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Madeira birding - inc. Madeira Wind Birds 3-day pelagic

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Old Wednesday 11th August 2010, 17:23   #1
Steve Dudley
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Madeira birding - inc. Madeira Wind Birds 3-day pelagic

Maderia – 3 – 10 August 2010

A week spent on Madeira around the Maderia Wind Birds Zino’s Pelagic we were booked on 5-7 August (see below).

Flight
EasyJet Stansted to Funchall return for £250 each.

Accommodation
B&B at White Waters Hotel, Machico (on a special rate when we booked via Maderia Wind Birds for their pelagic). A great new hotel in a lovely south coast town just five minutes east of the airport, 15 minutes west of the Maderia Wind Birds mooring at Sa da Piedade (east of Canical, part of the Sao Lourenco peninsular) and easy driving of all the main birding sites. Very comfortable with very friendly staff. Lots of places to eat around the town. Limited street parking (pay and display parking during the day but free from 1900-0800) but made worse for us as there was a food festival on for the whole time we were there – live music until 2am – the place is packed and parking was near impossible because of the crowds! This festival takes place over the first week in August each year – so I strongly advise that you stay elsewhere if you go on any future pelagics run during this week. Saying that, although very noisy it didn’t cause us too many problems as we were so cream-crackered on the pelagic nights after 8+ hours at sea and we returned from one evening land excursion (see below) at around 0030.

Birding
Great! A brief summary as follows:

3 August
Landed lunchtime. After lunch (at a fabulous seaside fish restaurant by Machico beach) afternoon spent walking levadas at Ribeiro Frio. Birds seen inc. Trocaz Pigeon, Madeira Firecrest, Madeira Chaffinch, Plain Swift.


4 August
Scenic drive up to Sao Vicente on the north coast. Birds seen at Sao Vicente inc. Roseate Tern, Trocaz Pigeon, Canary, Grey Wagtail, Plain Swift, Sparrowhawk (subsp. granti).

Afternoon walking levadas around Rabacal and Paul da Serra. Birds inc. Trocaz Pigeon, Madeira Firecrest, Madeira Chaffinch, Plain Swift, Common Kestrel, Common Buzzard (subsp. harterti).

2130 – 0030 – Night-time walk to Zino’s Petrel colony at Pico dos Arieiro with Maderia Wind Birds. No moon, so very dark. About 10 birds heard and a few glimpsed silhouettes of birds flying around.

Maderia Wind Birds Zino’s Petrel night walk (€50). The walk is on a roughly paved track with steps up and down the steep slopes; paving broken/missing in places; handrails in some sections but some broken. Take good walking shoes/boots and headlamp plus a warm jumper. Go at night then revisit during daytime later in the week – you wont believe the walk you did in the dark! We went on a moonless night and saw very little (heard plenty) but I would imagine doing this on a full moon is fantastic and you will get to see the birds flying around. You get collected from your hotel if staying in the Machico area. It’s quite a strenuous walk and Liz struggled with some of the steeper sections, especially on the way back.


5 August
Morning around Machico, birds inc. Grey Wagtail, Common Waxbill, Canary, Blackcap.

Maderia Wind Birds Zino’s Pelagic (€525 for three days)
Three days at sea spending 8-9 hours per day. The boat is a new, open 11m-long deep-keeled RIB with 12 seats (six rows of twin motorcycle-style seats down the middle of the boat) taken up between max. 8 trip participants (with six on our trip we each had a twin seat and staggered our seating so we each had max. viewing).

This trip is not for the faint-hearted! Even in relatively easy conditions (as we had) this is quite a hardcore trip for serious birders. There is no cover on the boat and no real toilet – an unscreened camping toilet is for female/emergency use only on the desk between the crew cockpit and chum buckets. Liz will vouch how difficulty it is trying to use it when bobbing around the open sea with nothing to hold on to. The boat is relatively quick but it is bouncy and your legs and backside take a bit of pounding if its half-decent weather with some wind for the seabirds. But it is seriously great seabirding though. The RIB is crewed by Madeira Wind Birds owners Hugo Romano and Catarina Fagundes (Catarina is a fabulous boat skipper) and their knowledge of the seas and seabirds is excellent. You get collected from your hotel if staying in the Funchal/Machico/Canical areas. Otherwise there is plenty of parking at the marina at Sa da Piedade (east of Canical, part of the Sao Lourenco peninsular).

For a serious birder such as myself this is a 5* trip – the views of seabirds are simply amazing – but then I didn’t need the loo, wasn’t sick and didn’t get wet! Liz would rate it 5* for the birds but 2* for comfort (sorry Hugo and Catarina, but I know you understand). The photo opportunities are also outstanding. I don’t have DSLR and for the first time I really wished I had. My Panasonic Lumix FZ30 just couldn’t cope with the movement of the birds.

You can read Hadoram Shirihai’s review of what he describes as the ‘ultimate WP pelagic’ here. He isn’t wrong! It’s a great trip with stunning views of some of the WP’s rarest seabirds.

Our trip was undertaken with four others – Alan Wilkinson (UK), Lee Gregory (UK), Martin Gottschling and Oli Nussen (both Germany).

1400-2200h. Maderia Wind Birds Zino’s Pelagic day 1
c.12 miles north of Madeira. Wind light Northerly. Eight hours from port to port – two hours out, four hours chumming and two hours return. Birds – Zino’s Petrel 3, Desertas Petrel 2, Zino’s/Desertas Petrel 1, Bulwer’s Petrel (many), Madeira Storm-petrel 1, White-faced Storm-petrel 1, Wilson’s Storm-petrel 2, Cory’s Shearwater (many), Manx Shearwater 1, Great Skua 1, Arctic Tern 1, Grey Phalarope 1, Whimbrel 1, large flock (100+) of probable godwits seen distantly. Plus Flying Fish, Loggerhead Turtle and distant breaching beaked whale sp.


6 August
Morning around Sao Laurenco peninsular (eastern tip), birds inc. Berthelot’s Pipit (too windy to seawatch).

1400-2200h. Maderia Wind Birds Zino’s Pelagic day 2
c.12 miles north of Madeira. Wind light North-westerly. Eight hours from port to port – two hours out, four hours chumming and two hours return. Birds – Zino’s Petrel 1, Desertas Petrel 1, Zino’s/Desertas Petrel 1, Bulwer’s Petrel (many), Madeira Storm-petrel 1, White-faced Storm-petrel 1, Cory’s Shearwater (many), Manx Shearwater 1, Great Skua 1, Long-tailed Skua 1. A much quieter day than yesterday. Plus Short-finned Pilot Whale and Bottle-nosed Dolphin.


7 August
Morning around Machico, birds inc. Grey Wagtail, Common Waxbill, Canary, Blackcap.

1400-2300h. Maderia Wind Birds Zino’s Pelagic day 3
Down to the Desertas Islands and then chumming several miles west of Bugio and c.12 miles south of Madeira. Wind moderate North-westerly. Nine hours from port to port – two hours out, four hours chumming and three hours return (longer return as in to headwind and higher seas than previous days). Birds – Desertas Petrel 4+, Bulwer’s Petrel (many), White-faced Storm-petrel 1, Cory’s Shearwater (many), Manx Shearwater 1, Common Tern 1. Larger numbers of Cory’s and Bulwer’s today so birds always around us in good numbers.


8 August
Morning spent walking around Ribeiro Frio and up to Faja da Nogueira. Birds seen inc. Trocaz Pigeon (many), Madeira Firecrest, Common Buzzard (subsp. harterti), Plain Swift, Pallid Swift.

Afternoon walking around Pico dos Arieiro to see what we did in the dark a few days before – unbelievable! Birds inc. Berthelot’s Pipit, Plain Swift.

Evening seawatching off Garajau only produced Cory’s Shearwaters and distant Bottle-nosed Dolphins.


9 August
A more touristy day spent driving up north to Ponto Moniz and then around the west and centre of the island taking the scenery, birds inc. Whimbrel, Common Buzzard (subsp. harterti), Common Kestrel, Plain Swift, Pallid Swift. The evening spent in Funchal (cable car ride up to Monte) and dinner on the Beatles old yacht (Vagrant) now a restaurant in the harbour.


10 August
Morning flight home.

We didn’t go hell for leather birding but others on the pelagic saw other species we didn't inc. Green-winged Teal, Spectacled Warbler, Rock Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Eleonora’s Falcon (2 birds seen).

Many butterflies seen, especially along the levada walks. Two Emperor dragonflies seen at Rabacal. Flowers simply amazing and scenery stunning.

I will go back with the aim of running an annual trip out there myself in a more comfortable boat for the less hardcore birders! Interested?

Some poor record shots below and in next post (my photos simply snaps with my Panasonic Lumix FZ30 - you should have seen the stunning shots the DSLR guys got!) –
Madeira Wind Birds RIB (photos © Madeira Wind Birds)
White-faced Storm-petrel (3 photos) – my personal highlight
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Last edited by Steve Dudley : Wednesday 11th August 2010 at 17:32.
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Old Wednesday 11th August 2010, 17:28   #2
Steve Dudley
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Some more record shots from the pelagic trip –
Bulwer’s Petrel
Cory’s Shearwater
Desertas Petrel – the only one I got even remotely sharp in frame! Boy they move!
Brown Booby
Long-tailed Skua
Photo of us heading out to Destertas Islands
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Old Wednesday 11th August 2010, 17:34   #3
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And Brown Booby! Presumed to be the same bird recorded on one date in 2009. This was the second date it has been seen in recent weeks in the same place as last year.
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Old Thursday 12th August 2010, 14:01   #4
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Great report - top seabirds, but it sure doesn't look comfortable!

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Old Thursday 12th August 2010, 14:26   #5
Steve Lister
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Thanks for posting this - it has put me off booking the trip.

I would certainly be interested in the same trip in a 'proper' boat.

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Old Thursday 12th August 2010, 18:29   #6
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Good report. I've just been giving some thought to a trip to Madeira next year as I would like a trip to the Desertas Islands.

I won't be travelling on this one however.;-) Guess I'm lacking in an adventurous spirit, but up to 9 hours on a RIB boat has no appeal to me.

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Old Thursday 12th August 2010, 21:45   #7
Steve Dudley
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Madeira Wind Birds run day trip to Grand Desertas on their RIB, and there are other operators running day trips from Funchal using yachts large and small. I'm sure their easy enough to find on Google or you can simply book at the harbour when there. Not sure what your change of seeing Desertas Petrels would be on the latters though. Most of the birds we had came in when we were chumming. We saw a couple well south of the tourist boat routes winging past the boat, but they didn't hang about! Price is around €80 per person.

I did say the 3-day RIB pelagic was hardcore - absolutely brilliant, but a quite hard going, and we had good weather. I don't think Madeira Wind Birds are going to struggle filling the limited number of trips they are running each year (and I do recommend it if you think you can handle the RIB). But there will be a signifiant number of birders who don't want to go on something as 'hard' as this. I'm working on my own Madeira trip for next summer for both seabirds and landbirds so if you're seriously interested then please PM/email me. Slowly but surely Madeira seabirding is opening up to all levels of birding and comfort!
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Old Friday 13th August 2010, 00:32   #8
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Steve is the customer and he only has done one pelagic with us. I am the one you can call 'biased' as being one of Madeira Wind Birds partners.

The reality is simple, we have been doing these pelagics for 3 years with Hadoram Shirihai and tried several boats, sailing, engine, large and small. We had crew quitting, boat breakdown and passenger sickness.

Two reasons for this: the operation was simply, 6 hours sailing, 4 hours chumming and 6 hours back for the same positions. And physics wise: the center of gravity of the boats was above the center of buoyancy.

To solve this the final choice was Oceanodroma (36 feet RIB) because it was engineered for Force 7 conditions, reliable, safe and fast to get to our offshore positions. For stability, the center of gravity of Oceanodroma is below the center of buoyancy.

As my boss Catarina Fagundes (Portugal Windsurf Olympic Athlete) says "No Pain, No Gain".

For the "Hardcore Birdwatcher" we already have the dates of next year.

PS: Steve sorry to say it out loud "I love your Subliminal Message!".
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Old Friday 13th August 2010, 08:55   #9
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Hi Hugo

You know I loved the trip and you know we discussed what customers it would and would not attract. Here you have some of the latter but I already know from emails from friends who have read the above that they're very interested in your trip. And you also know that I intend to come out with you again next year! Shame I cant make it the spring (my spring is spent on Lesvos) so it will be Jul/Aug again.

See you next week!
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Old Friday 13th August 2010, 09:20   #10
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Hi Steve, Hugo,

How easy is it to take photographs. Can you actually stand up in it and if so how stable is it? Its good to note that the numbers are restricted to 8. I would, having paid that sort of money, be dissapointed if my viewing was restricted and I couldnt comfortably watch two sides of the boat without someone elses head in the way, or being in someone else's personal space. (on the other hand if it were a lot cheaper, fully booked and viewing was restricted then I guess you would say, ok fair enough.) Did you see anything on the 6hr each way travel?

I can understand Hugo's compromise on the rib - getting out to the far side of Madeira takes either speed (rib type) or time (comfort). I visited Madeira a few years ago on the Ventura and it was excellent, sleeping overnight at the seabird colony on Bugio. It was also relatively comfortable, with space (four paying birders on board), options to view and toilet facilities. It was at the same time frustraighting that we couldnt get to other areas such as north Madeira and the far side of Bugio where the island shelf drops off, and where it now seems to have been proven that you do have more chance of intercepting the smaller storm petrels, and ofcourse Zino's. Its a slow boat and we just played it safe, like everyone else, and went where the seabirds are known on their standard overnight trip.

I think it is great that the opportunity has opened for birders to get to the better seabird areas around Madeira and MWB should definately be thanked for providing an option to get where the action appears to be at its best. Reading Steve's report he is also putting this point across. Sorry Hugo, personally I cannot justify the expense of the trip at present, I suppose it is that cost because that is the only, or most attractive, financially viable option. And fair enough. It is something I will continue to look into though. And the rib 'comfort' wouldnt necessarily put me off. Inability to move resulting in reducing viewing opportunities perhaps would.

Thanks very much for posting the trip report.

BTW Steve, if you were to buy yourself a fast luxury cruiser and hire it out for birders at a discount rate I (and others) would no doubt naturally be interested. Grilled fish, a few beers and Zinos, why not - we did it with Desertas Petrels.

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Old Friday 13th August 2010, 09:39   #11
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Hi Gareth

For the first time ever I wished I had DSLR gear and am now looking to invest. When the boat is stopped and chumming standing wasn't a problem and the other four guys were all snapping away like billeo. I saw their images on camera screen and some are outstanding. One of the real benefits here of the RIB is the motorcycle-like seats which you straddle which allows you much greater stability than standing without support. When calm you don't even need this, free-standing is fine. So yes, as long as the weather/waves/swell allows, then the Madeira Wind Birds trip offers fantastic photo opportunities. If any of the guys post their photos online anywhere I'll stick a link on this thread to them.

As far as restricted viewing, MWB limit the number of participants to eight to avoid this. We had six of us on board and it was great. OK, another couple would have limited things slightly, but we all saw all the birds well.

I dont know about the previous MWB six-hours outward/inward journeys, but at speed we were seeing things both ways. We stopped for any Zino's/Desertas Petrels and any of the stormies, but usually these birds tanked straight past us. It was once we had the chum out we got birds to stick. On one day going out we came across one Desertas sat on the sea amongst Cory's which was great.

Quote:
BTW Steve, if you were to buy yourself a fast luxury cruiser and hire it out for birders at a discount rate I (and others) would no doubt naturally be interested. Grilled fish, a few beers and Zinos, why not - we did it with Desertas Petrels.
Already been on to the bank manager Gareth - computer says no!
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Old Friday 13th August 2010, 10:31   #12
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Originally Posted by Steve Dudley View Post
Hi Gareth

For the first time ever I wished I had DSLR gear and am now looking to invest. When the boat is stopped and chumming standing wasn't a problem and the other four guys were all snapping away like billeo. I saw their images on camera screen and some are outstanding. One of the real benefits here of the RIB is the motorcycle-like seats which you straddle which allows you much greater stability than standing without support. When calm you don't even need this, free-standing is fine. So yes, as long as the weather/waves/swell allows, then the Madeira Wind Birds trip offers fantastic photo opportunities. If any of the guys post their photos online anywhere I'll stick a link on this thread to them.

As far as restricted viewing, MWB limit the number of participants to eight to avoid this. We had six of us on board and it was great. OK, another couple would have limited things slightly, but we all saw all the birds well.

I dont know about the previous MWB six-hours outward/inward journeys, but at speed we were seeing things both ways. We stopped for any Zino's/Desertas Petrels and any of the stormies, but usually these birds tanked straight past us. It was once we had the chum out we got birds to stick. On one day going out we came across one Desertas sat on the sea amongst Cory's which was great.

Thanks for the reply, all positive. Especially good to hear that you do see stuff on the journey too and from, despite the speed. My only previous experince with a rib, birding, is the trip out to Grassholm, where you career past auks and manxies to get to the destination!

I guess also, the trip out and back, with luck could produce other goodies. We saw Brides Whale and Monk Seal from that stretch heading from Funchal harbour hugging the Madeiran coast. I think we were very lucky with the monk seal, but the whales seem to occur very close to Madeira on this stretch.

It would be nice to revisit sometime...

cheers
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Old Friday 13th August 2010, 11:09   #13
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There was a Monk Seal around Funchal whilst we were there but we didnt see it when we searched. I hoped to see them on our Desertas day but didnt. We had Bottle-nosed Dolphins on two days and a beaked whale sp breaching in the distance. I know MWB do dedicated whale and dolphin trips around the island too.
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Old Friday 13th August 2010, 11:13   #14
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Sounds great, Steve. Took a trip to Deserta Grande on the Ventura do Mar in 2004, but now very tempted to visit Madeira again and try the MWB experience.

Incidentally, interesting to see a BOURC man referring to Desertas Petrel. Likely to be on BOURC-TSC's agenda any time soon...?

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Old Friday 13th August 2010, 11:21   #15
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Quote:
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Incidentally, interesting to see a BOURC man referring to Desertas Petrel. Likely to be on BOURC-TSC's agenda any time soon...?
I seemed to be the only one there doing so! So what do I know? I had spent the entire flight out re-reading the Shirihai et al Birding World article which was not only timely in its appearance for the trip, was obviously a great and very useful reference. Anyone visiting the island should ensure they read this essential paper.

I'm glad that Fea's isnt there too, as having the 'middle' form present would have made it much more challenging than it already is. And I was glad I was on a boat and watching these petrels at sea at close quarters in good weather!

The MWB pelagic is superb and I'm sure you'd love it Richard. With dates already posted for 2011 I'm already eyeing repeat trip next year if I can.
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Old Monday 16th August 2010, 15:59   #16
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I was lucky enough to be on a 'Zino's pelagic' earlier this year when we saw a Swinhoe's Storm-petrel. Wow! The whole experience was amazing. Thirty or more British Stormies, two Wilson's, five White-faced etc etc. We spent all afternoon chumming SW of Bugio, then came back in the dark. The sea conditions were very calm in the afternoon. The sea was like glass during the chumming. Nirvana. Then came the journey home. Caterina must be the toughest women I have even met. Two hours on a rollercoaster with seawater being thrown at you every few second for two hours is not everyones idea of fun, but if you can possibly stomache it then it should not put you off. I found it pretty tough, but the birds we had just seen gave me such a buzz that it easily saw me through those two hours.

I doubt that any other company will be able to reproduce the experience. The quality of chum, the knowledge of where to go, the intimate encounters with birds so close to the RIB you could almost touch them.

I would also recommend that if you get a chance you should visit Deserta Grande overnight. I went overnight with the Ventura do Mar a few days later. The noise of the Cory's, the Bulwer's crashing into you and shuffling to their nests, the Madeiran Stormies squeeking away, flying around you head like bats. Awesome.

It is not an either/or. Do both.
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Old Tuesday 17th August 2010, 00:28   #17
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Sorry, this a quick note for all the birdwatchers interested in Zino's Petrel.
Due to fires in Madeira non-native forest, the Zino's Petrel colony was burnt as well, killing a lot of chicks.

Extremely sad news...

The night land trip is now suspended until further notice, possibly it will not run until 2011.

The only great news is that Zino's are not gone, today on a Zino's Petrel Pelagic we saw 4 birds. And we believe that these birds will return in the next years to its colony.
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Old Tuesday 17th August 2010, 08:17   #18
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Sorry, this a quick note for all the birdwatchers interested in Zino's Petrel.
Due to fires in Madeira non-native forest, the Zino's Petrel colony was burnt as well, killing a lot of chicks.
Hugo, this is terrible news. Do you know how many of the nests/chicks have been lost. Not all of them I hope.

I think everyone will understand that the night-time visits to the colony area have to be suspended. But when they resume, I highly recommend the experience. Like any night-time visit to a seabird colony, its well worth the experience and then going back in the daytime to see the route you walked at night - you wont believe your eyes!
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Old Tuesday 17th August 2010, 09:06   #19
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Pico do Arieiro

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Originally Posted by Steve Dudley View Post
Hugo, this is terrible news.

...going back in the daytime to see the route you walked at night - you wont believe your eyes!
Bad news indeed - let's hope that the long-term impacts are limited.

Concerning the nighttime visits: Although my wife and I usually enjoy hill/mountain walking, we reluctantly aborted a (daytime) hike from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo after suffering severe vertigo - our legs had turned to jelly and we ended up almost crawling back on hands and knees! But visiting the Zino's breeding area at night many years later, we were surprisingly unperturbed despite being acutely aware of the vertiginous drops alongside the path. What you can't see...

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Old Sunday 22nd August 2010, 20:44   #20
StuartReeves
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There are some stunning photos from a Madeira Wind Birds pelagic on Kjetil Schjølberg's blog. In particular, this shot is utterly gripping!
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Old Sunday 22nd August 2010, 21:26   #21
Allen S. Moore
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Thank you for posting this thread and those amazing photographs. I had family holidays in Madeira back in the springs of 1997 and 1998. It is always good to read of developments in birdwatching there, as I thought in the 1990s that it was under-rated as an ornithological destination. Not so now! Good luck to Hugo and colleagues.

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Old Wednesday 25th August 2010, 13:25   #22
MarkHows
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Lister View Post
I would certainly be interested in the same trip in a 'proper' boat.

Steve
Me to

And a trip to see the seals would be popular as well

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Old Wednesday 25th August 2010, 13:35   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Dudley View Post
...
I will go back with the aim of running an annual trip out there myself in a more comfortable boat for the less hardcore birders! Interested?
Hey Steve,
thought you might be interested to know about the website I work for, which is specifically for creating free listings for trips like the one you've mentioned. It's called Ooh.com - hope it's of some use. Funnily enough the Madeira Wind Birds folks are already listed on our site.

Thank you for the fantastic trip report - very detailed and insightful.

Best,

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Old Thursday 26th August 2010, 14:37   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hugo Romano View Post
Sorry, this a quick note for all the birdwatchers interested in Zino's Petrel.
Due to fires in Madeira non-native forest, the Zino's Petrel colony was burnt as well, killing a lot of chicks.
Extremely sad news...
More news here:
http://www.birdlife.org/news/news/20...-disaster.html

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