We were at Quinta do Lago and Ludo today. A morning that started grey and cloudy but without rain had changed by about 11.30am to grey, cloudy and more than a little wet! By mid-afternoon we were also wet and ready to come home.
We got off to an excellent start with a singing Savi’s Warbler - there may actually have been two of them - not a common bird at all in the Algarve and also the first of the year. The day’s bird list totalled 67 species and went on to include the usual Purple Swamp-hens and Little Bitterns that one expects at Quinta do Lago, plus the long-staying Squacco Heron which gave reasonable views. There was a single Audouin’s Gull among the many Lesser Black-backs and from the car in the pouring rain, we had rather poor views of two Wrynecks. Five Spoonbills feeding together included birds that had been colour-ringed in Spain, Germany and the Netherlands. Considering the conditions, it was a decent half-day’s birding.
There are two very well constructed hides at Quinta do Lago but not for the first time we were struck today by their poor design. Their most obvious fault is the lack of any seats at ground level - if you want to sit down, you have to climb the stairs to the upper floor. This is clearly a deliberate feature that enables wheelchair access but the fact is that wheelchairs are a rare sight here and it would in any case be very difficult to push one into the most recently constructed hide in which the floor consists of large stone chippings. On the other hand, we frequently find ourselves here with less-able birdwatchers who have struggled to walk from the car park (or even further), would very much like a sit down and rest before walking back but are unable to climb the stairs to the only available seats. Actually, to say ‘only available seats’ isn’t quite accurate as there are concrete benches outside the ‘new’ hide, a novel concept in itself, but they do not provide any sort of view for birdwatchers.
Many of the birds at Quinta do Lago are so habituated that you could argue that hides are scarcely necessary. However, they are handy for shelter on wet and windy days or as somewhere to escape from the sun in the summer. Unfortunately, the hide that overlooks the lake has huge open windows that provide very little shelter if the wind happens to be blowing that way. That lesson has perhaps been learned with the second hide but clearly not much thought has been given to the siting of it - it faces more or less south, straight into the light.
We hear that more bird watching hides are planned at various sites in the Algarve and we welcome that. However, poorly-designed and badly-sited hides can be very frustrating and are sometimes worse than no hides at all. It’s something we’ve come across in various other parts of the world (including the UK) where well-intentioned people have tried to provide facilities without consulting the birdwatchers for whom they are intended. There are already other examples in the Algarve of hides that could have been much better built, designed or situated. Let’s hope that any future ones will be.
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