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Anser Birding Madeira 13-18 July 2009 trip report

Madeira and Desertas Islands Tour July 2009

A full gallery of the wildlife and other images from this trip on the link below, we are taking bookings for 2010 right now!

Fea’s Petrel at sea (next eight), Madeira, M.J.McGill

July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 243

July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 287

July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 240

July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 239

July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 231 July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 219 July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 230

July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 226

Bulwer’s Petrels at sea, Madeira, M.J.McGill

July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 448

July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 431

July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 447


July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 382

Trocaz Pigeon near Funchal by Theresa Stone

Trocaz Pigeon 2 by Theresa Stone

Trocaz Pigeon, M.J.McGill

Madeira and WWT July 2009  MJMcGill 025

Canary, Deserta Grande MJM

Madeira and WWT July 2009  MJMcGill 002

Juvenile Canary, Deserta Grande MJM

Madeira and WWT July 2009  MJMcGill 009

Nesting Bulwer’s Petrel, Deserta Grande MJM

Madeira and WWT July 2009  MJMcGill 015

Eclipse Eurasian or American Green winged Teal

July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 045 


This five night tour was designed to take in all the endemic birds, to spend quality time with the seabirds and yet still allow time to rest up and take in the ‘floating garden’ Island of Madeira. We were a group of seven staying in the narrow streets of Funchal. We visited Pico de Areeiro around midnight for the returning Zino’s Petrels, sailed to the Desertas Islands and stayed the night, did a full tour of the island and went out on an evening pelagic. More time was spent birding inand around Funchal and on the drier eastern tip. Some of the group spent time exploring the capital on foot which is easily done. The gardens and parks are very well kept and Funchal is a very stylish town. It is possible to swim in the warm clear blue waters and dry off quickly in the hot sun. There are many shops, cafes and bars and a very friendly atmosphere, the locals are very helpful. Overall it is a very impressive destination suitable for everyone and offers plenty to do for those not sailing out to islands for seabirds and cetaceans.

The wildlife list….


Cory’s Shearwater Calonectris diomedea boralis-seen in their hundreds in rafts and making movments to breeding sites. Hearing them calling through the night on Deserta Grande was a fine experience but did keep some of those sleeping on deck awake. We watched them from the mainland as well as on the pelagics. Often gave away the presence of cetaceans by their gatherings. MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES.
Fea’s Petrel Pterodroma feae- about 15 individuals noted on the way out to Deserta Grande. Some excellent views had as they soared past or around the boat. Two seen on the return journey but much calmer less windy conditions. Ideal for seabirds on the way out and better for cetaceans on the way back. MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SPECIES
Zino’s Petrel Pterodroma madeira- a fine time was had by all leaving our accommodation at 9.00pm and arriving at Pico de Areeiro (1800m) for an amazingly evocative and much photographed sunset below. A 20-30 minute walk carefully guided by torchlight along a constructed path got us in position atop the mountain ridge. A regular route for our guide and many birders over recent years but still a very personal and memorable experience for everyone involved unfolded. Some of the 70-80 pairs of  Zino’s Petrels in the world began flying in around 1130, their distinctive calls were ringing around our heads, it was clear, starlit above with shooting stars, satellites and hot tea and biscuits as further distractions. We strained our eyes against the wispy clouds that were below occasionaly blowing up and over our ridge past us. We could just about pick out the movement of them flying past at speed in silouhette, after many passes two birds flew in low and stalled, legs down just above our heads giving more views in what light we had. A marvellous event, everyone got back to the bus tired but slightly blown away by what we had just seen and heard. MADEIRA ENDEMIC SPECIES
Manx Shearwater-Andy Jayne picked one up heading west in Funchal Bay during our seawatch. They breed in the valley above Funchal but seem to have largely departed.
Bulwer’s Petrel-seen in numbers, individuals and pairs seen on the crossing to Deserta Grande, perhaps 14 noted. Breeding birds seen on the nest on the island and flying in at dusk and around the boat through the night. About 40 seen on the return trip with rafts of 8, 6, and two lots of 2 seen on the water. Fed around cetaceans in small gatherings of 4-10 birds. c 75 seen in Funchal Bay on the seawatch and c40 seen from the evening pelagic.
Madeiran Storm Petrel-mostly heard from the boat whilst we stayed anchored off Deserta Grande but white rumps seen during the night and the different silouhette from Bulwer’s picked out in torch and moonlight. MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SPECIES.
Squacco Heron-AJ spotted one flying across the bay at Machico on 18th, not bad whilst he was waiting for his pizza. It landed on the cliff and hid in vegetation.
Little Egret-singles seen in Funchal and Deserta Grande.
Grey Heron-one seen above the cliffs on the sout side of the island.
American/European Green-winged Teal- an eclipse male was at Ribeiro de Janela.
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo harterti-seen on Deserta Grande and a pair above the sea-cliffs on the south side of Madiera.MADEIRA  ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES
Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus granti- MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES Two seen over Funchal, one on 13th and one 18th.
Kestrel- Falco tinnuculus canariensis- seen every day. MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES.
Quail Coturnix coturnix confisa-one heard at 1800m at Pico de Areeiro on 13th.MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES.
Moorhen and Coot- both breeding at Ribeira de Janela.
Atlantic Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinaans atlantis-common around the islands with Funchal Harbour attracting large numbers. MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES.
Common Tern-c30 about Funchal Harbour-the cape and also noted around Deserta Grande with juveniles.
Trocaz Pigeon Columba trocaz- 4-6 seen well at a site near Seixal, one seen from the top of the cable car route by Chris and Theresa on 18th. MADEIRA ENDEMIC SPECIES.
Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon-seen around the coasts.
Barn Owl Tyto alba shmitzi--one heard at 1800m at Pico de Areeiro on 13th. MADEIRA ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES.
Plain Swift-seen in large numbers around the island and town. MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SPECIES.
Pallid Swift-seen well above the southern cliffs and Funchal.
Berthelot’s Pipit-seen well on the plain on top of the island, at the western tip and on Deserta Grande where especially tame. MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SPECIES.
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea shmitzi-seen commonly on streams and hoses around Funchal where it also had fledged young. MADEIRA ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES.
Robin-seen around Madeira on 15th especially and heard singing.
Blackbird-Turdus merula cabrerae-seen commonly about the island. MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES.
Blackcap-Sylvia atracapilla heineken/obscura-seen and heard about the gardens and parks. Unfortunatley we did not see the dark-hooded heineken but heard the latter regularly, the song being slightly different to ours. MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES.
Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata orbitalis-heard on the plain/scrub on top of the island. MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES.
Madeiran Firecrest Regulus madeirensis-seen well in a number of locations with perhaps a pair with feeding young in 400 year old laurels being the way to see them. MADEIRA ENDEMIC SPECIES.
Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia madeirensis-a pair feeding two young at Canical on 18th was the last new bird of the trip. MADEIRA ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES.
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs madeirensis- seen in the forests and plantations. MADEIRA ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES.
Goldfinch- Carduelis carduelis parva-a few seen about Funchal. MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SUBSPECIES.
Canary Serinus canaria- very confiding on Deserta Grande coming to water. MACARONESIA ENDEMIC SPECIES.
Common Waxbill-seen in small flocks at Machico stream bed and Ribeiro de Janela.

Other Captives

Mute Swans were in the parks, a pinioned Mandarin in Funchal Harbour stream and a Budgie was noted in Funchal.


Bryde’s Whale-seen feeding and surfacing off Deserta Grande on 15 July, very memorable and maybe the highlight of the trip.
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin- a pod of c40 were bow-riding the Ventura do Mar as we left Deserta Grande on the 15 July 2009. A variety of ages were seen to a few feet in crystal clear waters. Another pod of c20 came in and followed us on the evening pelagic  in Funchal Bay on 17 July.
Blainville’s Beaked Whale-two seen from the Ventura do Mar on the way back from Deserta Grande and two more/same noted from a seawatch near Funchal the same evening on 15 July.
Short-finned Pilot Whale-a large pod of c30 animals gave close and prolonged views in Funchal Bay on 15 July.
Bottle-nosed Dolphin- a pod were seen among the Pilot Whales on 15 July.


Madeiran Speckled Wood, Bath White, Long-tailed Blue, Monarch, Small Copper and Grayling were the highlights. Three Scarce Blue-tailed Damsleflies were seen in the streambed at Machico, a few Hawker sp maybe Southern Migrant were seen and a Southern Hawker type was seen in Funchal.


A wonderful variety of colourful fish species were seen whilst snorkelling off Deserta Grande but the highlight for all was the single and then four Flying Fish from the evening pelagic on 17 July. A Cory’s Shearwater was seen to chase the last of them. A swarm of Jellyfish were seen off Deserta Grande.

Most of the group saw Black Scabbard with Banana on their plate in the restuarant.


Filed under: Trip Reports


at 6:55 pm

Anser Rare Breeding Bird/Rare insect Weekend 4-5 July 2009

To view the gallery with images from the weekend please click on the link below.

Summary On the 4 July 2009 we departed Whitminster at 0630, stopped for coffee and comfort en-route arriving in North Norfolk at Swanton Novers for 1130. Although perfect conditions were in place the Honey Buzzard did not show, it was however seen at 1430-1500 distantly from this site. We then headed for Strumpshaw Fen RSPB where the sunny warm weather prevailed and the birding/insect watching was excellent. From here we went to a Montagu’s Harrier site in North Norfolk where a similar story to our other rare raptor was told, they had not been showing much at all. We decided to head for WWT Welney for some wetland birding rather than Titchwell as a Caspian Tern had been seen there and the reserve was open late, it was not about but the birding was still very good. We ate at the Lamb and Flag, Welney Village before transferring to Brandon to our hotel for the night. An early start on Sunday and we were breakfasted and on the way prior to eight. We had some of the best British Stone Curlew watching I have known and then headed for RSPB Lakenheath. This site once again provided a really good morning of birding and we stayed until the afternoon. From here we visited Thompson Common and Wretham Heath with our last stop being Wigginhall St Germans to miss the Caspian Tern again on the way home. We arrived back at 2100 having travelled 632 miles. The tour went very well despite not seeing two target birds, with a short visit it is always possible. To be perfectly honest, the Honey Buzzard site does not produce good views very often and you really need to visit many times, stay all day and have luck with weather etc to guarantee one. 

Around 90 bird species were seen/heard on this two day visit, a list of the more notable ones follow with a list of the insects seen also.

Bittern- two booming birds heard and flight views of the breeding pair obtained at RSPB Lakenheath.
Whooper Swan-unseasonal but injured birds at WWT Welney.
Red Kite- one seen en-route along the A14 on 4th and two seen en-route in Northants on way back.
Marsh Harrier-c14 seen, pairs with young at Lakenheath and Strumpshaw Fen and two males seen fighting over cereal fields in N Norfolk.
Montagu’s Harrier- not seen at a reliable site and apparently having an off day.
Honey Buzzard- not seen, the birds were not showing during our visit period.
Hobby-seen at RSPB Lakenheath.
Grey Partridge-seen with young in tow in North Norfolk.
Water Rail-sqealing birds at RSPB Lakenheath.
Common Crane-a pair showed briefly at RSPB Lakenheath but were elusive.
Avocet-a few included a juvenile at WWT Welney.
Stone Curlew- at least eight were on show at one site in the Brecks, very vocal and active.

Black Darter June 2009 Coolpix MJMcGill 022
Little-ringed Plover-a few at WWT Welney.
Green Sandpiper-one at RSPB Lakenheath.
Black-tailed Godwit-c30 at WWT Welney.
Ruff-nine males in breeding plumage, all colours noted.
Turtle Dove-pairs and singles seen in flight but no perched up birds.
Cuckoo-singing birds still at RSPB Lakenheath.
Barn Owl-one hunting the bank at WWT Welney.
Yellow Wagtail-juveniles on the main lagoon at WWT Welney.
Cetti’s Warbler-seen and heard at Strumpshaw Fen.
Spotted Flycatcher-a pair with young on the visitor centre at Strumpshaw were very approachable. As with Grey Partridge, a treat to see these days.

White-faced DarterNorfolk Hawker 1to5 June 2009 Lumix MJMcGill 041
Bearded Tit- excellent views from a variety of places around the RSPB Lakenheath reserve were mostly of juveniles. Also seen at Strumpshaw.
Golden Oriole-after a patient wait we were all rewarded with many stunning views in the open of the singing male at Lakenheath.

Other birds included Teal, Shoveler, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Common Tern, Reed and Sedge Warbler, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer.

Dragonflies- at least 11 species noted.

Norfolk Hawker-c6 were seen at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen. Fighting and territorial males and ovipositing female noted. Excellent views were had by everyone, we studied them in detail. The green eyes are clearly seen in this image.

White-faced DarterNorfolk Hawker 1to5 June 2009 Lumix MJMcGill 078
Scarce Chaser-a male at RSPB Lakenheath was resting on the edge of a reedbed pool.
Southern Hawker- a male at Thompson Common.
Brown Hawker- seen resting and hunting at Lakenheath and Strumpshaw.
Ruddy and Common Darters, Emperor, Black-tailed Skimmers, Emerald, Blue-tailed, Red-eyed, Common Blue and Azure Damselflies.


Swallowtail-one of our target species, a magnificent example of the brittanicus race was found by Denise soon after leaving the visitor centre.
White Admiral- one found by NRS at Thompson Common.

Lime Hawk Moth-one attracted to lights in the hotel at Brandon.

Grass Snake-one along the reedbed path at Strumpshaw Fen RSPB.
Muntjac-one at Thompson Common

I may well have missed something out from the list but it still shows a great set of wildlife, thanks to all that attended and to Bob Radford for driving Neil and some of our group around.


Filed under: Trip Reports


at 8:38 am

1-31 July 2009 blog diary and sightings

30 -31 July 2009 A few new waders about at WWT Slimbridge but a quiet end to the month.

Anser Birding Madeira 13-18 July 2009  images on the link below

Trip report now live on thetrip reports page.

29 July 2009 A rotten wet day, at WWT over 750 Sand Martin were ‘grounded’. I counted 340 along the fences at the 100 Acre.

Suffering Sand Martins

29 July 2009  MJMcGill 110

29 July 2009  MJMcGill 112

29 July 2009  MJMcGill 119

Spitfire, Whitmimster

29 July 2009  MJMcGill 092

Yellow-legged Gulls  WWT Slimbridge MJM

Madeira and WWT July 2009  MJMcGill 046

21-27 July 2009 A busy period at WWT with the best birding involving gulls and waders. My first moulting adult Whinchat of the autumn noted today (27th) plus a Southern Hawker. The dragonfly pool at the South Finger has Brown Hawker, Emperor, Common Darter and Southern Hawker this week plus Blue-tailed and Common Blue Damselfly.

Brown Hare WWT Slimbridge MJM

29 July 2009  MJMcGill 104

This juvenile Mediterranean Gull was ringed in Oye Plage, Calais, France on 16 June 2009. I saw it on the WWT Top New Piece. This French site has featured three times on Anser trips.

Madeira and WWT July 2009  MJMcGill 052

19-20 July 2009 Downpours at WWT with hot, sunny spells still made for good birding and insect watching. A male Ruff is among the scrape waders and yesterday 103 Dunlin, 8 Sanderling and 4 Red Knot joined the Black-tailed Godwits and Curlew on the estuary. One of the godwits has a white feather on the wing which stands out from distance.

13-18 July 2009 An early hours start and late return from the Anser Madeira trip…..a trip report is in preparation covering our sightings and images. Andy Jayne found a Squacco Heron whilst waiting for his pizza! More to come soon….

9-12 July 2009 A weekend off was busy but very rewarding, my son’s Sports day on 10th.  Congratulations to my old mate Nick Goatman and his new wife Rachel, thank you to them for letting us share a lovely day on 11th.  A day at the Ashes in Cardiff with my partner Harriet, Jeremy Squire and Steve Dark saw a gripping finale to the first test, the best draw I have ever seen and what a batting performance from Monty and Jimmy.

July Madeira Sports Day and Nick Rach 2009  MJMcGill 063

8 July 2009 No birding for me today but a few things seen from the tractor cab including 35+ Tufted Ducklings with 7 females on the Long Ground Pool.

Tufted Ducks July 8 2009 Lumix MJMcGill 011

7 July 2009 A day at Buckingham Palace, I was invited along with Harriet to the Garden Party. We got there on time parking at the front gate of the palace near the grand entrance. A stroll along the Mall to Trafalgar Square for lunch and then a look around the National Gallery was all very interesting. The famous and iconic Sunflowers by Van Gogh (reminds me of the Arles, S. France connection as it is where we stay on the Anser trips)  and the Execution of Lady Jane Grey, Paul Delaroche were my personal favourites, the latter very evocative and a reminder of how brutal life in Britain could be. Click on the link for full details and a view

The afternoon was spent in the gardens where the Queen mingled with various people in line. She stopped to talk with a trio of forces (RAF, Army and Navy) girls that were next to us. After this we headed for the Tea tent and had a lovely selection of sandwiches and cake with out tea on the lawn. Whilst looking for the Chamomile Lawn we were caught in a downpour that turned into torrential monsoon like rain and eventually thunder and lightning low overhead, the largest hail stones I have ever seen dropped on us, many as large as my thumbnail. Quite spectacular weather causing the paths to turn to rivers and the lawns to lakes, wetland creation in London. Glad we bought a brolly from Boots.

Previa at the Palace, exclusive parking

Buckingham Palace July 7 2009 Lumix MJMcGill 002

MJM at Buckingham Palace 7 July 2009
To all the Anser friends on the 4-5 July trip…this proves I did buy a new suit

Buckingham Palace July 7 2009 Lumix MJMcGill 031

Norfolk Hawker, Strumpshaw Fen RSPB MJM

White-faced DarterNorfolk Hawker 1to5 June 2009 Lumix MJMcGill 083

4-5 July 2009 The Rare breeding bird visit to East Anglia incorporated some new habitats and sites. See the trip report coming soon..

Stone Curlew ‘undisclosed site’ Norfolk

Black Darter June 2009 Coolpix MJMcGill 026

White-faced Darter, Whixhall Moss NNR, Shropshire MJM

White-faced DarterNorfolk Hawker 1to5 June 2009 Lumix MJMcGill 033

White-faced Darter, Whixhall Moss NNR July 2009 MJMcGill

White-faced DarterNorfolk Hawker 1to5 June 2009 Lumix MJMcGill 025

Silver-studded Blue, Prees Heath Butterfly Conservation Reserve
Shropshire MJM

White-faced DarterNorfolk Hawker 1to5 June 2009 Lumix MJMcGill 048

Territorial Black Darter, Whixhall Moss NNR Shropshire

Black Darter June 2009 Coolpix MJMcGill 001

Emerald Damselfly, Whixhall Moss NNR , Shropshire MJM

White-faced DarterNorfolk Hawker 1to5 June 2009 Lumix MJMcGill 008

Black Darter (teneral=recently emerged) Whixhall Moss NNR, Shrops MJM

White-faced DarterNorfolk Hawker 1to5 June 2009 Lumix MJMcGill 016

Silver-studded Blue, Prees Heath, Shropshire MJM

White-faced DarterNorfolk Hawker 1to5 June 2009 Lumix MJMcGill 046

Four-spotted Chaser, Whixhall NNR, Shropshire, MJM
Also has a creamy face but much larger and stockier with no red.

White-faced DarterNorfolk Hawker 1to5 June 2009 Lumix MJMcGill 010

Filed under: Birdwatching Diary


at 9:13 pm