Thursday, 27 October 2011

Another Day Way Out West

With the sun shining and a fine day, I'll start with the Corvo signature shot - the caldeirao; a mind-blowingly impressive volcanic crater lake. Arthur did the honours today and went and checked down in the bottom where there was a Great Egret (Nearctic race egretta), a White-rumped Sandpiper and a Black Duck of sorts. I headed off to the reservoir with the Norwegians and, though not quite as grim on the feet as the boggy mire in the caldeirao, the steep climb burned a few calories off. A few Turnstone busily feeding but no yank wader action. 25 Snow Buntings grubbing around the grassy slopes were a long overdue addition to my Azores list; nominate race birds that presumably emanate from Greenland or further west.

With the view to Flores pretty clear, we were chilling out by the reservoir itself when a pipit came into view. It was evidently going to be an American Buff-bellied Pipit - presumably a longstaying bird that has been around most of the month - and it then proved rather skittish as it played cat and mouse with us down the grassy slope. Remarkably, this one was the first I'd seen since one on Tresco, Scilly, in 1996 so I was pretty chuffed.
Yankee BBP
I headed down the grassy slopes and entered the top of Ribeira da Lapa; quite an open valley that is first landfall to birds coming in from the west and down the reservoir's grassy slopes. There wasn't much about this time amongst the local stuff. Like yesterday I managed a nice tumble as I scrambled down the valley, grazing myself in the process. I was meant to be meeting Arthur at midday near Da Ponte, but my text message to him about the pipit was delayed and he had to go back up to the reservoir to find it - which he did.

The same as yesterday, I went down to the bottom on Ribeira da Ponte. Much more activity in the fine weather, but no yanks. So after a bit of lunch and pishing, I went back up the track and was distracted by a familiar, yet unfamiliar, zitting. Right there, in the same place, was the Indigo Bunting I'd found yesterday and the Norwegians were there to see it but Arthur was nowhere in sight.
Indigo Bunting at Ribeira da Ponte - typically beady-eyed
And then, to make things even more of a yank fest, Vegard picked up a Chimney Swift distantly looking up towards the middle of the island. Happy days. Arthur finally made it down from the reservoir, and luckily the swift was still lingering between Da Ponte and Pico. The Indigo Bunting was less straightforward, but after an hour or so I picked it up again and Arthur got it this time. One elusive lil' mofo.
Chimney Swift... distantly
So we trudged on, rather shattered, down the lower road without having made our mind up which valley we were going to do - Cancelas, Fojo, Cantinho or Do Vinte? Anyway, to cut a long story short we just were about to round the corner before dropping down to the children's play area at Fojo and there in front of us flicking itself over the road was a Summer Tanager... evidently the bird from a couple of days ago that had relocated itself half a mile or so south of its original spot. Brilliant stuff, and totally unexpected. A Great Egret - presumably the bird from the crater - flew over the fields near Fojo and there was also a Cattle Egret in the same area.

Three of us had a glance into Fojo late afternoon/early evening but it failed to produce. The walk back was pretty birdless, and we managed to flag a lift down at the higher fields to take us back down to Vila Nova do Corvo as the light started to fade. Another quality day, with a month of walking in my normal life compacted into the one day. The winds have swung southerly so it's looking for what's already here...

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