Anser Birding Madeira 13-18 July 2009 trip report

Madeira and Desertas Islands Tour July 2009

A full gallery of the wildlife and other images from this trip on the link below, we are taking bookings for 2010 right now!

Fea’s Petrel at sea (next eight), Madeira, M.J.McGill

July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 243

July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 287

July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 240

July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 239

July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 231 July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 219 July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 230

July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 226

Bulwer’s Petrels at sea, Madeira, M.J.McGill

July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 448

July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 431

July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 447


July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 382

Trocaz Pigeon near Funchal by Theresa Stone

Trocaz Pigeon 2 by Theresa Stone

Trocaz Pigeon, M.J.McGill

Madeira and WWT July 2009  MJMcGill 025

Canary, Deserta Grande MJM

Madeira and WWT July 2009  MJMcGill 002

Juvenile Canary, Deserta Grande MJM

Madeira and WWT July 2009  MJMcGill 009

Nesting Bulwer’s Petrel, Deserta Grande MJM

Madeira and WWT July 2009  MJMcGill 015

Eclipse Eurasian or American Green winged Teal

July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 045 


This five night tour was designed to take in all the endemic birds, to spend quality time with the seabirds and yet still allow time to rest up and take in the ‘floating garden’ Island of Madeira. We were a group of seven staying in the narrow streets of Funchal. We visited Pico de Areeiro around midnight for the returning Zino’s Petrels, sailed to the Desertas Islands and stayed the night, did a full tour of the island and went out on an evening pelagic. More time was spent birding inand around Funchal and on the drier eastern tip. Some of the group spent time exploring the capital on foot which is easily done. The gardens and parks are very well kept and Funchal is a very stylish town. It is possible to swim in the warm clear blue waters and dry off quickly in the hot sun. There are many shops, cafes and bars and a very friendly atmosphere, the locals are very helpful. Overall it is a very impressive destination suitable for everyone and offers plenty to do for those not sailing out to islands for seabirds and cetaceans.

The wildlife list….


Cory’s Shearwater Calonectris diomedea boralisseen in their hundreds in rafts and making movments to breeding sites. Hearing them calling through the night on Deserta Grande was a fine experience but did keep some of those sleeping on deck awake. We watched them from the mainland as well as on the pelagics. Often gave away the presence of cetaceans by their gatherings. MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES.
Fea’s Petrel Pterodroma feae- about 15 individuals noted on the way out to Deserta Grande. Some excellent views had as they soared past or around the boat. Two seen on the return journey but much calmer less windy conditions. Ideal for seabirds on the way out and better for cetaceans on the way back. MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SPECIES
Zino’s Petrel Pterodroma madeira- a fine time was had by all leaving our accommodation at 9.00pm and arriving at Pico de Areeiro (1800m) for an amazingly evocative and much photographed sunset below. A 20-30 minute walk carefully guided by torchlight along a constructed path got us in position atop the mountain ridge. A regular route for our guide and many birders over recent years but still a very personal and memorable experience for everyone involved unfolded. Some of the 70-80 pairs of  Zino’s Petrels in the world began flying in around 1130, their distinctive calls were ringing around our heads, it was clear, starlit above with shooting stars, satellites and hot tea and biscuits as further distractions. We strained our eyes against the wispy clouds that were below occasionaly blowing up and over our ridge past us. We could just about pick out the movement of them flying past at speed in silouhette, after many passes two birds flew in low and stalled, legs down just above our heads giving more views in what light we had. A marvellous event, everyone got back to the bus tired but slightly blown away by what we had just seen and heard. MADEIRA ENDEMIC SPECIES
Manx Shearwater-Andy Jayne picked one up heading west in Funchal Bay during our seawatch. They breed in the valley above Funchal but seem to have largely departed.
Bulwer’s Petrel-seen in numbers, individuals and pairs seen on the crossing to Deserta Grande, perhaps 14 noted. Breeding birds seen on the nest on the island and flying in at dusk and around the boat through the night. About 40 seen on the return trip with rafts of 8, 6, and two lots of 2 seen on the water. Fed around cetaceans in small gatherings of 4-10 birds. c 75 seen in Funchal Bay on the seawatch and c40 seen from the evening pelagic.
Madeiran Storm Petrel-mostly heard from the boat whilst we stayed anchored off Deserta Grande but white rumps seen during the night and the different silouhette from Bulwer’s picked out in torch and moonlight. MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SPECIES.
Squacco Heron-AJ spotted one flying across the bay at Machico on 18th, not bad whilst he was waiting for his pizza. It landed on the cliff and hid in vegetation.
Little Egret-singles seen in Funchal and Deserta Grande.
Grey Heron-one seen above the cliffs on the sout side of the island.
American/European Green-winged Teal– an eclipse male was at Ribeiro de Janela.
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo harterti-seen on Deserta Grande and a pair above the sea-cliffs on the south side of Madiera.MADEIRA  ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES
Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus granti– MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES Two seen over Funchal, one on 13th and one 18th.
KestrelFalco tinnuculus canariensis- seen every day. MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES.
Quail Coturnix coturnix confisa-one heard at 1800m at Pico de Areeiro on 13th.MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES.
Moorhen and Coot– both breeding at Ribeira de Janela.
Atlantic Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinaans atlantis-common around the islands with Funchal Harbour attracting large numbers. MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES.
Common Tern-c30 about Funchal Harbour-the cape and also noted around Deserta Grande with juveniles.
Trocaz Pigeon Columba trocaz– 4-6 seen well at a site near Seixal, one seen from the top of the cable car route by Chris and Theresa on 18th. MADEIRA ENDEMIC SPECIES.
Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon-seen around the coasts.
Barn Owl Tyto alba shmitzi-one heard at 1800m at Pico de Areeiro on 13th. MADEIRA ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES.
Plain Swift-seen in large numbers around the island and town. MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SPECIES.
Pallid Swift-seen well above the southern cliffs and Funchal.
Berthelot’s Pipit-seen well on the plain on top of the island, at the western tip and on Deserta Grande where especially tame. MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SPECIES.
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea shmitzi-seen commonly on streams and hoses around Funchal where it also had fledged young. MADEIRA ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES.
Robin-seen around Madeira on 15th especially and heard singing.
BlackbirdTurdus merula cabrerae-seen commonly about the island. MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES.
BlackcapSylvia atracapilla heineken/obscura-seen and heard about the gardens and parks. Unfortunatley we did not see the dark-hooded heineken but heard the latter regularly, the song being slightly different to ours. MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES.
Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata orbitalis-heard on the plain/scrub on top of the island. MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES.
Madeiran Firecrest Regulus madeirensis-seen well in a number of locations with perhaps a pair with feeding young in 400 year old laurels being the way to see them. MADEIRA ENDEMIC SPECIES.
Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia madeirensis-a pair feeding two young at Canical on 18th was the last new bird of the trip. MADEIRA ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES.
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs madeirensis– seen in the forests and plantations. MADEIRA ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES.
GoldfinchCarduelis carduelis parva-a few seen about Funchal. MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES.
Canary Serinus canaria– very confiding on Deserta Grande coming to water. MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SPECIES.
Common Waxbill-seen in small flocks at Machico stream bed and Ribeiro de Janela.

Other Captives

Mute Swans were in the parks, a pinioned Mandarin in Funchal Harbour stream and a Budgie was noted in Funchal.


Bryde’s Whale-seen feeding and surfacing off Deserta Grande on 15 July, very memorable and maybe the highlight of the trip.
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin– a pod of c40 were bow-riding the Ventura do Mar as we left Deserta Grande on the 15 July 2009. A variety of ages were seen to a few feet in crystal clear waters. Another pod of c20 came in and followed us on the evening pelagic  in Funchal Bay on 17 July.
Blainville’s Beaked Whale-two seen from the Ventura do Mar on the way back from Deserta Grande and two more/same noted from a seawatch near Funchal the same evening on 15 July.
Short-finned Pilot Whale-a large pod of c30 animals gave close and prolonged views in Funchal Bay on 15 July.
Bottle-nosed Dolphin– a pod were seen among the Pilot Whales on 15 July.


Madeiran Speckled Wood, Bath White, Long-tailed Blue, Monarch, Small Copper and Grayling were the highlights. Three Scarce Blue-tailed Damsleflies were seen in the streambed at Machico, a few Hawker sp maybe Southern Migrant were seen and a Southern Hawker type was seen in Funchal.


A wonderful variety of colourful fish species were seen whilst snorkelling off Deserta Grande but the highlight for all was the single and then four Flying Fish from the evening pelagic on 17 July. A Cory’s Shearwater was seen to chase the last of them. A swarm of Jellyfish were seen off Deserta Grande.

Most of the group saw Black Scabbard with Banana on their plate in the restuarant.


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