Whilst sitting out on deck on the second day at sea, I got talking to another birder who asked if I was going to try for the Trocaz Pigeon; when I told him I was, he gave a site which a friend of his who lives on the island had given to him, and said was a certainty for this species and also the Firecrest - and it was only a short bus ride to some gardens north of Funchal He even gave me the numbers of the buses we needed! Brilliant - as the site I knew of, which I had found on the internet, meant we were going to have to hire a car, and go to the north west of the island. On the 29th November, after a hearty breakfast, we went to find our bus - or more to the point - Sue found our bus - the number 37, which was going to the site ( Palheiro Gardens) We were with another couple who also wanted to see the Pigeon. The gardens were superb, with great views over Funchal; we had only walked 50 yards into the gardens and the Firecrest was heard, and soon had been ticked off. Not long afterwards, the other endemic, the Trocaz Pigeon was noted. Other birds seen in the gardens were Blackbird, Common Buzzard, Canary and lots of Blackcap. We also noted Kestrel, Grey Heron, Yellow-legged Gull and Turnstone on Madeira.
The following morning we docked in La Palma - a small Canarian island, which is a lovely port to stroll around.
Our next port of call was Gran Canaria where we docked Las Palmas, We again took a stroll around and I can't say we were impressed with the place, and didn't stay ashore for very long. On returning to the ship, I settled myself with a drink and my bins, on deck 14, to survey the port. Imagine my surprise to see, on a car-park roof 200 yds away, among the Yellow-legged Gulls, were a pair of Pied Crows! I didn't know what the status of this Corvid was for The Canaries, so I sent a text to my mate Steve James, asking him if he could find out where the nearest population was; he replied, saying the last record for this bird on The Canaries was in 2010, and that was thought to be ship-assisted. The nearest population is in Senegal, on the west coast of Africa. ( I have reported the find to the Spanish rarities committee, and they have told me that there have been up to 3 birds there for a while, but have asked me to supply them with a report and images) Other birds noted from deck 14....Black-headed Gull, Grey Heron, Sandwich Tern, Little Egret and well over 100 Pied Wagtails!
Lanzarote today, the port of Arrecife. Again, not a particularly pretty town, and again, we didn't linger for long. However, there was a lovely area around the marina which we enjoyed very much, although the weather was showery. Birds of note around the marina were Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, and a nice little flock of Spanish Sparrow; there were also several Turnstone which were totally oblivious to 'Joe Public'
Spanish Sparrow (male)
We had a day of cruising going north, towards our next stop - Cadiz,southern Spain. En-route, lots of Yellow-legged Gulls were seen. The Officer of The Watch had just informed us of our position (something they do every sea-day), and we were apparently 64 miles west of Morocco, when I spotted some more dolphin! I managed to get a few images, and on reviewing them, realised hey were not 'Common', but the only cetacean guide book I had with me was for The Bay of Biscay, so I was struggling to identify them, but again, on reaching Cadiz (and wi-fi!) I was able to send an image to another good mate, Dave Gray, who was able to inform me that they were most likely to be Atlantic Spotted Dolphin - a new species for me!
We enjoyed Cadiz very much. Just walking around, we saw Robin, House Sparrow, Collared Dove, more Blackcap, and when we arrived back onto Oceana, again from deck 14, we saw Sandwich Tern and a Peregrine Falcon.
Adult Yellow-legged Gull
Adult Yellow-legged Gull
Common Buzzard which we saw at Palheiro Gardens, Madeira
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin
Our last port of call was Lisbon, Portugal, where we had arranged to go on a trip to the small town of Obidos, some 75 minutes away by coach. What a fabulous little town! - and what a great day we had. as we came back, the coach came through the centre of Lisbon - a city we hope to return to at some stage as it looked to be a really nice place.
Our final two days were spent at sea, crossing the Bay of Biscay. The birdlife was much the same as our outward-bound trip, although we did note several Great Skua (Bonxies), and again, we saw lots of Common Dolphin - but sadly, we didn't see any whales at all!
We had a great time, and came back feeling very relaxed!
As always, thanks for stopping by.
I would just like to take this opportunity to wish you all A Very Merry Christmas, and A Happy 2017!