TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT

The Azores

Saturday 13 - Sunday 21 September 2003
Extension Tuesday 23 September 2003


Leaders:
Andy Jones, Iceland Naturalist
Neil Arnold, The Travelling Naturalist

INTRODUCTION

It is fortunate that we do not judge our holidays by the number of species observed otherwise this trip would have been a failure. It is hard to imagine the wide variety of experiences that we have enjoyed on such a remote group of islands. We have visited four of the islands and set eyes on three more. Andy's skill as an interpreter of the landscape was only surpassed by his knowledge of the wildlife and his calm, cheerful leadership style. I am very grateful to him, once again, for his friendship and great skill. It was also very pleasant to be guided by Serafina on Sao Miguel. I am most thankful to her for giving us an insight into this grand island. No holiday is complete, however without alert, jolly clients. You have all proved to be just that, especially when the unseasonably poor weather led to a number of disappointments; thank you.

I hope we will meet again soon.

Neil Arnold, September 2003

TRIP DIARY

SATURDAY 13 SEPTEMBER

We flew into the airport at Horta, isle of Faial, Azores, via Lisbon, Portugal. WEATHER ON FAIAL Dull, humid, light rain.

The Hotel Fayal is situated in a prime site above the town. It had once been the headquarters of the 'Western Union', which played such an important roll in developing telephonic communication between North America and Europe.

Once we had settled in we visited the harbour. Sadly the rain forced us to shelter in a bar famous amongst sailors. The Peter Cafe Sport was a delight, with a wonderful atmosphere, especially once we arrived. Mind you there was hardly any drinking of intoxicating liquor. The weather cleared a little allowing us to enjoy a walk to the 'Burnt Mountain', Monte Queimado and to nearby Monte da Guia, 'Guide Mountain'. Andy gave us a brief run down on the geological origins of the area and of its plants. The endemic Azores Tree Heather and Festuca petraea were much appreciated, as was the local juniper. A party of young Canaries and 'Azores' Chaffinches were also of interest as were two soaring Buzzards, the bird original mistaken identification of which (Acor is Portuguese for goshawk) which gives the Azores its name. Out at sea was a raft of over one hundred Cory's Shearwaters and a small flock of Common Terns. The beaches sheltered two Whimbrels . We had made a fine start with our exploration of the islands.

SUNDAY 14 SEPTEMBER

HORTA

WEATHER Rain overnight continued for an hour or two in the morning. At sea level long breaks in the rain. 8/8 Cumulus, warm, SE 3. At altitude fine rain and fog all day.

Volcao dos Capelinhos was a fine sight once the rain had cleared. This area in the extreme west of Faial was once a headland on which stood a three-storey building supporting a tall lighthouse. In 1957-8 though, over a few months, the area was buried in ash from a submarine volcano. The headland has now increased in size and bears a caldera crater which is rapidly being washed away by the sea. We walked to the edge of this dramatic structure which was younger than all of us. Andy remarked that 'There is something satisfying in thinking that you are older than a mountain.' How can one follow that?

The fine grey ash had, in places been colonised by a purselane, a spurrey, Buck's horn Plantain, Tamarisk and Hottentot Fig. The bay was also host to a band of immature Common Terns, a juvenile Roseate Tern and a flock of Cory's Shearwater. A Grey Wagtail and about a dozen Painted Lady butterflies were also present.

Lunch was taken at Praia da Norte in a small cafe surrounded by farmland. The lunchtime cabaret consisted of a field full of Clouded Yellow butterflies which were joined by a Ruddy Darter and Migrant Hawker dragonfly. A Buzzard and a couple of fine Canaries also got into the act. We attempted to gain a view into the crater of the Caldeirha de Faial but the visibility was almost zero in the constantly falling light rain. We did however enjoy a little botanising near the rim. On our descent to Horta we drove through the open farmland with its Hydrangea hedges and plantations of Japanese Cedar.

Overlooking Horta is the Miradoura Na. Sra. De Concocicaoda Espalamanca , a fine lookout point. By the time we reached this point the weather at the coast had cleared allowing us to enjoy views of the islands of Pico, Sao Jorge and the distant Graciosa. We also found some interesting invertebrates including Red Admiral butterflies, White Point Moth and the colourful Wasp Spider. We then spent a few moments examining two very distinctive windmills. Though they were no longer in use they had been carefully preserved.

Some of us then visited the Baia do Porto Pim. Here we toured the old whaling station which, as it was only closed in 1987, was still in good order. We then walked the beach and through the town to the hotel. It had been a frustrating day weather-wise but one full of interest all the same.

MONDAY 15 SEPTEMBER

HORTA

WEATHER Heavy overnight rain continued until lunchtime. 8/8 Cu. South 4. Humid. Sea state 4. After lunch the wind swung round to the NE 5 and the sun shone.

By eight o'clock we were aboard a catamaran heading for Sao Jorge via two ports on Pico. As we left the harbour in Horta we noted a single Turnstone. During the passage Cory's Shearwaters were seen well, often in rafts sitting on the sea or flying by at such close range the yellow beaks could be seen clearly. Terns were common near the harbours. A single adult Roseate Tern was seen at Cais do Pico. Three Sanderling were also a feature of the Madalena Harbour on Pico. We docked at the harbour at Velas.

Once we had made ourselves at home in the hotel we climbed to the rim of Morre Grande from which we had a fine view of Ponta do Pico across the sound. It was possible to walk into the remains of the crater where it was very sheltered. We were, therefore, able to gain good views of a flock of Chaffinch and Canaries. There were also brief sightings of a male Blackcap.

After lunch in the town we set off for Farol dos Rosais, the most westerly point of the island. Here high on a three hundred metre tall cliff was the derelict lighthouse. The area seemed to be the perfect setting for grasshoppers: they seemed to be everywhere we looked. The most notable discovery, however, was a passing Common Swift, something of a surprise.

Our next venue was the Parque Florestal des Sete Fontes. An area of forestry and a 'garden' consisting of mature Japanese Cedars under which had been planted a wide variety of plants including Tree Ferns. The 'seven springs', attracted small birds that came to wash, drink and feed including Goldcrests, Blackcaps and Grey Wagtails. We were also able to watch European Marsh Frogs. The highlight of the day, though, was a sighting of the local day-flying bat (an endemic species related to Noctule Bat) catching insects over one of the springs. Sadly this was only seen by one client. We didn't make him walk home, honest. Mind you it was tempting. Some hardy souls swam in the sea when we returned to the hotel.

In the evening we made our way to a single-storey building set into the hillside to the west of the town. This was the Quinta das Cavelhana, where we enjoyed a splendid local meal. There were also a number of bonuses that came with the venue. As we were chatting before the meal was served, two Azores Bats hawked just outside the picture windows, giving us all excellent views. Our attention was also given to a grand display of ancient agricultural implements which surrounded us. There was considerable speculation as to the uses of some of the items. At the close of the meal we were able to listened to the strange cries of the breeding Cory's Shearwaters, some of which could be seen as they flew past the lights of the nearby sports stadium. We also had our first chance to stargaze, as the sky had cleared. Once back at the hotel we looked out from our balconies and saw passing shearwaters in the light reflected from the hotel. Their eerie cries could also be heard. It was a fine end to a fascinating day.

FOOTNOTE Paul was relieved that we had all seen the bats as he had developed quite a complex about being the only observer in the afternoon. We would have forgiven him anywayÖeventually!

TUESDAY 16 SEPTEMBER

VELAS, SAO JORGE

WEATHER Overcast, still and dry. Excellent visibility. The odd light shower. A sunny afternoon and then the NE wind increases to force 3. As soon as we had returned to the hotel there was violent thunderstorm, torrential rain and sudden squalls. By 19.30 the sun emerged and the wind dropped. By bedtime the sky was clear.

The day started well with the sighting of three unidentified dolphins from one of the balconies. Yes it was that man again, Paul.

We drove east soon stopping at Urzelina to look at three windmills which proved to be quite different in nature from those on Faial. We also spent some time studying Common Terns through the telescope. It was then that we saw dolphins. At least a dozen Risso's Dolphins were noted about one km offshore and beyond them about thirty Bottle-nosed Dolphins. We were all able to enjoy the thrill of seeing these powerful animals in action. We then saw more bats.

By mid-day we had reached Lourais at about 500m above sea level. This was the start of the walk that would take us down to sea level. We were soon winding our way down a donkey track past a fast flowing narrow ephemeral river, a ribeira. The path took us through mixed woodland and sets of small terraced clearings each of which held a tiny seasonal dwelling. The small fields were planted with maize,vines, squashes, bananas, figs and orange trees. Within weeks the huts would be occupied as the harvest took place. It was obvious from the sickly smell which pervaded some of these structures that wine-making was already in progress. The sun shone brightly as we enjoyed our picnic. Towards the end of the walk a flight of wheeling Cory's Shearwaters was joined by two or three very active dolphins. They were probably Common Dolphins but they were so far away it was difficult to be sure. Within a few minutes, though, some of us saw a group of three Common Dolphins leaping out of the water close inshore. Regrettably they soon swam out of sight beyond the headland so the view was brief. The walk was not without its culinary moments as the fruit of the vine, fig tree, bramble and the scarce local bilberry, Vaccinium cylindraceum, were all sampled. The other find of note was a group of Long-tailed Blue butterflies. By the time we reached the village of Faja de Sao Joao we had walked 5.2 km, every step full of fascination. Once we had enjoyed a drink in the small village cafe we set off eastward.

By 16.00 we had reached the lighthouse at Topo, the most easterly point of the island. The nearby island of Ilha de Topo held large numbers of breeding Common Terns, Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, all of which took flight as a Grey Heron arrived on the scene. The only other bird of note was a single Sanderling on the rocks below the lookout.

We returned to the hotel to the accompaniment of lightning and thunder. Fortunately the rain stopped and the sun returned just as we set out to a local restaurant for dinner. After a fine meal of steak or turbot we once again enjoyed the sight of shearwaters wheeling over the streetlights and more stargazing. Everyone agreed that the walk had been the highlight of the day.

WEDNESDAY 17 SEPTEMBER

VELAS

WEATHER 4/8 Cu, still, sun. Sea state 1. Rain in the afternoon. A dry, clear evening.

A number of Risso's Dolphins were seen from the hotel before we set off. By10.30 we were aboard the ferry heading for Pico. As the weather was fine we were able to gather on the open deck. Within five minutes we were watching a pod of eight Risso's Dolphins, undoubtedly some of those we had seen from the shore. Soon afterwards we came across two more pods of much more active dolphins, the first of which were undoubtedly Bottle-nosed and the others probably so. We were greeted in Madalena Harbour by Sanderling and Turnstones.

Our hotel for the next three nights was the Aldeia da Fonte near Silveira. It was a fascinating spot. We lived in a series of houses scattered around a central reception/dining area. We enjoyed lunch in the shade of the Plane Trees. We then spent the afternoon looking out to sea from a lookout within the hotel grounds. Once again our effort was rewarded. We noted a number of pods of Risso's Dolphins, one of which was very active, circling and deep diving, showing off their tails as they disappeared beneath the waves; no doubt they were feeding.

As we gathered for dinner we were given a fine aerial display by the bats that lived in crevices in the buildings. Later we gathered on the cliff edge to listen to the calls of the Cory's Shearwaters as they gathered near their burrows. We saw two at a range of five metres or so. It was a satisfying way to end the day.

THURSDAY 18 SEPTEMBER

SILVEIRA, PICO

WEATHER 4/8 Cu. Sun, light breeze. Sea state 1. The wind increased to 2-3 during the morning. Afternoon sunny, wind 2, sea state 2.

We were fascinated by the tiny harbour of Lajes. To the west of the harbour was a 'lagoon' surrounded by a rocky shore. Eventually a number of wading birds emerged from their hiding places. There were eight Turnstone, a Whimbrel and a Greenshank. Their supporting cast consisted of five rather predictable Grey herons, a less predictable Little Egret and another surprise: a winter-plumaged adult Black-headed Gull.

About one km or so out of the town was the Vigia da Quimada, a traditional whale-watching tower. When we arrived we heard the strains of light music drifting down from the tower. In the tower Joao 'Vigia' Goncalves was looking out to sea as he had done for the last fifty years. Before 1984 he had searched the surface of the sea for Sperm Whales which were then pursued and killed by the local whaling fleet, a number of small boats powered by oar or sail, which set off from Lajes. Now Joao was the eyes of the whale watchers who thrilled thousands of tourists and local children by taking them out to sea to see cetaceans in action.

We were unable to find any whales or dolphins on this occasion but we did hear Quail calling from the nearby fields. As we returned to the town we marvelled at the changing scene before us. At one moment the towering New Volcao dos CapelinhosVolcano of Pico was cloaked in cloud, the next it was displayed in all its glory. We also recorded three new mammals, all pigs: Tamworths, Gloucester Old Spots and Landrace. [DISCLAIMER - THE LEADERS BEAR NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE IDENTIFICATION OF PIGS!]

Having completed our briefing, donned lifejackets and walked to the quay, we were introduced to the 'Explorer', a fine rigid inflatable boat. We were soon settled on our saddle-like seats and ready for 'The Off.' We rapidly discovered that the ride out to sea was somewhat like competing at the Badminton Three Day Event.

By mid-afternoon we were drifting beside a pod of twelve Risso's Dolphin. It was wonderful to see them at such close range, and at our leisure. We were able to appreciate their blunt noses, grey colouration, scarred skin and tall, slightly curved fins. From time to time one would dive more deeply giving us a fine view of its tail. As we watched, a Clouded Yellow butterfly flew though the pod.

After a while we sped out to sea in search of more dolphins. We soon reached an area which abounded with Atlantic Spotted Dolphins. They were very active, running the bow and porpoising through the waves. The youngsters, of which there were many, continuously breached, leaping completely clear of the water. At one stage a pair of adults mated alongside the boat. A small group of dolphins picked up speed and started to fish. They were soon joined by Common Terns which took advantage of the fish disturbed by the dolphins. It was a great privilege to be able to look through a window onto the lives of these most active of sea creatures.

We completed the experience by returning to the Risso's Dolphins, to find that four individuals were 'sparring', turning and twisting at the surface causing a great splash. They all appeared to be large males.

The evening meal was splendid. It included a pudding entitled 'The Molotov.' There was much speculation as to whether 'Three-puddings McMillan' might have met his match had he been in attendance. The evening closed with the 'Bat and Shearwater Show.' It seems that it is not only the B.B.C. that specialises in repeat performances.

FRIDAY 19 SEPTEMBER

SILVEIRA

WEATHER 3/8 Cu. Sunny, N 4, Sea state 4. Shower after shower rolled in from the north making life difficult.

The day mainly consisted of shower-dodging. By 10.30 we were in the excellent Whale Museum. The displays gave us a flavour of local whale catching. The major exhibits consisted of a fully equipped whaler, a reassembled smith's workshop and displays of tools and artefacts connected with whaling. There was also a small section concentrating on the agriculture of the time. A considerable amount of space was also devoted to scrimshaw and other forms of art connected to whale bone and teeth.

One of the most important experiences was the showing of a twenty-minute film shot in the last year of local whaling, 1984. This stark film depicted the spotting, chasing and killing of a Sperm Whale. The progress of the whale through the factory was also shown in great detail. Many of us felt that every individual who wished to perpetuate commercial whaling should see this film.

We also managed to find some birds in the 'lagoon'. This time there were five Turnstone, three Black-headed Gulls, a Whimbrel and a Little Egret.

On arriving at the Whale Watching Centre we discovered that the trip had been cancelled. This was due to the rough sea conditions. Using the boats would have been safe but unnecessarily uncomfortable. The watchers would also have difficulty in finding cetaceans. We were philosophical about our disappointment, rejoicing in the fact that our trip the day before had been such a success.

We then rounded up four taxis and made for the hills. Our visit to the Lagoa de Capitao was relatively brief as it was cold and wet. We did however discover a Coot. That was when we could get away from a large flock of Muscovy Ducks. A short walk took us to a lookout where we overlooked Madalena Pico and the whole of Sao Jorge and spent a fruitful few moments botanising at these higher altitudes and adding the endemic Thyme species to the list . Below us three Buzzards frolicked in the upcurrent.

Some keen types then went swimming in a rock pool near the hotel. The 'Bat and Shearwater Show' was on again.

SATURDAY 20 SEPTEMBER

SILVEIRA

WEATHER 2/8 Cu. Sun, N4

Sea state 3-4. The wind dropped in the afternoon.

Those that were heading home left the hotel at 09.30. We missed them.

THE EXTENSION

In theory those who were extending their holiday were off on an Azores Bullfinch hunt but the reality was that they couldn't bear to go home!

We spent most of the morning looking out to sea from the lookout. Two pods of Risso's Dolphins passed by as did a pod of twenty smaller dolphins which could have been Spotted Dolphins. Then we watched three whale watching boats driving out to sea at great speed. Once they were stationary those with telescopes were able to see the blows of Sperm Whales. Andy even managed to see the tail of one as it sounded. This was a frustrating experience, but then that's life. We were compensated though; as we looked out to sea a Monarch butterfly flew over our heads. This is a migrant insect which makes the long journey between Canada and the U.S.A. to Mexico. This one was somewhat off course.

A brief flight from Pico airport brought us the Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel. We were met by Serafina, our driver-guide, who was amazed that we all spoke English; she was under the impression that we had come from Iceland with Andy ! !

Sao Miguel is a busy island, much more highly populated and industrialised than the other islands. Having said that we had only driven for a few minutes before passing the familiar sight of a donkey laden with a man and two milk churns. The agriculture was also more intense. We were especially interested in seeing fields full of sweet peppers and the drying sheds full of tobacco leaves. (The sweet peppers appeared at dinner, and good they were too.) We arrived at the Hotel Terra Nostra Garden, Furnas in time to change and enjoy a fine dinner. The hotel, built in 1935, was a classic example of Art Nouveau, sleek, spacious and functional.

SUNDAY 21 SEPTEMBER

FURNAS

WEATHER 1/8 Cu. sun, N1

We spent the day in the mountains. First we drove out of the crater in which Furnas is situated.

The first stop was at Salto do Cavalo, an area of steep slopes covered in Laural Silva where the Azores Bullfinches feed later in the autumn. The view was magnificent. We were able to see the whole of the caldera including the steaming hot springs and the distant crater lake. In the far distance the island of Santa Maria could be seen looming out of the sea. This was a fine site for soaring Buzzards.

We then made our way along the north coast to Nordeste where we stopped for coffee. From there we climbed on minor roads to the peak, Pico do Bartolomeu at nine hundred metres a.s.l. Then the hunt for the Azores Bullfinch was on. Eventually we heard its call and gained five sightings of birds in flight. Perching birds evaded us. The stunning scenery though made up for the lack of prolonged sightings of this rare bird. It had been estimated that there are between seventy and one hundred and thirty pairs left. This is due to the forestation of the hillsides reducing the area of habitat dominated by the laurel. Even though this species, and the remaining habitat, is now protected and there is a scheme for habitat reinstatement, its destiny is in the balance.

Our next stop was at the Miradoiro Tronquira from which there was a wonderful view of the mountains. As we dropped down towards the coast we visited our last viewpoint, the Miradoira do Pico Longe from which we could view the coast and the town of Provacao.

Serafina dropped us off at the Hot Springs where we were able to see the boiling springs and mud holes. Nearby we drank the cold, bubbling water from a spring. Despite the slight iron taste it was very refreshing. Once we had walked back to the hotel we had time to explore the garden.

The Terra Nostra Garden was first laid out in the Eighteenth Century in French style. It is now dominated by huge mature trees underplanted with a fine collection of plants from around the World. The collection of ferns and acers were particularly impressive. The other major features of the garden are the areas of water ranging from lily ponds holding exotic wildfowl to a thermal pool full of stewing humanity. In a more open area of the site there was a formal flower garden and two fascinating collections, one of endemic plants and the other of cycads, remnants of the Carboniferous era of Earth history. A walk through the garden was a fine way to end a day marked by almost perfect weather.

MONDAY 22 SEPTEMBER

FURNAS

WEATHER Torrential rain overnight gradually eased until by 10.00 it had stopped. A fine day followed.

We drove along the north coast to Ribeira Grande and then to Ponta Delgada, arriving at 11.45.

En route we visited the tea plantation 'Cha Georeana'. Tea has been produced here continuously from 1883. Amazingly some the original machinery is still in use. The factory was in part a living museum and yet still in full production. Much of the sorting and packing is still achieved by hand. Most of us went away clutching bags of green and black tea, having already tasted the product. The only notable birds on the way south were Buzzards and a single Goldfinch.

The afternoon was devoted to sight seeing. Ponta Delgada is well known for its historic houses, and bars; civic buildings, and bars; churches, and bars. The perfect setting for an afternoon at leisure had surely been discovered.

TUESDAY 23 SEPTEMBER

PONTA DELGADA

WEATHER Fine, after rain.

The day was devoted to the journey home via Lisbon and Heathrow.

SPECIES LISTS

BIRDS

KEY

(A) All islands visited

SHEARWATERS & PETRELS Procellariidae

Cory's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea Numerous offshore. Also seen at the nest.

HERONS & BITTERNS Ardeidae

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea Ten sightings, mainly on the coast.

Little Egret Egretta garzetta An immature bird at Lajes,Pico

HAWKS Accipitridae

Common Buzzard Buteo buteo rothschildi Over fifty sightings. (A)

PHEASANTS & PARTRIDGES Phasianidae

Common Quail Coturnix coturnix Heard near Lajes, Pico

RAILS Rallidae

Corn CrakeQuail Crex crexcoturnix coturnix Heard near Lajes, Pico

Eurasian Coot Fulica atra One Lagoa da Capitao, Pico

SANDPIPERS Scolopacidae

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus Four sightings. Two Faial, two Pico

Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia One Lajes, Pico

(Ruddy) Turnstone Arenaria interpres Eighteen sightings. Up to eight Lajes, three Madalena, Pico and one at Topo, Soa Jorge

Sanderling Calidris alba Three at Madalena, Pico and one at Topo, Sao Jorge

GULLS Laridae

Black-headed Gull Larus ridbundus Three Lajes, Pico

Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis Widespread and common on the coast

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus A breeding colony at Ilha de Topo, Sao Jorge

TERNS Sternidae

Common Tern Sterna hirundo Common and widespread

Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii A juv. Capelhinos, Faial and an adult Cais de Pico

PIGEONS & DOVES Columbidae

(Common) Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus Common (A)

SWIFTS Apodidae

Common Swift Apus apus One Farol des Rosais, Faial

WAGTAILS & PIPITS Motacillidae

Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea Common (A)

THRUSHES Turdidae

Common (Eurasian) Blackbird Turdus merula Common (A)

CHATS Saxicoliidae

European Robin Erithacus rubecula Common (A)

OLD WORLD WARBLERS Sylviidae

Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla More often heard than seen. Sightings on Sao Jorge and Pico

KINGLETS Regulidae

Goldcrest Regulus regulus Common in scrub and woodland Sao Jorge, Pico and Sao Miguel

STARLINGS Sturnidae

Common (European) Starling Sturnus vulgaris Common (A)

FINCHES Fringillidae

Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs Common (A)

(Island) Canary Serinus canaria Common (A) Flocks of up to fifty

European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis Two or three Morre Grande, Sao Jorge and one near Ribeira Grande, Sao Miguel

Azores Bullfinch Pyrrhula murina Five sightings in flight Pico do Bartolomeu, Sao Miguel

SPARROWS Passeridae

House Sparrow Passer domesticus Common (A)

MAMMALS

VESPERTILIONID BATS Chiroptera - Vespertilionidae

Azores Noctule Bat Nyctalus azoricumazoreum Common on Sao Jorge, Pico and Sao Miguel

CETACEANS - Marine Dolphins Cetacea - Delphinidae

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin Stenella plagiodonfrontalis At least sixty off Lajes, Pico

Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis Three off Faja de Sao Joao, Sao Jorge

Bottle-nosed Dolphin Tursiops truncatus Thirty or so off Urzelina, Sao Jorge. Ten off Velas, Soa Jorge. Six off Silveira, Pico

Risso's Dolphin Grampus griseus The most commonly sighted dolphin. Some sixty sightings off Sao Jorge and Pico

CETACEANS - Sperm Whales Cetacea - Physeteridae

Sperm Whale Physeter catodon The nearest we managed to get to this species was the sighting of six 'blows' off Silveira. They were present off Lajes on the 19th but a rough sea prevented us from going to see them.

AMPHIBIANS

European Marsh Frog Rana ribidunda Two at Sete Fontes, Sao Jorge

BUTTERFLIES

Large White Pieris brassicae Common

Clouded Yellow Colias crocea Very common on all islands

Monarch Danaus plexippus Two records of this migrant from North America at Silveira, Pico

Red Admiral Vanessa atlanta Two near Horta, Faial

Long-tailed Blue Lampides boeticus The only definate records came from Sao Jorge

MOTHS

Rush Veneer Nomophila noctuella Common on the coast

White Point Mythimna albipuncta One near Horta, Faial

DRAGONFLIES

Ruddy Darter Sympetrum sanguineum Common

Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta Common

NB ALL THE INSECTS THAT WERE POSITIVELY IDENTIFIED ARE MIGRANTS FROM SOUTHERN EUROPE BUT THEIR STATUS IN THE AZORES IS UNKNOWN.

SPIDERS

Wasp Spider Argiope bruennechi Three near Horta, Faial

PLANTS (thanks to Andy for these notes)

In just six centuries the flora of the Azores has changed dramatically as a result of settlement and agriculture. Today there are perhaps 850 to 900 species of vascular plants on the Islands. Of these around 300 species are thought to be 'native' including 50 to 60 species endemic to the islands.

Species have been introduced here from all over the world and two in particular, Hedychium gardnerianum, the Kahili Ginger and Cryptomeria japonica, the Japanese Cedar have substantially altered the Azorean landscapes. The conservation impact that these and other introduced species has had on the native vegetation is considerable with just small tracts of the once extensive evergreen forest remaining.

The list that follows comprises those species that we recorded which are endemic to the Azores or Macaronesia.

Myrica faya

Ilex perado azoricum (Azores Holly)

Laurus azorica (Canary Laurel)

Frangula azorica

Vaccinium cylindraceum

Euphorbia azorica

Daboecia azorica

Erica azorica (Urze or Besom Heath)

Juniperus brevifolia (Juniper)

Festuca petraea

Tolpis azorica

Thymus caespititius (Thyme)

Ranunculus cortusifolius


© The Travelling Naturalist 2003