Many thanks to Tropical Thomason for sending me this report from his recent visit to the Cape Verde Islands (ah, how often did he patiently explain: "honestly, it's not a birdin' trip guys!" to us in the Legless Arms in the months prior to his departure?)...
Well, you can't put a birder like Trops on a remote island chain off West Africa and not expect him to bird - although, he seemed almost as excited on his return about the free access to the hotel beer pump.
Although that does sound pretty good.
Here's his report....
Just returned from a relaxing all inclusive week with my good lady, on Boa Vista, one of the Cape Verde isles. I knew that the islands have a limited avifauna and that I'd wouldn't have any chance to visit other islands, so was resigned to lightweight birding around the hotel complex.
The hotel (Riu Touareg) is situated in the south of the isle miles from any habitation set amongst semi desert land with very sparse vegetation.
But boy was I wrong, and glad I'd packed my 'scope. The list for a week was only 37 species, but included:
Red Billed Tropicbird
Black Crowned Finch Lark
Cape Verde Peregrine. (a full species, I am reliably informed by Neill H, falco madens)
Bar-tailed Desert Lark
Cream Coloured Courser
Osprey (ground nesting)
All this and all the food you can eat and beer you can drink (you don't even have to bother the barman as they have beer pumps dotted around the complex).
Anyone visiting this hotel might think that there isn't going to be much around, as I did, but as the missus found Spectacled Warbler and Hoopoe Lark in the hotel grounds on the first morning thought I'd better go and check out the local hamada around the complex.
A short stroll behind the beach going east produced an Osprey circling 1/2 a klik ahead, ah I thinks, there could be water up ahead.
BINGO is what I wrote in my notebook when I found the hotel's cess pit, this was heaven, stuffed with waders, including a Pec Sand and a Black Duck, soon joined by a Peregrine trying his luck.
A short walk inland from the complex into the rocky fields produced all the larks and a few C C Coursers and the Cape Verde Sparrow, while the hotel castellations held breeding Kestrels of the local race.
A 3 klik walk east along the beach and past the first headland and on to the next, a bit like Blakeney, only swop the shingle for energy-sapping soft sand resulted in a ground nesting pair of Ospreys.
From this headland at about a mile out was a small rocky island, covered in wind blown Saharan sand that held a mixed Gannet colony, Brown and Masked Boobys. The Brown Boobys would occasionally dive off the beach but I never saw any Masked Boobys in flight.
I watched the island for about an hour as I had been informed that it held a few breeding pairs of Frigatebirds.
As I was about to pack up 'cos the light was starting to go a white bird took off, its long tail waving in the breeze seemed to stretch all the way back to Ascencion Isle, I'd heard there where a few pairs of RED BILLED TROPICBIRD on an islet off the north east coast but I never dreamed I'd see one.
Even at that distance it's gotta be the most beautiful of pelagic birds.
It's in my top 5.
I would recommend this place for a short relaxing birding break.
There now, doesn't that make a refreshing change (apart from his questionable devotion to cess-pits) to winter on the north west coast?
Thanks again Trops.
Eyes to the skies everyone, eyes to the skies...