As the morning sun gets brighter, hot air starts to rise – and with, soaring birds. Staying airborne when you weigh a Griffon Vulture’s 10kg, or even a stork’s 3kg, is no easy feat, so these birds use their large wings to make the most of thermals. Every year, over 4000 soaring birds – belonging to all species that have been recorded in Portugal – glide over Sagres.
During migration season, you’ll probably spot a large bird of prey with a short tail and wide, long wings which, seen from below, are lighter near the head and darker towards the tail: the Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus). This is the soaring bird that appears here in largest numbers, followed by the Booted Eagle (Aquila pennata), Short-toed Snake Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) and the Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo). European Honey Buzzards (Pernis apivorus), Black Kites (Milvus migrans) and Sparrowhawks (Accipiter nisus) are also frequently spotted soaring over the region.
Although it’s not seen by the dozen like Griffon Vultures, another large silhouette can often be seen over Sagres: a black shape with an outstretched neck – the unmistakable Black Stork (Ciconia nigra). A lighter silhouette, the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), is also regularly spotted, as are Montagu’s (Circus pygargus) and Hen Harriers (Circus cyaneus). More seldomly seen are Bonelli’s Eagles (Aquila fasciata), Spanish Imperial Eagles (Aquila adalberti), Cinereous Vultures (Aegypius monachus), Rüppell’s Vultures (Gyps rueppellii) and Eleonora’s Falcons (Falco eleonorae), although they visit every year.
Among the thousands of birds that glide over the Sagres peninsula at this time of year, you’ll occasionally spot one that’s truly rare in Portugal, like the Lesser Spotted Eagle (Clanga pomarina), the Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus) and Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus).
The wonders of migration don’t cease at sunset. In Autumn, it’s worth keeping your ears open or even going for a night-time stroll. As a reward you may get to hear (or see) a Long-eared Owl (Asio otus), a Scops Owl (Otus scops) or a European Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus).