After the success of the stroll between Odeleite and Foz de Odeleite we decided to try another excursion from the Birdwatching Guide, remaining in the Baixo Guadiana but further south near Junqueira. The guide map indicated it would be a lovely short walk, and the description sounded perfect for birdwatching and wildflowers.
‘small wetland at the mouth of Ribeira do Beliche, with an extensive area of marshland and canals connecting with the Rio Guadiana. The surrounding area is covered in holm oak forest and Mediterranean scrub‘
Our only hesitation was the warning about the poor condition of the road, however it hadn’t been that rainy in the days preceding our visit so we thought it worth the risk. Well the warning was justified as the access road was a very bumpy track, and if it had been wet we would have certainly have got stuck. As it was we couldn’t get as far as the guide had indicated because of temporary fences across the road at Palheiros da Moita. However we left the car in a very pretty spot by one of the man-made water channels and climbed through the fence to make our way to the ruins of Sapal da Moita and on to the banks of the Rio Guadiana.
Within moments of leaving the car we saw our first bird, an Osprey. At least we’re pretty sure that is what he/she was. They are known to be in this area but it was so far away I struggled to get a photograph let alone a good identification shot. The herd of cattle on the slopes of what the guide calls the ‘Caldeirinha’ was far easier to observe and photograph!
It wasn’t long before we found ourselves at Sapal da Moita’s ruins – an abandoned farmhouse. On the day we visited it had been fenced off and a very large dog was in residence as were numerous storks. We could totally understand why they had built their nests here as it is a lovely spot overlooking the saltmarshes. Sapal means saltmarsh in Portuguese and moita means thicket, and so the name is a very accurate description of the land in this valley. By the way the name of spot where we left the car means ‘haystacks of the thicket’, we didn’t see any haystacks but I could well imagine that was the point where the wheat and hay was dealt with as it is situated on the scrub land above the marshes and there is a small water mill.
Following the track on the edge of the marshland and keeping an eye on the rather splendid bull we soon came to the bridge over one of the streams and our optimism for a picnic by the Guadiana and 2hr easy stroll faded away. The marshes ahead looked uninviting and impossible to walk across as someone, we presume the landowner, had been moving earth, putting up fences and basically changing the landscape. The alternative path over the hill – marked Espigão on the map – also looked unavailable as fences criss-crossed the path and there were cattle on the slopes. After a few attempts to find a way round we decided to give up and head back, a shame but actually not that surprising. Many of the excursions in the Turismo de Portugal Birdwatching Guide have been unsuccessful or not as described. We really should know better by now! The guide is best used as an introductory guide for each geographical area in the Algarve rather than an excursion guide. Still we would have never have discovered the wonderful flower meadows of the Beliche valley if it had not been for the guide.
I also really did like the cows, and it is thanks to the lovely cows that I was prompted to find my photographs of them and post this today for Cow Appreciation Day. Moooo!