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Post Info TOPIC: Madeira

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RE: Madeira

A one day stop off on Madeira on our Azores cruise had us heading up the cable car to the Botanical Gardens in Funchal.

The obvious distractions of beautiful flowers & trees was really nice to see but the real highlight for me was watching a family of very tame 'Firecrests' including 3 juveniles being fed by their parents.

Also a 'Helmeted Guinea Fowl' wandered around begging for food & a few 'Madeiran Chaffinch' were heard singing.


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Hotel Porto Santa Maria, Funchal, 20 August - 3 September 2021

Last year's holiday cancelled due to Covid. Main reason for choosing Madeira was one of several 3 day pelagics run by Madeira Wind Birds, where you go out in a 12 seater RIB, roughly 12 or so miles out, each session 3-10pm. Whilst the island itself is beautiful and, for the main part, very green with an abundance of flowers and plant life, the birds on land are not very plentiful. In fact, probably the poorest place, numbers wise, that I have ever been to. As is the norm with me, not a birding holiday and, other than the pelagics, we did a few walks here and there in the morning and just a case of seeing what we saw. Weather hot and sunny throughout, 25-28*c.

Areas birded :-

Twelve miles out into the Atlantic off the north east coast of Madeira.

Fifteen miles out, east of Madeira, north east of the Desertas Islands.

Ten miles out, due south of Funchal.

Open top bus around Funchal.

Several walks around Funchal Harbour.

Palheiro Estate and Gardens, north east suburbs of Funchal.

Day tour in minibus around the east of the island.

Trip List :-

Mute Swan
Rock Pigeon
Trocaz Pigeon (7)
Collared Dove
Plain Swift
Arctic Skua (1)
Yellow-legged Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Common Tern (c.25)
Arctic Tern (1)
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel (1)
Zino's Petrel (1)
Fea's (Desertas) Petrel (10)
Bulwer's Petrel (c.250)
Cory's Shearwater (c.300)
Great Shearwater (3)
Manx Shearwater (4)
Common Buzzard (2)
Eurasian Kestrel (c.10)
Blackcap (1)
Madeira Firecrest (2)
Spanish Sparrow (1)
Grey Wagtail
Berthelot's Pipit (3)
Madeira Chaffinch (1)
Island Canary (c.20)

The highlight of the pelagics, undoubtedly the single Zino's Petrel that came to inspect the chum. We saw it for no more than 15 seconds, in and out in a flash. Cory's Shearwater and Bulwer's Petrel were ever present and day two, north east of the Desertas Islands, saw 10 Fea's (Desertas) Petrel which we were very happy with. Some authorities don't recognize Desertas Petrel as being split from Fea's so, for the time being, they are noted as above and essentially identified due to location. You could say a 'complex complex.' Day three saw very unfavourable south westerly light winds and, as such, few birds came to visit the chum. The day was saved when a single Band-rumped Storm-Petrel paid a fleeting visit just before we headed back to Machico Harbour.

The targets back on land were the two endemics, Trocaz Pigeon and Madeira Firecrest. Trocaz Pigeon seem to be spreading to the northern outskirts of Funchal. I knew that they had bred at the Monte Palace Botanical Gardens by the top cable car station and also at the Palheiro Estate and Gardens, a striking area in the north east suburbs. They can sometimes be seen in the main Botanic Gardens also. I chose Palheiro, where I managed to see seven plus a couple of Firecrests.

Island Canary were seen here and there plus around 10 birds at Pico do Areeiro (6000' asl) where I also had 3 Berthelot's Pipit.

We also saw a pod of around 10 Short-finned Pilot Wale and a pod of 25-30 Atlantic Spotted Dolphin.

A few photos attached of Cory's Shearwater, Bulwer's Petrel, Fea's/Desertas Petrel and Trocaz Pigeon.


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Two weeks staying in the orca Praia Hotel, West Funchal, Madeira 02/12/16 - 16/12/16.
28 species in all. The endemic species and sub-species count was good but the sea was very quiet due to the time of year so only one pelagic species seen. I used the Helm guide to the Atlantic Islands which proved very useful. Any interesting sub-species (ssp) are highlighted. The list is by date and place with any subsequent sightings in brackets:

West Funchal 02-16/12/16

Yellow Legged Gull ssp atlantis (seen everyday throughout holiday in all locations in large numbers max count 198, but more by coast as would be expected)
Blackbird ssp cabrerae (These were throughout the island at all altitudes in modest numbers)
Eurasian Collared Dove (1 seen in Camara De Lobos along with 3 seen in Santana on 07/12/16. it looks like this species is now colonising Madeira)
Lesser Black Backed Gull (seen in ones and twos most days from hotel)
Kittiwake (seen from hotel during Atlantic storm NNW force 6-7 in first two days)
Common Kestrel ssp canariensis (seen every day round hotel and many other sites subsequently)
Little Egret (seen passing over the sea a few times in the two weeks in small numbers)
Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon (feral form in a number of towns with a few showing sign of classic Rock Doves)
Plain Swift (only 2 seen one day on 03/12/16)
Island Canary (The most numerous bird on the Island and seen everywhere)
Ring Necked Parakeet (seen a few times in the parks of Funchal)
Blackcap ssp heineken (seen every day most places and very common, notably smaller than nominate form)
Black headed Gull (seen most days in small numbers)
White Wagtail ssp alba (seen a few times in Funchal)
Turnstone (seem most days on rocks off coast from hotel)
Grey Wagtail ssp schmitzi (seen in a number of places from Funchal city to many of the river outlets to the sea around the island)
Sparrowhawk ssp granti (a pair were in residence and seen a couple of times above Camara De Lobos)
Common Buzzard (2 seen in Porto Moniz on 07/12/16 and subsequently Monte and Ecumedia)
Mallard (seen in a Funchal park)
Mute Swan (also seen in a couple of Funchal parks)
Bertelot's Pipit ssp madeirensis (2 seem only at Ponta de Sao Lourenco, surprised not to see more)
Common Waxbill ssp jagoensis (seen a couple of times near the hotel in flocks of 20+)
Red Legged Partridge (3 visited me as I was reading on my sun lounger and proceeded to call for over half an hour)
Muscovy Duck (these duck now seem to have a feral breeding population on the island with over 30 seen at Ribera Brava and a number seen in many other river mouths)
Macronesian Shearwater (3 seen passing hotel on 15/12/16 in ssw wind of about force 4 to 5, the only time I had this wind direction which may be telling as these were the only pelagic species seen and it may be that as I was on the south coast the prevailing northerly winds prevented close passes at this time of year)

Robiero Frio 05/12/16 and 10/12/16

Madeira Firecrest (many seen in Laurel forest on 2 walks to Balcoes from Ribiero Frio, 1 also seen in Monte Tropical Gardens)
Common Chaffinch ssp maderensis (many seen in Laurel forest on 2 walks to Balcoes from Ribiero Frio, a few also seen in in other parts of the inland mountain areas, noticeably different vocalisation to nominate along with distinctive plumage differences)
European Robin (a few seen in Laurel forest on 2 walks to Balcoes from Ribiero Frio)
Trocaz Pigeon (Only 2 seen in Laurel forest on 1st walk to Balcoes from Ribiero Frio, both were in flight from above so identification was easy, but the views were brief)

An excellent two weeks with most of the targeted land species found. I was not expecting much pelagic action due to the time of year but the Macronesian Shearwater was a great bonus. However I was a little surprised by how little was seen on the sea. It was great to get the endemic Madeira Firecrest and Trocaz Pigeon and the new subspecies of Common Chaffinch, Grey Wagtail, Sparrowhawk and Bertelot's Pipit. I have only counted 28 as the total but the Muscovy Duck is on the list as from what I hear it now has a self sustaining population. The one dip was the Rock Sparrow just like on Tenerife so I will have to keep looking for that one. A re-visit on one May or June will be made as that would be best for the pelagic species and a trip out to the Desertas islands would be ideal for this. What a shame I'll just have to go back.

L Hindley
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