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A Report from

Madeira, August 2001,

Steve Smith and Dot Machin


AUGUST 6TH. Flight, from Gatwick to Funchal mid-morning, check in hotel Mimosa, sort out pre-booked hire car, lunch then taxi to Funchal harbour to check out the gulls, late pm birding in Parque de Santa Catarina.

AUGUST 7TH. Drove to Balcoes for Trocaz Pigeon, also birded around the trout farm in the village, where the firecrest was most numerous.

AUGUST 8TH. Drove to Ponta de Sao Lourenco for Bertholot's Pipit, (very easy), also Canical for Spanish Sparrow and waders. Back to hotel for 9.30pm pick up for Pico do Arieiro and Zino's Petrel, successful, back at hotel by 2.30am.

AUGUST 9TH. Boat trip to Ilhas Desertas at 10am, aborted due to rough seas, boat rarely went far offshore, poor sea watching because of this.

AUGUST 10TH, Tried a new boat for sea watching, only an afternoon option available, though it would go at least 3 miles offshore, better birding, though no Fea's Petrel! Evening sea watch from Ponta da Cruz, to the east of Funchal, rewarded with a single distant Fea's Petrel at c8.45pm.

AUGUST 11TH. Managed to get on to a full day boat trip to Ilhas Desertas, on the same boat as yesterday, 'The Ventura Do Mar', with no regular tourists on board, so despite rough seas, she sailed. Rewarded with 7 Fea's Petrels and a probable Madeiran Storm Petrel.

AUGUST 12TH, Drove to Poiso and birded the road to the east for Spectacled Warbler, we saw 2, but the were very elusive, afternoon birding again on Ponta de Sao Lourenco, though no Rock Sparrows were seen.

AUGUST 13TH. Late morning flight back to Gatwick, delayed for 90 minutes, but home in Norwich for 10pm, in time for a couple of well earned beers in 'The Fat Cat'.

The boat we found most sympathetic towards birders was 'The Ventura Do Mar' which operates from Funchal marina. This can be contacted through

JORGE ALVES, at Marina do Funchal, pontao B.
Tel. 963 390 796 or 963 390 797.

Another person to contact, who is recommended by other birders, and leads pelagics for birders is Antero Topp, who can be contacted on

Unfortunately he was in mainland Portugal during our visit.


FEA'S PETREL, 1 from Ponta da Cruz,10th, 7 from the Ventura boat trip to Ilhas Desertas, 11th.

ZINO'S PETREL, 2-3 individuals seen at Pico do Arieiro, 8th/9th. The birds were active from c11.00pm to 12.10am, though they are normally only active for c30 minutes per night as they do a nest change over, but we were blessed with a warm, calm, clear moonlit night. We scanned the sky line around the peaks where we could hear the birds calling, and eventually one flew across my field of view, and I managed to follow it for a few seconds before I lost it against the rock face. A second bird which flew in front of me, briefly illuminated by the moonlight, was too quick for me to focus on, but was very close. Dot also had a bird flying around her head as she rested against a rock, as the bird was presumably looking for its burrow. Paul van Daele, a Belgium birder with us managed to see 2 birds through his 'bins'.

A guide is essential to get you to the right spot at the right time. Our guide was booked through MADEIRA AVENTURA, they can be contacted at       

Caminho de Santo Antonio, 153,
9000-321 Funchal
Tel. (00 351) 964 541 793 or (00 351) 963 709 603.
Fax (00 351) 291 753 038.

This is not a walk to be undertaken people without a good physical fitness or who may be of a nervous nature, though it is stable under foot it does rise, fall and twist somewhat. It may be better undertaken during the cover of darkness as this hides many of the sheer drops! A torch is essential, though they are not to be shined over the breeding ledges, for obvious reasons, and tape recording is also forbidden. All this said, it is a magical experience in an amazing place.

We must also extend our thanks to Paul van Daele for organising the event.

The cost of the trip was 26,000 escudos, divided between the party, plus 3,000 escudos p.p. for park entry.

BULWER'S PETREL,  1(2) off the aborted boat trip,9th, c50 off the afternoon boat trip, with c20 off Ponta da Cruz, 10th, 200+ off the Ilhas Desertas boat trip,11th.

CORY'S SHEAWATER,  200+ 'scoped' from our hotel balcony,6th, 3 off Ponta de Sao Lourenco,8th, c50 off the aborted boat trip,9th, c50 off the afternoon boat trip, with c700 off Ponta da Cruz,10th, <1000 off the Ilhas Desertas boat trip,11th.

LITTLE SHEAWATER,  9 off Ponta da Cruz,10th.

MEDITERRANEAN SHEAWATER,  1 off Ponta da Cruz,10th.

MADEIRAN STORM PETREL,  1 off the Ilhas Desertas boat trip, 11th, not seen very well, but the people who first picked it out when closer to the boat, thought it was this species, and we were off Ponta de Sao Lourenco, where thy breed on the offshore islets.

LITTLE EGRET,  1 in Parque de Santa Catarina,6th, 2 there on the 7th, 1 in Funchal harbour,11th.

COMMON BUZZARD,  1 over Canical,12th, 1 from the motorway north of Funchal,13th.

COMMON KESTREL,  Common throughout, up to 4 seen daily.

TURNSTONE,  2 at Canical,8th, 2 at Ribeira Brava,9th.

EURASIAN WHIMBREL,  1 at Canical,8th.

HERRING GULL,  c40 in Funchal harbour throughout, probably of the race argentatus.

ATLANTIC (HERRING) GULL,  Widespread around the coastal areas visited, usually in pairs, with 1 pair on Deserta Grande.

LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL,  <4 1st years in Funchal harbour throughout.

RING-BILLED GULL,  1 near adult in Funchal harbour,11th.

COMMON TERN,  Common throughout, many with fledged young.

ROSEATE TERN,  1(2) adult off Ribeira Brava,9th.

ROCK DOVE,  Common as a feral bird, though a group of 5 birds on Ponta de Sao Lourenco, may have been wild birds.

TROCAZ PIGEON,  8-10 from the view point at Balcoes.

PLAIN SWIFT,  A very common bird.

BERTHELOT'S PIPIT,  Common on Ponta de Sao Lourenco, also 1 heard east of Poiso,12th.

GREY WAGTAIL,  Common, even in towns and villages.

ROBIN,  Commonly heard in woodland, rather skulking, only seen at Balcoes.

BLACKBIRD,  Widespread.

SPECTACLED WARBLER,  2 in scrubby treeless areas to the east of Poiso, very skulking.

BLACKCAP,  Commonly heard singing, again very skulking, only a few birds seen.

'MADEIRAN' FIRECREST,  Common at Balcoes, seen on the trail to the view point and around the trout farm trails. Many juveniles seen.

SPANISH SPARROW,  A small colony in the large palm tree adjacent to the whale museum at Canical. At least 2 adult males and 4+ females.

'MADEIRAN' CHAFFINCH,  Common at Balcoes, with especially tame birds at the view point. Vocalisation very different from Chaffinches of Western Europe.

CANARY,  Common in small groups throughout the areas we visited, found in all habitats.

GOLDFINCH,  2-3 seen daily around our hotel.

Steve Smith and Dot Machin,
Flat 6, Helen House,
282/3, Southtown Road,
Gt. Yarmouth,
NR31 0JB,
Tel. 01493 600333,

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