eFinally, we were all setup for a pelagic to the famous island of Raso. To access the waters of Raso, the village of Tarrafal on Sao Nicolau is the starting point. There are no organised pelagics there, you have to organise a boat by some of the locals yourself. Arne Torkler and Martin Gottschling recommended a guy called Marco Salvatici who had a decent boat and we arranged with him to take us first to Raso and then to Branco where we haphazardly had decided to spend the night. You also have to organise the chum yourselves, we bought fish, chopped it up and put it in buckets. We bought oil and corn and popped pop corn. Once on the sea, we soon saw Shearwaters and assumed they were all Cape Verde Shearwater. The first one we could safely id turned out to be a Cory though.
Later in the day, we became more proficient at differentiating between the two Shearwaters, the Cape Verde Shearwater was smaller with a different flight jizz. There were more Cory’s Shearwaters than Cape Verde Shearwaters, thus good views are required to safely id a Cape Verde Shearwater.
Somewhere between Sao Nicolau and Raso we saw our first Fea’s Petrels in the distance, not close enough for any good photographs though.
We started chumming in the strait between Raso and Sao Nicolau. We used the same tactic that the Windbird guys did on Madeira. You pick you spot and stay with it. Distribute some chum, drift, drive up wind, repeat for hours. The chum seemed to attract a few birds but it wasn’t nearly as good as it was on Madeira. Some birds came in to inspect though. A single Fea’s came within photography distance.
No Cape Verde Storm-Petrels though which is what we were hoping for. The Boyd’s Shearwater we really didn’t dare expecting, we were told they were all in the South Atlantic by this time of the year.
Eventually we gave up the chumming and drove with the boat towards Raso. Raso is mostly famous for it’s endemic lark, the Raso Lark. It’s pretty amazing that a little rock like Raso can hold an endemic Lark. You are not allowed to go ashore on Raso to get good views of the lark, it’s strictly allowed for researchers only. Our friend Eduardo Garcia del Rei tried sort a research permit for us to no avail. It turned out that it was reasonably easy to see the larks from the boat though.
Raso holds a colony of Brown Boobys. Red-billed Tropicbirds breed next to the Boobys. And, a month ago, 22 Red-footed Boobys were seen in that colony by Arne Torkler and his friends.
Our hopes were set high for the Red-footed Booby but none were there. We decided to set anchor outside the colony and have lunch in the boat.
After a while, chilling in the sun, we saw an odd looking booby in the distance. Marco is quick with the anchor and we drove closer. And – dang – it’s a single Red-footed Booby in an odd immature plumage.
Spirits were high, the feeling when that rarity just comes flying in is hard to describe.
We decided to go to Branco, the next island where we had decided to spend the night. We hadn’t planned ahead for that so we hadn’t brought any gear – thinking that it would be ok to just curl up on a rock.
The skipper set us ashore on a beach where we could jump into the water and wade ashore. Together with us here was a birding team from Austria, Ruper Hafner and friends. We had decided to meet up on Branco with them. Close to the landing spot we found the colony, or at least we thought we did since there were droppings on all the stones and on the ground and we all decided to spend the night there.
Together with the Austrians we sat down, watching the sun set and waited for the dark. Once it got dark, we started to hear the first calls of the Cape Verde Storm-petrels and using our flash lights we tried to get views. The birds were fluttering in the dark, calling everywhere. Using the flash light, Erik spots a bigger bird in the dark, and we all see it well – it’s a Boyd’s Shearwater flying – calling. It turned out the colony was mixed, mostly Boyd’s, maybe a hundred of them. Quite a few Cape Verde Storm-petrel and the occasional late breeder Cape Verde Shearwater. A Storm-petrel flew right into us and we could pick up the confused bird.
Also the Boyd’s Shearwaters were confused on the ground, having troubles finding their bearings in the torch lights.
The whole night was a marvellous spectacle, with Storm-petrels and Shearawaters calling through the whole night. We’ll never forget this night, lying there on a rock, looking up at the stars with all the constellations in odd positions and the birds flying calling all through the night.
The next day, our skipper picked us up in the morning. We had arranged with him to drive us directly from Branco to Sao Vicente instead of going back to Sao Nicolau. We stopped for chumming in the strait between Santa Luzia and Sao Vicente but it was slow, just the occasional Shearwater.
What was a bit strange here was that we never saw any Cape Verde Storm-petrels neither any Boyd’s Shearwaters on the sea, we only saw them in the colony. The birds are apparently there now, at this time of the year, but apparently difficult to see on the sea.