25 October 2012

Almost last knockings

Somewhere in the bottom of a weedy field creeps a large feathered mouse.

Pretty hard work today, nowt much in Da Ponte, murk at the reservoir, not a lot in the higher fields, just a Yellow-rumped Warbler above the village and only the Mourning Dove in the village fields. Limited supporting cast too. 

A few Corvo waders

The Bobolink and Mourning Dove are still around and showing down to inches, however, the effort find new stuff was curtailed today thanks to much faffage at the airport. Did manage to relocate one of the Yellow-rumped Warblers on the slope above the village this evening though. Highlight of the day though was another Azores tick - Purple Sandpiper.

Semi-palmated Plover on the slipway near the airport, just out of shot are another two plus a Semi-palmated Sandpiper, a Purple Sandpiper and a flockette of Turnstones.

Another Semi-palmated Plover at the western end of the airfield, would have got much a better shot only moments after this it was flushed by somebody driving the 'Corvo circuit'.

It's laugh a minute round here. The aforementioned Purple Sandpiper - Azores tick!

23 October 2012

What I did

What I did today was,... a quick check on the dove, still there. Crippling views of Bobolink. Up to the caldera, also still there, and in which was Pink-footed Goose [Azores tick, yay!], Great Blue Heron, Ruff, Semi-palmated Sandpiper, 10 White-rumped Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, Wilson's Snipe and a couple of Snow Buntings. Down to the reservoir which produced a flurry of 13 Snow Buntings. And then back to the village for a troll round looking for the new Dickcissel, dip. Did get more Bobolink action though.

Mourning Dove after a morning shower.

Bobolink showing down to nothing. Feeding constantly whilst dibbling about at birders feet.  

22 October 2012

Pretty little pigeon

Strong westerlies slowly becoming north-westerlies pretty much put pay to any valley action today. Unfortunately, seabashing and fieldwatching didn't really produce much, and the day was slowly sliding towards an early bath via American Herring Gull, Semi-palmated Sandpiper, etc. Then, with an hour or so of light to spare, another mega dropped off the conveyor, bagged, tagged and ready to go as Vincent pulled out a Mourning Dove.

What a little cutie.

21 October 2012

To the lighthouse (again)


Deep in the magic junipers. 

The Prairie did dink about in full view but was either too close or too sharpish.  The Yellow Warbler was also still present, at one point the two had a brief difference of opinion but mostly they played nice.   Both, however, were eclipsed by a flyover Snow Bunting - Azores tick!

[Correction: D'oh! Snow Bunting wasn't an Azores tick, saw them on my first trip to Corvo in 2006 as evidenced by the ye olde blog post here.]

20 October 2012

The Western Palearctic just gained a new species

Managed to see the Blackpoll Warbler in Da Ponte before all hell broke loose this morning. A report of a Cape May Warbler at the lighthouse valley had us all scrambling. On arrival a quick look at the back of a camera and,... F***ing Hells Bells! Minutes later we're watching a Prairie Warbler which, over the next hour or so, was also joined by a Yellow Warbler and a Yellow-rumped Warbler. The magic junipers of the lighthouse valley strike again. So far, the only thing I have found today is a Blue-winged Teal flying up Lapa at head height.

Yep, that'll be a Prairie Warbler.

Caspian Plover

Caspian Plover gawd knows how many miles into the Atlantic. Chicken. Oriental. Possibly the most surreal afternoon of my birding life.

Caspian Plover. That. Is. All. 

19 October 2012

Whilst it's raining...

Hoying down here at the moment, in the meantime, anyone know what species this might be?

Photograph by iPhone in the dark of Da Ponte, before you start thinking my standards (what standards?) have slipped.

[Update: I think this might be Ascotis fortunata azorica]

18 October 2012


May have found a new Bobolink today (was it new? Was it the bird from last week?) but basically it was pretty darn slow. Dipped on the Philadelphia Vireo and Blackpoll Warbler at Pico,... again. Unsurprisingly, I did get an Indigo Bunting in the Indigo Bunting field on the way back, have probably seen four different individuals so far this trip.

The tiny field above the bridge at Da Ponte never knowingly lacking an Indigo Bunting. 

Here comes another one

A long morning in Da Ponte deep below the dancing canopy, amid the earthy decay, flickering shadows and swirling ghosts of rarities past,... bugger all in there today mind, all I managed was another of these,...

The most REV.

Whilst I was REVving next door, on the summit of Pico, Philadelphia Vireo and Blackpoll Warbler were putting in brief appearances. However, both had slipped away before I popped in and my search came to an abrupt halt as news of an American Robin (first for the Azores?) crackled across the airwaves. Then, having lapped up the robin and with thoughts turning to coffee, a sparrow scooted along in front of Eric and David before putting on a display of skulking of world beating proportions,... I didn't get tickable views for the best part of four hours.

Lincoln's (Thomas not Abraham) Sparrow, presumably I was going for the ropiest photo of a 2nd for the WP ever, but I forget why now.

16 October 2012

Not waving but not quite drowning

A planned quiet morning in the village has produced Great Shearwater and a near death experience with an Atlantic roller whilst recovering a recently deceased Cory's Shearwater,... so not that quiet really.  Currently in my second set of clothes for the day,... slightly moist in the pant region.

Common Blackbird, Turdus merula azorensis, Melro-preto.

Feral Rock Dove, Columba livia volorattus, Pombo-das-rochas.

Cute ickle kid, Capra aegagrus cuteasabuttonicus, Cabrito.

This afternoon a dose of new birds arrived and brought the weather with them.

1st-winter female Northern Parula in the murk. 

59th-winter male birder in the murk.

Now in my third set of clothes,... still slightly moist in the pant region. 

15 October 2012

Mammal gets Bird of the Day

Heard the Dickcissel this morning whilst sorting through the hoards of Canary and House Sparrow in the village fields; then had a flyover Buff-bellied Pipit and a Bryde's/Sei Whale. Unfortunately, the rest of the day went to hell in a hand-cart due to a report of a 'warbler sp.' in Da Ponte. Four hours in a valley and a long walk home.

Bryde's/Sei Whale passing east just of the south coast of Corvo.

[Addendum: a comment regarding the above from Justin Hart via Peter "A few [Sei Whales] have passed by Pico in the last couple of weeks (and a Humpback yesterday too). Could be a Bryde's but it's getting late in the year for these warm water species and they're much more rare. My money is on Sei whale on return migration to warmer waters. we see alot more baleens in spring but I guess more people are looking then."]

The Buff-bellied Pipit which flew over Pete and I on its way to Flores.

14 October 2012

Headless chicken

Up to the reservoir first thing, visibility down to about 10 metres and Solitary Sand and White-rumped Sands down to three metres. Then started yomping down to drop out of the fog only for news of a Dickcissel in the village to quicken our pace (run number one for the day).

Dickcissel, Dickcissel, Dickcissel.

Then lunch was interrupted by Ernie relocating the Tennessee Warbler (second run of the day), unfortunately, the bastard thing had disappeared into the boundless, wind-whipped Tamarisks before I rocked up. The only thing I bumped into coming the other way as I fought my way through the jungle was this,...

The wrong sort of vireo.

Then the news of a Philadelphia Vireo (one of the right sort of vireos) filtered through from Da Ponte and its time for the third run of the day only to end up in yet more wind lashed habo,... another dip. The plan to potter back was then royally buggered when Eric refound the Tennessee in the village and, yes, I'm running again, only to take the wrong track and miss tickable views by seconds.

It is at this point when I dropped a C-bomb so large it rendered half of Villa do Novo an uninhabitable waste. Half the population is now homeless, wandering through the rubble, in wide-eyed shock.

Then the bird reappeared, more scrambling and it finally fell. Two mega ticks in a day, the Philly can wait until tomorrow. Nice.

White-rumped Sandpiper poo. One for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition.

13 October 2012

Clucking hell

Just missed out on a Tennessee Warbler, bumping into Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting in the process did nothing to take the edge off, so you can all cluck off.

12 October 2012

A decidedly less quiet one

Four and a half hours in the wind and rain, worth every minute,...

 Regular appearances by a Black-and-White Warbler and a Cliff Swallow also helped the hours pass.

Wait till you see Vincent's images.

11 October 2012

A quiet one

Spent all morning in Agua for very little reward and the most cursory of looks for the Blackpoll Warbler produced a predictable blank. All in all a bit quiet,... apart from the intra-local stabbing last night, Hannu impaling his leg and a possible hernia but I'll tell you about those another time. 

[Addendum: I forgot to mention, we also have a high(ish) profile member of the UK birding community living the life of a shadowy ne'er-do-well, climbing in windows, only walking the village streets after dark, hiding under the bed on every knock at the door, etc. I don't know, the things that happen on a rock in the middle of the sea.]

Magnolia falls

Unfortunately, our morning's birding produced nothing more than 2-3 Indigo Buntings and a Red-eyed Vireo. Fortunately, Gordon's morning turned up a Magnolia Warbler and we all piled into Da Ponte to bask in its lovely jubbliness. Unfortunately, its jubbliness did not extend to it being easy to photograph, hence the complete lack of associated imagery. Fortunately, my miserable failure is, potentially, your gain as it gives you a great excuse to check out Vincent's site here. Vincent, for those who don't know, is our photographic automaton, a pinnacle of modern design, a seamless fusion of man and camera. We simply point him at a bird then stand back and admire the single-minded, faultless efficiency,... and all fueled on coke, chicken and chips.

Popped up the reservoir this afternoon where everything was much the more amenable regarding photography as you can see,...

Halfway through papping this Solitary Sandpiper I leant back on the cattle fencing and received a rather unnecessary administration of a silly number of volts. Squealed. Like. A. Girl.

White-rumped Sandpiper, still outnumbering everything else but, on this occasion, also accompanied by the Solitary Sandpiper, a Pectoral Sandpiper and a Semi-palmated Plover.

An additional buy two get one free example of Corvo magic just for you,...

A bush and a bird.

Three minutes thirty-one seconds later, same bush, different bird. Groovy huh?

09 October 2012

Across the ribeira and into the trees

A very quick update as I'm starving and dinner calls,...

First full day on Corvo, first two hours in a ribeira and look what I found.

Another smarty on the WP finds list.

Will add more detail later,... probably. Stay tuned folks!

[Addendum: never did get round to scribing a 'finder's account'. Well, it went like this,... looked up, there it was, I said "Wood Thrush!" (because that's what it was). A small amount of hell broke loose. Le fin.]

08 October 2012

Gentle little warm-up

A short morning pottering on Sao Miguel produced 15+ Whimbrel, a Knot and a Bar-tailed Godwit at the airport; and four Semi-palmated Plover plus a smattering of White-rumped Sandpiper at Mosteiros.

Following arrival on Corvo a quick scoot up the road resulted in two (count 'em) Azores ticks in a mini hirundine flock consisting of four Cliff Swallow and four House Martin.

Then it was into the fields to be stalked at every turn by the hordes of feral cats, until...

... on rounding a corner we stumbled on an excited Finn watching a Northern Waterthrush in a puddle. Jubbly.

[Addendum: There seems to be some discussion over the identification of this Northern Waterthrush, I'd guess largely due to the high ISO, slightly over-exposed, noise-reduced-to-hell-and-back jpeg posted by Peter here. Not having Pyle to hand (I know, I know, I forgot to pack it), the following is heavily indebted to 'Separating Louisiana and Northern Waterthrushes' c/o Belltower Birding.

Our bird showed the following features:

  • a plain up-and-down bobbing of the tail and rear body; 
  • a yellowish supercilium (paler, whitish behind the eye), breadth of supercilium behind the eye varied with posture; 
  • thin bill with thin and straight lower mandible; 
  • a finely striped chin (this was lost' in Peter's photograph due to slight over-exposure); 
  • yellowish breast and belly, whiter on the rear flanks and undertail (the yellow was reduced in Peter's photo probably as a result of increasing the contrast in the image and noise-reduction); 
  • quite dense streaking on the underparts; and
  • short primary projection. 

All the above seem to lean towards Northern,... granted the legs were quite pink though.]

Another god awful heavily cropped image for your delectation.

07 October 2012

Just a little teaser

Will add a few more photos later but, in the mean time,...

Sao Miguel: Three Semi-palmated Plovers, 23 White-rumped Sandpipers, a Semi-palmated Sandpiper and a couple of Roseate Tern at Mosteiros; a flock of ten American Golden Plover with five, disappointingly white-rumped, Whimbrel plus three flyover Grey Plover just west of Calhetas; and a Spoonbill roosting in the harbour at Ponta Delgada.

Aaand a few more photos,...

The only adult amongst the White-rumped Sandpiper flock at Mosteiros today.

One of the many juveniles/1st-winters.

There's very little not to like about these Semi-palmated sweeties.

The American Golden Plover flock Peter and I found in a random field just west of Calhetas.

01 October 2012

Drive-by bake-off

Just the last in a series of vicious cake-related ambushes. Two innocent people were caught in the crossfire of this senseless escalation and now face a prolonged period of recovery involving 'having a glass of milk' and 'sitting down and trying not to move around too much'. Authorities have asked the local community for help with identifying a woman observed running from the scene and who was heard to shout, "Mary Berry lives!"