Newsletter December 2023



May the Christmas season fill your home with your loved ones, your heart with love and your life with laughter!

Merry Christmas!


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.

Montesinho Natural Park

The Montesinho Natural Park is located in the North-eastern Trás-os-Montes region, in the North and East it borders with Spain. The region is known as “Cold Land” and comprises the parishes of Vinhais and Bragança. The Park has an area of 75 000 hectares.

The landscape is formed of rounded hills and deep valleys with the highest point of 1 481 m; the schist is the dominant rock, but it is possible to find granites, ultrabasic rocks and limestone. These features enable the existence of different kinds of habitats, like heather scrubland , oak woods and morass. The big diversity of plants is due to the geologic and climatic variability, here it’s possible to find one of the biggest national areas of Spanish oak (Quercus pyrenaica) and Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa) and some botanic relics, which can only be seen here.  The fauna is also very diverse, with around 110 nesting birds, including the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetus), with 70% of all the mammals species found in Portugal and the most important population of the Iberian Wolf (Canis lupus ssp signatus).

The Natural Park was created in 1979 aiming to protect animal population and community’s characteristics of the European and Iberian Fauna, some of them endangered, and the well preserved natural flora. The symbol of the Park is the flower of the Sweete Chestnut (Castanea sativa), one of the most abundant trees in the area.


Spanish Carpet (Scotopteryx peribolata, Hübner, [1817])

Family: Geometridae

Wingspan: 28 to 33 mm

Habitat: Shrublands, open, dry and warm woodlands and rocky slopes

Flight period: June to November

Distribution: Iberian Peninsula and Southwestern France. Occurs isolated in Switzerland

Notes: This species feeds on plants within the Fabaceae Family (Cytisus, Genista, Retama and Ulex). The specific name “peribolata” cames from Greek and means surrounded, referring to the pattern of the wings.

Tweet… Tweet…

Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus, Linnaeus, 1758)

Photo by Guillaume Réthoré

Family: Charadriidae

Size: 28 to 31 cm Wingspan: 67 to 72 cm

Habitat: Wetlands, Arable fields, pastureland, grasslands, marshes

Status: Winter migrant and rare breeder

Distribution: Europe, Asia and North Africa

Notes: The scientific name “vanellus” comes from the Latin and means sieve, referring to the way this species flap its wings. In the south of Portugal it’s known as “Cold bird” because it comes in small groups, to eat in farmlands when the weather its cold.


  • Watch our video: “A Rocha” at Sagres Bird Fair. Subscribe our channel.

We would like to thank everyone who helped on the A Rocha Portugal stand: A Rocha staff and volunteers, and our supportive ‘Friends’. Without you, it would not be possible to have a presence at Sagres Bird Festival. Thank you to those who came by to say hello, and we look forward to meeting and making new ‘Friends’ in 2024.

  • Watch our open day video:

Meet A Rocha Volunteers;

Hello, my name is Clara and I studied geography in Hamburg, Germany. Since October 2023 I work as part of the European Solidarity Corps (ESC) for A Rocha Portugal. Together with Lieven and Nina, we work on a project about microplastics, where we take samples from beaches and analyse them for their microplastic content. For me, this is a great opportunity to learn more about anthropogenic environmental influences and I’m really looking forward to our time together!

Hello, my name is Lieven von Maydell. I graduated from school in Germany last summer and am now doing a gap year before starting university. I wanted to use this time to develop myself personally and make a positive impact in the world. That’s how I ended up at A ROCHA through the ESC programme, which was a perfect match for my ideas. I am very happy to be part of the team and am looking forward to the coming months.

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….

Hybrid Plane (Platanus x hispanica, Mill. ex Münchh.)

Family: Platanaceae

Type of plant: deciduous tree

Size: up to 30 metres

Distribution: This species is a hybrid of American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) native to Eastern and Central United States and Oriental Plane (Platanus orientalis), native to Eurasia, from the Balkans to Central Asia.

Flower bloom time: April to June

Curiosity: This species was first discovered in the XVII century, it is thought through hybridization of 2 other species which were planted near each other somewhere in Spain. Widely planted as ornamental due to its ability to adapt to urban conditions and resistance to pollution. The root system can destroy the street pavements and the fruit hairs can cause respiratory problems when inhaled. The colour of the bark is characteristic: multi-coloured with a camouflage style pattern.


Family: Ranunculaceae

Plant type: herbaceous

Flower bloom time: October to December

Habitat: Meadows, shrubland clearings, olive trees woodlands, grasslands and fallow lands, usually in wet places

Distribution: Western and Central Mediterranean

Notes: The generic name “Ranunculus” comes from Greek and means frog, referring to the preference to grow in wet places. The flower is shiny yellow.

Autumn Buttercup (Ranunculus bullatus ( L.))


1st December – Restoration of Independence/Public Holiday

7th, 14th, 21st December – Cruzinha Bird ringing display & Moth Talk (10 am to 12 am). Book here 

8th December – Day of the Immaculate Conceição/ Religious holiday

8th to 10th  December – Christmas Market in the churchyard of Mexilhoeira Grande

11th December – Day of the city of Portimão/ Local Holiday

25th December – Christmas/ Public Holiday

Cruzinha is closed from 18th December 2023 to 3rd January 2024; on Thursday 21st and  28th December there is no Open Day

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 only get a handful of decades on earth, I’d rather spend that time doing good than perpetuating bad.” – Tim Silverwood, Australian Environmentalist


Sustainable Christmas

Christmas is the perfect time to think in a sustainable future! Make yours and your surroundings into a green Christmas

  1. Choose quality instead of quantity (good products last longer and have a smaller footprint)
  2. Give services instead of products (vouchers for concerts or dinners or events, will make a double Christmas experience!)
  3. Choose well the materials (recycled paper or other materials and Fairtrade products or organic food or clothes)
  4. Less packaging (buy products with little or without packaging and avoid the plastics)
  5. Wrapping (make your own wrapping with recycle paper or reuse paper or card, avoid the ribbons)
  6. Gift of hope (if you run out of gilt ideas, why not to choose to help an environmental association or animal adoption?)
  7. Food waste (choose well your menu for the holidays, eat more vegetables and avoid the waste, use the leftovers to make another meal)
  8. Food (choose local products and seasonal products)


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

Green Ormer (Haliotis tuberculata)

Phylum: Mollusca

Class: Gastropoda

Size: up to 11 cm in length and 6,5 in width

Lifespan: 15 years

Distribution: Mediterranean Sea and Eastern Atlantic

Habitat: Benthic; sublittoral zone from low tide to a depth of 200 metres

Behaviour: Lives attached to hard rocky surfaces; Gonochoric (sexes in different individuals) the fertilization is external.

Food habits: Grazer herbivorous, especially on sea lettuce.

Ecological importance: Food source for other species and contributes to the ecosystem balance

Notes: Very sensitive to disturbance. The shells shows several holes, which consist in respiratory apertures, where the mantle extends through the siphons. This species is a delicacy in the Channel Islands. The population was overfished and populations dropped, it is now considered Vulnerable (VU) according to the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature).

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.

Circularity First

Anthony Levy, Founder & CEO of Circularity First a company that specialises in helping businesses design, build, manage and quantify IT infrastructures with a circular mindset.

Circularity First Group have been working across sustainable IT for over 14 years. At their origin they knew that systematic change was required. Now, as the wider business community assesses its carbon footprint, others are realising it too.

Numbers suggest that IT contributes between 5% and 20% to a company’s Scope 3 carbon footprint. With 80% of that carbon coming from manufacturing, Circularity First has extended the life of what we have and stem the tide on new. For their founder and their team it’s their belief that ‘It’s now or never.’

Circularity First works with both vendors and customers and over 14 years have achieved:

Preventing 850,000 KGs of technology equipment from becoming eWaste, the equivalent of 6 blue whales

Of the networking products they sell, 99% are sourced from manufactured, reused and redeployed authorised programmes.

Visit our website here

Check the website for dates for organised tours  

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Guillaume Réthoré (Gui)- My life with birds: A mimetic Little Bustard

Can you spot the Little Bustard in the picture? It is in the middle on the left side, by a rock. The bird has the same size and colour as the surrounding rocks. If we had not seen it landing, we would never have seen it! This Little Bustard was the only one we saw during the last A Rocha Life tour in the Alentejo. They are not as easy to see in the autumn as they are during spring, when the males display. It is also a species which is declining fast, and unfortunately, not only in Portugal, mostly because of the changes in agriculture practices.

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!