Whilst for Northern Europeans winter in the Algarve is more like late spring or early Autumn back home, for locals it is cold. So out come the heavy coats and the woollen scarves, or if you happen to be an Uca tangeri, also known as Fiddler Crabs, in the burrow you stay! I’ll miss them when we return this week as they are so much fun to watch in the late spring and summer.
When we first visited the Ria Formosa though we didn’t even know the crabs were there as in winter they just don’t appear. Occasionally the holes to the burrows may be re-opened, scientists think to refresh the air in the burrow, but even then the crabs don’t come out. It is all done from the inside of the burrow. Staying inside means the crabs don’t eat. Fiddler Crabs lose around 30% of their body weight over the winter months, and that’s not all that changes. The male’s huge claw shrinks slightly, and their colour reverts to yellow-brown. Quite a change from the striking orange and purple of the courtship period.
Their official English name is West African Fiddler Crab, but they have quite a few Portuguese names. The most common seems to be caranguejo-violinista but I have also come across chama-maré and vem-cá. The former describing perhaps the colour and number of them in summer. The latter seems even more appropriate as that is exactly what the males are telling the females with all that waving about of the claw. Come hither! Just in case you are a ‘snow bird’ visitor to the Algarve here’s a video I took earlier this year of the male crabs a’wooing.