap (from head to upper mantle), the underparts and face are rusty red, and females have greyish-brown upperparts and pale buffish underneath; both have wings black with two white bands. The bill is conical and strong.

Habitat and Ecology: Breeds in woodlands or woodlands edges, always in areas with trees (parks, gardens, pine tree forests, oak forests). The diet is varied, seeds and other vegetal matter but during the breeding season consists mainly of small invertebrates.

Distribution: Breeds in Europe, Central Asia and Northern Africa. This species is partly migratory, the populations of northern areas, due small migrations to the south in winter.

In Portugal the species is resident and the numbers increase during winter. In Portugal, it is a common species, although disappears from some areas during winter.

Threats and Notes: Least Concern (LC) in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The population trend in Europe is estimated to be moderate increasing. Have been described several subspecies according to differences in pattern and colour of adult male species. The Common Chaffinch was introduced in some countries in the XIX century, like New Zealand and South Africa.


  • On the 6th of November A Rocha took part in the Walk & Art Fest, in Barão de S. João; it was a wonderful sunny Saturday with lots of birds! We were lucky to see hundreds of Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus) and 3 Black Vultures (Aegypius monachus)!
  • We are already at the end of the migration season, most of the birds are already at their winter grounds, although some are still here either because they are late or decided to stay longer! Some of the birds seen in Ria de Alvor Nature 2000: Great Egret (Egretta alba), Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus), Eusasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia), Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), Eurasian Crag Martin (Ptyonoprogne rupestris), Barn swallow (Hirundo rustica), Redwing (Turdus iliacus), Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) and Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros).

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

Photo by Guillaume Réthoré

Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos)

Photo by Filipa Bragança
  • Volunteers are back at the Centre of A Rocha, Cruzinha; due to the restrictions of the pandemic, it has been difficult to have volunteers, but things are slowly going back to normal. At the moment there are 2 volunteers at A Rocha: Heather Esluka (British) and Tom Barendse (Dutch). It is great to have them staying here.
  • Tayler and Jasper Gerhardt, the directors of Cruzinha, are going back to the USA for 1 month, to raise funds for their work at A Rocha. We wish them a successful and happy journey 🙂
  • On the 11th of December, A Rocha will organize another beach cleaning at Praia da Luz. Meeting point: 14:20 at Restaurant “O Paraíso”. For more information contact:
  • Lagoa dos Salgados will become a Natural Reserve. Read more here

The world is changing! Seasons are changing! Wildlife is changing! Climate is changing! Every day we hear about climate change, pollution, wild life extinction, habitat loss… Sometimes I think we prefer not to hear… All this make us anxious and perhaps feel useless, because we can not do anything! But this is not true! All of us can do something! Even if it is a small something, it is already something! We use much more than we really need… We forgot about the season of the products, because they are available all year round… we don’t care about repairing because a new model is much better… we use our cars daily because it is much easier! But we are trying to reduce the use of plastics and all together we came out with excellent ideas (see below the video February without Plastics); and we take part on Beach Clean Activity’s (reducing the amount of rubbish which ends up in our oceans), and we choose local products which have a smaller emission of greenhouse gases and even sometimes we prefer to walk or use public transports instead of using our own car. All actions count! Don’t give up! 😊



Garden Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus, L)

Clade: Angiosperms

Order: Brassicales

Family: Tropaeolaceae

Origin: Andes (from Bolivia to Columbia)

Size: creeping grass or bindweed up to 4 metres

The Garden Nasturtium is a creeping grass or bindweed plant with tuberous roots. The leaves are greenish rounded shape, pale green underneath, between 4 to 15 cm in diameter, peltate (with long petiole in the middle of the leaf) and slightly lobed margin. The flowers are hermaphrodite, lonely, orange, reddish or yellowish, with five sepals. The fruit is rounded divided in three segments each one with a seed. Flowers usually in spring but also in other seasons of the year.

This plant has its origin in South America (Andes), although do not grow in the wild, only from cultivated and naturalized populations; it is thought that the species is a hybrid of two other species of Tropaeolum, T. ferreyrae and T. minor, both native from the Andes area. Occurs in water courses, roadsides, gardens, urban bushlands, disturbed sites and wastelands.

All parts of the plant are edible and the flowers are usually used in salads; the plant has essential oils with antibiotic effects and it’s used in traditional medicine for respiratory and urinary tract infections.

The Garden Nasturtium was cultivated as ornamental in many parts of the world and became naturalized in some areas in Europe (eg. Portugal, UK, Canary Islands), Australia, South Africa and USA; it is considered a weed in some parts of Australia. In Portugal it is considered a naturalized species with high invasive risk.


Family: Ephedraceae

Identification: It is an evergreen erect shrub, growing up to 5 metres in height. The stems are segmented (with nodes), flexible (rather fragile), green and lignified at the base; the leaves are small, like scales (falling down quickly); the flowers are unisexual (male or female), the male ones occur in clusters (4 to 8), the female are solitary or in pairs (small and yellowish colour). The fruit is a small, rounded berry, red when mature.  Flowers from April to June.

Habitat and distribution: Occurs in shrub lands and wastelands on the coastline, it prefers dry areas in dunes or rocky soils. It is native from the Western Mediterranean Region and Macaronesia (Madeira and Canary Islands).

Notes: In Portugal this species is considered Vulnerable (VU) because it occurs only in small areas in the Southwestern Alentejo Coast and in the South of Algarve (Eg. Ponta da Piedade). The main threats are habitat loss due to the erosion of coastal cliffs, touristic and urbanistic pressure.

Joint Pine

(Euphedra fragilis subsp fragilis), Desf.

Photos by Filipa Bragança


1st December – Restoration of Independence/Public Holiday

2nd, 9th  and 16th December – Cruzinha Bird ringing display & Moth Talk (10 am to 12 am). Book here

8th December – Day of the Immaculate Conceição/ Religious holiday

11th December – Day of the city of Portimão/ Local Holiday

11th December – Beach Clean, Praia da Luz. Meeting point: 14:20 at Restaurant “O Paraíso”

25th December – Christmas/ Public Holiday

Cruzinha is closed from 23rd of December to 5th of January; on Thursday 23rd December and 30th December 2021, no Open Day

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

Urbanização Mar e Serra n° 47, Alvor
8500 – 783 Portimão

(+351) 911597735

Physiotherapy, Massages (relaxation, sports, therapeutic)

Other therapies

Beauty (manicure, pedicure, hair removal, facials)

Open Monday to Friday

What a nice Christmas present! A Gift Friendship for the Friends of A Rocha Portugal!!


Gift Friendship

Thought of the month 

“For years now, I’ve been asking why things happen to me. I’m not sure… maybe that’s why I’m always thanking God for the life he gave me.” Amália Rodrigues (1920-1999, Portuguese Fado singer)


New EU Energy Label

  • Since March 2021, was adopted a new Energy Label for fridges and freezers, washing machines, dish washers and television sets.
  • A simple scale from A to G (A – more efficient, G- less efficient)
  • The more efficient products in the market are now “B” “C” and “D”
  • The new scale is stricter, with few products in the “A” rating (leaving space for innovation of more efficient products)
  • New eco-design rules, with minimum efficient requirements and new consumer rights to repair products and support circular economy
  • Manufactures are obligated to make essential parts of the products (motors, pumps,…) and other spare parts (doors, seals,…) to allow the repair of the product


New moth species discovered in Portugal

A new moth species was described in Portugal by a research team from CIBIO (Investigation Centre of Biodiversity and Genetics from Porto University). The research team was doing field work aiming to find a genus of moths (Ypsolopha) which feed on Joint pine plants (Ephedra fragilis subsp fragilis), found already in Spain; this research is under a major project IBI-BIO Barcoding Initiative (aim to build a DNA database of invertebrates for long term species monitoring).

The new moth is a micro moth, pale grey with brown spots, narrow and long wings; little is still known about the ecology of this species. The host plant, the Joint Pine has suffered a significant reduction in population in the last decade and it is classified as “Vulnerable” according to the Portuguese Vascular Flora Red List (see above popped up article). The Southwest coast of Alentejo is rich in endemic plant species, some of them “Endangered”, due to habitat loss; probably there are other unknown invertebrate species dependent of these endemic plants, still to discover.

The Joint Pine moth (Ypsolopha milfontensis), was first seen in May 2019, in the southwest coast of Alentejo (between Vila Nova de Milfontes and Cabo Sardão), after genetic analysis it was possible to consider a new species for Portugal and for the world. Since 2017, researchers from CIBIO, coordinated by Martin Corley, discovered 4 new species of moths not known for Portugal and several other invertebrate species.

Photograph cortesy of Martin Corley

Sustainability Champions

Sustainability Champions from around the World– Looking at ways to curb pollution and waste management.

We would like to thank Daniel Hartz, the founder of Sustainability Champions for giving us the permission to share this information.

This duo from Berlin, Germany, invents beehives from recycled materials and plastic which can mimic a wild bee home, helps to repopulate bees.

Philip Potthast and Fabian Wischmann aimed to create a beehive that was more ergonomic. They accompanied various beekeepers during their operations during the first design investigations. That’s where they learnt about the Varroa Mite (the biggest enemy of the honeybee) therapy. The bee’s behaviour was directly affected by the chemical treatment. This made them better understand that beekeeping has a much more significant challenge to solve than ergonomics. As a result, they designed better bee housing that allows beekeepers to retain their bees in a natural way by supporting Apis mellifera natural behaviour.

The HIIVE is the first beehive that is designed to exactly match the requirements of a wild beehive, because of its steady microclimate. Because of a steady microclimate it helps eliminate the need for chemicals.  HIIVE is produced from recycled and natural materials, like hemp wool, clay, wood and bark.

Check the website here

Check the website for dates for organised tours  

Follow us:  

Laid-back Birdwatching week, a French birdwatching week

Although the arrival were on a nice sunny day, the 1st days of the trip were cloudy. This did not stop us from going to Sagres. The first bird of the day was an Osprey perched by the road before we reached Sagres. At Ponta da Atalaia, we had our first surprise of the day with a Cuckoo. Later, we went to Cape St Vincent where many Sandwich Terns and Gannets were seen. We spent a part of the afternoon at Cabranosa and saw Marsh and Montagu’s Harrier, Black Kites, Honey Buzzards and Kestrels. The second suprise of tha day was a pair of Red Crossbills showing very well.

Plans changed a bit for the next day as the weather was still unstable. We went to Abicada on Tuesday afternoon. There, we saw many Flamingos and had great views of an Osprey, a bird ringed in Germany.

On Wednesday, we went to Monchique, starting the day at Foia, the highest point. The view on the coast was great as the weather was clear. We had the chance of seeing 4 Kestrels mobbing a Hen Harrier. We also had good views of Blue Rock Thrush and Rock Bunting. We had lunch at Caldas de Monchique and explored the village before coming back to Cruzinha.

On Thursday morning, we could enjoy the activities at Cruzinha for the open day and we were lucky to see a Red-necked Nightjar and a Kingfisher ringed among other birds. We spent the afternoon at Lagoa dos Salgados. As the water level was low, we had great views of Spoonbills, Glossy Ibis, Grey Heron, White Storks and Little Grebes by the hide. Many waders were present: Sanderling, Dunlin, Turnstone and Redshank, we even, saw several Purple Swamphen.

On Friday, we spent the morning at Alvor dunes. It was a bit quiet for birds but still saw 2 Black Storks in the distance and enjoyed watching an Osprey trying to catch a fish at the estuary. In the afternoon, we went to Alcalar and learned about this prehistoric necropole.

We started Saturday by a visit to ricefields in Estombar and saw the 4th Osprey of the week. Many Glossy Ibis and Storks were found there. Then, we went to Silves to visit the archeological museum and finished the day by the Iberian Lynx Reproduction Center but did not manage to see any.

On the last day, we explored the wetlands behind Faro airport. The first lagoons had a lot of Flamingos with Black-winged Stilts, Avocets, Black-tailed Godwits and Ruffs. We walked through the saltpans and saw more Flamingos, Shovelers, another Osprey and Glossy Ibis. We found a big group of Spoonbills, 2 birds were ringed, a French one and a Portuguese one. At the hide, we saw a few ducks and a Little Tern fishing. Several Cattle Egrets were perched on a dead pine tree. We came back along the mudflats and saw more waders : Kentish and Ringed Plovers, Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits and Turnstones.

The week finished after lunch and with a total of 115 species seen on this laid-back week.

Text and photos by Guillaume Réthoré

Editor: Filipa Bragança

English proof reading: Helen Rodda

Portuguese proof reading: Lena Soares

Production controller: Helen Rodda