A short report on a long trip to the Cape Verde Islands 20th April/2nd May 2013.
Fed up with the appalling UK weather, I decided to go somewhere warmer and where I could pick up a few rare Western Palearctic ticks. I finally settled for the Cape Verde Islands and the trip was organised by Birdquest.
The largest and possibly the greenest Island in the archipelago.
Arrived on day 2 for a 3 night stay in a very acceptable tourist Hotel.
Birds seen in the Hotel grounds included Waxbill, Grey Headed Kingfisher, Iago Sparrow, Cattle Egret, Barn Owl (Tyto detorta) and Kestrel (Falco alexandri).
A visit to the plains and coast on the east side of the island produced Black-crowned Sparrow Lark, Helmeted GuineaFowl, Cream Coloured Courser, Hoopoe Lark, Bar tailed Desert Lark, Red-billed Tropic Bird, Cape Verde Shearwater and Brown Booby.
During our stay several visits were made to the reservoir in the centre of the island which was particularly successful with Black Heron, Intermediate Egret, Western Reef Egret (Dark morph), Great White Egret, Spoonbill, Bourne's Heron, Cape Verde Swift, Spectacled Warbler, Grey Herons and more Guineafowl and Iago Sparrows.
Cape Verde Cane Warbler was finally tracked down near the Botanical Gardens.
Cape Verde Buzzard (Buteo bannermani) was also briefly seen in the mountains.
A very barren and volcanic Island with black sand beaches.
This is the Island to stay at for short pelagic trips and to see the rare Raso Lark. Whilst it is not possible to land on Raso,
the lark together with the colonies of Red-billed Tropic Birds and Brown Booby's can be seen from a boat.
In total we did three pelagic trips and several early morning and evening sea watches from the lighthouse near Tarrafal.
On our trips round Raso lots more Tropic Birds, Brown Booby's and Cape Verde Shearwaters were seen. We were lucky enough to see a small group of Raso Larks on the rocky shore line of Raso. During these trips we saw Fea's and Bulwer's Petrel. One trip round the bay in a very small fishing boat gave us wonderful views of Boyd's Shearwater (Puffinus boydi), Cory's and Cape Verde Shearwaters. Several Ospreys were also seen as were very large numbers of the Portuguese man of war jelly fish which included many on the beach.
Egyptian Vulture and Cape Verde Peregrine were also seen by the group. Unfortunately I missed them due to two days sickness (Heat stroke).
This is another must visit Island. It is here that the last remaining pair of Magnificent Frigate Birds in the Western Palearctic maintain a toe hold in the north on the offshore island of Ilheu de Curral Velho.
However due to problems with the domestic Airline our stay here was severely curtailed.
Only one night and part of a day before we had to fly home, the night was spent on the deserted offshore Island of Ilheu dos Passaros where White-faced Storm Petrels breed. Getting to and from the Island was quite an adventure as it meant wading out to a small boat over a very slippery shore. However spending the night surrounded by hundreds of storm petrels was an unforgettable experience.
The following morning we made our way to view the Islet where the Frigate Birds breed. Unfortunately due to the limited time available we failed to see these iconic birds.
Important note for anyone visiting these Islands the internal airline is notoriously unreliable. Problems with the airline cost us several days birding and resulted in us spending far too long on San Nicolau and not enough on Boavista.