Azores Nature is a not-for-profit project with the aim of organising exploration

/
discovery trips to the Azores for serious birders and naturalists. In partnership with:
Archipelago Azores, GeoFun, Comunicair, Gerby Birding and SPEA / Priolo Project

AZORES June 2015

An Introduction to the Natural History of the Azores
Sat 30th May – Sat 6th June 2015
Tour Participants: Hilary Thompson, John & Jean Twibell and John & Janet Dykes
Guides: Peter Alfrey and Chris Townend plus Dina Silveira and Tiago Fortuna

The “King’s View” at Setes Cidades on Sao Miguel

Tour Highlights:

Endemic Birds: Monteiro’s Storm Petrel and Azores Bullfinch plus the endemic race
Chaffinch and the Azores Gull.

Endemic Mammals: Azores Noctule Bat.

Endemic Plants: Numerous endemics 

Cetaceans: Bottlenose, Common and Striped Dolphin Fin & Sei Whale

Serra de Santa Barbara: Visiting the crater edge and experiencing the unique Cloud
Forest habitat.

Volcanic landscapes: Seeing the spectacular volcanic craters and understanding the
numerous processes of the geological formations.

Laurisilva Habitat: Visiting this unique habitat so important for the endemic Azores
Bullfinch or Priolo.

Tour Summary:

The Azores Archipelago are well known for the wealth of fantastic marine life that can
be found around the islands and much of the tour was focused around this. However,
during any visit to the Azores it is impossible to ignore the amazing geological
formations as well a the endemic plants and habitats and their link with the other
wildlife. Therefore, the main focus of this trip was to give an overview to as much of
the wonderful natural history found on the Azores whilst visiting three islands, Sao
Miguel, Terceira and Graciosa.

Saturday 30th May: 

We arrived into Sao Miguel in the early evening with a walk along Ponta Delgada’s
harbour where we saw our first Azores Gulls and enjoyed a meal at a local restaurant.


Sunday 31st May: 

A full day with our expert vulcanologist Dina.

We spent the day exploring the Central and Western parts of Sao Miguel Island seeing
many of the island’s incredible volcanic features. This included a visit to Lagoa do
Congro, Lagoa do Fogo, a picnic lunch beside the steaming Caldeiras at Ribeira Grande
and a visit to the Lava Caves at Gruta do Carvao. We then finished our day at the
wonderful Sete Cidades and the “King’s View” overlooking Lagoa Verde and Lagoa
Azul. During the day we also recorded our first Chaffinches, Buzzards and Grey
Wagtails all of which are endemic races.

Monday 1st June:

Today was mostly a travel day as we transferred to the island of Graciosa via the
island of Terceira, both situated in the Central Island Group. Our flight times allowed
us a few hours to explore Terceira before continuing to Graciosa. Here we explored the
Cabo da Praia Quarry and Paul da Praia wetland projects. Surprisingly, there were no
American waders present though we had good views of Kentish Plovers with newly
fledged chicks as well as Sanderling and Turnstone. We then took an early afternoon
flight to Graciosa and checked into our hotel before a brief trip out to sea where we
saw our first Cory’s Shearwaters and Roseate Terns.


Tuesday 2nd June:

A leisurely morning allowed everyone to explore the island of Graciosa on foot. The
island is UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and considered one of the most relaxed islands
of the Azores with a real charm about it. 

After lunch, we transferred to the sea on our spacious diving boat where we were
blessed with calm seas and light winds. We spent the afternoon and evening exploring
the Bank of Fortune, a shallow area of ocean at around 300 metres depth rich in
marine life due to the mixing of cold and warm water. Bird highlights included large
numbers (minimum of 50 birds) of the endemic Monteiro’s Storm Petrel feeding on our
chum slick and a very close Little (Barolo’s) Shearwater sat on the sea as well as
Roseate and Common Terns. Excellent views of Bottlenose, Common and Striped
Dolphins, Loggerhead Turtle, Portuguese Men of War, Ocean Sunfish and large rafts of
Cory’s Shearwaters gathering at dusk.


Wednesday 3rd June:

Today we enjoyed two separate boat trips on a slightly more lumpy sea as we
specifically searched for whales. We had great success with close views of two Fin
Whales in the morning and two Sei Whales during the afternoon. Other highlights
once again included Common and Striped Dolphins along with more Monteiro’s Storm
Petrels (20+), two Little (Barolo’s) Shearwaters, Manx, Sooty and Cory’s Shearwaters
plus a large mixed flock of Common and Roseate Terns at the end of the day.
Thursday 4th June:
This morning we took our flight to Terceira and explored the island’s Natural Park
within the Serra de Santa Barbara with our expert guides Tiago and Rui. Firstly, we
were treated to a picnic lunch complete with wine and local cakes at a secluded
Caldeira before heading up to the highest point on the island at 1,021M. Here, we
explored the Serra de Santa Barbara with its incredible environment similar to a Cloud
Forest. We had fantastic weather amongst numerous colourful mosses and the
wonderful Juniper Forest and many endemic plants including the endemic Angelica
before having tea and cake at the edge of the volcanic crater with breathtaking views
across the inside of the crater. Returning to our vehicle we enjoyed more great views
across the island and then took an evening meal in the scenic town of Angra
overlooking the harbour before a late evening flight to Sao Miguel. We then
transferred to the famous steaming Caldeira town of Furnas.
Friday 5th June:

This morning we met our local guide Gerby and took the short drive to the North-East
of the island where we visited the Priolo Project Centre. “Priolo” is the local name for
the Azores Bullfinch. At the centre we were given an excellent talk by one of the SPEA
(Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds) staff about the background to the project
and the hard work being done to remove the invasive species and restoring the
important Laurasilva habitat, so important for the Azores Bullfinch. 

Later in the morning, we all enjoyed good views of up to four Azores Bullfinch before
returning to Furnas to sample the local Cozido dish, cooked in the nearby steaming
volcanic fumaroles. During the afternoon some of the group visited the beautiful Terra
Nostra Botanical Gardens whilst others visited a high point within the Pico da Vara
mountains. More excellent views of at least 12 Azores Bullfinch and the endemic race
Goldcrest were seen at the high point whilst a great number of endemic plants and
the endemic race Goldcrest feeding young were seen at the Botanical Gardens.
The final couple of hours were spent enjoying Lagoa da Furnas and its associated
fumaroles as well as couple of vagrant birds, Glossy Ibis from southern Europe and
Pied-billed Grebe from North America.
Saturday 6th June:

Early breakfast and just an hour’s drive to the airport for a morning flight back to UK.


Exploring the Lava Tunnels at Gruta do Carvao, Sao Miguel

Azores Chaffinch and Kentish Plover

Red-veined Darter and Graciosa Island

Monteiro’s Storm Petrel and Striped Dolphins, Graciosa

Fin Whale, Graciosa

Common Dolphin, Graciosa

Fin Whale, Graciosa

Little (Barolo’s) Shearwater, Graciosa

Cory’s Shearwaters, Garciosa

Portugese Man of War, Graciosa

The SPA Pico da Vara, Sao Miguel- almost half of the Azores endemics occur in this area.
Elaphoglossum semicylindricum - an endemic epiphyte of Junipers

Azores Bullfinch and the endemic race Goldcrest, Sao Miguel

Enjoying views of Azores Bullfinch, Fumeroles at Lagoa Furnas & Azores Butterfly Orchid

 Serra de Santa Barbara, Terceira

Azorean Angelica

 The SPA
Pico da Vara, Sao Miguel

Xanthandrus azorensis- An Azores endemic

Huperzia dentate - a Macronesian endemic

Myathropa florea on Himalayan Knotweed

Checklist: Introduction to the Natural History of the Azores
30th May - 6th June 2015
PLANTS
Common Name

Scientific Name

Status/notes

Azorean Holly

Ilex azorica

Endemic

Azorean Cedar

Juniperus brevifolia

Endangered Endemic

Faya

Myrica Faya

Macronesian Native

Rooting Chainfern

Woodwardia radicans

Native

Tree Fern

Culcita macrocarpa

Macronesian Native

Royal Fern

Osmunda regalis

Macronesian Native

Azorean Viburnum
(Laurustinus)

Viburnum trileasei

Near threatened Endemic

Azorean Plum

Prunus azorica

Critically endangered Endemic

Azorean Ivy

Hedera azorica

Endemic

Azorean Bay
(Azorean Laurel)

Laurus azorica

Near threatened Endemic

Hawkbit

Leotodon rigens

Endemic

Picconia

Picconia azorica

Endangered Endemic

Common Heather

Calluna vulgaris

Macronesian Native

Buckthorn

Frangula azorica

Endangered Endemic

Cape Myrtle

Myrsine retusa

Native

Azorean Heather

Erica azorica

Near threatened Endemic

Azorean Blueberry

Vaccinium cylindraceum

Near threatened Endemic

Azorean dwarf
Mistletoe

Arceuthobium azoricum

Endangered Endemic

Senecio

Senecio malvifoliius

Endemic

Tolpis sp

Tolpis azorica

Endemic

Hypericum

Hypericum foliosum

Endemic

Buttercup sp

Ranunculus cortusifolius

Macronesian Endemic

Wood rush sp

Luzula purpureo-splendens

Endemic

Azores Butterfly
Orchid

Platanthera micrantha

Endemic

-

Elaphoglossum semicylindricum Endemic epiphyte of Junipers

-

Huperzia dentate

Macronesian Endemic

Azores Nature: Introductory Natural Histrory Tour of the Azores June 2015

Coastal Species
Rock Samphire

Crithmum maritimum

Exotic, Invasie and Cultivated Plants
Common Name

Scientific Name

Cryptomeria

Cryptomeria japonica

Azalea

Rhododendron indicum

Hydrangea

Hydrangea macrophylla

Status/notes

Himalayan Honeysuckle Leycesteria Formosa
Pinkhead Smartweed

Polygonum capitatum

Ivy

Hedera helix

Euphorbia

Euphorbia stygiana

Lily-of-the-valley Tree

Clethra arborea

Lantana

Lantana camara

Solanum

Solanum mauritianum

Yellow Ginger-lilly

Hedychium gardneranum

Invasive

Australian Cheesewood

Pittosporum undulatum

Invasive

Chilean Rhubarb

Gunnera tinctoria

Invasive

Australian Blackwood

Acacia melanoxylon

Invasive

Agapanthus

Agapanthus praecox

Beladona

Amaryllis belladonna

Aloe

Aloe arborescens

Abelia

Abelia x grandiflora

Metrosideros

Metrosideros excels

Persian Lilac

Melia azedarach

Norfolk Island Pine

Araucaria heteropylla

Erigeron

Erigeron karvinskianus

Bog Pimpernel

Anagalis tenella

Giant Reed

Arundo donax

Azores Nature: Introductory Natural Histrory Tour of the Azores June 2015

BIRDS
Over 250 species of birds have been recorded on the Azores. There are two endemic
species and twelve Azorean/Macronesian endemic sub-species. The Azores are particularly
well known for the American vagrant species that occur here- the best site this side of the
Atlantic to observe these species.
Endemic and native/resident land birds birds
Common Name

Scientific Name

Status/notes

Common Buzzard

Buteo buteo rothschildi

Endemic race

Common Coot

Fulica atra

Common Moorhen

Gallinula chloropus

Kentish Plover

Charadrius alexandrines

Eurasian Collared Dove

Streptopelia decaocto

‘Azores’ Woodpigeon

Columba palumbus azorica

Endemic race

‘Azores’ Grey Wagtail

Motacilla cinerea patriciae

Endemic race

European Robin

Erithacus rubecula

‘Azores’ Blackbird

Turdus merula azorensis

Endemic race

‘Azores’ Blackcap

Sylvia atricapilla atlantis

Endemic race

‘Azores Goldcrestcomplex’
a) Santa Maria
Goldcrest
b) Azores Goldcrests

a) Regulus regulus
sanctaemariae
b) Regulus regulus azoricus
c) Regulus regulus inermis

Endemic complex

‘Azores’ Starling

Sturnus vulgaris granti

Endemic race

House Sparrow

Passer domesticus

Atlantic Canary

Serinus canaria

European Greenfinch

Carduelis chloris

European Goldfinch

Carduelis carduelis

‘Azores’ Chaffinch

Fringilla coelebs moreletti

Endemic race (proposed
split)

Azores Bullfinch

Pyrrhula murina

Endemic species

Macronesian endemic

Azores Nature: Introductory Natural Histrory Tour of the Azores June 2015

Seabirds
Common Name

Scientific Name

Status/notes

Cory’s Shearwater

Calonectris diomedia

Breeding population

Sooty Shearwater

Puffinus griseus

Migrant

Manx Shearwater

Puffinus puffinus

Breeding population

Barolo’s Shearwater

Puffinus baroli

Macronesian endemic

Monteiro’s Petrel

Oceanodroma
monteiroi

Endemic species

‘Azores Gull’

Larus michahellis
atlantis

Endemic race

Roseate Tern

Sterna dougallii

Breeding summer visitor

Common Tern

Sterna hirundo

Breeding resident

Common Name

Scientific Name

Status/notes

Little Egret

Egretta garzetta

Common migrant / resident

Grey Heron

Ardea cinerea

Common migrant / resident

Sanderling

Calidris alba

Migrant

Whimbrel

Numenius phaeopus

Migrant

Turnstone

Arenaria interpres

Migrant

Pied-billed Grebe

Podilymbus podiceps

Vagrant

Glossy Ibis

Plegadis falcinellus

Vagrant

Common Name

Scientific Name

Status and Flight times

Emperor

Anax imperator

Red-veined Darter

Sympetrum
fonscolombii

Migrants / Vagrants

DRAGONFLIES

Azores Nature: Introductory Natural Histrory Tour of the Azores June 2015

BUTTERFLIES AND MOTHS
Common Name

Scientific Name

Clouded Yellow

Colias croceus

Status and flight times

Large White Butterfly Pieris brassicae
Red Admiral

Vanessa atalanta

Large Yellow
Underwing

Noctua pronuba

OTHER DISTINCTIVE INSECTS
Common Name

Scientific Name

Status/notes

-

Xanthandrus
azorensis

An Azores endemic

WHALES AND DOLPHINS
Common Name

Scientific Name

Status/notes

Fin Whale

Balaenoptera
physalus

April to June

Sei Whale

Balaenoptera
borealis

April to June

Common Dolphin

Delphinus delphis

Abundant resident

Striped Dolphin

Stenella coeruleoalba Resident

Bottlenose Dolphin

Tursiops truncates

Resident

OTHER MARINE LIFE
Common Name

Scientific Name

Loggerhead Turtle

Caretta caretta

Ocean Sunfish

Mola mola

Status/notes

Portuguese Man o’war Physalia physalia
Gooseneck Barnacle

Lepas anatifera

Azores Nature: Introductory Natural Histrory Tour of the Azores June 2015

LAND MAMMALS
Common Name

Scientific Name

Status/notes

Azores Noctule

Nyctalus azoreum

Endemic

REPTILES AND AMPHIBIANS
Common Name

Scientific Name

Status/notes

Madeiran Wall Lizard

Lacerta dugesii

Introduced

Iberian Frog

Rana iberica

Introduced

Azores Nature: Introductory Natural Histrory Tour of the Azores June 2015