We’re finally on that famous birding destination Corvo, a.k.a The Rock. It’s a small island in the western most part of The Azores. When American birds get lost in the storms on the Atlantic, this is where they end up.
It was fairly recently discovered what an amazing migrant trap Corvo was, these days WP birders flock to the island in October, waiting for that MEGA to land. By now it’s very well organised, all birders have walki-talkies and bird news is announced on the radio as well as on a WhatsApp group that everyone is connected to. It’s also a very nice and social environment here, birders from almost all countries in Europe join up and search for vagrants. There is dinner in a restaurant at 8 o’clock every evening and it is jointly organised. Pierre-Andre Crochet is doing great work as organiser of most things. Thanks PAC!
We arrived in the afternoon, and after unloading the luggage at Guest House Comodore which is the place to stay here, we immediately set off. The Comodore is fully booked by birders, and we were told by friends to book well in advance. We booked in December last year. In the old harbour a Belted Kingfisher as well as two Northern Waterthrushes had been seen on and off for the last couple of days. Before trying for the Kingfisher we decided on a quick lunch. When we came out on the street after lunch and started to walk down towards the harbour, an alarm came in – Bobolink up on the Island found by Danish birder Lars Mortensen.
Stressfull, what to choose, Kingfisher or Bobolink. We decided to spend 5 minutes first on the Kingfisher, and then go up on the Island by taxi for the Bobolink. The Bobolink was seen close to one of the Riberias called “Rebeira do Poco de Agua”. It’s important to learn the names of all the birding sites here. A “Ribeira” is a steep valley ravine with forest. The rest of the island is cow pastures and this is probably what makes Corvo so good for birding – there are no forests for birds to hide in.
No luck on the elusive Kingfisher, even though other birders had seen it just 10 minutes before we arrived. Up on the Island, Lars Mortensen was on site helping us to locate the Bobolink. After maybe an hour of searching Mårten finds the bird and calls on the radio.
Erik and I run – but too late – the bird is gone. We continue to search, and finally after a few more hours of searching the steep fields we’re able to connect with the bird again and we all see it. Fast down the mountain with Taxi again. They have an elaborate Taxi system here, driving birders en masse up and down the mountain. The Kingfisher was gone though, the last siting was the one just 10 minutes before we had our short 5-minute attempt. Much searching was done for the Belted Kingfisher this day and the following days, but the bird was truly gone. We also had the Waterthrush to work on, the Waterthrushes had been seen in the tamarisk on the lower fields, next to the airstrip. Several birders search for the shy Waterthrushes and we can hear the birds calling several times inside the tamarisk. Soon we all get it. No pictures though, it’s an elusive quick bird.
Day two, we run on an alarm on Philadelphia Vireo from upper parts of Ribeira do Vinte found by famous WP birder PAC. When we’re accessing the Riberia from the Upper road, two bad things happen. The bird moved down and is now in the lower parts of do Vinte and it starts to rain as if there is no tomorrow. We take shelter for the rain in a cave!! and have no real high hopes for the Vireo. Eventually the rain gives up and PAC calls on the radio and says that he still has the bird, and that he also has a Red-eyed Vireo. We slide through mud down the steep ravine and it’s simply not possible to get any wetter and muddier. We reach PAC together with Lars Mortensen and we get both birds.
Truly a good start on Corvo. Next day we finally had no alarms to act on, and we could go searching ourselves. It’s always more fun to find your own birds than to run after other peoples birds. We decided on Riberia do Cantinho and worked ourselves upwards in the ravine. Mårten and I on one side and Erik on the other. This is extremely exciting birding, slowly working through a ravine full of thickets, moss and high trees. Stopping, listening, looking, playbacking, walking slowly. After a couple of hours Erik calls on the radio in full on falsetto – Shit I have an Ovenbird –
Mårten and I make our way to Eriks side of the Riberia and we start to try to relocate the Ovenbird which is gone by now. This is a very skulky bird who almost never shows well. After many hours we have all three seen the rarity. Erik is in heaven, so are the other birders that arrived when we called out the Ovenbird on the radio. Many people dipped the Ovenbird though since it was almost hopeless.
Day four we decided to start birding in the fields close to the village. Soon there is an alarm on Rose-breasted Grosbeak which was never refound by anyone. Then, by lunch a group of birders call out a flying Yellow-billed Cuckoo that we searched for extensively. This Cuckoo was very shy, and it was seen this day and the following day – briefly – by several. We were never able to connect with i though, although we spent hour after hour searching in the tamarisk bushes the Cuckoo seemed to prefer.
Next day we decided to have reprisal of self-found birds and started in the morning by walking the Riberia da Ponte. Beautiful ravine, but no yanks. Once we reached the top, we got a new alarm on the Yellow-billed Cuckoo from yesterday. Taxi down the mountain and fruitless Cuckoo searching for the remainder of the day. Boring. It’s interesting that a Yellow-billed Cuckoo has been close to the village for two days, many have searched for it and maybe 5 birders have seen it. So, it’s certainly possible to miss out on birds here.
In the evening though some good news arrived, the Belted Kingfisher had re-appeared on the Island of Flores which is close. Erik started to organise a joint boat trip to Flores for the next day. Quite a few birders from quite a few different countries joined up to search on the neighbour island.
It was a dip – and now we feel very very strongly that we need some flow.