Monday, 22 October 2012

Azores 3: Flores, Terceira and home

Flores performed brilliantly this year, and among the many highlights was this Northern Parula which I was delighted to find at Ponta da Fajã - a great bird for the group. It stayed several days.
The best find for the group was this Tricoloured Heron, which flew out of the quarry at Cabo da Praia as we arrived, never to be seen again. It constitutes the fourth Western Palearctic record of this American species.
It's hard to blog about birding in the Azores without sounding overly enthusiastic, but without doubt our tour that concluded yesterday was the best in my 11 visits to the islands. The group was hopeful that the archipelago would deliver American birds, and did it just - every day we had a major Nearctic vagrant, almost always with an exciting supporting cast, and everyone got involved in the fun. In brief, after São Miguel we visited Flores and Terceira and between us found Wilson's Snipe, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Northern Parula, Bobolink, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting and the fourth-ever Tricoloured Heron for the Western Palearctic, as well as locating the endemic Azores Bullfinch, logging 22 species of shorebird (including an unprecedented c260 White-rumped Sandpipers!) and twitching two Double-crested Cormorants. The final total of 'Yanks' for the group is provisionally 20 species - phew! I'll aim to post some more images when I return from another visit to the islands in early November, when I'll be speaking at the 2nd Azorean Birdwatchers' Conference, but in the meantime these shots of Yank landbirds will give a feel of the unique experience that is autumn birding in the islands.

This Bobolink was seen on both visits to Ponta Delgada, at the northernmost tip of Flores, but it was never showy and quickly disappeared on both occasions.
Ponta Delgada also produced another major American surprise, this time this stunning Rose-breasted Grosbeak which showed well to all of the group.

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