Review of the Week: 1–7 October


This October has truly made a fitting first impression, building on the already fine precedent set over the last few days of September. Vagrants have been manifold and provided strong tastes of both east and west. While much of the excitement has admittedly continued to take place on the Northern Isles, good birds have been picked up across the British Isles and it feels as though that mainland mega might be just around the corner. With many birders now arriving on Scilly, the archipelago could come alive this month.

With East Yorkshire's Masked Shrike nowhere to be seen on 3rd, attention turned to the Siberian Rubythroat found at Levenwick (Shetland) that afternoon. Despite this being the ninth bird since 2000, the species has not lost its allure (especially in the case of males, such as the current bird) and a number of birders have made the journey to connect with this relatively accessible individual. Still present on 7th, it has proved co-operative and has shown well much of the time. The rubythroat has by no means been all Shetland has had to offer, however; the Yellow-rumped Warbler was still at Grutness on 1st and a White's Thrush was on Fair Isle on 4th, following the last sighting of the Durigarth bird on 1st. Unfortunately, the Eyebrowed Thrush on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) did not stay into October.

Siberian Rubythroat
Siberian Rubythroat, Levenwick, Mainland, Shetland (Photo: Chris Griffin)

White's Thrush
White's Thrush, Loch of Brow, Mainland, Shetland (Photo: Hugh Harrop)

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler, Grutness, Mainland, Shetland (Photo: John Nadin)

A Scarlet Tanager at Brevig, Barra (Outer Hebrides) represented firm competition for the week's headline bird, with just 10 previous records of this highly prized Nearctic passerine. Found on 6th and still present the next day, the bird will be the first record for Scotland if accepted; most of the previous records have been shared between Cork, Cornwall and Scilly. The second Swainson's Thrush of the autumn was found at Loop Head (Clare) on 4th, but appeared somewhat elusive, making only a brief appearance at noon the following day. Northumberland's first Red-eyed Vireo since 1988 made a brief appearance on the afternoon of 7th, following one at the less surprising location of Achill Island (Mayo) on 3rd.

Scarlet Tanager
Scarlet Tanager, Brevig, Barra, Outer Hebrides (Photo: Mark Rayment)

Swainson's Thrush
Swainson's Thrush, Loop Head, Clare (Photo: Jeff Copner)

A Steppe Grey Shrike at Burnham Norton (Norfolk), found on 5th and still lingering on 7th, will stand as the first county record if accepted. The bird has shown well at times and favours the area between the village and the seawall. Also in East Anglia, late news emerged on 3rd of a Little Crake showing from the Bittern Hide at Minsmere (Suffolk) on 30 September. Lo and behold, searching paid off as the juvenile bird was on view from the hide the next day and proceeded to give itself up each day to those willing to wait patiently. Still there on 7th, this long-staying individual will be much appreciated by anyone who missed the briefer Devon bird in early September.

Steppe Grey Shrike
Steppe Grey Shrike, Burnham Norton, Norfolk (Photo: John Stanton)

Private farmland in Duncormick (Wexford) played host to a Solitary Sandpiper on 7th. This continues a steady flow of records over recent years, although few of these have been in Ireland so, with access arrangements being investigated, it could prove popular. For the second time this year, a bird initially identified as a Richard's Pipit provoked strong thoughts of Blyth's Pipit; this time, it was on St Mary's (Scilly) (from 5th to 6th) and the identification did settle comfortably on Blyth's Pipit. With no twitchable Blyth's since 2007, the reappearance of this individual would be very welcome. Wales played its part this week, laying claim to another of the headline birds in the form of a North Atlantic Little Shearwater that flew past Cemlyn Bay on 4th, providing the first confirmed land-based observation of the year.

Blyth's Pipit
Blyth's Pipit, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Photo: Jim Almond)

A white-morph Gyr Falcon was reported at Kilchoman, Islay (Argyll), on 3rd and a grey morph was on Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 4th, seen around the lighthouse at Butt of Lewis and at the north end of Loch Stiapavat. A juvenile Pallid Harrier frequented the area around Tingwall Airfield (Shetland) from 1-5th and one was on Fetlar (Shetland) on 7th. Rough-legged Buzzard sightings included singles over Gunnister, Unst (Shetland), on 3rd and over Watton and Stiffkey (Norfolk) on 5th and 7th respectively. There was also a report of one in a field at Totnes (Devon) on 5th and a female perched at Burnham Overy (Norfolk) on 7th. Five sightings of Honey Buzzards over the week indicate that the species has almost entirely cleared out.

Rough-legged Buzzard
Rough-legged Buzzard, Gunnister, Unst, Shetland (Photo: Robbie Brookes)

The week saw the variety of wildfowl increase, with a Lesser Canada Goose present at Loch Gruinart, Islay (Argyll), from 4th to 5th and the female King Eider remaining at Basta Voe, Yell (Shetland), to 4th. Surf Scoters included two at Blackdog (Aberdeenshire) and single drakes off Llanddulas (Conwy), Ruddon's Point (Fife) and Embo (Highland). The Blue-winged Teal at Castle Island (Northumberland) was still in situ on 4th and the drake Ring-necked Duck stayed put at Rutland Water to 7th, while a drake found at Ballyshunnock Reservoirs (Waterford) on 3rd was seen there again on 5th. Another Ring-necked Duck was on St John's Loch (Highland) on 4th. As faithful as ever, the drake Lesser Scaup was at Cardiff Bay (Glamorgan) on 5th. Lone drake American Wigeon were on Sanday (Orkney) on 2nd, Inch Island Lake (Donegal) on 4th and a new bird was at Stranraer (Dumfries & Galloway) on 7th. Hampshire laid claim to a drake Green-winged Teal at Mill Field LNR, Old Basing, on 6th.

A White Stork was reported on a roof at Lenzie (Clyde) on 4th and two were present at Breydon Water (Norfolk) on 5th and 6th. After going missing for a full five days, the juvenile Purple Heron reappeared on 1st and proceeded to show without too much trouble until the next day; it turned out that the bird had apparently been there since early September. Presumably the same individual as seen at Brockholes in September, a juvenile Night Heron was stumbled upon at Vernon's Lodge, Penwortham (Lancs), on 5th, but was not reported subsequently. Five new Cattle Egrets turned up over the week to complement the long-stayer at Burton Mere (Cheshire) (still present on 7th), with one at Dungeness (Kent) from 1-7th and another on the Teifi Marshes (Pembrokeshire) on 4th, as well as two on the racecourse at Les Landes (Jersey) that day and one at Braunton Marsh (Devon) on 7th. The only Spotted Crake reported was at Clingera, Unst (Shetland), on 1st, but a Corncrake photographed on the shore of Palm Bay, Margate (Kent), looked so much more out of place. A Great Shearwater past Dursey Island (Cork) on 2nd was the only large shearwater.

Night Heron
Night Heron, Penwortham, Lancashire (Photo: Jon Worthington)

The autumn's second Semipalmated Sandpiper (and the third of the year), a juvenile, was at Keel, Achill Island (Mayo), on 3rd and a probable was on the Rogerstown Estuary (Dublin) on 1st. There was an unconfirmed report of an adult Marsh Sandpiper from Quoile Pondage (Down) on 6th. While the Hampshire bird was nowhere to be seen, single Lesser Yellowlegs were seen at Rogerstown Estuary (Dublin) from 1-7th and at The Gearagh (Cork) from 2-5th. Reports of Buff-breasted Sandpipers involved one over Loch nam Feithean, North Uist (Outer Hebrides), on 2nd and the loitering bird at Drums, near Loch of Strathbeg (Aberdeenshire), on 1st. The Temminck's Stint at Haroldswick, Unst (Shetland), was still there on 1st, but appeared injured and no news followed. A handful of Grey Phalaropes included the particularly photogenic first-winter on the saltmarsh at Morfa Madryn NR (Conwy) to 6th.

Grey Phalarope
Grey Phalarope, Morfa Madryn NR, Gwynedd (Photo: John Tymon)

A juvenile White-rumped Sandpiper on Balgarva, South Uist (Outer Hebrides), was new, as were four American Golden Plovers; these included a juvenile at Roonkeel, Kinnadoohy (Mayo), and one at Ring Strand (Cork) on 4th, followed by an adult at Aikers, South Ronaldsay (Orkney), and one on Barra (Outer Hebrides) on 5th. Finally, an adult American Golden Plover was at Loch Sligachan, Sconser (Highland), on 6th. Double figures of Pectoral Sandpipers were still around, with twos at The Gloup (Orkney) on 4th and at Tacumshin (Wexford) on 3rd, when there were also two on Lingham Lake (N Yorks). Loyal Ring-billed Gulls remained at Portrush (Antrim) and Dingwall (Highland); others were reported from Cruisetown Strand (Louth), Ballycotton (Cork) and Black Pill (Glamorgan). A light scattering of Sabine's Gulls was predominantly concentrated along the east and south coasts.

Pectoral Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper, Exnaboe, Mainland, Shetland (Photo: Peter Garrity)

Ring-billed Gull
Ring-billed Gull, Dingwall, Highland (Photo: Colin Leslie)

A Hoopoe made for a good county record at Hill Farm, Willington (Beds), from 3-7th; news came through of another at Cleggan (Galway) on 3rd and the Bardsey Island (Gwynedd) bird remained settled there to 2nd. More fleeting was one reported at Rising Sun CP (Northumberland) on 1st. A Serin flew over Durlston CP (Dorset) on 7th and a Red-backed Shrike at Ness Point, Lowestoft (Suffolk), was perhaps the most appreciated of eight seen throughout the week. A Great Grey Shrike flew over Northdale, Unst (Shetland), on 7th. Just six Wrynecks were recorded, while numbers of Red-breasted Flycatcher and Common Rosefinch were down. A Golden Oriole briefly graced the trapping area at Dungeness (Kent) on 5th.

Hoopoe, Willington, Bedfordshire (Photo: John D'Arcy)

Red-backed Shrike
Red-backed Shrike, Ness Point, Lowestoft, Suffolk (Photo: Kevin Wooby)

Wryneck, Norwick, Unst, Shetland (Photo: John Nadin)

A Siberian Stonechat was unearthed at Skaw, Whalsay (Shetland), on 6th and a Red-throated Pipit was seen in flight at Spurn (E Yorks) on 4th. A Short-toed Lark was in an area with no general access at Sancreed (Cornwall) from 5-7th; others were at Tyn Llan (Angelsey) on 7th, on St Agnes (Scilly) from 5-7th and on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 6th and 7th. A Tawny Pipit was a fantastic find at Tide Mills (E Sussex) on 7th. Three Olive-backed Pipits were on North Ronaldsay on 6th after two were seen there the previous day. Others were at Mull Head (Orkney) and at Skaw, Whalsay (Shetland), on 1st, as well as at Sullom (Shetland) on 3rd, Loch of Hillwell and Fair Isle (Shetland) on 7th. Notable among a fairly strong number of Richard's Pipits was one heard at Northwick Warth (Glos). Nine Bluethroats were logged this week, alongside 14 Rose-coloured Starlings, including a juvenile at Portland (Dorset) from 3-7th.

Rose-coloured Starling
Rose-coloured Starling, Portland, Dorset (Photo: Keith Simpson)

Bluethroat, Unst, Shetland (Photo: Chris Griffin)

The first Radde's Warbler of the year arrived at Sumburgh (Shetland) on 6th but was not in a good way, even allowing itself to be picked up and released in a potato field; there was no further sign of the bird. On Shetland, the male Eastern Subalpine Warbler at Baltasound, Unst, was last reported on 4th. Yellow-browed Warbler numbers remained high, most being located on the Northern Isles or on the east coast, but with one trapped and ringed at Hungerford (Berks) on 2nd. The Marsh Warbler remained at Lund, Unst (Shetland), to 2nd. Comparatively small numbers of Barred Warblers included the Blow's Downs (Beds) individual to 5th and another trapped and ringed on Salisbury Plain (Wiltshire) on 2nd. Melodious Warblers were on Out Skerries (Shetland) on 6th, Tiree (Argyll) to 4th and Skomer (Pembrokeshire) on 2-3rd.

Eastern Subalpine Warbler
Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Baltasound, Unst, Shetland (Photo: Chris Griffin)

Barred Warbler
Barred Warbler, Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire (Photo: Graham Deacon)

Yellow-browed Warbler
Yellow-browed Warbler, Hungerford, Berkshire (Photo: Jerry Woodham)

The Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll continued to favour the willows by the waterworks at Veensgarth (Shetland) on 5-6th. The Rustic Bunting at Baltasound, Unst (Shetland), was reported to 3rd and the archipelago boasted the majority of the week's Little Buntings, including twos on Fair Isle on 6th and at Eswick on 3rd, while Bryher (Scilly) held onto its bird to 3rd.

Photo of the Week

Grey Phalarope
Grey Phalarope, Morfa Madryn NR, Gwynedd (Photo: Dave Williams)

It was a really tough choice this week, says Steve Young. Iris photographers excelled themselves with a huge variety of species submitted. I can only choose one winner, though, and I’ve selected a superb shot of a Grey Phalarope by Dave Williams.

As is often the case with this species, the bird showed very well, and it took something out of the ordinary to make it Photo of the Week, but I feel that Dave has achieved this with this stunning close-up of the phalarope catching two items of prey at once, while also managing a perfect reflection in the blue water.

Using ISO 1,600 has enabled a shutter speed of 1/4,000th sec to be used, freezing the movement of the fast-feeding phalarope. The aperture setting of f8 has given good depth of field at this close range while using a long lens.

Well done Dave, you made a very photogenic species that little bit different, and made me wish I’d gone to see it myself.

Other notable images

Jay, Margate, Kent (Photo: Barry Matlock)

Jackdaw, Richmond Park, Greater London (Photo: Mick Davis)

Red-backed Shrike
Red-backed Shrike, Ness Point, Lowestoft, Suffolk (Photo: Perry Fairman)

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler, Grutness, Mainland, Shetland (Photo: Hugh Harrop)

Kestrel, undisclosed site, Lancashire (Photo: Austin Thomas)

Kingfisher, Aberford, West Yorkshire (Photo: Mark Hughes)

Redshank, Silverdale, Lancashire (Photo: David Shallcross)

Little Egret
Little Egret, Upton Warren NR (Permit Only), Worcestershire (Photo: Chris Cook)

Kingfisher, Leavenheath, Suffolk (Photo: Xianwei Liu)

Firecrest, Balearic Islands (Photo: Steve Race)

Written by: M and R Boyd