Observação de aves

I don’t speak Portuguese, but I guess what this sign means as I drive past. It’s a blue bird and that must mean a Madeira Chaffinch. I also know what binóculos are and I’m carrying my câmeras fotográficas. This language business isn’t as difficult as it seems, at least until you hear someone speak it. Who knew Portuguese sounds like Spanish with a heavy Russian accent?

Madeira - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

There’s a picnic bench and I’m hopeful of seeing some local Madeira birds. A Chaffinch would be nice. I settle down with a cheese sandwich and wait:

Madeira Chaffinch - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

A lovely male appears. He hasn’t ‘come to see me’. He isn’t ‘posing beautifully for me’. He hasn’t ‘heard I’d like to see him’, or “treated me to a display.” All of those over-used phrases are embarrassing delusions of reference common amongst birders.

This is the Madeira subspecies of the Chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs madeirensis. It has a wonderful pale salmon-pink breast and an extensive blue head and neck.

Madeira Chaffinch - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

As well as carrying as much photographic gear as is possible in hand luggage I’m also carrying a book:

It’s great because it has all the subspecies found on every island of this series of volcanoes strung out into the Atlantic. It’s also beautifully illustrated. Just look how fabulous the Chaffinch page is:

I don’t know why Charles Darwin bothered spending so many years at sea and going all the way to the Galapagos when he could have just come to Macaronesia by EasyJet.

I’m adoring the Field Guide to the Birds of Macaronesia: Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands, Cape Verde, by Eduardo Garcia-Del-Rey. It has every race of every bird in all the Macaronesian islands, with illustrations of plumage differences, distribution maps and all the recent DNA evidence of differences.

It’s superb. If you buy one from this link I get a tiny percentage. Welcome to the modern world. The key question is: how many of my readers will need a book on the birds of Macaronesia?

This Chaffinch looks crouched and ready to spring:

Madeira Chaffinch - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

There’s a sign with the birds seen here. The Chaffinch is a Tentilhão.

Which reminds me, I’d like to see the Madeira subspecies of the Sparrowhawk, the Fura-bardos. This Chaffinch is definitely on the lookout for one.

Madeira Chaffinch - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

And talking of crouched and ready to spring:

Fern - Madeira - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I’m at Ribeiro Frio. Probably the best translation for that is cold stream. The ability of Madeirans to channel water across the Island and cultivate precipitously steep slopes is phenomenal. I check and it’s part of Parque Natural de Ribeiro Frio, open: 00:00 – 23:59. How odd that they close for a minute every day.

Madeira - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

It’s time to get some food from the supermarket. I get unreasonably excited in overseas supermarkets. I want to try everything, and particularly adore the fresh fruit and vegetables. Here, there’s no fresh basil, the tomatoes aren’t ripe and the whole place smells strongly of dried fish. It’s obviously a speciality, along with imported spicy sausage. I’m very pleased that I manage to find the porridge oats because I remember the Italian word is avena and that’s what it says on the cereal packet. It may have been the large branding saying Quaker which gave it away, though.

Now I’m off up a mountain to see the sun set.

Madeira - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Today I’ve been humming Cities in Dust by Siouxsie and the Banshees. It’s a song I only discovered recently. How could I have missed it? It’s a song about the destruction of Pompeii by the volcano Mount Vesuvius. It’s only when I get back to my BoJack Horseman-style pad that I remember I’m on a volcanic island.

Extinct, I hope.

More Chaffinches

Chaffinch at Stover - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the) I’m never going to complain about having sore feet again I love photographing Chaffinches. You have to get the exposure just right to show their plumage in all its glory.… read more
Marsh Tit - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the) Tits and Finches in an Italian forest Blue Tits, Cyanistes caeruleus, always cheer me up. Who doesn't have their spirits lifted when they see a bright, tiny… read more
Chaffinch - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the) ‘Pink!’ The nine vocalisation vocabulary of the Chaffinch There's a Chaffinch shouting 'Pink!' at me. That's where finches got their name; from their call of 'Fink' or 'Pink'.… read more
Chaffinch - Stover - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the) Chaffinch warts and dirty bird feeders Feeding birds artificially doesn't just change their behaviour, it changes their lives completely, from the number of eggs they lay,… read more
Chaffinch - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the) Getting close The photographer Robert Capa once said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” It's something I always… read more
Siskin - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the) Colour on a grey day There are Dartmoor ponies on Trendlebere Down on East Dartmoor: It's a heathland habitat which was largely destroyed by fire,… read more

More Madeira

Madeira - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the) The Madeira outtakes On the way to Madeira I sit next to a couple and they chat. I say 'they' chat, when I… read more
Madeira - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the) Clinging on At 1,800m the clouds are below me and above me on Madeira. I'm a cloud sandwich. On the slopes is… read more
Madeira - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the) Fire and water I'm off on a trip to the far west of Madeira. There's a lighthouse at Ponto do Pargo which sounds… read more
Muscovy Duckling - Madeira - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the) There once was an ugly duck. A very ugly duck. You know the story. There's an ugly duckling which turns into a swan. I don't need to go all Hans… read more
Madeira - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the) Skum Have you ever looked at a fire extinguisher in Denmark? No? Can I say that I'm not surprised? If you… read more
Spectacled Warbler - Madeira - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the) Madeira birdwatching with Luis Dias There's another birdwatching business on Madeira. It's called Birds and Company. I would give you a link to their website,… read more
Bananas - Madeira - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the) Yes! we have no bananas I'm in Calheta in Madeira for the afternoon. Behind the road following the coast is a large garden which appears… read more
Red-Legged Partridge - Madeira - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the) Red-Legged Partridge up the mountain I'm standing bathing in the cold orange light of sunset when I spot a largish bird walking towards me. I… read more
Madeira - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the) To be alive to see this sight is a victory It's beautiful at the top of Pico do Arieiro on Madeira. Apart from the huge air defence radar station, that… read more

Feel free to leave a Reply :)