Sunday, 8 October 2017

Will autumn 2017 set up new records for Corvo?

Two years have elapsed since we last used this forum to report news from Corvo in autumn. Nonetheless, having spoken to a few fellow birders over the last days, I decided to attempt to "resurrect" this blog and report again news from "the Rock" on a regular basis and at least until the end of this month! There are in fact reasons to believe that the currently ongoing autumn on Corvo may set up new records in terms of quality and quantity of rarities recorded, which is certainly worth the effort of blogging over the next few weeks!

The rarity hunting season on Corvo started rather early this year with the first birders reaching the island from mid September onwards. By then, the 2017 Hurricane season on the eastern American seaboard was already well on its way to become classified as a "record year". Irma, a category 5 hurricane that formed on late August and devastated the Carribean and the southern US seaboard in Florida during the first half of September had just started to fade off when a first international team of 4 birders (Bob Swann, Peter Stronach, Jean-Pierre Jordan and Dominique) arrived on the Rock to find out that Irma and its associated cast of depressions had delivered "en masse": in 10 days (22 September - 2 October) they tallied at least 5 species of american waders, 1 american raptor, 8 species of American Warblers and two species of vireos. An impressive haul which is not without recalling the year 2009 when the early visit to Corvo in September by Swedish Birder Olof Johnson had also largely paid off, though the 2017 high totals scored here remain totally unprecedented since the potential of Corvo as a rarity hunting ground was revealed to the Western Palearctic birding community in 2005. 

Another record which is about to be set for Corvo this autumn concerns the attendance level by international birders. Thanks to the compiling work of Finnish birder Mika Bruun published on the "Corvo birders" FB page, it is estimated that at least 78 birders from 15 different nationalities have booked a trip to the island between late September and early November, with peak attendance foreseen for the third week of the month when about 70 birders will be present on Corvo. These numbers are also totally unprecedented for the island and may well require some adjustment and coordination work, e.g. to ensure that everyone can get a meal at night in one of the few local restaurants still available at this time of the year! 

Total daily numbers of birders present on Corvo in October 2017 (courtesy of Mika Bruun)
Despite these potential logistic issues, the perspectives for the rest of the month are very promising: hurricanes and depression activity is predicted to remain substantially high in the Western Atlantic while number of birders arriving on the island will continue to rise steadily in the next days and weeks, thereby ensuring the wide coverage needed to maximise the chances of a new discovery. In fact, since Peter Stronach et al. left the island on October 2, many of the regular Corvo birders have started to arrive, resulting in a few interesting discoveries including a Belted Kingfisher in the Old harbour on the 3rd, a Bobolink in Poço d'Agua on the 6th, the second Philadelphia Vireo of the season in Do Vinte on the 7th, and a Scarlet Tanager at Lighthouse Valley on the 8th

Nearctic landbird species recorded on Corvo since 22-09-2017 and up to date:
Rough-legged Hawk 2
Belted Kingfisher 1
Black-and-white Warbler 4
Northern Waterthrush 2+
Magnolia Warbler 1
Canada Warbler 1
Black-throated Green Warbler 1
Black-throated Blue Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
Ovenbird 2
Philadelphia Vireo 2
Red-eyed Vireo 20+
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1
Scarlet Tanager 1
Bobolink 1

A few images courtesy of Peter Stronach and Rafa Armada:

Common Yellowthroat (male), Between Pico and Poço d'Agua, 27 September 2017 (Peter Stronach)
Black-throated Green Warbler, Cantinho, 27 September 2017 (Peter Stronach)
Canada Warbler (1st winter male), Poço d'Agua, 28 September 2017 (Peter Stronach)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (1st winter male), Lapa, 01 October 2017 (Peter Stronach)
Northern Waterthrush, Lower Fields (Old Pig Farm), 06 October 2017 (Rafa Armada)

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