Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Happy Days on The Rock

I awoke to a lovely westerly wind and overcast sky after a decent night's sleep. A downpour during the night did wake me, but things felt rare as soon as I got up in the pitch black. It wasn't until 8.15am that it was actually birdable, and I headed towards the lower fields to check the area around the airstrip out. Passerine wise, it was pretty much a no go as everything was being blown about. Arthur had another plan, checking the sheltered harbour and duly scored with a fresh in 'Semipalmated Plover'. Feeding with 3 Turnstone, it showed rather well before the heavens opened... though it didn't feel the real deal completely. And a 1st-winter GBB Gull on the airfield was half decent amongst the atlantis.
confiding plover in the harbour - the semipalmations are much less pronounced between the inner and mid toes compared to the mid and outer toes. Showed to within a metre...
After sheltering for half an hour or so, we got ourselves up to the ribeiras on the east side of the island where there was far more shelter but the rain wasn't really stopping. We were going to check out Lighthouse Valley, but with the foggy conditions and wind we last minute opted for Da Ponte... and walked down the road path towards the valley bottom. I checked a low hedge to the right and there, looking gormlessly and beady-eyed at me was a 1st-winter Indigo Bunting. Bang! The Norwegian guys also saw it, but in the crap weather it quickly headed off over the field with Arthur barely seeing it at all. But he was to have the last laugh a short while later.

So we headed into Da Ponte, doing the usual goat impressions scrambling along the ribeira. I had the usual fall and scratches to prove it, but getting amongst it down in the ribeira bottom failed to produce the goods. Meanwhile, Arthur had headed out to have another go for the bunting, and as he walked out he heard a couple of Blackbirds alarm calling as they chased a bloody Yellow-billed Cuckoo across the adjacent field... two yanks within a couple of hours. The recent westerly weather and low pressure systems were evidently producers.

I then checked Pico and had a couple of Kestrels, before walking slowly back along the road towards the higher fields and the power station. Nothing of note except the usual Canary, Chaffinch, Blackbird and Blackcap suspects. Heading down the bends below the miradouro, Arthur and I took the cut through the old town to check out the fig trees that have hosted multiple Baltimore Orioles in the past. We'd had a couple of scans of the airfield to see whether Saturday's Laughing Gull was roosting there, and then all of a sudden I got an eyeful of a rather large, long-tailed bird heading in from the east over the town... and I knew exactly what I was onto with rather a lot of undesirable expletives. I must admit that I lost myself in the moment, just shouting and yelping a load of obscenities while realising that I'd found THE White-tailed Tropicbird that I was totally gutted about dipping on the neighbouring island of Flores yesterday and the day before. Get the f**k in. An adult with a rather obvious yellowish wash to its tail and breast sides, as it did on Flores, attempted to land on some of the buildings in the old town of Vila Nova do Corvo. It did a few circuits of the town, entertaining us brilliantly, before heading off around the east side of the island. Let's see what happens tomorrow...

The tropicbird attempted to land in the old town, fluttering about just a few inches above the buildings. One lost bird.

And for those who know Corvo... take off in a westerly direction!

So the rest of the day was spent just remembering the moment but also working hard around the lower fields. The Semipalmated Plover was on a puddle by the airport terminal early evening, a Little Egret was on rocks west of the windmill while a seawatch in the evening produced 200 or so Great Shearwaters - much commoner than in previous years - in amongst the numerous Cory's Shearwaters.
And then it was back to the nightly occurrence of finding young Cory's Shearwaters on the streets on the way back from the restaurant. A lot of Cory's are leaving their burrows for the first time, and become dazzled and disoriented by the street lights in the town. We pick them up, then take them to the harbour or give them to the SPEA guys. For such a graceful bird at sea, they're not half lumps on land - one flying along the street today managed to whack itself against a streetlight and tumble to the floor! it was ok by the way.
Celebratory meal. Cold sausages with rice - washed down with a little chili sauce and Sagres to take the taste away.

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