Iberian Wildlife Tours - Wildlife Holidays in Spain and Portugal
    Iberian Wildlife Tours in Spain and Portugal - for the wildlife holiday or natural history tour of a lifetime

Altiplano de Azóia

A Special Protection Area for Birds (3,416ha) and rich in other wildlife, this bleak, windswept limestone promontory is essentially a westerly extension of the Serra da Arrábida, which terminates in the spectacular cliffs of Cabo Espichel. The plateau is renowned for its cushions of the Portuguese endemic gorse Ulex densus and the thyme Thymus villosus, confined Ophrys fusca ssp. dyris © Teresa Farino Ophrys fusca ssp. dyris © Teresa Farino to the Iberian peninsula, growing amid a mosaic of other woody species such as French lavender, lentisc, holly oak, narrow-leaved and grey-leaved cistuses and Cistus crispus. Towards the sea, a second, lower plateau has more sandy soils, supporting a taller scrub composed of rather calcifuge species such as gum and sage-leaved cistuses and green heather, with open ground hosting the diminutive allseed and yellow centaury, plus the delicate white flowers of the boraginaceous Omphalodes linifolia.

Western Dappled whites © Teresa Farino Western Dappled Whites
Euchloe crameri
© Teresa Farino

These scrubby habitats, studded with a few eucalypts, are populated by quail, crested lark, fan-tailed, Sardinian and Dartford warblers, waxbill, spotless starling, serin and corn bunting, with southern grey shrikes commonly seen hunting over more open areas, while woodlark, black-eared wheatear and cirl bunting inhabit the more sheltered and wooded valleys around Facho de Azóia. Spring butterflies on the plateau include swallowtail, clouded yellow, Cleopatra, western dappled and green-striped whites, wall brown, Spanish brown argus, small copper and green hairstreak.

Short-toed larks breed in the nearby cereal fields, which also attract wintering hen harrier and golden plover, while typical cliff-nesters include peregrine, pallid swift, black redstart and blue rock thrush. For birdwatching enthusiasts, large numbers of trans-Saharan migrants turn up in autumn, including occasional surprises such as Eleonora's and red-footed falcons, Wild Tulips - Tulipa sylvestris ssp. australis © Teresa Farino Wild Tulips
Tulipa sylvestris ssp. australis
© Teresa Farino
dotterel, Richard's pipit and roller, while sea-watchers should be rewarded by Cory's and Balearic shearwaters and gannet.

Limestone pavement on the Altiplano boasts all the Arrábida spring-flowering monocots - perhaps in even greater abundance here in March, when drifts of orchids and wild tulips are to be found - with the addition of Ornithogalum orthophyllum, dipcadi, the autumn-flowering sea squill, sword-leaved helleborine, woodcock ophrys and Ophrys fusca ssp. dyris. The south-facing cliffs harbour the tree-spurge Euphorbia pedroi and the woody, white-flowered convolvulus Convolvulus fernandesii (both unique to Espichel), plus fagonia, sea mallow, Eryngium dilatatum, small blue convolvulus, the Iberian endemic figwort Scrophularia sublyrata and the solanaceous shrub Withania frutescens. At the top of these cliffs, limestone outcrops provide niches for attractive wildflowers such as the fern Cheilanthes acrostica, Malling toadflax, honeywort, annual bellflower and grape-hyacinth.

Serra da Arrábida, western Portugal
Flora of the Serra da Arrábida
Fauna of the Arrábida
[Altiplano de Azóia]
Scientific names of plants

Reports of other wildlife trips to Portugal:

BSBI Botanical Tour in Western Portugal - Trip Report 2006

Related information:

Wildlife of western Portugal - The Sado estuary
Read about Teresa Farino
Wildlife tours and natural history excursions in Spain & Portugal
HomeTours for 2022+About IWTTestimonialsIWT BlogContact us Publications
Wildlife books
Wildlife articles
Custom wildlife & birding tours
Birds & birdwatching
List of birds
Geography & climate
List of dragonflies & damselflies
Travellers' Nature Guide species menu
Cabo de Gata
Sierra de Grazalema
Grazalema botanical trip report 2007
Benasque botanical trip report 2008
Natural History of the Canary Islands
Fuerteventura trip report
Catalan Pyrenees botanical trip report 2005
Birds & birding
Location & geography
List of birds
List of butterflies
List of dragonflies & damselflies
La Mancha tours
Birds & birding
Botanical trip report 2009
Birds & birding
List of dragonflies & damselflies
A naturalist's paradise
List of orchids
Botanical trip report 2004
Butterfly & moth trip report 2005
Butterfly & moth trip report 2006
Butterfly & moth trip report 2008
List of butterflies
Picos walking guide
Natural history of the Arrábida
Wildlife of the Sado estuary
Botanical trip report 2006
Ecuador cloudforest birdwatching
Birds & bison in Poland
All photos and text © copyright of the authors.

Home  |  About Iberian Wildlife Tours  |  Contact

Website by Richard Albion