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A Report from

Cape Verde Islands, 21 Feb – 2 Mar, 2008,

Diederik van der Molen

The Netherlands

The Cabo Verde islands are a volcanic archipelago lying 450-800 Km west of Senegal. The islands are fun for birding. Not because the great numbers of birds or species diversity, but because of several endemics and especially the surprises from other continents. I spent 10 days together with friends Henk, Gonnie and Joop. They are not birders but interested and I had good company and 3 extra pair of eyes. We stayed mainly on San Vicente and San Antão.

Our itinerary was as follows:

21 Feb - Arrival in Sal international airport and walked about 7 km east to the Pedra de Lume saltpans. During the walk I saw several Bar-tailed desert larks, at the pans many waders and back at the airport Alexander’s kestrel. In the evening, I flew to San Vicente and shared a cab to Mindelo (each 500 esc).

22 Feb – Early boat to Porto Novo, Santo Antão. By mistake the yet-boat instead of a slower open boat , so no birdwatching at sea. Santo Antão has a spectacular scenery and is great for walking, if you don’t mind to go up and down. Plenty of “aluguer” (public transport) take you at more or less fixed times everywhere and otherwise there are the more expensive taxi’s, which are mostly the same vehicles at less popular times of the day. I took an aluguer and drove through the mountains to Vila da Ribeira Grande (350 esc), where I met my friends. We continued on to Cruzinha (taxi 3000 esc for the 4 of us), where we stayed two nights in the residencial of Maria Martins above restaurante Sonafish (with great view at the ocean). The same day we walked several hours south-east from the town.

23 Feb – We ordered lobster for the evening and took a taxi (3500 esc) to Ponta do Sol and walked the spectacular 12 km coastal path, hacked out of the massive coastal cliffs, back to Cruzinha.

24 Feb – Taxi back to Vila da Ribeira Grande and we stayed two nights at Pensão Residencial 5 de Julho. We took a taxi into Ribeira da Torre and walked back. We saw one Cape Verde Buzzard.

25 Feb – We walked around 5 hours in the area east of the town, the last hour back along the coast from Sinagoga. Just out of town we saw an unexpected Marsh Harrier and later on 3 Cape Verde Buzzards, including one couple around their nest. Back home, from the roof-terras of the hotel we first counted 60+ Cattle Egrets leaving Ribeira da Torre to a sleeping place. Next, around 23.00h we heard several Shearwaters (species unknown) on their way to the cliffs in the Ribeira.

26 Feb – We took an aluguer to Porto Novo (350 esc each) and a taxi to Norte (4000 esc). This was a hard drive of 2 hours, most of the time on a dirt road. We stayed at Casa Luciana (reservation is necessary!). This area is very dry and there is no electricity except for a generator sometimes, but the people are very friendly. We walked around for several hours.

27 Feb – We walked to the ridge with great views into Ribeira des Patas. We saw 4 Cream-coloured coursers just south of the graveyard and football field and again the next day, but for the rest almost no birds except for sparrows. No CV kite (extinct?) or peregrine falcon.

28 Feb – We took an early taxi (again 4000 esc) back to Porto Novo and this time the right boat. The only bird at sea was a very nearby Madeiran Storm Petrel and 3 Red-Billed Tropicbirds on and around Ilhéu dos Passeros, near Mindelo. We went to the Sewage Ponds and saw many waders and some other birds. According to the staff, the best time to go is in the late afternoon.

29 Feb – A taxi (1000 esc) brought us to Calhau and we walked to Baia das Gatas. Still a great walk, but building companies are planning their houses and hotels here. We saw the Brown Booby 4 times near the coastline, but probably there were only 2 different birds. Two weeks earlier my friends saw a Magnificent Frigatebird on the same walk.

1 March – A taxi (900 esc) brought us to São Pedro. I nice but scary walk to the light house two kilometres west of the town was rewarded with a group of 20 Cape Verde Shearwaters. Afterwards we walked to the airport and flew to Sal and next to Amsterdam.

Birds seen

1.   Cape Verde Shearwater, Calonectris edwardsii - Several near lighthouse west of São Pedro (San Vicente).
2.   Madeiran Storm-petrel, Oceanodroma castro - 1 seen from the boat crossing from Santo Antão to San Vicente.
3.   Red-billed Tropicbird, Phaeton Aethereus – 3 around Ilhéu dos Passeros (San Vicente).
4.   Brown Booby, Sula Leucogaster – 2-4 seen between Calhau and Baia das Gatas (San Vicente).  
5.   Magnificent Frigatebird, Fregata magnificens - 1 seen between Calhau and Baia das Gatas (San Vicente) by my 3 friends in the week before I arrived.
6.   Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis - Widespread.
7.   Little Egret, Egretta garzetta – Several on all visited islands.
8.   Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata - 1 at sewage ponds (San Vicente).
9.   Kite, Milvus spec. – 1 west of São Pedro (San Vicente).
10.  Marsh Harrier, Circus aeruginnosus - 1 south-east from Vila da Ribeira Grande (Santo Antão).
11.  Egyptian Vulture, Neophron percnopterus - 1 at Ribeira Grande (Santo Antão).
12.  Cape Verde Buzzard, Buteo bannermani - 1 at Ribeira da Torre and 3 south-east from Vila da Ribeira Grande (Santo Antão).
13.  Osprey, Pandion haliaetus – Several at Santo Antão.
14.  Alexander's Kestrel, Falco alexandri - 1 at the airport (Sal).
15.  Neglected Kestrel, Falco neglectus – Several on Santo Antão.
16.  Black-winged Stilt, Himantopus himantopus - Several at Pedra de Lume saltpans (Sal).
17.  Cream-coloured Courser, Cursorius cursor - 4 at Norte (Santo Antão).
18.  Ringed Plover, Charadrius hiaticula - Pedra de Lume saltpans (Sal).
19.  Little Ringed Plover, Charadrius dubius – Sewage ponds (San Vicente) and Pedra de Lume saltpans (Sal).
20.  Kentish Plover, Charadrius alexandrinus – Many at sewage ponds (San Vicente).
21.  Grey Plover, Pluvialis squatarola - Sewage ponds (San Vicente).
22.  Sanderling, Calidris alba – Several at Pedra de Lume saltpans (Sal).
23.  Dunlin, Calidris alpina - Sewage ponds (San Vicente).
24.  Little Stint, Calidris minuta - Sewage ponds (San Vicente).
25.  Curlew Sandpiper, Calidris ferruginea - Several at Pedra de Lume saltpans (Sal).
26.  Whimbrel, Numenius phaeopus - Sewage ponds (San Vicente).
27.  Redshank, Tringa totanus - 2 at Pedra de Lume saltpans (Sal).
28.  Greenshank, Tringa nebularia – A few at sewage ponds (San Vicente).
29.  Common Sandpiper, Actitis hypoleucos - Sewage ponds (San Vicente) and Pedra de Lume saltpans (Sal).
30.  Turnstone, Arenaria interpres - Common.
31.  Rock dove, Columba livia – Several on Santo Antão.
32.  Cape Verde Swift, Apus alexandri – Common at Santo Antão and also seen at San Vicente.
33.  Bar-tailed Desert Lark, Ammomanes cincturus - Several east of Espargos, on road to Pedra do Lume (Sal).
34.  Spectacled Warbler, Sylvia conspicillata – Common on Santo Antão, especially around Ribeira Grande.
35.  Blackcap, Sylvia atricapilla - – common on Santo Antão, especially around Ribeira Grande.
36.  Brown-necked Raven, Corvus ruficollis - Common and widespread in Santo Antão.
37.  House Sparrow, Passer domesticus - Mindelo (San Vicente)
38.  Iago Sparrow, Passer iagoensis - Common.
39.  Common waxbill, Estrilda astrild – A flock south-east of Ribeira Grande (Santo Antão).


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