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

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

American Bittern

Most birders have now left the island as the autumn starts drawing to a close. However an American Bittern on Saturday (26th) proves that new vagrants for the year can still occur and there is always a chance of a late autumn speciality. 

The last couple of days has seen a couple of European vagrants arriving including a Shelduck yesterday and a Marsh Harrier. 

A Vagrant Emperor dragonfly recorded last Friday appears to be a first for the Azores. With the Green Darner earlier on in the season and now this record, that's potentially two dragonfly 'firsts for the Azores' (if accepted) in the last few weeks from Corvo.   

 American Bittern (Vincent Legrand) 
 Red-eyed Vireo (Vincent Legrand) 
Common Shelduck (Vincent Legrand)
Vagrant Emperor, 25th October in the Lower Fields Tamarisks (Marcin) 

Daily Logs:

26th October: 
1 American Bittern (Lapa), 1 Red-eyed Vireo (unringed bird)1 Barnacle Goose, 1 Long-eared Owl
27th October:
24 Snow Bunting,  8 Pintail, 2 Blue-winged Teal, 1 Glossy Ibis, 5 Eurasian Wigeon, 1 Lesser Yellowlegs (Caldera)
28th October:
1 Shelduck, 
29th October:
1 Marsh Harrier 

An interesting article about a first visit to Corvo by Paul French (Chair of the British Birds Rarities Committee) HERE

Friday, 25 October 2019

Yellowthroat and Corvo ringing

It's still relatively quiet on the island but there was a new american bird yesterday in the form of a Common Yellowthroat in the village that was subsequently ringed. David Monticelli and co. are currently conducting a ringing study on Corvo aimed at monitoring the movements and duration of stay of vagrants across the island and also taking samples to determine geographical origin using isotope analysis. A Red-eyed Vireo was also ringed today at Poco d'Agua.

Otherwise still rather quiet on the western front, a few more ducks are appearing and there's been another (or the same) Long-eared Owl seen. Unfortunately the Spotted Sandpiper was looking exhausted today and was picked up this evening from the beach and has been taken to the vets.

Common Yellowthroat (above and below) (Vincent Legrand)

Red-eyed Vireo (Vincent Legrand) 
Spotted Sandpiper (Vincent Legrand) 
The ringing group 
Daily logs:
24th October:
1 Common Yellowthroat (Village- ringed and released), 1 Spotted Sandpiper, 1 Northern Wheatear,
1 Long-eared Owl (Tennessee Valley), 1 Blue-winged Teal, 1 female Teal sp (Caldera)
25th October :
1 Red-eyed Vireo (Ringed and released at Poco d'agua) , 2 Wigeon sp (Windmills), 1 Spotted Sandpiper (taken into care), 2 Pink-footed Goose, 6 Pintail, 1 Glossy Ibis, 1 Blue-winged Teal (Caldera) 

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Very quiet on the Western front

It's been a quiet few days (20th-23rd October), the highlights being Blackpoll Warbler and Philadelphia Vireo on 20th which were only seen by the finders leaving only a few birding scraps for the 50 or so birders on the island. 

A timely presentation by Pierre-Andre Crochet on Sunday evening provided some much needed entertainment, a slide show and talk titled 'Chasing 900 birds in the Western Palearctic', an excellent look at Pierre's twitching career over the last couple of decades. Pierre has now seen more birds in the WP than anyone else (Rankings here ) and is currently on 885 species out of the potential 1030 on the list.  
 Semipalmated Plover (Vincent Legrand) 
Cory's Shearwater (Vincent Legrand). Juvenile Cory's Shearwaters are currently vacating their burrows and gathering off shore (there are thousands of birds circling the island like a giant ring doughnut). Some of the juveniles get distracted by the village lights so there is a SPEA/Government led rescue programme called SOS Cargarro (Here) where the locals collect disoriented birds from the village and release them during the day to sea.
Pierre's talk, 'Chasing 900 species in the Western Palearctic' (above and below) 

Daily logs:
20th October: 
1 Blackpoll Warbler (Upper Cancelas), 1 Philadelphia Vireo (Da Ponte), 1 Indigo Bunting, 1 Long-eared Owl (Lighthouse Valley), 1 White-rumped Sandpiper (Reservoir), 1 Blue-winged Teal, 1 Glossy Ibis, 2 Pink-footed Goose (Caldera), 1 Alpine Swift, 1 Barnacle Goose (Village), 1 Common Scoter (past windmills), 4 Snow Bunting, 1 Lapland Bunting (reservoir)
21st October: 
1 Red-eyed Vireo (Pico), 1 Alpine Swift (Village), 1 Corncrake (Power station), 2 Blue-winged Teal, 1 White-rumped Sandpiper, 2 Pink-footed Goose, 1 Glossy Ibis, 7 Pintail (Caldera), 9 Snow Bunting (reservoir)
22nd October:
1 Semipalmated Plover, 1 Spotted Sandpiper (Village), 1 Alpine Swift (Village), 2 Pink-footed Goose, 7 Pintail, 1 Glossy Ibis, 2 Blue-winged Teal, 1 White-rumped Sandpiper, 1 LesserYellowlegs (Caldera)
23rd October:
1 Semipalmated Plover, 1 Spotted Sandpiper, Scoter sp (Windmills)

Saturday, 19 October 2019

A trickle of new arrivals

Despite the unfavourable wind conditions a few more American birds were discovered today, a single Dickcissel in Upper Lapa and a Scarlet Tanager in Tennessee Valley both found by Marcin Solowiej and a Lesser Yellowlegs and White-rumped Sandpiper in the Caldera. A Meadow Pipit also found today in the Caldera is a rarer species on Corvo than the new american species.

 Indigo Bunting (Vincent Legrand) 
Hermit Thrush (Vincent Legrand) 

Other species still present include:
 1 North Parula (Lighthouse Valley), 1 Hermit Thrush (Fojo), 1 Indigo Bunting (Poco d'agua), 1 Red-eyed Vireo (Pico),  1 Blue-winged Teal, 1 Glossy Ibis, 2 Pink-footed Goose (Caldera), 1 Alpine Swift (village) and 1 Pomarine Skua (Channel)