Madeira days four & five
With all target birds secured and the pressure off, Saturday and Sunday proved a relaxing couple of days. Plenty of World Cup action was watched, including England's demolition of Panama on Sunday afternoon, and a fair bit of eating and sleeping also occurred.
A very lazy Saturday morning saw us head for Madeira's north-easterly extremity, Ponta de São Lourenço. Here the habitat is much drier and barren than the rest of the island and we soon found six Rock Sparrows, as well as a handful of Berthelot's Pipits, a couple of Spectacled Warblers and the ubiquitous Plain Swifts. The fish farm offshore occasionally attracts Monk Seals from the small colony on Desertas, but we weren't in luck.
After a bite to eat in Machico, we headed the the south end of the island, where a Monk Seal had been seen recently. Unfortunately there was no sign of it, while the island's only significant freshwater pool held little more than a bunch of rancid Muscovy Ducks and a couple of strange coot species, which remained unidentified. Then it was up into the island's interior, where low cloud had enveloped the peaks and made for a cool, unproductive afternoon. However, Madeiran Orchid was a nice tick, with plenty flowering around Ribeiro Frio. In the evening, we scored good views of a pair of Madeiran Barn Owls (Tyto alba schmitzi) above Machico, before having a few beers in town.
An early start on Sunday saw four of us at Pico do Areiro for sunrise, where the views were quite spectacular. To see where the Zino's Petrels breed in the daytime only enhances the species' aura. To think that one of the rarest birds in the world routinely leaves the sea to ascend 1,800 metres up a mountain each night, simply to breed on the slopes here, is quite amazing. What a bird and what a place. Unfortunately several spikes of the endemic Rock Orchid (Orchis scopularum) were well over, although one still retained a few flowers.
With the conditions much improved from the previous afternoon, we headed down to Ribeiro Frio and spent a couple of hours photographing the abundant Madeiran Firecrests here, with some success. The dark understory and restless nature of the birds made obtaining the perfect shot a challenge, but they were at least very numerous and generally confiding. Even more confident were the Madeiran Chaffinches at the Levada do Balcoes viewpoint, while a single Trocaz Pigeon was seen flying high over Ribeiro Frio as we enjoyed a coffee and cake - all very civilised, particularly given the usual exhaustive nature of my birding trips! We went out for food after the England game, before packing our bags and heading to the airport for the flight home. All in all, a fantastic five days: easy birding, terrific scenery, nice food and great pelagic trips!
A full gallery of images from the trip can be found by clicking here.
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The musings of a wildlife enthusiast, usually armed with his camera.