Newsletter February 2023



Almost eight years ago, I challenged Helen to organize and create some kind of structure for a Friends of A ROCHA Portugal program. A simple idea to encourage lots of people to be involved with A ROCHA, but without involving themselves in the bureaucracy which normally takes place in any formal organization; namely reading lots of documents and participating in the never-ending AGM.

Helen rose to this challenge, and today we have a Friends of A Rocha that is designed for fun, friendship, learning together, changing our environmental habits, and helping out one another and our planet.

As you read in the last newsletter, Helen has stepped down from running the Friends, and that leaves me to say on all our behalf’s, a huge ‘thank you’ for all her hard work and commitment over these years. It is not an over statement to say that without her guidance and hard work, we would not have survived financially through the long months of Covid-19 lockdown. Neither is it an over statement to say that she has set up an amazing Friends program, which is beautifully blossoming into a growing hub of likeminded people.

It is now in our hands, The Friends, to make sure it grows, both by continuing our Friendship subscription, and also by bringing new friends alongside.

On behalf of A ROCHA and in my own name, a huge thank you Helen! We hope you will come to see us on Thursday visitor mornings, and of course at our Friends Events.

God bless you as you take on new adventures!

Marcial Felgueiras

CEO A ROCHA in Portugal


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.

Southwest Alentejo and Vincent Coast Natural Park

The Southwest Alentejo and Vincent Coast Natural Park extends from S. Torpes (Alentejo) to Burgau (south coast of Algarve) and includes an area of 89 568,77 ha (60 577, 25 ha of land and 28 991,52 ha of sea), comprising the parishes of Sines, Odemira, Aljezur and Vila do Bispo.

This coastal belt (land-sea) has a big diversity of habitats, including dunes, marshes, cliffs, islets, shrublands, moorlands and farmlands.  The specific characteristics of the area (between Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, with the African influence) provides a big diversity of landscapes and biodiversity (35 different kinds of habitats) and around 750 species of plants, of which 100 of them are endemic. The Southwest Alentejo and Vincent Coast Natural Park has the highest number of endemic species of Portugal.  The Sagres area is also an important migratory route for birds in autumn.   The Natural Park was created in June of 1988 aiming for the protection and conservation of its biodiversity, mainly the richness of plants, with a lot of endemic species, birds and fish species.

The hydrologic network comprises the river Mira and a large number of temporary water courses. The marine area with the variety of habitats is an important characteristic of the area. There are 9 protected habitats, including the temporary ponds.

The symbol of the park are the coastal cliffs, with the most varied forms, sizes and colours.


Photo by Filipa Bragança

Hawaiian Beet Webworm (Spoladea recurvalis, Fabricius, 1775)

Family: Crambidae

Wingspan: 19-24 mm

Habitat: Gardens, fields, waste places

Flight period: August to November (but can fly year round depending on location)

Distribution: Worldwide but mainly in the tropics (North America, Africa, Southeast Asia, Australia and Europe)

Notes: The larvae feeds on Beet, Chard (Beta sp), Spinach (Spinacia sp), Soya and various weeds such as Amaranthus sp and Chenopodium sp, it is considered a pest in several parts of the world. The adults are nectivores and famous for long distance migrations.


Tweet… Tweet…

Photo by Filipa Bragança

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea, Linnaeus, 1758)

Family: Ardeidae

Size: 84 to 102 cm in length (neck extended) Wingspan: 155 to 175 cm

Habitat: Wetlands (coastal areas, coastal lagoons, marshes, estuaries, dams, rivers)

Status: Winter migrant and resident (in Portugal it is possible to see it all year round, but it is more common in winter, breeds locally and in some places in the Alentejo and a few other isolated places)

Distribution: Central and South Europe, Southeast Asia and Central and South Africa

Notes: Flies with its long neck retracted (S-shape). This species breeds in colonies, higher on trees usually close to wetlands. The average life span of this species is 5 years, although the oldest bird recorded was 23 years, 9 months and 2 days! The breeding population of the Grey Heron has been increasing in Portugal in the last decades.


  • Winter is here and the cold weather as well! There is a chance to see some birds that may be diverted this way by the cold, it is always worth a good look around! In November we caught a Hungarian Eurasian Robin (Erithacus rubecula) at our ringing station, this bird was ringed in July in Hungary as a juvenile (most likely it was born there); the information was sent by the Hungarian Ringing Scheme some weeks ago. It was a long journey for such a young bird!

    Robin (Photo by Filipa Bragança)

  • To celebrate the International Wetland day (2nd February) A Rocha will organize a talk together with Alvor Council and a walk in Ria de Alvor. These activities will happen on the 4th of February and requires a registration. See the program below:

4th February, Saturday

09:00 – Walk in Ria de Alvor, meeting point at Mexilhoeira Grande train station (in English)

3:30 pm – Placing the board “Take the rubbish with you” at the seawall of Alvor beach

4:00 pm – Talk and debate about “The rubbish in our coastal areas” (only in Portuguese), in Community Centre Alvor.

For further information and registration contact:

  • In February A Rocha has organizes some beach cleans:

7th February – 09:00 am at Praia dos 3 Irmãos (Parking close to the beach)

11th February – 11:00 am at Praia dos 3 Irmãos (Parking close to the beach)

25th February – 11:00 am Praia de Alvor (Parking close to the public Swimming pool)

For more information contact Isabel Soares:

Friends Event – Wednesday 8th March 2023

Picnic and Birdwatching in Salgados with Gui

12.00 to 17.30

Setting off from Cruzinha at midday, we will go in the minibus to Salgados and start the afternoon with a picnic lunch (please bring your picnic). From 14.00 Gui will guide us on a birdwatching afternoon in the area. We will return to Cruzinha at 5.30pm.

There will be 8 places in the minibus and 2 places in a car. If you prefer a pick-up in Lagoa, we can meet you in the Auchan Supermarket car park (please confirm)

Ticket price –  20 Euros (Friends)  25 Euros (Non Friends)

If you have any questions about this trip, please email to

Look forward to seeing you on our first trip of 2023.

Book here Friends        Book here Non Friends

This event is being organized by Marina Hardy and Christine Weltzien (volunteers for the Friends of A Rocha)

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….

Coastal She-oak or Horsetail She-oak (Casuarina equisetifolia (L.))

Photo by Filipa Bragança

Family: Casuarinaceae

Type of plant: Evergreen tree

Size: 12 to 20 metres

Distribution: Southeast Asia, Northern Australia and the Pacific islands (introduced in many regions including Southern USA and West Africa)

Flower bloom time: April to May

Where to see: On the road EN125, between Portimão and Lagos,  close to Penina

Curiosity: Fast growth tree. In Southeast Asia it is used as a bonsai. Usually it is referred as a Coniferous tree (pine tree) although it belongs to the Angiosperms (plants with flower). The Latin name Casuarina comes from a bird Cassoary, because the leaves of the Coastal she-oak resemble the feathers of the bird, or as the common name in English Horsetail, the tail of a horse. This species is resistant to the sea winds and it is used as ornamental in many countries.


Family: Urticaceae

Plant type: Herbaceous perennial

Flower bloom time: Almost all year round

Habitat: Ruderal – rocky areas, road sides, walls and other human disturbed areas.

Distribution: Native to Europe, Central and Western Asia and Northern Africa.

Notes: This species is wind pollinated and its pollen is highly allergenic. The plant is one of the larval food plant for the Red Admiral Butterfly (Vanessa atalanta). The Pellitory of the wall has been used for more than 2000 years as a diuretic in traditional medicine. Leaves and shoots are edible.

Photo cortesy of Floraon
Pellitory of the wall (Parietaria judaica, L.) 


2nd February – International Day of the Wetlands

2nd, 9th, 16th and 23rd February – Cruzinha Birdringing display & Moth Talk (10am to 12 am) Book here

5th February- Walk in Ria de Alvor, meeting point: Train station Mexilhoeira Grande at 9am

7th February – Beach Cleaning Praia dos 3 Irmãos at 09:00am

11th February – Beach Cleaning Praia dos 3 Irmãos at 11:00am

14th February- Valentine’s Day

25th February – Beach cleaning Praia de Alvor at 11:10 am

More information concerning the beach cleaning please email to:

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 

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”– Robert Swan, Author and Advocate for the protection of Antarctica and renewable Energy; first man to walk to both the North and South Pole


  • In December 2022, US scientists announced a major breakthrough in the race to create Nuclear Fusion energy. Scientists have overcome a major barrier: producing more energy from a fusion experiment than was put in.
  • Nuclear Fusion is described as the ‘holy grail’ of energy production, it is the process that powers the Sun and other stars.
  • It works by taking pairs of light atoms and forcing them together – this “fusion” releases a lot of energy. It is the opposite of nuclear fission, where heavy atoms are split apart. Fission is the technology currently used in nuclear power stations, but the process also produces a lot of waste that continues to give out radiation for a long time.
  • Nuclear Fusion produces far more energy, and only small amounts of short-lived radioactive waste. The process more importantly, produces no greenhouse gas emissions and therefore does not contribute to climate change.
  • The promise of a fusion-powered future is one step closer, but there is still a long way to go before this becomes reality.
  • The amount of energy they’ve generated in this experiment is tiny – just enough to boil a few kettles, but what it represents is huge.
  • This experiment has cost billions of dollars – fusion does not come cheap, but the promise of a source of clean energy will certainly be a big incentive for overcoming these challenges.


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

Beadlet anemone (Actinia equina)

Photo by Filipa Bragança

Phylum: Cnidaria

Class: Hexacorallia

Size: 3 to 5 cm (diameter at the base)

Lifespan: Unknown (some species of anemones can live up to 80 years in captivity)

Distribution: North Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea

Habitat: Inter-tidal zone on firm substrate, rock, stones, breakwaters. Can live in sub-tidal areas up to 20 metres depth.

Behaviour: Sessile species (only free life when larvae). Can survive completely submerged in water or completely out of the water; can tolerate waters with variable salinity.

Food habits: Predator, feeds on almost everything it can catch, mainly bivalve molluscs, insects and isopods, sometimes gastropods, bryozoans and chitons. Attacks its preys with the tentacles, which have special cells (nematocysts), which releases toxins that can paralyze the prey.

Ecological importance: Habitat and food scraps for fish and crustaceans (in turn they protect sea anemones from predators).

Notes: This species is one of the most aggressive sea anemones with powerful toxins which can cause great discomfort and pain to humans. The Beadlet Anemone is the only species of anemone to brood their young (in the early stage it is a planktonic larvae free in the ocean but after it enters the cavity of another sea anemone and completes its development.

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.

Pela began in 2010 when its founder Jeremy Lang, saw first-hand the damage of plastic pollution on our oceans when on vacation. Lang and Pela are taking steps towards making sustainable, plastic free products the new normal with a product that we hold every single day.

The company now prides itself on creating the first 100% compostable phone case and its aim is to prevent 1 billion pounds of plastic from being produced by 2028. They have already removed over 313,000 pounds of plastic with the sales of their effective, durable cases.

Pela, a B Corp and Climate Neutral Certified business, is also intentional about using eco-friendly materials and decreasing their footprint. Their phone cases, in addition to being compostable use renewable resources. Their 2020 reduction plan set out plans to streamline transportation routes, decrease end of life waste, and help manufacturing facilities shift to renewable power sources.


Donate to a Night with more Life

Lights out to bring life to the night – this is the challenge set by the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA), in a crowdfunding campaign where, for every 10€ raised, partners will turn off a streetlight on Madeira island. The aim is to show the impact of excessive artificial lighting, and simultaneously raise funds for the association’s work in saving seabirds — hundreds of which die each year because they were blinded by artificial lights — and reducing light pollution. Depending on how much you donate, SPEA will even give you a little reward for your good deed.

More info (in Portuguese):

Check the website for dates for organised tours  

Follow us:  

Guillaume Réthoré (Gui)- My life with birds: Leach’s Storm-Petrel (Hydrobates leucorhous)

We started the New Year with a seabird, and we will continue with another seabird. As I previously said, the last months have been good for seabirds. There is an old saying: “bad weather brings rare birds”, so when you are in the Sagres area and the weather is stormy, you check the harbour, coast and Martinhal lagoon. On that day, we had already visited most of these spots. We finished the afternoon watching hundreds of Gannets fishing quite close to the shore. From time to time, Scoters, Phalaropes or Kittiwakes would show-up. As the weather got worse, we took shelter near a café by the beach. That is when we saw this dark bird with a white rump, pretty close to the beach: a Storm-Petrel! Now, which one? The absence of white under the wings eliminated the European Storm-Petrel, and as the legs were not longer than the tail, it was not a Wilson’s. The dark line on the white patch and its small extension pointed towards a Leach’s Storm-Petrel. As these species are usually found offshore it is always a special moment when you see one close to the coast.

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!