I can’t remember the last time I checked the forecast so often willing the weather to change and luckily it did not disappoint. Within 2 hours of landing in the Salgados, the sun burst through the cloud leaving us with a lovely heat for the day. Today’s task was to study the vegetation in the Salgados sand dunes and identify the different habitat zones.
Assigned to a group of 8 with Dr Sarah Culloty as our tutor, we set out mapping the area and identifying plants as we went along. Studying the area seemed somewhat pertinent because planning permission had been granted to develop hotel apartments at the eastern end fo the dune system. Many objections to the development have been voiced so perhaps our interest and presence on the dune system will serve to emphasise the importance of the flora and fauna in the area, maybe even helping to back up these objections.
Many plants we saw today are very much exotic from an Irish perspective. For example Fig, Pistachio and Olive trees were common in this former agricultural landscape, while rosemary grew wild everywhere. We also came across all sorts of insects, include the Devil’s coach-horse and stag beetles, both of which were consumed in vast quantities by hungry cattle egrets (a type of heron). We also saw an Iberian Hare and a juvenile grass snake.
That evening we ventured down to the harbour and had dinner in one of the many restaurants Alvor has to offer, celebrating our successful day. Learning more and more about this very different country and its amazing habitats is something that can’t be taught in any lecture hall.