Review of the Week: 10-16 July 2023


As is often the case for July, it was a run of mega-rare seabirds that would dominate proceedings. Both would be reserved for watchers at Britain's premier seawatching site of Porthgwarra, the most south-western tip of the Penwith peninsula. First up was Britain's fourth Scopoli's Shearwater, which was photographed heading east on 8 July. With most sightings relating to blink-and-you'll-miss-it flybys, a Barolo-type shearwater bucked the trend by passing the headland with Manx Shearwaters on at least two dates (15-16th), with a likely sighting on a third date (14th) too. At least one bird has been logged singing in Britain and Ireland this summer – might these sightings relate to this bird wandering?

Clywd was an unexpected epicentre of avifauna action too, with a Black-browed Albatross lingering around a research vessel near Gwynt y Môr wind farm on 10th. This was followed by a credible report of a male Red-tailed Shrike at Point of Ayr on the evening of 13th, though unfortunately it wouldn't be relocated.

Pelagic trips out of Scilly continue to pick up Wilson's Storm Petrels, with others off Cornwall, Co Cork and Co Kerry. Cory's Shearwater numbers continued to build in the South-West Approaches too, with notable reports further afield off Westward Ho!, Devon, Strumble Head, Pembrokeshire, and Great Orme, Conwy. Small Great Shearwater numbers were off Cornwall, Devon and Co Cork, with a few Long-tailed Skuas again providing additional interest. One flew past Walmer, Kent. 

Cory's Shearwater, Scilly pelagic, Isles of Scilly (Joe Pender).

Long-tailed Skua, Scilly pelagic, Isles of Scilly (Joe Pender).

The Dorset Forster's Tern – now a first-summer – was back in Poole Harbour for the first time since 20 May at Lytchett Fields RSPB on 15th. Other rare tern interest consisted of the Least Tern in Co Dublin and American Black Tern in Northumberland, with a White-winged Tern at Lady's Island Lake, Co Wexford, on 11th. As many as six Caspian Terns were in Britain and Ireland, with pairs in Norfolk and Northumberland. The popular Bonaparte's Gull was still at Oare Marshes, Kent, with Baltic Gull candidates in Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Northumberland.

Bonaparte's Gull, Oare Marshes NR, Kent (Terry Laws).

Just the third Black-winged Pratincole for Ireland made for a sterling find at Blanket Nook, Co Donegal, from 14th, with the last dating from Co Antrim in August 1974. Black-winged Stilts at Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincolnshire, numbered 10, with others still in Gloucestershire and South Yorkshire.

Black-winged Pratincole, Blanket Nook, Lough Swilly, Donegal (Brian McCloskey).

Black-winged Stilt, Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire (Andrew Jordan).

Lancashire birders, meanwhile, enjoyed the discovery of a Long-billed Dowitcher at Leighton Moss RSPB with one more on the Norfolk coast, and a Pacific Golden Plover still on North Ronaldsay, Orkney. Pectoral Sandpipers numbered 12 and two Temminck's Stints were in Yorkshire. Belated news concerned a Spotted Sandpiper at Birgham, Borders, on 8th.

Long-billed Dowitcher, Cley Marshes NWT, Norfolk (Simon Dennis).

Pectoral Sandpiper, Titchwell RSPB, Norfolk (Graham Joyce).

A male White-spotted Bluethroat was an unexpected mist net discovery at Woolston Eyes, Cheshire, on 15th. Just the 18th Cheshire Bluethroat, the one and only previous White-spotted was also at Woolston, dating from 6 July 1996.  The European Roller on the Isle of Wight was last noted on Tuesday, while news emerged of one at Ballinrostig, Co Cork, last week. Single Alpine Swifts – the first since the record-breaking flurry of early spring – were in Cumbria and the Isle of Wight.

White-spotted Bluethroat, Woolston Eyes NR (permit only), Cheshire (David Bowman).

A singing male Common Rosefinch was still at Muir of Ord, Highland, and Rosy Starlings were in Argyll and Shetland. Three European Bee-eaters continued to linger around the Trimingham, Norfolk, nest site, with at least one over Hebburn, Durham, on 12th. Orkney was treated to a Golden Oriole at Birsay, Mainland, and a Red-backed Shrike still on North Ronaldsay.

European Bee-eater, Trimingham, Norfolk (Chris Teague).

A White Stork logged heading east over Moray Firth, Highland, on 11th came as a shock, with an unringed example still in Cambridgeshire. The first-summer Purple Heron was still at Gosforth Park, Northumberland, throughout and three Black-crowned Night Herons were in Britain, with a couple more probables in Ireland. East Anglia saw the only Glossy Ibises of the week.

Black-crowned Night Heron, Adwick Washlands RSPB (Dearne Valley), South Yorkshire (Tom Hines).

Both Lesser Scaup remained, with Ring-necked Ducks in Suffolk and Glamorgan and the resident American Black Duck still in Co Mayo. A moulting American Wigeon was still at Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincolnshire. In Lothian, the second-summer drake King Eider returned to Musselburgh, back in a rarely-illustrated eclipse plumage.


Western Palearctic

A surprise Steppe Grey Shrike – the second in north-west Europe this year –at Hirtshals from 11th is just the fifth Danish record. Equally unexpected was a female Steller's Eider at Wesselburenerkoog, Germany, from 15th, a site at the same latitude as Flamborough!

Steppe Grey Shrike, Hirtshals, North Denmark (Jens Kirkeby).

Spain was treated to two more Maghreb visitors, with a pair of Moroccan Wagtails at San Fernando, Andalucia, from 12th. An adult Laughing Gull was at Cíes, Galicia, while Elegant Tern, Lesser Flamingo and Western Reef Heron all lingered.

Elsewhere, a Caspian Stonechat was at Klostermarienberg, Austria, a pale-morph Booted Eagle overflew Vianen, Netherlands, and an Elegant Tern remained at Barbâtre, France.


Written by: Sam Viles