Newsletter October 2020



Welcome to our October Newsletter.

We hope you enjoy this month’s articles!

Don’t forget to maybe think about giving a friend or family member a year’s subscription to Friends of A Rocha for Christmas. (oh yes! we have mentioned the C word, but it is October and only 12 weeks before Christmas Eve)

Keep smiling

Helen & Filipa



Age: VIII century (BC)

Town (since 1519)

Population: 1909 (Census 2011)

Area: 34,28 Km2

Sagres is the most Southwest town of Continental Europe and is in the District of Vila do Bispo; it is located south of Sagres Point and Saint Vincent Cape, where it is protected from the west winds and the rough seas, it is the last piece of land before the huge Atlantic Ocean.

The name “Sagres” comes from the Antiquity name given to the area Promontorium Sacrum which means Sacred Cape. This inhospitable area seen as the end of the world, with high sea cliffs, rough vegetation, windy but with a rare natural beauty, became a ritual and religious important area.

Around the VIII century BC, Sagres became more important as the last shelter, before the Atlantic Ocean, for the Mediterranean sailors trading with the Western areas. In 779 the dead remains of Saint Vincent, a martyr from Saragoça, were brought to the area and kept in a small monastery (not known the exact location) until the XII century when the Almoravids (people from North Africa) destroyed the religious sanctuaries. The most important event was in 1443, when Prince Henry, the Navigator, known as Infante de Sagres, asked permission to his brother, D. Pedro, to build a village in Sagres, understanding the economic importance of the sea; but little remained from that villa, most part was destroyed in 1587 when the area was occupied by the corsair Francis Drake, during the troubled years between Spain and England. Later, in 1755, the big earthquake of Lisbon, making huge and strong waves, also caused damages in the area. Just in 1921, accidentally, the famous signs of the compass was discovered, the remains of the village build by Infante de Sagres, the reason for building it is still unknown, also  the famous Nautical School thought to have exitedt in the area is now considered unlikely.

Sagres is located inside of the Natural Park of Southwest Alentejo and Vincentian Coast. Due to its location, Sagres has very rich natural resources, the climate is typical dry Mediterranean, although with strong Atlantic influence and the presence of constant North winds. The vegetation is quite characteristic, and there are some endemic species present. The area is also famous for seeing the migrating soaring birds in autumn.

IFO’s – Identified Flying Objects…

Southern Brown Argus (Aricia cramera, Eschscholtz, 1821)
Photos by Rosie Miller

Morphology: It is a small butterfly from the Lycaenidae Family, with a wingspan of 22 to 25 mm; the upper side of the wings are brown with an orange marginal band and white fimbriae, the underwings are brownish with black spots with white around and orange marks on the marginal band. Probably two generations per year; it flies from April to September.

Habitat: wide variety of habitats, generally uncultivated areas, rocky and sunny places.

Distribution: North Africa (Morocco and Algeria), Canary Islands, Iberia Peninsula and Southern Europe. In Portugal it is common all over the country.

Notes: In ecological terms is not a very demanding species, for that reason is not threatened. In Portugal is not so common in coastal areas maybe because of urban development. The host plants usually are Helianthemum sp, Erodium sp and Geranium sp.

Tweet… Tweet…

Western Bonelli’s Warbler

(Phylloscopus bonelli, Vieillot, 1819)

Identification: It’s a small passerine from the Phylloscopidae Family; it can reach 10.5 to 11.5 cm in length. The upperparts are greyish contrasting with a greenish rump and primaries (wing feathers) darker with greenish edges; the underparts are whitish, the eye is dark. Females and males are alike. The song is a dribbling trill of one note.

Habitat and Ecology: Woodlands and pine or oak forests. The nest is domed grassy, build on ground, under bushes or in cavities; little is known about the reproduction in Portugal, but in Europe it lays 5 to 6 eggs and it has a single brood. It feeds on insects and other invertebrates.

Distribution: South of Europe and North Africa. Migrant: breeds in Portugal, Spain, South France and Balkans, winters in tropical Africa. In Portugal it is more common in the interior north; in the Algarve mainly it’s a passing migrant common in the end of August to end of September.

Threats: Least Concern (LC) in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list. The name of the Genus Phylloscopus it comes from Greek words “phullon” and “skopos” which means leaf and seeker/to watch, these warblers are active, constantly moving and looking for insects between the leaves.


  • On the 11th and 12 of September A Rocha was invited by Lagoa Council to perform a moth monitoring and a bird ringing demonstration, respectively, to celebrate the Ecology week. A Rocha will be part of another activity on the 24th of October, Birdwatching in Sítio das Fontes, Estômbar.

  • On the 19th of September A Rocha organized a beach cleaning in Alvor, an activity which is part of the Beach Cleaning Week. Over 63 kilos of rubbish were collected! Thank you for your help. See the video made by Isabel Soares here
  • Since March 2019, the dyke around the Alvor estuary felt down (see newsletter February 2020), this year, September 2020, started the works to rebuild the dyke. Although the changes, for our point of view, were not so negative for the birds, the erosion cause by the high tide was a big problem. One of the roads to access the estuary is most part of the times closed due to the high level of water and the people living there cannot have access to their houses.
  • September was also a good month for birds; our ringing sessions included some migrants: Pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca), Northern Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus), Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantilans), Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin), Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos), Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus), Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus), Grasshopper Warbler (Locustella naevia), Robin (Erithacus rubecula) and Spotted flycatcher (Muscicapa striata).

Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)

Spotted flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)

Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos)

Grasshopper Warbler (Locustella naevia)

October is always a very nice month! It is when the Sagres birdwatching Festival takes place!

Probably some of you have already had the chance to visit Sagres during the Festival and take part in some of the wonderful activities available. The Festival started 11 years ago, initially it was mainly bird related activities but nowadays it includes other fields, like insects, moths, plants, nature walks, and environmental education. The area is so rich and environmentaly interesting, that there are so many things to explore! What you may not know is how it was in the very beginning, before the “Festival” …. 25 years ago it was an activity for volunteers! The aim was trying to understand the importance of Sagres as a migratory hall. Volunteers, mainly Portuguese coming from all over the country, would stay in different points in the area all day with telescopes and binoculars looking to the sky trying to spot soaring birds (mainly birds of prey), there were also some ringing activities. At the time the “birders” were few and everyone knew each other! I was one of those volunteers, at the time very inexperienced, it was my first contact with “big birds” and since then I try to go every year! Enjoy the Sagres birdwatching Festival!


European Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus)

Class: Mammalia

Family: Erinaceidae

Length of body: 15 to 30 cm

Longevity: 3 years (average) up to 10 (maximum)

Average weight: 700 gr (between 400 gr and 1200 gr)

Habitat: wide variety of habitats: shrublands, deciduous forests, grasslands, orchards, farmlands, gardens and urban parks.

Distribution: Europe (from Iberia Peninsula to Central Europe, including the British Isles).

The hedgehog is an easy specie to identify because it is the only animal with the body covered with spines in Europe; only the head, the underparts and the legs don’t have spines, having a yellow brownish colour. The fur is long, the legs and ears are short and has a pointed muzzle. Males and females are alike.

Normally is more active at dawn or at night time; it is a lonely and territorial animal. Breeding season starts after the hibernation, from April to September; the females have generally one brood per year, with 4 to 6 young and take care of them alone.

The hedgehog is omnivorous, the diet consists of invertebrates: worms, bugs, ants, bees, butterflies, caterpillars, spiders and slugs, small rodents, eggs, small lizards and snakes, and vegetable material like seeds, grains and fruits.

The hedgehog has a characteristic defensive method which consists in rolling their body in a ball, hiding the bare parts and showing the spines to the predators (manly dogs, cats, foxes and eagle owls).

This species is quite common all over Europe and it is an important species on the ecosystems; the major threats are related with accidentally killing on roads (run over), habitat destruction and the use of pesticides in agriculture.


Family: Asteraceae

Identification: It is an evergreen under shrub, up to 150 cm in height, woody at the base and with erect leafy branches. The leaves are long and narrow, growing directly from the stems. The yellow flowers grow in clusters at the end of the leafy stems, it flowers from August to November. The fruit is a small and rounded cypsela, surrounded by small soft hairs.

Habitat and distribution: Farmlands, roadsides, uncultivated areas, wastelands and open areas on dry scrublands. Native from the Mediterranean Region (Southern Europe, North Africa and Western Asia); introduced in Australia and USA, where it is considered an invasive species.

Notes: It is a fast-growing plant which colonizes disturbed areas and attracts insects; because it flowers late in the season it is important as a food resource for the honey production (food for the bees). The False yYllowhead is an aromatic plant and its oil is used in traditional medicine.    There are 2 different subspecies: D. viscosa subsp viscosa and subsp revoluta, the last one is endemic in Portugal.

False Yellowhead (Dittrichia viscosa, L.)


1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th of October – Cruzinha Bird ringing display & Moth Talk (10 to 12 am) book here

2nd to 5th of October – Birdwatching Festival Sagres:

5th of October – Implantation of the Republic, Public Holiday

24th of October (morning activity, time to be confirmed)– Birdwatching activity at Sítio das Fontes, Estômbar, together with Lagoa Council. Check facebook page of A Rocha Portugal nearer the time.

25th of October – change to wintertime (Clocks go BACK 1 hour)

31st of October – Halloween


Thank you for supporting the Friends of A Rocha Portugal

Dr Roy Rodrigues
Av. Do Brasil, Qta das Palmeiras, Lt P2, R/c A, 8500-299 Portimão
(+351) 282180683

Urbanização Marachique, Lt 1, Loja B, 8500-045 Alvor
(+351) 919191941/ 282482409

Sítio da Amoreira, Lote 12,
Alvor, 8500-045 Portimão
(+351) 282412562/ 925433047

Urbanização Mar e Serra n° 47, Alvor
8500 – 783 Portimão

(+351) 911597735

Physiotherapy, Massages (relaxation, sports, therapeutic)

Other therapies

Beauty (manicure, pedicure, hair removal, facials)

Open Monday to Friday

It’s never too early to think about what you will give as a present to someone for their Birthday or for Christmas. What about Gifting a Friendship for the Friends of A Rocha Portugal?

Gift Friendship

Thought of the month 

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”

― Douglas Adams (1952 – 2001, English author, screenwriter, dramatist)


Energy a limited resource!
Energy is essential in our daily lives; most of it is coming from fossil fuels like coal and petrol – finite natural resources, not from renewable sources.

  • Around 78% of the total energy consumed by a Portuguese family at home is used on cooking and water heating
  • Fridges and freezers are the domestic devices that consume more energy (around 30% of total energy used at home)
  • A washing machine can consume more than 124 litres of hot water in a single wash, more or less the same as 4 showers
  • In approximately 50 years energy consumption will double
  • The predicted time for the depletion of petrol, natural gas and uranium varies between 40 to 120 years
  • In urban areas, the tram travels 11 times more than a car using the same amount of energy; and the bus 2.5 times more.
  • The use of natural gas is cheaper and less pollutant, releases 25% less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and it isn’t toxic
  • The waste from a Power Plant can last for 100,000 years


Glossary of ecological terms

The use of specific words is common, but sometimes hard to understand or at least to understand exactly what it means, sometimes the real meaning is different from the “normal” use of the word.

Ecology: science, a branch of Biology, studies the organisms and the interactions among them and surrounding environment.

Species: a set of organisms with similar characteristics, which can breed with each other and give birth to fertile descendants (concept very hard to define).

Population: a group of individuals from the same species, living in the same place, at a certain period of time.

Community: all the organisms living in a same place at a certain period of time.

Habitat: place inhabited by a particular species (plant, animal or organism) where the ecological conditions are correct for it to occur, like sun, light, wind, temperature,….

Biotope: a small parcel of a habitat; it is an area of uniform environmental conditions providing a living place for specific species.

Ecosystem: the complex of living organism -community, their physical environment –habitat and the interactions between them -biotic and abiotic factors.

Biotic factors: to do with living organisms, their interactions

Abiotic factors: to do with the environmental – temperature, wind, humidity, soil, light.

Biosphere: the global ecological system including all the living beings of the planet.

Atmosphere: the gases surrounding the earth, the gaseous part of earth

Lithosphere: the solid external layer of earth

Hydrosphere: all the liquid parts of earth, a discontinuous layer (rivers, lakes, sea, ocean)

Ecosphere: the biggest ecosystem, the sum of biosphere, atmosphere, lithosphere and hydrosphere.

            Let’s get cooking !

Pumpkin soup topped with cream & mushrooms

100 grms  sweet potato

250 grms Butternut Squash (or other kind of sweet pumpkin)

250 grms mushrooms

1/2 onion

2 garlic cloves

100 grms leek

100 ml cream

Salt and pepper

Butter or olive oil


Cheese (grated)

In a large saucepan braise with olive oil (or butter) the sweet potatoes and pumpkin (which you have peeled & cut into small pieces), the chopped onion, garlic, leek and 150 grms of the mushrooms. When braised add enough water to cover it all and salt to your taste. Leave it to cook slowly for about 25 minutes, then blend. After blending bring it to the boil again and add additional salt (if required) and pepper. Cut the remaining 125grms of mushrooms into small pieces and sauté with the thyme and pepper. When serving put your soup in a bowl add the sauté mushrooms then pour the cream and a dash of olive oil over the top. Decorate with the grated cheese.

For a Europe that doesn’t perpetuate deforestation

The European Union is considering a new law to prevent products which involve deforestation from entering our markets, and you can help.

The EU is a large importer not only of palm oil and soy but also of other products that lead to deforestation, like beef from the Amazon, coffee and cocoa. Since the EU doesn’t ban the entry of products connected to the destruction of nature, such products easily end up on our supermarket shelves and, consequently, on our plates Palm oil is present in many processed foods and cosmetics, while soy is used to feed animals raised for the meat and dairy industries. We are literally eating our forests without realising it.

A new European law about deforestation-related products is now within our reach: the European Commission has opened a public consultation so we can voice our opinions. Show your support, by filling in a simple form and sharing the #Together4Forests campaign. Have your say.

Check the website for dates for organised tours  

Vultures in the Algarve, part 2

A species many birders wish to find when looking at a flock of Griffon Vultures is the Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppellii). This species breeds in the northern part of sub-Saharan Africa and is rare and threatened in West Africa. It is a rare species in Iberia. Most sightings refer to immatures probably joining flocks of Griffon Vultures coming back from wintering in West Africa. The first accepted record for Iberia was a sub-adult photographed near Caceres in May and June 1992. Another sub-adult was present at Doñana the same year. In 1993, a 2nd year bird was captured in Portugal. In 2009 there were 40 homologated records (59 individuals) in Spain, 13 (15 individuals) in Portugal and 1 in Gibraltar. These numbers are probably underestimated since many sightings were not submitted. Photography allowed recognizing some individuals and there were at least 9 different birds in the Cadiz area in September 2010, including 4 together in Tarifa and 5 were in a flock of Griffon Vultures in Ceuta in spring 2006. Birds have been seen coming from the south and crossing the strait and the species were recorded at Jebel Moussa, south of the strait. This species of vulture has been recorded every month of the year in Iberia but there are fewer sightings in winter. Birds arrive in spring and go back to Africa in autumn, the peak being in September-October north of the strait.

Looking at, in Portugal, the Rüppell’s Vulture was recorded in colonies of Griffon Vultures, which is where it was found breeding in 1999 when a bird was seen sitting on an egg. This may have been a mixed pair. Also the species has been seen in Alentejo and the Sagres area.

This species was never recorded at Ria de Alvor but a closer look at flocks of Griffon Vultures flying over the area may produce the first sighting of the species.

Another African species, but much rarer is the White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus). The first sighing was at Cape St Vincent in October 2006 but this bird origin was uncertain (wild or captive origin). There were 3 accepted records of immature around the strait of Gibraltar in 2013. Another bird was seen at a feeding station near Barrancos (Portugal) in August 2014 and another one near Trujillo in May 2017.

The last species is a species which decreased a lot in Iberia and is now coming back thanks to reintroduction efforts: the Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus). In Portugal, the only sighting of wilds individuals was in 1888 when the King D. Carlos killed 2 birds in the Guadiana valley. Like other species of vultures, juveniles can disperse far and in 2020, there were 12 incursions in Portugal of birds released in Spain (the last one being a bird seen in the north of the country in July 2020). Most of them were not seen, we know of their journeys thanks to the satellite tag they carry on their back. The first contemporaneous observation of the species in Portugal and the Algarve was a bird photographed in May 2018 in eastern Algarve. This individual had been released in Andalusia (where the species disappeared from in 1980) in 2014. A week later, another bird was photographed near Mértola.

Before its reintroduction, the Bearded Vulture population was concentrated in the Pyrenees where the population was about 500 birds (105 breeding pairs) in 2010. The species decreased because of persecution, poison, collision with power lines and illegal shooting. Without reintroduction the probability of colonizing new area by the species was low since most birds breed near to where they were born.

The increase of the Spanish population also led to an increase in the numbers of sightings of the species on the 2 sides of the Straits of Gibraltar and some bird’s most likely cross. There were 2 individuals at Jebel Moussa in March 1972 and another one in Tangier in December 1972.

It is the only species of vultures which was never seen in the Sagres area.

Photos and text by Guillaume Réthoré

Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppellii)
White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus)

Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus)

Photo by Carole Stévenin

If you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact us:
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Hope to see you soon!