Rule #1 Never leave Corvo

There is a rule amongst Corvo birders that say – Rule #1 – Never leave Corvo. The reason for this is of course that it’s impossible to predict when that special day arrives, when the yanks come falling down. We had an additional very slow and boring day without an inkling of anything, except of course the impossible Upland Sandpiper around the Resorvoir and the even more impossible Yellow-billed Cuckoo around the Campsite. We walked the Riberia da Ponte, worked the fields of Lapa and walked around the Reservoir. In the evening of Oct 17 we decided to break Rule #1 and leave Corvo for one day on Terceira and one day on the main Island Sao Miguel where the endemic Azores Bullfinch resides. The idea being that we then decide later weather to return to Corvo or not.

On Oct 18 we search for the Upland Sandpiper in the morning and then return to pack up our stuff and fly. Two hours before the flight we receive an alarm in the WhatsApp group, a Dicksissel had just been found on the Lapa fields, we’re able to twitch it in the nick of time. When we arrive to the Lapa fields the bird is gone and we sit down to wait. Time ticks, and eventually we have to call the taxi to get to the airport. Just as the taxi arrives, so does the Dicksissel which flies in and land in the trees it was seen in a few hours earlier.

We fly to Terceira and together with Eduardo Garcia del Rey easily tick the American Coot recently found in the Reservoir there.

American Coot
American Coot

Spent some time in the famous quarry trying to get photographs of the snipes, some suspicious individuals but shots probably too poor to safely id that Wilson’s Snipe.

Snipe
Snipe
Snipe
Snipe

In the evening at the harbour we discover two adult Sandwitch Terns and one 1cy Sandwitch which looks a bit odd to us. We take photographs, and together with Eduardo and Michael Gerber we manage to get some shots. We send the pictures to PAC who replies that the Tern looks very good for Cabot’s Tern. Eduardo has much better photos that can be made available later on.

Putative Cabot's tern
Putative Cabot’s tern

We’re collecting the pictures here.

Next day we return to the harbour to try to get better pictures, the suspicious Tern was seen leaving the harbour at first light. We did return later in the day, and the Tern was back in the harbour at noon. Also visited the quarry again – of course. Plenty of American waders and ducks there.

Blue-winged Teal
Blue-winged Teal
Pectoral Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
American Wigeon
American Wigeon

We leave for Sau Miguel and go searching for the endemic Azores Bullfinch which turned out to be harder to locate than we thought. After a couple of hours of searching we find a few and get decent, albeit short views. No photographs.

In the evening in the hotel room we have to make the decision weather to leave for mainland Europe or go back to Corvo. There had been a few new birds coming in, but no major fallout, thus we decided to leave the Azores. None of us were especially eager to spend another week watching Chaffinches on Corvo. This was probably the biggest mistake we have done in the year. The day we spend flying back, we started to receive the reports back from Corvo. This day, the day we spent in various boring airports turned out to be – the day on Corvo. All in all 14 different American landbirds were seen – and we missed them all. We broke “Rule #1” and payed the price.

 

 

 

7 thoughts on “Rule #1 Never leave Corvo”

  1. I didn’t know that you could fly to and from Corvo. When I went there some years ago it was by a small fishing boat from Flores. It rolled a lot but we were sitting out in the fresh air with the sun shining.

  2. Why isn’t that a Wilson’s Snipe. The underwing is well seen and consistant. The trailing edge of the secondaries also look good.

    1. We don’t feel 100 confident to tick that bird as a Wilson’s. Slightly too poor pics. Also, we don’t have a lot of experience with wilson’s snipe. We think it’s the right one though, pics do look good.
      To tick that bird we’d need confirmation from someone with better familiarity with the species than us.

      1. I have a friend who lived on Adak in the Aleutians who had a lot of experience with bot taxa. I ‘ll ask him to look at the photos.

          1. from Isaac, formerly of Adak:

            As for the Azores bird I would be hesitant to make a solid ID based just off those two pictures. They are very poor quality and I have been burned before trying to ID bad pictures. But generally when I am out sniping and seeing a lot of birds and then flush one that immediately looks “different” it usually is. So if those birders flushed this bird and thought it was different that holds some weight with the pictures. I think the trailing edge of the secondaries is really weak with white. But the white edge is the first thing to disappear in a low quality picture. If they are truly that weak then that is good for Wilson’s. But the back stripes seem more buffy than white which is better for Common.

            In the Aleutians, Common Snipe really stand out from Wilson’s because they have an overall very warm buffy body plumage compared to the cold blackish plumage of the Wilson’s. And the Aleutian(Asian) Common Snipe have really white almost non barred axillaries. Interestingly, what I have found is that the European Common Snipe plumage is much more similar to a Wilson’s. The axillaries can be heavily barred and their overall plumage is still more buffy than a Wilson’s but not nearly as so as the Asian birds. I noticed this right away when I started collecting birds on Adak. I have never been able to find anything about this in literature but I think the Asian Common Snipe are quite a bit different than the European birds plumage wise. The outer tail feathers are still definitive. Common’s are 12 mm and Wilson’s are 8-9 mm wide.

            To sum up if these pictures were taken in the Aleutians I would be pretty confident that it is a Wilson’s. But knowing that European Common’s look so much more similar to Wilson’s I would be really hesitant to make an ID call.

  3. Thanks, this is pretty close to what we expected, i.e a verdict that says, it looks good but it’s not definitive. Tricky species, we’ve photographed quite a lot of snipes this year, trying to nail that wilson’s.

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