Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Another Azores season over

A Myrtle Warbler breaks cover on the island of Flores soon after its discovery.
It's good to be able to report back on another successful Azores trip, this year with a group of six very enthusiastic birders. Those who hadn't done small-island, off-the-beaten-track birding before quickly discovered that to a large extent it's about finding your own birds. Common species are there in abundance, but in this mid-Atlantic outpost it's about sifting through the regulars to find the gems. More than anywhere else on this side of the pond, the Azores have become the place to seek out rare American strays, and in October nowhere offers a better chance - but sometimes the islands make you work for the rewards.

This elusive Mourning Dove finally gave itself up moments before we had to check in for departure from Flores.
No two trips are the same, and this year’s – my 13th visit – contrasted strongly with last October’s. I’m in the process of producing a trip report but, for now, essentially we started well with the endemic Azores Bullfinch and a flock of five Ring-necked Ducks, had a sensational arrival day on the outer island of Flores before hitting a quiet spell, but then ended with a major flourish on Terceira. This year’s group voted Myrtle Warbler the bird of the trip – a great find by group member Max Dettori on Flores – but other highlights included American Black Duck, Wood Duck, Surf Scoter, Semipalmated Plover, Wilson’s Snipe, White-rumped, Pectoral, Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Short-billed Dowitcher and Mourning Dove. Provisionally, the trip total at least equalled my highest previous total for this itinerary – a great collective effort by the group. Ahead of the trip report, I hope these images from the trip will provide a suitable taster - more to come!

Head to head: juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper (front) and Semipalmated Plover share a puddle on a Flores football pitch.


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