This was a general holiday with my girlfriend
rather than a dedicated birding trip, so we stayed only in Ponta
Delgado on São Miguel
Island for the whole period to minimise travel time and hassle. We
flew from London Gatwick via Lisbon, getting relatively cheap flights
(~£300) from http://www.dialaflight.com/ only about
6 weeks in advance. We hired a car for a few days to visit the further
away towns and to walk the Nordest road for the Bullfinch. The bus
service was otherwise reliable and frequent enough.
It was a good holiday, with some interesting birds, including endemic subspecies of some common British birds eg blackbird and robin, with notably different behaviour and song. We failed to find the Azores Bullfinch, despite walking the recommended Nordest road/track at the east of the Island. It was not the best time of year though I understand. It is a great walk nonetheless, with the trees full of canaries and chaffinches, filling the air with beautiful singing as I have never heard before. The coastal paths are worth walking at the east of the island, both for birds, views and escaping the cars of Ponta Delgado. I did not do any seabirding on the trip, so don’t read anything into the absence of shearwaters etc.
A recommended guidebook is the Bradt Guide to the Azores by David Sayers. I see on Amazon that there is now a guidebook to the Birds of the Atlantic Islands, including the Azores, which is probably worth considering. São Miguel is well developed, with good quality roads and higher and lower end hotels. It is not touristy though, with no hassle at all and only friendly and helpful locals. We didn’t meet a single other Brit on the trip which was quite refreshing.
Two downsides to the trip: the food and the dogs. Despite being in the middle of the Atlantic, and hence blessed with fish on the doorstep, the fish was very disappointing and most other food served with very little salad or vegetables. I can live without greens for a while, but this took its toll after a while. An unfortunate incident with a dog bite was also a shame. While most dogs are tethered, I highly recommend exercising a precautionary approach, carrying several rocks or a stick when walking as some are running loose. I had had a rabies jab before and was assured by a local pharmacist that rabies is not a problem. As I lived to tell the tale I wouldn’t let it put me off returning.
Yellow legged gull (Ponta Delgado harbour)
Feral pigeon (common)
Wood pigeon (Ponta Delgado park)
House sparrow (Ponta Delgado)
Goldcrest (coastal paths)
Blackcap (coastal paths)
Starling (Ponta Delgado)
Robin (Ponta Delgado park)
Blackbird (Ponta Delgado park)
Grey wagtail (coastal paths)
Ruddy turnstone (Ponta Delgado harbour)
Canary (coastal paths)
Sanderling (Ponta Delgado harbour)
Coot (Lagos Verde, near Sete Citades)
Ring necked duck (Lagos Verde, near Sete Citades)
Mallard (Lagos Verde, near Sete Citades)
Moorhen (heard) (?) (Lagos Verde, near Sete Citades)