So Ophelia brought Blackburnian Warbler and Yellow-throated Vireo to Corvo and then continued its course to the UK and delivered the goods to Beddington too. Under blood red skies from the Sahara sand her treasures were delivered in the form of a few migrant moths.
Sepia coloured skies caused by Sahara sand whipped up into the Ophelia vortex
What a hectic couple of days! We didn't expect Hurricane Ophelia to bring in American vagrants as it was moving up from West Africa (it's the furthest east a Hurricane has been in the North Atlantic since 1980!). However the intense disturbance dragged across a moderate westerly airflow from the US and with it.... came the Megas!
It had already started on Friday with the Blackpoll Warbler and by Saturday 14th things started to escalate fast sending birders in all directions. By the end of Saturday. new birds found included a Black-throated Green Warbler at the Lighthouse Valley, a Northern Waterthrush in Tennessee Valley, a Common Yellowthroat at the rubbish dump, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo (same bird from last week?), 2 Blackpoll Warblers, a Scarlet Tanager coming in off the sea, 5 Red-eyed Vireos, an Upland Sandpiper and White-rumped, Semipalmated and Spotted Sandpipers were also in the game from previous days.
Frustratingly an American Sparrow sp. was seen on the Caldera road, the description suggesting something like a Vesper Sparrow but the bird was not seen again. Further frustration was generated by the mobility of the fresh in vagrants. Some birders failed to connect with any new species at all. The Big Year WP crew spent the whole day running around after species that quickly moved on- ending the day with no new ticks despite several being on offer as they reach for the 750 species in a year for the WP- a good milestone for their world record.
Sunday 15th was a day for the history books but proved to be even more frustrating than the day before with mobile mega birds being found on treacherous mountain slopes.
At 9:50am Mika Brunn was looking for the Northern Waterthrush in Tennessee Valley when instead he found a first for the Azores and a 5th for the WP- a Blackburnian Warbler. Chaos quickly ensued and birders from all corners of the island attempted to make their way to the spot- a steep side of the Corvo volcano, of low scrub where birds often first arrive and move over the top to the valleys on the east side of the island. It was two hours until the bird was re-located and still several birders didn't connect with it.
Blackburnian Warbler (Vincent Legrand). More pics HERE
Then at 1.15pm with several birders still un-connected with the Blackburnian, Radek Gwozdz found a stunning Yellow-throated Vireo further up the Tennessee valley. Some birders deserted the Blackburnian to go for the Vireo and ended up missing both birds! The Vireo was last seen around 2pm - it had made it's way to the cliff-top Junipers, ready to move off to the Valleys.
Yellow-throated Vireo (Radek Gwozdz). More pics HERE
During the mayhem of twitching the megas, a few other birds were seen (but needless to say with bird finders on the chase, presumably other birds went un-found) with a Greater Yellowlegs briefly at the reservoir, two Semipalmated Sandpipers, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, 2 Red-eyed Vireo, 1-2 Common Yellowthroats and 2 Blackpoll Warbler.
New birds on the neighbouring island of Flores included an Osprey (on Saturday), Northern Waterthrush, Surf Scoter and Rose-breasted Grosbeak, found by the small numbers of birders on there- a reminder of the potential of the larger island of Flores if only there were the 200 birders of so needed to match the Corvo effort and cover the larger area.
With Ophelia continuing to drag in westerlies for the next few days- what will tomorrow bring??
I'm back home now and David will be taking over the Corvo story for 2017 HERE
Yesterday was relatively quiet on the Rock with the main new arrival being 2 Dotterel at the Reservoir. Remaining birds included 2 Blue-winged Teal, 1 Ring-necked Duck, 3 Little Stint, 2 Lesser Yellowlegs, 1 Pectoral Sandpiper, 1 White-rumped Sandpiper and 5 Glossy Ibis in the caldera with the Rough-legged Hawk/ Buzzard seen over the reservoir, a Red-eyed Vireo at Do Vinte, a Willow Warbler at Tennessee Valley and the Semipalmated Sandpiper still at the old harbour and presumably the same bird seen at the reservoir.
Today saw a complete change in the weather from clear skies and temperatures approaching 30 C to heavy rain and a brisk south west breeze. Conditions are set to deteriorate further (or rather improve from a birding perspective) as the weekend progresses as Hurricane Ophelia swings past the Azores by Sunday. The source of the system is East / Central Atlantic so the expectation for American vagrants is not particularly high but the possibility of good sea watching is. In the past, tropical species such as White-tailed Tropicbird, Magnificent Frigatebird and Trindade Petrel have been recorded in the autumn on Corvo and Flores so tropical species are possible.
With the increasing winds today, the sea watching immediately improved with 1 Fea's-type Petrel, 5 Sooty Shearwater, several Great Shearwaters, 1 Manx Shearwater, 1 Arctic Skua, 1 Ring-necked Duck past the windmills and a Leach's Petrel was taken into care.
Even more encouraging there was a small arrival of new american vagrants headlined by a Blackpoll Warbler in tamarisks near the village, a presumed American Great White Egret ,Spotted Sandpiper and 2 White-rumped Sandpipers.
Rarer still for Corvo, a Curlew Sandpiper was at the Old harbour- one of the few island records.
Another very quiet day on Corvo with the only new birds being a Moorhen and 3 Teal.
Twenty birders went to Flores to look for yesterday's Belted Kingfisher but they dipped. On the journey there were some good views of Common Dolphin and very poor views of a band-rumped/Leach's Petrel.
Some epic drone video of birders on Corvo (Vincent Legrand)
A relatively quiet day on the rock in unseasonal weather with temperatures around 30 C. Bird of the day from a regional perspective was a Pied Flycatcher- the third record for the Azores. Other new migrants included a Ruff and a Willow Warbler but with westerly winds picking up as the day progressed, hopes are building for a return of migrants coming from the opposite direction.
Remaining birds on the island included one of the 'Rough-legged Hawks', 2 Lesser Yellowlegs, 1 Semipalmated Sandpiper, 5 Glossy Ibis, 2 Wilson's Snipes, 1 Yellow-billed Cuckoo, 1 Red-eyed Vireo, 2 Blue-winged Teal, 1 Ring-necked Duck and the flock of hybrid Mallard x Black Duck (12 birds today).
The Belted Kingfisher was relocated on the neighbouring island of Flores so tomorrow half of the island's birders are off twitching.
Rough-legged Hawk/Buzzard from early October (Peter Stronach).