It’s that time of the year when Vita Nativa inspects and cleans out our bird nesting boxes so that they are ready to welcome birds looking for a nesting home in Spring. A blue tit, European crested tit and the house sparrow nests were found and removed from the bird boxes that were installed by Vita Nativa, at Figs on the Funcho back in November 2020, near S.B. Messines.

Why is it important that Vita Nativa clean out and inspect the bird boxes?

It is good practise to clean out your nesting boxes prior to the breeding season as nests containing bird droppings can encourage bacterial and parasites that will remain long after the birds have left the nest.

It is not uncommon for birds to build on top of old nests as we discovered in one of our nesting boxes. The house sparrow built a nest on top of the blue tit’s nest. If birds continue to build on top of old nests, the new nest will be closer to the entrance and the occupants can be easily reached by potential predators.

Vita Nativa inspects the bird boxes so that they can track the numbers in the breeding season. João Tomás, from Vita Nativa, told me that the occupancy rate for 2021 on the Algarve was very good. Of all the target species i.e., tit species (blue, crested and great), spotless starling, little owl, common kestrel, common hoopoe, barn owl, swift species (common and palid) only the hoopoe is missing but he feels positive that it will be included in 2022!

Findings from the visit

A blue tit nest and a sparrow nest were found in one nesting box. This can happen as the blue tits build nests earlier than the house sparrows. Moss, string and feathers were some of the materials used to build the nests.

Figs on the Funcho’s location is in a protected nature reserve and attracts many bird species so it made sense to partner with Vita Nativa and be part of their project, ‘Local Accommodation for Birds’. The project aims to encourage nesting sites for birds in the Algarve region and they have already installed over 1000 bird boxes. 7 Bird nesting boxes were installed at Figs on the Funcho for the tit species, starling/hoopoe and little owl.

Have you always been keen on the conservation of wildlife particularly birds?

My interest in birds grew whilst watching the bird activities in my garden and down on the lake from the comfort of my outdoor lounge! Watching the hoopoe, with its distinctive “crown” of feathers and the Azure-winged Magpie constantly flit from tree to tree in my garden and the heron at the water’s edge seeking juicy bits in the water spurred me on to discover more bird species on our location. I have teamed up with a local birder and together we explore bird rich areas near our location. It is so easy to make friends with bird watchers as it doesn’t matter how much or how little you know about birds as having a common interest makes it easy to form friendships.

Last November we chose to partner with Vita Nativa as their project “Local Accommodation for Birds” install bird nesting boxes to encourage birds to nest in the area and in turn the birds will naturally control pests such as pine caterpillars and rodents and so the need for the farmer to use poisons will be reduced and the quality of the produce will improve.

When the team were fixing the nesting boxes to our carob and cork oak trees, they identified forty-one different bird species in less than two hours! This is a very creditable bird spotting total for an inland site. The Iberian magpie and Iberian green woodpecker are of particular interest, as their habitat is limited to the Iberian Peninsula. Other species sighted that are not present in much of Northern Europe were the white stork, Eurasian hoopoe, Thekla’s larks and crested larks, Sardinian and Dartford warblers, spotless starlings, and European serins.

What do your walking holidays entail and is birdwatching including if people come to stay at Figs on the Funcho?

Shortly after the installation of the bird boxes, I chose the colourful bee-eater bird as the subject for our water colour painting workshops. During this 3-hour painting workshop, we learnt how to draw a bee-eater bird with its downturned bill, pointed wings and slender body and then painted the bird’s feathers in bright colours; blue, red, yellow and green. The more we learn about birds the more likely we will understand the positive impact the birds have on our environment their needs and challenges they may face.

We also have several walking paths that lead from our villa, including the longer-distance Via Algarviana walking trail for serious hikers. Walkers can explore this region and its hidden beauty on their own or join one of our guided bird walking holidays. Our location is not only on the banks of a river but is set in a protected nature reserve and attracts a wide range of bird species.

Birding holidays at Figs on the Funcho are on offer throughout the year as birds are around us all the time. What you see will depend on the season. Having a bird guide accompanying the bird walking holidays helps us find and identify birds, share information about their habitats and what they eat. I often see a group of storks along our river walk including the wood-pecker, little owl, collard ducks and egrets just to name a few. The bird nesting boxes at Figs on the Funcho has stimulated interest with our visitors and we are always looking at ways to encourage interest in the natural environment through our creative art workshops or walking holidays.

Who are we

Graham from Zimbabwe and Cheryl from South Africa, both previous IT consultants, run a waterside B&B establishment, Figs on the Funcho, for nature enthusiasts seeking a slower pace of life. A range of art and walking packages, cookery courses, paddle boarding and wild swimming activities are on offer. Its idyllic riverside setting overlooking the Funcho dam; perfect for large events, including weddings, business events, birthday parties and other celebrations.

Readers interested in getting closer to nature can book a stay or walking holiday at the riverside location. For further information, please see their website at To get in touch with Cheryl and Graham, please email or alternatively, you can call +351 912 595 539.

Bird watching

Photos by Cheryl Smith