The Seychelles has long been on my inexhaustible list of places to visit, and was reinforced when I met Pete Nash in the early 2000s, not long after his successful trip. The Seychelles comprises over 100 islands generically split into granite and coralline islands. Mahe and Praslin represent the largest of the granite islands, the subject of this report with Bird Island (a coralline island). The Seychelles also encompasses other coralline groups of Amirantes, Alphonse, Farquhar and Aldabra which are much harder to get to and contain fewer endemics.
There are relatively few trip reports even to the main granite island Seychelles and this is probably explained by the fact that it is an expensive destination, there are only a dozen or so endemics, and in a fortnight most birders are unlikely to have a trip list significantly in excess of 50.
The primary aim of our trip was to see the seabird colonies, tick all the endemics, and enjoy ourselves in an easy-paced fortnight’s holiday. We did look at the Mascarene Islands but decided that it added significantly to costs even for a one week extension, and the 17 or so endemics justified their own future trip.
We were reluctant to have less than two weeks on the Seychelles as we were unlikely ever to go back. Well organised birders focussed on the endemics could combine the granite islands of the Seychelles with Mauritius, Reunion and Rodrigues in a fortnight.
As strongly independent birders and travellers it was anathema to consider using travel agents. The limited research suggested that this was the best way. So following Pete Nash’s report, we contacted Elite Vacations (Tel: 01707 371000 and website: www.elitevacations.com) and set out what we wanted over the fortnight, including a breakdown of the quotation. The lack of breakdown on their £5,498 quotation for the two of us suggested a high level of ‘rounded up’ profit.
Asking for exactly the same thing of Seychelles Travel (Tel: 01202 877330 and website: www.seychelles-travel.co.uk) resulted in an excellent itinerary and a quotation of £3k for both of us. We then proceeded to try to beat the individual elements of their itinerary and were unable to. With value for money ratified the holiday was booked and included the following:
The Sun Resort, Mahe, 7 nights, half board (with superior room)
Bird Island, 2 nights, full board
Beach Villa, Praslin, bed and breakfast
International flights from Heathrow with Air Seychelles, via Milan
Internal flights from Mahe to Bird Island and Praslin
All transfers to / from hotels / airports with ground agents, Masons Travel
There are two main ground agents on The Seychelles:
Creole Travel Services (www.creoletravelservices.com); and
Masons Travel (www.masonstravel.com).
We did contact Creole from the UK via the email from their website address but our email bounced back. We were trying to book Perly Constance for the white-eye and owl trip. We eventually booked this with Seychelles Travel. Masons were flawless – and they dropped us off and picked us up exactly when they said they would, and their friendly rep visited us in our hotel early morning on Mahe. All of the activities booked with Masons include pick-up and drop-off from the hotel. As it happens we only booked the one trip (Three Islands) locally with Masons but they have an array of trips to keep even the most demanding and active people occupied for a fortnight.
The Seychelles can be visited at any time of year though there are some important considerations. Many of the land birds are breeding from October onwards, so the scops-owl for example is a little easier and the birds are in breeding plumage. The Sooty Tern colonies, however, are at their peak from May through to September with birds returning in earnest in April and leaving October into November. We also had to give consideration for getting to Aride where higher winds at some times of year can prevent access. Indeed, this is such a concern for the ground agents in the Seychelles that the trip to Aride is effectively not offered unless ten people can be confirmed in one booking.
Most birders do tend to visit in either April or October, when rainfall is below average, and the wind is about at its lowest. We opted for early November having seen Sooty Tern on previous trips, preferring the higher chance of finding a rarity with the prevailing westerly winds at this time of year (in contrast to April), and having been informed the end of calendar year rains were typically arriving later. We enjoyed plenty of hot (and humid) weather with only about a total of 10 minutes of light rain on a couple of days.
The local currency is the Seychelles Rupee (SR) and during our visit £1 = SR18.5 (average). The Government apparently controls the exchange rates which might explain why we only noticed small variations in the rates:
£1 to SR18.3 at Mahe airport on arrival
£1 to SR 18.9 Beau Vallon a few days later
£1 to SR 18.5 Praslin a few days after
£ to SR 19.4 Post Office credit card statement for 5 November 2010
The Seychelles Government devalued their currency a year or so ago so many reports before this time show £1 = SR under 10. This still didn’t make the trip feel any cheaper; take a credit card (widely accepted) and don’t think about it until you get home!
Many of the higher value items are usually priced in Euros (e.g. Masons’ trips). Drinks are priced in Euros on Bird Island. We paid in SR on Bird Island used the exact published bank rate of the day before in calculating the exchange.
We also took with us a Post Office credit card which does not charge any cross-border fees unlike nearly all other credit cards, and also converted the foreign currency (both SR and Euro) at fair and reasonable exchange rates.
Any birder wanting to see all the endemics has to visit a number of islands. Essential:
Mahe – for Seychelles Kestrel, Seychelles Scops-owl and Seychelles White-eye (either on Mahe or the island of Conception, just off Mahe). Perly Constance (firstname.lastname@example.org and mob: +(248) 582548) is one of the two main birding guides on Mahe. We booked via Seychelles Travel, but booking directly with Perly his charges are 60 Euros for a couple plus SR 200 for petrol. Each extra person is 50 Euros.
Praslin – Primarily for “Seychelles Black Parrot” (if it is a species) and for an easy 30 minute ferry journey to La Digue.
Cousin – Purists would want to visit this island to tick off the naturally occurring big trio of warbler, magpie-robin and fody. All three also occur on Aride but represent translocated populations.
La Digue – Easy paradise-flycatcher and swiftlet.
Aride and Bird Island – Not essential but great experiences, particularly the latter which also has relatively easy Red-footed Booby.
None needed, with immigration control checking for a return or onward flight ticket.
With the exception of our penultimate day, we enjoyed hot and often humid weather, with temperatures regularly in excess of 30oC. The first week was dominated by sunshine, the second week was cloudier but still hot and that bit more humid. The week before we arrived we were told that it had rained for two days more or less continuously. Winds throughout were light (particularly in the first week), predominately from the west, particularly in the second week.
Trip Reports / Bibliography / Websites
African Bird Club – www.africanbirdclub.org/countries/seychelles/introduction.html. Contains useful information on the Seychelles plus a systematic list out of the Birds of Seychelles though this only has the most commonly occurring migrants / vagrants, and did not include Whiskered Tern for example.
Birdlife International, Threatened Birds of the World (Lynx, 2000)
Birdlife International – www.birdlife.org
Bisschop, Jan. Seychelles birding trip report – www.surfbirds.com/mb/trips/seychelles-bisschop-0109.pdf. A fairly useful report containing some nice photos
Clements, James. Birds of the World: A Checklist (Pica Press, 2000). I haven’t kept this book up to date with the periodic updates.
Fatbirder website – www.fatbirder.com/links_geo/africa/seychelles.html - Useful background information with some birding reports
Hoyo et al, Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol 4 (Lynx, 1997)
Seychelles Bird Records Committee – www.stokecoll.ac.uk/sbrc/index.htm. Collects all birds records for the Seychelles. This website calculates the Seychelles’ list as of 1st January 2009 to be 247, with 148 vagrants, 65 breeders, 27 annual migrants and 7 extinctions. Note the website includes the ‘Greater’ Seychelles. Please do send your records to this organisation.
Sinclair, Ian & Langrand, Olivier. Birds of the Indian Ocean Islands (STRIUK, 2003)
Skerrett, Adrian et al. Field Guide to the Birds of Seychelles (Helm, 2001)
The Official Website for the Seychelles Islands – www.seychelles.com/en/home/useful_links.php
Traynor, Ian and Ruth. Birdwatching in the Seychelles – www.tka.co.uk/birds/seychelles/trip-report-2.htm. A useful website for planning with three trip reports posted on it.
Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles – http://islandbiodiversity.com/nptindex.htm. Aims to preserve species and environments of the Seychelles through practical research and publications. We saw their ‘Birdwatch’ publication for sale on Bird Island which set out their conservation work and details of rare bird sightings.
Access on the islands
A great network of buses on Mahe and Praslin, with each journey just SR 5.
We also hired a car on Mahe for Euro 40 per day, including insurance. A number of car hire outlets are evident in the Beau Vallon area of Mahe. Also easy to hire a car on Praslin though it seemed a little more expensive; roughly Euro 50.
It is customary to cycle around La Digue which is close to traffic-free, with a bike for the day costing around SR 50.
Frequent internal flights connect Mahe and Praslin, and there is a daily flight to Bird Island.
There is also an inter-island ferry service between Mahe and Praslin, and between Praslin and La Digue.
The Seychelles is noted as being an upmarket location so accommodation at the cheaper end of the range is not easy to find. We opted for the following as offering reasonable value-for-money without breaking the bank. Although we have put the contact details for birders wishing to book direct, we found that we could not get the accommodation any cheaper than Seychelles Travel.
The Sun Resort, Belle Vallon, Mahe - Good, well run and mercifully small hotel, with our only gripe being the reduced choice of main course on two nights. Our room was the larger ‘superior’ one with a/c. The Belle Vallon area is the main tourist area on Mahe and has a number of restaurants, shops and at least one supermarket. This accommodation can be booked from the UK via the website: www.seychelles.net/sunprop and email: email@example.com. The rack rates towards the end of 2010 for a double were 120 Euros.
Bird Island – Chalet accommodation, and with great food in the restaurant. Note that it is hot and can be humid on here and there is no a/c on a night. Can be booked directly using: www.birdislandseychelles.com together with a 5% discount for booking directly (which we found was still no cheaper than the price quoted by Seychelles Travel). Website rates towards the end of 2010 were 452 Euros for a double chalet. A dress code applies with men requested to wear long trousers after 19:00 in public.
Beach Villa,Grand Anse, Praslin – An adequate room, with a/c. Grand Anse is not overly developed for tourism and there were limits to eating out on a night with a sub-standard pizzeria, very expensive hotels’ restaurants and two takeaways, one of which, thankfully, was very cheap and excellent. Beach Villa was quite convenient for Vallee de Mai National Park, from which we walked back to once. It is possible to book Beach Villa directly but we have lost the contact details.
Most tastes will be catered for on the Seychelles. We found the hygiene standards to be excellent, and the food overall to be of very high quality. Try the Creole cuisine with its excellent use of spices and herbs.
The tap water on both Mahe and Praslin is drinkable, but note that the islands face severe water shortages so please use this resource wisely e.g. showers rather than baths.
Health / vaccinations
No vaccinations are needed. Note that non-malarial mosquitoes were present on the two larger islands, we well as La Digue and Cousin. Giant Robber Crabs roam the streets of Praslin and some people may feel more comfortable walking in the dark with a torch!
If you are looking for an easy holiday with easy birding and some winter sunshine then the Seychelles could be ideal, with or without an onward extension. There are relatively few endemics; most are easy to find, with resident guides on hand to help you target the most difficult two. The seabird colonies are spectacular easily putting the Farne Islands – as good as that is – in the shade. It is, however, an expensive destination with any trip involving a boat starting at Euro 100 each.
Thanks to Pete Nash for inspiring the trip in the first place, and for writing up his experiences in an accurate and succinct report. We are particularly indebted to Gunnar Hesse for allowing us to join his charter to Aride, and to Alastair Kilpin for company whilst looking for waders on Mahe.
The individual Islands – brief notes
Mahe – The two key birds are the white-eye and scops-owl. The white-eye is now easy on the island of Conception, just off Mahe. Rather than risk not seeing the owl we hired one of the two main local guides who proved excellent. Mahe also offers the best chance of finding Seychelles Kestrel which appears to be very hard on either Praslin (and perhaps reintroduced) or La Digue.
It is very easy to get around the island on either public transport or hire car. Typical costs of the latter are 40 Euros per day with the added benefit that you drive on the left as in the UK. A UK driving licence was sufficient.
Waders can be found in almost any bay or headland, mostly Whimbrel and Grey Plover and a few Turnstone, punctuated by the occasional Greater Sandplover. We found the fields around Victoria, particularly the Roche Caiman Sports Ground, to be productive, and Alastair Kilpin (a birder whom we met on holiday) had Curlew and Pacific Golden-plover on one day. On another day Alastair had a European Roller over Beau Vallon.
Crab Plover is a summer visitor to the Seychelles and Brilliant Point lagoon, about 5kms south of Victoria is a reliable site. From Victoria head south on the main road to the airport passing ‘The Sanctuary’ (obvious sign) on your left. 2.9kms further south double-back at the roundabout and head north for 100m or so, take the left and off that on the other side of the road is a dirt track with a ‘Red Cross Headquarters’ sign. The lagoon is a little further on this dirt track.
The Sanctuary Reserve was very dry when we were there but has turned up some rare birds for the Seychelles so is worth a visit when passing.
Some reports make reference to Yellow Bittern occurring on a marsh at the Plantation Club Resort in the Baie Lazure area of south-west Mahe. However, we were told that the hotel had closed (perhaps for refurbishment?) and Perly Constance confirmed there is no longer any access. As we passed we asked a few people but got nowhere.
Do try the snorkelling at various points at Mahe – all are marked on the free tourist maps available from Masons. We particularly enjoyed snorkelling off Sunset Beach Hotel and at Port Launay Marine National Park.
Praslin – We opted to fly into Praslin as the connections with the international flight worked out well. There is a ferry between Mahe and Praslin which isn’t that much cheaper than flying though may offer an opportunity to see shearwaters (Alastair Kilpin for example, saw Audubon’s, Wedge-tailed and the bonus of 8+ Flesh-footed Shearwaters which are rare so far north). Good bus transport network around the island. Hiring a car seemed to be around the 50 Euro mark. The UNESCO world heritage site of Vallee de Mai National Park is a must if a little expensive at SR 345 each.
La Digue – Daily ferries from Praslin which take 30 minutes. We walked but the convention is to hire a bike. The flycatcher reserve is easy to find by walking right for 10 to 15 minutes along the main road after leaving the ferry. We also tried to locate the marsh in the grounds of the Union Estate which commands an entrance fee of SR 100, to include shallow snorkelling and Giant Tortoises in a pen way too small for them. We think we found the marsh (though note we may not have walked far enough) but it is small with poor access though apparently still remains a site for Yellow Bittern.
Bird – Only accessible by the once-a-day mid-afternoon Air Seychelles’ flight. Good food on a full board basis. We missed an apparent Aleutian Tern which had been found the day before we arrived and had still been present early morning on the day we landed. One night would have been too short so we were pleased to have booked two nights which was about right to fully enjoy the unique isolated experience.
Between October and April there are good chances of seeing Hawksbill Turtle, and between April and September, Green Turtle. Just a few days before we landed up to three Green Turtles were still being seen whilst people snorkelled in the Passe Cocos area.
Cousin – A Birdlife designated Important Bird Area, and first established as a nature reserve in 1968 following its purchase by Birdlife International, to conserve the last few remaining Seychelles Warblers. We had been a little concerned whether the 90-minute obligatory accompanied tour would have been long enough to see the three biggies but we need not have worried. Cousin is the most important breeding site for Hawksbill Turtle globally, with nests into the hundreds each season. The trip to Cousin is now part of a ‘Three Island Trip’ (to Cousin, Curieuse and St Pierre) run by both Creole and Masons at least twice a week each. Both cost about RS 2000 each booked locally, to include a barbequed lunch and a spot of snorkelling, as well as landing fees for both Cousin and Curieuse (SR 500 and SR 200 respectively).
A small boat owner in the Beach Villa area of Praslin would go to Cousin for a morning for SR 200 each, exclusive of landing fee and barbeque. Cousin is open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, mornings only.
Aride – Not that easy to get to with Creole or Masons. And we were lucky to stumble onto Gunnar Hesse’s organised charter with 70South. This island is optional in terms of the (‘big’ three) endemic passerines it shares with Cousin, but Aride does offer good chances of Audubon’s Shearwater. Pete Nash also had Masked Booby off here in 1991. Birders may need to charter a boat to visit Aride and we would certainly recommended 70South (www.7south.net). Their standard charge is 600 Euros including the SR500 landing charge for two people, an excellent barbeque, and hotel pick-up and drop-off. Aride is open Monday to Friday.
Conception – Supports a healthy population of Seychelles White-eye and located just off the the west coast of Mahe. With its relatively newly built pier, it offers an excellent chance of the white-eye. We didn’t go but the rough costs with a local boat operator seemed to be around 40-50 Euros, with a couple of hours on the island. Neither Masons nor Creole offer organised trips here. If birders are not using Perly Constance for the white-eye on Mahe then this island should be on every birder’s itinerary.
Endemics (of the granite islands)
There are only a dozen or so endemics on the Seychelles depending on taxonomic inclination:
Seychelles Kestrel – The smallest falco globally. We had four sightings on Mahe in a week which seems about typical. Not an easy falcon to pick up not least as it really is tiny, it tends to fly low, is quiet during the breeding season, and is about as inconspicuous as a Merlin though in flight was more like a Pygmy Falcon. Churches seem to offer a good chance of seeing this species and we had great views of a pair at Beau Vallon church, and Alastair Kilpin had also noted birds around the church at Port Launay. A bird regularly comes into roost at the viewpoint at The Mission. Classified by Birdlife as ‘vulnerable’.
“Seychelles Black Parrot” – Lumped with Black Parrot in both Handbook of the Birds of the World (vol 4) and Clements, and apparently also by Birdlife. However, “Seychelles Black Parrot” is notably smaller and breeds in a unique habitat. Interestingly, HBW refers to a world population of the Seychelles subspecies of between 70 and 100 taken from estimates in 1983 and 1984. It is in fact now regarded as a pest by locals for raiding fruiting trees. And we certainly saw the species easily enough in, and alongside the road to, the Vallee de Mai National Park. Many parrots fly to the coast during the day and can be seen in the grounds of several hotels in the southern corner of Praslin, and quite possibly elsewhere.
“Seychelles Turtle-dove” if it ever was a species, it is no longer regarded as naturally occurring on the Seychelles. That said, Roby Bessan, the Conservation Officer on Bird Island, referred to this species as‘Red Turtle-dove’ and believed it is still extant. We saw any number of variant (particularly on Bird and Aride), some of which certainly resembled the picture in ‘Birds of the Indian Ocean Islands’ but the consensus is that this no longer occurs in sufficiently pure numbers on the Seychelles, if it ever did.]. The photo is of a classic Madagascan Turtle-dove though we saw many birds with much redder heads, particularly on Bird and Aride.
Seychelles Blue Pigeon – Common on Mahe, and a few noted on Praslin and a single on La Digue. A few birds are also on Bird and Aride but these are hard to see.
Seychelles Scops-owl – A world population of around 200-300 birds all on the central Mahe mountains. We saw a single bird easily with Perly Constance. Classified by Birdlife as ‘endangered’.
Seychelles Swiftlet – We noted four groups of birds on Mahe and about 10 birds on La Digue. Classified by Birdlife as ‘vulnerable’. Some reports have seen this bird over the hotels of Beau Vallon and despite spending time in this area we did not see any. We did notice some churches had cleared their towers of swiftlet nests and this may account for their absence.
Seychelles Black Bulbul – Fairly common on Mahe and Praslin.
Seychelles Magpie-robin – Easy to see on Cousin and Aride (latter translocated population with supplementary feeding from feeding stations). Translocated populations also occur on Cousine and Fregate, and there are plans to translocate birds to Denis. Classified by Birdlife as ‘endangered’.
Seychelles Warbler – Easy to see on Cousin and Aride (latter translocated population). There are plans to translocate this species to Bird Island when management work is agreed and completed. Also found on Cousine. Classified by Birdlife as ‘vulnerable’.
Seychelles Paradise-flycatcher – World population of 250 – 300, most on the small island of La Digue and also the even smaller island of Marianne. It is easy to find in the flycatcher reserve where about 25 pairs breed. The rest are scattered around the island. There seem to be no plans for translocation reflecting the habitat requirements of this species. Classified by Birdlife as ‘critically endangered’ and one of the world’s rarest and range-restricted species.
Seychelles Sunbird – Common, and has now been introduced to Bird Island.
Seychelles White-eye – Easy to see with Perly Constance on Mahe. Note that there is a good population on the island of Conception which is now straightforward to get to, and very small numbers also on the island of Fregate. Classified by Birdlife as ‘endangered’.
Seychelles Fody – Easy on Cousin and Aride (latter translocated). Can also be found on Cousine, Fregate and D’Arros.
Other birds of note:
Greater and Lesser Frigatebirds – Seen at all times of year and easy on Aride and Bird Island
Red-footed Booby – Frequent coming into roost with the frigatebirds on Bird Island with greater numbers in summer
White (Fairy) Tern – Seen almost anywhere, and particularly common on Bird Island
White-tailed Tropicbird – Easy to see almost anywhere
Red-tailed Tropicbird – Now down to three pairs on Aride and very hard to see. One of the voluntary wardens on Aride had yet to see one in six weeks despite trying!
Audubon’s Shearwater – Not as easy as expected, but we saw a near fledged chick on its nest on Aride, and three others either around or from the island. Others have seen this bird seawatching from Praslin or from other boats e.g. Praslin to Cousin or Mahe to Praslin.
30 October – Good flight with Air Seychelles, arriving on time. Seychelles Sunbird at the airport and a number of distant White-tailed Tropicbirds. A walk in Beau Vallon secures Seychelles Blue-pigeon and Seychelles Bulbul, as well as Curlew which is scare on these islands. Chance meeting with Alastair Kilpin, another birder, with a plan hatched to look for waders in the morning.
31 October – A look around Victoria with Alastair for waders produces little. My first Fairy Terns by the Sun Resort – amazing birds. Superb snorkelling by the Sunset Beach, three or so kilometres north of Sun Resort.
1 November – Abandon our search for La Gogue Reservoir with Alastair, but in that area a pair of Seychelles Kestrel flies over calling, and more intriguingly, distant vocalisations of some passerines which sounded like white-eyes.
The afternoon with Perly Constance, one of two main birding guides on Mahe. A good start with a quick visit to a mangrove lagoon near Brilliant Point, south of Victoria, producing Crab Plover and the bonus of a vagrant Whiskered Tern (which Perly, having never seen one, thought could only be a juvenile Swift Tern). After inexplicable dips in Kenya and the United Arab Emirates, and distant views in Madagascar, it was fantastic to see this incomparable wader up close and personal. This heralded the way of things to come and in quick succession, Seychelles White-eye, Seychelles Swiftlet, great views of a roosting Seychelles Kestrel and - the key bird of the trip - Seychelles Scops-owl, all fell spellbindingly quickly.
2 November – With the birding pressure off we opted for a leisurely boat trip and snorkelling in St Anne Marine National Park with ‘Captain Michael’ (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Beau Vallon beach. The snorkelling really is a different world and circling above some of the Seychelles’ best coral we noted Hawksbill Turtle, Black-tipped Reef-sharks, Cuttlefish and Sting Rays. Captain Michael’s beach barbeque proves to be the food of the trip! Although expensive at SR 2,300 for both of us, it was still cheaper than an organised trip with Masons with food that could not be bettered.
3 November – A hot walk to Anse Major from Beau Vallon, with the main reward after checking countless fruit bats, of two Greater Frigatebirds. A forgettable couple of hours in Victoria, one of the smallest capitals in the world; no notable waders on the fields apart from a small flock of Curlew Sandpiper.
4 November – With a hire car we hit the roads to take in the south of the island, checking all the bays for waders. Apart from two Crab Plovers, six Terek Sandpipers and the Whiskered Tern which remained at Brilliant Point lagoon, we see no good waders, and we struggle even with Lesser Sandplover which birding reports seem to suggest occurs in only slightly fewer numbers than its larger cousin. A small group of Seychelles Swiftlets along the west coast en route to Port Launay, with some more snorkelling to see out the day.
5 November – This time find La Grogue Reservoir in the north of Mahe but it really wasn’t worth the effort with nothing at all present. An incredibly humid walk to Mount Blanc from the Tea Factory with plenty of Seychelles Bulbuls, a Seychelles Wolf Snake, and a Common Tenrec. Of interest, the latter is a monospecific genus, with over 30 species occurring in Madagascar, the source of the introduced animals on Mahe and Praslin. Two groups of Seychelles Swiftlets during the day including a few above Victoria.
6 November – Chill in the morning waiting for the flight to Bird Island. On arrival, Roby Besson, the Conservation Officer, provides the de-briefing with the exciting news that an Aleutian Tern was present early morning! Abandoning any further ‘induction’ we hurried to North Point but with no sign of the tern flock Roby had seen earlier. We do see our first Lesser Sandplovers which are as obvious as I remember; reassuring to know we hadn’t overlooked them on Mahe. Both frigatebirds, both noddies and two Red-footed Boobies coming into roost closed out the day. What a place!
7 November – A pre-breakfast walk to North Point with the Saunders’ Tern flock present, but without the Aleutian Tern. The highlight of the day belonged to a Hawksbill Turtle, just finishing nesting, which we follow as she completes her journey to the sea. Two more visits to North Point proved to be similarly fruitless! Three Red-footed Boobies coming into roost, and a brief view of another adult booby which seemed to have a white tail. Completely forgetting to check the wing for the wing patch, this is one that did get away, though I strongly suspect Masked Booby, which is very rare even on Bird Island.
8 November – Two more trips to North Point during the day and resignation that the Aleutian Tern has gone, though interestingly a juvenile Bridled roosting with the Saunders’ Terns, notable as these terns tend to roost in trees. A vast array of turtle-doves including some which look good for Seychelles Turtle-dove. A birder offers a chance of a trip to Aride which is gratefully accepted. The flight to Praslin leaves 30 minutes late with the impeccable Masons at the other end awaiting us for our short transfer.
9 November – Masons pick us up and transfer us to the pier for the ‘Three Islands Trip, starting first with Cousin, ticking off Seychelles Fody and Seychelles Warbler within five minutes, and Seychelles Magpie-robin within ten minutes of (at last) getting onto a trail. It took an hour for the various groups to be organised and lead allocated. But that aside, Cousin is a testament to what can be achieved in conservation terms as both the magpie-robin and warbler, now doing well, were close to extinction in the 1980s. Curieuse proves disappointing though snorkelling off St Pierre was a different experience with deeper water, great views of octopus, Sting Ray and more Black-tipped Reef Sharks.
10 November – The 10:30 ferry to La Dique and arrival at the flycatcher reserve just before noon does not prove a barrier to seeing this island’s top bird, with two males, a female and two juveniles all seen well. Allow ourselves to be deprived of SR100 each to enter the Union Estate though the small marsh, which can hold Yellow Bittern, was too difficult to access (and do ignore the giant tortoise enclosure en route to the marsh). Another (shallow) snorkel from attractive beaches before the race back only to find the ferry was late, which also meant we missed the last bus on Praslin costing us a SR250 taxi to our guesthouse – more expensive than London!
11 November – Anse Lazio in the north of Praslin is regarded as one of the top ten beaches in the world by ‘Conde Naste’ magazine. So Denise had to go and instantly wished we hadn’t on arrival – although a nice enough beach it was by no means the best we had seen on this trip. A midday visit to Vallee de Mai National Park was enjoyable, with great views of “Seychelles Black Parrot” in fruiting trees along the road west of the entrance.
12 November – It had been frustrating dealing with Masons and Creole on both Mahe and Praslin, as neither could organise a trip to Aride. So it was with some relief that another birding couple had organised their own charter with 7osouth. On arrival at Aride, and having seen no shearwaters surprisingly, it was clear why the ground agents do not relish this trip as the waves coming in to the shore were quite high. Magpie-robin, warbler and fody all seen within minutes, and at last, Audubon’s Shearwater – albeit a near-fledged juvenile – on the nest. A migrant Common Redstart was a nice bonus. Another Audubon’s Shearwater on the sea off Aride and two more between Aride and Praslin to complete a successful trip.
13 November – Return journey on the Air Seychelles flight where we were both deprived of entertainment thanks to faulty arm rests.
Systematic List (for convenience, follows Birds of the Indian Ocean Islands; Endemics in capitals)
1. Audubon’s Shearwater (Puffinus iherminieri) – Four birds in total, with a near fully fledged juvenile on its nest on Aride, a single on the sea around Aride and two between Aride and Praslin.
2. Wedge-tailed Shearwater (Puffinus pacificus) – Four seawatching off Bird late evening, 12+ seawatching off Praslin, five on nests on Cousin (where Audubon’s is scarce) and four on nests on Aride. Two between Aride and Praslin
3. White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus) – Common.
4. Greater Frigatebird (Fregata minor) – Two drifted over Beau Vallon beach on Mahe. Always seemed to be in lower numbers than its smaller cousin, but easy on Bird and Aride.
5. Lesser Frigatebird (Fregata ariel) – Two thirds of the 450+ frigatebirds on Bird were of this species and an equivalent ratio noted off Aride. Both islands provide an almost unrivalled opportunity to study the two species very well.
6. Red-footed Booby (Sula sula) – Three coming into roost with the frigatebirds on Bird. No doubt this species occurs on Aride but we left the island at 15:00 before any birds had appeared.
[Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra)] – A booby drifting with the frigatebirds on Bird appeared to have a distinct black tail. In focusing on the tail and chin in the brief views I had I forget to check the wings which would have clinched the identity. This bird is very rare in the Seychelles this sighting has gone down as an untickable probable].
7. Black-crowned Night-heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) – Singles at Port Launay and Beau Vallon beach, Mahe.
8. Striated Heron (Butorides striatus) – Widespread in small numbers on Mahe; elsewhere just a single on Praslin noted.
9. Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) – A large heronry at Brilliant Point Lagoon, Mahe and a few around Victoria airport.
10. Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) – A few on Mahe.
11. SEYCHELLES KESTREL (Falco araea) – Four sightings in a week on Mahe seems slightly above average judging by other reports. A presumed pair whilst searching for La Gogue Reservoir, a pair feeding young in Beau Vallon church, a single over the Tea Factory and a single roosting at The Mission viewpoint.
12. Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) – On Mahe, a single along one of the creeks into Beau Vallon beach and a single at The Sanctuary. Otherwise common on Bird, and noted on Cousin, La Digue and Aride.
13. Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) – Noted on Mahe, Aride, Bird and La Digue.
14. Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola) – We missed singles on both Bird Island and Aride but we did see two in the mangroves at Brilliant Point lagoon.
15. Pacific Golden-plover (Pluvialis fulva) – A single on Bird Island.
16. Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola) - Common
17. Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) – Common, particularly on Bird Island, but also frequently encountered on many bays on Mahe.
18. Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) – Always scarce in the Seychelles, we had a single at Beau Vallon, Mahe on our first day.
19. Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) – A single on one of the islands in Ste Anne Marine National Park was our only sighting.
20. Terek Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus) – Six on Brilliant Point lagoon, Mahe.
21. Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) – A single near Victoria, Mahe was our only sighting.
22. Greater Sandplover (Charadrius leschenaultia) – Commoner on Bird than Lesser Sandplover and noted in small numbers widely on Mahe.
23. Lesser Sandplover (Charadrius mongolus) – Only noted on Bird with 10+ recorded. A rare opportunity to compare the two species and Bird must surely be one of the best places to do so.
24. Sanderling (Calidris alba) – Noted on Praslin and Bird.
25. Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) – 30+ on Bird and a similar number around Victoria, Mahe.
26. Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybridus) – A single bird at Brilliant Point Lagoon, near Victoria, Mahe. Not noted in the checklist downloadable from the African Bird Club website.
27. Swift (Great-crested) Tern (Sterna bergii) – Two large terns flying into the sun were probably this species and were surprisingly the only ones we noted on Mahe. 15+ on bird, 8+ during the Three Island trip and a few around Curieuse.
28. Common (Brown) Noddy (Anous stolidus) – Common on Bird, Aride and Cousin.
29. Lesser Noddy (Anous tenuirostris) - Common on Bird, Aride and Cousin with great comparison opportunities on all three, but particularly Bird.
30. Bridled Tern (Sterna anaethetus) – 100+ roosting on Bird, 20+ between Anse Major and Sunset Hotel roosting on the buoys and boats of Beau Vallon bay, Mahe, and three returning from Aride passing Curieuse.
31. Sooty Tern (Sterna fuscata) – We were fortunate to visit Bird Island in a year with a late breeding season for this species, with well 1,000+ still present.
32. Saunders’ Tern (Sterna saundersi) – Up to 150 on Bird, and with grey tails much more likely to be Saunders’ though this doesn’t rule out Little Tern completely.
33. White (Fairy) Tern (Gygis alba) – Common on all the islands visited, and reasonably numbers in and around Beau Vallon, Mahe.
34. Feral Pigeon (Columba livia) – A few in Victoria, Mahe.
35. Barred (Zebra) Ground-dove (Geopelia striata) – Abundant and fearless.
36. SEYCHELLES BLUE-PIGEON (Alectroenas pulcherrima) – Fairly common on Mahe particularly in forested areas, and a few noted on Praslin and La Digue.
37. Madagascar Turtle-dove (Streptopelia picturata) – Common on Mahe, Bird, Cousin and Aride and noted on La Digue.
38. “SEYCHELLES BLACK PARROT” (Coracopsis nigra barklyi) – Easily seen both in Vallee de Mai National Park and along the main road from the entrance heading west, with eight birds in total.
39. Ring-necked Parakeet (Psittacula krameri) – A single bird in the Grand Anse area of west Mahe.
40. SEYCHELLES SCOPS-OWL (Otus insularis) – A single bird seen just after dusk with Perly Constance in the mountains of central Mahe.
41. European Swift (Apus apus) – A single on Bird Island was seen well.
42. SEYCHELLES SWIFTLET (Collocalia elaphra) – On Mahe seen very well in the La Misere area with Perly Constance, a small flock over Victoria and twice along the west coast. A few also on La Digue.
43. SEYCHELLES BULBUL (Hypsipetes crassirostris) – Common on Mahe particularly in forested habitat, common in Vallee de Mai National Park, Praslin, one other sighting on Praslin and one noted on La Digue.
44. SEYCHELLES MAGPIE-ROBIN (Copsychus sechellarum) – Five on Cousin, and seven on Aride. Strongly attracted to people on both islands.
45. Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) – A single on Aride. An annual vagrant to the Seychelles.
46. SEYCHELLES PARADISE-FLYCATCHER (Terpsiphone corvine) – Easily seen at La Digue’s Veuve Reserve, with two males, a female and two juveniles; vocal even during the midday period.
47. SEYCHELLES WARBLER (Acrocephalus sechellensis) – Four seen easily on Cousin, and seven equally easily on Aride.
48. SEYCHELLES WHITE-EYE (Zosterops modestus) – A single seen well with Perly Constance on Mahe.
49. SEYCHELLES SUNBIRD (Nectarinia dussumieri) – Common, and now also translocated to Bird where doing well.
50. Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) – Abundant on Mahe, common on Praslin and noted on Bird, Aride, La Digue and Cousin.
51. Madagascar Fody (Foudia madagascariensis) – Abundant on Mahe, common Praslin and Bird, and noted Cousin and Aride.
52. SEYCHELLES FODY (Foudis sechellarum) – Easy on both Cousin and Aride but just two decent males with strong yellow, one on each.
53. Common Waxbill (Estrilda astrild) – Seven at Beau Vallon, Mahe.
Aldabra Giant Tortoise
Green Gecko (sp)
Seychelles Wolf Snake
Tiny Grass Blue (butterfly)
Darter (sp) a bit like Red-veined (dragonfly)
Emerald (sp) (dragonfly)