Newsletter October 2023



Autumn is here!

Have you seen this amazing cactus flower? Griffon vultures must be passing by too!


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.

Alvão Natural Park

The Alvão Natural Park is located in the region of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, and comprises the parishes of Vila Real and Modim de Basto. The Park is a hilly barrier, together with Serra do Gerês, Marão and Cabreira, between the coastal areas and the inland, creating unique landscapes. The protected mountain range has a total area of 7 239 hectares with a maximum height of 1 330 metres.

Geologically it is characterized by a granite basin in altitude and low shale area, causing a step between them, with waterfalls. Despite the small area of the park it is possible to find a rich biodiversity and big variety of landscapes. The old deciduous oak woods are still present, together with Hollys (Ilex aquifollium), Hazel trees (Coryllus avellana), mushrooms and others. The presence of morasses allows the existence of a big diversity of plants including the Common Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia). The Naural Park is still the house of the Iberian Wolf (Canis lupus ssp. signatus) and other emblematic species like the Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra), the Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) and houses the largest Portuguese population of the butterfly Alcon Large Blue (Phengaris alcon). The landscapes have an  influence with agriculture and cattle.

The Natural Park was created in 1983 aiming to protect the unique and rare natural values, especially an area named Fisgas de Ermelo. The symbol of the Park is the waterfalls referring to the geologic morphology which allows the presence of amazing waterfalls.


False Mallow Skipper (Carcharodus tripolinus, Verity, 1925)

Family: Hesperidae

Wingspan: 26 to 34 mm

Habitat: hot and dry shrub and grasslands, sheltered rocky places

Flight period: March to September

Distribution: Southern Iberia Peninsula and North Africa

Notes: The primary hostplant is the Common Mallow (Malva sylvestris),  can be found in Althaea sp and Hibiscus sp. This species is very similar to the Mallow Skipper, morphologically its almost undistinguishable, requires genitalia analysis.

Tweet… Tweet…

Black Kite (Milvus migrans, Boddaert, 1783)

Photo by Guillaume Réthoré

Family: Accipitridae

Size: 48 to 58 cm Wingspan: 130 to 155 cm

Habitat: Wide variety of habitats, usually wetlands (marshes,dumps,rivers), also farmlands, cork oak woods, grasslands and shrublands.

Status: Summer breeder

Distribution: Europe and Australasia

Notes: This species is an opportunistic feeder, can be found in rubbish dumps and alongside the roads hunting. In Portugal builds its nest exclusively in trees, can breed in small colonies. The Black Kite it’s absent from the southern part of Algarve, can only be seen passaging by during migration.


  • On the 16th of September A Rocha guided a walk, organized by the Council of Lagos, within the scope of the European Week of Mobility, in the new boardwalk of Meia Praia. It was a beautiful end of the day, where people learned about plants native and invasive, insects and birds!
  • The new directors of Cruzinha already arrived! Rui and Débora Lino Ramalho with their 2 children, will be managing the centre for the next couple of years! Welcome 🙂
  • It’s migration time! Don´t forget to look up! Some of the birds seen in Ria de Alvor, Nature 2000: Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca), Common Quail (Coturnix coturnix), Lesser Spotter Woodpecker (Dendrocopus minor), Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochillus), Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), Marsh Harrier (Circus aeroginosus), Western Subalpine Warbler (Curruca iberiae), Winchat (Saxicola rubetra), Spotted flycatcher (Muscicapa striata), Common Whitethroat (Curruca communis), Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin), Common Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus), Common Nigthingale (Luscinia megarhynchos), Northern Weathear (Oenanthe oenanthe), Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis), Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris), Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), Ruff (Calidris pugnax), Black Tern (Chelidonia niger), Eleanora’s Falcon (Falco eleanora) and a Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos).
European Week of Mobility, walk in Meia Praia boardwalk
Débora and Rui Lino Ramalho
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopus minor)
Pectoral Sandpiper  (Calidris melanotos)
  • This year A Rocha celebrated its 40th Anniversary, on the 23rd of September, Cruzinha open its doors to welcome some of the most important members of the A Rocha Family. People who attended this event included the President of the Parish Council of Mexilhoeira Grande, José Vitorino and a representative of the Portimão Town Hall, Álvaro Bila. Among the guests, were the president of A Rocha Portugal Board, Conceição Santos, the CEO of A Rocha International, Ed Walker, the President of A Rocha International, Soohwan Park and the cofounders of A Rocha, Peter Harris and Les Batty.  It was a lovely day, those who sadly are no longer with us were remembered. The importance of the church was emphasized and Cruzinha itself, as the centre of A Rocha Portugal and the birthplace of what now is an international organization. Without all the board members, workers, volunteers, friends and without YOU, none of this would continue to be possible. Thank you! Hopefully A Rocha will celebrate many more anniversaries!

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….

Peruvian Peppertree (Schinus molle, L.)

Family: Anacardiaceae

Type of plant: evergreen tree

Size: up to 10 metres

Distribution: Native from Northern South America and Andean deserts of Peru

Flower bloom time: June to December

Curiosity: This species is resistant to drought, frost and salinity. Was introduced in Portugal for ornamental purposes, is well adapted for rocky and slope areas and can be used to prevent erosion. The resin of this tree was used to embalm the imperator mummies. The resin and leaves have medicinal uses. The fruits are used as spices for food, having a slightly spicy flavour similar to the “true pepper”.


Family: Asteraceae

Plant type: herbaceous

Flower bloom time: August to October

Habitat: Shrubland clearings, meadows and grasslands always in hot and dry areas

Distribution: Mediterranean Basin

Notes: This species flowers at the end of the summer when its leaves are completely dried and the flowers are found at the level of the ground. The roots are toxic. The specific name “gummifera” comes from the Latin and means “gum” referring to the gummy contents of the root.

Distaff Thistle (Atractylis gummifera (L.) Cass)


5th, 12th, 19th and 26th October – Cruzinha Bird ringing display & Moth Talk (10 to 12 am) Book here

5th of October – Implantation of the Republic, Public Holiday

5th to 8th October – Birdwatching Festival Sagres, See the program here

8th to 9th October – BliP, Portimão Arena

14th October – SEIVA (Week of Education and Environmental Volunteering Initiatives). Beach Cleaning. Ria de Alvor Estuary. Meeting point: Ria de Alvor Estuary (37.132383, -8.611845) at 10 o’clock

30th October – change to wintertime (Clocks go BACK 1 hour)

31st October – Halloween

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 

“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”– Fred Rogers (1928-2003), American Television Host


Do you know what LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification is?

  • Certification that evaluates the environmental performance of buildings; which aims to improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and create healthy environments for users. Each project earns points based on the sustainable management of carbon emissions, energy consumption, water, waste, transport, materials and the quality of the internal environment.

LEED’s main objectives for creating sustainable buildings are: 

  • Help reduce climate change.
  • Improve and protect people’s health.
  • Protects water resources.
  • Protect and support biodiversity and ecosystems.
  • Promote sustainability and regeneration of materials.
  • Support and contribute to quality of life.

Porto Business School was the first Portuguese school and the second in the Iberian Peninsula to obtain LEED GOLD certification.


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

Rugulopteryx okamurae

Phylum: Ochrophyta

Class: Phaeophyceae

Size: 2 to 200 mm height

Lifespan: unknown

Distribution: Western Pacific Ocean (Japan, China and Korea)

Habitat: sublittoral rocky substrata from 0.5 m to 35 m

Behaviour: grows over hard substrata. Has a high reproductive capacity, producing hundreds of individuals from a single specimen by vegetative propagules, also has a high colonization ability. Shows a high rate of detachment and the ability of floating to maintain high photosynthetic rate and reattach to hard substrata again which allows to rapidly expand after colonising suitable geographical areas.

Food habits: autotrophic (photosynthetic)

Ecological importance: This species has the ability to store nitrogen, allowing itself to increase  in areas rich in nutrient concentration (upwelling events and seasonal coastal eutrophication). It is highly competitive threatening local biota.

Notes: This is an invasive brown macroalgae, first discovered in the Mediterranean in 2002 and again in 2015 when it started to spread dramatically, was assigned as invasive in 2022. This species is causing major environmental and socio-economic issues along some Mediterranean coasts (France, Spain, Gibraltar), more recently Southern Portugal (during the summer of 2023, many beaches were full of this algae); it affects biodiversity and fishing.

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.

SUPA: one less plastic bottle to worry about

SUPA stands for Single Use Plastic Alternative, the world’s first 100% plastic, and metal-free cleaning products in paper bottles! This revolutionary product is made with sustainably sourced pulp waste created during sugar cane production and a natural plant-based coating to protect the contents inside.

The eco-mate range of 100% plastic-free cleaning products is perfect for the environment. The sustainable ingredients are ethically sourced from nature and carefully crafted into biodegradable contents and no-waste packaging.

Experience a fresh clean without any nasty chemicals, optical brighteners or parabens – just pure natural essential oils to get a pleasant aroma. SUPA products have an impressive range of cleaning formulas suitable for any household task. From kitchen sprays to surface cleaners and bathroom wipes, SUPA has everything you need for a plastic-free home. Plus, the range is certified hypoallergenic and accredited by Allergy UK, so you can be sure that your cleaning is safe, natural, and kind.

Save the Date – The Birdwatching Festival is back from October 5th to 8th

The biggest nature event in Portugal is back in Sagres! Take a few days to enjoy the best that nature has to offer. Field trips, boat trips, thematic mini-courses, dolphin watching, hikes, environmental education workshops, ringing sessions, photography courses are some of the proposals. Participate in activities for free and/or pay discounted festival attendee prices with our local partners.

The event, which will run from 5 to 8 October, is organised once more by Câmara Municipal de Vila do Bispo, in partnership with the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA) and Almargem.

More information here

Check the website for dates for organised tours  

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Guillaume Réthoré (Gui)- My life with birds: A special Gull

Audouin’s Gulls (Larus audouinnii) used to be one of the rarest gull species in Europe more than 20 years ago. Nowadays, it is a common bird seen along the Algarvian coast. I saw my first at Ria de Alvor in July 2008 and it was quite a sighting. The situation has changed dramatically since the species can be seen all year round at Ria de Alvor and the latest record number (from the end of August) was above 700 birds.

This particular bird, carrying the ring BZB1 is even more special. It was ringed in Ceuta in July 2017, seen at Ria de Alvor in October 2022 and August 2023 and is the first ever Audouin’s Gull ringed in Ceuta seen in the Algarve (and possibly the only one). It has not been spotted anywhere else!

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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Hope to see you soon!