Friday, 4 October 2013

What a day!

What makes Corvo such an attractive birding destination for western Palearctic listers is not merely the perspective of finding and twitching rare birds in the region, but also the hope that some of those rare birds will be American wood-warblers...those little colourful and beautiful creatures that are so enjoyable to the lucky observer. Their unobtrusive habits usually make them quite difficult to see as well, which adds a taste of victory when the 'connection' with the bird through binoculars actually happens.

Since 2005, several American wood-warbler species have been found annually on Corvo (except in 2007)  - with some years better than others - but as of yesterday night and after 7 complete days of active search, 2013 was still ranking last with no American wood warbler species on the list yet. This situation changed abruptly around 8.45 this morning when Kari Haataja gifted us with the discovery of a stunning male Black-throated blue warbler in the lower part of Cantinho, one of the largest wooded valley on Corvo.

Black-throated blue warbler (male), 4 October 2013, Ribeira do Cantinho, Corvo
The circumstances of the discovery were rather classical for a New World wood-warbler: a high sharp, frequently-called 'stip' which immediately attracted the birder's attention, followed by a patient wait to detect by eye the moving creature and finally the 'connection' with the bird through binoculars. With such a stunning male, identification was obviously straightforward and the news was released immediately by walkie-talkie. A few nearby birders managed to arrive on the spot within minutes and quickly cashed in with, in addition, several documenting photos obtained. The remaining birders (including myself) only managed to arrive 45 minutes after the initial discovery to hear that the bird was nowhere to be found. With a bit of luck and an additional 30 min. of active search, however, the bird was relocated further up in Cantinho. Every birder present on the island could now enjoy decent views of the wood-warbler and I eventually started to concentrate myself on the rather challenging task of obtaining the best of this restless beauty on the photo camera. The rest is history: 4 hours spent in Cantinho with the other photographers with another self-discovery while at work: a second wood-warbler, this time a Black-and-white warbler, gleaning insects along trunks at a short distance - less than 100m away - from the area favoured by the Black-throated blue. So, The Rock is on fire: we welcome the freshly arrived group of 10 new birders this late afternoon not only with one, but with two delightful American wood-warblers that everyone managed to twitch without problem.

Black-throated blue warbler (male), 4 October 2013, Ribeira do Cantinho, Corvo

Black-and-white warbler, 4 October 2013, Ribeira do Cantinho, Corvo
The importance of Kari's finding today is high since the Black-throated blue warbler constitutes only the 6th record in the western Palearctic following two previous records in Iceland (1988 & 2003) and 3 previous ones on Corvo (1 in 2005 and 2 in 2006). There are many more records of Black-and-white warbler in the western Palearctic and this is also the fourth for Corvo, following single in 2009, 2010 and 2012.  This latter species is nevertheless a nice addition to the daily log, making today one of those unforgettable days spent on Corvo that entirely justifies the physically-challenging efforts invested on this island in finding the 'good' birds. And with at least 3 additional weeks of intense birding activity to come and more than 20 birders actively searching the island from tomorrow morning onwards, the rest of the autumn looks very promising! 

2 comments:

  1. Hi David, looks like you entered a typo - the first in Iceland was in 1988 :)

    Cheers, Yann

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  2. Thanks Yann for spotting this error! It has been corrected now! :)
    All the best, -D.

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