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These two headlands lie at the extreme south-western tip of the European mainland and form the most important migration watchpoint in Portugal. Directly facing the Atlantic, the western coast can be very windy but to the south there is more shelter and although much of the coastline is rugged cliffs there are small bays with beaches at various points.
Away from the immediate coast much of the land is used for sheep-grazing or cereal production but there are occasional small woods and scrub-filled valleys.
Although best-known as a site for migrants the area has an interesting selection of breeding birds.Shag, Peregrine Falcon and Yellow-legged Gull breed on the cliffs as well as Blue Rock Thrush and Red-billed Chough with Osprey on the cliffs to the north.
The farmland close by supports Spotless Starling, Thekla Lark and Spectacled Warbler, Sardinian Warbler and Dartford Warbler. Woodchat Shrike and Little Bustard can be seen along the road from St Vincent to Sagres and Eurasian Eagle Owl may still survive in the area.
In winter there are Stone-curlew, Northern Lapwing and Golden Plover in the area, the cliffs often have Eurasian Crag Martin and the rocks below Cape St Vincent lighthouse are famous for holding wintering Alpine Accentor. In December 1999 two Snow Finches were found here, the first Portuguese record for this high-mountain bird. The first Portuguese record of Rüppell's Vulture was of a bird here in October 2001.
Seawatching generally produces Northern Gannet, Cory's Shearwater and Balearic Shearwater in good numbers although with the correct winds various gulls including Audouin's Gull, terns and skuas can turn up as well as European Storm Petrel and Wilson's Storm Petrel. Madeiran Storm Petrel is possible in strong westerly winds as are Great Shearwater and Sabine's Gull and Swinhoe's Storm Petrel has been recorded in this area.
It may be possible to arrange boat trips from Sagres which would certainly produce higher numbers and variety of the more pelagic species.
Raptor passage is also highly dependent on the right winds and during periods of easterly winds most of the migrant European species can be seen. Booted Eagle, European Honey Buzzard, Black Kite and Eurasian Sparrowhawk are generally the most numerous but there are also Egyptian Vulture, Short-toed Eagle and Bonelli's Eagle, Red Kite and Black-shouldered Kite, harriers and Common Buzzard. In addition, Lesser Kestrel, Northern Hobby and Eleonora's Falcon are possible and Golden Eagle, Spanish Imperial Eagle and Long-legged Buzzard have been recorded.
Mid September to mid October is the most productive period although most of the Black Kites have already passed through and the irregular Griffon Vulture tends to appear at the end of the period. Both storks can also appear in autumn with Black Stork the more numerous and Eurasian Dotterel frequently rest on the farmland.
The scrubby valleys and woods of the area can attract good numbers of passerine migrants with Common Redstart and Common Nightingale particularly common and warblers including Melodious Warbler and Western Bonelli's Warbler.
More open areas have Red-rumped Swallow and Tawny Pipit, Black-eared Wheatear, Bluethroat and Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, shrikes and Ortolan Bunting. Wryneck, Ring Ouzel and Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush also occur with some regularity.
Birds you can see here include:
Cory's Shearwater, Great Shearwater, Balearic Shearwater, Wilson's Storm Petrel, European Storm Petrel, Madeiran Storm Petrel, Northern Gannet, European Shag, Cattle Egret, Purple Heron, Black Stork, White Stork, European Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Red Kite, Black-shouldered Kite, Egyptian Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Western Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, Long-legged Buzzard, Booted Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Osprey, Lesser Kestrel, Northern Hobby, Eleonora's Falcon, Peregrine Falcon, Common Quail, Little Bustard, Black-winged Stilt, Stone-curlew, Kentish Plover, Eurasian Dotterel, Golden Plover, Northern Lapwing, Grey Phalarope, Pomarine Skua, Arctic Skua, Great Skua, Sabine's Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Caspian Tern, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Black Tern, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Eurasian Eagle Owl, Short-eared Owl, Red-necked Nightjar, Pallid Swift, Alpine Swift, European Bee-eater, European Roller, Eurasian Hoopoe, (A), Eurasian Wryneck, Greater Short-toed Lark, Thekla Lark, Crested Lark, Wood Lark, Eurasian Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Tawny Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Blue-headed Wagtail, Alpine Accentor, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, Common Nightingale, Bluethroat, Eurasian Robin, Black Redstart, Common Redstart, Whinchat, European Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush, Ring Ouzel, Song Thrush, Zitting Cisticola, Melodious Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Spectacled Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Western Bonelli's Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, European Pied Flycatcher, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Woodchat Shrike, Red-billed Chough, Northern Raven, Spotless Starling, Spanish Sparrow, Common Waxbill, European Serin, European Goldfinch, Common Crossbill, Rock Bunting, Ortolan Bunting
In addition to the birdlife the area is botanically very important and it is home to several endemic species of plant. Dominant in the clifftop heath flora are Erica and Cistus species with spiny Astragalus massiliensis and the bright orange Calendula suffruticosa.
Although it does not produce migrating raptors in the numbers that can be seen at Gibraltar, there remains much to be discovered in this area and the list of rarities will undoubtedly increase with more coverage. However, the range of birds to be seen here is very dependent on the winds and it is important to time a visit correctly.
For seawatching strong westerlies produce the best results but easterly or north-easterly winds are crucial to see good numbers of raptors. Spring migration is relatively poor and the best time to visit is autumn.
History and Use
Areas of Interest
Access and Facilities
The area is popular with tourists and becoming more so each year. The village of Sagres has accommodation ranging from pensions to luxury hotels and forms the ideal base to explore the area.
Sagres is easily reached on the N125 from the international airport at Faro or from Lisbon southwards on the A2 to Marateca then on the IP1 to the Algarve. Once at Albufeira take the N125 west to Sagres.
Content and images originally posted by Steve
stuffreviewer's review It's worth going into the forifications, even if you're not interested in them, because the views out to sea are fantastic. We were there in late March, so we were seeing Cormorants and Gannets heading North. On the land, there's Black Redstarts, Ring Ouzels and Blackcaps amongst other. Pros
- Easy to get to
- magnificent views over the cliffs.
- Windswept! Not much variety in the birds
- at least when we were there.
For a free PDF guide to Birdwatching in the Algarve, go to: http://www.visitalgarve.pt/pressroom.file.php?fileID=123&file=guia_observacao_aves_baixa_resolucao_pt.pdf