Cape Verde - 8-15 April 2017
At the risk of dominating this smaller corner of the big world that is BF, I am doing a fairly short-notice trip to Cape Verde for a week. Firstly, it's important to note that flight prices are rising exponentially, I booked a good deal to Sal from Manchester with Thomas Cook and there may be still 1-2 available. I am now filling in the gaps regarding travel logistics on the island. It is advantageous to share Cape Verde in particular for overnight trips to seabird islands but most of all as taxi and boat costs can be split. This should be a fairly simple WP to a 'tried and tested' part of the world. This is probably the last year that Frigatebirds may persist in the WP and there is also black heron, intermediate egret, and sooty tern and black-capped petrel seen off Raso last week. Most excitingly, there is a good chance for red-footed booby to be present on Raso given it's successful nesting there last year. April is in many ways a better time to visit than March, with more Boyd's Shearwaters at sea.
8 April - Mancs to Sal Airport. Overnight Sal or get to Boa Vista if a flight permits.
9 April. Boa Vista. Magnificent Frigatebird search around Sal Rei (seen Feb 17) and Curral Velho (most records, 2016). Any rare waders or herons. Black-crowned Sparrow Lark. If possible, overnight on adjacent Ile de Passaros (white-faced storm-petrel; cape verde storm-petrel). O/N Boa Vista or Passaros.
10 April. Morning Boa Vista. Afternoon transfer to Sao Nicolau. Black Heron in Terrafel. Common birds: Iago Sparrow, Cape Verde Swift, Neglected Kestrel (subspecies). Afternoon and evening seawatch - Fea's, Boyd's Shearwater, Cape Verde Shearwater, Bulwer's Petrel. Small chance of Cape Verde Storm-petrel. Evening/night taxi search for Cape Verde Barn Owl (subspecies).
11 April - PELAGIC DAY. Get out to Raso. En-route: chance of Fea's, Boyd's, Cape Verde Shearwater and Cape Verde Storm-petrel. Black-capped Petrel was seen offshore in Mar. Sooty Tern was seen S of Raso in Mar. On Raso itself, endemic Raso Lark, red-billed tropicbird, brown and hopefully red-footed booby. If possible overnight on Branco for petrels, specifically Cape-verde storm-petrel. If no overnight Branco, return for evening seawatches and second search for the owl if required.
12 April. Sao Nicolau/Santiago. Further seawatches then transfer to Santiago. Taxi to north of island for serious hunt over woodland, for Cape Verde Buzzard (IOC, full species). Late afternoon onwards, Barragem de Poillo - Bourne's Heron (will have dispersed from colony, come to drink late afternoon); Intermediate Egret (2+ individuals present), GH Kingfisher, Cape Verde Warbler. Surrounding hillside good just before dark for CV Barn Owl.
13 April. Santiago. Focus on missed species - targets overall on this island are cape verde buzzard, cv warbler, helmeted guineafowl (though possible on Boa Vista and Sao Nicolau). Off Praia Lighthouse good for seawatching in evening, has a particular good record for close in Fea's Petrel and Boyd's Shearwater. Alexander's Kestrel (subspecies). Cape Verde Peregrine - if information comes to light; this is the rarest endemic race/species.
14 April - deliberately left free to allow for eventualities and changes of plan.
15 April. Need to be back on Sal for my departure 15 April evening (20:00) so can spend morning birding, either here or elsewhere. May end up adding day at start on Boa Vista as frigatebird probably the single most time-critical target of the trip, and the Sao Nicolau / Raso pelagics deliver most of the prized species.
If anyone can join for some of the islands, even if not exactly on the same flights, or plans to be there and wants to join forces (which will literally save you, and me, £100s each for pelagics, taxis and overnights), please drop me a line. I realise this one is short-notice but it's also pretty manageable and a lot of the birding on offer is exciting with some really great birds on offer,
Specifically, it's worth pointing out that the most cost-effective time to share on this trip is for the boat trip to Raso and Branco. With a trip to the Il de Passaros (Boa Vista) seemingly off the cards in 2017, you need to get out to spend the night on Branco to have a good chance of encountering endemic Cape Verde Storm-petrel (O.jabejabe) and White-faced Storm-petrel on this trip. You overnight on the island with the usual provisions and sleeping bag. Usually the cost is 600 Euros for the boat, which takes you out one day, and collects you the next, including a 2-3 hour stop on Raso. So the more people who make the trip, the cheaper it becomes. It obviously pays to have as many eyes as possible for the boat journey, where in addition to the black-capped petrel seen in Mar 2017, there is the best chance for feas', cape verde shearwater and boyd's shearwater.
I have visited Cape Verde a number of times to fish, and anyone contemplating going offshore there should be aware that the trade winds blow hard in spring and conditions can be extremely rough, especially in the wind acceleration zones between the islands. The avifauna there seems quite similar to the Canary Islands with some local variations ie. Cape Verde shearwater instead of Coreys. I've not yet seen frigate birds offshore but have seen tropic birds (don't have enough experience to ID to species level) and brown boobies. On land kestrels seem fairly regular and it would be interesting to watch for the local peregrines if you had the time. I've noticed little groups of feral pigeons along the rocky coves when fishing close inshore along the coast on some of the islands - classic prey for this species.
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