Wednesday 30 September 2009

Tuesday 29 September 2009

Azores Pelagic Exploration Trip Round Up

Top to bottom: 'Fea's Petrel', Wilsons Petrels and juvenile Atlantic Gull.
So that was the end of that little trip. The final log for the sea was 2' Fea's Petrel (presumed Desertas Petrel), 10+ Band-rumped Petrels (presumed Grant's Petrel), 70-80 Wilson's Petrel (a European record?), 3 Little Shearwater, 4 Sooty Shearwater, 100+ Great Shearwater, 1000's of Cory's Shearwater, 6 Manx Shearwater and 1 adult Long-tailed Skua. Other marine life included Common Dolphin, Atlantic Spotted Dolphin, Bottlenose Dolphin, Short-finned Pilot Whale, 3 Loggerhead Turtle, 1 Manta Ray and Blue Sharks.

Our visit to the quarry on Terceira also yielded Long-billed Dowitcher, Semi-palmated Plover, White-rumped Sandpiper and Pectoral Sandpiper and if I had made it to Corvo like Simon I would have bagged American Redstart too. Please tell me anywhere in the Western Palearctic that rivals this birding. Nada.

Our visit to the Lagoinhas Islet also looks like a new colony discovery of band-rumped Petrel for the Azores. If they were Monteiro's Petrel than that will be very significant indeed. Got the samples for the DNA test.

Monday 28 September 2009

The perils of SATA

I didn't make it to Corvo but Simon did. Lost my baggage in transit and the flights I booked were buggered up by SATA- then I missed another flight by my own fault and the whole thing has cost me hundreds of euro and all I got from SATA was 47 back. Main thing is one of us got through. I am heading back home to sort out work and will return to the Azores next week to try again.
This current weather system looks like it will carry a payload. It's all in Simon's and Olof's hands.

Return to Corvo

Hoping the final leg of the journey to Corvo is a bit smoother than last years (above).

P.S More pelagic chum details here:

Sunday 27 September 2009

Cabo da Praia, Terceira

Still on the way to Corvo- things take time out here. Stopped off at the famous Cabo da Praia quarry. 1 juvenile Long-billed Dowitcher (image 1 pic by Simon), 1 adult White-rumped Sandpiper, 2 juvenile Pectoral Sandpipers and 2 Semi-palmated Plovers.
Also an interesting acitis sp. and a dunlin ssp.

Actitis sp: Looks somewhat like a Spot Sand but check out the tail length beyond the wing tip. Didn't sound like a Common but not too sure of the full repertoire of Spotted. Tertials look generally plain too.

Dunlin ssp: Still in summer plumage and no sign of any moult so implies a high northern latitude bird. I haven't got any literature out here but I think the break between the black belly and the streaked breast and the dark belly markings extending onto the vent and under tail are features often associated with 'Hudsonian Dunlin'. Will need to follow this up. Comments welcome.
Some links of Dunlins back home (maybe I'm talking rubbish)

Low latitude depression

We changed our plans yesterday when we saw this thing coming. Instead of heading back home we are attempting to get onto Corvo before this strikes. Instead of the famous 'fast moving depression' of Northwest Europe, the feature which is significant on the Azores is the soon-to-become infamous 'low latitude depression'.

Olof got a strike today with an American Redstart

Band-rumps and Little Shearwater

Highlight of today was swimming the shark infested waters onto Lagoinhas Islet (bottom photo) in the North of Santa Maria. I had to do it in my boxers as I didn't have any proper gear. We got a camera across in a water proof bag. We found evidence of prospecting/breeding Band-rumped Petrels which is a new site. To me the corpses look fresh plumaged like juvenile birds which could suggest Monteiro's Petrel but will need to confirm the age (any suggestions?).
Also saw a couple of Little Shearwaters (photo 2) today and using our Petrel liquid gold we pulled in about 7-8 Band-rumped Petrels (all petrels in this post including the dead ones) for the last minutes of day light at sea.

Band-rumped Petrel corpse. If this is a juvenile than this would be a hot season breeder- also known as Monteiro's Petrel- a suggested cryptic species split (involving the mythical process of sympatric speciation). It is possible that it is a cool season prospecting bird which has undergone a recent moult (I think there is some contrast in the coverts?)- hence the very fresh primaries. I spin out when considering the moult i.d. concept between hot and cool season breeders because juvenile hot season breeders will look fresh as will adult cool season- so no idea what the hell you are looking at. Perhaps a worn bird suggests a Monteiro's but there are hot season 'Madeiran Petrels' in Macronesia that might disperse into the Azores- showing a similar moult strategy to Monteiro's and on top of all that there are first summer birds- so it aint easy. I guess that's why it's called a bloody cryptic species.

Saturday 26 September 2009

Chum recipes

For our chum techniques and recipes see here:

Common Dolphins (vid by Simon)


Got a second hit today and didn't miss this time.
We are now on Santa Maria and went out to the unchartered (birding wise) Formigas Bank. Despite this being our guarded secret target for the last six months we saw bugger all out there. However got the Fea's on the way back.
Some serious dolphin action in these waters and despite doing Ilheu de Vila at dusk we didn't see a single Band-rumped Petrel.

Bottlenose Dolphin and top photos are all the 'Fea's' Petrel- this bird is either a Zino's, Desertas or Fea's Petrel. I think this only the third or fourth photo of one in the Azores.

Friday 25 September 2009

Azores Pelagic- End of Part One

Wilson's Petrel and a Blue Shark.

Moved islands today, back at sea tomorrow.
Came across this juvenile Semi-palmated Sandpiper (without much in the way of semi-palmations?) in Horta Harbour.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

North of Faial- 'Fea's' Petrel!

'FEA'S PETREL' today- couldn't get a photo because I fell to pieces as it flew past- almost set my hair on fire with my cigarette and knocked my self in my face with my lens. They are big! Up to 95cm wing span. This is the 26th record of 'Fea's' for Azorean waters and the first one Simon and I have seen. Also 3-4 Sooty Shearwater, 20+ Great Shearwater, 3 Manx Shearwater, 30+ Atlantic Spotted Dolphin, 1 Turtle (someone tell me the species please), 1 Pilot Whale and overall a brilliant day at sea. The waters are deep this side of Faial- lots more activity overall than on the banks.

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Azores Bank

20+ Great Shearwater, 200+ Cory's Shearwater and lost our bag of chum to a shark.

Blue Shark on Princess Alice Bank

In addition to the birds the chum also brought in 2 Blue Sharks (video here by Simon), 40+ Spotted Dolphin and we also hooked a White Marlin but it got away.

Princess Alice Bank- The Azores

Eleven hours at sea today checking Princess Alice Bank- about 50 miles south of Faial.
70-80 Wilsons Petrel and 1 adult Long-tailed Skua.

Chum ingredients.

On the way out and back about 10+ Great Shearwater and 500+ Cory's Shearwater.
25+ Common Tern at Porto Pim yesterday with two Knot, 1 Grey Plover, 1 Whimbrel and 1 Turnstone.

Saturday 19 September 2009

Looking interesting for Nearctic Vagrancy

Yanks in Iceland, Ireland and Scotland is my predicition by early next week. I reckon mainly waders but also some passerines too with these lower level winds. Will be interesting to see if an influx of nearctic migrants arrive on the Azores (as 'shrapnal') even though the track of these depressions is rather far north. Worth keeping an eye on this chap, Olof, who is located at the epicentre of WP nearctic landbird vagrancy, Corvo, for the entire autumn: ttp://

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Beddington Farmlands autumn waders

Checked out the sludge lagoons this evening- one Wood Sandpiper, three juvenile Dunlin and one juvenile Little Stint. Also 2 Green Sandpiper and 1 Snipe

Skywatching from the obs

North east winds over the last two days producing not too much in the skies over Beddington. 1 Swallow, 3 Chaffinch and 1 Sand Martin were my lot. Single Willow Warbler and Blackcap in the obs garden. Hobby a couple of times over head.

Ducks flying between the lake and hundred acre include 3 Wigeon (bottom), 50+ Shoveler (top), 6 Gadwall and 50+ Teal (image 3). Green Sandpiper and Snipe over.

Good numbers of gulls- probably 1500-2000 Herring Gull, 40+ L.B.B Gull, 200 Black-headed Gull and 10+ Common Gull.

Sunday 13 September 2009

The Beddington Obs

View from my new apartment window- overlooking what hopefully will be the largest urban nature reserve in the UK- Beddington Farmlands.
There were a few passerine migrants on the farm today including Redstart, Whinchat and Wheatear.
I had Chiffchaff from 'the obs', 20+ Swallow moving north (like they do for some reason in the autumn) and 8 Meadow Pipit going southeast.
An evening walk around the farm and there were 12+ Green Sandpiper, 9 Snipe, 80+ Teal, 50+ Shoveler, 6 Gadwall, 40+ Lapwing, 34 Stock Dove, 10+ Greenfinch and a small tit flock.