Thursday 2 November 2017

The 2017 autumn on Corvo: a brief summary

The 2017 hurricane season in the Northern Atlantic was already considered by meteorologists as more intense than normal by mid September with 13 storms recorded, of which 4 were major hurricanes listed as Category 3 (on a scale of 5). By then, scientists at the US National Hurricane Centre were tweeting messages like “Never seen anything like this in the modern record”…with some of these tweets being reprinted in the New York Times! Six weeks later and after another 7 hurricanes have gone through the southeast US seaboard, the Caribbean region and the north Atlantic, 2017 is about to enter the selective club of “10 busiest years in terms of hurricane activity and number of storms recorded”.

Predictably, this had some important implications for the rarity-hunting season on Corvo that clearly stands out as the most productive season since 2005 in terms of total number of birds discovered, and certainly also as one of the best season in terms of quality and rarity of the records made.

In fact, the data/observations compiled for the period 23 September to 31 October 2017 yields self-explanatory figures:

Nearctic landbird species recorded on Corvo from 23 Sept to 31 Oct 2017 (no. of individuals involved):
Rough-legged Hawk (2)
Belted Kingfisher (1)
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (6)
American Buff-bellied Pipit (1)
Cedar Waxwing (1)
Grey-cheeked Thrush (3)
Swainson's Thrush (1)
American Robin (1)
Yellow-throated Vireo (1)
Philadelphia Vireo (3)
Red-eyed Vireo (24)
Tennessee Warbler (1)
Black-and-white Warbler (5)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (1)
Black-throated Green Warbler (3)
Blackburnian Warbler (1)
Magnolia Warbler (2)
Northern Waterthrush (6)
Bay-breasted Warbler (1)
Blackpoll Warbler (8)
Ovenbird (5)
Common Yellowthroat (4)
Hooded Warbler (2)
Canada Warbler (1)
Scarlet Tanager (4)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (4)
Indigo Bunting (3)
Dickcissel (1)
Bobolink (1)

Nearctic non-landbird (waterbirds) species recorded on Corvo from 23 Sept to 31 Oct 2017 (no. of individuals involved):
Surf Scoter (2)
American Wigeon (4)
American Black Duck/incl. hybrids (6)
Blue-winged Teal (6)
Green-winged Teal (3)
Ring-necked Duck (4)
American Great Egret (1)
Semipalmated Plover (1)
American Golden Plover (2)
Semipalmated Sandpiper (3)
White-rumped Sandpiper (11)
Pectoral Sandpiper (2)
Wilson's Snipe (2)
Upland Sandpiper (1)
Lesser Yellowlegs (3)
Greater Yellowlegs (1)
Solitary Sandpiper (1)
Spotted Sandpiper (4)
Bonaparte’s Gull (1)

In about 40 days American landbird rarities discovered fall short of a hundred individuals (97 more precisely) divided among 29 different species, an unprecedented haul in Corvo’s history. In fact, only two previous years approach these annual totals, 2012 with 26 landbird species and 2015 with 27. In addition, no less than 18 waterbird species were reported on Corvo this autumn, which brings up the annual numbers at an astounding 155 individuals within…48 different species!

Notwithstanding this impressive total, every day is considered as a new dawn on Corvo and, depending on the prevailing weather conditions and number of birders present, more or less discoveries were made. And the day among all that no one would have wanted to miss was Friday October 20 when it was literally “raining birds all over the place” with 14 Nearctic landbird species on the charts on that evening.

Also extremely enjoyable this autumn for the 70+ birders or so who visited Corvo was the wealth of American Wood-warblers reported with no less than 13 species found – so far the highest peak was in 2012 with ‘only’ 11 species.

Evidently, quality was also au rendez-vous this autumn with major WP records made: Bay-breasted Warbler (2nd for WP), Blackburnian warbler (5th WP), Canada warbler (5th WP), Hooded Warbler (5th & 6th WP), Dickcissel (6th WP), Magnolia Warbler (7th & 8th WP), Yellow-throated Vireo (7th WP) and the duo Black-throated Green (8th, 9th & 10th WP) and Black-throated Blue (9th WP) Warblers. Locally three 1st records for Corvo (Surf Scoter, Bonaparte’s Gull & Belted Kingfisher) and two 1st records for the Azores (Blackburnian & Bay-breasted Warblers) were bagged. 

So overall, a real big year for The Rock, which more than ever stands out as the best destination in the entire Western Palearctic for Nearctic rarities! 

See you next autumn for more reporting news…

David & Peter.

One of 8 Blackpolls seen this year on Corvo - This one at Ribeira de Lapa, 28 October 2017 (Peter Stronach)
The fourth American Robin for Corvo since 2005, Caldeira, 26 October 2017 (Peter Stronach)