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Lying at the far south-western tip ofmainland Europe, Portugal's beautifulAlgarve region occupies a strategicposition on the 'eastern Atlantic flyway', andis one of the continent's top birdwatchingdestinations in late September. Famous forits golf courses, beaches and wintersunshine, there's another side to theAlgarve, away from the high-rise hotels andbeach-bound holidaymakers - and on thistour we'll take you off the tourist trail, to thewindswept cliffs, sand dunes and heaths ofthe west coast, the marshes and saltpans ofthe south, and the Cork Oak forests andwide open plains of the Alentejo. Thoughoften overlooked in favour of the muchlarger neighbouring landmass of Spain,Portugal has a very distinct identity of itsown. A relaxed pace of life prevails awayfrom the tourist hot-spots and we're sureyou'll soon be seduced by southernPortugal - not only by its excellent birdwatching opportunities, but also by itsbeautiful language, charming people, anddelicious food and wine. As we make dailyexcursions in search of the region's specialbirdlife, we'll also find ourselves immersedin the rich history and culture of the south,where fine Moorish architecture and thenear-medieval subsistence agriculture of theAlentejo provide a stark contrast to the 21stcentury bustle of the Algarve coastline.Our tour begins with a flight to Faro (flightsavailable from around the UK) from where it'sjust a short drive to our accommodation forthe next four nights - a superb hotel in theheart of the Ria Formosa Natural Park. This isthe perfect base from which to explore thelagoons, reed beds, saltpans and marshes ofthe Algarve's flagship reserves: Rio Formosaitself, Castro Marim and Quinto do Lago.Among the many species that we will searchfor during gentle excursions each day areSpoonbill, Greater Flamingo, White Stork,Little Tern, Audouin's Gull and CollaredPratincole. At this time of year the lagoonsand saline-rich marshes along the coastprovide an important stopover for migrantbirds and rarities. While researching this tourwe saw both Buff-breasted and UplandSandpipers, as well as Little Bittern, SquaccoHeron, Black-winged Stilt, Glossy Ibis,Kentish Plover, Caspian Tern, Red-crestedPochard, confiding Bluethroats and manymore species.From the coast we will also drive north for aday to the wide plains of Castro Verde in theAlentejo. Within the Castro Verde SpecialProtection Area we hope to see Europe'slargest flying bird, the Great Bustard, aswell as Little Bustard, Black-belliedSandgrouse and Stone Curlew. Severalexciting raptors hunt over these open plainsand we'll survey the rugged steppe countryfrom the region's highest point, Sierra deAracelis, for Hen Harrier, Black and GriffonVultures, Black-winged Kite, the magnificentSpanish Imperial Eagle, and Little Owl. Nextwe head towards the River Cobres, atributary of the Guadiana River, whichprovides an opportunity to enjoy theAlentejo's famous 'montado' scenery ofCork and Holm Oak woods. Among thebirds we'll be hoping to find in the steppesand scrub here are Crested, Thekla andCalandra Larks, Corn Bunting and Azure-winged Magpie.Having explored the lagoons and wetlandsof the central and eastern Algarve, we nowtravel west to our next base - a verycomfortable hotel situated just a stone'sthrow from a fort which served as Henrythe Navigator's 15th century School ofNavigation. The volume and variety of birdspecies passing across the southern tip ofPortugal each autumn is impressive andmakes for some exciting migration-watching, particularly of raptors. From ourstrategic viewpoint, and accompanied byPortuguese researchers and other keenbirders from around the continent, we'll belooking for circling Egyptian Vultures,Honey Buzzards, Booted and Short-toedEagles, harriers, and many other birds of prey.The seabird-watching between Sagres andthe Cape can be equally exciting and duringa morning's boat excursion from Sagres weshould see a mouth-watering selection ofspecies including Balearic, Cory's andGreat Shearwaters, European and Wilson'sStorm-petrels and Great Skua, particularly ifwe are lucky enough to encounter a trawler.Add to this an exciting encounter with ahuge pod of Common Dolphins and this'mini-pelagic' could be the highlight of ourAutumn week away!Cape St. VincentSPAINCAPE ST. VINCENTSAGRESFARORIO FORMOSANATURAL PARKLISBON CASTROVERDEATLANTICOCEANPORTUGAL RIO GUADIANA 110Call now or visit your free Trip ItineraryOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Faro.Day 2/4Rio Formosa NaturalPark and environs.Day 5/6Daily birding excursionsfrom Sagres.Day 7Fly UK. AccommodationA 2-centre holiday, based in verycomfortable 4-star hotels.FoodAll included in the price.GradingGrade A. Easy day walks. FocusBirds (particularly migration).LeaderPhilip Thompson or Dave Nevitt.Single room supplement£160.ExtensionsExtra nights gladly arranged onrequest, with or without car rental.Web quick search: PRT07Autumn Birding inSouthern Portugal A relaxing 7-day holiday to enjoy the autumn bird migration, beautiful scenery and pleasant climate of southern Portugal. Sunday 23rd September - Saturday 29th September 2012 Cost: £1,195Wednesday 25th September - Tuesday 1st October 2013 Cost: £1,295Little BitternHoopoe

The recent surge of interest in naturalhistory, together with today's freedomof travel, have made it almostimpossible to find a major area of Europethat has not been extensively explored bythe British naturalist. Romania, with morethan its fair share of wild and beautifulplaces, can claim to be such a region.Situated on the western shore of the BlackSea, with the Ukraine on its northernborders, Romania has a surprising varietyof habitats. From the extensive wetlands ofthe Danube basin, to the high peaks of theCarpathians; from the evergreen forests ofthe north-west, to the rolling plains of theeast, Romania boasts a remarkableabundance of wild flowers, interestingbutterflies and mammals, plus a long list ofexciting birds. Furthermore, its Black SeaCoast, running from north to south, is partof a major flyway for migrating birdstravelling between their breeding groundsin Eurasia and their winter quarters in theMediterranean, Africa or further east.Our holiday is centred around the DanubeDelta and the Carpathian Mountains. About90 kilometres from the mouth of theDanube, the river divides into threechannels. Enclosed between them lie 3,000square kilometres of reedbeds, shallowlakes and forested islands. It is a wetlandarea larger than the Carmargue and theCoto Doñana combined! Within the Deltanest over 4,000pairsofCormorants,3,000pairs of Night Herons, 2,000 pairs ofSquaccoHerons,1,200pairsofPurpleHerons,1,500pairsofGlossyIbisand alarge percentage of the Europeanpopulation of Great Egrets, PygmyCormorants, and Dalmatian and WhitePelicans. Good numbers of grebes, ducks,terns, geese and five or more pairs ofWhite-tailed Eagles make up the supportingcast! Needless to say, the Delta is a trulywonderful place and, in ornithologicalterms, probably deserves the title ofEurope's single most valuable habitat.We begin our holiday with a flight toBucharest, capital of Romania and sceneof turmoil during the violent revolution thatswept its Communist dictators from powerin December 1989. From here we travel toZarnesti, deep in the TransylvanianCarpathians. This chain of mountains isalpine in nature, with high rocky peaksrising above dense forests of spruce andbeech. We will be based in a guesthouseon the edge of Zarnesti, an attractive smalltown that offers easy access to thesurrounding peaks. From it, we will be ableto explore the local pine woods and rockycrags in search of woodpeckers,Nutcrackers and alpine passerines suchas Wallcreepers. Beyond the treeline, lush alpine meadows host a wealth offlowering plants. In the evenings we willwatch for the Brown Bears and occasional Wolves that descend from theforests in search of carrion.After two full days in the mountains wetravel east to Tulcea, the gateway to theDanube Delta. During our stay in the Delta,we will be travelling and sleeping aboard afloating hotel. On it, we will travel throughthe Delta's numerous channels and lakes,thereby gaining a unique perspective onthe area and its wildlife. We will also havethe opportunity to visit one of the isolatedislands where we will be able to explore onfoot and see the way of life in one of theremote villages of the area. By visitingseveral habitats within the Delta, we shouldhave amassed an impressive total ofspecies by the end ofourvisit;however,the enduring memory of a trip to the Deltais the sheer spectacle of hundreds ofpelicans, herons and cormorantsconstantly flying to and from their vastbreeding colonies.We will spend the latter part of our holidayexploring the rich complex of lakes andmarshes that lie immediately to the southof the Delta. We will visit the ancientGraeco-Roman port of Histria, and the saltmarshes on the edge of Lake Sinoie wheremigrating waders feed alongside breedingAvocets, pratincoles and Kentish Plovers.To the south of the Delta, a small lakemerits our attention. Amongst its large gulland tern colony, grebes, Black-wingedStilts and Mediterranean Gulls breed. Inforest nearby, a range of woodlandspecies -including several woodpeckersand Ortolan Bunting-are found,together with an outstanding variety ofbutterflies and wild flowers. This is anexcellent area for raptors with thepossibility of Booted Eagle over the forest,whilst Imperial Eagles are sometimes seensoaring over the plains to the south.Finally we must travel back to Bucharest,breaking the journey as we pass lakesworthy of our interest. We will leaveRomania satisfied with the memories ofsome of the best birdwatching to be foundin Europe, together with an exceptionalrange of plants and mammals.Romania's Danube Delta & Carpathian MountainsA 10-day tour-by boat and on foot-in search of the birds and mammals of the Carpathian Mountains, Black Sea Coast and Danube Delta.Saturday 4th May - Monday 13th May Cost: £1,495Saturday 11th May - Monday 20th May Cost: £1,495Saturday 3rd August - Monday 12th August Cost: £1,495Saturday 31st August - Monday 9th September Cost: £1,495Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationHUNGARYUKRAINEMOLDAVIASERBIABULGARIARIVER DANUBERIVER DANUBEBUCHARESTZARNESTIBABADAGTULCEAHISTRIADANUBEDELTARAZELMLAGOONCONSTANTADOBRUGEAN PLAINCARPATHIANMOUNTAINSBLACK SEAROMANIAOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Bucharest, driveZarnesti. Day 2/3Zarnesti. Day 4/9Danube Delta. Day 10Return Bucharest and flyLondon.AccommodationHotels in Zarnesti and Tulcea.Floating hotel in the Delta. Privatefacilities throughout.FoodAll included in the price.GradingEasy day walks only. Grade A.FocusBirds and mammals.LeaderGeoff Carr, Nick Acheson, RobMurray or Andy Harding, plus localguides.Single room supplement£195. ExtensionsExtra nights in Bucharest, or otheroptions, available on request.Web quick search: ROM03111White PelicansShepherd, CarpathiansFloating hotel, Danube Delta