Monday, 16 October 2017

OPHELIA !

What a hectic couple of days! We didn't expect Hurricane Ophelia to bring in American vagrants as it was moving up from West Africa (it's the furthest east a Hurricane has been in the North Atlantic since 1980!). However the intense disturbance dragged across a moderate westerly airflow from the US and with it.... came the Megas!

It had already started on Friday with the Blackpoll Warbler and by Saturday 14th things started to escalate fast sending birders in all directions. By the end of Saturday. new birds found included a Black-throated Green Warbler at the Lighthouse Valley, a Northern Waterthrush in Tennessee Valley, a Common Yellowthroat at the rubbish dump, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo (same bird from last week?), 2 Blackpoll Warblers,  a Scarlet Tanager coming in off the sea, 5 Red-eyed Vireos, an Upland Sandpiper and White-rumped, Semipalmated and Spotted Sandpipers were also in the game from previous days.

Frustratingly an American Sparrow sp. was seen on the Caldera road, the description suggesting something like a Vesper Sparrow but the bird was not seen again. Further frustration was generated by the mobility of the fresh in vagrants. Some birders failed to connect with any new species at all. The Big Year WP crew spent the whole day running around after species that quickly moved on- ending the day with no new ticks despite several being on offer as they reach for the 750 species in a year for the WP- a good milestone for their world record.

Sunday 15th was a day for the history books but proved to be even more frustrating than the day before with mobile mega birds being found on treacherous mountain slopes.

At 9:50am Mika Brunn was looking for the Northern Waterthrush in Tennessee Valley when instead he found a first for the Azores and a 5th for the WP- a Blackburnian Warbler. Chaos quickly ensued and birders from all corners of the island attempted to make their way to the spot- a steep side of the Corvo volcano, of low scrub where birds often first arrive and move over the top to the valleys on the east side of the island. It was two hours until the bird was re-located and still several birders didn't connect with it.

Blackburnian Warbler (Vincent Legrand). More pics HERE

Then at 1.15pm with several birders still un-connected with the Blackburnian, Radek Gwozdz found a stunning Yellow-throated Vireo further up the Tennessee valley. Some birders deserted the Blackburnian to go for the Vireo and ended up missing both birds! The Vireo was last seen around 2pm - it had made it's way to the cliff-top Junipers, ready to move off to the Valleys.

Yellow-throated Vireo (Radek Gwozdz). More pics HERE

During the mayhem of twitching the megas, a few other birds were seen (but needless to say with bird finders on the chase, presumably other birds went un-found) with a Greater Yellowlegs briefly at the reservoir, two Semipalmated Sandpipers, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, 2 Red-eyed Vireo, 1-2 Common Yellowthroats and 2 Blackpoll Warbler.

New birds on the neighbouring island of Flores included an Osprey (on Saturday), Northern Waterthrush, Surf Scoter and Rose-breasted Grosbeak, found by the small numbers of birders on there- a reminder of the potential of the larger island of Flores if only there were the 200 birders of so needed to match the Corvo effort and cover the larger area.

With Ophelia continuing to drag in westerlies for the next few days- what will tomorrow bring??

I'm back home now and David will be taking over the Corvo story for 2017 HERE

Friday, 13 October 2017

Azores Autumn 2017, Day 7, Corvo

Yesterday was relatively quiet on the Rock with the main new arrival being 2 Dotterel at the Reservoir. Remaining birds included 2 Blue-winged Teal, 1 Ring-necked Duck, 3 Little Stint, 2 Lesser Yellowlegs, 1 Pectoral Sandpiper, 1 White-rumped Sandpiper and 5 Glossy Ibis in the caldera with the Rough-legged Hawk/ Buzzard seen over the reservoir, a Red-eyed Vireo at Do Vinte, a Willow Warbler at Tennessee Valley and the Semipalmated Sandpiper still at the old harbour and presumably the same bird seen at the reservoir.

Today saw a complete change in the weather from clear skies and temperatures approaching 30 C to heavy rain and a brisk south west breeze. Conditions are set to deteriorate further (or rather improve from a birding perspective)  as the weekend progresses as Hurricane Ophelia swings past the Azores by Sunday. The source of the system is East / Central Atlantic so the expectation for American vagrants is not particularly high but the possibility of good sea watching is. In the past, tropical species such as White-tailed Tropicbird, Magnificent Frigatebird and Trindade Petrel have been recorded in the autumn on Corvo and Flores so tropical species are possible.

With the increasing winds today, the sea watching immediately improved with 1 Fea's-type Petrel, 5 Sooty Shearwater, several Great Shearwaters, 1 Manx Shearwater, 1 Arctic Skua, 1 Ring-necked Duck past the windmills and a Leach's Petrel was taken into care.

Even more encouraging there was a small arrival of new american vagrants headlined by a Blackpoll Warbler in tamarisks near the village, a presumed American Great White Egret ,Spotted Sandpiper and 2 White-rumped Sandpipers.

Rarer still for Corvo, a Curlew Sandpiper was at the Old harbour- one of the few island records.

Blackpoll Warbler (Vincent Legrand) 

Autumn Azores 2017, Day 6, Corvo

A couple of pics to sum up how quiet it is out here.

 No excuse for getting lost skies (Vincent Legrand) 
Moorhen twitch-  and imminent dip 

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Azores Autumn 2017, Day 5, Corvo and Flores

Another very quiet day on Corvo with the only new birds being a Moorhen and 3 Teal. 

Twenty birders went to Flores to look for yesterday's Belted Kingfisher but they dipped. On the journey there were some good views of Common Dolphin and very poor views of a band-rumped/Leach's Petrel. 


Some epic drone video of birders on Corvo (Vincent Legrand) 

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Azores Autumn 2017, Day 4, Corvo

A relatively quiet day on the rock in unseasonal weather with temperatures around 30 C. Bird of the day from a regional perspective was a Pied Flycatcher- the third record for the Azores. Other new migrants included a Ruff and a Willow Warbler but with westerly winds picking up as the day progressed, hopes are building for a return of migrants coming from the opposite direction.

Remaining birds on the island included one of the 'Rough-legged Hawks', 2 Lesser Yellowlegs, 1 Semipalmated Sandpiper, 5 Glossy Ibis, 2 Wilson's Snipes, 1 Yellow-billed Cuckoo, 1 Red-eyed Vireo, 2 Blue-winged Teal, 1 Ring-necked Duck and the flock of hybrid Mallard x Black Duck (12 birds today).

The Belted Kingfisher was relocated on the neighbouring island of Flores so tomorrow half of the island's birders are off twitching.

Rough-legged Hawk/Buzzard from early October (Peter Stronach). 

Monday, 9 October 2017

Azores Autumn 2017, Day 3, Corvo

A significant arrival of birders on the island today with over 40 birders now present. Despite the high pressure and east winds there were a few other new arrivals (or rather new discoveries) including a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and a Semipalmated Sandpiper.

The Northern Waterthrush was still present at the Pig Farm but was elusive and there were at least four Red-eyed Vireos including three at Fojo. A Glossy Ibis was flying around the Airfield, presumably one of the four birds that have recently been present in the Caldera.

A Sperm Whale was seen in the channel between Corvo and Flores.

Red-eyed Vireo, Da Ponte Bridge (Rafael Armada)
View from Corvo over to Flores tonight
Magic Seaweed chart for mid-week showing high pressure over the Azores and the southern North Atlantic. Not ideal conditions for american vagrants but with so many birders and so many places for birds to hide- could certainly be something lurking. 

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Azores Autumn 2017 Day 1, Terceira

En route to Corvo at the moment and stopped off at Terceira to try for a few Azores ticks. In the last few weeks on Terceira there's been the long staying male Redhead and the Grey-tailed Tattler and also Snowy Egret, Bridled Tern, Temminck's Stint and Red-necked Phalarope- all Azores lifers for me. 

Teamed up with Daniele Occhiato and before the sun was even up we'd bagged the male Redhead and then moved on to the quarry. Unfortunately the Tattler hasn't been seen since around 24th September and there was no sign today but we're trying again tomorrow before heading to Corvo on Monday. Had 21 species of wader today including the Temminck's.  Here's the day list from Cabo da Praia Quarry EBIRD LIST and we had a Spotted Sandpiper at Paul da Praia.  Also at Paul da Praia was female-type Ring-necked Duck and a Glossy Ibis. We returned at high tide to the quarry to look for the Tattler after checking out Lagoa da Junco- just an extra 3 Glossy Ibis. 

All in all a damn fine day. 

 Adult male Redhead, Paul da Praia. The bird has been present for several weeks and dropped all it's flight feathers 
 Juvenile (presumed male?) American Wigeon- the dark eye mask and ghost adult pattern on the contrasting grey head and neck is distinctive. The indicative dark margin to the base of the mandible is thicker at the base tapering up. 
 Here's the clinching white axillaries  
 The extensive white on the coverts suggests a male 
 Juvenile Blue-winged Teals- one of these birds is ringed and Richardo has the details so will be interesting to see where they came from 
 Juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs 
 Juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper
 Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper
 The usual back pool adult Semipalmated Plover 
  Juvenile Temminck's Stint 
 Azores Buzzard 
 Clouded Yellow- absolutely teeming with these everywhere we went today- must have seen over 1000 on our wanderings 
 Long-tailed Blue- quite a few of these still on the wing too  

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Micro magic around the Obs

Here's a few pics from around the Beddington Farmlands Obs from last couple of days.
 Garden Midget Phyllonorycter messaniella- a first for the farmlands 
 Adult male Sparrowhawk and European Starling 
 Cranefly sp- late September/October is Cranefly time. There are over 350 species in Britain- not sure what this one is, not even sure how many species have been recorded at the farmlands (another job to do). Adult craneflies emerge en masse from lawns and grasslands after spending months undergrown as leatherjackets. 
 Sedum (Ice Plant) in Gillian's Wildlife Garden- a classic late flowering wildlife garden plant, providing food for late autumn insects
 The obs harvest this year comprised of kale, asparagus, tomatoes, sun flower seeds, apples, strawberries (over now), chillies and mixed herbs (Sage, Mint, Lemon Balm and Rosemary). Stolen a permaculture idea here growing tomatoes up the stalk of sunflowers and using kale as ground cover- this multi-layer food production is an example of a guild. In theory these techniques can produce as much production intensity as nature killing chemical dependent agriculture as they utilise vertical space, companion planting and self regulating systems which can be scaled up to Forest Garden scale to create highly productive and biodiverse rich farming systems (More on this on my brothers project HERE ).  
Harvest Time- so much for my plans of being self sustainable by utilising space in the communal garden and using window farming- need about an acre of land to produce enough food to be completely self-sustainable 

Ruff



Just came across a couple of pics I took of one of the juvenile Ruffs that were at the farmlands recently.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Weekend wanderings

Quite enjoying this nomadic life style- on the run from Viridor/Pennon who have ravaged my village and fields and created a micro diaspora (i.e. me) . So I set off from Crackbridge and Beddington Shitlands on Saturday morning and stopped off at Staines- a few Little Stints and 12 Ruff were the highlights but overall the waders are declining there now. 3 Goldeneye, 9 Pintail and good numbers of dabbling duck are heralding in late autumn. The rest of the weekend was spent around the Old Vicarage drawing up battle plans to fight the Viridor/Pennon bastards and also making plans to re-settle. maybe in North Kent (around Oare)- close enough to keep up the fight and check in but far enough away from the daily putridness. Did a bit of moth trapping and also completed the butterfly transect for North Otmoor with Jacob. 

 Stuck on this one and need to get on with the massive list of things to do. Closest I can get is a Brindled Green or Feathered Ranunculus but doesn't look right for either. Definitely a green hint in there.  
 Green Brindled Crescent from the Old Vic
 Blair's Shoulder Knot and Frosted Orange from the Old Vic 
 Beaded Chestnut from Beddington Shitlands
 Garden Rose Tortrix from Old Vic 
 Angle Shades from Beddington Cracklands
 Bittersweet fruiting at the Old Vic 
 Celery-leaved Buttercup (?) - no butterflies on our butterfly survey 
 Seems to be quite a lot of variation in the Oxfordshire Pheasants.  Collins guide refers to two main groups 'torquatus' (HBW calls them Grey-rumped Pheasant) and 'colchicus' (HBW calls them Black-necked Pheasant). Not sure what's going on with this one, looks more like a Green Pheasant. HBW (printed version) refers to 31 different races globally split into five or six groups which may involve more than one species (the Asian populations are best placed for a split). Various sources says that UK populations are made up of several races and hybrids. (Mystery solved- see comments and photo HERE 
Presumed torquatus group (Grey-rumped Pheasant) for comparison but these two don't seem to have a grey rump. 

The gang in the field. Need to get an off road push chair for Jacob. 

Birding Forecast- week beginning 1st October

Magic seaweed chart for Thursday 5th October representing the picture for most of the week.
A moderate west to north westerly airflow over British Isles from a slow moving high latitude centred depression and easterlies over the Azores. This means only one thing:

IT'S GOING TO BE SHIT

However it's birding and bolts from the blue are always there to maintain torturous hope.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Johnny Foreigner gets the blame again


Instead of our national conservation leaders doing something like THIS they've got a better idea- blame it on Johnny Foreigner! Poor old Johnny must be thinking what's up with these British- leaving Europe, trying to kick us out of Blighty and then chasing us across the continent to give us a beating there too! 


Thursday, 28 September 2017

Staines Stints etc

 Met Franco at Staines yesterday evening before sushi with Dingers.  7 Little Stint, 12 Ruff, 20 Ringed Plover, 20+ Dunlin, 2 Snipe,  9 Pintail, 5 Wigeon, 1 Black-necked Grebe, 1 Common Tern and 2 Peregrine. 
Pintail 
 Lunar Underwing- first for year at the Beddington farmlands trap 
Garden Rose Tortrix- another new for year at the farmlands
 Pink-barred Sallow (New for year)
Snout, Lunar Underwing and Black Rustic (New for year) 

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Buzzard watch

Back to London and Beddington today. The weather was calm and sunny so I opted for a raptor watch and sound recording from the obs window. At least 3 Common Buzzards but birds were in the air most of the day so not sure if more. When close enough it was possible to identify a juvenile bird that kept going round. Also 2 Sparrowhawk and 3 Kestrel.