Monday, 30 June 2014

MADEIRA - Debrief

Now well and truly back on terra firma and I have had some time to reflect on the Madeira Pelagics and review some of my photos. One thing is for sure, Pterodroma identification at sea is no easy task!
Despite the fanatstic views from the RIB, the birds are just so fast and your brain cannot take in the fine details required to try and id them. The only real way, is to take as many photos as possible and refer to the best current guide available: Multimedia Guide to North Atlantic Seabirds: Pterodroma Petrels by Bob Flood & Ashley Fisher with some excellent plates by Martin Elliott.
Of course, even with half decent photos, it is important to be aware of lighting conditions and different angles when assessing bill structure and underwing scores.

Below are my best shots of five individual birds which seem to show the best views of underwing and bill structure. I must stress, it is never wise to assess birds on single photos and the  notes (below) are based on reviewing other photos too (not shown). However, it is all a learning process and I haven't necessarily got it correct and I would welcome opinions.
In reality,  some birds are probably best left as Pterodroma sp......

Click on the images enlarge.

From left to right:

Bird 1 - This bird would seem to be a fairly classic example of Fea's (Desertas) Petrel with large head, thick set body and stout bulbous bill
Bird 2 - Though the underwing score is relatively dark, it is still in the range for Zino's. However, it is the small bill structure that id is mostly based. It appears thin and long  and fairly classic for Zino's

Bird 3 - Underwing score unhelpful to process, but bill structure and fairly large head would seem to suggest Fea's (Desertas) Petrel?
Bird 4 - Pretty dark underwing score throughout primary and secondary feathers, more indicative of Fea's (Desertas)/Cape Verde Petrel. Bill structure seems intermediate, so maybe best left as "Fino's"?
Bird 5 - High underwing score and fairly light build would all support Zino's, though bill size on the larger side for this species. Therefore a presumed male Zino's Petrel?

Many thanks go to both Hugo and Catarina of Wind Birds for another excellent and very well organised trip. Thanks also to Doug, Mike and Julie for a good humoured tour and to Tim Worfolk for his comments on some of the Pterodroma id.

Following the successful completion of this trip, Wise Birding Holidays donated £100 to the Freira Project, helping Zino's Petrel Conservation - More HERE

Please contact me for next year's dates:

Final tally of birds and other marine life below:

Madeira 16- 20 June:
Zino's Petrel
- Minimum of 4 birds

Fea's (Desertas) Petrel - Minimum of 3 birds
Pterodroma sp - Minimum 6 birds
Cory's Shearwater - daily sightings

Great Shearwater - 1 bird, presumed same on 18th and 19th
Manx Shearwater - 6+ birds on the 19th
Sooty Shearwater - 1 bird onthe 19th
Band-rumped (Madeiran) Storm Petrel - 1 bird on the 17th

White-faced Storm Petrel - 2 birds on the 17th and 1 on the 18th
Little Egret
Glossy Ibis-
a single bird on the 16th and 17th
Ruddy Shelduck - a single bird on 4 days
Osprey -
a single bird recorded on 3 days
Eurasian Sparrowhawk
Common Buzzard
Common Kestrel
Red-legged Partridge
- heard
Quail - heard
Common Moorhen
"Atlantic" Yellow-legged Gull

Roseate Tern - 1 adult onthe 17th
Common Tern
Feral Pigeon
Trocaz Pigeo
n - 4+ birds on the 20th
Plain Swift - daily sightings

Pallid Swift - 1or 2 birds on the 20th
Bethelot's Pipit - 3 birds on the 20th
Grey Wagtail
European Robin

Common Blackbird
Blackcap - including the rare melanistic form
Madeiran Firecrest - 2 birds on the 20th
Common Chaffinch - of the distinctive maderensis form

Common Linnet
European Goldfinch
Atlantic Canary
Common Waxbill

Probabale Bryde's Whale - 1 on the18th
Sperm Whale - seven animals, including a group of six on the 19th
Beaked Whale sp - a single animal on the 18th
Bottlenose Dolphin - five on the 17th
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin - minimum of five on the 19th
Striped Dolphin - at least one onthe 18th
Common Dolphin - 25+ on the 18th
Loggerhead Turtle - two on the 19th


  1. Brilliant stuff! Very informative and excellent but 'not quite pin sharp' pics!

  2. Nice annotated fotos Chris.

    Moving Pterodromas are certainly not easy and i have no experience but at least there is quality digi equipment available so that you can examine your images afterwards - makes life easier. I just used a reasonable quality Samsung point and shoot set on 'burst' in Majorca recently and was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the images. At least one out of every 7 was acceptable.

    Sounds a good trip, was it an organised, dedicated, birding trip like the Scilly pelagics?

    Laurie -

  3. Thanks Laurie - it was organised through my company Wise Birding Holidays and the pelagics were with Hugo and Catarina from Madeira Birds who own the RIB and know the best spots for chumming......