Friday 31 October 2014

One last bird before the plane took everyone home

And so this is firmly it. Yesterday's post was supposed to be the last for this season, but with a Long-billed Dowitcher plonking itself on the airfield this morning an update was in order for the sake of completeness.
Long-billed Dowitcher on the airstrip (photo courtesy of Richard Bonser)
And, as we left, a passing cargo ship was in the distance heading east. Unfortunately all those stowaways will never be found even if they do make landfall on the rock. Because, the lights have firmly been closed for this birding season and nobody's around anymore.
Cargo ship heading east around Corvo (photo courtesy of Richard Bonser)
Same people, same place, next year, different birds.

Thursday 30 October 2014

The lights are closed on the rock for 2014

The fog finally lifted, with a bit of a chill in the northwesterly winds. The Chimney Swift was still about yesterday (29th), ranging between Cantinho and Lighthouse Valley so everyone ended up getting decent views. The five birders went down to four, and it was the Germans Thomas and Jurgen who (re-)found the bird of the day on - the Northern Shrike (race borealis), as it sallied for food by the road at Poco d'Agua. This mobile bird, a first for the WP and still present on 30th, has now been seen in the caldeirao, Lighthouse Valley, Da Ponte and now Poco d'Agua. Ultimately probably doomed when it decides to leave the rock, it wouldn't be surprising if it tries to overwinter - just there'll be no birders to look for it as we all leave tomorrow (Friday).
Northern Shrike in Poco d'Agua (photo courtesy of Richard Bonser)
Other news from yesterday included another Tree Pipit, again found by Jerome, in the middle fields and a Redpoll in Poco d'Agua. Sightings from today include the continued presence of a first-winter male Scarlet Tanager in Tennessee Valley, seen and photographed by Thomas and Jurgen. White-rumped Sandpipers were down to just one by the reservoir, as well as a single Snow Bunting, while a Chiffchaff was in the upper part of Lapa along with a Monarch butterfly.

So, once again, another Corvo season draws to a close. Not a classic year, and despite the prolonged westerlies that should have delivered, they didn't to the full effect expected. Pride of place goes to the Northern Shrike, initially found by Jens on 18th, which inevitably will become the first record of borealis when split. Add to this a Black-throated Green Warbler, three Scarlet Tanagers, Philadelphia Vireo, several Red-eyed Vireos, at least two Black-and-white Warblers, two Northern Parulas, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, a handful of Buff-bellied Pipits, two Yellow-billed Cuckoos, two Cliff Swallows, Chimney Swift, Bobolink, Blackpoll Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, and of course the Snowy Owl, and that's your lot for this year.

The lights have now been closed until 2015. Enjoy the next year folks until everyone again is back on the rock for another session.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Last week of the season - Chimney Swift already in

Most birders left yesterday (Monday) including usual stalwarts David Monticelli, Vincent Legrand, Michael Fricke and Mika Bruun. So that leaves just five birders left on the rock to see out the season until Friday 31st October, when there'll be no birders left.

So since the last update, the Northern Shrike (race borealis) was seen by all who had yet to connect in the caldeirao on Sunday - favouring an area of pines on one of the islands. Mika headed to Cantinho that day and saw a Red-eyed Vireo and a Black-and-white Warbler, as well as a Spotted Flycatcher. On Monday, Jerome found the second Tree Pipit for the Azores in fields near Poco d'Agua - not exactly the score he was looking for, but with the last week of easterly winds, a good European bird was always going to be on the cards. Michael Fricke found an American Wigeon in the lower fields, before he left yesterday, indicating that there are new arrivals coming from the US.

And so to today, Tuesday 28th October. It has been blowing from the west since Saturday night, so there should be some birds about. The island has been all fogged up so visits to places such as the caldeirao, reservoir, Tennessee Valley and Lighthouse Valley have been impossible. A Chimney Swift was found by Rich Bonser in the gloom over Cantinho mid-morning but didn't linger too long as it headed into the mist. The other big news from today was two Black-and-white Warblers, both 1st-winter males, seen alongside each in Fojo - so who knows exactly how many of this species there have been this year on the rock.
Chimney Swift, Ribeira do Cantinho 28 October 2014 (Photo courtesy of Richard Bonser)
Anyway, with the fog hopefully lifting in the next day or so, there'll be a final push for some more yankage before the season is out.

Saturday 25 October 2014

The reappearance of the Black-throated Green Warbler and of the Northern Grey Shrike!

Weather has been a major drawback on Corvo over the last week with persistent easterly winds precluding any significant arrival of American landbirds. However, two "biggies" have been relocated over the last days providing entertainment for those who decided to stay on the island towards the end of the month.

The Black-throated Green Warbler was relocated around its original place in Poço de Agua yesterday afternoon by David and Jérôme. The news almost immediately attracted the remaining group of 15 birders still present on the island, including a freshly-arrived tour group of 6 German birders. As usual, however, the warbler was moving high in the canopy - giving only intermitent views - and was rapidly lost of sight. As a result, only a handful of birders managed to arrive on time to catch decent views of this beauty. And while most of us were actively trying to relocate the Black-throated Green, Yanne had decent - albeit brief - views of a 1cy female Northern Parula. Later, both birds were refound sitting together in the same tree by Mika and Vincent in another part of the ribeira but again, not everyone managed to arrive on time to see them.

Black-throated Green Warbler (Dendroica virens), 1cy (probable female), 24 October 2014 (Photo courtesy of David Monticelli)
Today, the Northern Grey Shrike was briefly relocated by Michael Fricke in the lower part of Da Ponte - a rather unexpected place for this bird, which was found sitting high in a large Cryptomeria tree. Soon after its rediscovery, it disappeared again and was nowhere to be seen during the rest of the day despite intensive searches conducted inside the ribeira and in the bordering grassland area. To our knowledge, this is the third place that has been visited by the shrike after the Lighthouse valley and the Caldeira, suggesting that it is extremely mobile all over the island.

In addition to this, today's visit to Ribeira do Cantinho by Mika produced sightings of a Black-and-white Warbler and a Red-eyed Vireo. The Black-and-white was photographed, which should be helpful to later determine whether this bird is a new one for the island  - the third Black-and-white of the season following earlier ones in Da Ponte and in Fojo - or whether it is the same individual than the one in nearby Fojo that disappeared a week ago.

The Caldeira was also visited today, producing Black Duck (1), Pectoral Sandpiper (1), White-rumped Sandpiper (3+) and Snow Bunting (2).

The weather forecast for tomorrow suggests a change in wind direction with westerlies starting to blow again so there is hope for a few late automnal discoveries in the next days...time will tell!

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Yellow-billed Cuckoo and little more...

In contrast with the past three weeks, the last two days were extremely calm on Corvo without any significant finding. Moreover, most long-stayers seem to have departed now with only the Black-and-white Warbler relocated today in Ribeira Da Ponte and a few waders still present at the reservoir (Lesser Yellowlegs and 5 White-rumped Sandpipers). The Black-throated Green from Poço de Agua was still seen yesterday morning but not thereafter.

A rather healthy-looking Yellow-billed Cuckoo was reported yesterday evening by Tom Francis in overgrown gardens above Vila Nova, but again it could not be relocated today. Interestingly, Tom's finding raised some hopes among birders that the exhausted bird found two days ago at the western end of the airstrip had recovered, but a comparison of close-up portraits obtained on both dates suggested that yesterday's bird was indeed a different individual.

After the massive departure of birders last Monday and today, the number of birders present on Corvo has now halved with only 10-15 remaining until the end of this week. The wind has been blowing from east over the last days without any change in direction predicted to occur until next Tuesday, so we do not expect any massive arrival of raritees before next week, at which time only a handful of birders will remain on the island.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus), 21 October 2014 (Photo courtesy of David  Monticelli)

Monday 20 October 2014

The haul of American vagrants continues on the Rock!

Owing to the better weather conditions prevailing on the Rock over the last two days, several new discoveries have been made.

First of all, a 1st-winter Black-throated Green Warbler was found yesterday morning by PAC in the lower part of Poço de Agua. The bird performed well for the birders present on the spot within the first hour of its discovery, but thereafter it proved rather elusive, offering only brief views for the rest of the day and today during early morning hours. This finding represents the 7th WP record of this species and is no less than Corvo's fifth, following one in 2008, two in 2009 and one in 2013.

Secondly, a Blackpoll Warbler was found this morning by Mika and Markku close to the rubbish dump above the village. The bird was rather mobile at the time of its discovery, being only observed for less than 5 min by a handful of birders before being lost somewhere in the Lower Fields. Fortunately, several hours later, Jens relocated the Blackpoll in a small garden bordering the road on the northern side of the airstrip. This time, the warbler performed pretty well for the birders and photographers, staying in views for at least 20min before being lost again.

Thirdly, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo was discovered by Jouni in the tamarisks at the western end of the airstrip around mid-afternoon. The bird was rather exhausted, allowing prolonged views at very close range for many hours. This species, which was a regular finding on Corvo during earlier years, had not been found since 2012, so it is a welcome addition to this year's list!

Blackpoll Warbler (Dendroica striata), 20 October 2014 (Photo courtesy of David Monticelli)

Saturday 18 October 2014

Northern Grey Shrike: first WP record!

After 4 days of extreme wind, everyone seemed to be relieved this morning to start the day under pretty normal weather conditions. The lack of wind obviously meant better birding with a better chance to find out some good birds, an assumption that actually materialised around 9.30am when Jens found a 'Great Grey Shrike' type bird in the upper part of the Lighthouse Valley. Only a handful of birders were present in this valley or at a nearby location at that time and, shortly after the news was released by walkie-talkie, were able to enjoy good views of the shrike. A few photographs were also quickly obtained, which allowed to directly rule out in the field the possibility of it being a Loggerhead Shrike. Soon after its initial discovery, the bird proved very mobile and elusive on the northern slope of the valley, and, sadly, not all birders present on the island arrived in due time to manage decent views of it. Perhaps not more than 2hrs following the initial discovery, the shrike dispappeared and was not subsequently re-observed. No doubts, more searches will be conducted tomorrow in an attempt to relocate it.

Based on direct observations, photographic documents and even sound recordings obtained in the field, the identification of this individual pinpoints towards a Great Grey Shrike of the subspecies borealis, which breeds in Canada and is a rare winter visitor to the States. Interesting details readily observed on the photos are the heavily barred belly and the brownish tone to the head, nape, mantle, cheeks and flanks - a plumage feature not found in other Great Grey Shrike subspecies.

Northern Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor ssp. borealis), 18 October 2014 (Photos courtesy of David Monticelli)
This subspecies has already been elevated to full species level (Lanius borealis) by some taxonomic authorities, and if this view is confirmed in the next years by addditional genetic studies, the bird found today by Jens will represent the first record of that species for the WP.

Additional taxonomic info can be found here:

Thursday 16 October 2014

Black-and-white Warbler and little more...

Birding over the last days has been severely impeded by the very harsh weather conditions prevailing on the island. As a result, only a few discoveries have been made, including a 1cy male Black-and-white Warbler found by Hannu in the lower part of Ribeira Da Ponte yesterday afternoon. The bird was still present today, eventually performing decently for the few photographers present on the spot in between strong rain showers and wind gusts.

Black-and-white Warbler, 1cy male, 16 October 2014 (Photo courtesy of David Monticelli)

Only a minority of wooded valleys have been visited over the last two days, including the famous Lighthouse area where a Common Redpoll of unknown origin (either Nearctic or Palearctic?) was discovered and photographed today by Jens.

Other records include Lesser Yellowlegs, European Golden Plover, and a small group of White-rumped Sandpipers at the reservoir. The weather forecast suggests difficult conditions with strong winds and rain at least until Friday evening, so we only expect normal birding conditions on the island to resume from this week-end onwards.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

More of the same..

Despite the strong westerlies blowing since yesterday, no major discoveries were made on the island today. Perhaps the most noteworthy event was the finding in early afternoon by PAC of the second Northern Parula of the autumn - this time a 1cy female - in Ribeira do Lapa.
Northern Parula, 1cy female, Lapa, 14 October 2014 (Photo courtesy of Vincent Legrand)

The rest of the day was rather uneventful with most reports concerning bird discovered in previous days that were relocated, including 4 Red-eyed Vireos, 3 Scarlet Tanagers and the Common Yellowthroat and Rose-breasted Grosbeak still lingering at the same spot. In addition to this, yesterday's Wilson's snipe was re-observed by many birders on the middle road in the morning while in late afternoon Graeme Joynt located a second Wilson's at the old harbour, raising the possibility of two birds being now present on the island. 


Great Shearwater, Puffinus gravis, 3 from the Windmill
White-rumped Sandpiper, Calidris fuscicollis, 3 juvenile/first winter, Old Harbour
Little Stint, Calidris minuta, 1st-winter, Old Harbour
Wilson's Snipe, Gallinago delicata, 2, middle/lower road crossroads and at Old Harbour
Scarlet Tanager, Piranga olivacea, 3, 1, Tennessee Valley, 2 Fojo
Willow Warbler, Phylloscopus trochilus, 1, Fojo
Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus, 4, 2 Ribeira da Ponte, 1 Cape Verde Farm, 1 Pico
Common Yellowthroat, Geothlypis trichas, 1, tamarisks SW of airstrip
Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Pheucticus ludovicianus, 1, above Tennessee Valley
Northern Parula, Setophaga americana, 1st-winter female, Ribeira da Lapa

Monday 13 October 2014

A slower day

Today proved a fairly quiet affair with just a series of lingering birds noted, namely the Yellowthroat still in the village, three Red-eyed Vireos, two Scarlet Tanagers and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The Pectoral Sandpiper doesn't appear to have settled yet and was seen over both Lighthouse and Cancelas.

The weather was calm enough early on, but the wind soon picked up and by evening, a westerly gale and heavy rain was battering the island. Conditions like this invariably produce birds here, but it's forecast to be an unsettled week with high winds throughout - the birding will no doubt be difficult.

As an aside, the arrival of 'Mr Corvo' Peter Alfrey marks his tenth autumn on the island following his now infamous exploits in the exceptional year of 2005. The wait goes on for a similar year with North Atlantic hurricane activity nowhere near that intensity in any of the autumns that have followed. However, the forecast for the coming ten days looks very exciting indeed and there is genuine hope among those present that we could be in for another memorable period with exceptional observations. Only time will tell!

Happy ten years Pete!


Pectoral Sandpiper, 1, above Lighthouse Valley and Cancelas
White-rumped Sandpiper, 1st-winter, old harbour
Eurasian Collared Dove, 1, Ribeira da Lapa
Scarlet Tanager, 2, Tennessee Valley
Red-eyed Vireo, 3, 2 Ribeira da Ponte, 1 Cape Verde Farm
Common Yellowthroat, 1, tamarisks SW of airstrip
Rose-breasted Grosbeak, 1st-winter female, still above Tennessee Valley

Sunday 12 October 2014

The flow of new birds continues!

A changeable day saw a front pass over the island during the morning, with moderate westerlies and heavy rain as well as plenty of low cloud. By midday the weather had cleared to leave a beautifully warm and sunny afternoon. In theory, it was the perfect afternoon for new birds to be found - and that theory was put in to practice nicely by the assembled birders on the island.

Several new landbirds were discovered today: the Polish Birding Team found a Northern Parula at Fojo picnic site, with Hugues Dufourny locating a confused snipe flying around in the fog in the vicinity - this bird later well observed by Josh Jones on a nearby track before being flushed by the taxi bringing other birders for the parula! In terms of identification, it appears a good Wilson's Snipe.

Wilson's Snipe, Fojo (Josh Jones)

At least six Red-eyed Vireos were discovered across the island today including three in da Ponte - including two together an unusual occurrence here, with vireos normally solitary. Richard Ek also scored with Common Yellowthroat in tamarisks at the west end of the airstrip while a Pectoral Sandpiper was seen and heard flying around high above Ribeira da Lapa. The Philadelphia Vireo was again seen in Fojo.

Most bizarre find of the day was a Corncrake in the Tennessee Valley, where two Scarlet Tanagers and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak remained. Believe it or not but this is not a first for Corvo - in fact there are several records from the past decade!


Corncrake, 1, Tennessee Valley
Pectoral Sandpiper, 1, above Ribeira da Lapa
White-rumped Sandpiper, 1st-winter, Old Harbour
Wilson's Snipe, 1, Fojo picnic area
Black-headed Gull, 1st-winter, airstrip

Eurasian Collared Dove, 3, 2 Lapa, 1 Village
Willow Warbler, 1, Tennessee Valley
Scarlet Tanager, 2, Tennessee Valley
Red-eyed Vireo, 6, 3 Ribeira da Ponta, 2 Fojo, 1 camping site
Philadelphia Vireo, 1, Fojo
Common Yellowthroat, 1 tamarisks SW of airstrip
Northern Parula, 1st-winter male, Fojo picnic area
Rose-breasted Grosbeak, 1st-winter female, above Tennessee Valley

Saturday 11 October 2014

New american landbirds discovered…

With 40+ birders now present on the island, there was a fair chance that a few new discoveries could be made during the day. This assumption eventually proved correct when Jens and Tommy broadcasted the news by walkie-talkie around 11pm that they had found the first Philadelphia Vireo of the season in the upper part of Poço de Agua. The bird was initially observed only for brief moments moving in the upper canopy before being seen flying over a rather long distance eastwards in the direction of Fojo where it was presumably the same individual that Daniel Mauras relocated a few hours later by means of tape-luring. Unlike in Poço de Agua, the vireo stayed on show in Fojo for at least an hour, allowing quite a few birders to appear on the spot in due time for a new WP tick!

Philadelphia Vireo, Fojo, 11 October 2014 (Photo courtesy of Mika Bruun)
The rest of the day was similarly exciting with a few intriguing events to report. Around 1pm, Bosse and Seppo discovered with amazement that a second Scarlet Tanager – this time a 1st-winter female – had joined the 1cy male present in the Tennessee Valley for its third day. And while Bosse and Seppo were enjoying good views of these two individuals virtually sitting in the same tree, Christian was relaying the news that he had found another Scarlet Tanager in the upper part of Fojo, thus raising the overall number of birds present on the island to 3. In addition to this, it is no less than 6 Buff-bellied Pipits that were reported today, including 5 at the caldeira  - by the Polish team - and one seen flying inshore from the sea around the Windmill area – by Hugues Dufourny. Undoubtedly, these two reports – 3 Scarlet Tanagers and 6 Buff-bellied Pipits– both constitute an unprecedented (and incredible) total for a single location in the WP!

Add to this a few American waders and a Bobolink still lingering in the Low Fields and you have what can be termed here “a perfect day on the Rock”…at least for the majority of us. Of course, everyone present on the island has still in mind that the ‘star bird’ of the season remains to be found, but given the very strong westerlies predicted from next Monday onwards, the awaiting may not take too long now.


Spotted Sandpiper 1 on shore at western end of the airstrip
White-rumped Sandpiper 1 on shore at western end of the airstrip
Little Stint 1 1st-winter still at old harbour
Lesser Yellowlegs 1 at the Reservoir
Yellow Wagtail 1 1st winter at reservoir
Buff-bellied Pipit 6 (including 5 at the Caldeira and 1 at the Windmill)
Philadelphia Vireo 1 (initially found in Poço de Agua then flying east, and presumably same individual relocated at the Picnic area in Fojo)
Scarlet Tanager 3 (including 2 together at the Tennessee Valley – 1cy male and 1cy female – and 1cy male in Fojo)
Bobolink 1 in the Lower Fields

Friday 10 October 2014

Corvo season in full swing!

After yesterday's excitement, it was no surprise that further discoveries were made today - particularly as the number of birders on the island increased with around ten new arrivals taking us in to the forties.

We didn't have to wait long for the first find of the day: a Red-eyed Vireo in the north section ('arm') of Poco de Agua within the first hour of light and this was soon followed by Gary Fennemore finding a first-winter female Rose-breasted Grosbeak in the lower part of Ribeira da Lapa - identifiable from images as a different bird to yesterday's, which was also still present. Another Red-eyed Vireo was found in the upper parts of Lapa and news was received that the Scarlet Tanager was also still in the Tennessee Valley.

Red-eyed Vireo in Ribeira da Lapa (Josh Jones)

During the late afternoon Michael Fricke discovered a Bobolink in the Lower Fields; although mobile this bird showed well to most and will no doubt perform better in the coming days. An Indigo Bunting was also noted in the village.


American Golden Plover 1 flying around above the reservoir
Spotted Sandpiper 1 still on shore at west end of airstrip
White-rumped Sandpiper first-winter still at old harbour
Little Stint first-winter still at old harbour
Red-eyed Vireo 2 (Ribeira da Lapa and Poco de Agua)
Willow Warbler 1 still in Tennessee Valley
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 2 first-winter females (Ribeira da Lapa & above Tennessee Valley)
Scarlet Tanager first-winter male still in Tennessee Valley
Lapland Bunting 1 on reservoir slopes
Indigo Bunting 1 in the village
Bobolink 1 in Lower Fields

Thursday 9 October 2014

Arrivals from the west!

Corvo is a place that never ceases to amaze. So often rare birds are found here in the most surprising conditions - take for example the Caspian Plover which turned up during a westerly gale in October 2012, or the Paddyfield Warbler several years previous to that.

What we hadn't bargained for today was a healthy arrival of Nearctic birds on the island. Sure, Scarlet Tanager and Bobolink were found on Flores yesterday but the weather has been far from classic for American species and so no one really expected anything new - and certainly not a multiple arrival.

Seemingly against the odds, Corvo delivered in style as we were treated to five species new for the year. This all began when Josh Jones located a first-winter female Rose-breasted Grosbeak in junipers high above the Tennessee Valley. Within minutes an Indigo Bunting had also made a brief appearance there and then, an hour or so later, Josh scored the hat trick with a beautiful first-winter male Scarlet Tanager in the valley itself.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Scarlet Tanager, both taken shortly after discovery (Josh Jones)

The tanager was well twitched throughout the afternoon and a tick for several people including Petri Kuhno (his 700th WP species) and Seppo Haavisto. Just to put the icing on the cake, Bosse Carlsson found the first Red-eyed Vireo of the autumn in tamarisks just south of the west end of the airfield and a Lesser Yellowlegs was seen flying around the village on several occasions.

Negative news today included the sad discovery of the Spoonbill dead on the beach at the west end of the airstrip. There was also no sign of the Snowy Owl in the Lighthouse Valley area despite an extensive search (4+ hours) by several observers.


Lesser Yellowlegs juvenile at Vila Nova
White-rumped Sandpiper 1st-winter still at old harbour
Little Stint 1st-winter still at old harbour
Collared Dove 3 still around Calcada Fields
Willow Warbler 1 in Tennessee Valley
Red-eyed Vireo 1 at west end of Lower Fields
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1st-winter female above Tennessee Valley
Indigo Bunting 1 above Tennessee Valley
Scarlet Tanager 1st-winter male in Tennessee Valley

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Yellow Wagtail the best on offer...

A complete contrast in weather conditions today saw the island bathed in beautiful sunshine. Most birders were able to work on their suntans and unsurprisingly, the wait for a new American landbird goes on. Best find today was a first-winter Yellow Wagtail in fields above the power station, although a Spotted Sandpiper was also a new find on the large rock pool at the west end of the airfield and the Collared Doves have increased to three!

Yellow Wagtail by Josh Jones

At least twelve new birders joined us today, with this increase compensated by the departure of at least five to twitch the Willet on Sao Miguel! We will be welcoming them - and several others - back to the island on Friday.


Spoonbill 1 still showing well at the campsite!
Spotted Sandpiper 1
Little Stint 1st-winter still at the old harbour
White-rumped Sandpiper 2 (Vila Nova & reservoir)
Collared Dove 3 around the high fields
Yellow Wagtail 1st-winter above the power station
Buff-bellied Pipit 1 still at the reservoir
Wheatear 3 around the reservoir

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Snowy still but little more to report

A good word to describe today would be "tough". The weather was poor with a brisk westerly wind, low cloud, fog and occasional rain making conditions difficult for birding around the island. The main news concerns the continued presence of the female Snowy Owl still in the valley just south of the Lighthouse Valley, though she can be very mobile and was last seen north of the lighthouse.

Snowy Owl (photo by Kris de Rouck)

A Common Kestrel over the village late afternoon was not quite the exciting arrival we had in mind, but at least it was something new. One of the Collared Doves was also seen near Lapa.

Seawatching produced a few birds including Great Shearwaters, juvenile Pomarine Skua, a couple of Oceanodroma storm-petrels (either Leach's or one of the Band-rumped species) and a superb Sooty Shearwater that lingered just off the windmills for a several minutes in the evening.

The wait for a new American landbird goes on - and looking at the forecast, it is unlikely to be before next week.


Teal sp 1 at reservoir
Great Shearwater 8+
Sooty Shearwater 1
Manx Shearwater 1
Storm-petrel sp 2
Pomarine Skua juvenile past the windmills early afternoon
Kestrel 1
White-rumped Sandpiper 1st-winter at old harbour
Little Stint 1st-winter at old harbour
Snowy Owl female still
Collared Dove 2 still
Wheatear 2 at reservoir

Monday 6 October 2014

Slow going on the Western Front

The twelve birders already on Corvo were joined by a further ten today, meaning we now have a respectable 22 observers on the island - this number is set to rise further on both Wednesday and Friday as birders continue to arrive from across Europe.

Unfortunately the rise in number did not equate to any new birds from the New World, with the best discovery a grey first-winter Little Stint at the old harbour in the village which initially suggested something more exciting to the discoverer Josh Jones. However, a confiding bird meant good views soon followed and any thoughts of Semipalmated or even Western were very quickly dispelled:

Little Stint by Josh Jones (

The cloud was particularly low today with visibility extremely poor from the Miradouro upwards - all of the valleys were foggy and the plane was only able to land at the second attempt. As such the Snowy Owl was not seen and very little else was noted. We have a westerly wind with us but synoptic charts suggest that this originates from nowhere near America, so we're not expecting a major arrival of birds any time soon.

Other main sightings today include the Spoonbill looking pretty unhappy with life on the shore at the west end of the airstrip, a first-winter White-rumped Sandpiper around the airfield and old harbour and a few Sanderlings.

Saturday 4 October 2014

First wave of American vagrants on the island...

The group of 10+ birders present on Corvo since Thursday has now covered some serious ground over the last days, and, as of tonight, their efforts have produced some interesting results. First of all, the season for American landbirds was officially launched yesterday with the discovery of 3 American Buff-bellied Pipits at the Reservoir. And just as this was not enough, two more individuals were discovered today with no less than 5 different Buff-bellied Pipits counted in the same area. An impressive finding as this probably represents the largest group of this nearctic species ever recorded in the WP! And there was more on offer on Corvo today with 2 Cliff Swallows reported at the Miradouro from above Vila Nova do Corvo.

Thus overall, a very encouraging starting for the 2014 season on the Rock with 7 american landbirds found in 3 days. More birders will arrive on Monday and, no doubt, more findings will be reported in the next days...

American Buff-bellied Pipit, Grassland area around the Reservoir, 03 October 2014 (copyright: photo courtesy of Daniele Occhiato)