Saturday, 12 October 2013

Did you Ce-dar Waxwing?

Awful pun, I know, but a bloody brilliant bird. Both Pierre and I overslept this morning and consequently missed the second taxi up to the ribeiras, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Just as we were donning our boots, Phil Abbott radioed in that he'd flushed a large, yellowish bunting-type bird which had descended in to the middle fields, so we popped up there to help the search. Splitting up to walk the fields, Vincent and I soon noticed Pierre getting pretty animated behind us. And then it transpired that a small brownish blob sat just a few metres away from him was a first-winter Cedar Waxwing...! Bloody hell!

With the news broadcast, we settled in to photograph the bird. Although mobile at times (and heard to call on several occasions!), the bird spent most of the time sitting around closing its eyes, looking exhausted. Perhaps due to tiredness, it proved pretty fearless (though occasionally fed on berries just a few metres from us) and naturally posed for some great photos.

Soon after, a shout went up for a tanager which transpired to be a Bobolink once it was pinned down - no doubt the original bird Phil had seen earlier in the morning. Many of the assembled crowd then spread out the fields, while some of us - including myself - went up the valleys. While on the way up, Lars Mortensen discovered a Common Yellowthroat near the Bobolink spot - clearly, for whatever reason, there had been a good arrival of birds and confidence was high for further discoveries.

I started off by walking up to the top of Poco d'Agua from the middle road. The gradient here is pretty intense and as such the birding can be quite difficult. I had nothing in the more wooded areas but, in the junipers near the very top, I saw a bird shoot past me with a pale underside - on split second views, it looked like a vireo but I couldn't say for sure. Then it popped up on a bush fifty metres away - nice stripy face, green upperparts - fuck yeah! Red-eyed Vireo! OK, so the commonest passerine to occur here but importantly the duck is now broken. It proved pretty mobile and elusive, though I did manage a couple of record shots for documentation.

The rest of the day proved fruitless as I worked the top of Da Ponte, Lapa above the road, the reservoir slopes and finally the 'Tennessee Valley' before descending back in to the village. Long, tiring day but some great birds.

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