During the whole year 2014 I hadn’t been travelling abroad at all so my WP-list hadn’t got any bigger. It was already early autumn and I still had no ideas what to do on my summer holiday. I had been asking if there was any room on Corvo, Azores, but it seemed that there was no room in Comodoro or any rooms that Finnish birders had. So I ended up to ask if any of my foreign Facebook friends knew any place where to stay there. It was a nice surprise when a Swedish birder Stefan Ettenstam, who I had met first time on my previous trip to Corvo, contacted me and told that he had room in a double-room that he had booked!
Everything went fast after I had contacted Stefan. He had planned to stay on Corvo from the 8th until 21st of October so soon we were booking flights. I had some holiday more so after all I booked my flights to Corvo from 8th to 24th. From Sweden there were direct flight to Sao Miguel so we planned to fly there and then to Corvo – luckily it happened to be the cheapest choice for me too. I also thought that I had already been twice on Terceira, it wasn’t necessary to go there. I hoped there might be something to twitch on Sao Miguel.
Finally when the trip started to get close a Willet was found on Sao Miguel. So we just counted days and it looked good that the bird was staying there for long enough.
On Monday the 6th of October after my work, I packed my car and drove to Kirkkonummi. It was a long drive and I did stop on the way to try to see some Pomarine Skuas in Taipalsaari Kyläniemi without luck, but finally at 9 p.m. I was with my parents. And I had to go to sleep early as I had an early wake up.
On the 7th of October I woke up at 3 a.m. and soon I was in Helsinki-Vantaa airport where my dad drove me. Once I got to the right gate I met Markku Santamaa, the Finnish WP-lister nr 1, who had the same flights to Sao Miguel. Our flight left on time at 5:30 a.m. and I slept almost the whole time. We landed to Lisbon where on the next gate we met Dutch Thierry Jansen and Belgian David Monticelli. Finally at 11:55 a.m. (local time) our flight left to Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel.
After landing to Ponta Delgada Thierry left immediately to twitch the Willet, but the rest of us had to get our luggage first. But soon we were taking a taxi and heading toward the ETAR, where the bird had been. First we stopped to Davids hotel where we also could leave our luggage with Markku. Then it was only 100 meters walk to ETAR. And once we got there Thierry was also just getting out from his taxi, he had got a slowly driver.
We met a couple of French birders that had stayed on Sao Miguel for longer and they had already seen the Willet on the previous day. So we followed them as they knew the places better. And soon they found the bird with their telescope about 400 meters from its usual place. We all watched it through the scope and then started to walk closer. A lifer! The bird was sleeping on a rock just about 10 meters from a walking way. So soon we were photographing the bird very close! It did wake up for a while and cleaned its feathers but only some seconds every time. In almost a couple of hours we stayed there, it flew only a couple of times from a rock to another one and than we could see the beautiful wing-marks it had. Other bird we saw on the shore were a couple of Knots, a Dunlin, a Little Egret and a Kestrel that was migrating over us.
Finally we had good enough pictures and with Markku and Thierry we walked to a harbor and to a cafeteria to have lifer-beers. David still stayed photographing the bird.
Once we walked back to ETAR, Willet had moved to its usual place and was feeding along a small smelly river. David had followed it and was now photographing it on the rocky shore. Thierry had to continue to the airport as he was flying to Terceira, but with Markku we walked to David’s hotel to pick up our luggage and luckily got a ride from the owner to our own hotel Alcides.
In Alcides we found out that it was completely full, so Markku had to move to the another hotel. I had already booked a room with Stefan Ettenstam and Seppo Haavisto, who were coming in the evening. After some relaxing we met with Markku again in Alcides restaurant and enjoyed really good steaks. Stefan and Seppo arrived late at night as their flight had been almost 2 hours late. I was already sleeping then. The rest of the night I was listening snoring of these too tired men.
On the 8th of October we woke up at 7 a.m. and even though it was raining we decided to skip the breakfast and headed straight to ETAR. It was 10 minutes walk from our hotel and once we got there we couldn’t find the Willet. We soon spread around the area where the bird had been seen but we couldn’t find it. When we all were walking back to the smelly river, we saw it in flight and landing to its usual place again. It was a WP-tick for Stefan and Seppo. We watched the bird feeding for some time but then the rain started to get worse so we decided to go to have our breakfast. After the breakfast we took a taxi back to ETAR and the bird was still there, but on very bad light. Stefan decided to walk down along the river and managed to get to good light after all. Other birds there were the same Knots, a Dunlin, Turnstones, a Little Egret, a couple of Sanderlings and a Ringed Plover. But then our taxi-driver came back earlier than he should so pretty soon we drove back to hotel, picked up luggage and headed to the airport.
At 1:20 p.m. left our plain to Faial, Horta where the plane got full of birdwatchers! There were my old friends Petri Kuhno, Tero Toivanen and Janne Kilpimaa, WP-lister nr 1 Ernie Davis and many other old friends and also some that I didn’t know yet. Soon we continued to Corvo where some birders had already been for a week and birders would stay until the end of October. I was going there for 16 days!
At 15:25 we landed to Corvo and it was really strange that there was no bird to twitch right away. It was the first time even for Seppo that there was no hurry from the airport. It had been so quiet on Corvo that quite many birders were leaving to twitch a Short-billed Dowitcher from Terceira and Willet from Sao Miguel! And they all knew the first rule of birding on Azores – “Never leave Corvo!”. Well because of we weren’t in a hurry, we took our luggage and got a ride to our apartment that was close to the church. With Stefan we got a tiny room and a couple of German birders got much bigger ones alone, which was strange. Our host Fernando didn’t speak any English and her daughter Vera seemed to be in a hurry, so there was no point to say anything – we were just happy to be on Corvo! We had no idea if we were going to have a breakfast and Vera wasn’t really helping. She just said that we should go to Comodoro to have breakfast. It didn’t sound good for us, so after all we walked to Comodoro and discussed with Kathy “Katt” Rita and hoped she could talk to our hosts about it. Then we went shopping something to eat and drink. Only birding we did, was a short walk through the Middle fields and a twitched Spoonbill from the beach. At 8 p.m. we gathered to a big building close to a rubbish tip and had a good dinner. It cost only 10 € including drinks too – so it was really good! Like Janne K said: “We can drink our food cheap”.
On the 9th of October we woke up at 7 a.m. and as we had no idea if we had a breakfast or not, we were planning to walk to taxis to Comodoro before 8 a.m. When we were leaving, Fernando came out and asked us to come in to downstairs and there was a surprise – we had a breakfast after all! We ate traditional bread, ham and cheese and were happy to make a couple of breads with us too. Then we had to hurry to get to taxi.
At Comodoro there were many birders already and soon 3 Hiace-taxis arrived. So everyone could get either to upper road to Reservoir or Caldeira, middle road until Lighthouse valley or lower road until Cantinho. We, like many other, headed to Lighthouse valley where an exotic visitor, a Snowy Owl had stayed for a few days.
We walked up and down the valleys before the Lighthouse valley as the Snowy Owl had been there but unfortunately we couldn’t find it. After all we started to walk back along the road with mostly Finnish birders. It was raining so we walked until Da Ponte which gave the best shelter from the rain. I had already walked until the bottom of the valley, when we heard from our walkie-talkies that there was a Scarlet Tanager found in Tennessee valley! I didn’t remember how to get there so I decided to climb back up and follow Seppo as he had already started walking there. It was raining pretty much when we walked along the road but luckily we got a ride from Comodoro’s owner Manuel. It was a wet ride on a pickup, but soon we were above the village Vila Nova and Miradouro view-watching place. From there we took a path up to the valley. It was a hard walk as I followed Danish Christian Leth and Petri who were almost running. So soon we saw a group of birders above us and thick blackberry bushes. We tried to get through the bushes but it was impossible! So soon we decided to go around them. Once we got to other birders we were told that the bird had been missing since it had started to rain, but luckily the rain had just stopped. And soon Christian found the bird! He was watching the bird just 10 meters above me but I couldn’t see it. I had to climb through some more blackberry bushes and a big stone wall but somehow I managed to get to Christian and soon found the bird! Scarlet Tanager was perched almost on the top of a bush but it wasn’t easy to find, so when many other birders came to us, most of them couldn’t find it before it dropped inside the bushes. But luckily it was active and came close to us when we played a tape for it. And finally even Petri managed to get his 700th WP-tick!
More and more birders were still coming to see the Scarlet Tanager that was showing well, when we decided to start walking down to the village. My shoes were completely wet, so I went to change dry shoes and then walked to harbor to digiscope a White-rumped Sandpiper and a Little Stint that were there. I still went to evening seawatch but all I saw were 3 Common Dolphins and lots of Cory Shearwaters.
After the dinner we both, me and Stefan, started to feel very sick. Our stomachs were really bad and after all I started to throw up. And I was very sick for whole night!
10th of October. I had slept maybe 15 minutes and still felt really bad but Stefan had managed to sleep and he had been less sick, not throwing up at all. Anyway we went to breakfast but I was mostly only looking at it. Then we walked to taxis but there we decided to stay down anyway. After we had walked a little bit, I started to feel too bad again and I had to give up and walk back to bed. Luckily nothing was found during the morning, so I could sleep pretty well. During the day I did a walk around the airfield but it was almost too much. I felt so tired on the halfway that I almost called a taxi! So soon I was back in the bed and trying to sleep. When some birders had already walked down to village and also plane-twitchers and some new arrivals had came too, walkie-talkie started to tell me about very nice birds here and there! A Rose-breasted Grosbeak, an Indigo Bunting, a Red-eyed Vireo, a Bobolink, a Scarlet Tanager and so on, but luckily I had seen all the species already and I didn’t have to go twitching. Of course I wanted, but I was just too sick to do anything, so I just tried to sleep more in my hard and noisy bed. In the evening I managed to join the dinner and even ate something, but anyway I had to go to bed as soon as possible.
On the 11th of October I woke up feeling much better but still weak. Anyway after breakfast we walked to taxis and I got out from a taxi in upper Poco da Aqua with Kalle Larsson and Seppo Järvinen who had arrived on the previous day. We walked downhill along the dry river and stopped to check every single bush very carefully. We were almost on the Middle road when we met Danish Jens Hansen and Tommy Frandsen who were climbing up. I told them not to find anything as I was still too weak to run uphill. And after a couple of minutes we heard Tommy from the walkie-talkie – they had seen a Philadelphia Vireo on the bushes that we had just been watching last 45 minutes! We ran up and found Jens and Tommy soon but the bird had flight to a big bushy area a little bit lower. We walked there and soon there were many birders checking the bushes but the bird wasn’t found. We waited and waited, played the tape, but nothing. I saw very briefly a yellowish-green bird flying over us and Mika Bruun saw it too a little bit lower along the road and managed to see that it was another Scarlet Tanager!
Finally we gave up and planned to walk to some of the ribeiras that are closer to the village. We were on the road when we heard a message in walkie-talkie, but all we could hear was that there was something in Fojo. I started to walk there immediately and when I got there, there were already many birders. Probably the same Philadelphia Vireo had been seen there! Seppo H played tape and soon Stefan noticed that there was some bird moving in the bush just in front of us. And there it was – a Philadelphia Vireo! It came very well visible in front of us and we could see it extremely well! Soon it flew to the trees behind the small open area but it still stayed there so everyone managed to see it very well.
Once I had been watching the Philadelphia Vireo for long enough, I started to walk together with Hannu Palojärvi towards the village. I visited the shop again and then walked a little bit around the fields and managed to twitch a Bobolink that had been found once again, this time near Cape Verde fields. In the evening we had dinner and it was great to eat well again. Anyway I went to sleep early as I was extremely tired.
The day we have been waiting for
On the 12th of October I got out from the taxi together with Seppo J and Kalle near Do Vinte. Once we finally found the right path to the forest we stayed there for some time but then it started to rain very much. We still climbed on the slippery hillsides for some time but it really wasn’t worthy. Only Blackbirds, Canaries, Azores Chaffinches and Blackcaps were found. When the rain had stopped and we were having the second breakfast along the road, we heard that there had been a possible Northern Parula seen in Fojo. I left immediately there and soon I was in the picnic-area with many other birders. I walked a little bit in the forest where on Polish birder had seen the bird, but then went to sit on the bench and wait if the taping would attract the bird visible. Nothing happened so some gave up but I decided to stay there as long as someone is still trying. Seppo H was once again playing the tape when I heard a chip-call above me and saw a tiny bird flying over us. I saw to which tree the bird landed but couldn’t see it. Luckily Kalle found it soon and there it was – a Northern Parula! Kalle managed to get a couple of pictures of the bird before it flied over us again and landed to the trees where it still was visible for some time before it disappeared into the forest. Unfortunately it wasn’t found again so quite a few birders missed it.
While we were still waiting a parula to come back we saw already second time a snipe flying over us. It really looked dark and it had no white trailing-edge on the wing. Surprisingly it landed to the road just behind us and we all could seen that it really was a Wilson’s Snipe! Some managed to get good pictures of it before it flushed again and then Stefan got a couple of good flight-shots too.
After some time I left together with Seppo J to walk towards the village. We still got down to the lowest part of Poco de Aqua but couldn’t find anything. When we had climbed back to the road and got a connection to mobile-net, I got a message that a possible Common Yellowthroat had been seen in tamarisks South from the airfield. Together with Seppo and old Italian friend Daniele Occhiato we started to walk quickly towards the village hoping to get a lift from any car. There was no traffic at all so it was a long 45 minutes walk to the tamarisks where we saw other birders. But we couldn’t find the right path inside the tamarisks and we walked a long round around the area before we finally found the right path. And once we got there all the birders had moved a little bit. The bird had just been seen again for the first time for almost 2 hours and it had really been a Common Yellowthroat! We had missed it while walking around the tamarisks! Anyway we now knew where the bird might be and just stopped and started to wait. And once again the tape worked and the bird soon flew just in front of us! Cameras were busy while the (for us not so) Common Yellowthroat was showing extremely well just some meters from us! Then after a couple of minutes it moved into the bushes and disappeared. And nobody saw it later in that afternoon and evening.
We left others to wait if the Common Yellowthroat would show up and walked together with Markku and Hannu through the fields and saw a young Lesser Black-backed Gull flying towards the rubbish tip. In the evening we ate again well and soon after that I was ready to sleep. It had been a day with 2 lifers!
The morning of the 13th of October was misty but anyway we took the taxi to Cantinho, where while waiting the sun rise we stayed on the bridge and waited and listened if there were any calls. Then I walked up to climb the upper side of Cantinho from where I landed down to the lower part before continuing to the lower part of Canselas. But all I could find were Azores Chaffinches and Blackcaps. Then I continued to Fojo and climbed up the northern side for some time but soon I realized the fog was coming lower so I walked back to the road. There I met Swiss Jerome and together we walked to Da Ponte where we met Seppo H, Bosse Karllson and Pierre-André Crochet. After some quiet listening PAC found a Red-eyed Vireo and we could see Pierre watching the bird which of course disappeared before we saw it. So all we could do was to wait it to come back. Most of the American passerines seem to make a round on the forest and come back sooner or later. And it didn’t take too long when Thierry, who had also came there found the bird. We could all see it well and once it came to the tree tops just above us, we realized that there were two Red-eyed Vireos together!
After some time I walked back down to the village together with Hannu and Kari Haataja and after some rest I still went to seawatching. The western wind was very promising, but all better I could see were two Great Shearwaters. After the dinner we all gathered to Comodoro where we celebrated 10-years birding on Corvo birthday – the first birder to visit Corvo in autumn, Peter Alfrey, had arrived and we had a surprise parties for him. It was very nice, but anyway I left to sleep pretty early as I had an early wake up to work.
On the 14th of October I headed to Fojo by taxi and from there I walked to Canselas together with French birder Daniel Mauras. But soon we heard that another Scarlet Tanager had been found in Cantinho so Daniel hurried there. I climbed up until the middle-road and then walked back down to lower-road through Southern Fojo. But all I saw were 2 Woodcocks. On the road I met Stefan and while we were walking near the picnic-area, we saw a snipe flying over us. It was clearly a Wilson’s Snipe again! We told about the bird to walkie-talkie and surprisingly Josh Jones had seen it landing near the crossroad above us. We climbed there and soon saw the bird hiding in a grass while a couple of photographers were taking pictures of it. But when more photographers arrived, the bird got enough and flight too far to see it landing. It was a mistake as many birders still missed this species, but luckily we soon saw it coming back and landing to a field above us. We sent messages about the bird and after some time everyone had arrived. Then photographers went to walk to the field while the rest of us waited on the road to see it flying again. The bird was flushed a couple of times and everyone saw it pretty well after all. So everyone was happy – I think even the snipe when it was finally let alone.
Together with Stefan we continued to Da Ponte again where we stayed for more than an hour and saw the Red-eyed Vireo again. Then together with Janne K, Tero and Petri we started to walk back towards the village. We had planned to rest on the Lapa-bridge but there we met Pierre-André who had just seen and heard a small warbler in flight. We followed PAC up along the river, but lost him soon as he was going really fast. And of course soon he walkie-talkied that he had found the bird again and it was a Northern Parula. I was the only one of us who had seen the first parula so it was a lifer for Janne K and Tero so we continued walking higher. Soon we found PAC but the bird was missing again. Many birders were coming soon and most of them followed the river higher and some decided to stay where the bird had been seen last time. So I decided to walk back where the bird had been found. There I sat down to a rock and started to check a sheltered bottom of the river with nice hortensias and soon saw a tiny bird landing to a bush. All I could see were feet and white stomach, but it was enough, I walkie-talkied everyone to come and soon the bird was showing extremely well to everyone! I watched the Northern Parula for maybe 5 minutes and then decided to start walking again. While walking back to the road we saw another dark looking snipe again in flight.
In the village I visited another shop that was close to our place and once I was back in our room I heard that another Wilson’s Snipe had been found in the harbor. I decided to go to try to get some digiscoping pictures. But when I got there, the bird was already flying far over the sea.
In the afternoon I still went to seawatching with Hannu and we saw a couple of Great Shearwater, a Black-headed Gull and 3 White-rumped Sandpiper that came from the sea. In the evening we managed to move to a bigger room downstairs. This room had been empty all time, so we asked Fernando if we could move there as the room we were was absolutely too small. We should have asked about this much earlier! After the dinner I was ready to go to sleep again before 11 p.m.
The 15th of October. We had agreed that taxis would leave 15 minutes later as it was still quite dark when we got up. But I think no-one had told it to our driver Joao as the first taxi had already gone when we got to Comodoro. There were several birders waiting for the next taxi but it didn’t come. We tried to call Joao but he didn’t answer. Finally after more than an hour waiting he came and we got up. With Kalle and Seppo J we went to Cantinho where I went first to lower part but found only plenty of Blackbirds from a big pear-tree. Then we climbed together on the upper parts, but found out that it was impossible to climb until the middle-road because of too many fallen trees. So we walked back to lower-road and until Fojo picnic-area. Then we heard that there had been a flock of 3 vireos, 2 Red-eyed and a Philadelphia Vireo in Northern Fojo, so we climbed there. We stayed there for some time but managed to see only those 2 Red-eyed Vireo briefly. I must say that after seeing Red-eyed Vireo now quite many time, even a singing Willow Warbler on the background was a better bird.
After a couple of showers, I started to think we were too lazy and walked to the middle-road and there I got an SMS that a Black-and-white Warbler had been found in Da Ponte already more than an hour ago. While walking there I met a couple of birders that had already seen the bird and even managed to get amazing pictures – with using the tape of course. Once I got to lower Da Ponte the bird had already been missing for 45 minutes, but luckily we found it again soon! The Black-and-white Warbler was still showing well but now only pretty high on the trees. It had probably heard enough tape already?
Then I decided to walk down to the village even though it was still quite early. Together with Hannu and a couple of British birders we went to seawatching but there was nothing happening. So I just went to rest a little bit. After the dinner we gathered to Finnish birders house where we celebrated Petris 700th WP-tick with Finnish and Swedish team.
On the 16th of October I got out from the taxi near Do Vinte and climbed up to the higher part of the forest. The weather was really good in the beginning and Canaries, Azores Chaffinches and Blackcaps were really active but then it started to blow so hard that I was afraid of trees to fall over me. So I walked back to the road and then down to Pico. There I followed a path until lower Da Ponte where the Black-and-white Warbler was still present. But the wind was getting so strong that birding even in Da Ponte wasn’t clever anymore, so I started to walk towards the village earlier than ever. So I was by the shop already before it opened at 1:30 p.m. In the shop I met Ilkka Sahi and Jouni Riihimäki who had just arrived which was a miracle – no-one really thought a plane could come in this weather! Then we heard that Daniele had seen a Catharus-thrush in tamarisks near the Common Yellowthroat place and we hurried there. Soon we were watching into a big bush with many other birders and together with Jouni and Seppo H we saw too briefly a bird in flight that might have been the right bird, but after that it was never seen again even though we stayed there for hours. When most of the birders had already given up, I found the Common Yellowthroat again, but it disappeared inside the bushes too soon before Jouni and Ilkka managed to see it.
In the evening I was relaxing because of it had started to rain too much. After the dinner PAC showed us pictures from his trip to Western Kazakhstan. It really looked interesting and the areas were inside Western Palearctic.
On the 17th of October the morning was still very windy and some showers moved over the island. Taxis had again left already at 8 a.m. so we were late with Stefan. We decided walk around the airfield and then go to see if there were still people searching for the yesterdays thrush. There were some birders and also we stayed there for an hour or so before I found again the Common Yellowthroat. Once again it was really fast and only a handful of birders managed to see it, and again Ilkka and Jouni missed it. I decided soon to go to walk to Middle-fields and heard later that they had soon after I had left finally seen the bird. And after that they had really managed to see almost everything else too that still was on the island.
After 10 a.m. we took a taxi up to Caldeira with Kalle and Seppo J. On the way I finally saw a Collared Dove. 3 Collared Doves had been on the island all the time but I just hadn’t seen any yet. Once we got up to the crater the wind was extremely strong. We hoped it would be better inside the crater but surprisingly the wind only turned from the walls and it was eastern wind down on the bottom.
We started to walk around the lakes and tried to find a flock of 5 Buff-bellied Pipits that had been there. After we had flushed some Common Snipes it started to rain very hard but luckily it didn’t last too long as there was of course no cover at all. There were quite a lot of birds but just all the same – Azores Chaffinches and Canaries. We just couldn’t find the pipits.
After some walking we found a Pectoral Sandpiper and soon after that 3 White-rumped Sandpiper. I tried to do some digiscoping but it started rain again so I had to give up with the pictures. When the rain stopped again, we found 4 Teals and probably another Pectoral Sandpiper. A couple of Black-headed Gulls were flying over the lake. Finally when we had walked back along the neck of land which goes between the lakes, we climbed to one hill and saw a flock of Mallards, hybrids and dark American Black Duck -type of ducks. They flushed once again too soon and I managed to see them pretty well with my scope and I would say that there was at least one real Black Duck. After some flying around the flock of ducks landed up to the cliffs!
Once we had climbed back up, we called Joao to pick us up. The weather was still bad, but luckily he came soon. We then drove back to the village where we did some shopping, had muffins in Bomberos -cafeteria and then I still walked a little bit above the village checking the fruit-trees. Then I was just too lazy to go to seawatching which I should have gone as there were 2 Grey Phalaropes and a Storm-Petrel seen. In the dinner there were almost only Nordic birders eating in our ordinary place, other had moved to more expensive restaurants that were still open.
The first for WP
On the 18th of October we went early to taxis as they still seemed to come at 8 a.m. Together with Stefan and some others we drove until Lighthouse valley where we first tried to find a Redpoll that had been seen on a couple of days before, but it wasn’t in ordinary junipers. Then we walked down to the valley but found nothing. We were already climbing back up when we met Jens who was going up faster than we did as we still tried to find something from the bushes. Soon Jens told in walkie-talkie that he had found a Great Grey Shrike! He was some hundreds of meters above us so we started to climb there. While we were climbing he told that he thought that the bird was “only” a European bird and he had even checked it from a couple of pictures that he had managed to get before the bird had flight up behind the hills. Of course it was still the first Great Grey Shrike for Azores, but I wasn’t very keen on climbing after it. At least because of it started to rain really hard! Soon there were a couple of twitchers more and when the rain stopped they started to climb after the bird. With Stefan we decided to stay where we were as it was probably the best place to scan the valley if the bird was coming back down. But soon Jens walkie-talkied that they had found the bird again a couple of hundred of meters above us. So we had to start climbing again.
When I had finally climbed to Jens, David and Daniel and got the bird to my binoculars, my first worst were: “That has nothing to do with a European!”. The bird was darker – especially on the head, really scaly on its breast and flanks, mask was weak, tale was short with white only 2 outer feathers and the closed wing didn’t show any white at all. Azores Chaffinches were attacking it but anyway it was calling and even singing and I could say that calls were also clearly different from North European race “excubitor”. It was clearly a “borealis” – Northern Shrike from Canada – soon a split and the first for WP of this sub-species!
Finally the shrike got enough from the Azores Chaffinches attacks and flew over us, hovered a couple of times and showed its tiny white patches on the wings. Then it flew fast down along the valley and disappeared behind the hills. There weren’t many birders yet so others left after it but with Stefan we had got enough of Lighthouse valley and started to walk towards the road. We walked again a little bit on the Redpoll place but couldn’t find it. Soon other birders started to arrive and we had good news as the shrike had been found again. But it had soon disappeared again after some time so not all saw it.
We continued to Canselas and right after it we took a path through the fields down to lower-road. Then we went to Fojo but in an hour we couldn’t see anything better. Stefan stayed still there and hoped to photograph some vireos, but I left to walk along the road were I met Kari and together we decided to walk up to Reservoir. It was a hard walk but we could see that there was a group of birders above us so we walked to them and there was a Dotterel that had been found on the previous day. I was wondering why these birders were watching a Dotterel when there was the first for WP on the island, but anyway I was happy to add this northern bird to my Corvo-list this easily. After some waiting another good wader which had been wandering around the area for some time, a Golden Plover landed to the fields too. Kari left to walk towards Tennessee valley, but I wanted to keep on going high up to the Reservoir.
It was really windy and it started to rain very hard, but once I got to the top, the rain stopped. I found a long-staying Lesser Yellowlegs and a couple of White-rumped Sandpipers. Then I still walked a little bit around before headed towards Tennessee valley. I managed to follow the right valley down to Miradouro and soon I was back in the village.
After some shopping I still went to seawatching, but already at 6 p.m. I went to Comodoro to check emails and so on. After the dinner I was very tired, I had been walking quite much today.
A good double
19th of October. We started the morning with a funny episode. While having a breakfast we locked the door and the key was outside in a lock. A British Stew decided to climb through a tiny window and ended up hanging head towards the ground while Fernando was holding from his feet. Somehow Stew didn’t hurt himself and got the door open.
The wind had now turned and was from East, so we headed to Lighthouse valley again. All birders that hadn’t seen the shrike were also going there. With Stefan we checked the Redpoll place again and this time we managed to hear it a couple of times but couldn’t see it at all. We also walked through almost whole Lighthouse valley but again saw nothing. When we were already walking back to the road we heard that Northern Shrike had been found from Caldeira and again by Jens! So we jumped to the taxi that soon arrived and got a ride until Do Vinte. I climbed up to the forest again and I was just checking the highest area when I heard from walkie-talkie that Pierre-André had found a Black-throated Green Warber from the lower Poco da Aqua! I stopped for a second and decided that I am not going to twitch as I had seen the species already on the previous autumn. It was a good bird and a beautiful too but I really wanted to check Do Vinte if I could find something by myself. I walked around the forest quietly for 20 minutes but when I heard that the warbler was still showing very well, I had to give up and go to see it.
Soon I had walked down to Poco da Aqua where I could see the Black-throated Green Warbler immediately. And it was showing really well indeed! It was the first “real” lifer for many and the funniest thing was that Mika and Markku had taken some cake with them from previous dinner so they could celebrate Markkus first lifer of the trip! When the warbler had been hiding for some time, I decided to go on birding. Luckily the bird stayed there in small area for the rest of the day and almost everyone managed to see it.
I walked again along the path from Pico to lower Da Ponte and from there I continued together with Hannu and Petri to wet Lapa fields. A Corn Crake that Hannu had seen earlier wasn’t found, just some Common Snipes. Petri also dipped his shoe pretty well. Then we still walked down to rubbish tip, where had been a Buff-bellied Pipit twitchable for the whole day. It was still showing extremely well so I decided to get my scope and camera. Luckily the pipit was still there and I got really good pictures and videos of it. When I left and had walked a couple of hundreds of meters I heard the pipit calling and flying high on the sky towards the Miradouro. Maybe the cats that were living on the rubbish tip had flushed it, or then it was just going to sleep somewhere else? After the dinner I fell asleep very soon while Stefan was still packing his luggage.
What a day
On the 20th of October after breakfast I said goodbye first to Fernando. I had decided to move to a Finnish apartment where was space now. I wasn’t happy to pay 30€ per night from the first week that we had stayed in tiny room without a single nail on the wall to put wet jacket or so on. I happily paid it from the second week room even though it was still more expensive than Comodoro. Then I said goodbye to Stefan who was leaving. Then I headed to taxi. Together with Kalle and a few Swedish birder that had missed the Black-throated Green Warbler on the previous day because of they had been up in Caldeira watching the shrike, we got to Poco da Aqua. After some waiting we heard clearly some chip-calls of a warbler with Kalle but couldn’t see the bird. After some more waiting we heard it again and soon the Black-throated Green Warbler flew over us and landed to the top of trees. But it really stayed on the top all the time and only me and Bosse managed to see it well before it flew again back down to the unreachable bottom of the ribeira.
After some time we decided to give up and continued with Kalle to Do Vinte which I hadn’t managed to work well enough on the previous visit. But we got only to the road, when we got a message that there had been a Blackpoll Warbler near the village! We walkie-talkied the message so also Swedish friends got it and then waited for Bosse and Jesper Segergren to join us. Even Bosse needed this bird – he had missed it several times before. After some tries we finally contacted Joao and soon he came to pick us up. When we were driving above the village we could see some birders between the road and the rubbish tip. We headed there and soon were on the place where the bird had been seen last time. We heard that the bird had been extremely mobile and had been seen only a couple of times before it had disappeared. But everyone who had been on the village had seen the bird – even those who were now sitting on a plane in the airfield! Or everyone except Kari who had forgotten his walkie-talkie to his apartment. So together with Kalle, Kari and Swedes we started to search for the bird. We walked around and of course watched all the bushes where the bird had been seen, but it really started to feel hopeless after more than an hour. I still sat on the place where it had been seen last for a half an hour and then heard on walkie-talkie that Mika said in Finnish: “We are coming there”. I asked what was going on and heard that Jouni had seen a possible cuckoo-species in the tamarisks near the Common Yellowthroat place. Petri translated the information in English to walkie-talkie and soon everyone was hurrying towards the tamarisks.
Once we got to the tamarisks Jouni told that they had seen the bird landing to the last tamarisk closest to the road. I planned to wait for everyone to arrive, but Kari was already going into the bush. And soon he shouted that: “Here it is, coming towards the top of the tree!”. I had no idea which side of the bush to go if the bird flushes! Then I decided to run to the road, which was at least the highest place. And luckily the bird had stopped almost to the top and was well visible from the road – it was a Yellow-billed Cuckoo! Soon there were people coming but luckily the bird stayed on its place. It really looked tired. But this was the bird that many of us had hoped to see. Of course many had seen it before as it wasn’t really that rare on Azores, but us who hadn’t – we were really happy!
After some time I started to think if the bird would stay on its place so long that I could get my digiscoping equipment. I already took a couple of steps but then heard on walkie-talkie that Blackpoll Warbler had been found again – I just couldn’t hear where it had been found. But I saw Kalle and Kari running already and I followed them as fast as I could. We ran around the airfield and luckily after 400 meters running I saw it wasn’t going to be a marathon – there were birders looking down towards the airfield just 100 meters from us. And once I got there I saw the bird already while running – a Blackpoll Warbler! The bird stayed next to the wall on the bushes, cut branches and on the ground for about 10 minutes and everyone who was down managed to see the bird really well!
When the warbler had flight to the other side of the airfield and gone missing again, I decided to go to get my scope and camera. Then I walked quickly back to see the cuckoo but it was gone. And it was bad news as at least Richard Ek had stayed up with the Black-throated Green Warbler as he had seen a Blackpoll Warbler before and he we didn’t know if he even knew about the cuckoo yet! Luckily the cuckoo was found again and I saw Richard walking towards us on the other side of the airport. I hurried to see the cuckoo too and hoped to get some pictures but photographers were there already. So I saw only backs and heads through my scope while photographers were going closer and closer to the bird. And then the bird flushed again – just before Richard arrived. But luckily there were birders already on the other side of the tamarisks and they saw it landing to a bush behind the fields and it was visible even from the road. So Richard finally got it too! The bird was inside the bush so it wasn’t really photographable anymore but I wanted to get at least some kind of pictures. And after all I managed to get close enough (it’s not needed to get very close when you are digiscoping) and got pictures that I was happy.
After shopping I moved to the house next to Comodoro and got a comfortable room by myself. The cost was 25€ breakfast included. On the dinner there were only Nordic birders, but happy Nordic birders – it had been a great day!
The 21st of October. Previous day had been so good that we were hopeful when we got to Cantinho where we walked together with Kalle first on the hill-forest and then got down to the lower parts, while Mika was doing the same round opposite way. Anyway nothing was found. After 11 a.m. we continued to Fojo where we sat down in the open area in the middle of the huge forest. There were also a couple of Germans and after a half an hour or so they started to talk something that had a word “vireo”. We watched if they were watching somewhere and realized that they were indeed watching a bird. With Mika we turned around very quickly and managed to find a bird that they were watching. But once I got it to my bins it flew down behind the bushes. All I saw were bright yellow breast and white stomach! We ran after the bird but couldn’t relocate it. So we climbed back to ask what the Germans had seen and now they were talking about a Northern Parula. But I was thinking that I had seen a little bit bigger and different-shaped bird and Mika thought so too. Mika and Germans had also seen two white wing-bars, and Mika said it could have been a Yellow-throated Vireo. Germans checked the book and said it really could have been it, after all they said they were 99% sure about it. We of course kept on searching the bird and also walkie-talkied about it and soon there were everyone searching for it, but it was not found anymore.
I gave up after a few hours but some stayed searching for the bird until 5 p.m. On the walk back towards the village I saw a Collared Dove. While I was shopping I heard that a Yellow-billed Cuckoo had been found somewhere but I understood that it was somewhere near the Miradouro. After all it had been somewhere close to the shop, but it had been flushed by a photographer so almost everyone missed it anyway. On the dinner the atmosphere was quiet, everyone had expected the day would have been better.
On the morning of the 22nd of October a wet foggy cloud was covering the higher parts of the island. Anyway we headed straight to Fojo where we hoped to see the yellow-breasted bird again. After an hour waiting the weather cleared a little bit, but unfortunately only for an hour. Then the fog came even lower and I decided to move and climbed for some time on the Southern part of Fojo but the forest was so wet that I gave up soon. I was completely wet when I got to the picnik-area where I met Darryl Spittle and together we walked towards Lapa. I had decided to walk down to Lapa but because of the fog I somehow though I was already there when I got off the road and walked along a river-bottom towards a small forest. Soon I realized that I was somewhere else which was Do Cerrado das Vagas that was impossible to check very well as the cliffs were too steep. Anyway I checked the places that were possible and then continued to Lapa which I walked down and back up but once again couldn’t find anything. With very wet boots I finally walked together with Mika and Kalle to the village where I did some shopping again and then went to have a muffin to Bombeiros.
In the afternoon we still did a short walk around the fields and somehow I managed to hit an electric fence with both my legs. Nice! Once I got back to our apartment I met Janne Riihimäki who had arrived for the late season trip. In the evening our dinner was excellent!
Last day on Corvo
23rd of October. It was my last full day on Corvo so I really had planned to try hard. The weather looked ok when we left up by taxi but soon we realized that the fog was even worse than on the previous day. So with Kalle we got out already in Pico and we walked down to check the forests there. But the forest was again so wet that soon we continued to Da Ponte. But nothing was found and soon my shoes were wet again. So we started to walk back down early. The weather was still much better near the village so we walked a lot checking all the fields and I also continued to the rubbish tip and around the airport but found absolutely nothing.
After a short break I still continued to seawatching and it was a surprise that I was there by the windmills alone. Soon I found a Cory Shearwater chasing a small, pale bird very far on the sea. They were coming closer all the time but I lost the smaller bird many times behind the waves but luckily the shearwater kept on chasing it so I found it always soon. After some time they were so close that I could identify the bird as a Grey Phalarope! But right then it disappeared behind the waves again and the Cory Shearwater stopped chasing it. I walkie-talkied about it anyway as I thought it could be found when it gets up again. About 10 twitchers arrived but only 1 had a scope. After some time Peter Alfrey found surprisingly 2 Grey Phalaropes but they landed to the waves right away. Then I found one bird swimming, but it also disappeared when the first twitcher tried to see it with my scope.
After some time I gave up and left walking around the airport. Soon after that the twitchers saw a Spotted Sandpiper coming towards me, but it also got lost somewhere. Then Petri saw 3 Grey Phalaropes from the camp-site but again the birds disappeared and they weren’t seen after that at all. In the evening I packed my luggage and at 8 p.m. we had the dinner again.
On the 24th of October I and several other birders that were leaving went to say goodbye to all the birders that were going up by taxis at 8 a.m. The weather was still bad but I went to walk around the airfield one more time. I heard a Willow Warbler singing on the tamarisks but that was the only bird found. After all I had to go to get my luggage and at 10 a.m. we got a ride to the airport.
After we had said goodbye to some of the birders and other people that were at the airport our plane left at 10:55 a.m. to Faial, Horta. There we said more goodbyes to some birders that were still going to Terceira and soon got back to the plane and continued to Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel. There we got our luggage, rent a car with Kalle and dropped Petri to twitch the Willet that had still been in ETAR and continued to search our hotel Alcides. Unfortunately I couldn’t remember how to drive there but finally after some searching we found it with help of my phones navigator. We dropped our and Petris luggage into our rooms and soon hurried towards the eastern parts of the island.
Kalle was hoping to get lifer of the only endemic of Azores, Azorean Bullfinch – and I had nothing else to do so I had promised to join him. Of course it was good to go birding by a car. Kalle had got driving instructions to the last place where Finnish birders has seen the bullfinches, but they were through Povoacao. Se it meant that we weren’t driving the easiest and fastest roads. After many Common Buzzards and some U-turns we finally made it through Povoacao and found Serra do Trangueira road. Clouds were hanging low while we were driving slowly along this forest road which is the only place in the world to see Azorean Bullfinches. After about 5 kilometers I started to think that we were near the places where we had seen some bullfinches at 2011. And right after that I saw a bird just in front of our car on a dry branch. Kalle stopped and soon found the bird too! We got out and managed to get some pictures of the bird too, before it flew up to the tops of the trees. We walked around a little bit and found easily four Azorean Bullfinches but they were mostly calling from the tops of the trees. They landed to the hillside a couple of times but too far to get any more pictures. Other birds we saw were Goldcrests, Robins and lots of Goldfinches, Canaries and Azores Chaffinches. Then it started to rain very hard, so we decided to continue driving to Nordeste from where we continued along the motorway towards Ponta Delgada.
We drove straight to our hotel and soon Petri, who had already been celebrating his Willet-tick for a couple of hours, arrived too. Then it was time to go to eat well. We found a nice Swedish-owned 27 restaurant and luckily met also Kari there. It was nice to have a really good dinner in a good company! But soon we were too tired and had to go to sleep.
Back to Finland
25th of October. With Kalle we woke up at 7 a.m and left to Mosteiros. Once there we tried to find a Double-crested Cormorant which had been seen there in many autumns but not in this autumn. But all we saw were 3 Manx Shearwaters. At 10 a.m. we continued backwards and to Lagoa Azul. There we met Swedish team, Bosse, Jesper and Richard who had already been birding there for whole morning. So we just checked the best place and saw 11 Coots, a Moorhen and 4 Common Waxbills as trip-ticks.
Soon we continued to Ponta Delgada where we still visited ETAR where we met Richard Bonser who was still waiting for the Willet to show up. Richard was again going to Corvo for the late season. But Soon Kalle had to drive me to the airport. My flight to Lissabon left at 3 p.m. After a long flight I had to do some souvenir-shopping in Lissabon airport but I had almost 4 ours time so it was not a problem. Finally at 10:10 p.m. (local time) my flight left to Helsinki. A long and boring flight was over at 3:45 a.m. (local and winter-time that had just changed) and my father was picking me up. In Kirkkonummi I was able to go to sleep some more.
The trip was after all very good, event though the autumn was one of the worst ones in 10 years birding history of Corvo. I got 7 WP-ticks and even though they weren’t super-rare birds, I had hoped to see at least some of the most common species missing from my list. My another goal was to find something good by myself but I failed on that. When there is only one bird found every day and even 43 birders searching you really need also luck to find it. I would say that I was trying enough. Anyway I was many times very close when the bird was found, so at least I was birding in right places. It was good to see most of the birds very quickly and then keep on trying to find something new.
It was also good to visit Corvo on the peak-time when it is really full of birders. I had heard rumors of fights between birders but luckily everything went pretty smoothly. Of course information about rare birds could go much better and everyone aren’t best friends. But I got many new friends and of course it was nice to see many old friends too. Special thanks to Stefan Ettenstam and Kalle Larsson for giving me some bird-pictures that I am using in this report.