Birder's Guide to Cape Verde: March 1997
Section 1 - General information


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Overview

This Birder's Guide is divided into three sections:

Section 1 - Introduction, logistics, itinerary and general information.
Section 2 - Birding sites.
Section 3 - Systematic list.

Introduction

Cape Verde is an archipelago of ten islands and five islets located in the Atlantic Ocean 500 kilometres from the west coast of Africa. Although having received very little ornithological coverage in the past, they have in the last few years begun to attract the attention of world birders. The publication of the BOU checklist for Cape Verde (Hazevoet, 1995) drew attention to the fact that many of the distinctive Cape Verde taxa have unsatisfactory taxonomic treatments and are becoming increasingly scarce, to the degree now that at least two of them are critically endangered.

Cape Verde islands

Another enticing feature of Cape Verde to many birders, is its position at the extreme southwestern corner of the Western Palaearctic region. As a consequence, this is the only place in the Western Palaearctic where several, typically tropical or African species, breed or can be found regularly. These include some highly sought-after seabirds such as Magnificent Frigatebird and Red-tailed Tropicbird.
This guide concentrates on aiding birders interested in finding the specialities of the Cape Verde islands; primarily species (and distinctive taxonomic forms) endemic to these islands, together with those which are restricted, rare or difficult to find elsewhere in the Western Palaearctic.

The archipelago is divided into two groups - the Barlayento, or windward islands, in the north and the Sotavento, or leeward islands, in the south. Except for Boa Vista, Maio and Sal the islands are volcanic in origin, with mountains, rugged cliffs, steep ravines and some spectacular scenery.

The coastal plains are semi-desert with fine sandy beaches while some mountains are covered by thin forests. Desertification by the over-grazing of goats is a major environmental concern, and water is a scarce commodity.
Traditionally, Cape Verde has been considered to have four endemic bird species. Although this may not appeal to the birder more interested in species per unit cost, and whilst on a two week trip one would be lucky to see more than 60 species, the importance of some of these indigenous forms is only just being realised. This might well result in Cape Verde species being split after extinction.

Despite being a poor country Cape Verde has a good infrastructure and is safe for travel. Internal flights are reliable and offer an easy way to cover the islands in a short time. Hotels, pensions, food and the other necessities for the birder are freely available. On the down side, visitors will notice a general disregard in the poorer areas, due to insufficient education in such matters, for the environment with rubbish thrown anywhere and poor sanitation.

Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Problematical. Taxonomy and nomenclature follow Clements (1991), with additions and corrections as published since. However, this is at odds with the most important work on Cape Verde birds, the BOU checklist (Hazevoet, 1995), which has adopted the pylogenetic species concept (PSC), rather than the usual biological species concept (BSC). I have therefore adopted a terminology to make the reader aware of both these approaches. As an example, the distinctive Cape Verde form bournei of Purple Heron is here listed as Cape Verde Heron Ardea (purpurea) bournei to show that it is treated as a phylogenetic species Ardea bournei by Hazevoet, but conspecific with purpurea by Clements. For a good overview of the differences between these two approaches see Hazevoet (1995).

Flights and Getting There

Cape Verde is served by TACV (Cape Verde Airlines), SAA, TAP, Aeroflot and Air Senegal. From western Europe direct flights are from Amsterdam, Paris, Luxembourg, Frankfurt, Rome, Moscow, and Lisbon. From the USA, only Boston has a direct connection. Notably, flights are not as cheap as one might expect for the distance involved. TACV and TAP offer return flights from about US$1,000 for a two week period from Amsterdam or Paris. Presumably Aeroflot has cheaper flights but include additional connection times, and maybe some reliability problems. A flight via Dakar would offer the possibility of a stop-over for birding in Senegal. Somewhat surprisingly, neither international nor domestic flights have a departure tax. Presumably these are included in the ticket price.

I flew with TACV from Amsterdam and would rate them as an efficient and reliable airline. The only problem encountered was with their computer reservation system which was down on more than half of the occasions I phoned. The big advantage to flying internationally with TACV, which seems to have a domestic monopoly, is the internal Airpass, which allows significant price reductions on all internal flights. With an Airpass, five flights cost US$200, with each additional flight a further US$25. The drawback is that the flights cannot be changed, though in my experience the flight date but not the routing can be changed by turning up at the airport and asking to take an earlier flight - not necessarily a solution I would recommend. TACV has offices in Cape Verde, Lisbon, Italy, France, Holland, Boston (USA) and Dakar.

Visas

At the time of my visit, in March 1997, holders of most European, American, and Australian passports required a visa. Within Europe, Cape Verde embassies can be found in the cities to which TACV flies. A tourist visa from the embassy in Rotterdam, valid for three months, cost 37 NLG (US$17). The application required a return air-ticket and two passport photos. Whether these visa regulations will remain, in view of the evident desire which the Cape Verde government has to increase tourism, remains unclear. TACV will supply information on current visa requirements. The address of the Cape Verde embassy in Rotterdam is Mathenessestraat 326, Rotterdam. Tel: +31 (10) 477-8977.

Health

Cape Verde is one of Africa's most healthy places to visit. No vaccinations for tropical diseases are required, and the islands are malaria free. I encountered no mosquito or insect problems.

Language

The official language is Portuguese, although the national language in general use is a Portuguese-Creole known as Crioulo. Around 71% of the population are Creoles, of mixed Black African and Portuguese descent, while the remainder are almost all Black Africans with a small number of Whites. French is surprisingly widely known throughout the islands, as children learn it as the main foreign language in school. Expect to be given an endless chorus of bonjour from the hoards of children which come out to greet you in villages. Also, as many Cape Verdians work in Europe you will undoubtedly encounter people able to speak English, and maybe even Spanish or Dutch.

Money

The official currency is the Cape Verde Escudo (CVEsc), divided into 100 Centavos. Coins in circulation have three themes - maritime, local plants, and local birds. For the avian theme these are Brown Booby, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Cape Verde Sparrow, Cape Verde Cane-Warbler, and Raso Lark. Unfortunately I never found the 100 CVEsc coin with Raso Lark - it would be a good souvenir.

The CVEsc is not an internationally traded currency, and can only be bought on arrival in Cape Verde. Its exchange rate is calculated by the Cape Verde Central Bank against a pot of the US and European currencies in a rather vague process which is difficult to relate to reality in what is ostensibly a poor third-world country. Any hard currency can be exchanged. I changed both French Francs and US$ cash and travellers cheques without problems, even in the small town of Sal Rei on Boa Vista. The airport bureau de change gave a slightly lower rate than the banks in towns, but did not charge a 300 CVEsc commission that the banks in Sal-Rei and Espargos did. I would therefore recommend changing money at the airport on arrival. At the time of my visit the exchange rate was US$ 1 = 90 CVEsc.

As might be expected, credit cards are not well accepted, other than for major expenses such as airline tickets, and probably fancy resort hotels (which I, alas, did not frequent). As banking hours usually interfere with birding it is easiest to change sufficient money on arrival. My costs over two weeks (excluding air fares) totalled about US$750.

Notes of large denomination (eg. anything over 20,000 CVEsc) are often difficult to exchange in more remote areas. You are not permitted to export CVEsc - not that you would able to exchange change them if you did - so you should keep the receipt from the original exchange if anticipating changing some back at the end of a trip. An important point is that the airport bank does not appear to be open for outbound international flights, necessitating the unprepared visitor to spend all remaining currency at the airport (a neat trick). Be further warned that the duty-free shop in the departure lounge does not accept CVEsc. Therefore make sure you have spent all CVEsc before arriving at the airport. For those still stuck with CVEsc at the airport, basic souvenirs such as hats and T-shirts can be found.

Travel and Getting Around

Car Rental and Public Transport. Self-drive car hire is not really necessary for birding Cape Verde. This is because birding will require usually only short visits to six or seven different islands, all of which have ample public transport, with the majority of birding sites easily reached from a base within a couple of hours. For the few sites where it is preferable to hire a four-wheel-drive for a short period, these can be found easily, complete with driver.

None of the major car rental companies operates in Cape Verde, though local companies rent saloon and 4x4 vehicles out of the major towns of Sal, Santiago and St. Vincente. In the main these are:
Sal (Espargos): Transcar (Tel. 411439), Alucar (411089), Somicar (411580).
São Vicente (Mindelo): Transcar (Tel. 314200), Alucar (311150), Turicar (312847).
Santiago (Praia): Transcar (Tel. 611586), Alucar (611899), Classic (632222).

For the most part, public transportation is the ubiquitous aluguer - shared transportation, usually a small Toyota minibus, or often an open pick-up with benches long-ways down the sides. If possible these pick-ups should be avoided as they are uncomfortable and dangerous. They also have the problem of sunburn, and it can be surprisingly cold when using them at higher elevations. Fares are quite cheap; usually between 100 - 300 CVEsc. Some areas have aluguer 'stations' where they tend to start and finish. In most towns however, aluguer drivers will drive around in circles until the vehicle is full - sometimes a lengthy process. Consequently it pays to get into a vehicle that is almost full if you have the chance. Aluguers can also be rented privately at a price of about 10x the cost of sharing it. Taxis can be found in major towns such as Espargos, Praia, and Mindelo. Prices within town are around 200 CVEsc. Prices for other journeys must be negotiated. Examples of what I paid are included in the daily review and the site information below.

Air Transport. Although a TACV monopoly, the domestic air network is both an efficient and effective way of moving between the islands. The major towns of Espargos (Sal), Praia (Santiago) and Mindelo (São Vicente) are served with several flights daily, but smaller places are only served three or four times weekly. As this has quite an impact on any itinerary, especially within a short time period, it is necessary to obtain an up-to-date timetable and plan the trip in advance (see itinerary section below).

The big advantage of flying internationally with TACV is the internal Airpass, which allows significant price reductions on all internal flights. With an airpass, five flights cost US$200 (valid over 14 days), with each additional flight a further US$25 (valid for 22 days). The drawback is that the flights cannot be changed. The Airpass can be requested and purchased either once in Cape Verde or before you travel. The address of the main TACV office in Praia is: Avenida Amílcar Cabral, P.O.Box 1, Praia. Tel: 615813. Fax: 613585. TACV do publish a small booklet timetable with all the internal flights, but do not rely on it, as they change frequently, without warning.

Boat. Two passenger ships plough a circular (one clockwise, one anti-clockwise) route around the islands, taking around a month each to do so. Therefore, you are only likely to encounter one every fortnight. Additionally these ships tend to travel overnight making sea birding useless. On several occasions I saw local cargo vessels in port, so for those with time the possibility should exist to hitch a ride. These, no doubt, could be very rewarding for some of the smaller petrels and other seabirds.

Telephones. The telephone system works well, with direct connections to other islands and internationally. Almost all phones use a telephone card which are widely available.

Food. Small stores and supermarkets stock a variety of foods and bottled water. As might be expected, it is best to stock-up with provisions at major towns, as the more remote areas have poorer selections. Tap water appeared safe to drink. Two makes of beer dominate the market - Sagres from Portugal, and the locally brewed Ceris, which ranks as one of the most wishy-washy and insipid beers I have ever come across. My advise is to stick to Sagres.

Accommodation. Readily found, though in some areas the choice may be somewhat limited. The most basic are usually called residencials, with up-market establishments titled hotels. Recommended (or otherwise) accommodations are dealt with under the relevant birding sites. Prices for simple, basic but clean accommodation range from 700 - 1,200 CVEsc for a single room, 1,000 - 2,000 CVEsc for a double. The price often includes breakfast. A few luxury class hotels, found in the more touristic areas of Praia and Sal, have prices to match.

Other. Good maps do not seem to exist for Cape Verde. Fortunately they are not that necessary, though some form of map is highly desirable. The most interesting maps are a series of three 1:100,000 satellite photos which have roads marked, and are available for US$6 each, at the tourist information booth at the international airport in Sal. Unfortunately, although recently produced they do not show all roads! Small but quite detailed maps can be found in Osang (1995). Other less detailed maps can be found in Hazevoet (1995) and also a free tourist brochure available from TACV. Daylight was 06h40 - 18h45.

Climate and When to go

Cape Verde has a tropical climate with two seasons. A dry season from December to July and a warm, wet season between August and November. Rainfall is low and unreliable with most of it occurring during August and September. The islands suffer from severe shortages of water and rainfall which cause potentially catastrophic and prolonged droughts periodically. Tropical heat prevails throughout the year and the conditions are uncomfortable except when fanned by the northeast sea breezes. Strong winds seem to be a general feature of Cape Verde, at least during spring, which can make birding difficult due to flying sand. Average maximum temperature ranges in Praia are from 25°C in February/March to 29°C in October. Most birders favour visiting Cape Verde between December and March. Earlier within this period will guarantee better the chances of seeing the Cape Verde Heron, later within this period will be better for breeding seabirds (most arrive December, some late February) and Palaearctic migrants.

References

Bakker, T, and Dijk, K. van (1996). Cabo Verde March 1996. Privately published. An excellent overview of the main birding sites covered over a four week period. Also contains general notes on accommodation, transportation, as well a fully annotated list of species seen and notes on ringed birds and wader counts.

BirdLife International (1993). Aves de Cabo Verde. BirdLife International. A small A5 booklet illustrating, in colour, all the resident species of Cape Verde. Written in Portuguese and published locally. Useful when discussing birds with local people.

Clements, J. (1991) Birds of the World: A Checklist (Including Supplements 1 and 2). Ibis.

Harrison, P. (1983). Seabirds: an Identification guide. Croom Helm.

Hazevoet, C.J. (1986). Sirius West Africa Expedition: Cape Verde Islands 24 February - 8 March.
Privately published. A list of species seen during an expedition in 1986.

Hazevoet, C.J. (1991). Zeevogelbescherming in de Kaapverdishe Eilanden. Sula. 5 (2) 81-91. Conservation of seabirds in the Cape Verde Islands. (In Dutch).

Hazevoet, C.J. (1992). A review of the Santiago Purple Heron Ardea purpurea bournei, with a report of a new colony. Bird Conservation International. Vol 2:15-23.

Hazevoet, C.J. (1995). The Birds of the Cape Verde Islands. BOU checklist No. 13. BOU, Tring. This is now the standard work on Cape Verde birds, their status, habitat and distribution. It also contains a useful photographic section of species and habitats. Its use of the phylogenetic species concept results in some radical taxonomic treatments.

Hazevoet, C.J., and Fischer, S. (1996). Further information on the Dohrn-Keulemans collection of birds from the Cape Verde Islands. Contributions to Zoology. 66 (1) 63-64. SPB Academic Publishing, bv. Amsterdam.

Hazevoet, C.J. (1996). A record of Blue-cheeked Bee-eater Merops persicus from the Cape Verde Islands and status of the species in West Africa. Bull. BOC. 116(1):50-52.

Hazevoet, C.J. (1996). Conservation and species lists: taxonomic neglect promotes the extinction of endemic birds, as exemplified by taxa from eastern atlantic islands. Bird Conservation International No. 6:181-196

Hazevoet, C.J., Fisher, S., and Deloison, G. (1996). Ornithological news from the Cape Verde Islands in 1995, including records of new species from the archipelago. Bulletin Zoologisch Museum. Vol 15 No.3. University of Amsterdam. This is the yearly update to the BOU checklist.

Heinzel, H., Fitter, R. and Parslow, P. (1991). Birds of Britain and Europe with North Africa and the Middle East. Probably the most useful of the "standard" Western Palaearctic field guides to take as its area almost covers Cape Verde.

Howard, R., and Moore, A. (1991). A complete checklist of the Birds of the World.

Leyens, T., and Wolfram, L. (1996). Primera lista vermelha de Cabo Verde - Courier Forschungsinstitut. Senckenberg 193:127-135. A short list of breeding species by island.

Noeske, A. and Pfützke, S. (1994). The Cape Verde Islands: tropical birding in the Western Palaearctic. Birding World 7:152-160. An overview of birding on Santiago, Boa Vista and Raso.

Osang, R. Kapverdische Inseln. (1995). Dumont Buchverlag. Köln. 2, auflage. ISBN 3-7701-2676-9. For those able to speak German, this is an excellent small travel guide to getting around Cape Verde. Apparently also available in French.

Serle W., Morel, G.J., and Hartwig, W. (1977). A field guide to the Birds of West Africa, Collins, London. In theory one might think this book useful, in practice it is surplus baggage.

Acknowledgements

Thanks go to Willy and Ida Mylemans, whose three week itinerary overlapped with parts of my own, and thus enabled us to bird together for several days on Santiago and Boa Vista. I would especially like to thank Theo Bakker for supplying much up-to-date information, and Cees Hazevort for copies of various papers and the BirdLife International booklet on Cape Verde birds.

Itinerary and Personal Experiences

To have a chance of seeing all the specialities of Cape Verde it is necessary to visit Santiago, Santo Antão, Raso, and Boa Vista islands. En route it will also be necessary to spend time on São Vicente, Sal and São Nicolau. Unless you plan an extended stay in Cape Verde, it is important to prepare an itinerary in advance. For this, an up-to-date internal air schedule is essential. Due to certain flight sectors only operating on half the days of the week the shortest possible time on Cape Verde, required to attempt to see all the specialities, is two weeks. For those with less time, the most important islands to visit are Santiago, Boa Vista and Raso. With only a week it would be possible to visit either Santiago and Raso or Santiago and Boa Vista. With longer, Fogo can be included for its spectacular scenery. With a minimum of two weeks one should travel either clockwise or anti-clockwise around the island group. For those arriving in late February or March I would recommend travelling clockwise, starting with the Cape Verde Heron on Santiago. As breeding usually finishes at this time it is important to maximise chances of finding this species at its breeding sites. The recommended timing for a two week trip is Santiago (2 days), Santo Antão (2 days), São Nicolau/Raso (2 days), and Boa Vista (3 days). Inter-island travel and forced stop-overs will account for the other five days, which will allow for birding on São Vicente, São Nicolau and Sal. The following is an overview of my itinerary and experiences. This itinerary would be typical.

Overview
03 Mar 97 - Flight from Amsterdam to Sal, and connection to Praia. Overnight Praia.
04 Mar 97 - Early morning along the cliffs east of Praia town. Rest of day at Boa Entrada. Overnight Praia.
05 Mar 97 - Morning at Banana de Ribeira Montanha. Afternoon Pedra Badejo lagoons. Overnight Praia.
06 Mar 97 - Morning around town. Flight to Santo Antão. Ribeira de Torre. Overnight Vila de Ribeira Grande.
07 Mar 97 - Long walk birding from Cove to Vila Ribeira Grande. Afternoon seawatching Ponto do Sol.
08 Mar 97 - Ferry from Porto Novo to São Vincente. Afternoon Mindelo sewage ponds. Overnight Mindelo.
09 Mar 97 - Morning Mindelo Sewage ponds and São Pedro lagoon. Flight to São Nicolau. Overnight Tarrafal.
10 Mar 97 - Boat trip to and from Raso. Six hours spent on Raso islet. Overnight Tarrafal.
11 Mar 97 - Morning in Fajã Valley. Afternoon flight to Sal. Birded Salinas de Pedro Lume. Overnight Espargos.
12 Mar 97 - Birded salt pans and coastal area Santa Maria. Late afternoon flight to Boa Vista. Overnight Sal-Rei.
13 Mar 97 - Morning Sal-Rei salt pans. Rabil Lagoon. Drive to Pássaros. Boat to Ilhéu de Pássaros. Overnight there.
14 Mar 97 - Return to Sal-Rei. Trip to and from Curral Velha. Late afternoon at Rabil Lagoon. Overnight Sal-Rei.
15 Mar 97 - Morning at Rabil Lagoon. Afternoon flight to Praia. Some birding around town. Overnight Praia.
16 Mar 97 - Morning birding cliffs east of town. Afternoon Cidade Velha. Evening flight to Europe.

Personal Experiences

3 Mar 97. At the check-in for the TACV (Cabo Verde Airlines) flight from Amsterdam the amount of amount excess baggage was notable. It appears that the average Cabo Verdian visiting Europe goes on a shopping spree which results in a 100 kg or more of baggage per passenger. I was asked to check in a car axle for someone else - substantially more than the 20 kg free baggage allowance! The six hour flight to Sal via Paris left on time and went smoothly, arriving at 15:10. At Sal airport, passengers are transferred to the terminal building in a ridiculously unsuitable passenger bus with narrow isles and seats which causes havoc with the hand-baggage laden passengers. Customs and immigration formalities were easily dealt with. Having purchased a copy of the maps available from the small tourist information booth at the terminal I walked the short distance to the domestic departures terminal where I had to wait for more than 30 minutes in a queue at the only bank, and another to reconfirm my return flight. Due to the strong Saharan winds blowing during my visit, the connecting flight to Praia on Santiago was delayed nearly two hours, eventually arriving Praia at 19:00. A taxi from the airport to the Residencial Sol Atlantico charged 300 CVEsc (but should have been 200 CVEsc I later discovered). Here I met up with Willy and Ida Mylemans, who happened to be in Cape Verde at the same time, and we had overlapping itineraries. Ate at the Doce Vita restaurant.

4 Mar 97. Up at 06:30, and took a taxi to the Shell oil terminal on the east side of town (200 CVEsc). From here we walked the barren eastern cliffs hoping for Cape Verde Peregrine. No luck however, but the first Cape Verde endemics seen - Cape Verde Swift and Iago Sparrow, as well as Red-billed Tropicbird, Black-crowned Finch-Lark, Cream-coloured Courser, and Bar-tailed Lark. A pair of Ring-necked Parakeet flying in off the sea were a surprise. After couple of hours we returned to town to stock up on food in the supermarket and then took an aluguer to Assomada (200 CVEsc). From here walked the kilometre or so to Boa Entrada where we were very disappointed to find the Cape Verde Heron colony deserted - presumably breeding had finished early this year due to the dryer than usual conditions. Spent the day in the Boa Entrada valley finding Cape Verde Cane-Warbler easily in the lusher vegetation and jammed into a roosting Cape Verde Barn-Owl. We hung around till dusk in the hope that the herons might roost in the area but were not rewarded. It was surprisingly easy to find an aluguer returning to Praia after dark. Ate at one of the mobile kiosks.

5 Mar 97. After yesterday's disappointment with the Cape Verde Heron - one of the key birds, we decided to try to locate the other heron colony at Banana de Ribeira Montanha. As expected we experienced some problems trying to locate this village. From Praia we took an aluguer to João Teves (100 CVEsc), and then another toward Pedra Badejo with the idea of jumping off half-way and walking to Banana. Despite assurances from the driver and passengers that they understood where we wanted to go, we were of course shown the rich banana plantations around Pedra Badejo. After further conferring with more locals we eventually found someone who really understood where we wanted to go, and the aluguer driver kindly took us back the few kilometres to the proper turn-off to Banana (100 CVEsc), after first dropping-in on a bush distillery with supplies of sugar cane. From the drop-off it was a short climb over a ridge to access the Ribeira Montanha and the village of Banana where locals were shown the field guide and asked about the heron. A further two kilometre walk located the nesting tree, but as expected no herons were here either. We left the area at midday and took an aluguer to Pedra Badejo, from which we walked to the two small lagoons east of town. Among a small but varied collection of waders we discovered an American Golden Plover. Returned to Praia (100 CVEsc) by 16:30 and checked-out the small sewage farm below the city where a flava Yellow Wagtail was found - a rarity in Cape Verde. Evening meal at Doce Vita again. The restaurant bar TV was showing Manchester United thrashing Porto FC in the European championship - it was amazing to see locals cheering loudly for Manchester - evidently they have no love of one of Portugal's better teams.

6 Mar 97. Despite a poor night's sleep - a fever with the onset of flu - up early and checked out the sewage ponds for potential migrants. No Yellow Wagtail or other migrants in sight, so walked the bushes in the valley leading toward the airport, and was rewarded with a single Red-rumped Swallow patrolling the cliffs. Returned to the residencial, checked-out, taxi to the airport (200 CVEsc) and took the mid morning flight to Santo Antão via São Vicente. Spectacular mountain scenery of Santo Antão as the plane approaches the airfield. Took a taxi (500 CVEsc) the four kilometres to Vila de Ribeira Grande, and checked into the Residencial Aliança (the other, cheaper residencial being full). In the afternoon walked the six kilometres along the Ribeira de Torre valley searching for Cape Verde Kite, and Cape Verde Buzzard, seeing three of the later. In the late afternoon did a short seawatch from the beach at Ribeira Grande where a few Cape Verde Petrel could be seen passing in the distance, with many Cape Verde Shearwater closer inshore. Stocked-up on food at local stores which were surprisingly well stocked. An excellent dinner of fresh tuna in the Aliança restaurant. Another bad night's sleep.

7 Mar 97. Breakfast supposedly served at 07:15, but I gave up waiting at 07:30 with no sign of it arriving, and took an aluguer to Cova (the highest point on the Porto Nova road) and walked back the 15 kilometres to town. As the road runs along the ridge between the Ribeira Grande and Ribeira de Torre it offers spectacular views into and across these valleys. At around 13:00 and about 5 kilometres from Vila de Ribeira Grande a single Cape Verde Kite flew across between the valleys - a great relief after so much walking in the hot sun feeling awful. After a short respite from the main heat of the day, hitched a lift up to the airport at Ponto do Sol for a seawatch. Quite a few Cape Verde Petrel were passing later in the day, some close enough for easy identification with binoculars. Walked to Vila de Ribeira Grande. Another excellent meal in the Aliança restaurant, and after met Sabine Hille, a researcher studying the taxonomic relationships of the two Cape Verde kestrels.

8 Mar 97. Breakfast eventually arrived at 07:45 this morning, after which I caught an aluguer to Porto Novo (300 CVEsc). Took the 11:00 boat to Mindelo (430 CVEsc) on São Vicente seeing no birds on the 20 kilometre, 1 hour, crossing but did get excellent views of a dolphin and a very large shark. From the port took a taxi (100 CVEsc) to the Residencial Sodade (1,500 CVEsc) which has a nice view across town and the harbour. Whilst taking a break from the heat of the day on the hotel balcony I spotted two immature gulls (rare in Cape Verde) circling the harbour, so I immediately walked there, only to find they had disappeared. Walked westward through town along the coast as far as the Shell terminal where I cut inland to find the Mindelo sewage ponds. Not surprisingly, in this arid landscape, the ponds were stacked with waders plus, low-and-behold, three immature Yellow-legged Gull and an adult Black-headed Gull. Having asked permission to enter the ponds, the rest of the afternoon was spent walking the edges seeing an incredible array of Cape Verde rarities including Eurasian Starling, Collared Pratincole, Common Snipe, Sand Martin and Red-rumped Swallow. Stayed at the ponds until dusk, then walked back to town. Dinner at the Chave d'Ouro restaurant, another of the cheaper residencials.

9 Mar 97. Left the residencial at 07:00 and walked to sewage ponds, as surprisingly, no taxis were to be found at that time on a Sunday morning. No workers were present at the sewage ponds, but the night watchman was equally friendly and allowed me to enter freely. He also commented about the comings and goings of the birds. Waders were mostly as yesterday, but a pair of Red-throated Pipit feeding on the bunds were a new species for Cape Verde. At 09:00 returned to the main road and caught an aluguer to São Pedro on the south coast (100 CVEsc). The beach held a few common waders and little else, so walked back to the airport and had breakfast at the kiosk outside. A taxi back to town from here cost 500 CVEsc. Around 12:30 returned to airport and took the flight to São Nicolau. This was the only time on the trip that I got ripped-off. For some reason, the only aluguers at the airport were already full so I had to take a taxi to Vila de Ribeira Brava (400 CVEsc). From here I was told that few, if any, aluguers ran as far as Tarrafal, so after much bargaining arranged to share an aluguer as far as Fajã and then have the driver continue with me as far as Tarrafal for 1,000 CVEsc. In reality, once at Fajã, plenty of aluguers drive this route which should only have cost 80 CVEsc. In Tarrafal I stayed at the basic, but clean and efficiently run, Casa de Pasto Alice (1,000 CVEsc). The owner immediately put me in contact with Sr. Rockie Joaquin Soares, the captain of a small fishing boat - Rabil - who would be prepared to take me to Raso the next day. A price of 12,000 CVEsc was agreed eventually. With the last hour of daylight, I walked to the small headland a kilometre or so south of town, but saw little. Dinner at the Casa de Pasto Alice.

10 Mar 97. Having arranged to meet Rockie at 06:00, I was amazed that at exactly 06:00 he was already waiting - the first time ever for me that a local guide has ever been on time! As Rockie was going to spend the day fishing, a couple of others joined us on the boat. Although the water in the bay was smooth, a heavy sea soon developed once outside the shelter of the coastline, and waterproof clothes and sea-sickness tablets were a real necessity. Birding with binoculars was absolutely impossible, but hardly necessary as the Cape Verde Shearwater pass right alongside and over the boat. Reasonable views were also obtained of Red Phalarope, Cape Verde Little Shearwater and Cape Verde Petrel. The crossing took nearly two and a quarter hours and then came the tricky bit of jumping off the boat onto the rocky coastline of Raso. Once on the rocks a short climb up the cliff face is necessary to reach the main plateau of the island. Raso Lark were easily found in the flatter areas, and the next six hours was spent walking around the island and watching the seabird colonies on the southern coastline. The Cape Verde Sparrow on the island are completely fearless and come to take any water placed out. Was picked up around 15h:00 for the even rougher return journey (wind had picked up considerably), arriving back around 17:30. An excellent day.

11 Mar 97. At 07:00 took an aluguer to Cachaço in the Fajã valley (70 CVEsc) and spent the early morning admiring the impressive scenery and searching successfully for Helmeted Guineafowl. Walked a large section of the road back toward Tarrafal, and then caught an aluguer back. At 11:00 I had considerable difficulty to find an aluguer going toward Brava and the airport (without hiring one). After more than an hour I got lucky to find one which had already been hired for a special trip to the airport, so managed to do the whole journey in one go for 300 CVEsc. The 14:25 flight to Sal was 25 minutes late, arriving in blistering heat at Espargos 30 minutes later. In Espargos it was necessary to visit three residencials to find a room, eventually secured at the Case de Angela (1,100 CVEsc). After a supermarket and coke stop, took a taxi (300 CVEsc) directly to the salt pans at Pedra de Lume. Their location inside a dormant volcano is impressive, and a couple of hours was spent walking around looking at waders. Notably the Black-winged Stilt as this is he only breeding site in Cape Verde. Easily hitched back around 18:30. Dinner at the Salinas Restaurant - an evident expat/tourist hangout, with good fish.

12 Mar 97. Took an aluguer to Santa Maria on the south coast (70 CVEsc). In dismal surroundings (rubbish, glass and hovels) the salt pans to the northeast of town were investigated, and then in mounting heat I walked the beautiful white sands to the southern tip of the island, looping back to the road to catch an aluguer to town. Visited the bank, and then took a taxi to the airport (150 CVEsc). Took 16:00 flight to Boa Vista. Taxi to Sal Rei town was 300 CVEsc. Met Willy and Ida Mylemans again, and dined at the Bar Naida just behind the Residencial Bon Sosego. Finalised plans with Rui, a local fix-it man, to go to Ilhéu de Pássaros for White-faced Storm-Petrel.

13 Mar 97. At first light I briefly investigated the miserable saltpans just outside Sal Rei, but saw almost nothing. We managed to persuade the lady preparing breakfast to serve ours at 07:15, rather than the normal 08:00, and then took an aluguer to Rabil Lagoon (100 CVEsc). This morning was extremely windy, so birding was difficult in the flying sand nearer the beach. No sign of the Solitary Sandpiper discovered yesterday by Willy, but did find Intermediate Egret and Black-crowned Night-Heron. Hitched back to Sal Rei at mid-morning. The pre-arranged 4x4 pick-up arrived on time at 13:30, for the hour trip to Pássaros where we met our boatman - quite a character, clad only in his underpants. Here we discovered that the outboard motor of the boat had not been functioning for several days, and after some discussions and a look at the evidently dead motor it was decided to row out the island. This proved difficult; a heavy boat, heavy sea and strong wind. Despite the short distance (less than a kilometre) and two strenuous rowers it took more than an hour. Getting ashore was not particularly easy due to many rocks. We arrived around 16:00 and set-up camp on the pebble beach - we cleared an area of rubbish. The boatmen spent an hour or so collecting the many large limpet shells on the rocky coast, and then left us. White-faced Storm-Petrel starting arriving around an hour after dark, and left again an hour before dawn. An uncomfortable and cold night dossing on the pebbles, made worthwhile by great views of petrels.

14 Mar 97. Not surprisingly we were up at first light. Spent the first hour watching our intrepid rowers again battling against the seas to get to us. Because of the lower tide, getting into the boat was even more tricky than yesterday, and it was almost necessary to swim to the boat. After landing it was surprising that the boat captain only requested 2,000 CVEsc, which we paid willingly. The car arrived at 08:00 and we were back in Sal Rei by 09:30. After a late breakfast I rented the 4x4 (with driver) belonging to the Residencial Bon Sossego for a trip to Curral Velha (5,000 CVEsc). This took over an hour and a half as the road at the southern end of the island is very bad. This is a very isolated area, and a breakdown here would mean a long walk back. Having been dropped off near the beach, I walked the remaining distance across the beautiful sand dunes to view the small islet of Velha where a single male Magnificent Frigatebird was seen. I then watched in amazement as the driver drove off alone across the sand dunes in search of a cheap thrill. Five minutes later it came as no surprise that he got the heavy Toyota Landcruiser bogged down in deep soft sand. Highly fortunately for him after letting most of the air out of the tyres we were able to drive out. A close shave. Arrived back at Sal Rei, and promptly left again by aluguer for a few hours birding at Rabil Lagoon. Stayed till dark, and saw a single Black-crowned Night-Heron coming into feed on the sand-bars.

15 Mar 97. Hitched along the road to Rabil lagoon, and birded the lagoon on both sides of the road. However, nothing new found. Both the Willow Warbler an Tree Pipit from yesterday still there. Having walked as far as the beach I decided to walk along the beach back to Sal Rei - big mistake. The strong wind blows the fine sand from the higher dunes right over you and into your eyes as you walk along the beach - not recommended on a windy day, and few birds seen. By the time I arrived back it was getting mightily hot, so I had a couple of cokes at a small kiosk near the harbour. This proved to be a nice spot and one of the few places to sit outside in the shade in town. A taxi to the airport this time cost 400 CVEsc, and the flight to Praia left on time once again. Taxi to Sol Atlantico 200 CVEsc, where I got the last available room. Despite being only 16h00, I discovered all the shops had shut for the weekend, so had to buy bread and fruit juices from the few street vendors still around. The last couple of hours of the day were spent in a wander around the greener parts of town, and sitting on the old harbour near Praia Negra, where a pair of Green Sandpiper were discovered feeding in some putrid, rubbish-filled gully. Dinner again at Doce Vita.

16 Mar 97. Taxi to the port (200 CVEsc) then walked the cliffs to the east of town for a couple of kilometres, as far as a pleasant little beach and vegetated valley, which would have involved a large detour to cross, so I just sat there staring out to sea hoping in vain for a Peregrine to magically appear -it didn't. A few Red-billed Tropicbird were nesting on the cliffs. Walked back to the residencial, packed, and stored my luggage for safe-keeping with the staff. Took an aluguer to Cidade Velha (80 CVEsc) and spent a few hours at this very picturesque village, chiefly perched atop the restored fortress above the town. The panorama from here is splendid, and the habitat looks superb for a Peregrine. There is even a ready supply of feral pigeons in the town. However, it was not to be, with the only consolation was another Red-rumped Swallow. Took an aluguer back to Praia, collected baggage and took a taxi to the airport, where I had a fair wait till the 21:45 flight to Sal, and connecting 23:55 flight to Amsterdam. True to form both flights were on time.

Specialities of the Cape Verde Islands

This guide concentrates on the specialities of the Cape Verde islands; species (both BSC and PSC) endemic to those islands, plus others rare or difficult to find elsewhere in the Western Palaearctic. These fall into three distinct groups.

BSC species endemic to Cape Verde

Cape Verde Swift - Widespread and common.
Cape Verde Swamp-Warbler - Declining, but still locally common on Santiago.
Raso Lark - Endemic to Raso where common.
Cape Verde Sparrow - Widespread and common.

PSC species endemic to Cape Verde

Cape Verde Islands Petrel - Uncommon resident. Santo Antão, São Nicolau, Raso.
Cape Verde Shearwater - Common from March to November.
Cape Verde Little Shearwater - Uncommon. Best area to look is on crossing to Raso.
Cape Verde Heron - Endangered. Two small colonies on Santiago.
Cape Verde Kite - Endangered. A few remain on Santo Antão.
Cape Verde Buzzard - Rare resident. Best found Santo Antão or Santiago.
Neglected Kestrel - Common Santo Antão, São Nicolau, and São Vicente.
Alexander's Kestrel - Common Santiago and Boa Vista.
Cape Verde Peregrine - Widespread but very rare and local. No stakeouts.
Cape Verde Barn Owl - Uncommon on Santiago, Santo Antão and São Nicolau.

Restricted/scarce western palaearctic species with a good chance of finding in Cape Verde

White-faced Storm-Petrel - Common on numerous uninhabited islets.
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - Breeds on several uninhabited islets.
Red-billed Tropicbird - Uncommon resident of Santiago, Brava and Raso.
Magnificent Frigatebird - A few remain on Boa Vista.
Brown Booby - Several colonies on Boa Vista, Raso and other islets.
Intermediate Egret - Recent regular visitor to Boa Vista.
Helmeted Guineafowl - Introduced 1600's. Common São Nicolau and Santiago.
Grey-headed Kingfisher - Common resident on Santiago, Fogo and Brava
Black-crowned Finch-Lark - Common on Santiago, Fogo, and Boa Vista.
Common Waxbill - Introduced and common on Santiago.

Section 1 - Introduction, logistics, itinerary and general information.
Section 2 - Birding sites.
Section 3 - Systematic list.