Monday, 15 October 2018

Western Kingbird on Flores etc

It's been an incredible few days in the wake of Storm Callum with the hands down highlight being the first Western Kingbird for the Western Palearctic on the neighbouring island of Flores found on 13th by Thijs Valkenberg from the car! Most Corvo birders have spent the last three days trying to bridge the 12 mile stretch of drink between Corvo and Flores- unsuccessfully due to stormy seas. Seven Corvo birders finally made it off island today by plane but there has been no sign of the bird since early yesterday morning. Only five people have seen the bird (two are non-birders) with two birders on Flores even failing to see it. Whether you are a WP twitcher on the European mainland over 1000 miles away or 12 miles away on Corvo or even on the same ruddy island for some- it seems this bird has proved to give nearly everyone the slip. If it's never seen again it will be an instant alluring WP legend. 

 Western Kingbird (Thijs Valkenberg) 

The Kingbird was indeed the monarch of a significant arrival of yanks from the 13th to 15th with highlights on Corvo including White-throated Sparrow, a Dickcissel, a new American Redstart, a new Baltimore Oriole, Black-throated Green Warbler, Northern Parula, Swainson's Thrush, Scarlet Tanager, three Red-eyed Vireo, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, two Indigo Buntings and Grey-cheeked Thrush. The Wilson's Warbler was also still present today (15th) to the delight of birders arriving on the Monday flight.  

Additionally on Flores there has been Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Northern Waterthrush and Scarlet Tanager. 

White-throated Sparrow (Pawel Kolodziejczyk)

For full log of daily birds see Corvo Birders Facebook Page HERE

Friday, 12 October 2018

First landfall of Nearctic landbirds on Corvo

On the one side, it's about Floridians trying to deal over the week with "Michael", a Cat 4 Hurricane hitting shore on the Eastern American seaboard - wind speed approaching 200 km/h. On the other side (Corvo/WP//EU side), however, "Michael" is not such a bad guy because it drags behind him a system of sustained westerlies that had the potential to blow across the ocean a first wave of Nearctic landbirds...And so it did!

The Corvo 2018 autumn has indeed been triggered in style over the last days with an impressive cast of goodies scored: no less than 8 Nearctic landbird individuals have been reported since the 10th, including three American Redstarts scattered on the island, the first two Red-eyed Vireos of the year in Lapa and Cantinho, an Indigo Bunting at the Lighthouse Valley and a Baltimore Oriole in the Lower Fields! The pinnacle of the week came late in the afternoon of yesterday with the discovery of Corvo's 65th Nearctic land bird species, a stunning female Wilson's Warbler in the Middle Fields - a true mega for the records, being not only a first for Azores but also the 4th WP record (1st female).

With an estimated 30+ birders now present on the island and with the wind calming down, more discoveries should be expected over the week-end so stay tuned!

Cat 4 Hurricane "Michael" hits Florida, 10 October 2018 (David Monticelli)
American Redstart (1st w male), Middle Fields, 11 October 2018 (Vincent Legrand)
Wilson's Warbler (female), 12 October 2018 (Vincent Legrand)
Nearctic species seen from 8-12 October:
Blue-winged Teal: 1 (8/10)
Pectoral Sandpiper : 1 (8/10)
Spotted Sandpiper: 1 on southern shore (8-10/10)
White-rumped Sandpiper: 1 (9/10)
Red-eyed Vireo: 2, one 1 at Lapa and one at Ribeira do Cantinho (10 & 11/10, respectively)
American Redstart: 3, one at Lighthouse Valley, one at Middle fields, one at Fojo (10, 11 & 12/10, respectively)
Wilson's Warbler: 1 at Middle Fields (12/10)
Baltimore Oriole: 1 in Lower Fields (Cape Verdian Farm) (11/10)
Indigo Bunting: 1 at Lighthouse Valley (12/10)

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

The Azores Rare and Scarce Bird Report 2015


The 2015 report will be available on Corvo next week. If you would like to order a copy by post please email littleoakgroup@btinternet.com 

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Prologue to the 2018 season…

Over the last few days, the Whatsapp group “Azores Bird News” has gone live again with news being more and more regularly reported from multiple islands as birders from all over the Western Palearctic are progressively colonising the archipelago. For the fourth year, this blog will focus on the spectacular island of Corvo, from where we will report bird news on a fairly regular basis throughout October.

Some of the usual stalwarts (Daniel, Mika, Vincent, etc) touched ground on Corvo a few days ago to find out low Nearctic activity on the island with only a few individuals reported over the last days. Not much to worry about as historical records have shown that, with the exception of a few particular years, the season usually starts at a slow pace and goes crescendo with a peak usually towards mid-month.  Not totally unrelated to this is the pattern of birder’s attendance on the island that also usually peaks from 10-25 October, providing around that period the most exhaustive coverage. 

This year, an estimated 90+ birders are scheduled to visit this tiny island during the course of the month, a quite promising tally that is somewhat unprecedented. Thus the only limiting factor to finding great birds here will be weather! At the moment, the charts are not very encouraging for the next day or two but by mid-week, the wind will start blowing from the west with stormy conditions predicted for Thursday. Having experienced Corvo over the last 13 years, my own bet here is that the first decent American land birds will have been found by the end of next week. Time will tell…

Nearctic species seen from mid-September onwards:
White-rumped Sandpiper: 2 at Caldeira & 2 at Camping site (12 & 16/09)
Buff-breasted Sandpiper: 2 at Reservoir (13/09)
Pectoral Sandpiper: 1 at Caldeira (4/10)
Spotted Sandpiper: 1 on shore west of Doctor’s house (5/10)
Northern Harrier: 1 at Caldeira (4/10)

Buff-breasted Sandpipers, Grassland around Reservoir, 13 September 2018 (Tim Collins)

Thursday, 2 November 2017

The 2017 autumn on Corvo: a brief summary

The 2017 hurricane season in the Northern Atlantic was already considered by meteorologists as more intense than normal by mid September with 13 storms recorded, of which 4 were major hurricanes listed as Category 3 (on a scale of 5). By then, scientists at the US National Hurricane Centre were tweeting messages like “Never seen anything like this in the modern record”…with some of these tweets being reprinted in the New York Times! Six weeks later and after another 7 hurricanes have gone through the southeast US seaboard, the Caribbean region and the north Atlantic, 2017 is about to enter the selective club of “10 busiest years in terms of hurricane activity and number of storms recorded”.

Predictably, this had some important implications for the rarity-hunting season on Corvo that clearly stands out as the most productive season since 2005 in terms of total number of birds discovered, and certainly also as one of the best season in terms of quality and rarity of the records made.

In fact, the data/observations compiled for the period 23 September to 31 October 2017 yields self-explanatory figures:

Nearctic landbird species recorded on Corvo from 23 Sept to 31 Oct 2017 (no. of individuals involved):
Rough-legged Hawk (2)
Belted Kingfisher (1)
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (6)
American Buff-bellied Pipit (1)
Cedar Waxwing (1)
Grey-cheeked Thrush (3)
Swainson's Thrush (1)
American Robin (1)
Yellow-throated Vireo (1)
Philadelphia Vireo (3)
Red-eyed Vireo (24)
Tennessee Warbler (1)
Black-and-white Warbler (5)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (1)
Black-throated Green Warbler (3)
Blackburnian Warbler (1)
Magnolia Warbler (2)
Northern Waterthrush (6)
Bay-breasted Warbler (1)
Blackpoll Warbler (8)
Ovenbird (5)
Common Yellowthroat (4)
Hooded Warbler (2)
Canada Warbler (1)
Scarlet Tanager (4)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (4)
Indigo Bunting (3)
Dickcissel (1)
Bobolink (1)

Nearctic non-landbird (waterbirds) species recorded on Corvo from 23 Sept to 31 Oct 2017 (no. of individuals involved):
Surf Scoter (2)
American Wigeon (4)
American Black Duck/incl. hybrids (6)
Blue-winged Teal (6)
Green-winged Teal (3)
Ring-necked Duck (4)
American Great Egret (1)
Semipalmated Plover (1)
American Golden Plover (2)
Semipalmated Sandpiper (3)
White-rumped Sandpiper (11)
Pectoral Sandpiper (2)
Wilson's Snipe (2)
Upland Sandpiper (1)
Lesser Yellowlegs (3)
Greater Yellowlegs (1)
Solitary Sandpiper (1)
Spotted Sandpiper (4)
Bonaparte’s Gull (1)

In about 40 days American landbird rarities discovered fall short of a hundred individuals (97 more precisely) divided among 29 different species, an unprecedented haul in Corvo’s history. In fact, only two previous years approach these annual totals, 2012 with 26 landbird species and 2015 with 27. In addition, no less than 18 waterbird species were reported on Corvo this autumn, which brings up the annual numbers at an astounding 155 individuals within…48 different species!

Notwithstanding this impressive total, every day is considered as a new dawn on Corvo and, depending on the prevailing weather conditions and number of birders present, more or less discoveries were made. And the day among all that no one would have wanted to miss was Friday October 20 when it was literally “raining birds all over the place” with 14 Nearctic landbird species on the charts on that evening.

Also extremely enjoyable this autumn for the 70+ birders or so who visited Corvo was the wealth of American Wood-warblers reported with no less than 13 species found – so far the highest peak was in 2012 with ‘only’ 11 species.

Evidently, quality was also au rendez-vous this autumn with major WP records made: Bay-breasted Warbler (2nd for WP), Blackburnian warbler (5th WP), Canada warbler (5th WP), Hooded Warbler (5th & 6th WP), Dickcissel (6th WP), Magnolia Warbler (7th & 8th WP), Yellow-throated Vireo (7th WP) and the duo Black-throated Green (8th, 9th & 10th WP) and Black-throated Blue (9th WP) Warblers. Locally three 1st records for Corvo (Surf Scoter, Bonaparte’s Gull & Belted Kingfisher) and two 1st records for the Azores (Blackburnian & Bay-breasted Warblers) were bagged. 

So overall, a real big year for The Rock, which more than ever stands out as the best destination in the entire Western Palearctic for Nearctic rarities! 

See you next autumn for more reporting news…

David & Peter.

One of 8 Blackpolls seen this year on Corvo - This one at Ribeira de Lapa, 28 October 2017 (Peter Stronach)
The fourth American Robin for Corvo since 2005, Caldeira, 26 October 2017 (Peter Stronach)

Thursday, 26 October 2017

And still they come

Yesterday was a day of little change with the three amigos, ( Bay-breasted Warbler, Swainson's Thrush and the Blackpoll Warbler) still at the Lighthouse Valley , a male Hooded Warbler was still near the whale watching hut, there was a second Blackpoll seen again and Gerby's Ovenbird was seen again on the road near Cancelas. The Yellow-billed Cuckoo in the village was still giving the run around and there was a Red-eyed Vireo near the Hooded Warbler site.

Today an American Robin was found in the Caldera- another new American land bird species for the already record breaking autumn. A Rose-breasted Grosbeak was also found in the Caldera while birders were looking for the Robin.  Other birds included a Black-and-white Warbler at the bottom of da Ponte, the Hooded Warbler was still present, the Upland Sandpiper was at the reservoir, an Indigo Bunting was around and a Blackpoll Warbler was seen near the airport in the evening.

 Ovenbird on road near Cancelas (Gerby Birding)
Male Hooded Warbler  (Gerby Birding) 

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Plenty to enjoy again on Corvo today!

Another busy report from Corvo’s group of 30+ remaining birders today, with a total of at least 12 different American landbirds reported. About half of these concerns new individuals within the following species - Ovenbird (2), Grey-cheeked Thrush (2), Yellow-billed Cuckoo (1) and Scarlet Tanager (1). 

In addition, the trio Swainson’s Thrush, Blackpoll and Bay-breasted warblers were still performing well in the same juniper field at lower part of Lighthouse Valley (third consecutive day) and the two first-winter males Hooded Warbler were also relocated at Cancelas (fifth day) and between Cantinho/Lighthouse Valley (second day). 

Nearctic species seen today include:
Upland Sandpiper: 1 (fields Upper  Tennessee Valley)
White-Rumped Sandpiper: 6 (Vila do Corvo)
Short-eared Owl: 1 (grassland fields between Lighthouse Valley and Cantinho)
Swainson’s Thrush: 1 (Lighthouse Valley)
Grey-cheeked Thrush: 2 (near carpark to Lighthouse Valley) - 1, Tennessee Valley - 1)
Yellow-billed Cuckoo: 1 (pig farm at Low fields)
Scarlet Tanager: 1 (Ribeira de Poço d’Agua)
Red-eyed Vireo: 1 (Tennessee Valley)
Blackpoll Warbler: 1 (Lighthouse Valley)
Hooded Warbler: 2 (Cancelas - 1, Between Cantinho and Lighthouse Valley - 1)
Bay-breasted Warbler: 1 (Lighthouse Valley)
Ovenbird: 2 (Lower road between Cancelas and Cantinho - 1, near carpark to Lighthouse Valley - 1)

Swainson's Thrush (first-winter), Lighthouse Valley, 24 October 2017 (Klaus Drissner)
Philadelphia Vireo, Lighthouse Valley, 23 October 2017 (Peter Stronach)
Short-eared Owl, Between Lighthouse Valley and Cantinho, 23 October 2017 (Peter Stronach)