Birds, Whales and Dolphins
21st – 26th May 2023
Madeira, or the floating garden of the Atlantic Ocean as it is fondly known, lies off the north west coast of Africa in a region known as Macaronesia, just under 250 miles north of the Canary Islands. Although Madeira has become a popular tourist destination, it has thankfully escaped the same development as other islands in the Atlantic Ocean, making it a wonderful destination to visit!
Madeira has many different bioclimates with clear variations between the north and south facing regions, the north facing slopes being lusher and covered in native laurel forests which has earned it the designation as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. With its dramatic extinct volcanic peaks towering above the laurel forests, together with the levada paths that allow easy access into this sub-tropical habitat, we will search for the handful of species that call Madeira home.
The main focus of our tour will be the three pelagic trips that we will embark on, these will all include chumming (throwing bait into the water) which will attract the seabirds and marine mammals, allowing us some very up close and personal views of our main target species, Zino’s Petrel and Desertas (or Fea’s) Petrel. Other seabirds we will encounter at close quarters will include Cory’s Shearwater, Bulwer’s Petrel, Manx Shearwater and with some luck we will see Madeiran Storm Petrel, White-faced Storm Petrel, Wilson’s Storm Petrel and although rare, we will also be hoping to see Barolo Shearwater.
During our pelagics, we also have excellent opportunities of seeing various marine mammals, these include Bottlenose Dolphin, Atlantic Spotted Dolphin, Striped Dolphin, Short-beaked Common Dolphin, Bryde’s Whale, Short-finned Pilot Whale, Sperm Whale and Loggerhead Turtles.
Our itinerary also allows us plenty of time to enjoy some land birding as we go in search of Madeira’s two endemic species, the Madeira Firecrest and Trocaz Pigeon. Other species that await us on Madeira include the island’s distinctively endemic form of Chaffinch and local races of Blackcap, Blackbird, Sparrowhawk and Grey Wagtail. Other birds of note for the tour will include Spectacled Warbler, Pallid Swift, Berthelot’s Pipit, Rock Sparrow, Island Canary, together with European Goldfinch, Common Linnet and Common Waxbill.
On one evening, we will also be lucky enough to visit the Zino’s Petrel colony, located high up on the Pico do Arieiro, this will be a truly memorable experience!
Our tour will start in the pleasant town of Machico, where we will be staying in the same hotel for the duration of the tour, a 15 minute drive from the International Airport. Our pelagic trips will leave from the small harbour, located just a 10 minute walk from our hotel. If time allows, we will take a walk down to the river mouth where we hope to see Grey Wagtail, Canary, Little Egret, Blackcap and maybe Common Waxbill. After dinner at the hotel, we will meet our local guides and head out on what can only be described as a truly memorable experience! We will take a 30 minute drive towards the top of the Pico de Arieiro, Madeira’s third highest peak at 1800 metres, and take a 30 minute walk on mountainous terrain where we will wait for darkness to fall. Shortly afterwards, we should start to hear the ghostly like calls of the Zino’s Petrel, as they return to their colony, with weather conditions permitting, we should also hopefully catch a glimpse of this incredibly rare bird, that up until the late 1960’s was thought to be extinct. Quite incredible to think that this is the only place on earth where these birds breed! We will return to the hotel around 23.30.
After breakfast we will set off for a half days birding in search of our main target land birds, the Madeira Firecrest and Trocaz Pigeon. We will spend the morning birding various habitats around the east and centre of the island where we also hope to see Madeiran Chaffinch, Rock Sparrow, Spectacled Warbler, Berthelot’s Pipit and Island Canary, before returning to our hotel for lunch. At around 15.00 we shall head down to the harbour where we will board our Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat for our first pelagic trip. We will head out for approximately 1.5 hours before we start “chumming” to attract the seabirds and marine mammals. We will drift with the chum slick for approximately 3 hours where we will hopefully obtain our first close up views of Zino’s Petrel, Bulwer’s Petrel, Cory’s Shearwater and Manx Shearwater amongst other species. We will return to the harbour in Machico around 21.30. Sandwiches and snacks will be provided on the boat.
As the pelagic trips can be quite tiring and we return late every evening, mornings will be free to rest or walk the quaint streets of Machico, or go birding along the side of the river down to the river mouth. Lunch will be provided at our hotel and at 15.00 we will head down to the harbour for our second pelagic trip. This afternoon we will head off in a different direction, seeing both Bulwer’s Petrel and Cory’s Shearwater again but we will also be in search of Desertas Petrel, Madeiran Storm Petrel, White-faced Petrel and with a bit of luck both Barolo Shearwater and Wilson’s Storm Petrel that can occur in the area. We will return to the harbour in Machico around 21.30. Sandwiches and snacks will be provided on the boat.
Once again, the morning will be free to rest after yesterdays late return and after lunch at the hotel we will once again head down to the harbour at 15.00 for our third and final pelagic. Our direction of travel this afternoon will be dictated by our success over the last two afternoons and we will spend our time looking for any species that we may have missed over the last couple of afternoons. We will return to the harbour in Machico around 21.30. Once again, sandwiches and snacks will be served on board the boat.
Today we have kept free as due to weather conditions we may have had to postpone one of the pelagics. If all has gone to plan over the last three days, we will spend our day at a relaxing pace, once again birding around the central and eastern part of the island looking for any species we may have missed on the first morning of the tour. We will enjoy a picnic lunch today with dinner being served at the hotel.
Any free time can be sent around Machico prior to returning to the airport for our flights home.
What to expect:
Madeira has a spring like climate year round with temperatures in May ranging between 15 – 20 degrees centigrade during the day and dropping down to around 10 degrees centigrade at night. Please be aware that on the pelagic trips, it can feel much cooler depending upon the conditions, so please come prepared.
On the days that we are birding in the mountains, low cloud and drizzle may well be encountered with the climate being cooler than that of the coast.
A standard level of fitness is required for this tour, with short walks on mainly flat ground. The only exception being the night walk to the Zino’s colony which can be a little demanding.
The boat we will be using for the pelagic trips is an 11 metre Rigid-Hulled Inflatable, it has a deep “V” keel that makes it seaworthy in adverse sea conditions and extremely comfortable as we move quickly towards the best birding spots. It is equipped with shock mitigation seats for all passengers who weigh up to 120kg. The boat meets international safety standards and has all safety equipment onboard including a portable GPS, VHF radio, Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, emergency flares and life vests.
Conditions on the pelagics can vary, but you must be prepared for waves of up to 3 meters and bring with you waterproof clothing (jacket and trousers, NO ponchos) together with trainers or sandals, no heavy boots please. Please also bring a fleece or some extra layers as the journey back to the harbour can be cold in the evening. You must also be aware that wind offers the best conditions for our target seabirds, so there will often be spray coming into the boat, especially on the way out to the chumming spots. If you are bringing a camera with you, please ensure you have a secure waterproof bag to pack it in until we arrive at the chumming position.
As stated above, snacks will be provided on the boat, but please be aware that no dinner will be provided on the pelagic days (due to our late arrival), so please bring some extra snacks if you feel you may need them. No drinks are served on the boat, so please ensure you have sufficient drinks with you for the duration of the pelagic.
There is a portable chemical toilet for ladies use on the boat and a bucket for the men.
You will require a spirit of adventure for this trip, but it is by far the best way to get up close and personal with these stunning seabirds!
LEADER: Andy Foster and local guides
GROUND PRICE: £1425.00 per person. Single supplement: £80.00
GROUP SIZE: Minimum of 6 required to run the tour, maximum group size of 10*
DEPOSIT REQUIRED to secure your place on the tour: £350.00
TOUR STARTS at White Waters Hotel in Machico on the 21st May 2023, time to be confirmed
TOUR ENDS at White Waters Hotel in Machico on the 26th May 2023, time to be confirmed
Included in our tour price:
All birding excursions as outlined in the itinerary with a Serra dos Tucanos Birding Tours leader
Local guides for the pelagic trips and land birding
5 nights accommodation on a twin/double basis at the White Waters Hotel in Machico
All breakfasts from 22nd May through to the 26th May
All lunches from the 22nd May through to the 25th May
Dinner on 21st and 25th May
Not included in our tour price:
International or domestic flights
Return taxi transportation from Madeira airport to our hotel in Machico (approximately a 15 minute drive)
Beverages of any kind
All other meals other than what’s specified above
Personal travel and medical insurance
Tips of any kind
Items of a purely personal nature
*please note that should we not fill the tour with our maximum capacity of 10, then there could be other birders joining us on the pelagic trips.