Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Full Metal Ribeira

We can't find it! The new bird that is. We're working really hard out there but it just isn't paying off! Me and Simon did, once again, Cantinho and Cancelas real hard today. Inside, outside, everywhere! The American Redstart is still there and easy to see in the same spot, but nothing else. Continued to da Ponte where we did the lower parts for two hours or so late afternoon before heading back towards the village since it began to rain. That place da Ponte is really hot and I think we're going back there tomorrow to do a full morning hit. There's gotta be something in there as well! Did some of the higher fields on the way back. A few Turnstones and a Wheatear were around, the latter probably the same bird as Pedro saw a few days ago? In the village we had a quick cup of coffee at the restaurant and then checked the airfield and beaches before heading home during a massive rain shower. Saw the usual Turnstones and Common Terns and the Bar-tailed Godwit is still around. Smart as I am I forgot my bag at the beach and got an extra 2 km walk in the evening. Nice one!

Lava rocks outside the shore south of the airport.

September is officially over in a few hours. This first part of the trip was the big experiment part. Unfortunately I didn't have the winds with me. If I'd had that I probably would have seen more Yanks. A small low pressure system moving east a bit north of the Azores on the 17th-18th coincided well with the appearence of a Spotted Sandpiper in the beach on the 18th. And the system that moved through straight on us during the last days apparently brought at least an American Redstart and a Bobolink (and hopefully more!). The birds appeared to move in front of the system as they both appeared before the low pressure hit the islands.

Conclusion? September is well worth a go out here! But as always it's a big game with the winds. If you get the right ones, the birds will come, probably including a pretty different setup of species compared to what you get in late October, American Redstart for example. I was pretty unlucky during my two September weeks out here. Most of the time winds were easterly due to a massive high pressure that parked over the Azores. But when the good winds finally came, so did the American Redstart! Hopefully more people will try this the coming years and hopefully they will get better winds than I did. There is a massive migration on the other side of the Atlantic during September as well so give this a try will ya!

Tomorrow it's October and now we know what can happen - ANYTHING!


Grey Heron 1 juvenile, Bar-tailed Godwit 1 adult female, Northern Wheatear 1, American Redstart 1 (juvenile?) female

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hard days work in rain!

I take back that Simon's a robot. He is very, very human! We did a good try up in Cantinho and Cancelas today, a nine hour hit but only found the American Redstart inbetween the rain showers. That bird's really active, never sitting still and calling a lot so quite easy to see actually. After doing a few more places up there we got a lift down to the village with Pedro, the very nice local guy who knows some birds. Down in the village we did the lower fields are for two hours or so, but without finding anything. New day tomorrow, we have to find a new bird now!

A bit better today...


American Redstart 1 (juvenile?) female, Grey Heron 1 juvenile

A second for Corvo + American Red still in

Weather today was horrible, just f*ckin terrible! The first five-six hours of birding it was raining most of the time - heavy! I saw the American Redstart again but pretty soon gave up and headed back since I was soaked and activity was lousy. About halfway back the raining sopped and it was sunny! Ten minutes later I met Mani and Simon coming in the pickup, but Peter never came out due to airplane problems. Went tosaz Cancelas and found the Redstart for Simon within an hour or two - great start for him!

Blurry American Redstart

Cancelas after it rained... I usually walk here!

Simon's a nice guy and I'm pretty sure he's a robot, cause the speed he's got in his legs (despite only eating an apple during the whole day!) is just crazy! Got back pretty late and couldn't find a place to eat to begin. The place at the windmill/airport was having a big event for Mani's party since he's running for mayor on Corvo again. But we got let in a back door and got food pretty soon, and didn't have to pay for it since Mani's party was paying! Great! Went in to the pub for a quick coffee and when we were gonna leave they refused to take our money - everything was free here as well! So we got stuck a few hours drinking beer... and Simon is actually still there having beers since he seems to know half the people in the village! Anyway, tomorrow we're going up there again to do some seriouse damage in the ribeiras. More birds are here for sure since winds have been really good, now we just gotta find them!

Oh yeah, the second for Corvo was a female-type Pintail that flew over our heads when we were walking in the fields on the eastern side. Probably an American vagrant since they're common in The States as well.

American Redstart 1 (juvenile?) female, Pintali 1 female-type, Quail 1, Grey Heron 1 juvenile

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Got another one!

Took up birding today where I quit yesterday at Ribeira do Poço de Agua. Weather was good for birding with thin clouds keeping the sun away. Only 30 seconds after Mani dropped me off I saw something yellow sitting in the top of a hedge - Bobolink! Got great views of the bird for a few minutes before a Chaffinch chased it away. This is only about 300 metres from where I had a possible Bobolink a few days ago so maybe it's been around for a few days?

These creatures are real beauties!

The next ten hours I didn't see shit despite birding Ribeira da Poço de Agua, upper parts of Fojo, a part of Pico, a part of Ribeira da Ponte and whole Ribeira da Lapa. But more birds are out there for sure! Tomorrow Simon Buckell and Peter Alfrey will arrive to the island and help me find them.


Bobolink 1

Saturday, September 26, 2009

American Redstart!

Okay, pretty much to write about today, but I'll try to keep it short. Had decided to go to the Caldeira this morning since weather was going to be good and I hadn't been there for a while (and probably wouldn't go there for a few days from today since winds are looking promising for new landbirds to arrive). But it was looking very foggy up there when it became light so I went for plan B instead - the lighthouse. But when we got up there the fog was lying really low, covereing pretty much all ov the medium road to, so Mani took me down the lower road and dropped me off at Ribeira do Cantinho instead since there wasn't any fog down there. Birded Cantinho and Cancelas for a few hours without seeing anything special. Took my scope and bag and walked back from Cantinho to Cancelas (or Ribeira da Tebaiba that the lower part of it is called). There I dropped of my stuff and started to walk, but soon realized how stupid it would be not to bring the bag (with my camera in it) so I grabbed the bag and walked up to the hotspot maybe 200 m up in the ribeira from the road. After watching some Chaffinches and Blackcaps I started pisching as usual to get the rest of the birds out in the open. Soon a "Blackcap" flew over me, or was it a Blackcap...? Something didn't feel right so I lifted my bins and tried to find the bird. Soon got onto a rather round, plain grey head sticking out of the leaves. What's this!? My pulse was rising as I also noted some yellow on the flank. Seconds later the bird turned and showed its tail - BONER! AMERICAN REDSTART! Continued pisching and kept my eyes on the bird as I dug out my camera from my backpack. The bird moved into somewhat more open space and called a few times. After some fast adjustments of the settings I managed to get a few documentation shots of the bird. Unfortunately it soon flew back into the dense canopy and despite spending more than an hour on the site waiting, pisching and taping I couldn't find it again. A minute was all I got. Really hope I see it again!

Female American Redstart. Juvenile I guess?

The bird admiring its beautiful tail!

I moved on towards Fojo very inspired to find new stuff. Birded intensely until 16:30 when the rain and wind was getting a little bit to rough for me, so I started walking back towards the village. Soon got picked up by a nice farmer who actually knew some birds! And English! He told me he had seen a Wheatear in the Caldeira yesterday, a Ringed Plover in a field high up on the slopes a week ago and some Great Shearwaters from the ferry to Flores a few days ago. Got dropped of near the guesthouse and decided to the the usual tour around the airfiled before I quit for the day. The Bar-tailed Godwit was however the only bird of interest.

A rainy landscape...

Weather is looking really interesting for the coming days with a nice lowpressure coming in from The States, hopefully bringing some good birds out here!



And some high altitude jet streams:

I got a comment on the duck I saw yesterday that it might actually be a Redhead due to the head shape and wing pattern. The identification as a Common Pochard was based on the head shape and bill pattern which I think feels very much like a Common Pochard. Maybe the picture I posted yesterday gave a somewhat more Redheadish profile? I don't have any experience of Redhead at all though. Hopefully the bird ended up in the Caldeira yesterday so I can have better views of it some day. Here are some more pictures of the bird, comments are very welcome!


AMERICAN REDSTART 1 (juvenile?) female, Bar-tailed Godwit 1 adult female, Grey Heron 1 juvenile

Friday, September 25, 2009

New species for Corvo again!

Decided to bird around the village today, which turned out to be a wise decision. Rather strong winds from the east were blowing so I decided to try a little seawatching. Went up the small lighthouse next to the airport and sat down behind it. Loads of Cory's were moving in the wind and within a minute I had spotted my first Great Shearwater for the day. An hour and 15 minutes later I had counted 24 of them and since all shearwaters were flying further out I left and checked the shoreline instead. Not much to see at all, only saw the Bar-tailed Godwit, a Sanderling and five Turnstones. I wonder where the Turnstones are some days! Here are about 30 around so they must be hiding somewhere else.

Cory's Shearwater

After checking the beach I went up to the rubbish dump to have a look at the gulls and it was actually quite nice up there today. Something like 50-100 gulls were around and easy to check. Found three Lesser Black-backed and two Greater Black-backed Gulls among the Yellow-legged. Ring-billed Gull in a month or two? When I was on my way to check around the village for landbirds I suddenly saw a big grey wall coming towards me from Flores - RAIN! Quickly packed my bag and walked back to the guesthouse. Got a little wet but not very much. The rain then continued for four hours so I had time to have lunch, take a nap and hang around the Internet for a while.

Adult Lesser Black-backed Gull

2cy Lesser Black-backed Gull (I think)

Juvenile brownie and Great Black-backed Gull

2cy Great Black-backed Gull
When the rain stopped I decided to have an early evening walk around the airfield. Took a short scan over the sea from behind the lighthouse again and loads of Cory's were moving since the wind had increased. When I lifted my eye from my scope I saw something coming flying towards me from west - A DUCK!!! Every duck out here is a good duck and this was the first time I saw one outside the crater. As the bird was going to fly by me at sea I had to make a fast decision - scope or camera? Within half a second or so I had started to change the settings on the camera and soon I was taking poor pictures of the bird in flight. Through the camera I could see it was a male Pochard type, interesting! When the bird flew out of camera range I grabbed my scope and couldn't see anything that suggested it wasn't a Pochard. When checking the pictures afterwards I could confirm the identification. This was the first record for Corvo and the first record since 2005 on the Azores, so quite a good bird!

Male Common Pochard

Thursday, September 24, 2009

New Corvo-tick!

Today started with a 2cy Great Black-backed Gull at the rubbish dump, saw it from the guesthouse while waiting for Manuel. Spent 7 hours up on the east side birding Ribeira do Poco de Agua, Fojo and the ribeira between Pico and Poco de Agua, don't know its name. Had a little moment of excitement early afternoon as I saw a medium sized finch flying north. Light conditions were lousy and the bird was rather distant but it appeared to have an overall rather brown-yellowish colour and contrasting head pattern. Bobolink was what popped into my mind when I saw it. Unfortunately the bird flew far north so I'll just have to forget that one. Great to have a little moment of excitement though!

Me working in Fojo

Weather was hot today again, due to high pressures that have parked over the Atlantic down here. Some light rain fell during the day and even a few more intense showers. Manuel took some tourists to the Caldeira and from the road he saw the Great Egret in the Caldeira, or as he said it "I saw the big white one with the long neck". The bird appeared first on the island in October last year if I haven't mentioned that before.

After a brief stop at the guesthouse changing clothes I did the beach and airfield as usual. One of the first birds I found was a new Corvo species for me, a juvenile Red Knot. Apart from that the Spotted Sand was still at the beach and the Bar-tailed Godwit on the airfield. Due to a pretty heavy shower I had to shelter in the pubilc toilets down at the beach for 15 minutes or so. Had pretty good view over the ocean from there but couldn't find anything but Cory's, Yellow-legged Gulls, Common Terns and a bunch of dolphins. I've seen dolphins three or four times out here so far, but don't know what species they are yet.

Juvenile Red Knot

Spotted Sandpiper 1 1cy, Bar-tailed Godwit 1 adult female, Red Knot 1 1cy, Great Black-backed Gull 1 2cy

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Full Metal Birding again!

After resting yesterday afternoon I had new energy to work some wooded places today again. Weather was more Azorish today with clouds and light rain the first half of the day. This made temperature stay pretty low which in turn made birding much more enjoyable! Worked hard in Ribeira da Ponte and Pico until late afternoon. Loads of birds were active all the time, totally unlike the previous hot days. But the best bird I saw up there was one of the Grey Herons from Caldeirão that was out sightseeing.

This is what a juvenile atlantis looks like, a real piece of chocolate pudding!

Checked the harbour, airfield and beach area during early evening. The Bar-tailed Godwit was still around but apart from that the most interesting was the usual Turnstones and Common Terns.
Mani (Manuel, my host) down at the beach, probably checking for girls?

Ola Elleström asked me which the common birds here are. Sorry for not telling earlier! Here are the breeding species of the island as far as I know:
  • Cory's Shearwater (very common, see and hear loads of them every day)
  • Manx Shearwater (probably rare, found one dead so far)
  • Little Shearwater (probably rare, not seen yet)
  • Bulwer's Petrel (probably rare, not seen yet)
  • Band-rumped Storm-petrel (probably rare, not seen yet)
  • Quail (pretty common I think but have stopped singing now, heard a few the first days)
  • Common Snipe (scarce in Caldeirão, see 5-10 on every visit there)
  • Woodcock (scarce, see about 1 daily)
  • Yellow-legged Gull (common, see about 100 daily)
  • Common Tern (common, see about 30 daily)
  • Roseate Tern (rare, not seen yet,guess they've departed south for winter)
  • Feral Pigeon (unfortunately common, see about 100 daily)
  • Wood Pigeon (pretty scarce, see 5-10 daily)
  • Grey Wagtail (common, se 10's daily)
  • Blackbird (common, see about 100 daily)
  • Blackcap (very common, see about 100 daily)
  • Starling (very common, see about 100 daily)
  • House Sparrow (common in the village where you see 100's)
  • Chaffinch (very common, see 100's daily)
  • Atlantic Canary (very common, see 100's daily)
  • Goldfinch (scarce, see about 1 daily)

Apart from these I also see a few Ruddy Turnstones every time I go to check the beach area, not sure whether they breed or not though. I also know Northern Wheatear has bred at least once. On a normal day of 8 hours birding in the ribeiras I see about 10-12 species, similar to Falsterbo or Ottenby!
Grey Heron 1 juvenile, Bar-tailed Godwit 1 adult female

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Calm day

Got a somewhat odd lift up today, sitting back on a 4-wheel motorcycle with my tripod over my shoulder. Wish someone had taken a picture of it! Did the lower parts of Cantinho, Cancelas and some of Fojo today before I went back pretty early in the afternoon, as usul without finding anything. The low pressures are moving to far north over the Atlantic, PLEASE give me a direct hit down here!

What's cookin' good lookin'?

Feeling pretty thick in nose and throat and overall very tired I had a two hour powernap in the afternoon and skipped evening birding. Is that what happens when you bird hard for 17 days in a row? Anyway, new day tomorrow!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Shitty day!

Broken Coolpix, broken memory card for my 50D, broken trousers, soar feat, closed store and absolutely no American birds at all. That's pretty much what today's been about.

Once again a day with good, boring, to hot weather. Manuel drove me to the end of the "middle" road today. I walked out to the lighthouse to check it out. Not very much to see, one of the smallest lighthoueses I've ever seen. Birded the nearby area and a few small ribeiras as I slowly was moving back towards the village. Birded the upper parts of Cantinho and Cancelas for quite a few hours but found nada. It's really hard work up there these days, the heat and humidity makes you sweat like crazy when walking up and down in the rough terrain. Up there my camera once again (has happened twice before) got fucked up and said the memory card was corrupt so I couldn't use it for the rest of the day. Gonna send an email to the boys who sold it to me and get them to send a new card out here!

The small lighthouse in the northeast part of the island. Note that earth is round (for those of you who missed that!).

Had a little bit of luck though and got a ride back down to the village. Very much needed since my feet were hearting a lot. When I got down there I went to the shop that of course had closed for the day. Made a short visit to the beach and airfield but nothing of interest today. When I got back to the guesthouse I discovered that my trousers were broken, I had ripped up a big hole and showed half my ass all day. Borrowed neadle and thread from Manuels wife and got them back in decent shape after an hour or so.

Had an ok dinner at one of the restaurants and when I got home I discovered that the zoom button on my coolpix had died. Maybe not very surprising since the camera is soon seven years old, but still very annoying and very bad timing!

Jan Kåre left the island today for a few days on Sao Miguel before he goes back to Norway. So now I'm the only birder in the island which of course is a big responsibility. Gonna try the lower parts of Cantinho, Cancelas and Fojo tomorrow I think! If I get up there... Manuel is on Faial today and tomorrow so I hope I'll be able to catch a ride with one of the farmers tomorrow morning. Ciao!

Lesser black-backed gull 1 adult

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Nice day in the crater

Good weather met us as we woke up today, which is necessary if you're going to the crater lakes. Up there the crater was filled with beautiful fog that soon disappeared after the sun came up. The best bird in the crater was a juvenile Least Sandpiper. Other waders were two Pecs, three White-rumps and the usual Common Snipes. The Great Egret was of course also there.

Jan Kåre Ness viewing the crater.

Waders paradise!

American Great Egret in flight

White-rumped Sandpiper

Juvenile Pec

Juvenile Least Sand

The two Ring-necked Ducks where still there and we also got a little better views of the Mallard flock today. There were 28 birds in total of which two look like Black Duck hybrids. Also checked out a corpse I scoped out on my last visit and it turned out to be a Manx Shearwater, possibly a breeding species on the island?

Black Duck hybrid
Very dead Manx Shearwater

We climbed the slope west of the lakes to see what was on the other side of the edge. Not much! Just very steep cliffs pretty much. On the way back I checked Ribeira da Lapa (or similar), the one closest to the village. Pretty nice one, easy to check.
Semi-interesting winds are moving over the Atlantic today and tomorrow. North of the Azores as usual but maybe it will bring one or two new birds.

American Great Egret 1, Ring-necked Duck 2, Mallard 26, Mallard x American Black Duck 2, Least Sandpiper 1 1cy, Pectoral Sandpiper 2 1cy, White-rumped Sandpiper 3, Common Snipe 5, Manx Shearwater 1 dead

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Another day on the east side

This morning the weather was better then yesterday, so I went up to the valleys on the east side again. Birded Ribeira da Poso de Agua and the upper parts of Fojo until the heat got to strong early afternoon. Then I needed to go someplace cooler and decided to give Ribeira da Ponte another try. That Ribeira is quite deep and thereby shaded and rather cool. Rare birds however were absent there as well. After eight hours of birding I lifted back with one of the farmers that happened to pass by as usual and had a short siesta at the guesthouse. It's amazing how helpful and kind people are out here. So far I've only been denied lift/ignored once - compare that to hitching in the rest of Europe!

One of the forrested areas on the east side

Inside Ribeira da Ponte

When I'd had my much needed siesta I went out again, this time to check the beach and the airfield. More Common Terns (50) and Turnstones (25) than the previous days was nice and yesterdays Spotted Sand and Bar-tailed Godwit were still around, as were a Whimbrel and two Sanderlings.

Love is in the air... Clouded Yellows

Adult Common Tern

The Spotted Sandpiper in flight

Moray eel for Larsa

Jan Kåre spent today on Flores driving around and checking the good areas, unfortunately without finding anything rare. Tomorrow is his last full day on Corvo and we'll go up to the Caldeira if the weather allows us. Hope some new waders have arrived!
Spotted Sandpiper 1 1cy, Bar-tailed Godwit 1 ad female, Whimbrel 1, Ruddy Turnstone 25, Sanderling 2, Woodcock 2, Common Tern
50, Goldfinch 1

Friday, September 18, 2009

New species for Corvo!

Hôla! Me and Jan Kåre just got back from the restaurant where we ate the fish dish Bacalau, which turned out to be exactly the same as Norwegian dry fish, a dish served in Norway according to Jan Kåre. It was rather dry and very salt, but still tasty!

The birding day today began a bit different than usual. Since the oldest man on the island (96 years!) had died, Manuel had to go to his funeral this morning and couldn't act driver. Therefore I hitched up to the end of the middle road (via the nice drivers eight cows that we fed first). Down in the village the weather was pretty good with clouds hanging pretty low so Jan Kåre stayed down here. And when I got up on somewhat higher altitude it was REALLY foggy! It was so dense it was even raining a little - welcome to the Azores! If it had stayed that way it would have been ok, but when we reached the end of the road the skies opened and it rained. A lot! We sat in the car doing our best to have a conservation, me speaking English and he Portugese. But after half an hour my driver got enough and we drove back into the village, where it still was dry. So I decided to bird the village today instead, just like Jan Kåre. When I got down to the harbour I heard a distant, familiar call from the sky and soon found a godwit flying high up in the sky. Saw it good though and soon identified it as a Bar-tailed Godwit - a new species for Corvo!

Adult female Bar-tailed Godwit

When I got up to the little lighthouse Jan Kåre joined me and we did a short seawatch together which resulted in two Great Shearwaters among all the Cory's, a lifer for Jan Kåre! Continued to the airstrip where the Bar-tailed Godwit, an adult female, was walking around eating. When we had rounded the airstrip and got to the small beach I heard a distant Common/Spotted Sandpiper and soon saw the bird flying away. It landed on some lava rocks further away and when we got closer we saw it was a nice juvenile Spotted Sandpiper. The winds did bring something! When we turned around after watching the Sandpiper a juvenile Great Black-backed Gull was standing behind us, a rather scarce bird on the Azores.

Juvenile Spotted Sandpiper

Juvenile Great Black-backed Gull

The following six hours or so the birding was pretty quiet with a Goldfinch and an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull as highlights while I was checking fields, gardens, fig trees etc. I ended the day with an hours seawatching which gave another four Great Shearwaters among the Cory's gathering for the evening in big flocks offshore. Tomorrow the weather will hopefully be a bit better (it's clear outside now) so I can continue checking the valleys while Jan Kåre is on his day trip to Flores. Cheers!
Spotted Sandpiper 1 1cy, Bar-tailed Godwit 1 ad female, Ruddy Turnstone 6, Sanderling 2, Great Black-backed Gull 1 1cy, Lesser Black-backed Gull 1 adult, Goldfinch 1