Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Mega-ceryle!

At breakfast with Gerby the bird talk includes Belted Kingfisher, a much-wanted vagrant for both of us and one which was seen a couple of weeks ago here on Pico. After checking again on the Semipalmated Plover, we say goodbye until next month and I head to the airport to fly on to Terceira. I was going to go straight to Cabo da Praia on arrival, but then opted for a quick stop at the small wetland of Paul da Praia on the edge of town. I don't know why I did, but just as well ...

Several Moorhens and a Eurasian Coot failed to get the pulse racing, and in fact the place seemed particularly quiet. A female Northern Pintail swam into view, but immediately went down in my estimation by consorting with a mongrel barnyard duck. It was all looking a bit dire.

Then a movement in the sky made me glance to the left, and my heart almost stopped for a moment. A pied-looking, Jay-sized kingfisher flapped in silently on big wings and dropped in at the back of the marsh. WTF?? Was I dreaming this? It was impossible, surely. For the first time ever, I almost pinched myself.

Then I panicked - the bird was no longer visible from where I was, so I had to run back to the car, drive round to the far side and look back east up a narrow channel. In running towards where I thought it was, bizarrely I flushed 25 Black-tailed Godwits which were roosting among tall weeds (go figure). Then a White-winged Black Tern flew past at close range. And finally, I found the bird again, perched on a low post and preening, and fired off some record shots. While I watched, I kid you not, a Great Blue Heron flew into view, seeing off a Grey Heron. The tern and heron are long-stayers in the area, but the kingfisher was new in, and utterly sensational. I managed to get closer still for the shot shown here. What a shame Gerby wasn't on the island.

Serendipity: the fly-in Belted Kingfisher at Paul da Praia.
Great Blue Heron seeing off an intruding Grey Heron.
In the afternoon, there were many birds at Cabo, of which the best were three juvenile Pectoral Sandpipers, an adult White-rumped Sandpiper, at least two Semipalmated Sandpipers, two Semipalmated Plovers, four Blue-winged Teal, a putative female Green-winged Teal, two snipe which need following up tomorrow (looking quite different to each other) and another juvenile peep in the Semi-p/Western camp.

Adult Semipalmated Sandpiper - at least two Semi-ps seen today.
The adult White-rumped Sandpiper also at Cabo da Praia.
Presumed Green-winged Teal - more research needed, but for
starters note the un-Common Teal-like head pattern.
A bizarre day ended even more strangely when I asked directions in town to my hotel. Two very helpful young women insisted on getting in my car to show me, but as we drove up to it there were about 300 people out front, some of them hanging onto walls and ledges. Turns out it's the annual bull run tonight with an unspecified number of beasts charging through the streets. The thought of this made me a little anxious about wandering out for dinner, but I figured there was safety in numbers. I bade my helpful new friends farewell, met the world's second rudest hotel receptionist (don't ask about the first), and spent most of this evening downloading hundreds of photos.

PS Now I know why they changed that genus name to megaceryle.

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