Sunday, November 5, 2023

Oh Parula!

On the night of 24 September, I toyed with the idea of going for the unidentified Empid at Cilan Head on the Lleyn Peninsula in N Wales, but was too knackered to be there for dawn, so I slept on it, which turned out to be a good move. Monday 25th dawned bright and clear, and of the Empid there was no sign. I settled down to get on with some work, then had to cut a phone call from Duncan Walbridge short as mega-alert went off yet again: ‘Sorry Dunc, Parula’s just been seen again on Scilly. Got to go.’

It had been seen briefly on the Saturday just gone, then no news at all on the Sunday, when the weather on Scilly was foul, but now it was a lovely day there and up it popped again. I had a horrible history with the species, having passed up the opportunity to do my first twitch to Scilly in 1992 for a showy bird on the Garrison on St Mary’s, then missing a one-day bird on St Agnes in 1995 by leaving the islands a day early and being fogged off the day after. A dip at Brownstown Head in Waterford with James McGill was followed by not getting to a 2010 bird on Tiree in time because of work commitments. Lots of others who had been waiting less time for one saw the Tiree bird very well. Having been a seemingly regular vagrant in the late 1980s, records had fallen off a cliff and this was only the fourth record since that 1992 bird. A bogey bird indeed!

Back to 25 September. It was now nearly 11 am, so too late to make the 2.05pm flight from Land's End I had booked in a panic on Saturday, but the A30 roadworks have caused so many delays that Skybus were happy to transfer me free of charge to a later flight at 3.40 pm. Twitch on! Once again there was little or no accommodation available, but, with help from friends on WhatsApp, I managed to book a Tresco Boat Services boat on to St Martin’s at 4.45pm. The flight was 20 minutes late (Tense? Me? Oh yes!), but I arrived at the quay on St Mary’s at c.4.30pm and my boat (the Cyclone) was there waiting. Excellent! We whizzed across and landed at Higher Town quay by 4.50, I legged it across the cricket pitch, and got gen about where to look from a few casual birders by the pitch. Then I bumped into a couple and their young son who had just been watching it, but it had flown off from its favoured willows just a minute or two before I got there. Scream!

I set about searching, on my own by then, and just about half an hour later, I relocated it fairly high up in an elm about 50 yards away. Only a brief, flicky view and from underneath, but I had at last seen a Parula! I spent some more time hoping it would come back to the willows again (and trying to bring my phone back to life to put out an update), but it didn't and activity quietened down after the sun went off them. Eventually I left and caught my pre-arranged 7 pm boat back to Mary’s. Straight to the Co-op for food and fags, then on to the Scillonian Club, where I bumped into Higgo and started in on several pints of Cold River cider to celebrate. I also jammed in on a speech by the CEO of Harland & Wolff about their plans to provide new ferries on the route to/from the islands, which went down well with the locals (a fast ferry doing 3 or 4 trips a day in summer sounded good to me too, though it’s unclear whether it would be running in the main birding season).

I found a spot to sleep which was at least private and dry (I'm not saying where in case I need to use it again) and settled down to an uncomfortable night, cushioned by the alcohol and the warm feeling of having finally seen my bogey bird. I still felt a little cheated though, given the outstanding views others had had until just before I got there. Still, there was always the morning.

Dawn broke on the Tuesday overcast and occasionally wet, but the rain cleared through quickly to leave a bright, sunny day, and I jumped on the St Mary’s Association boat that currently runs to St Martin’s at 0845 every weekday. I knew Dan Pointon and Andy Holden were on the first flight on to Mary’s but it might be tight for them to make the boat. It was – I was standing over the boatman, cajoling him to hang on just a few more minutes, but he was in the middle of casting off when I saw their shuttle bus coming down the quay. They made it, just. After landing at Lower Town quay it was a bit of a hike across the island, but it wasn’t too long of a wait at the favoured willows before we were treated to sumptuous views of the Parula. These were the views I had wanted the night before, and they were stunning! What a bird! Thirty-plus years of hurt had gone away the night before, but this was something else. 

Photo: Pete Garrity
After a while the Parula flew off into the elms, so we headed to the bakery, where Dan rapidly demolished a pasty, then fruitlessly looked for a Red-eyed Vireo seen the day before near the campsite. We were all off on a 2.30 pm flight (Dan and Andy spent less than 6 hours on the islands - very efficient twitching indeed) and my journey back home was routine, apart from a cracked windscreen due to a large stone kicked up by another car on the A30.  It didn't stop me grinning, though.

One song kept popping into my head the night before in the Scillonian Club, so here is my version (with sincere apologies to the late Leonard Cohen and indeed everyone else):

‘Now I knew that there's a bogey bird

Photo: Pete Garrity

That lots had seen but I'd not heard

And it goes by the name of Parula

I'd missed it for years

Then another appears

And shining in the sun is a Parula

A Parula, a Parula

Oh Parula, oh Paru-u-ula’

After that, things started to calm down a bit, though a well-watched one-day Blackburnian Warbler on Shetland kept the run of true megas coming (and also the thanks offered to the birding gods for the long-staying Bryher bird last year). Then Irish (and some British) birders were scrambling when Ireland’s first Cape May Warbler (a real scorcher, much better-looking than the Unst bird of 10 years ago) was found on Achill Island. There were also some high-quality American birds available in the last few days of September and first few of October for birders seeking to fill in gaps on their lists: 2 Bobolinks on Scilly, Yellow Warbler on Tiree, and a very showy Veery on Shetland. The few who needed all of them must have been bouncing around like yo-yos.

Meanwhile, another British tick had popped up for me: a classy-looking juvenile Northern Harrier on the Lizard. I’d seen two in Ireland before, so it wasn't a desperate 'need', but as there were other decent birds in Cornwall too, I made an effort once I’d got some work done. I dipped on 5 October, despite spending five hours in two watches overlooking Goonhilly Downs: I did take some time out and head over to Polgigga, where I was exceedingly lucky to get the briefest of brief views of a Black-and-white Warbler trapped in Nanjizal the day before – it only showed twice for about a minute each time that day. A return visit on Saturday 7 October got me flight views of a Purple Heron at Marazion Marsh and at last views of the harrier, now down at Kynance Cove, including a stunning slow fly-past at no more than 60 yards’ range. I got home that evening happy that I was, at last and for now, Back to Square One.

Those first few days after ex-Hurricane Lee hit were the most intense birding period I have ever known, and I was lucky that most of the serious action for me was within relatively easy reach. We may not see its like again.

Saturday, November 4, 2023

‘Never seen anything like it…’

Such was the reaction of one twitcher of nearly 50 years’ standing I spoke to during a seriously intense and unprecedented American vagrancy event in late September 2023.

British and Irish birders’ eyes lit up when they saw the track of ex-Hurricane Lee, hitting Nova Scotia on Saturday 16 September and then screaming across the Atlantic by Monday night on 18th. We’re used to such systems, of course, but not this early, so anticipation was high that it might bring across something rarer than the regular October Yank vagrants. We were not, however, anything like ready for what actually happened…

The 16th had already seen a spectacular and unprecedented twitch by my old mate Paul Chapman, travelling from Scilly to St Kilda in just under 24 hours to claw back Tennessee Warbler, but that’s his tale, to be told another day. Cliff Swallows had been seen in unprecedented numbers in Iceland, so a twitchable one in Kent on 19th was only surprising in its location. Not a tick for the big listers, but still a quality rarity. Then, the next morning, Ireland’s first Blackburnian Warbler was found on Skellig Michael, one of the most difficult islands to get to at all, never mind in a hurry. Ex-Hurricane Lee had already produced a real mega, and we thanked the stars for the Bryher bird last year.

A few Red-eyed Vireos in western Ireland and Scilly were only to be expected, but that evening though, even the biggest listers were quivering at news of an Empidonax sp. on Skokholm; it was confirmed several days later as an Alder Flycatcher (which most have seen), but there are a couple of likely Empids that haven’t turned up yet, so you have to have your wits about you. Then all of that was blown away as, just before dusk, Toby Phelps hit gold dust on the mainland at St Govan’s Head, Pembrokeshire Magnolia Warbler! A near-mythical bird this side of the Atlantic, with only two previous British records, the only twitchable one being on Scilly way back in 1981! To say this was huge is a massive, massive understatement.

Dawn on 21st saw a big crowd gathered in a surprisingly capacious car park (it needed to be!), including birders I had not seen on a national twitch for donkey’s years – everyone was out for this one. Cliff Smith picked the Magnolia up in a thermal imager nice and early, and over the next couple of hours we were treated to some sumptuous views of it flicking around in gorse, bracken, and hawthorns in the little valley east of the car park, the yellow underparts shining in the occasional sunny spells. What a magnificent bird!

Photo: Ashley Howe

After a while it flew a little way up the valley and landed close to me, giving me more gobsmacking views, before moving further up towards the car park. News of a Red-eyed Vireo at Sker, Glamorgan, had Welsh listers scurrying away, but by now it was clear that a serious vagrancy event was on the cards, as mega-alert was going off at regular intervals: a Bobolink on Skokholm (where the as-yet-unidentified Empid was also still present, unattainably as the swell was still too big for boats to go), a Tennessee Warbler on Barra, and two different Baltimore Orioles in Ireland.

My crew of Paul C, Paul Gregory, and Matt Slaymaker were already on our way back through South Wales when another huge blow struck – Bay-breasted Warbler on Ramsey Island! Eeeek! Even rarer than Magnolia; literally everyone bar the one birder who found the first one needed it; and we were very close to it! However, it very quickly became clear that there would be no boats to Ramsey that day due to sea conditions, though some headed to St Justinians and looked over Ramsey Sound in agony, as they could see the few birders on the island watching it! Paul C booked himself and me on to the first available boat on Saturday morning, and we headed back, as Paul G and Matt had other places they had to be. We were all seriously bummed out, and had to remind ourselves that we had just that morning seen a Magnolia Warbler!

The 22nd was, by comparison, fairly quiet, though a new Tennessee Warbler and Baltimore Oriole in Ireland reminded us that the fallout from Lee was far from over. Paul C and I travelled separately back to Pembrokeshire for the Saturday, as he had family commitments later that day; a good thing it turned out to be too, as another day of utter madness was just beginning. While we were waiting for our 10 am boat to Ramsey (incidentally getting great views of a Wryneck on the coast path at St Justinians), the next mega-alert went off – Toby Phelps had done it again! One better in fact, by finding Britain’s first Canada Warbler, only a few miles from the Magnolia Warbler (which was also still present for the Saturday crowd)!  For those of us who had seen the Irish bird at Kilbaha in 2006, which showed very well, no problem, but for those who hadn’t, or who don’t ‘do’ Ireland, an absolute must-see bird. 

First things first though for those already queuing – on to Ramsey, where we were corralled on arrival and given a list of do’s and don’ts, under the watchful eye of a couple of policemen (yes, really), then the short distance up to overlook the warden’s house and the willows in the back garden. The Bay-breasted Warbler was still present and giving great views, but then it flew up the slope and landed on some brambles about 30 feet from Paul and myself. Absolutely stunning!

Photo: Paul Chapman

Paul headed back to the quay, to get off asap to resume family duties. Then all hell broke loose. Bear in mind that the 80 birders on Ramsey (plus another 80 still queueing at St Justinians) included most of the biggest listers in Britain, but as mega-alert kept going off, plenty needed something somewhere. Bruce Taylor came up trumps again on Barra with Britain’s second Philadelphia Vireo (a tick for Paul, though I had seen an Irish one, again at Kilbaha, on a day when he was unavoidably tied up), but there was only a short time before the blow fell on me too – Parula on Scilly! My bogey bird. About half an hour later, news of an Ovenbird on Rum had other birders wondering how to get there, while another Empid, this time on the mainland in N Wales, had us all a bit worried about what it might turn out to be. Some dashed off the midday boat, legged it up, saw the Bay-breasted almost immediately, and legged it straight back down again to get in the (very orderly) queue to get off. Some were planning to hit the Canada Warbler, which was at least easily accessible, while others who’d already seen that on the way were planning to head for a hastily arranged boat to Bardsey for a Black-and-white Warbler found on there.  It really was that mad a day. There were younger but very keen listers who left Ramsey having seen a huge mega-tick, but with at least three possible ticks for them already on the board, spread widely up and down the country, and with no way of knowing which, if any, would stick.

Off by about 12.45pm, I paused long enough to book a flight to Scilly on Monday afternoon, but only in hope, as there was no further sign of the Parula that day. Mid-afternoon I arrived near Stack Rocks to look for the Canada Warbler, and it was a real mess of a twitch. Given the habitat the bird had chosen it was always going to be, and I saw nothing I would class as bad behaviour (apart from some of the parking, quickly sorted out), just lots of birders trying desperately to see a first for Britain in a willow clump, where views were inevitably brief and not very good unless you were lucky. In 90 minutes I saw the bird briefly twice – enough for the British tick, just. Thankfully I was less in need of great views than many others there. At 5pm, with the wind increasing and the weather deteriorating, I left and headed for home. Later I found out that Harry Murphy had managed to get on to both Skokholm and Ramsey and had had a four-tick day: a first for Britain, a second, and two thirds. Surely an unbeatable all-time record?

Sunday 24th was mercifully quieter, as we were all a bit knackered, though some of the keen youngsters were still travelling. Some of the keen older ’uns too, as Paul spent the next two days searching on Barra for the Philly Vireo, with no joy. Meanwhile, Bruce managed to find yet another Tennessee Warbler and added at least another three to the Red-eyed Vireo count on the island. (Now there’s a question for another day – who did better: Toby Phelps, with two absolute mega mainland finds (Magnolia and Canada), or Bruce Taylor, who found Philly Vireo, 2 Tennessee Warblers, and at least 5 Red-eyed Vireos over the same few days?) 

Meanwhile, there was still the (very elusive) N Wales Empid to worry about, and an elusive American warbler found near Briton Ferry in S Wales that turned out to be another Magnolia – the relief when it was finally worked out and was ‘only’ a bird we’d have given our eye teeth for just a few days earlier! I spent the day unsuccessfully looking for a Red-eyed Vireo trapped twice on Portland the previous day and again right at dawn, but it melted away, largely unseen in the field.

Utter madness, but it wasn’t remotely over yet…

Saturday, August 5, 2023

Ancient Murrelet

For various reasons at various times, I never managed to go for the Lundy Ancient Murrelet – a fact that I have often quoted as what has driven me on twitching ever since. Nor have I been to the west coast of America – a planned trip to California immediately pre-Covid didn’t come off for various reasons too. So when I was in Canada and one was found in the most unlikely of spots in SW Spain, my ears pricked up, though it did not seem likely that it would stick around. But it was still present a few days after I got back, so, with work done and out of the way, I made plans to make a play for it.

On the evening of Sunday 4 June I flew from Bristol to Malaga, arriving just before midnight. It’s over 300 km to Huelva from there, but it meant I could be there for dawn, rather than a night drive to Gatwick for an early flight to Seville and an hour or more’s drive to arrive only by late morning. I stopped a few times, including at Mollina, where I was due to be staying the following night, and a Red-necked Nightjar was calling almost continuously not far from the hotel.

Eventually I went through Huelva and started the 15km down through the Paraje Natural Marismas de Odiel to the Odiel river mouth where the bird had been seen, arriving just about 6 am. It was just getting light and a few Crested Larks started to sing. There were plenty of other cars at Pasarela 6, but they were all fishermen about to cycle down past the locked gates to the point. Lots of Little Terns to-ing and fro-ing from the nearby colony kept me amused, as did 4 Audouin’s Gulls that flew over. At about 7 I was joined by Mick, an ex-pat Brit originally from Shropshire but now resident in Granada, then at about 7.20 I told Mick ‘I’ve got an auk’. All I could see at that point was the back end of it and that it looked small as it drifted downriver with the tide. Then it turned sideways on – bingo! Tiny, pale bill, white head stripe, the works. I was actually looking at an Ancient Murrelet! Mick had seen the Lundy bird, long before he emigrated, but it was a huge Spanish tick for him, so he was very happy too. A few Spanish birders rocked up too, and were also very appreciative. Then the murrelet, which had drifted quite a way down and away by now, flew up past us and ditched just off Pasarela 3. Cue a bit of Wacky Races to get up there, but the views were a bit better, though we were looking into the early morning sunlight, which was becoming an issue. Eventually at about 9 am I gave up, very satisfied with the views I had had – the bird had by then drifted a long way down again with the tide, though one of the Razorbills it was loosely associating with was still about (what were they doing there in June, by the way?)

I spent the next hour and a half pottering around the marismas – Osprey, lots of Greater Flamingos on the saltpans by the visitor centre, several Spoonbills, Sardinian Warblers, Zitting Cisticolas, more Crested Larks, and a group of about 8 Pallid Swifts. Standard stuff, really, though all very welcome. My next planned stop (if successful with the murrelet) had been due to be Brazo del Este, but Mick told me it was dry, and for the same reasons that Doñana is dry this summer (illegal water extraction in a drought), so I decided not to spoil the brilliant memories from 5 years ago by visiting this time. I decided to drop in at Laguna de la Mejorada, though, near Villafranca de los Palacios, and kind of regretted that, as it too had obviously been dry for ages. No sign of the Rufous Bush Chats I’d seen on my previous visit, but I did hear a singing Western Olivaceous Warbler and a very nice pale phase Booted Eagle drifted over as I was leaving.

I decided to head back towards Mollina and do Laguna de Fuente de Piedra this evening – it was a pleasant enough drive, enlivened by a Griffon giving zero shits about being mobbed by another Booted Eagle, and a roadside Roller. Southeast of Estapa a stunning male Montagu’s Harrier flew across the road, and a Lesser Kestrel too a bit further on. As the Laguna came into view distantly my heart sank – it looked bone dry too.

On closer inspection it wasn’t completely dry, but it only had water in less than a quarter of it, and the large colonies of Greater Flamingo and Gull-billed Tern were abandoned, with only small numbers of each species still present (and no Lesser Flamingos I checked).

The good news (I think) was that the small lagoon just before the car park was still full, so I concentrated on that for this evening. A Red-rumped Swallow was whizzing around the car park, and there were quite a few Avocets and Black-winged Stilts on the lagoon, plus a few Black-tailed Godwits. Also, a single drake White-headed Duck and, tucked away initially, 6 Marbled Ducks! Brilliant to see, and of course year ticks, but it gradually dawned on me that the reason they were there (unusually) was that they had probably had to flee serious drought at other sites.

At 6 pm I left for the Hotel Molina de Saydo that I had stayed at on that trip 5 years before and really liked. They do say never go back – it was perfectly fine, but no longer did food every night, so I had to look elsewhere for that. The beer was good enough though, and the Red-necked Nightjar started up as dusk fell – if only I’d known just how close I had been to easy access to the area the night before. I went back to finish my beer, but the nightjar shut up and didn’t call again by 11pm. Tiredness and alcohol were catching up on me by then, and the hotel locks its gates at midnight, so I didn’t risk going looking in the end, but I was pretty sure I at least heard a Scops Owl.

Next morning I slept in a little, but still managed an hour or so back at Laguna de Fuente de Piedra, looking round the bushes near the car park.  Western Olivaceous Warbler and hearing a bunch of Nightingales were the best before heading back to Malaga and my early afternoon flight back. One target, an early score, allowing me to connect with a bunch of really nice backup birds, so very happy!     

Friday, March 24, 2023

Tropicbird twitch!

I watched last year with incredulity the photos appearing from birders visiting Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands of a Red-billed Tropicbird visiting an ornamental pool at the Atlantico shopping centre on the coast at Caleta de Fuste – the views were evidently mind-blowing. But I couldn’t engineer an opportunity to go. Nor could I use the endemic chat as a further draw, as I had seen that on a Canaries trip in March 1999 with Paul and Judith Chapman and Greg Brinkley – a week on Tenerife with an overnight stop on Fuerteventura specifically and successfully aimed at seeing the chat and the likes of Houbara Bustard, Barbary Partridge, and Cream-coloured Courser. Back then the tropicbird was not a regular visitor to the Canaries, though a few have colonised Lanzarote and Fuerteventura in the last decade or so.

When it became clear in January of this year that the tropicbird was still regularly visiting Atlantico, I vowed to make an effort to get to see it, though once again I could not go at the time. With more gen, available time, and affordable flights from Bristol, I finally took the plunge for a couple of days.

The flight on 20 March didn’t land until after 6 pm, so I knew I wouldn’t see it that day (it had been coming in to roost at the ornamental pool at around 3.30 pm), but after a bit of hassle picking up the hire car I made it the short distance to the Atlantico for dusk as a reccy visit, and also picked up a few Cory’s Shearwaters passing by offshore. A quick stop for water and snacks later, I booked into my hotel, the Aparthotel La Piramide, just 10 minutes up the coast. It’s only a 2-star hotel, and it shows, but on my previous visit there were far fewer hotels that catered for less than a week’s package holiday, and the one we found (also near Caleta de Fuste) had only one room left, so Paul and Jude had that and Greg and I had to sleep in the (small) hire car. So it was an improvement on that at least, and perfectly adequate for a two-night stay. Also, that evening I heard a Long-eared Owl calling a few times somewhere nearby.

I was back at the Atlantico at first light just in case the tropicbird left roost then, but no sign by 8.30 am, so it presumably went out to sea in the dark (as many seabirds do, of course). The trip list at least went up, with multiple Blackcaps and Spanish Sparrows, a few Sandwich Terns, Yellow-legged Gulls, and Cory’s offshore, and a pair of Ruddy Shelducks and a Common Sandpiper on the pool itself. Off then to the famous Barranca de la Torre, only a short distance down the coast. Sardinian Warblers were active near the seaward end, then a short walk up the trail where the ‘road’ bends off into private property produced good views of a few Spectacled Warblers, several Trumpeter Finches, and a couple of the local koenigi race of Great Grey Shrike (its exact taxonomic position is uncertain as that whole complex is currently under review). Non-avian highlights were a few Monarchs and Clouded Yellows, and a large, very fast dragonfly that I think was a Vagrant Emperor.

A quick drop in back at the Atlantico produced nothing new, so I headed off again, this time towards Triquivijate. My notes from 1999 mention this as being largely a dirt road, but not now – a pristine ribbon of tarmac, but with few places where you can pull off safely. I found one near a small barranco, so had a quick look, disturbing a Common Buzzard of the endemic Canaries race insularum. The tropicbird had been known to show at lunchtime on some days, though not recently, but I dashed back to the Atlantico just in case. (Nervous, moi?) I counted 152 Sandwich Terns on the rocks just offshore, then bumped into Dave Mack’s mum and dad and gave them the gen I had on the tropicbird. About 1pm I returned to Barranco de la Torre and added great views of a calling Barbary Partridge and 3 Egyptian Vultures, then got really windy about being away from the Atlantico, so returned and settled in for a wait, keeping myself amused by watching the Barbary Ground Squirrels scampering around on the rocks.

A few Turnstones and Sanderlings on the beach later, it had got to about 2.45 pm when I decided it was prudent to go for a loo break before the timing got critical. Happily it didn’t take long to find the loos in the shopping centre, as when I came back out at 2.52 pm (I checked the time on my phone) and looked out over the pool there was a tropicbird circling over it! F**king hell, what a bird! After a few circuits of the pool, it headed in to land and went straight to its roost hole. I legged it back to where I’d parked the car and found Dave’s mum and dad there – they’d had stellar views and even got a short video. The bird’s tail streamers were still visible from there for a few minutes before it shuffled further in. A flurry of messages followed (including Dave’s totally gripped reaction to finding out even his mum had seen it). After a while I looked up from these to see the tropicbird had come out again! Sadly, all too quickly it flew off out to sea, so again I missed the opportunity to get a photo, but the views were simply gobsmacking!

I waited until nearly 4 pm to see if it came in again – no joy, but a Spoonbill flew in and went to sleep on the rocks. I then wandered a short distance up the beach to look unsuccessfully for the unusual-looking Oystercatcher that has been about in recent weeks there. No sign of the tropicbird at 4.20 pm, so time to move on, very much elated. About a 45-minute drive inland saw me at Los Molinos Reservoir – partly another unsuccessful search for Fuerteventura Chat (officially Canary Islands Stonechat as it was once found on other islands, but now endemic to this island alone), but also the long-staying drake Lesser Scaup was still present, along with about 25 Ruddy Shelducks (plus about the same number of ducklings), and 4 Black-winged Stilts. A few roadside Berthelot’s Pipits and a flyover Black Kite had enlivened the drive out there too (though everything this trip was now definitely gravy). I made it back to the coast before dusk and saw the Oyc briefly on the rocks just north of the beach bar. Then back to the hotel and beer. Great day!

A totally unexpected start to the day on 22nd, as an escaped Crimson Rosella was calling and showing round the hotel. I only had a few hours to play with, so started back at Barranco de la Torre, walking further in response to recent gen received (and also being much more relaxed). Opposite the quarrying works I saw a family party (a female and 2 juveniles) of Fuerteventura Chats. Egyptian Vulture, Spectacled Warbler, Trumpeter Finch, and koenigi Great Grey Shrike were also seen again, the latter very vocal, as were the several Ruddy Shelducks flying around. 

The Common Sandpiper was still at the Atlantico, and the obligatory Cory’s was offshore from near La Piramide after checking out. Last new bird of the trip came in the form of two Plain Swifts that whipped past the airport terminal just after I’d gone through security. The trip list was only 33 species (not counting the Rosella), but the quality was high, and all in less than 20 hours of daylight on the island. Given that the trip was all about the tropicbird, the rest were a big bonus, and it was a huge success – my third and last tropicbird species, completing the family, and my 700th Western Palaearctic species to boot!