Sunday, 25 October 2015

The stuff of childhood dreams

There's something about a certain species that makes it mythical. It's not necessarily a first, but a species that you've had a sense of expectation about ever since you were a kid. American Redstart; now that's an 80's bird if ever there was one. With a dip at Mizen Head in September 2008, this has been a yank I had always wanted, and expected, to see. And today was the day.

It all started late today, nothing to do with the clocks going back though. There'd been a serious southwest blow overnight that meant that it was absolutely pouring with rain as I awoke. They seem to get the weather pretty spot on out here, and by 8am right on cue it was possible to get out and do some birding. I started off in middle fields, and quickly notched up a Grey-cheeked Thrush near the Cape Verde Farm (presumably the same bird I'd seen a couple of days ago). A walk round the airfield produced a showy juvenile Black-tailed Godwit and Ringed Plover amongst the Turnstones. And then in the extremely blustery conditions, I headed into lower fields where after a bit of wandering about managed to locate the longstaying Blackpoll Warbler - this bird was seen to come in off the sea on that legendary 'fall day' last Saturday and still seemed pretty spritely. My first out here on the Azores, and again a classic yank that showed extremely well...
Blackpoll Warbler lower fields, Corvo 25th October 2015
Walking about around the village didn't provide much else, but the conditions were extremely difficult so I was happy with what I'd seen. And so at lunchtime I headed up the island, and made a ridiculous decision with blind faith that Lighthouse Valley would be worth a shot. I was alone, and for good reason - it was a total blow out, literally. Bar a couple of areas of cover at the top end that had some slight shelter, there were more twigs, grass and corn snaps flying about than birds. There could have been several yanks there (including the longstaying Eastern Wood Pewee) but today was not a day for finding them. And so I started the long trudge back down the island.

It was around about Fojo on the middle road where the radio crackled into action with 'American Redstart at the bottom of Da Ponte'! I'd said to a few people that Da Ponte would be a sheltered area worth checking today - should have heeded my own advice! Anyway, missing my gym session tomorrow evening shouldn't be an issue now, as the run down the island was good cardio. When there, I was remarkably the first on the scene and it didn't take too long for the bird to show - a real cracker, with the photo below not at all doing it any justice. Typical of the location, it kept high up in the canopy and was a pain to track let alone photograph.
American Redstart Ribeira da Ponte, Corvo 25th October 2015
With little time left before dark, I started walking back down towards the village and picked up a Great White Egret (presumably Nearctic in origin) between Da Ponte and the higher fields, before finishing the day with a couple of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks in their usual place in middle fields.
Great Egret Higher Fields, Corvo 25th October 2015
Tomorrow should be a calmer day weather wise, although a significant number of birders are leaving and we'll be down to seven pairs of eyes once the plane departs. Still time for something else for sure.

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