Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Azores day 5 - shrike it lucky

The fog was still around this morning, but not as bad as yesterday. So I headed up to the far end of the island and went solo into Lighthouse Valley - the theatre of dreams with records of Golden-winged and Prairie Warbler amongst others. There was, alas, nothing there today amongst the Blackcaps, Canaries, Blackbirds and Chaffinches.

The other guys managed to locate the Chimney Swift from the whale watching hut between Lighthouse Valley and Cantinho but by the time I got there, the fog had closed in and there was no joy. So Jerome and I headed down the middle road, stopping at Poco d'Agua for a bit where I was able to see my first Redpoll on the Azores. Looked pretty standard to be honest. And then I headed up to Pico where, despite a fair bit of effort, I saw nothing. Heading out of Pico though, the Germans were trying to radio through something - in the end, I deciphered that there was a Northern Oriole in Poco d'Agua and they confirmed this. So off I went, getting Jerome in the process.

Needless to say, we both arrived by the road and the bird had flown a minute or so previously. So I then asked 'was it a bright individual?' to which Jurgen showed me a shot on his camera... it was not a bloody Northern Oriole, but the Northern Shrike - an absolute crippler of a bird, a species I'd never previously seen in the US and something I thought I'd be going into the caldeirao to see. I hit the roof, with the cock up in communication. A nervous half hour or so, in wind and poor visibility, was testing but in the end, the sun shone through and the bird duly performed.
1st-winter Northern Shrike (race borealis), Poco d'Agua, Corvo 29th October 2014
Despite being a first-winter, the bird was really vocal - singing continually at times, perched low in the hydrangeas. Pale lores, heavy barring and overall dusky tones to the head and nape were really obvious. I watched the bird for an hour or so, before it headed down the valley and into the gloom. Once again, coming late to Corvo had paid off with the best bird of the season still lingering.

Heading back down to the village, I saw a couple of Collared Doves in the higher fields - a new bird for me here, as the species wasn't about on the island until this year. A stroll around the middle fields late on produced a Tree Pipit (a major bird here) courtesy of Jerome and a perplexing falcon that headed fast over late on has meant a later than expected night.

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