Birds act like Spring is already here but regarding temperatures and general weather it is still winter in Madeira. In April due to the snow in the first weeks and then strong winds and heavy rains into the end of the month we were unable to run a Zino’s Night Expedition (hey, safety above all!) but on the 3rd of May we finally made it and, despite the still strong and very cold wind up in the mountains we were able to hear more than 500 calls and see more than 14 silhouettes of this rare endemism of Madeira: Zino's Petrel! Now lets see which species May will bring to Madeira, with special interest in the pelagic birds as Wind Birds' Zino's Petrel Pelagic Expedition are just about to start!
April started colder this year although while birdwatching one can already spot Spring behaviours in wildlife... A pair of Common Moorhen in Machico already has 4 chicks and Atlantic Canaries were observed carrying nesting material... Now we need some Eastern winds to blow some vagrant bird species into the island.
On the 17th of March 2016 Wind Birds run a pelagic day with a few participants on the 30th Annual Conference of the European Cetacean Society. We knew it was too early for Petrels so the aim was to try to see Madeiran storm petrel, White-faced storm petrel and research which seabird and cetacean species would be around by this time of the year. The wind conditions did not help, it was a very light breeze (less than 6 knots) from South, which is a quite rare direction in Madeira... So the observations during this 7 hour pelagic with 3 hours of chum were:
March is that month when birds' songs and their flight displays start to fill the air... Going out for birdwatching might end up with a rare vagrant bird that was blown out of its migration route and found by this little bit of land surrounded by ocean!
31st March at Ribeira Brava
2 Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica
5 Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
8 Common House Martin Delichon urbicum
5 Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
At Lugar de Baixo
Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla
2 Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
Madeira Archipelago offers good conditions to birdwatchers, not only in terms of breeding birds but also vagrant bird species. Though there are only 47 breeding species to these islands, about half of them are endemic species or subspecies to Madeira or to Macaronesia region (Madeira, Azores and Canary Islands).
Madeira has three endemic species: Trocaz Pigeon Columba trocaz which is associated with the native forest of Madeira: the Laurel Forest; Madeira Firecrest Regulus madeirensis, normally observed on forested areas and the rare Zino's Petrel Pterodroma madeira, a threatened seabird that nests on the highest mountains of Madeira. Regarding the Macaronesia bird species, one may observe Fea's/Desertas Petrel Pterodroma feae/deserta, Madeiran Storm-petrel Oceanodroma castro, Atlantic Canary Serinus canaria, Berthelot's Pipit Anthus berthelotti and the Plain Swift Apus unicolor.
One interesting feature of birding in Madeira is the high number of endemic subspecies from which the ornithological highlights go to the bluish Madeiran Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs maderensis and the darker colours of Barn Owl Tyto alba schmitzi and Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea schmitzi.
However, seabirds are the major attraction for birdwatchers because there are several colonies of world importance. In Madeira archipelago one may find 8 breeding seabirds species namely the rare Pterodromas (P. feae and P. madeira), Barolo's Shearwater Puffinus baroli, Madeiran Storm-petrel Oceanodroma castro and White-faced Storm Petrel Pelagodroma marina hypoleuca. This last species being confined to breed in Selvagens Islands but observed offshore on Wind Birds' Pelagic Expeditions.
A pelagic trip on Madeira or seawatching from the coast gives you also the chance to observe some vagrant birds like Great Shearwater Puffinus gravis, Great Skua Stercorarius skua, Wilson's Storm-petrel Oceanites oceanicus or European Storm-petrel Hydrobates pelagicus, between others;
Join one of Wind Birds tours and you will see not only Madeira birds but also amazing landscapes which are out of the common tourist routes!