Details of the birds trapped and ringed at Vilamoura last month by Colin McShane's group from the UK are now presented on the website of Brewood Ringers. The total number of birds ringed was more than 1200, a similar total to the last two years, although year on year comparisons are made less meaningful by the variation in ringing effort (i.e. the number of nets used) and by the slight changes in the timing of their visits. This year they were here for a week from 30th September, whereas last year their week was from 14th October and this will no doubt account at least in part for the difference in, for example, the numbers of Blackcaps (258 in 2008, 44 this year) and Willow Warblers (19 in 2008, 116 this year) that were trapped .
Colin's report again emphasises the importance of the Parque Ambiental for migrant and wintering birds from Northern Europe. There were recoveries this year of Reed Warblers that had been ringed in Holland, Bluethroats from Holland and Belgium and a Chiffchaff from the Channel Island of Jersey. In previous years they have trapped Reed Warblers, Blackcaps and a Bluethroat that had been ringed in France, Germany and the UK and these are just a tiny sample of the thousands of birds that rely on this site every year. Vilamoura's extensive reedbeds are also recognised as an important breeding area for species such as Little Bittern, Purple Heron and Purple Swamp-hen.
Unfortunately, all this is now under threat from further huge tourist development. Environmental group Almargem (Association for the Defence of the Algarve’s Cultural and Environmental Heritage) are threatening to submit an official complaint to the European Courts should the country's new Environment Minister approve the construction of a proposed project in Vilamoura named ‘Lacustre City’. While Almargem hopes that the arrival of the new Environment Minister will result in a re-evaluation of the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment, it has warned that failure to do so could ultimately result in legal action against the Government. Like several other sites in the Algarve, what little is left of Vilamoura's wildlife habitat should long ago have been designated a Special Protection Area under the EU Wild Birds Directive. It would be a tragedy to see it buried by yet more hotels and tourist resorts but based on what has gone before, we can't be optimistic.
It's ironic that this week the Algarve Tourism Board has announced its plan to promote the area as a birdwatching destination!
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