Natural Reserve of Santo André and Sancha Lagoons.
The Santo André Lagoon is the largest lagoon of the Alentejo coast in Portugal, formed by the retention of river basins surrounding the dune ridges.
Although human occupation in the area is present, there are areas in this lagoon with high densities of waterfowl, making this excellent for observation.
All visits to this unique lagoon system must include the observation by the lagoon itself, as well as taking a trip in the area of ‘wells’. What this means is that we before us two distinct landscapes: the lagoon and surrounding area, and the small lakes and dune systems around it.
Access to small lakes called “wells” is made from the road that leads to the beach of Porto das Carretas, and along the trail that there exists, can be spotted a set of forest birds typical of the coastal pine forests, such as the Blue Tit, Great-spotted Woodpecker and Short-toed Treecreeper, among others, as well as a Hobby although this hawk is difficult to detect.
In small lakes called ‘wells’ occur the species of Purple Heron, the Great Reed Warbler, Mallard and Moorhen.
The entire area east of the lake is surrounded by farmland and small patches of pine-nut. Access to a high point to allow to see the whole mirror of water is not always easy, and the ideal is to take village of Brescos as a starting point, and turn right after 1 km on the road that connects this village to Vila Nova de Santo André, near the bridge over the Ribeira da Cascalheira.
The Santo André Lagoon host large populations of waterfowl, especially during the winter. There are impressive numbers of Common Coot, Teal, Gadwall and Cormorant. Also the flamingo is present in this lagoon. Scarce but still regular, is the presence of birds of prey such as the Osprey and the Marsh Harrier, or waterfowl such as the Ferruginous Duck, the Pochard or Garganey.
The Red-chrested Pochard, one of the symbols of this lagoon, is present during throughout the year and is here in the greatest concentrations of winter in Portugal. The Little Tern also nests in the area. In the reeds you can find a Purple Heron, the Black-winged Stilt, the Savi´s Warbler and Reed Warbler.
During the migratory passages there can be spotted a variety of large migratory species, and this is the place where every year migratory ringing campaigns are carried out.
In the surrounding area, particularly in wooded patches, can be found other species, different from typical waterfowl that are in the waters of the lagoon, as exemplified by the Nuthatch, the Great Tit, the Green Woodpecker and the Azure-winged magpie.
Beyond this habitat, there are also cultivated fields in lowland areas surrounding the lagoon, where there are some waterfowl, especially during the winter, including the Black-tailed Godwit, Snipe and the Glossy Ibis, although this is more scarce.
On the western side of the lagoon, the beach of Santo André, there is little vegetation, and especially sought by species such as the Kentish Plover and the Yellow-legged Gull.
The list of rarities reported in the Lagoa de Santo André is impressive, making this a choice place for lovers in search of incidental species.
Best season: All year
List of Special Birds:
Purple Heron ( Ardea purpurea )
Flamingo ( Phoenicopterus roseus )
Gadwall ( Anas strepera )
Garganey ( Anas querquedula )
Red-Chrested Pochard ( Netta rufina )
Pochard ( Aythya ferina )
Osprey ( Pandion haliaetus )
Hobby ( Falco subbuteo )
Little Tern ( Sterna albifrons )
Great Reed Warbler ( Acrocephalus scirpaceus )
Savi´s Warbler ( Locustella luscinioides )
List of Other Birds:
Little Greb ( Tachybaptus ruficollis )
Cormorant ( Phalacrocorax carbo )
Glossy Ibis ( Plegadis falcinellus )
Teal ( Anas crecca )
Mallard ( Anas platyrhynchos )
Marsh Herrier ( Circus aeruginosus )
Coot ( Fulica atra )
Moorhen ( Gallinula chloropus )
Black-winged Stilt ( Himantopus himantopus )
Kentish Plover ( Charadrius alexandrinus )
Snipe ( Gallinago gallinago )
Black-tailed Godwit ( Limosa limosa )
Yello-legged Gull ( Larus michahellis )
Green Woodpecker ( Picus viridis )
Great Spotted Woodpecker ( Dendrocopos major )
Great Reed Warbler ( Acrocephalus arundinaceus )
Nuthatch ( Sitta europaea )
Short-toed Treecreeper ( Certhia brachydactyla )
Azure-winged Magpie ( Cyanopica cyanus )
List of Rare Birds:
Black-throated Loon ( Gavia arctica )
White Pelican ( Pelecanus onocrotalus )
Barnacle Goose ( Branta leucopsis )
Brent Goose ( Branta bernicla )
Blue-winged Teal ( Anas discors )
Marbled Duck ( Marmaronetta angustirostris )
Green-winged Teal ( Anas carolinensis )
Ruddy Duck ( Oxyura jamaicensis )
Ferruginious Duck ( Aythya nyroca )
Ring-necked Duck ( Aythya collaris )
Red-knobbed Coot ( Fulica cristata )
Cream-coloured Courser ( Cursorius cursor )
Pectora Sandpiper ( Calidris melanotos )
Red-necked Phalarope ( Phalaropus lobatus )
Slender-billed Gull ( Larus genei )
Ring-billed Gull ( Larus delawarensis )
White-winged Tern ( Chlidonias leucopterus )
Richard´s Pipit ( Anthus richardi )
Red-throated Pipit ( Anthus cervinus )
Citrine Wagtail ( Motacilla citreola )
Paddyfield Warbler ( Acrocephalus agricola )
Aquatic Warbler ( Acrocephalus paludicola )
Moustached Warbler ( Acrocephalus melanopogon )
Little Bunting ( Emberiza pusilla )
Pallas´s Reed Bunting ( Emberiza pallasi )