Common box, from the woods to the garden

Navigator Forests: maintaining and enhancing natural values

The forests managed by The Navigator Company total around 105,000 hectares in Portugal (a country where forest areas exceed 3 million hectares). In these forests, more than 240 species of fauna and 800 species and subspecies of flora have already been identified (end of 2021). Here, biodiversity management cuts across field operations to maintain and enhance their natural values.

  • Those who come across the Portuguese crowberry (corema album) in coastal ecosystems cannot resist the beauty of its edible fruits and the small pearl berries bearing the same name. This Iberian endemism also occurs in some Azorean islands and plays an important role in soil stabilisation, avoiding erosion in vulnerable areas and preserving the dunes. Learn more about the interesting (and delicious) crowberry  and its ecological, cultural and medicinal importance.

  • Take a closer look at them: are they birds of prey with long, forked tails? Here’s the black kite, also known as cod tails. In the skies of Quinta de São Francisco , in Aveiro, several can be seen at this time of year. Despite being a generally solitary species, it can form flocks like this, flying at low altitudes and gliding in the thermal air currents. Learn more about this iconic species and its role in the ecosystems where these birds nest.

  • The darkling beetle Akis sp belongs to the Tenebrionidae, family and is one of the inhabitants of Herdade de Espirra, a property managed by The Navigator Company. Ecologically, they are very important. On the one hand, they help recycle and regulate the nutrients available in the soil as adults and their larvae are decomposers and feed on decomposing organic matter that they then return to the soil. On the other hand, they are a source of food for predators such as birds, small mammals, amphibians and reptiles, thus entering the food chains of ecosystems.

  • The wildcat is considered one of the rarest mammals in Portugal and has seen its conservation status aggravated to “Endangered” (EN) species, according to the Red Book of Mammals of Mainland Portugal and compared to the previous assessment. This medium-sized animal stands out for its wide head, robust neck and dark stripe that goes from the nape to the base of the voluminous tail, painted with wide dark rings. It feeds on rodents, lagomorphs (hare and rabbit), birds, small reptiles and invertebrates. To that end, it uses his keen hearing and smell, in addition to sensitive whiskers.  Felis silvestris can be found in forests and prefers rocky areas and nearby water lines, living up to 11 years in the wild.

  • The four-spotted-leaf-beetle (Mylabris quadripunctata) is one of the insects to be found on properties managed by The Navigator Company and, although it only measures between 13 and 16 mm, it is part of the animal group with the largest number of species. Distributed throughout southern Europe, it inhabits shrubby areas with flowers where it feeds on petals, leaves and pollen, thus helping the pollination of plants and the preservation of the planet’s biodiversity.

  • Its scientific name is Sternula albifrons. The little tern or dwarf swallow is the smallest species of sea swallow spotted in Portugal. With a wavy flight and fast and accurate dives at the time of fishing, it feeds on fish and small crustaceans. It can be found between spring and summer in coastal areas from the north to the south, especially in saltpans and in the undisturbed coastal dunes where they its nests on the sand, as it is often the case in the Algarve.

  • A necrophagous species flies over the skies of Portugal, especially in the inner regions and near the border with Spain: it’s the griffon (Gyps fulvus), with its imposing wingspan of almost three meters and up to 11 kilos, one of the largest species that can be watched in Portugal. Its function is also “sanitary” given that, as it feeds on mammalian carcasses (wild and even cattle), it helps their decomposition, preventing diseases from spreading. It is a fantastic glider and can travel more than a hundred kilometres a day. Learn more about this species in this BIOgallery.

  • Portuguese saddle bush-cricket (Ephippigerida rosae)

    The Portuguese saddle bush-cricket (Ephippigerida rosae) is an endemic species of the Iberian Peninsula and its name derives from its saddle shapped pronotum (the area behind the head) and can be easily identified for its size and particular appearance. It usually lives on tall shrubs and herbaceous plants and can be found also on oak tree areas and in estates such as  Herdade de Espirra. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, it’s an endangered species and among 25.7% of threatened orthoptera species in Europe.

  • Typical of the Mediterranean climate, the grey-leaved cistus (Cistus albidus) is a species of cistus family, which includes rockroses and sargassums. In the national territory, we find it mainly in the south and centre region, including in several properties managed by The Navigator Company.

    Because it is resistant to drought and wind, it is easy to adapt to various types of soil and for this reason it is customary to find it in limestone soils. At this time of year, its pink petals make up a rather flowering shrub that can reach 2 meters in height, being one of the first plants to colonize burned or disturbed areas, so it is fundamental in the recovery of soils.

  • With bunched flowers that usually bloom after March, the Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum) is an ornamental deciduous tree that can reach eight meters in height. However, what arouses curiosity in this tree is its name, also known as the tree of love for its heart-shaped leaf. At Quinta de São Francisco, which is part of The Navigator Company’s heritage, Judas trees are included in the more than 450 species of flora making this place a unique natural refuge in Portugal.

  • The centuries-old trees and shrubs of the São Francisco Farm arboretum (Aveiro) shall be celebrated in a book to be published in 2023. To map and georeference the more than 450 species identified, some of them unique in Portugal and Europe, a LiDAR sensor attached to a drone was used, a tool that renders the management of stands more effective. The 3D model generated here is so accurate that it allows you to distinguish all the details of the vegetation, from the canopy to the ground. Read more about it in the book The Monumental São Francisco Farm Arboretum .

  • The species you see here was first confirmed in the Iberian Peninsula during the first mycological study supported by The Navigator Company in the Southwest Alentejo. It is Russula tyrrhenica, one of the few species of the kind associated with Cistaceae. It is mainly characterized by the ecology, the reddish colours and very spicy flavour. In the image test, it reacts to guaiac resin (blue) and ferrous sulfate (pale orange). Learn more about the mushrooms identified in this BIOhistory .

  • Chaenomeles japonica, also known as the Japanese Quince, is an exotic ornamental species belonging to the Rosaceae family. In winter, it sheds its leaves and gives way to delicate five-petalled flowers. These flowers give the species its name. It is derived from the Greek word chainos, meaning to split, and meles, meaning apple, because it was believed that the small edible fruits (albeit less tasty than those of the quince), which are shaped in that way and appear after flowering, split in half. You can find this thorny shrub at Quinta de São Francisco in Aveiro.

  • Fairy ring. This is what this unique living being is known as. It is made up of more than 100 mushrooms of the Clitocybe nebularis species, arranged in an immense circle measuring more than 10 metres in diameter. The organism started in the centre and, over the years, became larger and larger. In this case, it took several decades free from interference to reach this size. It can usually be seen during the months of November and December at Quinta de São Francisco (in Eixo, Aveiro).

  • Tyto alba, known as the barn owl, is a nocturnal bird of prey that takes shelter and nests in church steeples, abandoned mills and barns, and even in the chimneys of residential houses. It is a common species in Portugal, and has been sighted in several of Navigator’s forests: in Malcata, Vale do Sado, and Quinta de São Francisco, for example. Even when it does not appear, its presence is revealed by its vocalisations and the “balls” of bones, feathers, or fur it regurgitates at the end of digestion.

  • Unlike most trees in Portugal, the southern blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) starts to flower at the beginning of autumn. Its yellowish-white flowers last until the spring (sometimes until early summer) of the following year. These flowers are among the largest of all the trees in the Eucalyptus genus and the nectar they produce helps to feed the bees during the months when the greatest shortage of food leads to reduced hive activity.

  • The largest dragonfly in Portugal is the blue emperor (Anax Imperator) which can grow to about 8.5 cm in length and 10 cm in wingspan. In males, its blue colouring stands out, giving it its name, but in females, green is more predominant, as can be seen in this photo taken by João Ezequiel at Quinta de São Francisco.

  • Are you familiar with this effective insect deterrent from the animal kingdom? We are talking about the friendly common gecko (Tarentola mauritanica), which can be found all over Portugal. It differs from other species due to its dinosaur-like appearance, complete with scales and spines that resemble armour. Its feet stick to surfaces thanks to intermolecular forces (or Van der Waals forces).

  • The red-necked nightjar (Caprimulgus ruficollis) first starts arriving in Portugal in April and stays here until October. Despite being a nocturnal bird that can easily camouflage itself in nature, it has been sighted on Navigator properties in Malcata, Tejo Internacional, and Alentejo. The importance of conserving the habitats that support the natural cycles of these and many other ‘travellers’ is highlighted on the second Saturday in May – World Migratory Bird Day.

  • It is known as the black-eyed blue, a much easier “nickname” to remember compared to Glaucopsyche melanops (its scientific name). It is distinguished by its different shades of blue and it can be seen flitting about all over the country between March and July. This particular black-eyed blue was photographed on the Ferreiras estate, in Penamacor, by Nuno Rico, head of biodiversity conservation at The Navigator Company.

  • The common firecrest (Regulus ignicapillus) is a bird that lives at Quinta de São Francisco, near Aveiro, where it served as “model” for patient nature photographer Paulo Oliveira. The yellow stripe on the head indicates that it is a female. In males, the tone is orange. In both cases, these coloured feathers form a retractable crest which, when standing, resembles a crown.

  • The Great Tit (Parus major) is one of the birds that has been most reproduced in the nest boxes installed at Herdade de Espirra (Pegões). The chicks, a few days old, were captured by the lens of Nuno Rico, responsible for Navigator’s biodiversity area, who closely monitors their growth.