Flocks of Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus glided into the skies over the Sagres peninsula when weather conditions were favourable, as the autumn migration moved into the October period in the southwest Algarve – the time when the species diversity is traditionally at its highest.
Surprisingly, I failed to pick out a single Ruppell’s Vulture G. rueppelli during fieldwork amongst the flocks of Griffon G. fulvus, but the species is somewhat scarce this autumn so far on the peninsula. On the plus side, Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus were seen almost daily – this pale individual above one of four present for a while in the southwestern part of the recording area.
The big Aquila species put on a fantastic show as Bonelli’s Eagle A. fasciata were seen on most days during the period. Juvenile Spanish Imperial Eagle A. adalberti entered the peninsula on several occasions throughout the month – including this bird below which glided quickly past the radar van and circled briefly before gliding out of view.
Steppe Eagle A. nipalensis has been a long predicted species to appear along the peninsula following recent records both in Portugal and in the Strait of Gibraltar, so when a juvenile appeared over Cabranosa on October 20th – the long awaited new species for the hill was added to the list – until it reappeared and was proven to be an escapee wearing jessies!!! This bird had already appeared in the Strait, following its escape from a zoo in Malaga.
Booted Eagle Aquila pennata is the most likely of the larger raptor species to be encountered along the peninsula during October – and the Cabranosa the best place to photograph them.
Small numbers of Black Stork Ciconia nigra were seen during the period, including this bird which passed over very low as it made its way out of the peninsula over Vilarinha.
Away from the raptors, waders in the area were few and far between – with odd Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus and Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola in the Martinhal and Sagres Harbour areas. Golden Plover P. apricaria were heard over Cabranosa on October 20th and a Lapwing Vanellus vanellus appeared briefly there on November 1st.
Stormy weather in the latter part of the month encouraged a few birds to enter Sagres Harbour, with juvenile Gannet Morus bassanus waiting for free handouts from local fisherman, while Sandwich Tern Thalasseus sandvicensis went about things in a more orthodox way.
Occasional seawatching periods provided Great Skua Stercorarius skua, Pomarine Skua S. pomarinus and Arctic Skua S. parasiticus passing Cabo de São Vicente, along with the regular shearwaters Cory’s Calonectris borealis, Great Ardenna gravis, Sooty A. grisea, Balearic Puffinus mauretanicus and numerous Gannet M. bassanus.
This Long-eared Owl Asio otus was present just west of Vale Santo on October 24th with the same area holding a Blyth’s Reed Warbler Acrocephalus dumetorum (found by Magnus Robb) from the 18th for a few days. Elusive, the bird was heard calling and seen briefly. A Blyth’s Pipit Anthus godlewskii (also found on the 18th by Magnus Robb) was seen and heard briefly on the evening of the 20th accompanied by a Richard’s Pipit A. richardi.
Viz-migging passerine highlights involved 136 Song Thrush Turdus philomelos north over Cabranosa on the 20th and 202 east over Barao San Joao on the 27th. The big finch day occurred on the 26th when 338 Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs passed southwest over the Barao San Joao windfarm, before 197 flew east in the same area the following day. Other highlights included a Brambling F. montifringilla south over the windfarm on the 17th and a few Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla during the month.
Death’s-head Hawk-moth Acherontia atropos larvae could be found with ease around the Cabranosa from October 16th with more mature larvae noted from November 1st.
A few Crimson Speckled Utetheisa pulchella were on the wing during the latter part of October and odd White-point Mythimna albipuncta were found at light in Sagres, though the dampness and location of the this year’s work accommodation was not really moth recording friendly, though is was apparent in the field that the diversity of day-flying species was also very low.
October saw a plentiful number of Swallow-tail Papilio machaon on the wing across the peninsula, alongside small numbers of other species including Clouded Yellow Colias croceus , Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta , Painted Lady Vanessa cardui , Striped Grayling Hipparchia fidia and Spanish Brown Argus Aricia cramera.
With the arid conditions and lack of rainfall in region this year, the odonata numbers were particularly low. Red-veined Darter Sympetrum fonscolombii the most regularly encountered species along the peninsula, but even they were scarce compared to previous October observations. Emperor Dragon Anax imperator and Vagrant Emperor A. ephigger were noted in small number during the month with occasional Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta also seen.