Monday, 1 September 2014

Azores Pelagic 2014 Summary

 Swinhoe's Petrel (Richard Bonser)- 80% success rate on these pelagic trips
A worn bird, moulting it's inner primaries this time of year is diagnostic of an adult band-rumped petrel from the summer breeding population which based on the locality is the recently described Monteiro's Petrel (Richard Bonser)
 Considering South Polar Skuas are known from geolocator studies to cross the mid-Atlantic this time of year, a large skua in the Azores in August should cause concern. However this individual is moulting it's outer primaries and also has  golden flecking around the head and nape and a darkish mask- features which indicate it's a first cycle Great Skua completing it's first cycle moult. (Richard Bonser and thanks to Rich and Dani Lopez for comments on id)
 Bulwer's Petrel
 Great Shearwater
 Cory's Shearwater 
Fin Whale- seen from Terceira island by myself and Jaffa who did some exploring in other areas while the main group were concentrating on the Bank of Fortune
Beaked Whales- probably Sowerby's but could be Gervais'. Seen from the Terceira to Graciosa Ferry (Richard Bonser)
 Short-billed Dowitcher in the Cabo da Praia quarry. The pelagic starts at Terceira with a morning in the quarry. 
 Semipalmated Sandpiper in the Cabo da Praia quarry
 The Azores Pelagic Vessel (Sofia Goulart)

The 2014 team led by Richard Bonser (Martin Scott) 

Bird Species recorded: Monteiro's Petrel, Swinhoe's Petrel, Grant's Petrel, Wilson's Petrel, Bulwer's Petrel, Great, Cory's, Barolo, Sooty and Manx Shearwater, Sooty Tern, Long-tailed, Pomarine, Arctic and Great Skua and Arctic Tern

Cetaceans recorded: Sperm Whale, Common, Spotted and Bottlenose Dolphin, Sowerby's/Gervais Beaked Whale (Fin Whale on Terceira)

More from Rich here: Azores Pelagic 2014 and HERE
and daily report from Stephen Dunstan HERE
This year's itinerary HERE

To book a place on next year's trip please email me 

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Azores Natural History Exploration Tour Recce

As the Azores Pelagic 2014 was over-booked, Rich Bonser took the group to Graciosa to explore the Bank of Fortune while Jaffa and I explored some pelagic areas off Sao Miguel and Terceira and also did some work towards setting up a Natural History Tour for the Azores, as part of our  AZORES NATURE project. Here is a brief photo sketch of the new tour plan.

Birds, butterflies, dragonflies, mammals and endemic botany of the Azores

Setting the Scene
A landscape and geology tour on Sao Miguel with volcanologist  Dina, exploring the volcanic origin of the Azores and understanding the landscape.

Sete Cidades Caldera complex, Sao Miguel- the inside of a huge volcano
Looking east over Sao Miguel over a volcanic landscape of small volcanic cones and huge volcanic complexes in the distance. 
The endemic race of the Common Buzzard B.b.rothschildi are frequent over the volcanic slopes

Wetlands and coastline
An exploration of the coastal habitats and the wetlands of Terceira CRW, looking at coastal botany and the wetland habitats around Praia da Vitoria, including the famous Cabo da Praia quarry which is the best place in the Western Palearctic biozone to see American shorebirds. Morning visit to the Santa Barbara reserve.
Semi-palmated Sandpiper at Cabo da Praia Quarry
Short-billed Dowticher at Cabo da Praia Quarry
Red-veined Darter- a resident on the Azores 
Atlantic Canaries- can be found across various habitats
 Lunch on the cliffs with Isabelle and Cecilia
Azorean Heather growing on an old lava flow
The endemic Myosotis maritima (Coastal Forget-me-not)

The Marine Environment 
An exploration of the marine environment from Graciosa island, exploring the Bank of Fortune to see the endemic Monteiro's Petrel, local and rare seabirds and also the whales, dolphins and other marine life of the area. 
Cory's Shearwater- an abundant local breeding species 
Great Shearwater- a regular visitor from the south Atlantic 
 Blue Shark and pilot fish- a pelagic predator that is attracted to the chum on the pelagic trips
 Monteiro's Petrel (Rafael Armada)- an Azores endemic, with the entire world population breeding on the islets off Graciosa and can be seen at sea on the nearby Bank of Fortune. Other local breeding seabird species include Bulwers Petrel, Grant's Petrel, Barolo Shearwater and Roseate Tern
  The Bank of Fotune also hosts large populations of cetaceans including Spotted Dolphin (above pic by Vincent Legrand). Recent pelagic trips have recorded Spotted, Common, Bottlenose, Striped and Risso's Dolphin and Sperm, Northern Bottlenosed, Sowerby's Beaked, Cuvier's Beaked, and Minke Whale.
Zino's Petrel (Harro Muller) - various rare seabirds have been seen on the Bank of Fortune or nearby in recent pelagic trips including this Zino's Petrel (one of the rarest seabirds in the world), Trindade Petrel, Black-capped Petrel, Brown Booby and it also appears the bank is a regular spot for the enigmatic Swinhoe's Petrel.  Wilson's Storm Petrel are regular. In recent years a pair of Sooty Tern have been holding territory/breeding in the area.

Pelagic photography off the Bank of Fortune

Azores Bullfinch (Priolo), endemic landbirds and the Laurissilva Forests

Exploration of the Laurel Forests of the Azores to look for endemic plants, insects and the endemic Azores Bullfinch. Also to look the conservation work of the area protecting the endemic ecosystem. 

Laurissilva (Laurel Forest)- a suite of species from an ancient assemblage that once covered large areas of Europe but is no confined to the Macronesian islands. Typical shrub species include Azorean Holly, Azorean Blueberry, Azorean Cherry, Azorean Heather, Azorean Laurustinus, Azorean Juniper and Azorean Laurel.

The Azores Bullfinch- endemic to the Laurel Forests of the Azores with a world population of between 700 and 2200 birds
Azorean Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs moreletti) - an endemic sub-species. Other endemic bird forms include Common Quail (C.c.conturbans), Azores Gull (L.c.atlantis), Common Buzzard (B.b.rothschilidi), Woodpigeon (C.p.azorica), Grey Wagtail (M.c.patriciae), Blackbird (T.m.azorensis), Blackcap (S.a.gularis), Goldcrest (R.r. azoricus and other island forms), Starling (S.v.granti), 
 Hypericum foliosum - an Azores endemic
Azores Grayling- an endemic butterfly found at higher altitudes on the Azores 
Clouded Yellow- one of several species of butterfly including Azores Grayling, Clouded Yellow, Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Long-tailed Blue and also american visitors such as American Painted Lady and Monarch. 
 Azorean Laurel 
 Azores Nature kit

The tour will be led by Azores Nature, travel arrangements by Azores Choice with specialist guides and services from SPEAComunicairGeofunGerby, Life CWR and Nautigraciosa.

If you're interested in joining a trip please email me for more details: 

All trips will be collecting new wildlife data/records, supporting sustainable local businesses and contributing to local conservation. 

AZORES NATURE is a not-for-profit initiative, aimed at exploring and contributing to the recording of the natural history of the Azores. 

Friday, 29 August 2014


  Juvenile Azores Bullfinch (Priolo). It's been a good breeding season. Following conservation efforts the population has increased from c300 birds to 700-2200 individuals.
 Adult Azores Bullfinch (note black cap, brown in juvs)
 Long-tailed Blue
Azores Grayling
Spent the day in the Laurissilva forests in the east of Sao Miguel looking at the endemic birds and botany (more details to follow). 

Fin Whales

Fin Whales (Terceira)- in the last couple of years Fin Whale have been summering in the Azorean waters. A marine bloom over the last three years has attracted exceptional numbers of baleen whales to the Azores from the spring including good numbers of Blue Whale- which we will target next year.
 Common Dolphin
 Great Shearwater
 Cory's Shearwater
Fin Whale