Azores pelagic 28th of August to 3rd of September 2016

Slowly travelling

I had been dreaming for years of joining a pelagic trip to somewhere far WP corner. I had always enjoyed seeing sea-birds and I still had some species missing on my list. Autumn pelagics have been arranged from Madeira, Lanzarote, Graciosa on Azores, Northern Spain, Portugal and Scillies in England. Azores trips have been organized by Archipelago Choice and my friends Rich Bonser and Peter Alfrey which was one of the reasons to join it. Of course one reason was that there had been some incredible rare birds like Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrel every single year and even one South Polar Skua. And the third reason was that on Graciosa there was possible to see and study Band-rumped Storm-Petrels that will be split soon to several species. It is possible to see Graciosa endemic summer-breeding Monteiro’s and winter-breeding Grant’s Storm-Petrels side by side. So I booked myself in already in early spring and the whole trip was paid before summer. So it was good to wait for the early autumn.

Finally the long waiting was over and I was waking up in Kirkkonummi where I had been already for more than a day.

The 28th of August. I hadn’t been sleeping almost at all when I woke up at 2 a.m. Anyway I had planned to sleep in the plane. Soon we were driving towards Helsinki-Vantaa airport with my father. On the way I got a text-message from TAP that my flight would be late and it was possible to check more information from their sites, but there was nothing there. So we continued driving. My father dropped me to the airport and there I soon found out that the flight had been delayed for a couple of hours. So it seemed that I would miss my second flight to Terceira which was leaving almost the same time when the first flight was landing to Lisbon.

After 4 hours trying to get any sleep on very uncomfortable benches my flight finally left, 20 more minutes late. So I had to hope that the strike, that TAP security persons had been having on early morning, was delaying also my second flight.

I was sitting in the middle seat so even though I fell asleep already before the plane took off, I woke up immediately as there was nothing to lean to. Finally I managed to get some sleep when I turned my bench as back as possible, but when I woke up, my neck hurt very bad.

When the plane finally landed to Lisbon, I opened my phone immediately and received an SMS from TAP that told my second flight was also late, but only for 20 minutes, so it was just leaving…

So in the airport there was an officer collecting all the people together that had missed their flight and we were given new tickets to next flights and 10 € food-tickets. Hooray! My flight was after 8 hours, so I had a long wait again…

I wondered around the airport and spent time and tried to sleep again a little, but without success. Only funny moment was when I realized that I was sitting next to a King! A legendary football player Eric Cantona was waiting for his flight to Paris!

I ate in Pizza Hut and walked more around, but I wasn’t able to buy anything as I was really out of money after buying a new car a week earlier.

Finally the boarding started and it wasn’t a surprise that also this flight was a little bit late. I was again sitting in the middle but managed to sleep some more and once I woke up my neck was even worse.

Twitching right away

Finally the plane landed to Terceira and after I had found my luggage, I took a taxi to Hotel Teresinha where our group was staying. We had planned to meet the leader of the tour, my old friend Josh Jones, in the hotel at 6 p.m. but it was already 8 p.m.

I got a comfortable room from the hotel and then sent once again an SMS to another old friend Pierre-Andre Crochét with whom I had planned to do birding for whole day. I should have been on Terceira already 11 a.m. and we were supposed to go birding with “PAC”, Hugo Touze and Josh.

After sending a message I went to lobby to see if there were any other from our group and found Swedish Bosse Carlsson, Hans Rudhe and Luxemburgish Guy Mirgain. They were about to go to eat something and I planned to join them as it was already getting dark outside anyway.

Long-eared Owl twitch

We walked around the pool of Paul do Praia and saw some Coots and Moorhen and also a Glossy Ibis that was walking on the grass on the shore of the pool. Then we stopped to see a couple of Long-eared Owls that were roosting on a tree in the backyard of a kindergarten.

But then PAC called me and told that they were watching a Sandwich Tern in the harbor and right away my alarms went on; that was a bird I should see! I asked if they had watched it carefully as American Cabot’s Tern had recently been splitted as an own species. And PAC told that they of course been thinking of that possibility and they had plenty of pictures and there was probably something strange in this tern. So PAC promised that they would pick me up from the hotel where they hadn’t been at all yet. And soon PAC, Hugo and Josh had taken rooms, dropped their luggage and we were driving to the harbor.

Belgian David Monticelli, who had accidentally booked a room from a different hotel, had also arrived to the harbor, but also too late. The bird wasn’t there on the wire where it had been perched together with many Common Terns and a couple of Roseate Terns. It wasn’t found from the harbor at all, so once it was getting too dark, we decided to give up. Only other birds to mention were some distant Cory’s Shearwaters and a Whimbrel.

So we visited our hotel briefly, took relaxing showers and left to search for a restaurant. Unfortunately Pescadore, which we knew was good, was closed on Sundays, so we had to continue to another one where Bosse, Hans, Guy and David were already. They had been waiting for their foods for ages already and after all it took amazing long to get anything also for us. But at least we had time to check Hugo’s tern-pictures and check everything that was possible to find about Cabot’s Tern on internet. And the bird really looked like a Cabot’s! There were only two previous records of Cabot’s Tern in Western Palearctic and they had both been found dead. Both had been ringed birds, of course ringed in America, and one had been found in UK and another one in Holland. So there were 3 happy persons in my table and one not so happy – thanks TAP!

After all some of us had really difficulties to get any food and at least one got too raw fish, but at least the octopus I had was really tasty!

It was too late when we finally walked back to hotel and got to sleep. I was too tired!

Successful morning

On the 29th of August we woke up early and headed to the harbor already at 6:30 a.m. Josh drove us, who hadn’t seen the tern yet, to the harbor first and then left to pick up the rest. With Bosse, Hans and Guy we started to scan the terns that were already visible sitting on the wire even it was still quite dark. Unfortunately they were all same size, Common Terns and a few Roseate Terns again.

We were wondering where David was when Bosse said: “The tern is there now!” It had managed to come to the wire without any of us noticing. I had been watching so many pictures of this bird, so it was easy to see darkish tertials, narrow white edges on the primaries that didn’t go around the tip of the feather, almost completely black cap-patch with only very little white in it and the size of the bird as it wasn’t much bigger than the other terns. Soon the bird was flying and we could see the darkish secondaries too.

Cabot's TernCabot's Tern

We were watching the tern for about 15 minutes and tied to call David, and finally he arrived. But then the tern was in flight again and didn’t land back to the wire but flew far towards the sea. Luckily David managed to see it well enough to tick it. But I must say that we all need to wait for the absolutely sure Cabot’s Tern tick, as the species is not very well known yet. But if the id-criteria that is now known is right, our bird fits very well!

We had really had perfect morning so we could happily drive back to the hotel to enjoy good breakfast already at 7:30 a.m.

Day-trip on Terceira

Cabo da Praia

HarborBlack-tailed Godwit

After the breakfast we met the rest of our group that had started the tour already on the previous day on Sao Miguel, where they had been birding with local guide Gerby Michielsen. I didn’t know British Brian Gregory, Dutch Barti Brieffes or Canadian Heather Pantrey before, but they all seemed to be very keen travelers. Heather was an older lady who wasn’t really a birder but had been travelling very much with nature-people in recent years, but anyway I had a feeling if she knew where she was joining as birders pelagic-trips are quite extreme birding trips. Luckily the beginning of the trip was something else than swinging on a smelly boat in the middle of the sea.

Soon our drivers arrived and we got into a van and a 4-wheel drive and of course headed once again back to the harbor first. But there were almost no terns at all, so soon we continued to famous Cabo da Praia quarry which has really good pool for waders.

There were quite a few waders in Cabo da Praia but not as many as later in the autumn in October when there are lots of American vagrants. Anyway we found 4 Semipalmated Plovers, which 2 of them were adults, a Ringed Plover, some Kentish Plovers, Sanderlings, a Curlew Sandpiper, a Little Stint, a Knot, a Ruff, Turnstones, 2 Grey Plovers, a Whimbrel, 5 Black-tailed Godwits, a Redshank and 2 Common Snipes. Quails were calling, Collared Doves flying around, a few Blackbirds and a couple of Blackcaps and Grey Wagtails, and a flock of Waxbills were also seen. The weather was perfect and I started to feel that I had packed too many warm clothes with me. Anyway you never know how much the weather can change when you are in the middle of the sea…

After we had been watching for the waders enough, we continued towards inland and made the first stop in Cabrito artificial pool. There were Azorean Yellow-legged Gulls like almost everywhere in the coast too but also a Lesser Black-backed Gull, a Black-headed Gull and a Tufted Duck. There was also a very strange duck, but whatever it was, it was a domestic “plastic duck”.

Then we headed towards the volcanic mountains and walked a little bit on one hillside where local Chaffinches were calling very strangely and a couple of bigger bats were hunting over the field. Soon we continued higher to the end of the road and walked on the meadow and tried to find an endemic butterfly-species. Soon we found plenty of these Azores Greylings (Hipparchia azorina). It was a greyish-brown butterfly that was always flying too fast with the wind and landed with wings closed. So at least I didn’t get any good picture of it. Next to the parking place there was a pool where we found plenty of American damselflies Citrine Forktails (Ishnura hastate). They were tiny dragonflies, only 2 centimeters long and I would have never found them as they were flying so low between the grasses. All Citrine Forktails on Azores are females and reproduces by parthenogenesis, making this the only population of Odanata anywhere in the world known to reproduce by this means.

YHighlands

Hipparchia azorinaIshnura hastata

We had planned to visit Angra do Heroismo too, but we had spent so long on the meadows that we decided to drive back towards Praia de Vitoria. We stopped to see a Goldcrest which is a different subspecies, inermis, than what some of the group had seen on Sao Miguel on the previous day.

Ship to Graciosa

Finally we were back at the hotel where we just picked up luggage and continued to harbor to wait for the ship to Graciosa. There was a mess in the harbor and it was impossible to find any info about the ships that were leaving. Actually there was no ship at all after an hour waiting when the ship was supposed to leave, but we didn’t worry as there were so many other people too. Finally there were 2 different ships coming and the bigger and much older one was ours. Finally soon after 6 p.m. it left, more than an hour late and we of course climbed up to the deck to watch seabirds.

ShipsOn the deck

Bulwer's Petrel

In the beginning there were only some Azorean Yellow-legged Gulls, Common Terns and Cory’s Shearwaters and once we got to the sea, there was almost nothing at all. I saw briefly some flying fishes, but it really seemed that the weather was too good and the sea too calm for seabirds. Anyway we kept on trying and finally saw a couple of Sooty Shearwaters, one too distant small shearwater and then also a Bulwer’s Petrel. We also saw some whales that were jumping very far, but from the pictures we could identify them as Sowerby’s Beaked Whales (Mesoplodon bidens).

We were closing Graciosa and it was getting dark when we saw the first Band-rumped Storm-Petrel. Soon we found a couple of birds more and one of them was seen a bit closer so we could see that it was molting and therefore most probably a Monteiro’s Storm-Petrel. These Monteiro’s Storm-Petrels are breeding in two islets close to the shore of Graciosa and it is still not known, if they are the only Monteiro’s Storm-Petrels of the world or if they are breeding also on other island and islets around Azores.

Finally we were in Graciosa, in Praia harbor, where we met our contact Rolando. His friend was speaking very good English and they had arranged us a late dinner in a restaurant nearby. Normally all the restaurants were closing very early and as our ship had been late for an hour; it was good to know we had a reservation. First we drove to Santa Cruz to our hotel where we didn’t have as many rooms as we expected, so we took a double room with Josh. After dropping our bags to our rooms, we drove back close to Praia to restaurant Green Light.

The chef in Green Light was a funny man and after welcoming drinks we ordered fish. We enjoyed really good dinner and had fruits as a dessert, before drove back to the hotel and finally got to sleep about at midnight.

The first pelagic day

Our boat

On the 30th of August the breakfast was at 7:30 and after some relaxing in our rooms, we took a van we had got in the evening and left towards the harbor nearby. There was not enough space for all of us, so Josh drove the first group to the harbor, where we met Rolando. But Rolando was surprised to see us as he wasn’t going to the sea with us and we were supposed to leave from Praia harbor! We had no idea about that, but luckily Rolando helped us and drove that part of our group that didn’t fit to the van to Praia, so we made it there in time.

But in Praia harbor we still had to wait for some time before our boat arrived and we met our captain, a young assistant and his girlfriend. Soon we had carried our equipment to the boat and left to the sea.

Common Bottlenose Dolphin

First we saw only the same gulls, terns and Cory’s, but after about an hour we saw the first Great Shearwater and soon also a Bulwer’s Petrel and some Band-rumped Petrels. But we didn’t want to stop yet and continued towards Bank of Fortune, a huge shallow area about 34 kilometers from Graciosa. But soon we saw a couple of dolphins which made us to stop as they were too close not to take photographs. We followed these Common Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) for some time before we continued again.

Soon we had the first sea-sick on the board, but surprisingly it wasn’t any of our group but the assistant’s girlfriend. So the chumming was started a bit earlier than we had thought. None of us hesitated to tell her that luckily there were only 8 or 9 hours to survive…

Finally we arrived to Bank of Fortune where is an underwater volcano and therefore a shallower sea which is for some reason a good place to see seabirds. Especially storm-petrels have always been seen in this area. Rolando and co. had arranged us a big tub full of chum, which is fish-parts in oil and bread and anything that floats. Josh and PAC started to throw this chum to the sea and soon there were the first Band-rumped Storm-Petrels coming close to us! This chum smelled incredible bad which was of course good as seabirds have really good sense of smell. Unfortunately our chum wasn’t floating very well but mostly sinking straight away. Anyway there was soon a big oil-slick around our boat. And the slick was getting bigger and bigger all the time when we were floating with the wind and waves. I must say that of course our chum was fully organic and we weren’t polluting the sea at all.

ChummingChum

Finally a couple of storm-petrels arrived nearer to the boat and we started to take pictures. Birds didn’t come as close as I had expected; mostly they were flying around and just flying quickly over the slick and picked very quickly something from the surface in flight, but always quite far from the boat. Sometimes they just quickly flew past the boat and then cameras were clicking. But the boat was of course bobbing on the waves and there were many photographers with long tubes, so it was extremely difficult to get any good pictures of these fast flying birds; at least for a beginner photographer who had his wife’s camera.

After seeing some storm-petrels, we were sure we had seen both molting and fork-tailed Monteiro’s and fresh-looking a bit paler greyish and square-tailed Grant’s Storm-Petrels. There was a slight difference in wing-length and the way of flight too but mostly we were just taking pictures and had no idea what we were photographing. We just hoped to get some sharp pictures from where we could maybe identify the birds later. But these birds are still not very well known, so for sure there can be some mistakes still found even on pictures of this story.

Monteiro's Storm-PetrelGrant's Storm-Petrel

Every now and then a Cory’s or Great Shearwater past the boat and cameras were clicking again. After some time we had floated away from the slick and we drove back to the beginning of the slick to float through it again while photographing the birds again; and this was repeated about every 30 minutes.

It was already late afternoon when once again all the birds had been missing for some time and we decided to drive around a little bit and try to find some birds. But we found nothing and soon came back to the ordinary place to the slick. The weather was incredible good, wind was mild and sun was shining hot. So PAC and Josh, who had been doing the hard and smelly job with the chum and even without any other protection from the sun than sun-cream, were swimming a couple of times. In one more quiet moment pictures were taken from a Lesser Black-backed Gull that came to the chum, but then suddenly I found a dark-looking storm-petrel flying quite distant past the boat. It took some time before the others found it, but we all thought it was completely dark and clearly a storm-petrel. But it never came any closer and soon disappeared behind the small waves. We just didn’t see it well enough to identify it 100% sure as a Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrel!

After a frustrating dark storm-petrel it was again quiet for some time, before PAC finally shouted: “Wilson’s Storm-Petrel!” I found the bird immediately and there was a shorter-winged storm-petrel with a bigger white rump and long feet flying low towards us. It soon turned around and disappeared, but soon it was flying past the boat but quite distant. And in the same time there was also a Sooty Shearwater flying past the boat! I had got a lifer that I had been expecting.

Wilson's Storm-PetrelSooty Shearwater

After some more Band-rumped Storm-Petrels PAC found another dark-looking bird that was flying away from us. We tried to catch it but it was impossible. We managed to follow it for some time, but never got any closer. Hugo managed to get a couple of pictures and it seemed to be a Bulwer’s Petrel after all.

It was already getting late, so we had to start driving back. We still stopped to take pictures of a swimming Great Shearwater and then suddenly saw some big blows not too distant! We drove closer and found a couple of Sperm Whales! We followed these big whales, which can be even 16 meters long, for some time and it was amazing to hear the blows! And still it was not enough as we soon found also a couple of Cuvier’s Beaked Whales and again got also pictures.

Sperm WhaleSperm WhaleLesser Black-backed Gull and Great ShearwaterCuvier's Beaked Whale

Close to Praia we still drove around the Praia Islet a couple of times and tried to find a Sooty Tern that has been breeding on the island for years, but we saw only plenty of Common Terns and some Roseate Terns. After all we were back in the harbor after 9.5 hours on the sea and we had seen 15 Great Shearwaters, 4 Sooty Shearwaters, 5 Bulwer’s Petrels, 6 distant smaller skuas, a Wilson’s Storm-Petrel and about 30 Band-rumped Storm-Petrels. From the harbor we drove straight to Green Light to have dinner. This time we had delicious meat. After the dinner it was good to get to the hotel and go to sleep a little bit earlier.

Second day pelagic

On the 31st of August we had planned to leave to the sea earlier, but again we had some misunderstandings and we weren’t sure to which port we were supposed to go and how we could all get there with one car. Luckily everything had been arranged for us and Rolando’s English-speaking friend arrived to the parking place and we all got a ride to Praia, from where we were leaving.

Long-tailed Skua

The wind was now much harder so we drove around Praia Islet only once and still saw no Sooty Terns. Then we continued straight towards the Bank of Fortune. Already on the way we saw quite a few Great Shearwaters and also a nice Long-tailed Skua flying over us.

Our chum was now much better; it smelled much worse and it floated well, as it had much more bread and also popcorn in it. Maybe it was the bad smell together with very bumpy driving that made me feel pretty bad. I had survived the previous day extremely well as I had been using a transdermal patch behind my ear. It was supposed to last for 72 hours but anyway I decided to take some extra medicine and took also pills for sea-sickness. But after some time I still didn’t feel any better. I started to look so bad, that Guy noticed my condition and offered me also ginger-pills; and maybe it was the triple-medication or then the sea just got a little bit less rough, but I started to feel better soon. Or maybe the main reason was that we finally arrived to Bank of Fortune and started to see storm-petrels immediately once we started chumming.

It didn’t take long before there were several Band-rumped Storm-Petrel flying around the chum but now the photographing was even more difficult as the waves were big and it was very difficult to stand on the boat. Soon another Long-tailed Skua was seen and right after that Hugo spotted a stunning Fea’s Petrel flying behind the boat. Luckily it flew once very close by the boat and we all got pretty good pictures. Soon one more Long-tailed Skua was seen and after some Band-rumped Storm-Petrel photographing we noticed 2 Wilson’s Storm-Petrels that were showing us their beautiful dancing on the sea-surface. We really were enjoying the species-selection!

Fea's PetrelFea's PetrelWilson's Storm-PetrelWilson's Storm-Petrel

In the best time there were about 10 Band-rumped Storm-Petrels and Great Shearwaters were flying past the boat quite often. So cameras were clicking and even though the boat was swinging a lot, I didn’t feel bad at all anymore.

Short-beaked Common Dolphins

We also saw a pack of Short-beaked Common Dolphins that dived right under our boat. But then it was a short gap without any interesting records, until Josh shouted: “Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrel!” We all found the bird easily flying straight towards us but it turned behind the boat and only I and Hugo managed to get some kind of pictures. I took mine while I was sitting behind someone and just reached my camera around him and pointed it towards the bird. Surprisingly the bird was in almost every picture and even almost sharp in a couple of them! But even though the bird disappeared very soon, the atmosphere in the boat was high! We all had got a lifer and Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrel had after all been the target number one for probably all of us, as it had been seen in every Azores Pelagic before and always in Bank of Fortune!

Swinhoe's Storm-Petrel

For some time there were too happy birders in the boat to concentrate to find more new birds, but soon we were all again scanning the sea and checking every single storm-petrel and shearwater that was flying passing the boat. And again many Band-rumped Storm-Petrel pictures were taken before one Great Shearwater landed next to us and after we had taken really good pictures of it, we were ready to start a long way back towards Praia.

Great Shearwater

The Bank of Fortune had offered us about 40 Band-rumped Storm-Petrels, 55 Great Shearwaters, 10 Sooty Shearwaters, a Bulwer’s Petrel and all the candies already mentioned. And one more candy was seen on the way back, when I spotted a distant petrel that was barely possible to identify a a Fea’s Petrel.

The wind was still so hard that we checked Praia Islet only briefly and were back in harbor soon. We had planned to relax a couple of hours and then head back to the sea in the evening. On the way to our hotel, we made a brief visit in Praia town and on the only fresh-water pond of the island we saw a long-staying Mandarin Duck.

In the evening the wind had dropped and the sea was calm again, so we drove around Praia Islet several times and checked all terns. We had got information that the pair of Sooty Terns hadn’t been breeding this year, but at least one bird had been seen still one week earlier, but all we found were Common Terns, some Roseate Terns, Turnstones and a Grey Heron.

We headed back to the harbor before 8 p.m. and soon were back in our hotel, where we had dinner. The food wasn’t really good and there was only one choice of meat and fish to eat. Luckily after all we all got our portions and the hunger was moved again to the future.

It was good to relax in the evening and to go to sleep a bit earlier.

3rd pelagic day

On the 1st of September Josh drove us all to Praia harbor, which meant he had to drive there twice. This time we made it to the sea in time and the rarity-hunt was on again.

Praia and Pico

The sea was very calm again and it was very warm already. Also the visibility was incredible and we could see 4 Azores islands when even Pico was clearly visible behind Sao Jorge.

On the way to Bank of Fortune we saw almost nothing but when we got there, the first Band-rumped Storm-Petrel was seen immediately. And once we started chumming, there were soon more of them flying around the boat.

Once again we managed to get pictures of both Monteiro’s and Grant’s Storm Storm-Petrels, but of course only very few birds were possible to identify in the field. But almost no other birds were seen, so we had time to photograph young Azores Yellow-legged Gulls and Cory’s Shearwaters too.

Monteiro's Storm-PetrelGrant's Storm-PetrelAzorean Yellow-legged GullCory's Shearwater

We were enjoying the sun and filled our memory-cards with too many storm-petrel pictures. But then together with March, we noticed 2 storm-petrels and another bird looked completely dark – “Swinhoe’s Petrel!” I shouted, and this time the bird was flying past very nicely and all of us managed to get pictures. This time the bird stayed on chum for some time and we managed to follow it for some time and even moved a little bit closer once but then it once again disappeared like all the storm-petrels always somehow did.

Swinhoe's Storm-PetrelSwinhoe's Storm-Petrel

We saw also less Great Shearwaters than on the previous day, but again one of them landed next to our boat and started to follow us. After all we were feeding it from about 1.5 meters!

Great ShearwaterGreat Shearwater

Striped Dolphin

When we thought we had got enough pictures and too much sun, we started to drive back. Altogether we had seen about 20 Band-rumped Storm-Petrels, 10 Great Shearwaters, 2 Bulwer’s Petrels, which another one was seen on the way back. During the day we had also seen a Blue Shark briefly and a pack of Striped Dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) jumping quite distant.

Close to Praia Islet we found incredible flocks of Cory’s Shearwaters swimming and while driving around the flock, we were able to get really good pictures of them. Then we drove around the islet once again but still found no Sooty Terns. We were back in harbor at 2 p.m.

Cory's ShearwaterCory's Shearwater

Once back in the hotel, I did a short walk in Santa Cruz and managed to find cold drinks from the third shop I visited. But soon we were heading back to the harbor again. We were going to check the islets once again. When we were back in the boat, we noticed that there was no chum at all, but luckily we managed to get lots of small fish with us.

The sea was still very calm and it was nice to drive around Baixo and circle around on the sea, but only birds were completely missing. Our target was to find a place where Monteiro’s Storm-Petrels were supposed to arrive before they head to these breeding islets, but we saw only 1 storm-petrel and 1 Great Shearwater. So in the end we headed to Praia Islet to try to find Sooty Terns.

Baixo

Praia

PAC and Josh were doing the dirty job again and cutting the fishes in pieces with their bare hands and throwing them for terns. And soon we had plenty of Common Terns with a couple of Roseate Terns catching their share, but no “sooties”. We had heard that the pair hadn’t been breeding this year, but at least one bird had been seen still at least one week earlier. But we had no luck. Soon our fish-box was empty and we headed back to the harbor.

We had dinner in Green Light again, where we were once again warmly welcomed. We got some drinks while we were waiting for our food which was once again good and too much. After all Rolando came once again to help us all to get back to hotel. He also brought some bad news as the weather-forecast promised storms for the next evening. It seemed that he didn’t want to take any risks and go to the sea at all on the next day. Anyway it seemed that we would meet him again on the next morning to find out what happens. Once we were back in our hotel, I was soon ready to sleep.

Graciosa sightseeing

On the 2nd of September we thought that we’d meet Rolando after breakfast. But after 30 minutes waiting we started to worry. After 1 hour waiting, Josh called him but his wife was answering and telling that Rolando had gone diving! We were a bit confused, as the weather still looked perfect to go to the sea. We had told that if it was impossible to go to the sea, we’d get another car so we could all go together somewhere in the island, but there still was no sign of anybody bringing it for us. But after 30 minutes more waiting, we somehow found out that there had been all the time a car for us in the parking place!

So we left to see what kind of island Graciosa was. We did a couple of stops on the shore nearby, but saw only some Turnstones and a Whimbrel and of course black rocky shore. Then we stopped in the lighthouse in Farol da Ponta da Barca, before we headed inland to the volcano. We drove through a tunnel to Furna Do Enxofre Caldeira and found out that it was extremely green inside the crater. There was supposed to be a small lake too, but it was now completely gone. Anyway we saw plenty of Chaffinches, Goldfinches and Canaries, some Blackbirds and Wood Pigeons and heard some Robins too.

Shore

Caldeira

The most important sightseeing was a cave that was behind the information center. Most of us bought the 3.5€ ticket and climbed a long way underground to see the cave. The cave was nicely enlightened and there was also a small fumarole that of course smelt bad. Anyway I think the cave was really worth a visit.

CenterUnder ground

Cave

After I had climbed back to the center, we just relaxed a little bit after continued driving around the island. After all the small island of Graciosa was soon driven around and we had seen a few new island-ticks like Grey Wagtail, Common Buzzard and Collared Dove.

Then it was time to head to the airport. Josh went with a couple of other friends to collect our luggage and soon we were all waiting for our flights.

The plane left after 6 p.m. to Terceira where we landed very soon. There it was time to say goodbye to all those who were continuing with the same plane to Sao Miguel.

In Terceira airport Bosse and Hans, PAC and Hugo and also Marc had booked rental cars, so with Guy we didn’t need to do it anymore, there was enough space in the other cars. So we joined Marc and headed straight to the harbor once again. And once we got there, we found a familiar tern perched on the familiar wire once again. But once we got out of the car, the bird was already in flight and soon flew far to the sea and it didn’t come back in about 30 minutes that we still stayed there.

Messing up

It was already dark, when we headed to our hotels. Swedes and Guy were staying in Teresinha again but the rest of us had booked rooms in a hotel Branco nearby, which was a bit cheaper. I had booked a room with help of Marc while waiting for our flight. But once we got there to Branco, there was no room for me at all! We found out that we had accidentally booked a room from hotel Branco II and it was quite far from Praia de Vitoria! Luckily the owner was from the same family as the owners of this Branco I, and we could sort out that I went to the room with French, as they luckily had a third bed in their room.

After some refreshing in our rooms, we headed to restaurant Pescadore where PAC had booked us a table for 7 persons. The Swedes and Guy were already there and soon we had ordered food. We were already eating our delicious portions when PAC’s phone rang and someone was asking, where were we? PAC soon understood the call was from the restaurant and they were still keeping a table free for us and they had been turning other customers away from the door already as the restaurant was completely full. PAC tried to explain that we were inside and already eating. But then everything cleared, PAC had called to another restaurant called Pescadore; there was still an empty table for us on Sao Miguel! We were quite embarrassed!

Well the most important thing was that at least I got one of the best dinners I have ever had, and soon it was good to go to sleep next to my full stomach.

Moring birding around Praia de Vitoria

On the 3rd of September we woke up after a hot night and soon met everyone in the familiar place in the harbor. We were a little bit late and there were only a couple of terns left. They had gone fishing already.

It was windy and rainy weather so we went to have morning coffee to Café Europa nearby, before headed to Cabo da Praia again.

It was soon clear that there were more waders now and among the closest waders there were a Lesser Yellowlegs and a Pectoral Sandpiper. I counted 50 Sanderlings and there were also quite a few Ringed Plovers, Turnstones and so on but also a couple of new Semipalmated Plovers, 4 Semipalmated Sandpipers and 2 White-rumped Sandpipers with many birds that had already been there on our previous visit.

Lesser Yellowlegs ans Pectoral SandpiperSemipalmated SandpiperSemipalmated PloverSanderling

With Guy we had a flight in the afternoon, so Marc who still had a couple of days in Terceira, promised to drive us to the airport. We still had some time, so we visited the other parts of the harbor, swimming beach, Paul do Praia and went to twitch the Long-eared Owls, before Mar dropped us to the airport.

Paul do Praia

Praia de Vitoria

Our flight to Lisbon was in time (it was the only flight that was not organized by TAP but SATA). In Lisbon I said goodbye to Guy who had only an hour before his flight to Brussels, while I still had 3 hours to wait. I ate again and walked a lot around and even bought some souvenirs, before my flight to Helsinki finally left at 9:25 p.m.

I was in Helsinki at 3:30 a.m. 30 minutes earlier than in the schedule, but luckily my father was there already. We drove to Kirkkonummi where I went to sleep and woke up in midday. After a relaxed day, I still did some birding before started a long drive to Parikkala where I was in the evening. And on the next morning I had to go to work…

J.A.