A flock of Black Storks

Migration mania

As we begin to transition from summer to autumn, nature lovers in the Algarve prepare for the big event of the year, the autumn bird migration.

Sagres is where you’ll find this celebration with the annual birdwatching festival running between October 1 and 5 – take a look at www.birdwatchingsagres.com for more information.

However, you don’t have to be in Sagres to witness this annual event. The Algarve is an important area for migrating birds travelling south through Europe as it appears to become the departure lounge for the trip to Africa and you can spot many species travelling through from any location.

If you keep an eye in the sky, you will often see flocks of all sizes flying through. Two of my favourites to watch are Black Storks and Griffon Vultures.

Black Storks
Here in the Algarve, we are very used to seeing White Storks in many locations, but did you know there are also Black Storks? They are much shyer than their white counterparts and are rarely seen in the Algarve except during migration where there can be flocks of a up to 100 soaring as they head south.

They are similar in appearance to the White Stork, but, of course, the colouring is different and if you manage to view in good light, you may notice a purple and green sheen similar to that of a Glossy Ibis. Whilst you have a much better chance of viewing these flocks fly through the Sagres area, you could be lucky to witness them anywhere in the Algarve.

Griffon Vultures
Flocks of Griffon Vultures can be huge and, being very large birds, you can imagine the space in the sky this can fill. This is another bird that is rarely seen in the Algarve, but a short trip into the Alentejo plains is where you can view them in large numbers.

The migrating flocks (called kettles) mainly consist of juveniles and can be an amazing sight to watch these huge birds soaring in circles as they slowly move south, but blink and they’ve gone as they seemingly vanish quickly.

Watching flocks of birds flying south is a good spectacle, but remember small birds migrate too and keeping watch around your locality for these passing through is equally, if not more, satisfying.

Pied and Spotted Flycatchers
Pied Flycatchers are not resident in the Algarve but can be easily seen in the autumn migration. The stark black and white contrasting breeding plumage of the male, moults before migration and therefore they look similar to the female with a pale brown appearance. The Spotted Flycatcher is a rare sight at any other time of the year but, as with the Pied Flycatcher, can be spotted fairly easily sometimes together with the Pied Flycatchers.

Garden Warbler
In the world of birdwatching, there is a well-known phrase of “Little Brown Job” or “LBJ” to describe many small birds that are difficult to identify. If during the migration period, you spot a bird that seemingly has no features at all, then it could possibly be the Garden Warbler, the perfect definition of “LBJ”.

The Garden Warbler is another bird that is not resident in the Algarve but can be seen passing through. If you see a very plain-looking bird with brown and grey upper and pale lower, then chances are it’s a Garden Warbler. They are not easily spotted as they tend to keep to the cover of trees and bushes.

Wherever you decide to watch the migration, whether it’s in the comfort of your own surroundings or attend the festival in Sagres, it is a great time to be a nature lover. If you are planning on visiting the festival and take part in some of the events (many are free!), please ensure you register as soon as you can, as they often get fully booked.

By Craig Rogers
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Craig Rogers is a wildlife and nature photographer from Wales now living in the Algarve, offering photography workshops. For more information, photographs and his blog visit www.craigrogers.photography

A flock of Black Storks
A kettle of Griffon Vultures
Spotted Flycatcher
Pied Flycatcher
Garden Warbler