Every autumn, the trees, bushes and hedges around Sagres welcome thousands of visitors. Some are just passing by en route to warmer climes, while others will take refuge here all winter.
From late August to early October, coastal valleys, fields and sheltered areas around Sagres are stopover points for small songbirds. Chiffchaffs, Pipits and Wheatears are on their way to Africa, where the end of the rainy season brings an explosion of insects.
The species that visit Sagres in greatest numbers at this time of year are the European Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) – one of the most common birds in Portugal in autumn – the Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus), the Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) and the Western Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava).
You can often spot a Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) fluttering to and from its perch on a branch, as it feeds. Among the trees, the white flash of a Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) often stands out among the foliage, while in more open spaces you can frequently see a Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra), strategically perched on a high point in search of its next meal. Although it doesn’t visit in large numbers, the Tree Pipit (Anthus triviallis) is also regularly seen.
Although they are less common, Western Bonelli's Warblers (Phylloscopus bonelii), Bluethroats (Luscinia svecica) and Ortolan Buntings (Emberiza hortulana) are also around. And rare birds such as the Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus) or the Moussier's redstart (Phoenicurus moussieri) – which usually lives in Africa – have also been spotted here.
In mid October, a second wave of feathered visitors arrives – and these come to stay. They hail from northern Europe, where harsh winter means food is scarce. In our more temperate climate, they find refuge and riches throughout the cold months. In some cases, you can tell these winter visitors have arrived not because you spot new species, but because suddenly you see so many more birds. A case in point are thrushes and Corn Buntings: birds that live in Portugal all year round are joined by those that fly down from the north.
The bobbing of a Pied Wagtail’s (Motacilla alba) tail is a common sight in Sagres at this time of year. In gardens and parks, you can also spot Robins (Erithacus rubecula), Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs) and Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla), while meadows are taken over by hundreds of Meadow Pipits (Anthus pratensis). The season’s soundtrack features the songs of Song Thrushes (Turdus philomelos) and Goldfinches (Carduellis carduellis), punctuated by twittering Corn Buntings (Emberiza calandra).
Although they’re not as common, Richard’s Pipits (Anthus richardi), Alpine Accentors (Prunella collaris) and Ring Ouzels (Turdus torquatus) are also seen and heard here every year.
Of the thousands of songbirds that arrive in the Algarve every year, many don’t leave. They are captured to be sold in the pet trade, or eaten as a delicacy. If you suspect you have found traces of illegal trapping, please contact Serviço de Proteção da Natureza e Ambiente da GNR (SEPNA-GNR).