Thursday, 22 October 2020

Tennessee Valley strikes again!

At last, the promising weather forecast for this end of week (and for next week) started to deliver with a showy Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler found by Guy Mirgain early this afternoon at the bottom of the Tennessee Valley. This new American warbler for the season was lavishly enjoyed by the small team of birders still present on the island (10+) for a couple of hours before PAC announced on the radio around 5:30pm that he had found another Bay-breasted Warbler (his second of the season!) towards the top of the Tennessee Valley. This species, only the fifth WP record and already the fourth for Corvo alone, wasn’t very easy to relocate among the very large Juniper patch but thanks to a team effort, all who needed it for their WP list managed to have decent, albeit brief, views of the bird before dusk. Earlier in October, Tennessee Valley already hosted a Northern Parula and a Tennessee Warbler, thus making it the most productive spot on the island so far this year!


Are things starting to fall in place for the Crovo20 season since today? The next days will be critical for a successful year although unfortunately many birders are leaving the island tomorrow…meaning that only five will remain (Vincent, PAC, Pete, Bob and I) until at least next Wednesday.

Bay-breasted Warbler (1cy male), Tennessee Valley,  22 October 2020 (Pierre-André Crochet)
Myrtle Warbler, Tennessee Valley,  22 October 2020 (David Monticelli)

Monday, 19 October 2020

Not even one bird per day…the calm before the storm?

Today it took only a few minutes to update the excel table compiling weekly Nearctic records for this autumn…a real bummer for those birders who are still there and putting in the daily effort to search the island despite the terribly wrong weather conditions prevailing since over a week now (bloody easterlies!). On the positive side, a good look at the weather forecast this morning suggested that the ‘end of the tunnel’ for Corvo might be on sight with some westerlies predicted to resume for a few days from Wednesday onwards. Since the first birding hours on Corvo (back in 2005), some star birds have been discovered during the second-half of October and even towards early November, so it would be premature at this stage to qualify the 2020 season as one of the poorest so far…but we definitely need something big (very big) to reverse the current trend and bring back the Rock at its best level!


Perhaps the only noteworthy fact to end up this post is to mention that one of 3 Swainson’s Thrushes found this year has been trapped and ringed on 11 October by Thijs Valkenburg as part of a ringing scheme of Nearctic landbirds that started in 2018. A few interesting images below.

Nearctic species (new birds in) for the period 12/10 to 18/10:

Ringed-necked Duck (1) at the harbour

Pectoral Sandpiper (1) at the airstrip (then moved up to Power Station)

Common Nighthawk (1) on the road to Lighthouse Valley

Swainson’s Thrush (1) at Ribeira Da Ponte

Blackpoll Warbler (1) in the Tamarisk patch above the village dump


Note: a (light morph) Rough-legged Hawk/Buzzard was reported on 18-19 October from the Mountain Reservoir area…but cannot be assigned to North American or European origin as per current literature and research available (i.e. American ssp. Sanctijohannis is only easily told apart from European birds for the dark morph).

Swainson's Thrush (1cy), Vila do Corvo, 12 October 2020 (Thierry Jansen)
Swainson's Thrush (1cy), Vila do Corvo, 12 October 2020 (Thijs Valkenburg)
Swainson's Thrush (1cy), Vila do Corvo, 12 October 2020 (Thierry Jansen)

Monday, 12 October 2020

Eastern Wood Pewee and a little more...

Despite weather conditions being largely dominated by easterlies, 7 new American landbird species were added on the blackboard over the last 9 days. This seizable progress amidst a rather 'poor' autumn so far on the Rock was largely due to a short-lived landfall on the 8th/9th, presumably resulting from a favorable system of south-westerly winds that became apparent on the weather charts on the 6th. Most of these new automnal records were rather ‘classics’ for Corvo (i.e. seen almost on an annual basis), with the exception of an Eastern Wood Pewee that was discovered around the Cape Verde Farm on the late afternoon of October 4th by Vincent Legrand upon return from a day spent in the neighboring island of Flores! This gem constitutes only the 4th WP record and is one of Corvo’s specials as it has never been seen elsewhere in the region: 1st and 2nd records dated back from 2015 at Lighthouse Valley and Poço de Agua, respectively (see Dutch Birding 2018, vol 40, pp 285-296) while the 3rd record from Pico dated back from 2018.


While the weather forecast does not look too promising for this week, there is always hope for more discoveries, especially as some of the usual stalwarts managed to reach the island by the middle of last week, bringing up the total number of birders present to around 17. 


The annual ringing scheme has also restarted for the third consecutive year with the first mist-netted individual of the season on the 11th by Thijs Valkenburg being a Swainson’s Thrush that had been lingering around the village since October 9th!

Nearctic species totals for the period 3/10 to 11/10:

American Great White Egret (1) at Old Harbour

Yellow-billed Cuckoo (1) in Middle Fields

Eastern Wood Pewee (1) at Cape Verde Farm

Swainson’s Thrush (2) at Vila do Corvo and Lighthouse Valley

Red-eyed Vireo (5) at Ribeira Da Ponte/PicoR. Do Vinte and Tennessee Valley

Ovenbird (1) in Ribeira Da Ponte

Scarlet Tanager (1) in Lower Fields

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (1cy male) in Cape Verde Fields (N. of airport)

Bobolink (1) in Cape Verde Fields (N. of airport)


PS: one Catharus sp. was also seen in Fojo on two consecutive days..

Eastern Wood Pewee, Cape Verde Farm, 4 October 2020 (Vincent Legrand)
Swainson's Thrush, Vila do Corvo, 9 October 2020 (Vincent Legrand)

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Summary from mid September to early October

Only 3 birders have been present so far on Corvo and unfortunately, the weather, dominated by easterlies, has not been very conducive for a massive arrival of Nearctic goodies...though even under these sub-optimal conditions, no less than 11 North American species have already been observed, with a handful of interesting records.

Among the most noteworthy species a 1cy male Bay-breasted Warbler was found on Pico (4th WP record) and a Tennessee Warbler was discovered in the so-called Tennessee Valley (15th WP record)!

The weather forecasting looks better for the next days, and with more birders arriving on Monday, next week will hopefully bring exciting news...

Totals for the period 18/9 - 02/10:

Blue-winged Teal (2) at the Caldeira

Double-crested Cormorant (1) in the Harbour

Semipalmated Plover (2) at the beach

Semipalmated Sandpiper (1) at the Caldeira

Laughing Gull (1) lingering since a few weeks along the South coast

Red-eyed Vireo (5) at Ribeira Da Ponte, Fojo, Lapa and Lower Fields

Bay-breasted Warbler (1cy male) at Pico

Tennessee Warbler (1) at Tennessee Valley

Northern Parula (1) at Tennessee Valley

Black-and-white Warbler (1cy male) at Ribeira Da Ponte

American Buff-bellied Pipit (1) above the Mountain Reservoir

Northern Parula, Tennessee Valley, 2 October 2020 (Vincent Legrand)
Double-crested Cormorant, South Beach, 1 October 2020 (Vincent Legrand)

Saturday, 19 September 2020

Corvo20 – It’s game on!

Can a flu virus change the course of History? In many ways, the answer is “yes it can”. The 2020 Olympic games have been postponed to 2021, the 2020 British Wimbledon tournament has been cancelled as well as many other events that are usually cheering up our lives. Fortunately, there are a few ones that even a flu virus cannot stop from going on: the famous “Tour de France” is at full speed as I write this post, the French Open “Roland-Garros” is just about to start…and, more importantly, the Corvo20 season has just been triggered with the arrival of the first birders!


Thus, as a duty of care, this blog is once again going live for the next weeks with regular posts to report findings from Corvo birders in order to allow those who won’t make it there this year to be abreast of what is happening on this particular hotspot when it comes to major Nearctic raritees for the Western Palearctic (WP).


So, let’s delve into the most important piece: Pierre-André Crochet and Paul French have made it to the Rock on Friday and it didn’t take them long to nail the first REV of the season in Ribeira Da Ponte and the first mega on Pico: a stunning 1st CY male Bay-breasted Warbler. This latter species has been only recorded four times in the WP and is also a ‘Corvo special’, with 3 of them being from the island. This year’s record is also interesting as it is the earliest autumnal one: 1stWP was on 1 October 1995 (in Cornwall, UK), and 2nd & 3rd were on 22 October 2017 and 21 October 2018 (see the recent published note from Monticelli et al. in Dutch Birding vol. 42, pp. 99-102). So it seems that there is no particular time period to find this species on Corvo. In addition, the fact that those 3 records only happened very recently (2017, 18, 20) raises some more questions…Has this species been overlooked in the past? (remember that dozens of Blackpolls have been reported from the Rock since 2005); Was there a population spike in the US over the last years?; Did climate change recently affect their migration strategies/routes? 


To my knowledge, only two birders arrived on Corvo so far and since there is no plane to reach the island until Monday, the entire place is theirs for the week-end! With only two on the Rock, one may think that the ‘critical mass of birders’ needed to increase the probability of having multiple findings is yet to be reach…but check back above their names: these two guys are already legendary finders on the Rock with multiple, incredible records bearing their names! So, stay tuned…I believe the week-end is not over yet!


Bay-breasted Warbler (1st-year male), Pico, 18 September 2020 (Photo: Pierre-André Crochet)

Advise to the active reader: the blog has been sanitized and is thus corona-free (not the beer, the virus). Moreover, as some of the findings reported here are likely to provoke some distress with your heart requiring a greater supply of oxygen, it is not advisable to wear a face mask when reading it as most of these shitty devices are usually not even allowing a 100% normal breathing.

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Autumn 2019 - Summary

As in previous years, a summary of the seasonal findings on Corvo has been compiled and is presented below.

2019 autumn at a glance: 

Timing: First Waterbird species found on 26/09 (Lesser Yellowlegs/B-W Teal) and last on 26/10 (American Bittern); First landbird species found on 23/09 (Red-eyed Vireo) and last on 24/10 (Common Yellowthroat) ;

Abundance/No of species: 26 American landbird species, with a total estimated 54 different individuals; 8 American Waterbird species, with a total estimated 12 different individuals ;

Best records: Prothonotary Warbler (1st WP record); Cape May Warbler (3rd WP record); Chestnut-sided Warbler (5th WP record); White-eyed Vireo (5th WP record); Canada Warbler (6th WP record); Hooded Warbler (7th WP record); Magnolia Warbler (10th WP record).

Landbird speciesNo of ind.
Northern Harrier1
Cliff Swallow1
Buff-bellied Pipit2
Hermit Thrush1
White-eyed Vireo1
Philadelphia Vireo2
Red-eyed Vireo22
Northern Parula1
Black-throated Green Warbler1
Magnolia Warbler1
Prothonotary Warbler1
Black-and-white Warbler4
Chestnut-sided Warbler1
Blackpoll Warbler1
Cape May Warbler1
Northern Waterthrush2
Common Yellowthroat1
American Yellow Warbler 2
Canada Warbler 1
Hooded Warbler1
Scarlet Tanager1
Rose-breasted Grosbeak1
Indigo Bunting1
Waterbird speciesNo of ind.
Blue-winged Teal2
American Bittern1
Lesset Yellowlegs1
White-rumped Sandpiper3
Pectoral Sandpiper1
Semipalmated Plover2
Wilson's Snipe1
Spotted Sandpiper1