Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Madeira 2016

There's nothing like a regular blog - and this is nothing like a regular blog. Unless you call once a year regular.

However, I've just had my first break in three years and I'm celebrating. Admittedly, it wasn't actually a birdwatching holiday as such, but there were birds, so I watched them - when I could. If you're looking for exciting birds - like Petrels, for example - look away now. I didn't see any. Or not knowingly anyway. Petrels, as I'm sure you know, tend to be out at sea a lot, and I hate boats, so...

However, the island is incredibly beautiful, and though there aren't that many birds - seriously, I see more in my garden at home - they are still worth watching. And the background to them is magnificent.

The dominant bird at low levels, away from the coast, seems to be the Blackbird. According to my guidebook, the one on Madeira is a subspecies endemic to Macaronesia - and I am in no position to argue. In fact, my guidebook says this of practically every bird you can see there which you think you recognise from England.

This one was in the hotel gardens, where there were also plenty of Blackcaps and Canaries. (I know, if you spot a canary in the garden at home there'll be an owner not far behind frantically looking for it - so great to see them flying wild and free.) :

Along the coast, there are plenty of Rock Doves, mainly feral, and gulls and terns. The terns wheeled around the harbour and cliffs and I couldn't get a close view or shot, but they appeared to be Common Terns (though other Terns are available) :

Also not sure about the gulls, but the one pictured has yellow legs and is the spitting image of the one in the guidebook, so I'm going with Yellow-legged Gull (subspecies endemic...)

Up in the hills (mountains), there was less to see than I had expected. I saw one Buzzard, but otherwise all I could see were Chaffinches, which, as you'd expect, hung around anywhere where tourists stopped to have a snack.

I also saw Swifts (Plain Swifts endemic...), Grey Wagtails (subspecies endemic...) and the odd feral Muscovy Duck!

The hotel kept a Harris Hawk - very tame - supposedly to scare birds away. Poor thing was terrified one day when it was allowed to fly and two wild Kestrels mobbed it for nearly an hour. It sat on the roof for a while getting really flustered, and then it took refuge in one of the hotel balconies and refused to fly back to its handler until the kestrels went away. Needless to say, no other bird was taking any notice of it.

As well as the birds, there were some beautiful butterflies, which I singularly failed to get a shot of, and loads of lizards.

At the right time of year, and with the courage to go out on the boats, or just prepared - and fit enough - to walk more inland, there are lots more birds to be found here which you may not see anywhere else. It's a truly wonderful island - sunny, friendly, colourful and safe. Birdwatcher or not, I recommend it.