Birdfinders' banner
Photo galleries Tour news Other information


Search Birdfinders
Search the web

Translate this page


20–26 June 2024

This single-centre tour takes us into spectacular scenery to search for the endemic Trocaz Pigeon and Madeira Firecrest plus the Micronesian endemics of Plain Swift, Island Canary and Berthelot’s Pipit. Chumming during our three long pelagic trips will give us good opportunities to see Cory’s Shearwaters, Bulwer’s, Fea’s and Zino’s Petrels and Band-rumped Storm Petrel, with the added possibility of Barolo Shearwater and both White-faced and Wilson’s Storm Petrels.

Day 1 Flight from London to Funchal and transfer by taxi to a family-run hotel in downtown Machico where you will stay throughout the tour. If there is sufficient time, you can take a walk around Machico where by the river, you should be able to observe Island Canary, Blackcap, Grey Wagtail and Common Waxbill followed by dinner.

Day 2 This morning we will meet our guides and journey to the centre and east of Madeira, stopping at various places including a coastal area for Common and Roseate Terns and the spectacular Laurel forest in a high valley for Trocaz Pigeon, Madeira Firecrest and the local maderensis subspecies of Common Chaffinch. After lunch at a scenic restaurant where Plain Swifts, Eurasian Kestrels and Eurasian Sparrowhawk sometimes fly by, we will visit the island’s most easterly point for Red-legged Partridge, Berthelot’s Pipit, Spectacled Warbler, Island Canary, Eurasian Linnet and Rock Sparrow. After dinner we will head for Pico do Areeiro. In the dark it will take about half an hour to trek along a path in mountainous terrain to a spot close to the breeding area of Zino’s Petrel. This very special bird was thought to be extinct until its rediscovery in 1969. It was formerly considered to be a subspecies of Fea’s Petrel but now has full species status, with an estimated 80 breeding pairs and a total population of only 400 individuals. We will sit quietly to listen for the calls of Zino’s Petrels and, if the weather conditions are favourable, we should be able to observe the silhouettes of some of the birds, a truly evocative experience. The calls of the birds as they returned to their nests were thought by shepherds in the past to be the cries of dead souls!

Day 3 Afternoons are the best time for pelagics around the island, so this morning will be spent at leisure at the hotel where we will have a chance to walk around the charming old town and down to the river again. After lunch, at around 15:00, we will board the 11-metre rigid-hulled inflatable boat Oceanodroma. We ride for almost two hours until we reach the best chumming position then drift and chum in search of both Zino’s and Fea’s Petrels (hopefully side by side for comparison) amongst the commoner Bulwer’s Petrels for nearly four hours. Cory’s and Manx Shearwaters should also be present in good numbers before we return to shore. Sandwiches, slices of quiche and other snacks (cereal bar, cookies or fruit) will be served on board; you just need to bring your own water/non-alcoholic beverages. We will arrive back at the harbour between 21:30 and 22:00 and return to the hotel for the night. If any of the pelagics are cancelled we can of course bird the land again looking for any species we may have missed or need better views of as we do have a spare day later in the tour to catch up with pelagics.

Day 4 This morning will again be free and lunch will be taken at the hotel before we board the Oceanodroma at 15:00 for another pelagic. This time we will be searching in different areas, primarily for storm petrels, with both Band-rumped and White-faced Storm Petrels being high up on our list of targets. Barolo Shearwaters are rare but this is a species we will keep looking for on these pelagic expeditions. There is also a chance to see Wilson’s Storm Petrel as it is a common visitor to Madeiran waters. Once again, sandwiches, slices of quiche and other snacks (cereal bar, cookies or fruit) will be served on board and you just need to bring your own water/non-alcoholic beverages. We will again arrive back at the harbour between 21:30 and 22:00 before returning to the hotel.

Day 5 Following the now-familiar pattern, the morning will be free, with lunch taken at the hotel. We will board the Oceanodroma again at 15:00 for our final pelagic. These trips are also good for whale-watching, so we always keep our eyes out for cetaceans which may include Bryde’s, Short-finned Pilot and Sperm Whales and Atlantic Spotted, Common Bottlenose and Short-beaked Dolphins or maybe something even rarer like Common Minke, Finn or Sei Whales whilst searching for seabirds we may have missed on the previous two days or want better views of. Once again food will be served with a late return to the hotel.

Day 6 This is a spare day in case any of the pelagic trips need to be postponed (often due to no wind as a rough sea is the best for seabirds although sometimes it is just too rough for us to go out!). If all pelagics have run as scheduled, after lunch at the hotel, we can spend the afternoon looking for any bird species we may have missed on the first birdwatching day or, to have a better views of them. We will then end the day enjoying a farewell dinner.

Day 7 Depending on flight times, there may be a little time at leisure this morning before we check out of the hotel and make our way back to the airport for our flight back to London.

General InformationThe climate is generally warm and sunny but it can be cold and cloudy with drizzle in the mountains. A sun hat with a strap is important together with some warm/waterproof clothing for the mountains and boat journeys. It is requested that you wear sandals or light trainers on the boat – no heavy walking boots are allowed on board. Note that there are no drinks provided on the boat, so it is imperative that you bring a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated. There are no special health requirements. The pace of the tour is generally relaxed with only a limited degree of fitness required, particularly with regard to boarding the boat. The exception is the night-time mountain walk to look for Zino’s Petrel, which is quite strenuous. An 11-metre RIB is used for the pelagics because standing on deck on fishing boats is inherently dangerous and they are not as manoeuvrable. The boat is equipped with shock-mitigation seats and twin outboard engines. Our boat meets international safety standards for oceanic waters but waves of up to three metres are possible, so it is advisable to bring (and take!) sea-sickness tablets. There is a portable toilet on board for ladies’ use mainly, as it is easier for men to use a bucket!

Group Size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 4; maximum group size: 9 with 2 leaders.

Madeira Pelagic RIB

Trocaz Pigeon

Trocaz Pigeon

Recommended books available from NHBS