The best type of woodland for the wildlife enthusiast is undoubtedly
one of mixed oak and pine, and there are still some good examples of
this type of habitat dotted around the Algarve. If the oaks are Cork
Oak, the woodland may be managed from time to time when the trees are
being stripped of their valuable bark, but the ground is not treated
with the herbicides and pesticides which are the scourge of so much of
our landscape in northern Europe, and so many native plants are able
to survive the management routine and continue to thrive there.
There are some excellent examples of this type of wildlife-rich woodland up towards and around the Monchique area, and also out towards the western Algarve between Vila do Bispo and Odeceixe. It is normally quite easy to access these areas, and unless land is fenced off or clearly being cultivated, it is usually perfectly acceptable to wander through the woods and you are unlikely to be challenged.
In April and May the woodlands are alive with the sound of Cuckoos, and numerous woodpeckers hammer away at the tree trunks in search of the bugs that live there. Other woodland birds include tits, including the Crested Tit, Azure-winged Magpies (which are increasing greatly in number in the Algarve) and warblers. In summer Nightingales can be heard in the woods too.
If not too intensively managed, the understory of many of these lightly wooded areas include cistus species and Strawberry Trees (Arbutus unedo), along with various types of heathers such as white-flowered Portuguese Heath (Erica lusitanica) and pink-flowered Erica multiflora which are both magnificent and covered in blossom in early spring. These woodlands are also filled with early-flowering bulbs which include the lovely Romulea bulbicodium, both One-leaved Squill (Scilla monophyllos) and Two-leaved Squill (Scilla bifolia), Spanish Iris (Iris Xiphium) and, in a few places, the Spanish Bluebell (Hyacynthoides hispanicus).
The most common wild orchid species to be found in this habitat is the
Broad-leaved Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine), although they can be
difficult to spot in the dappled light of the woods. On the edges of
the woodland various tongue orchids flower, and they include
Long-lipped (Ploughshare) Tongue Orchid (Serapias vomeracea),
Small-flowered Tongue Orchid (Serapias parviflora) as well as the
magnificent Heart-flowered Tongue Orchid (Serapias cordigera) with its
large, blood-red flowers. An exciting find in this type of woodland is
the rare orchid Violet Limodore (Limodorum abortivum). The stems of
this plant are a striking dark purple as they emerge from the ground
in the form of spears, and the flowers (if they open) are also violet.
The Latin name of the plant is an indication of the fact that the
flowers don't always open, even though the inflorescences may appear
above the ground and look as if full flowering is imminent for several
weeks. It appears that this flower is capable of self-pollination
within the bud in years when the flowers don't actually open.
If the woodland has a stream it can be a good place to observe many insects but especially dragonflies. The Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) particularly likes these slight acidic woodland streams for breeding.
in the area would be ideal.