Natural Park of the Atlantic Islands
This is one of the most attractive places for birding in As Rías Baixas. The archipelago, made up of the Cíes Islands, A Illa de Ons, Cortegada and Sálvora, is protected under the network Natura 2000, and it was declared Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Area (SPA).
Sea transport to the Cíes Islands is available from the ports of Vigo, Baiona and Cangas; whereas boat trips to A Illa de Ons, departing from the ports of Bueu, Vigo, Baiona or Portonovo, are possible in summertime.
In Cíes, those who like birdwatching can visit the interpretation centre and walk along the routes leading to the areas where large colonies of birds, as yellow-legged gulls, live. Here you can find the largest colony in the world. Other varieties which can be watched in the islands are European shags, gannets, common woodpigeons or doves.
Intertidal Complex Umia-O Grove
The Intertidal Complex Umia-O Grove, also protected under Natura 2000 (SAC and SPA classifications) is especially important. It is included in the list of Wetlands of International Importance, according to the Ramsar Convention, and is also considered a Site of Community Importance.
In 2014, part of this area was declared bird reserve of the SEO/Birdlife O Grove, and it is today one of the best places in Spain for the observation of several species of aquatic wintering birds, reaching here 18,000 specimens.
Other species such as wading birds can be seen there, namely oystercatchers, turnstones, dunlins, scoters, golden plovers, curlews, Kentish plovers and sandpipers. In addition, different species of ducks, herons, little egrets, gulls, terns, divers, scoters or cormorants, coming from the north of Europe, are also present in this area.
The estuary of the Miño River (O Baixo Miño)
In the south of the province, you can find the estuary of the Miño River, the largest in Galicia, which borders Portugal along its final course until its mouth in A Guarda. It is a 3,000-hectare area protected under Nature 2000 which was declared Area of Special Conservation. It is the perfect habitat for migratory birds and waders, such as godwits, redshanks, dunlins or lapwings. There, other species as ducks, herons or grebes; seabirds as scoters; and predatory birds as the hen harrier, the black-shouldered kite and the osprey can also be seen. There are more than 3,500 specimens in winter.
Brañas de Xestoso
Going inland you can find the Brañas de Xestoso, a wetland with meadows, scrubland and bog which is part of the network Natura 2000 and was declared a SAC area. This natural space crosses the towns of A Estrada, Silleda and Forcarei, in O Candán Hills, and most of its area lies by the lagoon known as Sacra de Olives. It is the habitat of a large number of conservation dependant animal species, eleven of which are birds.
Some representative examples of the species that can be watched are yellowhammers, rock buntings, skylarks, mistle thrushs, corn buntings; other migratory species coming from Africa as red-backed shrikes and tree pipits; or predatory birds as the hen harrier, the Montagu's harrier, the short-toed eagle or the European honey buzzard, among others. You can also see endangered species as the Eurasian eagle owl and the golden eagle. The spring is the perfect season for watching these birds.
As Gándaras Lagoons in the place of Budiño
Birdwatching is also possible in the ornithological observatory of As Gándaras Lagoons in the place of San Salvador de Budiño, in the town of O Porriño. This wetland is included in the network Natura 2000 and is the habitat of up to 27 species of conservation dependant birds. It is also the stopover of some migratory species as teals and little egrets, among others.
Other remarkable points for birdwatching in Pontevedra are:
- Monte Aloia. This hill is located in the town of Tui. In its interpretation centre you can find information about the birds living there. It is part of the O Galiñeiro Hills, which is also a perfect site for birdwatching. There you can see species such as grey partridges, common buzzards, cuckoos, common kestrels or tawny owls.
- Marismas de Alba. The banks of the Lérez River (Natura 2000) are the habitat of some aquatic birds as the kinsfisher, the black cormorant, the grey heron or the common sandpiper.
- River system Ulla-Deza. An area of 1,600 hectares protected under the network Natura 2000 with 49 vulnerable species, 24 of them of birds.
- Ría de Baiona. This coastal inlet is located in the south of the province of Pontevedra, between Nigrán and Baiona. The space in Baiona has two Special Areas of Conservation: A Ramallosa and the Estelas Islands. The former is located by the sea, in the area next to A Ladeira Beach, whereas the latter is a rocky complex which is not accessible from the ría, and therefore, birds can be watched from some nearby areas, as the Monte Ferro Peninsula. In both areas, migratory birds can be seen in winter and during their migrations, as well as aquatic and predatory birds and birds living in wetlands.
- Costa da Vela and Cabo Udra. These natural spaces, lying on both sides of the O Morrazo Peninsula, in the towns of Cangas and Bueu, cover an area of more than 2,000 hectares. They are protected under the network Natura 2000 and are the habitat of around twenty protected species, many of them birds.
- Cabo Silleiro. This cape is to the south of the Ría de Baiona, in the rocky part of Oia, but it is not protected by the bay. There you can find birds of the same type of those which can be seen in A Ramallosa and the Estelas Islands.
- Cotorredondo. It is a perfect setting for enjoying birdwatching, located in the towns of Marín, Moaña and Vilaboa.
- O Suído Hills. Stretching through the towns of Fornelos de Montes, Covelo and A Lama, these hills are the habitat of different species, including some predatory birds.
For those who begin practising birdwatching, it is advisable to check the right time of the year for observing birds in each habitat, apart from being patient, a pair of good binoculars and wearing appropriate clothes for the weather conditions.
- Natural Heritage in the province of Pontevedra
- SEO/BirdLife – Turismo Ornitológico en España (Bird Tourism in Spain) and its local group in Pontevedra
- Sociedad Gallega de Ornitología (Galician Ornithological Society)
- Proyecto de inversión ornitológica de O Grove (Project for the ornithological investment from O Grove)
- RTVE documentary: Reservas ornitológicas: O Grove (Bird reserves: O Grove)
- Galicia Birding
Birdwatching is today an activity of tourist interest which combines the love for birds with the enjoyment of the beauty of the different landscapes, together with the peacefulness of bird observation. Waders, nocturnal and predatory birds… Rías Baixas offers exceptional settings for those who are interested in ornithology. The following are the main natural spaces where you can go birdwatching in the province of Pontevedra.