December is a low season in Madeira not only for birds as all seabirds have migrated but also for tourism. Although temperatures are better than in the rest of Europe, only the last week of December is a very busy week in this island, for the Christmas and New Year's festivities! So let's see what Santa will bring us in terms of birding sightings:
November should be a winter month but until mid-November we have been getting summer weather, with quite high temperatures for this time of year and not so much rain as one should expect... Although it is a low month for touristy demand it sometimes attracts some interesting vagrant bird species... and it seems that Porto Santo island is beating records this year!
15th of November 2019 at São Vicente
Sanderling Calidris alba
2 Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
4 Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus phaeopus
Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus
White Wagtail Motacilla alba alba
October is usually a good month for migration and with some of these climate changes blowing hurricanes to the Northeast Atlantic it may be a good combination to deviate some birds from their migratory route into Madeira.
26th of October 2019 at Porto Santo - recorded by Frank Zino
5 Pink-footed goose Anser brachyrhynchus - less than 5 records on the last 50 years
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Migration is on its best this month so lets hope wind will blow some bird species this way to diversify the birding population around Madeira! Despite the 48 breeding species it is always good to watch different birds...
It was not the expected ending for 2019 as we missed a good view of Zino's Petrel. We saw it on all other 2019 pelagic expeditions though... The good part is that Storm-petrels and Great shearwater were well observed and, of course, the always present Cory's shearwater Calonectris borealis and Bulwer's Petrel Bulweria bulwerii. Another species we missed at the chumming position was Yellow-legged Gull which was weird...
22nd of August 2019 - NNE wind up to 8 knots and northern waves up to 2 meters
Pterodroma sp. on the way
Fea's Petrel Pterodroma feae/deserta on the way
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus puffinus on the way up
Atlantic spotted dolphin Stenella frontalis - on the way back
Madeira Archipelago offers good conditions to birdwatchers, not only in terms of breeding birds but also vagrant bird species. Though there are only 47 breeding species to these islands, about half of them are endemic species or subspecies to Madeira or to Macaronesia region (Madeira, Azores and Canary Islands).
Madeira has three endemic species: Trocaz Pigeon Columba trocaz which is associated with the native forest of Madeira: the Laurel Forest; Madeira Firecrest Regulus madeirensis, normally observed on forested areas and the rare Zino's Petrel Pterodroma madeira, a threatened seabird that nests on the highest mountains of Madeira. Regarding the Macaronesia bird species, one may observe Fea's/Desertas Petrel Pterodroma feae/deserta, Madeiran Storm-petrel Oceanodroma castro, Atlantic Canary Serinus canaria, Berthelot's Pipit Anthus berthelotti and the Plain Swift Apus unicolor.
One interesting feature of birding in Madeira is the high number of endemic subspecies from which the ornithological highlights go to the bluish Madeiran Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs maderensis and the darker colours of Barn Owl Tyto alba schmitzi and Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea schmitzi.
However, seabirds are the major attraction for birdwatchers because there are several colonies of world importance. In Madeira archipelago one may find 8 breeding seabirds species namely the rare Pterodromas (P. feae and P. madeira), Barolo's Shearwater Puffinus baroli, Madeiran Storm-petrel Oceanodroma castro and White-faced Storm Petrel Pelagodroma marina hypoleuca. This last species being confined to breed in Selvagens Islands but observed offshore on Wind Birds' Pelagic Expeditions.
A pelagic trip on Madeira or seawatching from the coast gives you also the chance to observe some vagrant birds like Great Shearwater Puffinus gravis, Great Skua Stercorarius skua, Wilson's Storm-petrel Oceanites oceanicus or European Storm-petrel Hydrobates pelagicus, between others;
Join one of Wind Birds tours and you will see not only Madeira birds but also amazing landscapes which are out of the common tourist routes!