We arrived at Alvor in the beautiful Algarve for our field ecology course on Tuesday. An early morning start on Wednesday brought us to Park Vincentina at Armoreira on the west coast of Portugal. At this protected nature reserve we surveyed rocky shores and were delighted to find species that we normally do not see in Ireland including fish, sea anemone, crabs, rare starfish (my particular favourite), and there was even one reported sighting of a swift octopus evading our fish nets.
The afternoon brought us sunny skies as we surveyed colourful sand dune vegetation in the park. After completing our sampling in the salt marsh relevé, we had to move quickly up the dune as the incoming tide nipped at our heels.
The most notable discovery, besides the sheer abundance of species and fragrant smell of the flowering and herbal vegetation, was the endemic Linaria mumbyana. This little yellow flowering plant is found at only two sites in the world, and causes botanists around the globe to get quite excited.
An honorary mention of the evasive Psammodromus algirus must be made here as well. These little lizards had students scrambling through sharp scrub hands ready for their capture. Ireland only has one species of lizard, the common lizard, while Portugal boasts several species that are very common.
With the skies shining on our pale sun starved skin we returned to the hotel for our debriefing session exhausted, sporting red noses and smiles on our faces.