Review of the Week: 1-7 July 2024


Last year was unprecedented in terms of mega-rare seabird sightings, with the Isles of Scilly in particular enjoying a bounty of riches. This included Red-footed Booby, Brown Booby, three South Polar Skuas and 29 Scopoli's Shearwaters. Was this a freak event or, with our planet's climate spiralling out of control, the new normal? Early signs this year are that it looks set to be another prolific seabird season in the South-West Approaches, with sightings in recent weeks already including two booby species, large shearwaters and Wilson's Storm Petrels.

Wilson's Storm Petrel, Scilly pelagic, Isles of Scilly (Joe Pender).

Early July delivered a substantial arrival of Cory's Shearwaters in the South-West, with a pelagic off Scilly on 5th producing a conservative estimate of 75, plus at least 25 Great Shearwaters, 18 Sooty Shearwaters and four Wilson's Storm Petrels. Stealing the headlines, however, was a juvenile South Polar Skua found as the boat returned to harbour. Only the eighth British record, it becomes the fifth for Scilly, with four of those occurring within the last 12 months. Two more off Iceland on 1st suggest that the north-east Atlantic might be set for another productive showing over the next few weeks. The species is known to follow Great Shearwaters as they roam the North Atlantic Ocean throughout the summer.

South Polar Skua, Scilly pelagic, Isles of Scilly (Joe Pender).

Great Shearwater, Scilly pelagic, Isles of Scilly (Joe Pender).

Great Shearwaters were off three Cornish headlands and Cory's flew past four, with others off Brandon Point, Co Kerry (three), and Mull, Argyll. A trio of Wilson's Storm Petrels was logged from a pelagic off Co Cork on 5th, alongside one of the week's two Sabine's Gulls. The other was at Carnsew Basin, Cornwall, on 2nd. The Red-footed Booby again resurfaced, this time photographed off the seafront at Sidmouth, Devon, on 2nd. A probable sighting from a slow-moving train followed at Dawlish, Devon, on 4th. Catch up with Vince Jenkins' extraordinary account of the booby off the Dorset coast last week.

A notable South Yorkshire record saw a forlorn-looking Puffin discovered deep inland along the Chesterfield Canal near Thorpe Salvin on 7th. Soon taken into care, it was found to be in good condition and released on the coast later that afternoon near Filey, North Yorkshire.

Puffin, Thorpe Salvin, South Yorkshire (Steve Furber).

An interesting-looking Calidris wader provided some consternation as it flew over Kilnsea Wetlands, East Yorkshire, on 3rd, with initial photographs showing it to be either a Long-toed Stint or a Least Sandpiper. Thankfully, it was relocated not long after news broke, allowing it to be confirmed as an adult Least Sandpiper. The species is no stranger to a midsummer appearance, with eight of 57 total records coming in July. It is the second record for the Spurn recording area, after a two-day bird in July 1991. Other new Nearctic visitors included a Long-billed Dowitcher (at Portmore Lough RSPB, Co Antrim) and two Lesser Yellowlegs (at Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire, and Sprouston, Borders). Lingering were a Long-billed Dowitcher in Co Wexford and a Lesser Yellowlegs in Co Cork.

Least Sandpiper, Kilnsea, East Yorkshire (John Hewitt).

Long-billed Dowitcher, Portmore Lough RSPB, Antrim (Aaron Long).

In Nottinghamshire, the Black-winged Pratincole was back at Finningley GPs from 5th after a four-day absence. Pectoral Sandpipers were at Kilnsea Wetlands, East Yorkshire, and Lough Beg, Co Londonderry. Incredibly, a Eurasian Stone-curlew on North Ronaldsay, Orkney, on 4th is Scotland's fifth record of 2024 and the island's second of the year. Up to three Black-winged Stilts were in Cambridgeshire. Meanwhile, a ringed escape was at Ken Hill Marshes, Norfolk, and is presumably the same one photographed in Lincolnshire during May.

Black-winged Pratincole, Finningley, Nottinghamshire (Martin Loftus).

Pectoral Sandpiper, Kilnsea, East Yorkshire (Tate Lloyd).

On 2nd, an adult drake Stejneger's Scoter was found on the sea off Musselburgh Lagoons, Lothian. Remaining until the end of the week, it provided some excellent views at close range with a small group of Velvet Scoter. The first-summer drake White-winged Scoter continued at Murcar, Aberdeenshire, until 4th, and Surf Scoter were off Inch, Co Kerry (two) and Pendower, Cornwall.

Stejneger's Scoter (centre) with Velvet Scoter, Musselburgh Lagoons, Lothian (Rupert Evershed).

Unexpected news from East Yorkshire concerned a pair of Blue-winged Teal present intermittently at Tophill Low between 4 April and 2 June. These birds were kept quiet at the time owing to a potential breeding attempt – keep an eye on the BirdGuides website later this week for the full lowdown on the occurrence from the site's wardening team. Two Ferruginous Duck remained at Draycote Water, Warwickshire, and American Wigeon lingered in Moray and Co Louth.

Blue-winged Teal, Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire, 2 June (Graeme Brook).

The discovery of a Forster's Tern at Soldiers Point, Co Louth, from 5th had many pondering whether the site's famous long-staying adult (present intermittently between 8 October 2006 and 16 October 2022) had risen from the dead after more than a year without any reports. However, it was later confirmed as the second-summer bird last seen at Arne RSPB, Dorset, on 7 May. This bird has previously commuted between Poole Harbour, Dorset, and Finistère, France.

Forster's Tern, Soldier's Point, Louth (Fergal Stanley).

The female American Black Tern at Long Nanny, Northumberland, was fitted with a green colour ring during routine tern rounds on 3rd, with its male Arctic Tern partner also banded the following day. With any luck, this may provide some fascinating insight into where this Nearctic vagrant – now into its fifth summer on site – goes outside the breeding season.

American Black Tern, Long Nanny, Northumberland (Glyn Sellors).

A mobile Caspian Tern was along the River Idle valley in Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire on 1st, with one at Sandbach Flashes, Cheshire, on 6th. The Least Tern lingered in Co Dublin. The semi-resident Azores Gull was back at Annagh, Co Mayo, on 30th, with the Kent Bonaparte's Gull, four Glaucous Gulls and a single Iceland Gull adding interest.

Caspian Tern, Sandbach Flashes, Cheshire (Glyn Sellors).

Least Tern (front bird) and Little Tern, Portrane Point, Dublin (Paul Lynch).

A decent flurry of passerine action in Shetland involved Melodious Warbler, Red-backed Shrike and two Marsh Warblers, plus late news of three European Bee-eaters on Papa Stour on 29th. Elsewhere, the White-spotted Bluethroat remained at Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire, and a Hoopoe was at Shanagarry, Co Cork. Suffolk birders enjoyed a Rosy Starling at Felixstowe from 5th and a European Bee-eater overflew Holt, Norfolk.

A Black-crowned Night Heron over Mid Dale, Mainland, on 4th made for a notable Shetland record. Others were at North Cave Wetlands, East Yorkshire, and Saltholme RSPB, Cleveland, and the adult Yellow-crowned Night Heron persisted at Belcarra, Co Mayo. The unringed White Stork again roamed along the River Idle in Nottinghamshire and took a brief trip north to Yorkshire's Lower Derwent Valley on 6th.

Black-crowned Night Heron, North Cave Wetlands YWT, East Yorkshire (Lee Johnson).

Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Belcarra, Mayo (Mark Rayment).

A young male Montagu's Harrier remained reliable at Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire, for much of the week, with belated news of another near Brackley, Northamptonshire, on 24 June. Male Red-footed Falcons continued in Suffolk and Cumbria.

Red-footed Falcon, Carlton Marshes SWT, Suffolk (Jim Mountain).


Western Palearctic

A routine ringing session at Tauvo, Finland, early on 6th produced two mega-rare East Asian buntings, with a male Yellow-browed Bunting – a country first – followed soon after by a male Pallas's Reed Bunting – a Finnish second.

Off Iceland, a survey vessel exploring the limits of the nation's territorial waters approximately 199 nautical miles offshore stumbled across two different South Polar Skuas on 1st – a pale-morph adult and an immature – the first such records for Iceland.

Two pratincoles kept close company at Melværet, Norway, on 29-30th. Amazingly, one of these proved to be an Oriental Pratincole – the fifth national record – with the other a Black-winged, which was a 10th for Norway. Nesseby, Finnmark, hosted a smart male Masked Wagtail. A Red-footed Booby was found dead on a cargo ship at Gävle, Sweden, on 17 June.

South Polar Skua, at sea, Suðurland (Silas Olofson).

An adult Cape Gull was photographed with Yellow-legged Gulls at Nice, France, on 4th, with a Bridled Tern and Elegant Tern lingering in north-west France. A juvenile Cream-coloured Courser made for a smart find on the beach at Casares Costa, Andalucia, and a Red-footed Booby was logged from a pelagic off Galicia. Elsewhere in Spain were at least two Elegant Terns and a Western Reef Heron. Portugal's sixth Greater Yellowlegs was near Aveiro.

A male Namaqua Dove at Bărăganul on 3rd appears a likely first for Romania, with three Laughing Doves at Fier becoming an Albanian first. Turkey's first Striated Heron was photographed at Gaziantep and three Swinhoe's Storm Petrels were off Eilat, Israel. An Arabian Lark was in Kuwait.

Masked Wagtail, Nesseby, Finnmark (Jeff Blincow).


Written by: Sam Viles