One of the most amazing, yet somewhat underrated phenomena is the passerine migration. Miliions, literarily millions of birds pass through the peninsula, most of them lifting off in the cover of dusk. These birds concentrate mostly in coastal valleys and sheltered bushes. Passerine migrants in Sagres can be divided in two very distinct groups – the transaharian migrants on their way to Africa, and the wintering and dispersing birds form populations further north.
These birds mostly pass through in late August, September and early October. Most of them are heading for wintering grounds in tropical Africa where the rain season in nearly over. Most are insect-eaters aiming to take advantage of the insect boom that takes place after the rains. The most abundant of these migrants seem to be Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus, Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca, Northern Weathear Oenanthe oenanthe and Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava. These are followed in numbers by Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata,Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus, Winchat Saxicola rubetra, and Tree Pipit Anthus triviallis. But many other are present. Scarcer birds like Boneli’s Warbler Phylloscopus bonelii,Bluethroat Luscinia svecica or Ortolan Bunting Emberiza ortolana are some of the species that can easily go unnoticed. Rarities like Red-throated pipit Anthus cervinus or Moussier’s Redstart Phoenicurus moussieri have been spotted.
Wintering and dispersive travellers
From October onwards, and especially in the second half of the month and November, the passerine cast changes dramatically in Sagres, as most transaharian migrants are now already in Africa. Northern populations of some common species arrive in great numbers, fleeing from food scarcity up North, heading south in their search for more abundant feeding grounds, in some cases enlarging already existent resident populations. These are mostly finches, thrushes and Corn Buntings. Most common birds of this category are White Wagtail Motacilla alba, Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis, European Robin Erithacus rubecula, Backcap Sylvia atricapilla, Song thrush Turdus philomelus, Chatfinch Fringilla coelebs, Goldfinch Carduellis carduellis and Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra. Some scarcer birds include Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi, Ringed Ouzel Turdus torquatus and Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris.