Wednesday 18 May 2011

Zino's petrels in the moonlight

Just back at the hotel after an absolutely incredible evening out watching and listening to Zino's petrels with Catarina from Madeira Wind Birds.  Wow, what an evening.  Hardly any wind and clear skies with an almost full moon, and the birds were putting on quite a show.  We got there well after dark and the birds were already doing their thing, and through binoculars you could clearly see them wheeling around the colony in pairs, doing courtship displays and chases, calling as they went.  An absolutely unforgettable experience!

There are currently thought to be only about 85 breeding pairs at the colony - the only place in the World this species breeds.  They are right up in the tops of the mountains at around 1800m, so we had driven from sea level up to the colony as it got dark.  As you'd expect it is often cloudy, misty or raining up there so we were so lucky to have clear conditions, with the moon almost full so you could see the birds flying around.  Last year they had an absolutely shocking breeding season when a fire swept through the colony, killing several adults and over half of the years chicks (read about it here).  The action plan for the species which gives a heap of great info (and written by Francis Zino) can be downloaded here.

I'd earlier spent the afternoon with Bob Flood talking about his current project - Storm-petrels and Bulwer's Petrel - the first of their Multimedia Identifications Guides to North Atlantic Seabirds.  It looks absolutely stunning and can't wait to see it finished.  It really is a fresh approach to identification guides and really takes advantage of technology whilst providing so much information you just can't get from text or a photograph.  We even got a spot of birding in, managing to find a little ringed plover (apparently pretty uncommon on Madeira), a little egret, turnstone, plain swifts, and lots of grey wagtails, a few canaries, and some common waxbills.  A great afternoon, then a nice dinner with Bob and Mandy.

And so, off to bed now, a very happy chappy!  A big day tomorrow with the first of our pelagics, and the weather looks great!  Fingers crossed...

From the top near where the Zino's petrel colony is

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