Wednesday 5 December 2018

Corvo 2018 – Another bonanza autumn on the Rock!

I managed to compile a summary of observations and a few descriptive stats for the past autumnal season on Corvo.

A summary table of all individual records is presented below. The table focuses on species/individuals of Nearctic origin. In addition to those records, quite an impressive tally of Palearctic species were also reported, including some incredible records such as a Red-breasted Flycatcher and multiple Yellow-browed Warblers…

This year, an estimated 100+ birders visited this tiny island from mid-September to early November. The first Nearctic waterbird species was found on 12/09 (White-rumped Sandpiper) and the last one on 03/11 (American Bittern), while for Nearctic landbirds the season was less protracted with the first species found on 04/10 (Northern Harrier) and last on 24/10 (Magnolia Warbler).

Overall, no less than 29 American landbird species were reported, with a total estimated 102 different individuals. Thus, in terms of species richness, 2018 was as good as 2017 – and together those are the best two years ever experienced on Corvo! In addition, 13 American Waterbird species were found during the autumn, with a total estimated 30 different individuals, which sets 2018 as an average year for waterbirds.

As can be seen from the two graphs below, most Nearctic landbird rarities were produced over the week 16-23 October. That week will probably remain in everyone’s memory (at least for those lucky birders present on the island!), particularly 16-17 October with 31 and 37 landbird individuals reported respectively, of which 22 and 20 were new findings for the day.

Daily totals of Nearctic individuals reported on Corvo (daily totals include both new birds for the day and birds found on a previous day and still present)
Cumulative plot of Nearctic landbird individuals discovered on Corvo, 4-29 October 2018 (n = 102 records)
Quality was also at the rendez-vous this year with a long list of extremely rare records for the Western Palearctic (WP): Blue Grosbeak (1st WP record); Eastern Wood Pewee (3rd WP record); Bay-breasted Warbler (3rd WP record); Wilson's Warbler (4th WP record; first for Azores); White-eyed Vireo (4th WP record); Lincoln's Sparrow (5th WP record); Wood Thrush (5th WP record); Yellow-throated Vireo (8th WP record), etc.

White-eyed Vireo, 4th WP record (all 4 records are from Corvo), 20 October 2018 (David Monticelli)
A more complete account is currently in prep for publication on Birdguides in the next days!

Saturday 27 October 2018

An interesting few days

Whether the winds blows from the east or west this year appears to make little difference to the quality of birds with a new Sora and Magnolia Warbler arriving from the west in last three days and three Yellow-browed Warblers and a juvenile Pallid Harrier arriving from the east. 

Other migrants from the east recently include Song Thrush, 4 Chiffchaffs, a White Wagtail, Skylarks and Spotted Flycatcher.

Long staying american vagrants still present yesterday include Ovenbird, Yellow-throated and Philadelphia Vireo, Dickcissel, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Indigo Buntings.  

Amazingly on the 25th, the Blue Grosbeak was re-discovered after being absent for nearly a week. 

For full daily logs see: CORVO BIRDERS

 Sora, De Ponte (David Monticelli) 
 Pallid Harrier (Christian Leth) . A first for the Azores. 
Yellow-browed Warbler (Darryl Spittle) 

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Yellow-browed Warbler

The continuing blustery northeasterly resulted in the flight being cancelled again. Conditions which were too extreme for an aeroplane to travel in did not stop a 7g bird arriving from Siberia to Corvo today, a Yellow-browed Warbler,  the furthest west this species has ever ventured. Needless to say, this was the first record for Corvo and a nice compensation for all those who were stranded on island again.

A few other birds arrived from the east including 2 Skylarks, 1 Pintail, 1 White Wagtail and 1 Chiffchaff.

Remaining American vagrants included Yellow-throated Vireo, Baltimore Oriole, Dickcissel, Chimney Swift, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Myrtle Warbler and Northern Parula.

Yellow-browed Warbler, Corvo village (Vincent Legrand)


Monday 22 October 2018

When the East wind blows

The plane was cancelled today stranding over 10 members of the group on the island. With an east to west oriented runway, planes can't land on the island in a northerly wind and there was a strong north easterly today building from the easterly airflow that has been established for the last few days. We are now awaiting the arrival of European birds but there are still new American birds being discovered; an apparent new Dickcissel today, a new Ovenbird and presumably one of the Chimney Swifts from Flores arrived here yesterday.

Many birds that arrived previously are still present today despite the difficult blustery viewing conditions including 4 Indigo Buntings, 1 Philadelphia Vireo, 1 Red-eyed Vireo, 1 Myrtle Warbler, 1 Common Yellowthroat, the De Ponte Ovenbird,  1 Northern Parula and Scarlet Tanager. Additionally yesterday the Wood Thrush, Eastern Wood Pewee, Yellow-throated Vireo, Bay-breasted Warbler and White-eyed Vireo were still present.

Full daily logs on the Corvo Birders Facebook page HERE

 First-winter male Dickcissel, Middle Fields (Vincent Legrand)
Chimney Swift, Middle Fields (Vincent Legrand) 

Sunday 21 October 2018

Azores List Ranking

Please submit your Azores list totals for inclusion in the Azores List Ranking Table below:

Saturday 20 October 2018

They thought it was all over...

With the winds from the east, a high pressure and European birds arriving yesterday there were concerns that the incredible run of 2018 was over. However it just keeps coming with another two major birds on the island today, White-eyed Vireo and Eastern Wood Pewee. This is shaping up to be the best year ever. There have now been 27 species of American landbird. 2017 is currently the record year with 29 species and we still have another week and more to go of the autumn. There's still a few 'Corvo staples' to get such as Chimney Swift, Buff-bellied Pipit and Black-and-white Warbler. 

What with a series of blockers getting unblocked it's getting tough at the top for the Western Palearctic listers too with Pierre-Andre Crochet (France) at No 1 narrowly avoiding being overtaken by the previous incumbent Ernie Davies (UK) who luckily for Pierre missed today's White-eyed Vireo after his agent Phil Abbot (UK) messed up Ernie's bookings and took him off island yesterday two days too early than Ernie had told Phil to book. No doubt Phil is getting a good roasting now. However Pierre-Andre has no cause to relax as Chris Bell (UK) has secured five lifers on this trip (an unprecedented season for any top WP lister) and is now three away from the top. The Germans have decided to remove Yellow-headed Amazon from the Cat C National List so Pierre has dropped even with Ernie at No 1 with Chris Bell tearing up behind. Pierre is planning on twitching the Grey Catbird in Cornwall if it's still there next week to try and secure a safe lead. Corvo 2018 has certainly shaken things up. 

 White-eyed Vireo (Vincent Legrand) A fourth for Corvo and the Western Palearctic.
 Eastern Wood Pewee (Vincent Legrand) A third for Corvo and the Western Palearctic.
 Northern Parula (Peter Alfrey) At least four on the island today
Indigo Bunting. There is ringing effort this year attempting to colour ring some vagrants to trace movements and numbers across the island. An Indigo Bunting was caught and ringed today. 

Full log on the Corvo Birders Facebook Page HERE

Friday 19 October 2018

The end of the Purple Patch ?

After a period of almost constant westerlies for the last week or so the winds finally swung round to the dreaded east today. New American birds were still being discovered yesterday and also a few today but there were signs of a game change today with the arrival of European migrants- a Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, European Stonechat and Barn Swallow. The forecast consists of a high pressure becoming firmly established for the coming week which could mark the end of the recent incredible purple patch? However there is a westerly airflow into the Atlantic to the north of us which could mean birds are still being displaced into the Atlantic and could still find their way to this mid-Atlantic refuge. Time will tell.

Nonetheless the megas were still arriving yesterday with the fifth Lincoln's Sparrow for the Western Palearctic and also new yanks including a Common Yellowthroat and a Myrtle Warbler. Myrtle Warbler is a surprising rarity on Corvo and yesterday's bird was the first since 2012.

The Blue Grosbeak was still present yesterday as were the Wood Thrush, Bay-breasted Warbler, White-throated Sparrow and Philadelphia Vireo.

Today was a quieter affair with the only new american birds being a new Common Yellowthroat and probably a new Northern Parula. The Blue Grosbeak was not seen today.

Birders arriving today managed to score the Bay-breasted Warbler, Wood Thrush and Yellow-throated Vireo which luckily stayed put.

For the full daily log see the Corvo Birders Facebook Page HERE

 Lincoln's Sparrow, Village (Vincent Legrand)
 Northern Parula (Vincent Legrand)
 Garden Warbler (Vincent Legrand)
Indigo Buntings (Vincent Legrand) 
 Red-eyed Vireos, Poco D'Agua (Peter Alfrey) 
 Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Village (Peter Alfrey) 
Corvo Birders 2018 (Peter Stronach) . Nearly 90 birders on the island this year. A record year. 

Wednesday 17 October 2018

Blue Grosbeak and a flock of American Passerines!

The last two days have continued along the same theme - carnage. Yesterday in one single wooded valley (Pico/Da Ponte) there were 14 american landbirds of 10 species including 1 Yellow-throated Vireo, 1 Philadelphia Vireo, 3 Red-eyed Vireo,1 Wood Thrush,1 Swainson's Thrush, 1 Grey-cheeked Thrush, 1 Ovenbird, 3 Black-throated Green Warbler, 2 American Redstart and 1 Bay-breasted Warbler.Across the rest of the island there was an additional 11 American species including Northern Parula, Scarlet Tanager, 2 Indigo Buntings and Baltimore Oriole.

 However the rarest bird of yesterday was Lesser Whitethroat- a first for the Azores. This species which migrates south east across the Palearctic to East Africa is a national rarity in Iberia. This is presumably the furthest west this species has ever ventured. 

Today (17th) things got even better with a Blue Grosbeak- a first for the Western Palearctic found by Peter Stronach, Bob Swann, Ernie Davis and Marcin Solowiej. A species that was indeed on many twitchers radar for Corvo (unlike the Western Kingbird on Flores which was totally off anyone's radar as a WP candidate) but nonetheless still very exciting to finally fall. Other new birds included a Yellow-billed Cuckoo and up to 6 Indigo Buntings and 7 Red-eyed Vireos now. 

Blue Grosbeak (Vincent Legrand), Poco d'Agua

Yellow-throated Vireo (Vincent Legrand) Da Ponte 

Wood Thrush (Vincent Legrand) Da Ponte

Bay-breasted Warbler (Peter Alfrey) Da Ponte 

Red-eyed Vireo (Gerbrand Micheilsen), Lighthouse Valley 

For full daily logs of birds see Corvo Birders Facebook HERE

Monday 15 October 2018

Western Kingbird on Flores etc

It's been an incredible few days in the wake of Storm Callum with the hands down highlight being the first Western Kingbird for the Western Palearctic on the neighbouring island of Flores found on 13th by Thijs Valkenberg from the car! Most Corvo birders have spent the last three days trying to bridge the 12 mile stretch of drink between Corvo and Flores- unsuccessfully due to stormy seas. Seven Corvo birders finally made it off island today by plane but there has been no sign of the bird since early yesterday morning. Only five people have seen the bird with two birders on Flores even failing to see it. Whether you are a WP twitcher on the European mainland over 1000 miles away or 12 miles away on Corvo or even on the same ruddy island for some- it seems this bird has proved to give nearly everyone the slip. If it's never seen again it will be an instant alluring WP legend. 

 Western Kingbird (Thijs Valkenberg) 

The Kingbird was indeed the monarch of a significant arrival of yanks from the 13th to 15th with highlights on Corvo including White-throated Sparrow, a Dickcissel, a new American Redstart, a new Baltimore Oriole, Black-throated Green Warbler, Northern Parula, Swainson's Thrush, Scarlet Tanager, three Red-eyed Vireo, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, two Indigo Buntings and Grey-cheeked Thrush. The Wilson's Warbler was also still present today (15th) to the delight of birders arriving on the Monday flight.  

Additionally on Flores there has been Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Northern Waterthrush and Scarlet Tanager. 

White-throated Sparrow (Pawel Kolodziejczyk)

For full log of daily birds see Corvo Birders Facebook Page HERE

Friday 12 October 2018

First landfall of Nearctic landbirds on Corvo

On the one side, it's about Floridians trying to deal over the week with "Michael", a Cat 4 Hurricane hitting shore on the Eastern American seaboard - wind speed approaching 200 km/h. On the other side (Corvo/WP//EU side), however, "Michael" is not such a bad guy because it drags behind him a system of sustained westerlies that had the potential to blow across the ocean a first wave of Nearctic landbirds...And so it did!

The Corvo 2018 autumn has indeed been triggered in style over the last days with an impressive cast of goodies scored: no less than 8 Nearctic landbird individuals have been reported since the 10th, including three American Redstarts scattered on the island, the first two Red-eyed Vireos of the year in Lapa and Cantinho, an Indigo Bunting at the Lighthouse Valley and a Baltimore Oriole in the Lower Fields! The pinnacle of the week came late in the afternoon of yesterday with the discovery of Corvo's 65th Nearctic land bird species, a stunning female Wilson's Warbler in the Middle Fields - a true mega for the records, being not only a first for Azores but also the 4th WP record (1st female).

With an estimated 30+ birders now present on the island and with the wind calming down, more discoveries should be expected over the week-end so stay tuned!

Cat 4 Hurricane "Michael" hits Florida, 10 October 2018 (David Monticelli)
American Redstart (1st w male), Middle Fields, 11 October 2018 (Vincent Legrand)
Wilson's Warbler (female), 12 October 2018 (Vincent Legrand)
Nearctic species seen from 8-12 October:
Blue-winged Teal: 1 (8/10)
Pectoral Sandpiper : 1 (8/10)
Spotted Sandpiper: 1 on southern shore (8-10/10)
White-rumped Sandpiper: 1 (9/10)
Red-eyed Vireo: 2, one 1 at Lapa and one at Ribeira do Cantinho (10 & 11/10, respectively)
American Redstart: 3, one at Lighthouse Valley, one at Middle fields, one at Fojo (10, 11 & 12/10, respectively)
Wilson's Warbler: 1 at Middle Fields (12/10)
Baltimore Oriole: 1 in Lower Fields (Cape Verdian Farm) (11/10)
Indigo Bunting: 1 at Lighthouse Valley (12/10)

Wednesday 10 October 2018

The Azores Rare and Scarce Bird Report 2015

The 2015 report will be available on Corvo next week. If you would like to order a copy by post please email 

Sunday 7 October 2018

Prologue to the 2018 season…

Over the last few days, the Whatsapp group “Azores Bird News” has gone live again with news being more and more regularly reported from multiple islands as birders from all over the Western Palearctic are progressively colonising the archipelago. For the fourth year, this blog will focus on the spectacular island of Corvo, from where we will report bird news on a fairly regular basis throughout October.

Some of the usual stalwarts (Daniel, Mika, Vincent, etc) touched ground on Corvo a few days ago to find out low Nearctic activity on the island with only a few individuals reported over the last days. Not much to worry about as historical records have shown that, with the exception of a few particular years, the season usually starts at a slow pace and goes crescendo with a peak usually towards mid-month.  Not totally unrelated to this is the pattern of birder’s attendance on the island that also usually peaks from 10-25 October, providing around that period the most exhaustive coverage. 

This year, an estimated 90+ birders are scheduled to visit this tiny island during the course of the month, a quite promising tally that is somewhat unprecedented. Thus the only limiting factor to finding great birds here will be weather! At the moment, the charts are not very encouraging for the next day or two but by mid-week, the wind will start blowing from the west with stormy conditions predicted for Thursday. Having experienced Corvo over the last 13 years, my own bet here is that the first decent American land birds will have been found by the end of next week. Time will tell…

Nearctic species seen from mid-September onwards:
White-rumped Sandpiper: 2 at Caldeira & 2 at Camping site (12 & 16/09)
Buff-breasted Sandpiper: 2 at Reservoir (13/09)
Pectoral Sandpiper: 1 at Caldeira (4/10)
Spotted Sandpiper: 1 on shore west of Doctor’s house (5/10)
Northern Harrier: 1 at Caldeira (4/10)

Buff-breasted Sandpipers, Grassland around Reservoir, 13 September 2018 (Tim Collins)