Newsletter November 2023



Winter it´s almost here!

Look around when you walk through nature, you never know what you can find!


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.

Douro International Natural Park

The Douro International Natural Park is located in North-eastern Trás-os-Montes region, where the river Douro makes a natural border with Spain. Comprises areas within the parishes of Mogadouro, Miranda do Douro. Freixo de Espada à Cinta and Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo, in the County of Bragança and Vila Real. The Park is a deep and stepped valley with 120 km extension and an area of 85 150 hectares.

The orography is due to the Douro River and it´s affluent, Águeda River, which makes unique geologic and climacteric conditions and influences the fauna and flora of the area. Here it is possible to find one of the oldest rocks in Portugal: the gneisses of Miranda do Douro, dated from the Pre-Cambrian. Apart from the lithologic richness, has some important minerals like the wolfram (explored in II World War). The climate varies from the cold in the northern area to a microclimate on the southern part (low precipitation and mild winter temperatures). The flora is important part of the park, with some well-preserved areas especially on the cliffs: the dominant habitats are the oak woods (with different species of oaks) and the Juniper shrublands; on the plateaus there are mainly farmlands with wild hedges, important for some species like the Iberian Wolf (Canis lupus signatus), the Cabrera’s Vole (Microtus cabrerae) and the Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra). The region is very important for the birds, with 170 resident birds species, some of them emblematic and endangered national species like the Black Stork (Ciconia nigra), the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), the Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucura), amongst others.

The Natural Park was created in 1998 aiming to enrich and protect the natural patrimony and the ecological balance, including the biodiversity and the sustainability of ecosystems. In 2002 the “Arribes del Douro” Natural Park was created, in the same region but in Spain; the two parks together, forming one of the biggest protected areas in Europe (192 605 hectares). The symbol of the Park is the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), an Endangered species, which breeds in the park and has an important part of the national population.


Beet Armyworm (Spodoptera exigua, Hübner, 1808)

Family: Noctuidae

Wingspan: 25 to 30 mm

Habitat: grasslands, farmlands and woodlands

Flight period: March to November

Distribution: Temperate and subtropical regions (native from Southeast Asia, naturalized worldwide)

Notes: This species is polyphagous and feeds on a big variety of plants, including many crops; it is considered an aggressive agricultural pest and can harm many plants (soybeans, potatoes, sugar beet, cotton). Can undertake long-distance migrations and it is resistant to pesticides.

Tweet… Tweet…

Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus, Linnaeus, 1766)

Photo by Guillaume Réthoré

Family: Threskiornithidae

Size: 55 to 65 cm Wingspan: 88 to 105 cm

Habitat: Wetlands – marshes, dumps, rivers, lagoons, rice fields

Status: Resident (can be seen all year round although breeding here is rare)

Distribution: Worldwide – Central America, East and Central Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia.

Notes: In the last years the number of Ibis in Portugal increased considerably, it is, nowadays, a very common species in the Algarve wetlands. At a distance it looks completely black, but a close look in light reveals its beautiful colours: green, purple, bronze.


  • Heather Coats was back again this year for another migration ringing season! The weather was wet, but was possible to catch some migrants on their way to Africa: Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin), Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca), Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochillus) and some usual winter visitors, like the Robin (Erithacus rubecula), Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) and some not so usual like the Common Firecrest (Regulus ignicapilla).
  • Volunteers are very important for the continuity of A Rocha’s work. Let’s find out who they are:

I’m Nina, a volunteer from England and the Netherlands. I’m spending my gap year here through the ESC program, focusing on the microplastics project. So far, I have really enjoyed getting involved in all of the work done at A Rocha Portugal, including the bird ringing, moth trapping and beach cleans. I’m so excited to continue learning about nature and work towards protecting it!

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….

Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla, (Salisb) Franco)

Family: Araucaraceae

Type of plant: evergreen tree

Size: up to 50 metres

Distribution: Native from Norfolk Island (Eastern Pacific, between New Zealand and New Caledonia)

Flower bloom time: May to June

Curiosity: This species  is used as ornamental, tolerates the wind and the sea air. Belongs to the conifers, together with the pine trees. First discovered by the Captain James Cook. The wood is easy to work and was used for shipbuilding. The scientific name “heterophylla” comes from the Greek and means different leaves, referring to the difference between young and older leaves.


Family: Asteraceae

Plant type: herbaceous

Flower bloom time: July to September

Habitat: Grasslands, fallow lands, dry areas

Distribution: Western Mediterranean and Western Israel

Notes: This species is a spiny erect plant and flowers at the end of the summer. It is an anemochorous species (seeds dispersed by wind). The fruit is an achene.

Carlina racemosa (L.)


1st of November – Public Holiday All Saints Day, Anniversary of the day that Mexilhoeira Grande became a village (1999)

3rd to 5th November – Walk & Art Fest, Barão de São João

2nd, 9th, 16th, 23th and 30th November – Cruzinha Bird ringing display & Moth Talk (10 am to 12:30). 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 

“We are living on this planet as if we had another one to go to.”– Terry Swearingen, American Nurse & Winner of Goldman Environmental Prize in 1997


Water is essential to life! And we are running out of it. In the end of September 27% of the Portuguese territory was under extreme drought, located mainly in the southern region. The reservoirs are without or very little water. Every one of us can do something, it  is time to save water!

  1. Take fast showers and close the tap when you soap
  2. Avoid to flush the toilet unnecessary. If you don’t have double flush put a full bottle of 1,5 litters inside
  3. Use the washing machine and the dishwashing machine with the full capacity and choose ECO programs
  4. Make sure you close the taps and beware of any dripping or leakages
  5. Don´t leave the tap open, close it when you wash your hands or shave
  6. Reduce the number of times you wash your car and choose automatic cleaning
  7. Use taps with low flow rate
  8. Water the plants with reuse water and outside the hottest hours


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

Gigant Jellyfish (Rhizostoma luteum)

Phylum: Cnidaria

Class: Scyphozoa

Size: up to 60 cm (umbrella) and more than 2 metres tentacles

Lifespan: unknown

Distribution: Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea

Habitat: Pelagic; the adults are planktonic (living in the water column but unable to maintain their position or distribution independently of the movement of the water) the polyps are benthic.

Behaviour: Lives free in the water column. During the life cycle, passes through different stages. Brooding species (internal fertilisation with subsequent release of planulae) the small planulae settles and it’s sessile – polyp, the polyp will produce baby jellyfish clone of the original larva.

Food habits: carnivorous (amphipods, copepods, fish eggs, zooplankton, invertebrates)

Ecological importance: Key organisms in marine ecosystems, predators of planktonic organisms, as well they are food source of top chain animals, like sea turtles. The jellyfishes represent one of the oldest lineages of animals.

Notes: Around the “mouth” it has oral arms (fleshy tissue) which helps filter feeding. This species was described in 1827 but was considered a rare species, until in 2013 when it started to appear in some beaches along the Iberia Peninsula. The specific name “luteum” comes from the Latin and means yellow, referring to the colour of the mouth arms. Has a poison harmful to health, can cause itching.

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.

Climeworks: air capture technology

Rachael O’Brien, the Head of Marketing at Climeworks, a company that with its direct air capture technology removes CO₂ from the air, permanently.

Founded in 2009, by two engineers Jan Wurzbacker and Christoph Gebald, who met on their first day of university at ETH Zurich, Climeworks has been on a journey towards a solution that would empower everyone to take climate action.

Sharing a passion for alpine sports and spending time in the Swiss Alps, they experienced the effects of climate change first-hand. Shocked by the retreat of the glaciers, they vowed to do everything they could to tackle climate change.

Combining their engineering expertise, they have created a technology called direct air capture, a way to capture carbon dioxide directly from the air. As a result, Climeworks was formed and is now the leader in direct air capture (DAC) technology.

Unfortunately we’re at a point where reduction is not enough anymore. We need to remove emissions as well.

Therefore, direct air capture combined with CO₂ storage is no longer an option to fight global warming, but a necessary tool, along with emission reductions.

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Guillaume Réthoré (Gui)- My life with birds: Orange-winged Dropwing (Trithemis kirbyi)

This species has an afro-tropical distribution but has colonized Europe since 2013. It is found now breeding in Spain, France and Portugal. The first sighting in Spain was in 2007 and in France in 2017. This species was sighted in the Algarve a few years ago in the eastern part of the region. Slowly the species has been found further west.

This year, in July, during a birdwatching tour at Estombar ricefieds, since there were few birds, we started looking at dragonflies. I noticed this red dragonfly (not something rare as we have several red species), however, its way of perching (in obelisk) caught my attention. After taking a few pictures and checking them, I confirmed the identification as Orange-winged Dropwing, my first sighting!

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!