Newsletter January 2023



Welcome to the New Year 2023

It is a year of changes for many, including changes at the Friends of A Rocha Portugal!

In April 2015 I was asked if I would set up a Friends organisation for A Rocha Portugal.

After doing a feasibility study and then managing to persuade the Board of Directors that it was a cost effective project, I acquired funding to cover setting up costs and running costs for the first two years.  A Friends Administrator was employed, Filipa Braganca, who has worked  part-time for the Friends of A Rocha from the very start.

It is nearly 6 years that Filipa and I have produced the Friends monthly Newsletter, administered the yearly subscriptions, finances, Friends Events,  organised  the participation of ‘ The Friends’ at other organisations Events, which was aiming to raise awareness of A Rocha and encouraging people to become Friends of A Rocha.

I have been threatening for the last 2 years to retire, but due to the Covid Virus I stayed to help A Rocha get through the financial difficulties, inaugurating the Funding Appeal of 2020, which has been running each year since.

As of January 2023 I will be retiring and Marcial will be taking over the reins and I wish the Friends continued success in the future.

Filipa is having an exciting change in her life and now has a Full-time job in Lagos, which means she will not be volunteering every Thursday morning at the Open Days at Cruzinha, which she has been doing for the last 12 years. She will be really missed by everyone and she deserves a big thank you for her volunteering as well as her work at A Rocha.

At the moment Filipa will continue to produce the Newsletter and do the basic administration of the Friends of A Rocha.

So all change, hopefully there will be new faces taking on the responsibilities of keeping the Friends a happy , positive caring group of wonderful people, helping to protect our Planet. GOOD LUCK!

Both Filipa and I wish you all a healthy, happy and sustainable New Year!



Natural Parks in Portugal

Natural parks are “areas which contain predominantly natural or semi-natural ecosystems, where the long-term preservation of biodiversity may depend on human activity, ensuring a sustainable flow of natural products and services”. In Portugal there are 13 Natural Parks.

Ria Formosa Natural Park

The Ria Formosa natural Park is situated in the Algarve with an area of 18 000 hectares comprising the parishes of Faro, Loulé, Olhão, Tavira e Vila Real de Santo António; it is the most important wet area of the Algarve.

The area is characterized by a coastal sandy dune cord (beaches and dunes) which protects a lagoon, where is possible to find a big variety of habitats: barrier islets, dunes, marshes, saltpans, fresh water lagoons, brackish lagoons, shrublands and farmlands. It has an important economic, social and ecological value. The Natural Park was created in December of 1987 aiming for the protection and conservation of the dune system, the protection of the native and migratory wild life and their habitats and the sustainability of its economic resources.

The estuary has an average depth of 2 metres and 14% of the area is always underwater; the water courses which lead to the lagoon are mainly seasonal and part of the water comes from the sea.  Due to the habitat diversity, location, climate and extension, this area houses a big diversity of wildlife like the Common Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) or the Sea horse (Hippocampus sp) and it is also important for the birds (more than 20 000 wintering birds).

The symbol of the park it’s the Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) an emblematic species which has its most important population in the Ria Formosa natural Park.


Spiny hook-tip moth (Watsonalla uncinula, Borkhausen, 1790)

Family: Drepanidae

Wingspan: 18-35 mm (females are larger than males)

Habitat: Sbrublands, deciduous forests, Oak woodlands and gardens.

Flight period: January to December

Distribution: Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and western and southern parts of the Balkan Peninsula

Notes: The larvae feeds on Oak trees (leaves), Birch (Alnus sp and Betula sp) and Beech (Fagus sp). The common name (hook-tip) has to do with the shape of the tips of forewing, with a dark mark which resembles a hook. Similar to Oak hook-tip moth (Watsonalla binaria), both present in Portugal but W. uncinulla more widespread (all country) and with larger flight period.

Tweet… Tweet…

Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius, Linneu, 1758)

Family: Corvidae

Size: 32 to 35 cm in length Wingspan: 54 to 58 cm

Habitat: Woodlands, pine forest, coniferous and deciduous forest or urban gardens.

Status: Resident (northern populations can do small migrations to southern regions)

Distribution: Western Europe to the Northeast Africa and Asia.

Notes: In the wild they can live up to 18 years. Can imitate the sound of other birds. Feeds from nuts and has an important role in the woodlands and forests regeneration.


  • The end of the year brought us rain and holidays. At this time of the year it is possible to see the Robin (Erithacus rubecula), the Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), the Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), the Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros), the Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba) and some waders like the Dunlin (Calidris alpina) and the Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola). It is worth a visit to a wetland area, we never know what we can find!

  • Cruzinhas open day will return on Thursday 5th of January, for another exciting morning! Visit us!

Ornamental trees

In our parks and gardens it is possible to see amazing trees, although most of them are exotic! Plants native from other parts of the world used as ornamental. Maybe you have seen some of them….

Chinaberry (Melia azedarach (L.))

Family: Meliaceae

Type of plant: deciduous tree

Size: 7 to 12 metres

Distribution: Native of Centre and North India, China and Taiwan; introduced in Africa, America and Europe

Flower bloom time: April to May

Curiosity: Fast growth. The common name in Portuguese “Amargoseira” (bitter tree) it refers to the fruits which are bitter and poisonous for humans, but appreciated by birds. The fruits were used to make holy rosaries. This tree is considered invasive in some parts of the world (North America).


Family: Plantaginaceae

Plant type: Herbaceous perennial

Flower bloom time: April to October

Habitat: Meadows, farmlands, grasslands, road sides, fallow lands and human disturbed areas.

Distribution: Native to Europe and Asia but widely distributed along the world (Africa and America)

Notes: One of the first plants to reach America after the European colonization. Each plant can produce more than 20,000 small seeds. The young leaves are used in salads and are rich in Calcium and Vitamins. This plant has medicinal properties and it is used in traditional Chinese medicine (specially the leaves) for wound healing, bites, sore feet, is anti-infective and antipyretic.

Broad-leaved Plantain (Plantago major, L.) 


1st of January – New Year’s Day/Public Holiday

6th of January – Kings Day (Twelfth Night, down come the decorations)

5th, 12th, 19th and 26th January – Cruzinha Birdringing display & Moth Talk (10am to 12:30 am). Book here

Thank you for supporting the Friends of A Rocha Portugal

Physiotherapy, Massages (relaxation, sports, therapeutic)

Other therapies

Beauty (manicure, pedicure, hair removal, facials)

Open Monday to Friday

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

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

(+351) 911597735

What makes a good Birthday present?

Sustainability, Innovation, Discover!

You can find all of that in the Gift Friendship for the Friends of A Rocha Portugal!!


Gift Friendship

Thought of the month 

“No one will protect what they don’t care about, and no one will care about what they have never experienced.” – David Attenborough, born in 1926, biologist, natural historian (writes and presents Natural History documentaries).


The Truth about Microwaves – Are you afraid of microwaves? All sorts of things have been said about microwaves, so let’s get things straight.

Are microwaves bad for our health?

  • According to the World Health Organisation, when used correctly, there is nothing to worry about microwaves radiation. Microwaves use low frequency electromagnetic radiation – the same kind as used in lightbulbs and radios.
  • When you put food inside a microwave, it absorbs these microwaves, which makes water molecules in the food vibrate, causing friction that heats up the food.
  • Microwaves are part of the electromagnetic waves we are exposed to daily.

Are microwaves bad for the environment?

  • Microwave ovens are the most efficient way to cook.
  • The energy used by microwaves is lower than any other form of cooking.
  • Yes, microwaves use electricity, but it is nothing compared with an electric oven, gas oven, frying pan, toaster etc.
  • However, you can optimise electricity consumption by unplugging your microwave after use, to avoid the clock from using energy when not in use.

Are microwaves bad for nutrients?

  • A few studies compared different types of cooking vegetables: there was no concluding answer as to whether microwaving vegetables will retain more or less nutrients than any other method of cooking.

Is there something I should be concerned about?

  • Yes! It is not radiation, not nutrients, it is plastic (yes again).
  • We often microwave foods in plastic containers. When exposed to heat, these plastics additives can break down and seep into food.
  • In a 2011 study, researchers purchased more than 400 plastic containers designed to contain food and found that the majority leaked chemical that disrupt hormones.
  • Phthalates are one of the most commonly used plasticisers, found in takeaway containers, plastic wrap and water bottles.


Sea life

The sea is a big part of our planet and we still have a lot to discover! It is also threatened by human activity – pollution! Like the micro-plastics, very small particles of plastic floating in the water column ending inside the most of the sea animals… some of them are struggling to survive and some end up on our plates. Let’s find them

Blue mussel (Mytilus edulis)

Phylum: Mollusca

Class: Bivalvia

Size: 5 to 10 cm (average)

Lifespan: 7 to 18 years

Distribution: Coastal areas of northern Atlantic Ocean (North America, Europe and northern Palearctic)

Habitat: Sub-tidal and inter-tidal beds on rocky shores; marine and brackish water, estuaries, polar to temperate areas.

Behaviour: Semisessile species, settling on substrates as adults (although can get loosen and resettle on another substrates if food is not available).

Food habits: Suspension filter feeders, collect anything in the water column small enough to ingest (phytoplankton, small diatoms, dinoflagellates,…)

Ecological importance: Removes sediments from water column (high tolerance for increased sediment levels), habitat and prey for other animals, substrate for algae attachment (increase local diversity), but also can limit algae growth (considered  problematic in some areas), their larvae are important food source for other animals (fish and birds), are used as bio-indicators of environmental contamination and are economical important for humans (harvest has food and used in commercial aquaculture).

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.

Dick Pearce & Friends from Cornwall – England

This start-up made reusable belly-boards to give away for free at over 140 beaches in Britain to prevent plastic pollution!

The concept, known as “Surf Wood for Good”, was tested last summer by Dick Pearce and Friends, a firm that handcrafts traditional wooden belly-boards in Newquay, Cornwall. According to the founder, the handmade birch plywood used in their boards is environmentally friendly, and that there are other benefits using wood over low-cost polystyrene.

The campaign was started due to the fact that some 16,000 polystyrene boards are abandoned on UK beaches every year. They shed fragments of polystyrene into the ocean as they disintegrate, which are often mistaken for food for marine life. The founder of the start-up wanted to offer a sustainable alternative to those disposable boards and wanted to make a version that would last forever.

In the summer of 2021, Jamie got an idea for a plan to combat the epidemic and after speaking with Dan from Little Goat Gruff in St Ives his idea started to become a reality.

He partnered with businesses in UK coastal towns and provided each with a stack of wooden Dick Pearce belly-boards that they could loan to beachgoers.

A total of 140 boards have been given away to surf shops and National Trust locations in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Devon, Cornwall and other east coast locations.

See website here

Check the website for dates for organised tours  

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Guillaume Réthoré (Gui)- My life with birds: Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla)

Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) are regular passing birds along the Portuguese coast during the autumn. Most of the time, it is possible to see a few birds, quite far away. Some years, they appear in big numbers and 2022 was one of these years. Many Kittiwakes were recorded and they came very close to the shore. They showed-up in harbours, even inland and at Cape St Vincent, some birds were feeding at the base of the cliffs, allowing great views.

The adults have white underparts and grey back and wings. The tip of the wings is black. I find the juvenile and immature plumage much prettier with their black W on the back and wings.

The bird on the picture is a first winter bird photographed at Cape st Vincent in December 2022. This gull was part of a flock of about 30 birds feeding at the base of the cliffs with Razorbills (Alca torda) and black-heads gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus).

Text and photo by Guillaume Réthoré

Editor: Filipa Bragança

English proof reading: Helen Rodda

Portuguese proof reading: Lena Soares

Production controller: Helen Rodda


Thank you for supporting us!
Hope to see you soon!