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Located in the middle of the NorthAtlantic some 560 kilometres off thecoast of north-west Africa, theMadeiran archipelago consists of fivelarger islands and a few small islets. It is aseabird enthusiast's paradise! Of thelarger islands, only Madeira and PortoSanto are inhabited. The Desertas Islands,situated 25 kilometres south-east ofMadeira, are designated as a SpecialProtection Area on account of theirinternationally important seabirdpopulations and are, arguably, the ultimatedestination for anyone with an interest inthe seabirds of the Western Palearctic.We first turn our attention to Madeira'sspecial landbirds though, with a full day'stour in search of such specialties asTrocaz Pigeon and Madeira Firecrest (bothfull endemic species); also other islandand regional endemic species andsubspecies such as Pallid and PlainSwifts, Spectacled Warbler, Chaffinch,Berthelot's Pipit, Kestrel, Buzzard andSparrowhawk. With a traditional lunchmidway through the day, we will also stopat designated viewing points for some finesea-watching!From above Funchal three distant islands25 kilometres to the south-east can beseen: the alluring 'llhas Desertas', the focalpoint of our holiday. The Desertas arebarren, devoid of both permanent humanhabitation and fresh water. Officiallyprotected since 1990, the area is now anature reserve comprising the islandsthemselves and the surrounding sea to adepth of 100 metres. There is a permanentresearch station on Deserta Grande and itstwo wardens are the only human inhabitantsof the islands today. Viewed from Madeira,the islands look small; approached by boat,however, they are imposing, risingmajestically from a crystal clear sea.To get to the Desertas we embark on a31/2-hour voyage from Funchal aboard ourprivately chartered vessel, the Ventura doMar, looking out for Cory's, Great, Manxand Little Shearwaters and, with luck,Bulwer's Petrel, Madeiran Storm-petrel andthe two sought-after Pterodromas, Fea'sand Zino's Petrels. An exciting variety ofcetaceans also inhabits these watersincluding Common, Atlantic Spotted andBottlenose Dolphins. Short-finned PilotWhales are often found 'logging' at thesurface, and Fin and Sperm Whales arealso seen here as well as the occasionalBryde's Whale. On our arrival at Deserta Grande, we dropanchor in the sheltered bay in front of thewarden's hut. After an opportunity to swim,snorkel and do some fish-spotting in themagically clear water, we will take a guidedtour of the island, visiting nesting areas ofBulwer's Petrels and Cory's Shearwaters.As dusk falls, rafts of birds congregate onthe sea offshore. As darkness descends,Bulwer's Petrels are normally the first birdsashore, their dog-like barking being heardall around! Some fly so close that theirwings almost slap you, before they thudclumsily ashore. Cory's Shearwaters willalso be heard (they breed higher up thecliff) and, a little later into the night, theMadeiran Storm-petrels will arrive, theirsqueaky calls demanding our attention.For those who wish to do so, it is possibleto sit up on deck, even sleep on deck,listening to the calls and looking at themoonlit silhouettes of shearwaters, petrelsand storm-petrels! From 5am the Cory's will begin to file awayfor a day out at sea. By daybreak the showis usually over. Daytime on the DesertasIslands is contrastingly peaceful. Just afew terns and the resident Canaries andBerthelot's Pipits disturb this stillness. Theislands are also home to an important, ifsmall, population of one of Europe's rarestmammals, and with luck we may even seeone of the 20 or so endangered MonkSeals which live here. We will enjoybreakfast, perhaps another swim, and then cruise back to Funchal (once againhoping for more seabirds and cetaceansen route), where we should arrive aboutlunchtime ready to catch up on somesleep! We end our tour with an excitingnight-time visit to the breeding site of oneof Europe's most threatened birds, theZino's Petrel. This nocturnal seabird isendemic to Madeira and was presumedextinct in the mid-1900s, until it was'rediscovered' in 1969! Today the speciesis confined to the high central massif,where between 65 and 80 pairs breed. Theaim of this carefully guided visit is toexperience the company of thisendangered marine bird amongst somespectacular scenery and to listen to theeerie calls of the birds as they arrive backat their colonies as darkness falls. Madeira & Desertas Islands - A Seabird Extravaganza! A 5-day holiday in search of the special breeding seabirds, cetaceans and endangered Monk Seals of Madeira, including an exciting overnight excursion to the remote Desertas Islands. Wednesday 12th June - Sunday 16th June Cost: £895Wednesday 10th July - Sunday 14th July Cost: £895Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Funchal.Day 2Birding on Madeira.Day 3Desertas Islands. Day 4Return Funchal.Day 5 Fly London.AccommodationThree nights in a comfortable,family-run, 3-star hotel nearFunchal, all rooms with privatefacilities. For one night we will bebeneath a simple shelter onDeserta Grande, or aboard a boatanchored just offshore. Facilitiesare simple in both cases!FoodAll included in the price, except fordinners in Funchal. Allow £40.GradingGrade A. Easy walks only.FocusBirds and cetaceans.LeaderFilipe Alves or Luis Dias.Single room supplement£80.ExtensionsExtra nights in Funchal, or otheroptions, available on request.Web quick search: PRT0296Call now or visit your free Trip ItineraryILHEU CHAODESERTAGRANDEBUGIOPICORUIVOPAUL DA SERRARIBEIRO FRIOFUNCHALMADEIRACommon DolphinFea's PetrelSperm Whales

Mallorca, surprisingly, is one of themost remote islands in theMediterranean! Over 160 kilometresfrom the nearest mainland coast, it has arange of high mountains (with 37 peaksover 1,000 metres), the fourth largestmarsh in the western Mediterranean, and awealth of the garrigue and maquisvegetation so typical of the region. Thesefeatures are in part the reason for theisland's rich birdlife, but Mallorca's appealto the naturalist also lies in the closeproximity of its very varied habitats,enabling all of them to be covered easilyfrom a single base, without the need tochange hotels or travel vast distances, thusleaving more time to enjoy the natural sitesin a more relaxed way. Further, Mallorca liesalong one of the major bird migrationroutes across the Mediterranean and, dueto its comparative isolation, is home to anumber of rare species such as BlackVulture, Eleonora's Falcon, Audouin's Gulland Marmora's Warbler, not to mentionover 30 endemic plants, including a relictfrom the ice ages, Hypericum balearicum.Our holiday is based near Puerto Pollensa,a relatively quiet Mallorcan coastal town,situated in the north-eastern corner of theisland, well away from the worst of thetourist metropolis. From here we will takedaily minibus excursions into thesurrounding areas and pass our timeenjoying easy walking in our search forbirds and other wildlife. Closest to the hotellie the Albufureta Marshes, a prime site forpassing migrants, and close enough to thehotel to allow those who enjoy a pre-breakfast stroll to benefit from someexciting birdwatching. Another local siteworth exploring is the Boquer Valley whichattracts raptors, Hoopoes, shrikes,wheatears and warblers during migration.Amongst the other special sites we will bevisiting will be the Parc Naturel deS'Albufera, a 2,200 hectare freshwatermarsh, and one of the most important inthe western Mediterranean. This provides awealth of insect-life for passing migrantssuch as terns, Bee-eaters, hirundines andwarblers, and is home to such residentbirds as Marsh Harrier and MoustachedWarbler, of which the latter numbers some1,000 pairs. We will also be looking for themarshes' excellent selection of herons,egrets, waterfowl and waders, and some ofthe re-introduced population of PurpleGallinule, of which most of the originalpopulation - together with that of theNight Heron - were probably taken for thepot by the Romans and eaten at their lavish banquets!We will also spend at least one day in thenorthern mountains, the 'Tramuntanas',home of the rare Black Vulture. Thesemountains are mainly composed oflimestone, and the scenery here ismagnificent. As well as enjoying somepleasant walking, our primary purpose willbe our search for raptors, and we will hopeto see Black Vulture, Booted Eagle, Osprey,Peregrine, Kestrel and perhaps even RedKite in this region.The spectacular Formentor Peninsula isanother area not to be missed. A rockyextension of the Tramuntana Mountains, thepeninsula provides superb coastal cliffscenery and views, and is home to BlueRock Thrush and Shag (the Mediterraneansubspecies desmarestii). We will visit thelighthouse at the tip of the peninsula insearch of newly arrived Eleonora's Falcons- a summer visitor which breeds colonially on the cliffs - and spend time at Casas Veyas, an area of fig fields in the middle of thisotherwise pine-coveredpeninsula, which attracts manymigrants on their way north in spring.Finally we will take a trip to the Salinas deLevante in the south, an area of workedand disused saltpans that are the firstlandfall for migrants from Africa, and aparticularly good site for waders thatinclude such species as Black-winged Stiltand Kentish Plover. They are also animportant area for wintering wildfowl, andsmall flocks of Common Cranes andflamingoes which have begun to overwinterhere in recent years. We will view the pansfrom the main tracks and then explore theCabo de Salinas, the southernmost pointon the island, and a marvellous area ofundisturbed garrigue which is home toStone Curlew, Thekla Lark and even theelusive Marmora's Warbler. Nearby, fromthe clifftops, we should see the elegantAudouin's Gull, one of the rarest gulls inthe world, and possibly Cory's andMediterranean Shearwaters if the weatheris favourable.The comfort and simplicity of abirdwatching tour in this area, and the short driving distances involved, make thisa most relaxing holiday. The exceptionalrange of southern European birds makes itan ideal venue for the less experiencedbirdwatcher and beginners. In this respect,Mallorca has certainly not changed since itfirst became a birdwatcher's paradise over40 years ago.97Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Palma; transferPuerto Pollensa.Day 2/7Excursions to theBoquer Valley, AlbuferaMarsh, TramuntanaMountains, FormentorPeninsula, Salinas deLevante and Cuberreservoir, from our hotelbase near PuertoPollensa.Day 8Fly UK.AccommodationComfortable hotel near PuertoPollensa, with private facilities andswimming pool.FoodAll included in the price.GradingA traditional birding tour with easywalking. Grade A.FocusBirds.LeadersAlan Miller and Dave Smith.Single room supplement £140.ExtensionsArranged on request, with orwithout car rental. Web quick search: ESP03PALMATRAMUNTANAMOUNTAINSBOQUERVALLEYFORMENTOR PENINSULAPUERTO POLLENSAALBUFERAMARSHCABO DE SALINASSALINASMEDITERRANEANDE LEVANTE SEAMALLORCABook direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationSpring Birding in MallorcaAn 8-day birdwatching tour of Mallorca's finest sites, concentrating mainly on the spectacular north-east.Saturday 20th April - Saturday 27th April Cost: £1,295European Bee-eaterTramuntana Mountains from Albufera MarshFormentor Peninsula