Tuesday, 19 October 2010

American big hitters

One of two Upland Sandpipers digiscoped at Ponta Albarnaz today ...
... and a rather more confiding juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper.
A report of a yellowish wood-warbler near our guest house yesterday evening put a spring in our step at first light today. A Spotted Flycatcher (the first for the Azores) was still in attendance at the same site, but a prolonged vigil produced no further glimpses of the 'Yank' so we set off on our rounds of Faja Grande. An overflying Skylark and another Northern Wheatear were token signs of migration, but things picked up with a juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper on the harbour slipway.

The islands' first Spotted Flycatcher lingers on at Faja Grande.

This was followed by news of Buff-breasted and Upland Sandpipers up in the north, and by the time we arrived on site two Uplands had been found. Laurens Steijn and I have been swapping information regularly, enabling both of our tour groups to try for all the birds being found - and so it happened here, with us getting onto all three prairie companions with five minutes of arriving at the site.

After four more Skylarks and three Northern Wheatears in the area, we headed back to the lakes where two American Black Ducks had been reported. Unfortunately, close inspection revealed them to be probably hybrids, with extensively grey tertials, perhaps questionable underparts coloration and, on one, an unacceptably curly tail!

Better duck news came in the form of two Wood Ducks, discovered by Staffan Rodebrand, and within half an hour what was probably the single biggest twitch in the history of Flores took place - 21 birders from five European countries quickly notched up these two handsome and very shy drakes, which were keeping respectable company with a Blue-winged Teal and five Eurasian Wigeon.

New in: today's Wood Ducks (digiscoped) and, below, a record twitch.

Discussion about the identity of two other teal at Lagoa Branca saw us then head back to the site, only to discover a Lesser Yellowlegs striding about next to them. These teal are generally regarded as Green-wingeds, although as they are not adult drakes and are very distant, getting a firm handle on plumage minutiae is difficult. Doubtless we haven't finished with the ducks here yet.

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