Sunday, 4 November 2012

Corvo debrief - interested in late October 2013?

Now firmly back in London, with the birding and overall scene feeling rather wintery (including the Christmas range starting to creep into the local Tesco), Corvo feels like a distant memory. I did a quick trip tally for the last week and the total of 121 individuals of 15 American species was pretty neat - 2 Pied-billed Grebes, 2 Double-crested Cormorants, 6 American Wigeon, a Green-winged Teal, 2 Ring-necked Ducks, a Surf Scoter, a Semi-p Sandpiper, 81 White-rumped Sandpipers, 18 Semi-p Plovers, 2 Lesser Yellowlegs, a Bonaparte's Gull, a Ring-billed Gull, a Mourning Dove, an American Robin and a Lincoln's Sparrow (as well as a Monarch butterfly).
Lincoln's Sparrow, middle fields 31st October 2012; a different individual to that earlier in the season (based on head pattern, tertials and mantle streaking)
With the autumn being so good there this year, there has been quite a lot of people thinking about going next year and even while I was there last week, Katt was already fielding enquiries from newbies for next year at the Comodoro.
Corvo from the plane - last birders to leave on 2nd November 2012
So, pause for a moment and think about this... what do you want from your holiday to Corvo?
1. A twitchathon of American landbirds
2. Finding some American landbirds for yourself with few birders

If it's the latter, come late. There is so much potential late on in the season - just look at Peter Alfrey's dates of 19th October to 2nd November in 2005 that put the place on the map. The 2006-2008 visiting birders also came late October - discovering 2 Black-throated Blue Warblers and a Black-throated Green Warbler amongst other things. Late October this year there were 4 of us, and last year just 4 birders too (compared to 30+ during the peak weeks). Scant coverage indeed, and last year when there were westerly winds the birds that we found were just the tip of the iceberg. I've now done this last week of October 4 years in a row, and I'll be back again next year.
Lighthouse Valley - Prairie, Golden-winged, Yellow, Black-and-White and Yellow-rumped Warblers recorded here in October 2012
The last 2 years, birding with my Dutch buddy Arthur Geilvoet, we've found White-tailed Tropicbird, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Common Yellowthroat, Lincoln's Sparrow and Indigo Bunting. Add to this seeing 'leftover' Double-crested Cormorant, Rough-legged Hawk, Mourning Dove, another Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Northern Flicker, Chimney Swift, Buff-bellied Pipit, American Robin, Black-and White Warbler, Northern Parula, Summer Tanager and a further Indigo Bunting  - not a bad haul for 4 trips 'out of season'.
White-tailed Tropicbird, Vila Nova October 2011
To get to Corvo, you usually travel via Sao Miguel, Terceira (or Flores too) with highlights at this time of year having included Great Blue Heron, 2 Double-crested Cormorants, Wood Duck, a flock of 19 Blue-winged Teals and American Black Tern as well as innumerable yank waders in the quarry at Cabo da Praia.
Indigo Bunting, airfield October 2010
The Corvo scene is presumably a little like the Scilly scene in the early days, and it is a close knit place. Regular visitors have first dabs on accommodations, which is at a real premium peak season (5th to 20th October) and a week either side of this seemed to be relatively booked up this year too. Birding on Corvo is hard and requires a lot of effort, and you are by no means tripping over yanks. Therefore when you find them amongst the Blackcaps, Chaffinches, Canaries, Blackbirds and House Sparrows you still get that adrenaline kick.
Yellow-billed Cuckoo, middle fields October 2009
Honestly, if you're reading this intrigued, and fancy it late next autumn please email me as we really need more people coming late on - and peak season genuinely is full these days.
View from the miradouro overlooking Vila Nova do Corvo, the airfield, lower and middle fields

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