At the beginning of this year we decided to book a family holiday in Madeira (a Portuguese island). I’d read quite a bit about the good birding on the island and had been looking forward to the trip for months!
Well, the time finally came and we headed out from Glasgow Airport on the afternoon of Monday 3rd July (the first full week of the Scottish school holidays). The flight was just under four hours long but was all worth the wait because when we arrived the weather was fabulous. It took us about 30 mins to collect our baggage after which we were soon in our pre-booked taxi heading to our villa. After a bit of confusion with local postcodes our taxi driver eventually found our accommodation after asking one of the local hotel owners for directions!!
By this time it was about 8.30pm, so after a quick look round the villa we went out for a meal in the local area before heading back for a lazy evening sitting outside admiring the view from our huge three-tiered garden over the clifftops and across the Atlantic Ocean.
The next few days were just chill out days staying in the villa watching and photographing some of the lizards that were scurrying around the base of the bushes. Every so often they would come out onto the decking round our pool to sunbathe but then running up the walls and into the cracks and crevices to take some cover.
On the Thursday we had booked a guided tour by Madeira Wind Birds which took us to a number of locations across the island. The tour covered the southeast of the island but the experience of the local guide ensured that we managed to see virtually all of the target species for the day, plus a couple of bonus birds!
We were picked up at 9.30am close to our villa in Canico and headed off with six other people in our minibus. One of the people we met actually lived quite close to us in Glasgow and visited many of the same birding spots.
We visited six different locations during the day including the Casa das Funduras Education Centre (near the magnificent Santo da Serra golf course) where we saw the Madeiran Firecrest and Madeiran Chaffinch; Machico (Waxbill) and the Garajau area of Canico where we saw the Spectacled Warbler. However, the biggest surprise of the day was when we stopped off in the industrial port area of Canical. Everybody thought we were heading down to the harbour to view gulls when suddenly the guide stopped at a tiny little garden area about 20 m from the harbour. Within 10 mins of stopping we’d seen Spanish Sparrow, Atlantic Canary, Grey Wagtails and a Hoopoe!! It was a useful reminder that the most scenic locations are not always the best for birds – knowing your area and the behaviours of the species you’re after is so important!
In total we managed to see the following birds:
· Madeiran Firecrest
· Spectacled Warbler
· Pallid Swift
· Berthelot’s Pipit
· Spanish Sparrow
· Atlantic Canary
· Madeiran Chaffinch (sub species)
· Eurasian Kestrel
· Common Swift
· Muscovy Duck
· Grey Wagtail
Before heading back to Scotland on Monday afternoon we managed to squeeze in another half day’s birding that morning where we revisited several of the sites from the previous Thursday. Whilst we didn’t manage to see any new species we did get some fantastic views of a Madeiran Firecrest feeding its young.
I was sad to leave on the Monday, but left hopeful of a return in the years to come.