Trip Report: Cape Verde Islands, April 16-22, 1999

Jos&eactue; Pedro Tavares, Ankara, Turkey;

The Cabo Verde (Cape Verde) islands are a volcanic archipelago lying 450-800 Km west of Senegal, in west Africa. There are 10 islands and several islets, divided in two groups: the windward islands (ilhas do Barlavento) and the leeward islands (ilhas do sotavento).

Together with Fausto Brito e Abreu, a fellow birder, I spent a week in this former Portuguese colony, now an independent state, in April 1999.

Our itinerary was as follows:

16 April - Arrival in Sal international airport early in the morning. Sal is one of the most barren islands in the archipelago and consists mainly of a arid and eroded stony plain. Spent the night at Espargos, and at miday walked from there to the airport (1 km away). We flew then to S. Vicente, home to the second biggest town in the archipelago (Mindelo). This island is also very dry and is dominated by stony plains, sand dunes and barren hills. After the arrival in S. Vicente airport we walked to the nearby S. Pedro village and birdwatched along the nice sandy beach there. We then took an "aluguer" (common taxi) to Mindelo, where we stayed for the night. In the late afternoon went for a walk to Praia da Laginha in Mindelo.

17 April - Spent the morning in Mindelo. In the afternoon took an aluguer to Baéa das Gatas (via Salamansa). Baéa das Gatas is a sheltered bay on the northeastern part of the island. Snorkeled and birdwatched around there for a few hours. Hitch-hiked back to Mindelo, where we spent the night.

18 April - Took the boat from Mindelo to Porto Novo, in Santo Antão island. Santo Antão is the second largest island, and is extremely rugged. The scenery here is spectacular, the rugged peaks and canyons of northeast Santo Antão are one of the world's great landscape dramas. This part of the island is relatively green due to the fog and clouds that form on top of the high (1979 m) mountains, and there are steep, lush valleys which are intensively cultivated. Two of these valleys have the only permanent streams in the whole country! In contrast, the southern and eastern parts of the island, on the other side of the mountain ridge, are barren and dry. After arriving in Porto Novo we took an aluguer and drove through the mountains to Vila da Ribeira Grande. This drive is surely one of the most spectacular in the world: the road clings to steep cliff-walls, jagged edges, harsh ravines. After sorting out accomodation in Ribeira Grande we took an aluguer back to the top of the mountains (Água das Caldeiras), and then walked down the entire length of Ribeira da Torre, from the misty pine forest through the clouds into a steep rocky path in between jagged peaks, to the lush valley bottom and on to the sea at Povoação (Vila da Ribeira Grande).

19 April - We took an aluguer up Ribeira Grande river valley from Povoação to Boca de Ambas as Ribeiras. There we started to climb up the north side of the valley of Ribeira dos Caibros, to the top saddle (830 m), and then down through the tiny settlement of Selado do Mocho, and further down to Chã de Igrejas. Then we continued on to Cruzinha, and from then followed the spectacular 12 km coastal path, hacked out of the massive coastal cliffs, to Ponta do Sol, through Formiguinhas, Corvo and Fontainhas.

20 April - After hitch-hiking from Povoação to the top of the mountains, we started our walk down Ribeira do Paúl. First through the volcano crater (Cova), up to the ridge, and then down a vertiginous narrow path to the valley bottom. Many hours later, and we arrived to the sea-side in Paúl. We then took an aluguer back into Povoação.

21 April - This was a travelling day. First from Povoação to Porto Novo by aluguer, then by boat from there to Mindelo, and finally by plane from S. Vicente to Sal. We then took a taxi to Santa Maria, the touristy complex in the southern end of this island. Our money had finished by then, so we treated ourselves to a good night sleep in one of the two hotels that accept VISA cards there. The day finished with a nice walk by the beach at Santa Maria.

22 April - This was our last day in Cabo Verde. We hitch-hiked from Santa Maria to Espargos, and then walked the three or four barren km from there to the Pedra de Lume crater/saltpans. We spent quite a while watching and counting all the waders there, and then snorkeled for a while around the nearby coastline. We then hitchhiked back to Espargos and Santa Maria, had a last grilled Tuna fish steak and then went to the airport to take the late night flight back to Lisbon.

Birds seen

  1. Cape Verde Shearwater, Calonectris edwardsii - Several offshore from Baéa das Gatas (S. Vicente), some seen from the boat on both crossings between S. Vicente and Sto. Antão.
  2. Cape Verde Little Shearwater, Puffinus boydi - 1 seen from the boat crossing from Sto. Antão to S. Vicente. Another small shearwater seen from the boat crossing from S. Vicente to Sto. Antão was possibly this species too.
  3. Storm petrel species - 1 seen from the boat crossing from S. Vicente to Sto. Antão. Poor views.
  4. Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis - north of Porto Novo, near Ribeira Grande and near Chã de Igrejas (Sto. Antão), 32 roosting on a tree inside Hotel Belo Horizonte (Sal).
  5. Little Egret, Egretta garzetta - 2 at Baéa das Gatas (S. Vicente), 2 on Ribeira da Torre, a few km inland, 1-3 on Ribeira do Paúl, also a few km inland (Sto. Antão).
  6. Egyptian Vulture, Neophron percnopterus - 2 at Ribeira Grande, 1-2 on the walk up from Boca-de-Entre-Ambas-as-Ribeiras to Selado do Mocho, 1 near Paúl, 2 near Cova (Sto. Antão).
  7. Cape Verde Buzzard, Buteo bannermani - 1 near Cova, towards Ribeira da Torre and 1 near Fontainhas (Sto. Antão)
  8. Osprey, Pandion haliaetus - 1 fishing at Baéa das Gatas (S. Vicente), 1 flying over Paúl and 1 over Porto Novo (Sto. Antão).
  9. Alexander's Kestrel, Falco alexandri - 1 at Pedra de Lume saltpans, 1 at Sta. Maria and 2 north of Sta. Maria, at Baéa da Murdeira (Sal).
  10. Neglected Kestrel, Falco neglectus - 1 north of Cova, 2 on the walk down Rib da Torre, 2 on the walk up from Boca-de-Entre-Ambas-as-Ribeiras to Selado do Mocho, 2-3 in Cova and 1 female feeding a recently fledged young high up in Ribeira do Paúl (Sto. Antão).
  11. Quail, Coturnix coturnix - 1 heard in Cova (Sto. Antão).
  12. Black-winged Stilt, Himantopus himantopus - 22 at Pedra de Lume saltpans (Sal).
  13. Cream-coloured Courser, Cursorius cursor - +10 north of Sta. Maria, at Baéa da Murdeira (Sal).
  14. Ringed Plover, Charadrius hiaticula - 2 at Baéa das Gatas (S. Vicente), 7 at Pedra de Lume saltpans and 1 at Sta. Maria (Sal).
  15. Kentish Plover, Charadrius alexandrinus - 1 at S. Pedro beach, 4 at Baéa das Gatas (S. Vicente), +10 at Pedra de Lume saltpans and 1 at Sta. Maria (Sal)
  16. Grey Plover, Pluvialis squatarola - 2 at Baéa das Gatas (S. Vicente), 1 at Pedra de Lume saltpans (Sal).
  17. Sanderling, Calidris alba - +20 at S. Pedro beach (S. Vicente), 3 at Sta. Maria and +30 at Pedra de Lume saltpans (Sal).
  18. Little Stint, Calidris minuta - 5 at Pedra de Lume saltpans and 1 at Sta. Maria (Sal).
  19. Curlew Sandpiper, Calidris ferruginea - 15 at Pedra de Lume saltpans (Sal).
  20. Bar-tailed Godwit, Limosa lapponica - 1 at Baéa das Gatas (S. Vicente). The 5th record for S. Vicente, and the 2nd April country record.
  21. Whimbrel, Numenius phaeopus - 1 at S. Pedro beach, 4 at Baéa das Gatas (S. Vicente), 1 between Cruzinha and Formigas (Sto. Antão), 1 at Sta. Maria (Sal).
  22. Redshank, Tringa totanus - 1 at Pedra de Lume saltpans (Sal). The 3th or 4th April country record.
  23. Greenshank, Tringa nebularia - 1 at Baéa das Gatas (S. Vicente), 1 at Pedra de Lume saltpans (Sal).
  24. Common Sandpiper, Actitis hypoleucos - 1 near Paúl (Sto. Antão). The 2nd record for the island.
  25. Turnstone, Arenaria interpres - +10 at Baéa das Gatas (S. Vicente), 1 between Cruzinha and Formigas (Sto. Antão), 7 at Pedra de lume saltpans, +10 at Pedra do Lume (coast) and 2 at Sta. Maria (Sal).
  26. Caspian Tern, Sterna caspia - 1 west of Mindelo (Porto Grande bay) (S. Vicente). The 6th country record, and the 2nd for S. Vicente.
  27. Cape Verde Swift, Apus alexandri - Only seen away from the coast in Sto. Antão: Cova, up from Boca-de-Entre-Ambas-as-Ribeiras and Selado do Mocho.
  28. Bar-tailed Desert Lark, Ammomanes cincturus - Several east of Espargos, on road to Pedra do Lume, a few at Sta. Maria, a few north of Sta. Maria, at Baéa da Murdeira (Sal).
  29. Sand Martin, Riparia riparia - 1 at Sta. Maria (Sal). The 4th record for Sal, and the 5th spring country record.
  30. Swallow, Hirundo rustica - 1 at S. Pedro (S. Vicente), 3 at Sta. Maria (Sal).
  31. House Martin, Delichon urbica - 1 near Ribeira Grande (Sto. Antão - the 1st record for the island), +10 at Sta. Maria (Sal).
  32. Spectacled Warbler, Sylvia conspicillata - Ribeira da Torre and Ribeira do Paúl (Sto. Antão).
  33. Blackcap, Sylvia atricapilla - Ribeira da Torre, one near Cova, most low down in the cultivated valley and Ribeira do Paúl (Sto. Antão).
  34. Brown-necked Raven, Corvus ruficollis - Common and widespread in Sto. Antão.
  35. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus - Mindelo (S. Vicente)
  36. Iago Sparrow, Passer iagoensis - Espargos (Sal), Mindelo, Baéa das Gatas and airport (S. Vicente), widespread in Sto. Antão.
  37. Village Weaver, Ploceus cucullatus - At least 1 pair on a palm tree at Laginha beach, Mindelo (S. Vicente). The 3rd country report, the first since 1993.

Other Fauna

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This page served with permission of the author by Urs Geiser;; June 28, 1999