Saturday, 2 November 2013

Second White-throated Sparrow for the Azores

I really was so reluctant to come off Corvo on Wednesday. Despite Flores' westerly location, it was only on Thursday of this trip that I started to realise its potential. Albeit with 'just' a Bobolink and a couple of quality yank waders.

Friday 1st November dawned at Santa Cruz, this being my last day for this year's trip. I headed out for a couple of hours early on with Janne, Potu and the irrepressible Ilkka. With just a bit of time to play with, we stayed local and I was introduced to the rather daunting site of Fajã do Conde. Having had Hermit Thrush, Philadelphia Vireo, Yellow-billed Cuckoo and a couple of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks it has form although it was bloody massive. In fact, as I started to walk down and into the fajã it felt as if I was pissing into the wind a bit.

Janne, Potu and Ilkka had walked on while I decided to stop and check out a load of the usual suspects - Canary, check, Chaffinch, check, House Sparrow, check, Blackcap, check and then White-throated Sparrow, check. What the fuck man, there on a rock in amongst the feeding frenzy was a White-throated Sparrow - second ever record for the Azores and a tick for a couple of the Finns! I was a right dick and flapped, failing to get any photo in the couple of seconds that I had before it headed off into the abyss. These days, the skeptic that I am, I really do swear by the rule 'no photo, no bird' and given that I'm usually papping everything in sight, I wasn't best pleased. So after a text was sent to Janne, and the troops rounded up, we had a bit of a search of the area before the Finns widened the search a short way down the road. Still no sign, and I was cursing at my ineptitude rather than punching the air.

White-throated Sparrow at Faja do Conde, Flores 1st November 2013 - second for the Azores
However, after 20 minutes or so, I heard a strange call (well, a familiar American sparrow-type call) on the other side of the field so I started scanning. Then the relief set in, as I'd relocated the bird but once again, as soon as I'd done this, it flew - fortunately this time towards me and so, primed with the lens, started papping and shouted to the guys that I'd got the bird again. It wasn't long before everyone was having their fill of this pretty smart looking vagrant. Remarkably, the first for the Azores was on Corvo just a couple of weeks ago and this, the second, was a different bird.
Anyway, I'm now safely back in London after a torrid night's sleep in Lisbon airport (the local tramps had nailed their asses to my usual sleeping bench) and, thanks to Janne and especially Potu, I have contracted the flu/cold thing that nearly every birder on Corvo has had this year. It was a real pleasure to spend time on Flores with Janne and Potu, and we birded it hard, while Ilkka's fitness and determination shows that no stone wall is too high or too tough for a 71 year old to conquer!

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