Review of the Week: 10-16 October 2022


Autumn 2022 is fast becoming defined by one of the most notable influxes of Nearctic landbirds of recent years, with a succession of transatlantic weather systems and westerly winds having produced a long list of arrivals since the beginning of October.

Considering the archipelago's decorated history, Scilly had been rather quiet thus far, with a Swainson's Thrush the only Nearctic 'mega' to speak of. Write the 'Magic Isles' off at your peril, however, and so it proved this week, with the outstanding discovery of a first-winter male Blackburnian Warbler on Bryher from 13th. Recorded on just three previous occasions – in 1961, 1988 and 2009 – the species has never been twitchable in Britain before, prompting to many to make the trip to the archipelago over the weekend. That is all before you get to the sheer beauty of the bird, arguably one of the most beautiful of all North American warblers.

Blackburnian Warbler, Bryher, Isles of Scilly (Richard Stonier).

Blackburnian Warbler, Bryher, Isles of Scilly (Ashley Howe).

Britain's sixth Tennessee Warbler made for a special find on Skokholm, Pembrokeshire, on 12th. A first for Wales, it unfortunately disappeared soon after discovery. Found just an hour prior to the Tennessee, Kilbaha, Co Clare, struck gold for the second time this autumn with a Myrtle Warbler. It is Ireland's first since one on Inishmore in 2019.

Tennessee Warbler, Skokholm, Pembrokeshire (Richard Brown / Skokholm Warden).

Myrtle Warbler, Kilbaha, Clare (Brian McCloskey).

The Alder Flycatcher departed Inishbofin, Co Galway, after 11th, although was replaced by a smart Blackpoll Warbler on 16th. Two Swainson's Thrushes were again recorded – a new bird at Carinish, North Uist, on 16th and one lingering on Tresco, Scilly, until 12th. Notably, a Red-eyed Vireo was along the east coast at Boulmer, Northumberland, on 15th. Others were at St Just, Cornwall, St Mary's, Scilly, and Lehanmore, Co Cork. Adding to the supporting cast was a Monarch butterfly at Carnkie, Cornwall, on 13th. The American Buff-bellied Pipit on St Mary's, Scilly and Myrtle Warbler at Bigton, Mainland Shetland, meanwhile, both lingered until 10th.

Swainson's Thrush, Tresco, Isles of Scilly (Terry Laws).

Red-eyed Vireo, Boulmer, Northumberland (Daniel Langston).

A boat north of Orkney transported two White-throated Sparrows and a Dark-eyed Junco. All had been onboard since the ship left Canada, with two more juncos earlier disembarking off the coast of Iceland. Amazingly, yet another 2022 seabird surprise saw a Black-browed Albatross logged heading south-west past the same ship on 14th – with all three sparrows still present!

American Buff-bellied Pipit, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Richard Stonier).

It is perhaps a testament to this bustling mid-October week that Britain's first Yellow-browed Bunting for 24 years was rather overshadowed as the week wore on. Trapped and ringed at Sandwich Bay, Kent, on 10th, it unfortunately went to ground on release, never to be seen again. The species has been recorded on just five previous occasions – in 1975, 1980, 1992, 1994 and 1998.

Most significant on the shorebird front was a Wilson's Snipe at the 'traditional' location of Porth Hellick Pool on St Mary's, Scilly. Unsurprisingly, this is a very tricky identification to pin down and, despite being present for much of the week, news only emerged late on 14th. All accepted British records hail from the island, while a single Irish record concerns one shot at Coleraine, Co Londonderry, in October 1991.

Wilson's Snipe, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Paul Taylor).

Long-billed Dowitchers were at both Musselburgh Lagoons, Lothian, and Huttoft Bank Pit, Lincolnshire, with White-rumped Sandpipers in Co Wexford, Co Donegal and Outer Hebrides. A new Lesser Yellowlegs was in Co Cork at Rosscarbery, with two still at Hayle Estuary, Cornwall, and one at Saltholme RSPB, Cleveland, showed well. American Golden Plovers were at two sites in England, one in Wales, three in Scotland and four in Ireland. Isle of Man boasted a Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Castletown, with another on Tiree, Argyll.

Lesser Yellowlegs, Saltholme RSPB, Cleveland (Bob Howe).

American Golden Plover (left of centre), Cockenzie and Port Seton, Lothian (Carol Bone).

A brief pratincole species at Cresswell Pond on 12th had Northumberland birders all aflutter. Disappearing soon after discovery, what is presumably the same bird resurfaced at Saltholme RSPB, Cleveland, on 13th – where it was identified as a Collared – and Alkborough Flats, Lincolnshire, on 15th.

Two Great Snipe were in Orkney – on Stronsay and North Ronaldsay – although Shetland upped the ante with the archipelago's second Black-winged Stilt at Loch of Papil, Yell, from 12th. Elsewhere, the Kentish Plover remained at Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, and Pectoral Sandpipers were at nine sites. An impressive Grey Phalarope showing saw birds reported from 27 locations, including one inland at Staines Reservoirs, London.

Pectoral Sandpiper, Dernford Farm Reservoir, Cambridgeshire (Jon Heath).

Grey Phalarope, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland (Chris Barlow).

In Shetland, two Parrot Crossbills arrived at Ungirsta, Unst, on 16th, with the Homeyer's Grey Shrike and Siberian Stonechat both lingering on Mainland. On the Lerwick outskirts, a White's Thrush provided some excellent views on 10th.

White's Thrush, Lerwick, Mainland, Shetland (Sam Viles).

A brief Pechora Pipit, the second of the year, dropped in at Port Nis, Lewis, on 16th. Olive-backed Pipits were at opposite ends of Britain – two in Scilly and one in Shetland – alongside at least seven Richard's Pipits, plus Greater Short-toed Larks in Norfolk and Scilly.

Olive-backed Pipit, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Kris Webb).

It continues to be a stand-out October for Hornemann's Arctic Redpolls, with birds at some 11 sites. Most notable was a rare Hebridean record at Gleann, Barra, from 11th. Three more were in Orkney, with a further eight in Shetland.

An altogether rarer bird in Ireland than Britain, a notable Blyth's Reed Warbler visited Tory Island, Co Donegal, on 16th. One remained at Lional, Lewis, until 10th, with a Dusky Warbler at Ocraquoy, Mainland Shetland, and Radde's Warblers on St Agnes, Scilly, and Cape Clear, Co Cork.

Siberian Lesser Whitethroat, Helvick Head, Waterford (Andrew Malcolm).

Perhaps most noteworthy in Ireland, however, was an unprecedented invasion of Firecrests. A remarkable 14 sites along the west coast between Cos Cork and Mayo enjoyed sightings, with stand-out high counts of 11 at Cape Clear, Co Cork, seven at Mizen Head, Co Cork, five at Ballynacarriga, Co Cork, and four at Aghernagallagh, Co Mayo. In the south-east, another was at Carnsore Point, Co Wexford. To put this widespread arrival into context, Co Galway had only previously had two Firecrest records ever, yet no fewer than seven birds were seen at two sites this week.

Firecrest, Keel, Achill Island, Mayo (Josh Jones).

Presumed Siberian Lesser Whitethroats were at Helvick Head, Co Waterford, and Nanjizal Valley, Cornwall, while 16 Barred Warblers included one on Inishbofin, Co Galway. Melodious Warblers were in Cornwall and Scilly. The Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler lasted on St Kilda, Outer Hebrides, until 10th – becoming the longest-staying individual ever recorded in Britain.

Barred Warbler, Kilnsea, East Yorkshire (John Hewitt).

Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, St Kilda, Outer Hebrides (Craig Nisbet).

One of the best finds of the week was a Red-flanked Bluetail just inland of Cardiff at Nantgarw, Glamorgan, on 16th. More expected was one at Dale of Walls, Mainland Shetland, while five Bluethroats comprised four in the Northern Isles and one in Scilly. Three Red-breasted Flycatchers were also logged and a Little Bunting was on St Mary's, Scilly. Three Common Rosefinches continued on Inishbofin, Galway, with two more in Scilly.

Red-flanked Bluetail, Nantgarw, Glamorgan (Tate Lloyd).

Bluethroat, Haroldswick, Unst, Shetland (Craig Bell).

Woodchat Shrikes were at Mizen Head, Co Cork, and Pendeen, Cornwall, with Red-backed Shrikes at Kenfig, Glamorgan, and Brow Head, Co Cork. Two Hoopoes were reported – at Rodmell, East Sussex, and Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk – with a lone Rosy Starling at Mullion, Cornwall, and Wrynecks at seven sites.

Woodchat Shrike, Pendeen, Cornwall (Jonathan Lowes).

Red-backed Shrike, Kenfig NNR, Glamorgan (Paul Roberts).

A Black Kite overflew Tarrant Rushton, Dorset, on 16th, while a probable Pallid Harrier passed over Seasalter, Kent.

In Hampshire, a Purple Heron flew west over Farlington Marshes on 11th; belated news concerned a Black-crowned Night Heron sound-recorded over Lissagriffin, Co Cork, on 14 September. Glossy Ibises continued to be reported from the far north of Scotland, with birds on Lewis and in Shetland.

In Lincolnshire, a Blue-winged Teal graced Halton Marshes, Lincolnshire, on 15-16th. American Wigeon were at four sites, while a likely drake Green-winged Teal, just moulting back into breeding plumage, was at Abbotsbury Swannery, Dorset. Lingering seaducks comprised the Northumberland Black Scoter, Hebridean Surf Scoter and Shetland King Eider. 12 Ring-necked Duck included new birds in Perth & Kinross, Outer Hebrides, Orkney, Shetland, Co Waterford and Co Mayo. Two females at Lisvane Reservoir, Glamorgan, presumably relate to returning birds. Otherwise, a Ferruginous Duck remained at Draycote Water, Warwickshire.

Blue-winged Teal, Halton Marshes, Lincolnshire (Stephen Routledge).

Two Richardson's Cackling Geese accompanied Barnacle Geese on Islay, Argyll, on 16th. Another was at Loch Paible, North Uist, while one roosted with Pink-footed Geese and two Lesser Canada Geese at Loch Leven, Perth & Kinross, late on 11th. Snow Geese were in Orkney and Co Mayo, with a Black Brant at Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.

Exceptional numbers of Great Shearwaters continue to be reported in the South-West Approaches. Devon saw some of the most notable tallies, comprising an amazing 1,200 from a boat off Plymouth and nearly 300 off Start Point. Decent counts were off Scilly and Cornwall too, with singletons off Highland and Orkney. Smaller counts of Cory's Shearwaters were also noted in the South-West. Leach's Storm Petrels flew past five sites. Inland, a juvenile Sabine's Gull roosted at Pitsford Reservoir, Northamptonshire, on 10th.

Great Shearwater, Scilly pelagic, Isles of Scilly (Richard Stonier).

A surprise adult Whiskered Tern at Forfar Loch, Angus & Dundee, on 16th is the first October record since 2006. In Ireland, the Double-crested Cormorant was again at Doon Lough, Co Leitrim, and the Forster's Tern remained at Soldier's Point, Co Louth. Ring-billed Gulls were at Castlebar, Co Mayo, and Blackrock, Co Louth, an Azores Gull was back at The Gearagh, Co Cork, and a Bonaparte's Gull lingered at Rough Point, Co Kerry.

Double-crested Cormorant, Doon Lough, Leitrim (Mark Leitch).

Forster's Tern, Soldier's Point, Louth (Mark Leitch).


Western Palearctic

A Least Bittern on Corvo, Azores, on 10th was watched feeding around a coastal rockpool into the evening. Other new finds included a young Magnificent Frigatebird, Dickcissel, two Scarlet Tanagers and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Additional supporting cast comprised at least four Red-eyed Vireos, Bobolink, two Great Blue Herons, two Brown Boobies, five Semipalmated Plovers, Hudsonian Whimbrel and four American Black Duck. On Flores, a Green Heron was at Fajã Grande and a drake Wood Duck continued at Lagoa dos Patos.

Iceland made headlines this week with just the region's sixth Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Stokkseyri on 12-13th. Remarkably, it was sharing the garden with Iceland's fifth Common Yellowthroat – and the same garden played host to the Western Palaearctic's only Least Flycatcher back in October 2003. The regular drake White-winged Scoter remained at Keflavík too.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Stokkseyri, Suðurland (Alex Máni Guðríðarson).

A Dark-eyed Junco – Sweden's second – was at Karlstad on 12th, with the American Yellow Warbler remaining at Agger Tange, Denmark. Elsewhere, a Two-barred Warbler was at Kvitsøy, Norway, and a Pygmy Cormorant was at Kotka, Finland.

On 12th, The Netherlands' first Yellow-billed Cuckoo at Maasvlakte bizarrely flew into a canal and drowned soon after discovery. The country's second Eastern Yellow Wagtail was on Texel over the weekend, while an Isabelline Wheatear was on Vlieland. A trio of Nearctic riches remained on Ouessant, France – Baltimore Oriole, Northern Harrier and Red-eyed Vireo.

In Spain, a Brown Booby flew past Estaca de Bares and an Elegant Tern was at Chipiona; a Crested Honey Buzzard overflew Akrotiri, Cyprus, on 11th.

Written by: Sam Viles