Newsletter June 2023



Summer is almost here! Have you seen this amazing moth? And this beautiful yellow flower?



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.

Mountain of São Mamede Natural Park

The Mountain of São Mamede Natural Park is located in the High Alentejo Region and comprises the parishes of Arronches, Castelo de Vide, Marvão e Portalegre. The mountain area ranges from an altitude of 400 to more than 800 metres with a total area of 56.061,31 hectares.

The altitude and the climate conditions, in the border of the Mediterranean influence and Atlantic allows the existence of diverse landscapes and habitats. The geographic and topographic characteristic of the mountain are essential for the diversity of the existent flora (Mediterranean and Atlantic species), where it is possible to find oak woods, chestnut woods, brooms, cistus and other interesting species. The region is also an important bird area in the Iberian Peninsula, being a migratory route for birds between Europe and Africa. This is one of the Portuguese regions with more diversity of amphibians and reptiles. Here exists a large cave, the most important in Portugal with a colony of Schreiber’s Bat (Miniopterus schreibersii) a Vulnerable (Vu) species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The Natural Park was created in 1989 aiming for the conservation of its high natural values alongside with the human activities and the economic development. The symbol of the Park is the Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata) a species that breeds in the area.


African Death’s-head Hawkmoth (Acherontia atropos, Linnaeus, 1758)

Photo by Isabel Soares

Family: Sphingidae

Wingspan: 90 to 120 mm

Habitat: Wide variety of habitats with host plants

Flight period: May to October

Distribution: Southern Europe, Northern and Southern Africa and Middle East

Notes: This is one of the biggest moths found in Portugal. The adult produces a sound coming from the larynx and attacks the bee hives looking for honey. The adult migrates and it is possible to be found out of its breeding range. This moth is very famous because it appears on the poster of the movie “The Silence of the Lambs”.

Tweet… Tweet…

Little Tern (Sternula albifrons, Pallas, 1764)

Photo by Filipa Bragança

Family: Laridae

Size: 21 to 25 cm Wingspan: 41 to 47 cm

Habitat: Sandy shallow coasts, islands, lakes, marshlands, saltpans and rivers

Status: Summer breeder

Distribution: Europe, Central Asia, Middle East; winters in Western Africa.

Notes: This is the smallest tern in Portugal and Europe. Feeds off small fish and crustaceans which they capture by fast dives into the sea. In Portugal the Little Tern as the status of Vulnerable (Vu) according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The major threats are habitat disturbance and nest predation.


  • This year will be having another campaign for the Storm Petrel project. Volunteers and students from the UK will come for 2 weeks to catch Storm Petrels on a rocky terrain near a beach, during the night. This project is collecting data since the 90’s and it is important to evaluate the status of the population of this bird species.

  • Environmental Education with schools in A Rocha are coming to the end of the season. This year we had around 1740 students of 17 different schools visiting us and learning about Nature.
  • At our ringing station is time for juvenile birds! In May we caught a juvenile Linnet (Carduelis cannabina)! And a juvenile Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla)

Juvenile Linnet (Carduelis cannabina)

Environmental Education at A Rocha
  • We had a curious visitor at Cruzinha’s garden! A European Hare (Lepus europaeus)

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….

European Black Poplar (Populus nigra, L.)

Family: Salicaceae

Type of plant: Deciduous tree

Size: 15 to 20 metres

Distribution: Native from Eastern Europe and Western Asia

Flower bloom time: February to April

Where to see: On the EN125, after Mexilhoeira Grande, before the restaurant “A Choupana”

Curiosity: This species is used as ornamental since the Antiquity, especially along water courses, it is a riparian species. This tree is fast growing and with a short life cycle (lives 12 to 15 years). The wood it was used for paper pulp (paper manufacture), toys, tooth picks, matches and carpentry. In olden days, in periods of shortage, the leaves were used for feeding the cattle. The tree is wind pollinated and is a host food plant for many species of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths).


Family: Asteraceae

Plant type: Herbaceous perennial

Flower bloom time: March to June

Habitat: Fallow land, grassland, shrubland clearings, road sides, usually in dry places

Distribution: Mediterranean Region

Notes: The scientific name spinosa comes from the Latin and means “with spikes”, although the plant only has small spiny bracts surrounding the flowers. This species has been used for a long time for headache and colds, it is rich in vitamin C.

Piny Starwort (Pallenis spinosa subsp. spinosa (L.) Cass.)
Photo by Filipa Bragança


1st June – Children’s Day

1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th June – Cruzinha Bird ringing display & Moth Talk (10 am to 12 am). Book here

8th June – Corpus Christi (National Holiday)

5th June – International Environment Day

10th June – Portugal Day (National Holiday)

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

21st June – Summer solstice

24th June – Popular Saint Day – Saint Pedro

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

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 

“We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.”– Thomas Fuller (1608-1661), English Churchman and Historian


  • More than 170 billion plastic particles can already be found in the oceans. In 2040 it’s estimated to be 3 times more!

  • In 1972, the first article about plastics was published! The last article published a couple of months ago shows a drastic increase of plastics in the oceans since 2005.
  • Plastics have increased a lot on the surface of the oceans, this is due to the increase of the production plastics and to the lack of recycling!
  • lastic waste is negatively affecting more than 800 species and the world’s economy!
  • Is time to change our attitude! Reduce and recycle!


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

Small-spotted catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula)

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Chondrichthyes

Size: 65 to 100 cm

Lifespan: 12 years

Distribution: East of Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea

Habitat: Benthic, found on sandy, algal, gravel or muddy bottoms down to 110 metres

Behaviour: Oviparous, the females deposit eggs cases (with horny capsule and tendrils) in algae. The fecundation is internal.

Food habits: Opportunistic, feeds on molluscs, crustaceans, small cephalopods, polychaete worms and small bony fishes

Ecological importance: Food source for other larger fishes

Notes: The most common shark species in Europe. Shows sexual dimorphism (males and females are different). This species can detect weak electric fields generated by other organisms.. During the day usually rests and it is more active at night time. The Small-spotted catshark has a moderate fisheries importance

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.

Started in 2018 by Solange Kwidja Kahriri, a former communications worker who saw an opportunity to help her local communities, Heshima Coffee now sells coffee and coffee-infused soap bars in five Congolese provinces, Burundi and Rwanda. Kahriri saw it as a chance to create a source of extra income for women in an industry that is still essentially male-dominated. It’s also an ingenious way of helping people while ensuring that no part of the beans goes to waste, because the soap is made from used grounds, so that’s also a major plus for the planet too. Currently, around 1,500 women and young people living in rural areas throughout east Congo now live with the hope of a brighter future.

The cooperative makes this possible by handing out free seedlings to its members. When they return with the coffee, Solange puts her communication experience to good work as she negotiates directly with buyers on their behalf to ensure they get the best price possible for their produce. And this means that many of them can put food on the family table with money left over for household goods, and crucially they can provide an education to their children and hope for an even brighter outlook than they have.

Today the cooperative produces over 5,000 soap bars a week that are hand-cut and wrapped. Solange concedes that so much more could be done with extra financial support. Still, for now, making a difference to the planet and the lives of so many must be a heartening outcome.

Ornithology Congress is back

The 11th edition of SPEA’s Ornithology Congress will take place in São Miguel, Azores, from 22 to 26 November, and includes the 2nd Macaronesian Ornithology Days. Portugal’s largest scientific event on bird research and conservation, the congress is a networking opportunity for researchers, ornithologists and students. Participants will also have the opportunity to visit key areas for Nature conservation and science communication on São Miguel island.

The call for proposals for oral communications, posters and workshops is open unti 14 July, and early bird registration will take place until 30 September.

More information (in Portuguese) here

Check the website for dates for organised tours  

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Guillaume Réthoré (Gui)- My life with birds:Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucura)

In April, I was guiding in Spain, in the Extremadura region. On one of the days, we hiked toward a castle in ruins on top of a hill, hoping to see a Black Wheatear. After spending a few hours hiking and exploring the area, we had not seen any. We went back to the van and moved a few kilometres away to have our lunch. We ate on the other side of the hill. Griffon Vultures were nesting on the cliffs and flying above our position. At the end of the lunch, a person from the group asked me what was the dark bird with a white tail that he was seeing. It was the Wheatear! After spending hours looking for it, it was waiting for us by our picnic spot. It was also the first time I saw this species in Europe.

Text and photo by Guillaume Réthoré

Editor: Filipa Bragança

English proof reading: Helen Rodda

Portuguese proof reading: Lena Soares

Production controller: Helen Rodda


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