East Meets West

There’s plenty of reasons to be cheerful on a sunny island off Madeira. But looked at objectively the birding involves relatively few species. If I was to have been asked what my target would be, I think I’d have said ideally a good bird from the east and a good ‘un from the west. That’s a feature of Shetland and Scilly birding that’s often commented on. On my first full day here I managed to achieve this.

The Ribeiro Salgado is a vegetated water course that runs alongside the golf course for much of its path. I got the hang of how to check it when I came in October, and on that visit saw a Kingfisher that had already been reported. On Tuesday I was just thinking how quiet it was when I heard a Sedge Warbler singing in the reeds in front of me. This is a species classed as ‘exceptional’ in Madeira.

One of the benefits of birding abroad, providing that you don’t go too far from home, is that sometimes an ID that would be difficult and a big call to locals can be straightforward as you’ve had more experience. There’s a potential pitfall of overconfidence though, and those looking after records are understandably cautious. When I mentioned to Catarina Fagundes of Madeira Wind Birds that I had a singing Sedgie she suggested some other reasonable local options. I sent her some recording of the call and she was happy it was one.

You can hear one of the recordings I took here:


And another here:


Heading on to Tanque pond I quickly found the Black-winged Stilt that had been reported a few days ago, and then a Greenshank. I initially overlooked a smaller wader at the back of the expanse, and when I did see it I couldn’t be sure what it was. Dunlin and Ruff both passed through my mind, the reasons for both becoming clear when it turned out to be a Pectoral Sandpiper.

Birders visiting the Macaronesia often have high hopes of finding American birds. I’ve been to all the island groups, and the only Yank I’d found previously was an American Golden Plover on Cape Verde. This ‘Pec’ was the first I’d ever found anywhere, so I was made up with that. An early peak for the holiday, but always good to get something worthwhile.

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