Sunday, 30 October 2011
Sad to think that, having moved through Scandinavia and crossed the North Sea, most probably in a single flight, this Brambling got no further than the Norfolk coast before coming to a premature end. I picked it up on the coast road at Kelling soon after dawn today; it may even have arrived at night (when some Bramblings migrate, unlike most other finches). Perhaps it was drawn to lights along the road when it was struck by a passing vehicle. Even in death, it is a creature of beauty, with strikingly tortoiseshell colours and the tell-tale head and wing markings of a male in winter plumage.
Friday, 21 October 2011
|Good numbers of Great Shearwaters were lingering in the channel between Flores and Corvo.|
|Arm's length views of Great Shearwater were had from the boat.|
|A crowd gathers around an exhausted Leach's Storm-petrel, picked up in the harbour on Corvo.|
|A record shot taken at vast range of the ring-tail Northern Harrier we ran into on Flores.|
|Woodcock can be very difficult to see well in the Azores, but no one told this bird ...|
|One of two Great Egrets we found on Flores, this bird's greenish tibia suggest it is of European origin.|
|On our second Terceira visit we finally added Semipalmated Sandpiper, an almost expected vagrant, to the trip list.|
Tuesday, 18 October 2011
|After dipping by 10 minutes yesterday, we could not have hoped for better views of White-tailed Tropicbird today.|
This most westerly European island has provided exhilaration and frustration in imbalanced measure, most of it on account of one of the rarest seabird vagrants to reach the Western Palearctic.
For the last few days a White-tailed Tropicbird has been appearing late afternoon at the coastal village of Fajazinha, even perching briefly on buildings before returning to the sea, and when I arrived with the group yesterday afternoon a text from Staffan Rodebrand revealed it was back. Cue a mad cross-island dash for this much-wanted bird, only to arrive and be told we'd just missed it. Mortified was not the word, but we took it on the chin and elected to try again the following afternoon.
|At times the bird flew right over our head, sometimes attempting to land on buildings.|
So that came good, unlike what was surely one that got away. After the tropicbird we visited Ponta da Faja, the recent temporary home of a Swainson's Thrush. While 'squeaking' in an area of overgrown orchards and fields, I glimpsed a movement of something coming in to investigate - it quickly flew through cover around us in a semi-circle and went into the hedge behind me. I turned and squeaked some more, and could again detect branches moving, but could not properly lock onto the skulker through the dense foliage. Another squeak from me, and this time it responded with several harsh, scolding cat-like calls in quick succession. It had to be a Grey Catbird, a species I know well from North America, and a distinctive call with which I'm very familiar. I immediately got out my iPod and tried to lure it in with a recording, which was almost identical to what we'd just heard. Alas, the bird did not come out this time, presumably having already sussed us out, and further searches of the area by dusk proved fruitless.
All this in a day which started with a vagrant Barn Swallow which I picked up in the lane next to our guest house, and then a far rarer vagrant Wood Duck (albeit one which may have been present for a year, on a lake where two were found last autumn).
|One of the three Semipalmated Plovers at Cabo da Praia, Terceira, yesterday.|
|Also at Cabo was a trio of juvenile White-rumped Sandpipers.|
Sunday, 16 October 2011
|The endemic Azores Bullfinch took a bit of finding today in heavy rain, but then showed well.|
Having flown out via Lisbon, where we contrived to expand the trip list (successfully) by adding a couple of non-Azorean extras, we had business to attend to on São Miguel. For the full story you'll have to see the trip report which I'll publish online post trip, but in brief we succeeded in our main target for the morning, the endemic but sometimes very elusive Azores Bullfinch.
|Delighted to find this Killdeer on a farm pond near Ponta Delgada today.|
|The same pond hosted this obliging juvenile Eurasian Spoonbill, a scarce bird in the islands ...|
|... while nearby we were astonished to find two more feeding in a flooded roadside field.|
|Also welcome on the day list was this Pied-billed Grebe (right) among Eurasian Coots at Lagoa Azul.|
Friday, 7 October 2011
|The rather grey flava wagtail at Kelling Water Meadows - note the yellowish tinge on the undertail coverts.|
|Front-on, the bird appears more strikingly monochrome, though with a slight pinkish tinge on the breast.|
|Plumage, date and location suggest a continental origin for this bird, but its subspecific ID remains unconfirmed.|
So no firm conclusions on current knowledge, but an interesting bird nonetheless.
Wednesday, 5 October 2011
|Far adrift from its North American migration route, this much-travelled Sandhill Crane made landfall in Scotland and was subsequently tracked southwards along the east coast, eventually arriving at Boyton Marshes, Suffolk.|
Come Monday, however, the extraordinary Sandhill saga resumed with the news that the bird was lingering at Boyton Marshes, Suffolk, having turned up there the previous day after being tracked along much of the English east coast. My flight from Reykjavik hit the tarmac at Gatwick around 1 pm, and an hour later I was heading north on the M23. The family were expecting me home in north London, but I knew they would understand … all it would take was a 150-mile detour and an extra three hours at the wheel (plus a couple more on foot) before I made it home.
|Preparing for departure - the restless crane gets itchy feet.|
|We have lift-off - but it proves to be only a temporary relocation northwards.|
* Thanks to David Callahan, Bob Watts and Stuart Piner of Rare Bird Alert for the updates and directions that made this impromptu homecoming twitch possible.
Tuesday, 4 October 2011
|The second Buff-bellied Pipit at Garður in as many days.|
|Note the distinct lack of buff! This is not, apparently, a problem in nominate rubescens ...|
|Blue skies and a layer of cloud hang above a wind-tossed sea. Welcome to Iceland, home of the gale-force wind.|
|The dowitcher sp discovered soon after arrival at Garður proved to be a Long-billed.|
|European Golden Plover is the default shorebird at Garður, but the huge flocks harbour surprises ...|
|... among them the occasional American Golden Plover, like this dozing adult ...|
|... and even Buff-breasted Sandpiper (a second Buff-breast was seen by other birders).|
|Side-by-side comparison of juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper (right) and Dunlin on the beach at Garður.|
|The more brightly plumaged of the two drake American Wigeon at Njardvik.|
|A group of Rock Ptarmigan, looking rather more rufous than their Collins Bird Guide illustration, forage under an abandoned farm trailer - a whole three metres above sea level, and within a stone's throw of the ocean!|