4–8 July 2014
The stunningly scenic Portuguese island of Madeira lies some 600km off the coast of Morocco. Several range-restricted seabirds and landbirds are found here, including the endemic Zino’s Petrel, Trocaz Pigeon and Madeira Firecrest. In common with most isolated islands, Madeira has rather few indigenous bird species, so the tour will be low on variety but very high on quality.
Day 1 Flight from London to Funchal and transfer to our four-star hotel near the beach at Machico, where we will stay throughout the tour. After dinner we will head for Pico do Areeiro. In the dark it will take about half an hour to trek in mountainous terrain to a spot close to the breeding area of Zino’s Petrel. This very special bird was thought to be extinct until its rediscovery in 1969. It was formerly considered to be a subspecies of Fea’s Petrel but now has full species status, with an estimated 80 breeding pairs and a total population of only 400 individuals. We will sit quietly to listen for the calls of Zino’s Petrels; if the weather conditions are favourable we should be able to observe the silhouettes of some of the birds.
Day 2 On a morning sea-trip around the eastern end of Madeira we will look for feeding frenzies of seabirds to try to locate Cory’s and Barolo Shearwaters, Bulwer’s and Fea’s Petrels and Madeiran storm-petrel. There is also a chance of finding a vagrant seabird such as Sooty, Great or Cory's (Scopoli’s) Shearwater. Normally these feeding frenzies attract Yellow-legged Gulls and dolphins, including Bottlenose and Spotted Dolphins, and occasionally Sperm, Bryde’s, Sei or Fin Whales are seen. The landscape here is spectacular, revealing the geological formation of this volcanic island. We will return to Caniçal for lunch, after which we will look for Spanish Sparrows and the more difficult Rock Petronias at the eastern tip of the island. We will certainly see Berthelot’s Pipits, Atlantic Canaries, Common Kestrels and Plain Swifts during our search. Heading back to Machico, we will stop at a river mouth to look for introduced Common Waxbills and to see if any vagrant waders are there.
Day 3 Today we will journey to the west side of Madeira, stopping at various places including the Laurel forest in a high valley, for Trocaz Pigeon, Madeira Firecrest and the Madeiran subspecies of Chaffinch, and a coastal area, for Common and Roseate Terns. After lunch we will spend about half an hour seawatching from Porto Moniz following which we will visit the island’s most westerly point for Berthelot’s Pipit, Spectacled Warbler, European Goldfinch and Eurasian Linnet.
Day 4 We will drive to the west side of the island again, but this time to the highest plateau to look for Red-legged Partridge, Common Quail, Common Buzzard, Spectacled Warbler and Pallid Swift. After a picnic lunch we will head back to the hotel, stopping en route at some viewpoints to admire the scenery and to generally bird the area. In the evening we will take another boat trip, this time to look for Cory’s Shearwater, Bulwer’s Petrel, Yellow-legged Gull and Common Tern, whilst Fea’s Petrel is a possibility. We shall also look for whales, dolphins and turtles. At sunset we will return to the coast to listen to calling Cory’s Shearwaters and, hopefully, calling Madeiran storm-petrels as they return to their nests on the sea cliffs.
Day 5 The morning will be spent at leisure or if there is any important land bird species not yet seen we will have the option to look for it again. After lunch we will transfer to the airport and fly back to London.
General Information The climate is generally warm and sunny but it can be cloudy with drizzle in the mountains, so a sun hat is important together with some warm clothing for the mountains and boat journeys. There are no special health requirements. The pace of the tour is generally relaxed with only a limited degree of fitness required with the exception of the night-time mountain walk to look for Zino’s Petrel, which is quite strenuous.
Group Size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 6; maximum group size: 7 with 1 leader, 14 with 2 leaders.