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  BIRDING AZORES

Untitled Document
  Seawatching in the Azores
   
 

Unfortunately there is so far (before 2006) almost no real seawatching carried out in the Azores. There are no longer series of continuous counts from watch points along the shores, or any regular count from ferry routes between the islands. Visiting bird watchers have just spent a few hours at promising localities, picking up some of the more sought after species. There is very little known of the occurrence of species like Fea´s Petrel, all the Skuas, Sabine's Gull and Arctic Tern. Yet the Azores have an extraordinary list of seabirds including goodies like Trinidade, Black-capped and Bermuda Petrels. Here is a real challenge for those interested!

Seawatching in the Azores normally includes lots of Cory´s Shearwaters and also many sightings of dolphins. Off São Miguel 2006-09-23. Photo:Jan-Michael Breider

Summer pelagic tours
Some species like Bulwer's Petrel Bulweria bulwerii, Wilson's Storm-petrel Oceanites oceanicus, and the summer breeding Monteiro's Storm-petrel Oceanodroma monteiroi are rarely seen from land. Good views of these, and also close contacts of other seabirds, are possible by taking a pelagic tour further out on the sea. The many whale watching tours are all depending on land based lookouts who spots the animals, and they are all normally to close to land. To get access to the more interesting waters around the seamounts at Princess Alice's or Azores Banks south of Faial and Pico (Wilson's Storm-petrel), or the waters southeast of Graciosa (Monteiro's Storm-petrel) you need to book a special tour.

When
Experience from Madeira and the Canary Islands shows that early autumn is the best. At this time of the year you will see the resident seabirds together with migrating species on their way back to breeding or wintering grounds further south. But there are also specific groups of seabirds to watch for in summer or winter. In summer there is a possibility to see some of the more southerly species like Red-billed Tropicbird, Bridled and Sooty Terns, and there are even a few claims for South Polar Skuas. In winter many seabirds seem to arrive from the northwest with several species of interesting Gulls, Double-crested Cormorants, alcids, Gannets, "Bonxies", Kittiwakes and much more.

Where
So far, the most known place for seawatching is Mosteiros on the northwest point of São Miguel. Here is a good watch point just north of the harbour, where you have a wide horizon and the sun in the back all day. A lot of species have turned up here, and there have been a few good counts around 1000 Cory's per hour. But there seem to be many more places worth exploring. Still on São Miguel there is often much to se from Ponta Delgada, the best place being up on the large pier in the harbour. In the central group a lot of seabirds seem to gather within calmer waters between the islands, and there are some promising counts from Praia da Vitoria (outside Cabo da Praia) and Horta (south of the harbour on the slopes of Monte da Guia). Light conditions should be better on the other side of Canal do Faial, where also more sheltered watch points will be fond in the harbour of Madalena. A lot of shearwaters, as well as other seabirds, seem to pass north of Flores in a south-easterly direction, best watched in good light and wind conditions at Ponta Delgada das Flores or even better in Santa Cruz. From here over a 100 Great shearwater per hour are reported from mid September.
   There is almost nothing reported from the ferry routes between the islands, but since there are many regular tours in early autumn this should be a pioneering challenge!

Counting seabirds
Counting seabirds from land using telescopes have a long tradition mostly in northern an western Europe, but have in recent decades spread to many more places. A traditional seabird count means that you count and write down every species flying over the sea, and mostly in two major directions. Notes are also made about place, date, time of the day, weather, and observers.
   We hope that creating this page on Birding Azores will render in more and more counts from different seawatching spots. This will first of all give us a better knowledge of the movements of seabirds in Azorean waters. Further more this will, as the data base builds up, also allow all interested to search among all gathered data to see where and when the best opportunities are to see seabirds, or to check out what is normally seen at a special place at the time of the year when one is visting the area.

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You can search the seawatching counts below by using the "Sort" function to the right.

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2011-10-07 Flores, Santa Cruz
       Staffan Rodebrand and Peter Uppstu ,  4  hours,  728  birds per hour,  8  species
 
2009-01-06 São Miguel, Mosteiros
       Staffan Rodebrand ,  2  hours,  35  birds per hour,  5  species
 
2009-01-02 São Miguel, Mosteiros
       Staffan Rodebrand ,  2  hours,  91  birds per hour,  7  species
 
2008-12-08 São Miguel, Mosteiros
       Staffan Rodebrand ,  2  hours,  34  birds per hour,  7  species
 
2008-02-25 São Miguel, Mosteiros
       Staffan Rodebrand ,  2  hours,  563  birds per hour,  6  species
 
2008-02-20 São Miguel, Mosteiros
       Staffan Rodebrand ,  2  hours,  551  birds per hour,  5  species
 
2007-02-19 São Miguel, Boca da Ribeira Nordeste
       Joost and Thijs Valkenburg ,  3  hours,  39  birds per hour,  5  species
 
2007-02-19 São Miguel, Ponta da Ribeira-lomba da Fazenda
       Joost and Thijs Valkenburg ,  1  hours,  28  birds per hour,  4  species
 
2007-02-13 São Miguel, Boca da Ribeira Nordeste
       Thijs Valkenburg ,  1  hours,  74  birds per hour,  4  species
 
2007-02-05 São Miguel, Mosteiros
       Bosse Carlsson and Staffan Rodebrand ,  2  hours,  15  birds per hour,  6  species
 
2007-02-01 São Miguel, Mosteiros
       Bosse Carlsson and Staffan Rodebrand ,  2  hours,  23  birds per hour,  3  species
 
2006-11-11 Flores, Fajã Grande
       Christian Cederroth and Staffan Rodebrand ,  2  hours,  3702  birds per hour,  4  species
 
2006-10-16 Flores, Fajã Grande
       Staffan Rodebrand ,  1  hours,  2793  birds per hour,  3  species
 
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