Monday 30 October 2023

Corvo Day Nine- Final Day

Our plane was at 3pm so we made the most of the time we had. I went to twitch (dip) the Todd's Canada Goose in the Caldera and David went to re-look for the setophaga we had calling yesterday. I had a few nice bits in the Caldera HERE including two Common Redpoll (an Azores ssp tick as I had only had Greenland Redpoll before), an Indigo Bunting, Snow Bunting and an American Coot and David miraculously re-found the Wood Thrush that I had only seen for a few seconds a few days ago. 

After dipping the Canada Goose in the crater we both went to dip it again on the Reservoir before heading back to the village to check out and check in. Jose messaged out that he had re-found the American Bittern so we went to have another look at it- unfortunately not looking too healthy. 

After that it was finally time up and we went to the airport. The end of an absolutely fantastic trip. 

Ebird Trip Report: HERE. 54 species recorded in total. Certainly a case of quality over quantity as explained in this excellent presentation on Corvo Birding by Pierre HERE.  

Corvo Birders Facebook HERE

Common Redpoll - some more pics on Ebird HERE
American Coot 
Snow Bunting 
American Bittern 
We took some feathers for DNA sampling and also took some measurements of the putative American Moorhen. We also contacted the Corvo Biosphere ranger to store the specimen for us and if the bird is confirmed as a first for the WP we will arrange for the specimen to be prepared 
The Corvo Caldera 
Happy Days. Certainly strange to be back on Corvo with only a handful of birders present- it was mainly just David and I for most of the time - like the good old days. 

Sunday 29 October 2023

Corvo Day Eight- Quantity is it's own Quality

To steal a phrase from Martin Cade, today was all about quantity which is it's own quality. We started the day off by giving Audrey and her partner a quick tour of the island's birding hotspots and from the car we had 4 Swainson's Thrush, a new male Scarlet Tanager and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak at Fojo. We then headed over to the Lighthouse Valley and the Bay-breasted Warbler was still in the Junipers. 

Around mid-day we dropped Audrey off at the Caldera (and scoped the 4 Ring-necked Ducks and European Moorhens from the car park but unfortunately no sign of the Canada Goose seen by Jose) and headed back to Fojo (we had a Grey-cheeked Thrush on the road on the way down) where we had 4 Red-eyed Vireos, a Philadelphia Vireo and the long-staying Ovenbird (all in the same tree!). We also had a Grey-cheeked Thrush there too. 

We then went to Cantinho and had another Red-eyed Vireo there and also a Setophaga sp calling (sounded like a Parula- we will look for it again in the morning). Then a quick look at Cancelas (nothing new) and then we headed back to the village (the usual Swainson's Thrushes were along the road). 

After coffee we did the Lower fields and had a female Yellowthroat at the Pig Farm.   

So basically 18 American passerines today! Many of them are long staying birds. 

Live Ebird Trip Report HERE

Daily Corvo Log HERE

Bay-breasted Warbler (above and below) 

Grey-cheeked Thrush 
One of the five Red-eyed Vireos today 

Winter adult male Scarlet Tanager with solid glossy black remiges and black rectrices- compare with the bird from earlier in the week here with contrasting black coverts with primaries and the greenish tail
View over Lower Fields 

Saturday 28 October 2023

Corvo Day Seven- Back to reality (sort of)

We woke with high expectations and started checking the Lower fields at dawn. Apart from the White-rumped Sandpiper at the Old Harbour there was not much else to report (David saw the Yellow-crowned Night Heron again). 

We then decided to 'go up' and headed first to De Ponte where we solved the mystery warbler from yesterday- a Black-and-White Warbler. David got some brief views and record shots but I didn't see it- only heard it yesterday. There was also a Catharus sp that sped past us through the wood. At the bridge at De Ponte we had a Rose-breasted Grosbeak (a different male to the village bird).

We then headed to Poco d'Agua and checked out the upper part of the valley-another Rose-breasted Grosbeak, this time a female. We then went to the bottom of the valley and walked up through the treacherous route which was very scenic and full of wild fruit to eat but metaphorically fruitless. 

A quick drive up and down the Middle Road revealed 4 Swainson's Thrush still feeding on the road.

After trying to solve a logistical problem (I bought 20 euro of diesel and the machine took 200 euro out of my account so trying to work out how to get that back) we then checked the Middle Fields and within a few minutes I found a Swainson's Thrush and a nice little female Common Yellowthroat.

So no megas today but a nice selection of Corvo staples and nice to add a few more bits to mine and David's finds lists.

Common Yellowthroat- quite a bright bird but not much in the way of a mask so maybe a bright female or a poorly masked male 
First-winter male Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Swainson's Thrush at the village- presumably a new bird as no records from the village in a while 
View from Upper Poco D'Agua 

Friday 27 October 2023

Corvo Day Six

This is now my best trip to Corvo since the first expedition in 2005. Everywhere we go we find something new. Those familiar with Corvo will know how unusual that is, apart from in some other exceptional years we have spent days and weeks scouring this island some years only to find the odd bird and that is often with up to 40 or 50 people looking. There's just David and I and the German group on here and everyone is finding birds everywhere. Heaven knows what would be found if there were 40 or 50 birders on here now. 

Anyway, the day started off with us heading to the Lighthouse Valley were we found a Bay-breasted Warbler, an Indigo Bunting and a Wood Thrush before lunchtime ! Around lunchtime we started to re-locate to another valley when news came in from Tobias and the German group that an American Bittern had just been seen coming in off and landing near the airport. I still needed American Bittern for my WP list so we raced back down to the village (flushing two catharus thrush on the road)  but the bird had been lost. As I was scanning the airfield I noticed a dead bird on the runway. I went over to the fence with Tobias and we were trying to work out what it was- a Moorhen! We asked the Airport staff to retrieve the bird and sure enough we now, by extreme luck (or bad luck and a sad outcome for the bird) have got some vagrant Moorhen DNA. Martin Collinson has agreed to do the analysis so we should know soon for sure if we have a first for the WP- American Moorhen. What with all the supporting cast of American birds and the constant strong westerly winds I will be shocked if it is not an American Moorhen.

David and I went to the cafe for a well deserved coffee which was interrupted abruptly by news of the American Bittern now seen flying over the runway to the other side of the airport. We necked our coffees and threw some money on the table and dashed over to there and after a short search the bird flew up from long grass about 2 meters away from me and then proceeded to walk across a field and into some giant reeds for cover. Absolutely amazing !   

We decided to do De Ponte Valley for the rest of the day, a Swainson's Thrush was at the top of the road (unfortunately lost it's tail presumably to a cat). We had a Setophaga sp. calling in the valley but couldn't locate it so will try again tomorrow. 

For the last part of the day we did the Lower Fields and quickly found a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and when we got back to my bungalow, the Blackpoll Warbler was in the garden again. 

Live Ebird Trip Report HERE

Daily log on Corvo Birders Facebook Group HERE

First-winter female Bay-breasted Warbler (above and two images below) 

Wood Thrush- only seen for a few seconds on the path ahead 
American Bittern- absolute stunner! (above and below) 

First-winter male Rose-breasted Grosbeak eating a Red-veined Darter (above and below) 

Presumed American Moorhen and looks like a different bird to the one I had earlier on in the week at De Ponte. The bill looks a different colour and I couldn't see a forehead blaze on this one but there could be some damage to the head. Can certainly see that Rusty tinge to the mantle and scapulars feathers that could be diagnostic of American Moorhen. If we can confirm this bird from DNA it will be a first for the WP. Identification links from Sibley on American Moorhen identification HERE and HERE. (Thanks to Peter Adraiens for the links) 

Thursday 26 October 2023

Corvo Day Five- Epic Day !

Today will live long in mine and David's memory as one of the best days we've had on Corvo in nearly twenty years. We started off doing the lower fields around the village and apart from the long staying Yellow Crowned Night Heron is was rather disappointing as we were expecting to find new birds in the now calmer and dryer conditions after the recent storms. 

After coffee, a bit de-motivated we set off to the reservoir as the fog had cleared today and nobody had been up there for a few days. As we pulled into the reservoir road a Swainson's Thrush was feeding on the road so at last we had found a new bird. Over the next rather insane two hours we found a Grey Catbird feeding along a wall (only the 2nd for the Azores and 10th for the WP) a Philadelphia Vireo, a Buff-breasted Sandpiper, American Golden Plover, 3 White-rumped Sandpipers, 7 Snow Bunting and we beheld the very odd sight of a Surf Scoter flying around the fields and attempting to land in the large water tanks. 

Needless to say we were completely buzzing so decided to try Tennessee Valley and had a Red-eyed and a White-eyed Vireo (presumably the WEV was the long staying bird).

We finally got back to the village and I moved into my new accommodation (I couldn't stand it any longer sleeping on the ant infested kitchen floor of our old tiny house in the village with David snoring too so have now got my own Bungalow). As I was moving in and talking to the family on the phone David decided to have a look in the Bungalow garden and found a blinking Blackpoll Warbler!

So basically an absolutely epic day! Live Ebird Trip Report HERE 

Grey Catbird (above and below) - found by David who was standing next to me screaming Catbird! A mind-blowing bird. 

White-eyed Vireo- seems like this presumed first-winter has already developed it's white eye (at least some of the ones we have seen here in the past had dark eyes) 
Philadelphia Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo 
Blackpoll Warbler
Swainson's Thrush- I think we've seen 9 of these now 
Not what we were expecting to see flying around the fields- Surf Scoter 

Wednesday 25 October 2023

Corvo 2023 Day Four - Good Day

It's late and we have been birding from dawn to dusk so I'll make this quick as we need to sleep and repeat tomorrow. The weather systems have produced and there have been some new arrivals today. Highlights today included the WP's 5th  Eastern Wood Pewee found by the German group (all have been on Corvo), 4 Swainson's Thrush (so seen seven this week), the Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Peregrine and a possible first for the WP in the form of a good candidate for American Moorhen. There was also a possible Blackpoll Warbler at the camp site also found by the Germans. 

On the neighbouring island of Flores new birds today included Cape May Warbler, Cliff Swallow,  Indigo Bunting, Least Bittern and Blackpoll so clearly a major arrival of birds today. 

Live trip report HERE. It's always a case of quality over quantity here with 36 species recorded so far. 

Putative American Moorhen- the Gallinule like bill structure with yellow triangle tip, large blaze on forehead and rusty toned mantle suggest this taxon but ideally we would need DNA to confirm it. Considering the bird was on the road and then flew into a hedge it looked like it had just arrived and in the context of the weather and all the other new arrivals from America today it all seems to suggest a first for the WP. Unfortunately despite searching I'm the only one who has seen it so far but tomorrow we intend to try again and will also try and collect DNA. 
Eastern Wood Pewee- the 5th for the WP and the third I've seen so unfortunately not quite as pleased to see this mega as I would be for some other little monster but still a little beauty and we heard it calling several times too to confirm the identification 
The sub-adult Yellow-crowned Night Heron was showing well again 
Swainson's Thrush (above) and two together at De Ponte (below) 

Cattle Egret 

Tuesday 24 October 2023

Corvo 2023 Day Three

Fog was covering the upper sections of the island so David and I started the day off at Fojo attempting to catch one of the three Swainson's Thrushes there for the long term vagrant ringing and isotope analysis study. We ended up spending most of the day up there but unfortunately didn't catch one. I had a bit of a walk about and picked up Red-eyed Vireo and a couple of the Swainson's Thrushes along the road. 

In the afternoon we worked the Lower and Middle Fields and had the Grey-cheeked Thrush, a Red-eyed Vireo and Willow Warbler at the Pig Farm, an Indigo Bunting in Middle Fields, the White-rumped Sand and Greenshank were still present, the Grey Plover was on Black Beach and we finally managed to see the Scarlet Tanager at the Yellow House just before it got dark.

It's possible the Rose-breasted Grosbeak from yesterday and the Indigo Bunting and REV in the village today were new birds but could also be long staying birds ranging widely across the island. 

A German bird tour group arrived today so fortunately it's not just David and I on the island any longer. 

Live Trip Report HERE

First-winter male Scarlet Tanager- found by the home owner who reported an odd bird on her washing line and sent a photo to Ruben 
Grey-cheeked Thrush at the Pig Farm 
I'll will remember Corvo 2023 for the sight of scanning the road ahead to see the distinctive shape of a Catharus thrush ahead. We've seen 3 Swainson's and 2 Grey-cheeked in the last two days. 
The first time I have photographed one since it has become a full species- Azores Chaffinch 

Monday 23 October 2023

Corvo 2023 Day Two

We started the blustery (a nice westerly storm) and wet day off at Fojo and then did the Lighthouse Valley before heading back to the village to drop Harry off to catch his flight and also to arrange where we are going to stay for the rest of the week. Rather stupidly we booked this trip without booking accommodation assuming that the island wouldn't be too busy in late October. However the guesthouse could only put us up for two nights due to a bird tour group arriving and all accommodation on the island was booked up due to visiting construction workers. Luckily the last of the Polish birders vacated a small house they were staying in and we managed to persuade the owner to allow us to stay there so we narrowly avoided being homeless on Corvo. That is the problem with the flexible strategy that I'm trying to adopt now- which is to book last minute on a good weather forecast. Obviously these logistics need a bit of tweaking because apart from the accommodation we've managed to pull everything else off without any problems (last minute flights etc) including getting a car on Corvo which is almost impossible. While we are here we will get the contact details of every accommodation provider on the island and there's always bringing camping gear with us if they are all booked- so should refine this strategy for the future. 

Anyway after sorting out not being homeless we then worked the Middle and Lower Fields and then back to the guesthouse.

Highlights of the day included three Swainson's Thrushes on the lower road around Fojo, a Red-breasted Grosbeak at Lighthouse Valley (possibly a new in bird), a fly over Ring-billed Gull there too and back in the village we had a Snipe sp in the fields, a Red-eyed Vireo , White-rumped Sandpiper and Greenshank (a Corvo mega). 

We were hoping for more in the way of new birds considering the weather but hopefully we can spend the next few days looking for any birds that have got blown in today. There's only David and I left on the island now so it will be hard work finding what is here. 

Swainson's Thrush in the rain 
Another Swainson's Thrush with a distinctive buff coloured scapular so should be easy to track this bird
First-winter Greenshank 
Juvenile/first-winter White-rumped Sandpiper 
First-winter Red-eyed Vireo

Sunday 22 October 2023

Corvo 2023 Day One

I left the Old Vic at 0930 yesterday and finally arrived on Corvo around 2pm today. After getting the connecting flight to Lisbon I met up with David Monticelli on Sao Miguel and we overnighted there (at a Monastery) before getting the connecting flights to Horta and then Corvo today.

After taking the baton off Pierre-Andre Crochet at the airport who departed today after 28 days on the island we quickly scrambled our equipment and managed to hire the only car for hire on the island and then headed up to Fojo. Harry Murphy joined us and David put up a net as part of the long term vagrant ringing and isotope analysis study. There had been fall of 15 or so Catharus thrushes (12 Swainson's and 3 Grey-cheeked) on Corvo on 19th October and several had been on Fojo so David targeted this area. While waiting for the net to catch I did a walk around Fojo. 

In the three hours we were up there I managed to see a Swainson's Thrush, a Red-eyed Vireo and an Indigo Bunting and we also caught a Grey-cheeked Thrush in the net. On the way back to the guesthouse we twitched the sub-adult Yellow-crowned Night Heron on the rocks behind the Doctor's house.

Not a bad start! 

Corvo daily log here: CORVO BIRDERS

First-winter Grey-cheeked Thrush (above and below). With a wing length of 102mm and the distance between p8 and p6 being 10mm this ruled out Bicknell's Thrush which is much smaller and more rufous-tinged with a more rounded wing and a wing-length of below approx 90mm. 

Swainson's Thrush on the road 
First-winter Indigo Bunting 
Sub-adult Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Cory's Shearwater- I rescued this juvenile from a drainage ditch
Atlantic Canary