Azores Natural History Trip 2015 Day Four

 Fin Whales
 Common Dolphins
 Striped Dolphins
 Sei Whale- classic sickle shaped fin (cheers Justin)
Sei Whale
 
Spent yesterday focusing on looking for whales. We’ve timed the trip this year to coincide with the rorqual whale migration as they follow the phytoplankton bloom as it moves north bringing the whales into the Azorean waters between April to June. We saw 2 Fin Whales and 2 Sei Whales. Also Common and Striped Dolphin. On the bird front 2 Barolo’s, 1 Sooty, 1 Manx and 2000+ Cory’s Shearwaters, 100+ Roseate Tern and 20+ Monteiro’s Petrel.
Saw the biologists working at Praia islet who reported that the Sooty Terns were present again this year.
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Azores Natural History Trip 2015 Days One to Three

 Graciosa, international biosphere reserve- home to the entire world population of Monteiro’s Petrel and also host to other important seabird colonies.
 Kentish Plover young at Cabo da Praia, Terciera
 Red-veined Darter
 Cory’s Shearwater- 85% of the world’s population breed on the Azores
 Monteiro’s Petrel- Adult birds this time of year should be in fresh plumage. This bird shows an interrupted trailing edge to the left wing. The pointed secondaries and other wise fresh plumage suggests that this is a displaced feather rather than moult? The possibility of a lingering cool season breeding individual and first-summer birds showing interesting moult patterns should be considered. We had 60+ ‘Band-rumped Petrels’ yesterday in and around the Bank of Fortune
 Monteiro’s Petrel- a more typical fresh plumaged individual
 Barolo’s Shearwater- an almost flightless individual in heavy moult. The bases to the coverts can be seen and the white auxillaries are exposed due to the missing secondaries.
 Barolo’s Shearwater- showing the extensive/heavy moult. Birds breed in the late winter so presumably this is  a post/non- breeding individual. This species is generally very skittish and unapproachable but with similarly approachable birds seen off Sao Miguel last week it’s possible that this time of year the birds have a moult strategy that reduces their ability to fly?
 Striped Dolphins- also Common and Bottlenose Dolphin yesterday
 Ocean Sunfish- the heaviest bony fish in the world. Can weigh up to 2,300 kg.
 Common Tern- in mid-ocean on a bit of drift material
Portuguese Man of War- lots of these drifting on the Bank of Fortune today. Not actually one organism but a collection of four. The stinging tenticles can reach up to 10m.
A few images from the first half of the 2015 Azores Natural History Tour.
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2016 Natural History Tour

AN INTRODUCTION TO THE NATURAL HISTORY OF THE AZORES
Birds, butterflies, dragonflies, mammals and endemic botany of the Azores

 

Tour dates: 8th to 15th June 2016
Cost: 1456pp
ITINERARY
Day 1. Fly Gatwick to Sao Miguel. Accommodation at Hotel Matriz.
Day 2. Today we shall take a jeep safari to the western side of the island with our expert volcanologist. The day will give a basic introduction to the geology of Sao Miguel and an excellent overview of the island’s stunning landscape, its geological formations and its relevance to the many aspects of the Azorean wildlife that we will be looking for during the week. We shall take a restaurant lunch in the coastal town of Mosteiros and then spend the afternoon taking in the wonderful scenery of probably the most famous of all Sao Miguel’s volcanic craters, Sete Cidades, as we drive around the edge of the crater!  (Lunch included).
Day 3. Transfer to the airport and fly to Graciosa – The afternoon will be spent exploring the island.
Day 4. Included – Full day (usually split unto 2 x 3 hrs trips) whale and dolphin watching trip.  This is the baleen whale migrating season and our focus will be to search for the blue whales which pass through the islands in late spring.  In the afternoon we’ll head back out to sea in search of sea birds (includes lunch).
Day 5. Included – Full day (usually split unto 2 x 3 hrs trips) whale and dolphin watching trip.  This is the baleen whale migrating season and our focus will be to search for the blue whales which pass through the islands in late spring.  In the afternoon we’ll head back out to sea in search of sea birds (includes lunch).
Day 6. Transfer to the airport and fly to Terceira for the afternoon.  On arrival we shall be met by a local botanist and travel to Santa Barbara National Park for an introduction to some endemic plants of the area.  The reserve is located around 1000m above sea level and gives fantastic views around the island (if the weather is unsuitable then we will spend time on the coast). The interior of the island has pristine forests of juniper (juniperus brevifolia) and areas of dense Sphagnum moss. If time we’ll also visit the Cabo da Praia quarry area which is without doubt, Europe’s premier wetland for American wading birds (lunch included). Evening flight back to Sao Miguel.  On arrival transfer to the volcanic basin of Furnas.
Day 7. Included – full day tour visiting the east of the island including a visit to the Priolo project (Azores Bullfinch protection area), where we shall learn about the hard work that is being done to protect this vulnerable species and the Laurel forest in which they live.
Day 8. Transfer to the airport and depart
TOUR COSTS INCLUDES
The tour cost quoted above includes :
*             Accommodation as detailed above on a bed and breakfast basis in single en-suite rooms throughout
*             Return airport/hotel transfer on Sao Miguel
*             Return airport/hotel transfers on Graciosa
*             4 x 3 hour whale and dolphin watching trip per person from Graciosa
*             1 x full day Geo-tour per person on Sao Miguel (with lunch)
*             1 x half day botanics tour per person on Terceira (with lunch)
*             1 x full day birds and botanical garden tour per person on Sao Miguel
*             Return flights from Gatwick to the Azores with SATA International / TAP Air Portugal via Lisbon
*             Inter island flights as detailed above with SATA Air Azores
*             Comprehensive pre-departure booklet detailing information about flora, fauna, and the history of the Azores and a list of restaurants recommended to us by previous clients.

 

To book a place/ more information please email:  littleoakgroup@btinternet.com

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Azores Nature Pelagic 2014

Here are the highlights from this year’s pelagic trip:

 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)
 South Polar Skua  (For discussion see:  http://rothandb.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/a-presumed-south-polar-skua-on-azores.html)
 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 /for more information on next year’s trip please email  littleoakgroup@btinternet.com
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Natural History Trip Recce

Here is a brief photo sketch of the new tour plan.

AN INTRODUCTION TO THE NATURAL HISTORY OF THE AZORES
Birds, butterflies, dragonflies, mammals and endemic botany of the Azores

DAY ONE
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
DAY TWO
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
Atlantic Canaries- can be found across various habitats
The endemic Myosotis maritima (Coastal Forget-me-not)
DAY THREE TO FIVE
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.
Fin 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.
Azores Nature off to the Bank of Fotune (Graciosa)
DAY SIX
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.
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 for more details: littleoakgroup@btinternet.com
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.
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Azores Nature Pelagic 2013 Summary

White-tailed Tropicbird

Another good trip out to sea. On the last day several members of the group twitched the White-tailed Tropic bird at Sao Miguel- presumably the same bird that has been on the archipelago since 2011 (photo above).

This year’s crew were Ernie Davies, Chris Townend, Daniel Mauras, Thomas Lang, Jurgen Blessing, Peter and Gudrun Berndt, Stefan Pfutzke, Harro Muller, Darryl and Greg Spittle, Philip Hansbro, Gerby, Deborah Berthelot ,Vincent Legrand and myself.

Seabird species recorded (#):

Fea’s Petrel (1), Bulwer’s Petrel (3), Cory’s Shearwater (1000s), Great Shearwater (100+), Sooty Shearwater (20+), Manx Shearwater (4), Wilson’s Storm Petrel (1), Swinhoe’s Petrel (1), Monteiro’s Petrel (10+), ‘Grant’s’ Petrel (1-2), White-tailed Tropicbird (1), Brown Booby (1), Pomarine Skua (1), Arctic Skus (5), Long-tailed Skua (3), Roseate Tern (20+), Common Tern (100s), Sooty Tern (2), Azores Gull (100s)

Other marine wildlife:

Sperm Whale (10+), Spotted Dolphin (50+), Common Dolphin (100+), Bottlenose Dolphin (30+), Risso’s Dolphin (2), Beaked Whale sp (2), Loggerhead Turtle (7+), Blue Shark (3)

Going out again next year (probably August) so if your interested in joining let me know (littleoakgroup@btinternet.com)

Azores Pelagics Facebook album

Azores Nature

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Azores Nature Pelagic 2013 Days eight to ten

 

 Bottlenose Dolphins
 Sooty Shearwater
 Sperm Whale breaching
Goldcrest- an endemic island form on Santa Maria
Well that was a rather pleasant disaster. No Whale Sharks despite hours and hours of searching over three days. Didn’t help that the tuna fishing fleet were having a tuna festival instead of out fishing and reporting whale shark sightings. Also seems like there was an early influx of Whale Sharks this year in August so it’s possible the migration occurred early this year.
Dipping highlights included breaching Sperm Whales, pods of Common and Spotted Dolphin, Bulwer’s Petrel, a Grant’s Petrel at dusk, Sooty, Great and Cory’s Shearwaters, Loggerhead Turtle and good company while searching the quiet seas.
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Azores Nature Pelagic 2013 Days Six and Seven

 Cory’s Shearwaters off Graciosa

Transfering to Santa Maria for the second leg of the pelagic trip over the last couple of days. Stopped off at Sao Miguel and caught up with the Asian Oystercatcher.

Arrived at Santa Maria to find out there was a White-tailed Tropicbird back at Sao Miguel so perhaps there may be some changes of plan.

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Azores Nature Pelagic Day Five

The wind and sea got up today preventing us from getting out to the Bank of Fortune so we stayed around the island. Highlight of the day was two Sooty Tern around Praia Islet.

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Azores Nature Pelagic 2013 Day Four

Immature Brown Booby
 Arctic Skua, Brown Booby and Cory’s Shearwater
 Long-tailed Skua
 Spotted Dolphins
 Band-rumped Petrel – a non-moulting bird this time of year could be either a late moulting Monteiro’s, a juvenile Monterio’s or an adult Grant’s Storm Petrel.
Blue Shark
Another good day at sea. 1 Brown Booby (the third record for the Azores), 2 Arctic Skua, 3 Long-tailed Skua, 5+ Monteiro’s/Band-rumped Petrel, 20+ Sooty Shearwater, 30+ Great Shearwater and several pods of Common, Spotted and Bottlenose Dolphin.
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