Sunday, 12 June 2011


Have just returned from a splendid six days birding holiday in Madeira. The aim to clear up on all the available Madeiran endemics both at land and at sea. I've split our adventure in to two parts, this first section detailing the islands land based birds.
First up and probably the most required bird to see and not Madeiran at all was the long staying 3rd for the WesternPal mega YELLOW CROWNED NIGHT HERON, which gave it's self up in the morning post awesome firework show on the harbour front on the evening of my arrival in Madeira.

The moulting immature YC Night Heron showing well on the marina breakwater till some plonker flushed it...doh! it didn't fly far though honest.

With the heron safely bagged we turned our attention to the endemic land birds and headed up into the mountains. Note everywhere in Madeira is either up hill or down hill, nowhere is it flat except the airport runway. Get a hire car with a big engine and purchase some crampons this place is a Wainwright walkers paradise. Having negotiated our 100th hairpin bend we arrived at the Ribeiro Frio with its Laurel covered hillsides and walked (the level!!!) levada (drainage channel) to the Balcoes view point.

First the easy 'Madeiran' race of Chaffinch with its distinctive green mantle and pale pink breast. Surely a potential split even its call/song is different.


From the view point we scanned the valley of Faja da Nogueira and located two pigeons flying below us. Trocaz Pigeon duly added with several Plain Swifts above the forest around the rocky crags. On route back along the levada we heard and eventually found 5+ Madeiran Firecrests giving brief views as they zapped around in the trees, hence no piccies.

Diabolical record shot of a third Trocaz Pigeon seen by walking up the Faja da Nogueira below.

Having cleared up on the endemic land birds, all two of them we booked on the Zino's Petrel night expedition up the highest mountain Pico do Arieiro with Madeira Windbirds.
This bizarre trip started at our hotel in Machico where Hugo and Catarina picked us up in their minibus and drove up the mountain as night time fell. Arriving in the dark we disembarked onto the freezing, fog/cloud enshrouded car park and walked to the required 'viewpoint'. With the wind reaching gale force we lined up along the precarious mountain path to await the incoming petrels and drank tea!!.after what seemed like an age a haunting wail of a noise emanated from the rock face below us. It was a calling female Zino's Petrel sat on its nest in the cliff below. A male called in reply, higher pitched and out into the abyss below its wing beats could be heard as it neared the mountain top. One passed within feet of my face, a black mystical shape claimed by the local Shepherds to be the soul of a lost herdsman....spooky! A Manx Shearwater called from a nearby hillside to add to this altogether odd birding experience. And that was it, one more brief shape in the night and we left cold, wet and a little disappointed as the weather had scuppered our night. The forth coming pelagics would have to deliver the required positive ID tick, no shape shifters for me.

Next day we ventured eastwards to the Sau Lorenco Peninsular in search of a Macronesian endemic or two. In the car park a pipit could only be one thing here...Berthelot's Pipit a bird I'd seen many moons ago on Tenerife.

Not very appealing but a good trip tick non the less. We also had/heard various Macronesian endemic sub species of the following...Kestrel, Buzzard, Red legged Partridge, Goldfinch, Quail and Rock Dove. Down in the nearby marina on a volcanic rockface a pair of Rock Sparrows were nesting.

 also around that well known Macronesian endemic thats synonymous with the Atlantic Islands the Canary showed well.

In the town where we were staying Machico some well vegetated gardens alongside the river provided some habitat for an introduced African species namely Common Waxbill that added some colour and interest to the small Madeiran bird list.

I also found an American vagrant unfortunately not of the ornithological variety but something that one or two of you might of seen on Scillies.

Monarch Butterfly a Madeiran visitor or resident ?
On the adjacent walls in the warm sunshine there were many Madeiran Wall Lizards basking.

and that's your lot for now. Will be blogging part 2 of Madeira Magic asap....

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