Trip Report: Cape Verde Islands
From 1st Nov. to 5th Dec. 2001
This trip report covers birding done whilst sailing in the Cape
Verde (1st Nov. – 5th Dec.), having sailed there
from the Canary Islands. Some sightings of the Canaries to Cape Verde crossing
are mentioned at the end. I sailed with a friend, Peter Lennox, on his
31 ft. yacht, Nira. Birding was occasional and not always a priority.
Abbreviation used in the text: nm = nautical mile = 1.82 km. GPS Datum
used was WGS84.
References and Statistics
For site references I used "A Birder’s Guide to the Cape Verde Islands"
by Dave Sargeant, 1997. It is in ringbound photocopy format, 40 pages,
with hand-drawn maps. It lists 156 species; which includes 69 vagrants
and 14 endemics. I saw 54 species, including 5 vagrants and one bird supposedly
extinct on Cape Verde according to Sargeant (1997), this being a Common
Moorhen. As a country guide I had only the Cape Verde section of Lonely
Planet’s West Africa guide, but there is a more detailed Bradt guide to
Travel in Cape Verde
The islands are volcanic, mostly mountainous and rugged and generally
arid but is quite green in places e.g. central Santiago Island and various
valleys within the arid zones. Roads outside the towns are mostly of lava
bricks, in good condition but slow (40-60 km/hr), fortunately with little
traffic. Scenery can be very good and some islands are known for their
trekking. There are not that many tourists away from Sal Island and personal
safety is not a problem. The local people are very friendly and there is
no significant hassling. There was some theft at Mindelo off yachts (from
cabins left open or loose items on deck), but no violent break-ins. Whilst
I was in the area, one tourist died after being bitten by a shark whilst
diving from a charter boat at Branco Island, but swimming is safe at the
beaches. A trip to Cape Verde is highly recommended.
Some miscellaneous expenses
Money: 1 US$ - 122 CV escudos (Nov.,2001). Bank charged a 1000 esc
fee for VISA card withdrawal. No commissions on US$ cash exchange.
Transport costs: Generally about 10 esc./km per person on Aluguer (open
van) whilst taxis were about 50 esc./km regardless of number of people.
For an example of minibus taxi fares on Santiago, I paid 300esc. from Praia
to Tarrafal de Santiago. The ferry from Mindelo to Praia took 11 hours
and cost 2600 esc. Ferries are often late. My one-way flight from Praia
to Sal and onto Amsterdam was 60 000 esc, (I was quoted 70 000 for the
round trip). The Praia to Sal section was around 8000 esc. Car hire was
3000 esc/day for 4 days on Santiago Isl., including insurance. The Ecotours
minibus trip taken for the day from Sao Felipe, Fogo, was 9500 esc. (split
equally by the group of 7 in total). It dropped us in Portela and the driver
waited whilst the group had lunch and wandered around; I climbed Pico Novo.
Accommodation: Single/Double Rooms were generally about 1000-2500 esc.,
often with breakfast.
1st – 5th Nov. - Anchored at Mindelo, visited the
sewage ponds (behind the Shell storage tanks) once on 3rd Nov.
6th Nov. - Ferry to Praia (to meet up with my girlfriend), arrived
11.30am. to spend 4 full days on Santiago Island with car hire, first night
at Assomeda (one night), walking from there next morning to Boa Entrada,
then drove to Tarrafal de Santiago (2 nights here, good beach, quiet town)
and back to Praia in one day (9th Nov.) via the eastern coast
and Banana de Ribeira Montanha.
10th Nov. - Visited Cidade Velha; then took evening ferry from
Praia to Mindelo
11th Nov. - Arrived in Mindelo; climbed Mt Verde 13th
Nov and visited sewage ponds on 14th Nov.
15th Nov. - Sailed to Tarrafal de Santo Antao, stayed here at
Frank and Suzi’s nameless hotel - 4 days.
20th Nov. - Sailed back to Mindelo, stayed 2 nights
22nd Nov. - Sailed from Mindelo, 4am, past Branco to Raso, 39nm
from Mindelo; but not landing because of the swell, then sailing another
100 nm onto Fogo.
23rd Nov. - Anchored at Fogo’s port (Porto de Vale de Cavaleiros,
4 km. north of Sao Felipe) for 7 days, climbed the volcano Pico Novo on
30th Nov. - Left the yacht and took the overnight ferry via
Brava to Praia; stayed 2 nights in Tarrafal de Santiago and visited Sao
Jorges on return to Praia.
4th Dec. - Flew to Sal, stayed 1 night, visiting Pedra de Lume
5th Dec. - Flew direct to Amsterdam.
Notes on the Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus:
The Dave Sargeant guide (1997) notes that the Common Moorhen is
"no longer extant on Cape Verde" and that it "Formerly bred on Santiago
and Boa Vista". However, I observed one juvenile, midday and evening, 2/12/01,
at a pond just off the road one third of the way (about 1 km.) from Chao
Bom to Tarrafal de Santiago. I would be interested to hear of any other
Birdlist – 54 species seen, 1 heard:
In the list below I have not mentioned all site records for the
more common species.
The above list includes the following vagrants:
Cape Verde Little Shearwater, Puffinus boydii, - off NW-Santiago from ferry
Cape Verde Shearwater, Puffinus edwardsii, - off Santo Antao, Mindelo,
Santiago Isl. and Raso
Leach's Storm-Petrel, Oceanodroma leucorhoa, - north of Santo Antao whilst
Brown Booby, Sula leucogaster, - Raso, Tarrafal de Santiago
Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis, - Mindelo Ponds
Little Egret, Egretta garzetta,- Mindelo Ponds
Grey Heron, Ardea cinerea, - Mindelo Ponds. Breeding at Tarrafal de Santo
Antao (x6 birds here)
Cape Verde Purple Heron, Ardea bournii, - Banana de Ribeira Montanha, (9/11/01,
1150h), 8 birds incl. subadults; about 5 of the approximately 15 nests
appeared busy. No herons were seen at Boa Entrada (7/11/01, midday).
European Spoonbill, Platalea leucorodia, - Tarrafal de Santiago (7/11/01),
Common Teal, Anas crecca, - Mindelo Ponds (3/11/01) juvenile/female
Osprey, Pandion haliaetus, - Mindelo, Boa Entrada, Tarrafal de Santiago,
Egyptian Vulture, Neophron percnopterus, - Tarrafal de Santo Antao, (x6)
Black Kite, Milvus migrans, - Tarrafal de Santo Antao, x1 on the beach
Cape Verde Buzzard, Buteo bannermani , - Sao Jorges, I pair, (3/12/01)
Neglected Kestrel, Falco neglectus,- Tarrafal de Santiago, Boa Entrada,
Alexander’s Kestrel, Falco alexandri, - Mindelo, Tarrafal de Santo Antao,
Quail, Coturnix coturnix, - Chao Bom, Porto Formosa
Helmeted Guineafowl, Numida meleagris, - Tarrafal de Santiago (on mountain),
Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus, - Tarrafal de Santiago, 1 juvenile,
(2/12/01) – see notes above.
European Oystercatcher, Haematopus ostralegus, - Tarrafal de Santo Antao
(16,18/11/01), One also seen by P.Lennox at Porto de Vale de Cavaleiros.
Black-winged Stilt, Himantopus himantopus, - Pedra de Lume (Sal)
American Golden Plover, Pluvialis dominica, - Mindelo Ponds, Adult, non-breeding.
Grey Plover, Pluvialis squatarola, - Mindelo Ponds
Great Ringed Plover, Charadrius hiaticula, - Mindelo Ponds
Kentish Plover, Charadrius alexandrinus, - Mindelo Ponds
Cream-coloured Courser, Cursorius cursor, - Mindelo, Sal
Ruddy Turnstone, Arenaria interpres, - Mindelo Ponds
Sanderling, Calidris albi, - Mindelo, Tarrafal de Santiago
Little Stint, Calidris minuta, - Mindelo Ponds
Curlew Sandpiper, Calidris ferruginea – Mindelo Ponds,
Common Redshank, Tringa totanus, - Mindelo Ponds, Tarrafal de Santiago,
Pedra de Lume
Common Greenshank, Tringa nebularia, - Mindelo Ponds
Wood Sandpiper, Tringa glareola, - Mindelo Ponds (3/11/01)
Common Sandpiper, Tringa hypoleucos, - - Mindelo Ponds
Common Snipe, Gallinago gallinago, - Mindelo Ponds (14/11/01), Tarrafal
de Santiago (2/12/01).
Whimbrel, Numenius phaeopus, - Mindelo, Tarrafal de Santiago
Bar-tailed Godwit, Lomosa lapponica, - Mindelo Ponds
Lesser Black-backed Gull, Larus fuscus, - Porto de Vale de Cavaleiros (Fogo)
Black-headed Gull, Larus ridibundus, - Tarrafal de Santo Antao
Red-billed Tropicbird, Phaethon aethereus, - Raso, from ferry off NW-Santiago
Cape Verde Barn-Owl, Tyto detorta – heard at Tarrafal de Santiago
Short-eared Owl, Asio flammeus, - about 15km. off NW-Santiago Isl. (6/11/01,
0845h, daylight); it flew alongside the ferry, 15m away, for about a minute.
Cape Verde Swift, Apus alexandri, - Tarrafal de Santiago, Chao Bom, Fogo’s
Chestnut-bellied/Grey-hooded Kingfisher, Halcyon leucocephela, - Santiago
Bar-tailed Lark, Ammomanes cincturus, - Tarrafal de Santiago, Espargos
Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark, Eremopterix nigriceps, - Tarrafal de Santiago,
common on more open flat areas.
European / Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica, - Tarrafal de Santiago (x3 on
8/11/01; x5 on 2/12/01)
Brown-necked Raven, Corvus ruficollis, - Mindelo Ponds, Sao Jorges
Cape Verde Swamp-Warbler, Acrocephalus brevipennis, - Boa Entrada x2 (7/11/01),
Cidade Velha (10/11/01)
Blackcap Warbler, Sylvia atricapilla, - Boe Entrada, Sao Jorges
Spectacled Warbler, Sylvia conspicillata, - Mindelo, Fogo
House Sparrow, Passer domesticus, - Mindelo
Spanish Sparrow, Passer hispaniolensis, - Assomeda,
Cape Verde Sparrow, Passer iagoensis, - Mindelo, Tarrafal de Santo Antao,
Common Waxbill, Estrilda astrild, - Boa Entrada, Banana de Ribeira Montanha,
Birdlist: Sailing from La Gomera (Canary Islands) to Cape Verde, records
Common Teal, Anas crecca
European Oystercatcher, Haematopus ostralegus
American Golden Plover, Pluvialis dominica
Common Snipe, Gallinago gallinago
Short-eared Owl, Asio flammeus
Mammal List: Cape Verde and sailing from La Gomera to Cape Verde
Pomarine Skua, Stercorarious pomarinus,- (24/10/01), 89 nm / 162 km south
Leach’s Storm-Petrel, Oceanodroma leucorhoa, - (26/10/01, 1330h), 611nm
on 2230 to Mindelo, (250 28.6’N, 190 05.04’W);
most common bird, up to 10 seen daily.
Great Shearwater, Puffinus gravis, - x1, (28/10/01, 1430h), 408nm to Mindelo
on 2240, (220 35.56’N, 210 02.59’W); followed
the boat and sat alongside a few times.
Red-billed Tropicbird, Phaethon aethereus, - (29/10/01, approx. 0800h),
321nm on 2240 to Mindelo, (210 22.66’N, 210
Lesser Black-backed Gull, Larus fuscus, - juvenile, (29/10/01, 1030h),
313nm on 2240 to Mindelo, (210 16.3’N, 210
59.45’W), followed the boat.
Cape Verde Shearwater, Puffinus edwardsii,- (30/10/01, 1040h), 184nm on
2240 to Mindelo was my most northern record, others seen thereafter.
Bottle-nosed Dolphin: - x2 (24/10, 20.00h) about 30nm south of La Gomera;
x10 about 25 nm south of Raso towards Fogo (22/11/01, eve).
Gervais’ Beaked Whale: - (29/10/01, 17.30hr), 275 nm to Mindelo, (200
45.14’N, 220 22.449’W)
False Killer Whale: - x 15, (31/10/01, 11.00-11.20hr), at 67 nm to Mindelo
on 2260, (170 49.6’N, 240 22.30’W)
Slender Mongoose: - (7/11/01), Tarrafal de Santiago – on mountain, one
mobbed by a kestrel.
Wild Cat ?: - (7/11/01), Tarrafal de Santiago area, about 1 km south of
Chao Bom on the road to Ribeira de Prata.
GPS waypoints for climbing Pico Novo, Fogo Island
Start the walk up Pico Novo from the village of Portela, where there
are a couple of places to stay and eat. To get to Portelo from Sao Felipe
you can take a collective taxi/minibus. It costs 350-500 esc. one way from
Sao Felipe but they only leave late morning and return the next day. This
is obviously inconvenient for day-trips so I joined a Ecotours minibus
tour (their office in Sao Felipe, opposite the hospital), which went up
in the morning and returned mid-afternoon, the 7 passengers dividing the
total cost of 9500 esc. The driver spoke English.
Locals at Portela and elsewhere insist that a guide is necessary to
get up Pico Novo, charging from 2500 esc. I found this unnecessary, finding
the track and walking up alone, the base in thick cloud and mist with only
100m visibility. Because of the mist I took GPS readings every 500m in
case conditions worsened and I had to come down with poor visibility. At
times coming down I had only 30m visibility. It took me (mid-30’s, reasonably
fit) 2 hours up and an hour down.
The Waypoints and Directions, on Map Datum WGS84 and to be used at your
own risk, are:
WP1: 140 58.019’N, 0240 22.016’W, about 1650m
elev. - is the start of the track leading off from the main road in Portela.
This track starts on the opposite side of the road to the Fogo cooperative
winery (left-hand side of the road when coming from Sao Felipe). Follow
this track for just over one km. to WP2.
WP2: 140 58.032’N, 0240 21.284’W - is the start
of the path heading off right from the main track and up the volcano. Follow
the path of most footprints. On a clear day it should be obvious. It is
about 1.1 km to WP4.
WP4: 140 57.712’N, 0240 20.781’W, about 2000m
elev. - is at foot of some ragged rocks on the right. Follow the path,
up the ridge to WP9.
WP9: 140 57.058’N, 0240 20.508’W, about 2800m
elev. - marks the rim of the volcano. Great views
To descend you walk/run down through the loose black clinker/gravel
to the left of the track up as you look back down the slope. This is immense
fun. I rejoined the up-path at WP4, again in thick mist.