Review of the Week: 10–16 September


The week at a glance

Attention remained focused eastwards as high pressure continued to predominate over Scandinavia (and further east), drawing in an easterly airflow and some really rather warm days — that was if the early morning murk cleared! As a result it was another hectic week for bird news, with a very respectable 485 messages on Sunday following Saturday's 372. Many coastal areas repeatedly produced healthy totals of the commoner migrants and a nice spread of scarcities littered the Northern Isles and east coast throughout. That said, there was no obvious spike in the week's migrant traffic (so no falls) and there was a distinct lack of genuine rarities, although the first half of September is generally not the best for the really big birds — this could easily change in the next week or so!

The first Yellow-browed Warbler of September is often regarded as the harbinger of autumn 'proper', and the first of 2014 arrived at Toab (Shetland) on 10th. The next did not come until 12th, when one was trapped at Kilnsea (E Yorks), but after that the proverbial floodgates opened and by the end of 16th, we'd carried 74 main news reports of this species. Though most were scattered between Shetland and Spurn, a few did reach Norfolk by the latter half of the week and high counts included 13 on North Ronaldsay on 16th and nine on Fair Isle on 15th. No doubt many more are to come in what has become something of an annual extravaganza.

Yellow-browed Warbler
Yellow-browed Warbler, Holy Island, Northumberland (Photo: Andy Mould)

Yellow-browed Warbler
Yellow-browed Warbler, Salthouse, Norfolk (Photo: Gavin Horsley)

But it was another scarce migrant that stole the headlines this week: Red-breasted Flycatcher. Numbers were quite remarkable, particularly given the fairly routine totals of other scarce migrants, as many sites registered multiple birds. For example, Flamborough Head (E Yorks) scored four on 14th and the total present there through the week was no doubt higher; North Ronaldsay also claimed counts of four on both 15th and 16th. Birds seemed to arrive throughout the week and were still appearing on 16th, as the two trapped at Low Newton-by-the-Sea (Northumberland) that day illustrated.

Red-breasted Flycatcher
Red-breasted Flycatcher, Kilnsea, East Yorkshire (Photo: Martin Standley)

Red-breasted Flycatcher
Red-breasted Flycatcher, Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire (Photo: Paul Reed)

Conversely it was a quieter week for Wryneck, though 109 reports were still returned on BNE through the week, including several filtering through to southern and western areas; for example, two were on the Saltee Islands (Wexford) on 14th, three birds were seen in County Cork and another was found dead in County Waterford. Barred Warblers were also down slightly, although peak counts included five on Fair Isle on 11th and threes on North Ronaldsay on 15th and at Flamborough Head (E Yorks).

Wryneck, Spurn YWT, East Yorkshire (Photo: Martin Standley)

Wryneck, Tetbury, Gloucestershire (Photo: Mike Smith)

Barred Warbler
Barred Warbler, Thorpeness, Suffolk (Photo: John Richardson)

Another reasonable (but not spectacular) scattering of Red-backed Shrikes included several new birds: on St Martin's (Scilly) on 10th, Shorne Marshes (Kent) from 12th–15th, Tory Island (Donegal) on 13th, Holy Island (Northumberland) from 14th, Sand Point (Somerset), Horsey (Norfolk) and Titchfield Haven (Hants) all on 15th, and on the Farne Islands (Northumberland) on 16th. Signs that we are progressing deeper into September were the first Great Grey Shrikes of the autumn — at least one was seen in the Spurn/Kilnsea area from 14th and another was on Scolt Head Island (Norfolk) on 14th.

Red-backed Shrike
Red-backed Shrike (with Common Whitethroat and Blackcap), Sandy Point, Hampshire (Photo: Andy Johnson)

Icterine Warblers have had a pretty poor 2014, and this week did nothing to reverse those fortunes. Just a handful were recorded, with last week's bird still at Portland on 10th, another on St Martin's (Scilly) the same day and a third at Warham Greens (Norfolk) on 15th–16th. Melodious Warbler records came from Apex Leisure Park (Somerset) on 10th and Studland Heath (Dorset) on 13th. A couple of Marsh Warblers were also seen, at Kilnsea (E Yorks) on 14th and at nearby Sammy's Point the following day.

Greenish Warblers were on Cape Clear (Cork) on 10th (with a probable Western Bonelli's Warbler also there that day), on Blakeney Point (Norfolk) on 11th, at Castlebay (Barra) on 13th, on St Mary's (Scilly) on 14th and Holy Island (Northumberland) from 14th onwards.

Greenish Warbler
Greenish Warbler, Holy Island, Northumberland (Photo: Frank Golding)

Rose-coloured Starlings comprised juveniles still on St Agnes (Scilly) and North Ronaldsay, with a third in Cornwall near Land's End on 10th and presumably the same then north of Sennen Cove on 15th–16th. Three Serins were in Winspit Valley (Dorset) briefly on 16th, while the week's Ortolans were on Skomer (Pembrokeshire) on 10th, the Farne Islands (Northumberland) on 11th, Cape Clear on 13th, Tresco (Scilly) on 15th–16th, over Portland (Dorset) on 15th and on Jersey on 16th.

The first Little Buntings of the autumn pitched down, with birds gracing Foula (Shetland) on 11th–12th, St Martin's (Scilly) on 14th, the Farne Islands from 14th and Fair Isle, not wanting to miss out, on 16th. The long-staying Rustic Bunting was still in the Baltasound area of Unst on 13th and another arrived on the Farne Islands, to join the Little Bunting, from 15th.

Little Bunting
Little Bunting, Foula, Shetland (Photo: Geoff & Donna Atherton)

Rustic Bunting
Rustic Bunting, Farne Islands, Northumberland (Photo: David Kinchin-smith/Farnes team)

Among the bulk of common and scarce migrants came the odd rarity, including the autumn's first Isabelline Shrike — a female in at least its second calendar year of the form isabellinus (also known as Daurian Shrike) — on North Ronaldsay on 15th. It was trapped and ringed, so it might be worth looking out for this bird (with its distinctive ring!) relocating somewhere else in Britain, Ireland or western Europe in the next few weeks.

Daurian Shrike
Daurian Shrike, North Ronaldsay, Orkney (Photo: Mark Warren/North Ronaldsay Bird Obs)

A Booted Warbler was on St Agnes (Scilly) on 11th and a Lanceolated Warbler was reported from the Isle of May (Fife) the same day. One of last week's Paddyfield Warblers — the North Ronaldsay bird — just about sneaked into this week's round-up by lingering to 10th. Similarly, the Western Bonelli's Warbler was still at Kelling (Norfolk) until 10th. It's been said before, but it's worth mentioning again: the next twitchable mainland Red-throated Pipit is arguably worthy of mega status. It's been several years since a co-operative bird was available to the masses, and a couple of records this week further tantalised at Breydon Water (Norfolk) on 15th and Rattray Head (Aberdeenshire) on 16th, with a possible on Bardsey Island (Gwynedd) on 15th.

An overflying Richard's Pipit at Skokholm (Pembrokeshire) on 15th represented the first of the autumn, while North Ronaldsay scored a Short-toed Lark on 16th. A new Citrine Wagtail was at Grutness (Shetland) on 12th, while the South Uist bird was still at Howmore on 10th and Baile Gharbaidh to 13th. Two Bee-eaters at Brading (IoW) on 13th were then followed by the remarkable news that 12 were seen on 16th — no doubt the breeding birds from nearby reappearing, when many considered them long gone! Meanwhile a Hoopoe was on Blakeney Point (Norfolk) on 14th–15th.

Citrine Wagtail
Citrine Wagtail, Grutness, Mainland, Shetland (Photo: Hugh Harrop)

Hoopoe, Blakeney Point, Norfolk (Photo: Penny Clarke)

Surprising news from the Forest of Dean (Glos) concerned the reappearance of a male Two-barred Crossbill near Woorgreens Lake on 15th. Whether this represents a returning bird or simply the relocation of a bird that remained through the summer, it's nevertheless a fascinating discovery and bodes well for another winter of sightings in the area.

A juvenile Pallid Harrier at Sammy's Point (E Yorks) on 15th could feasibly have accounted for the probable seen later that day in Norfolk, near Choseley. The Fair Isle juvenile also lingered all week. After last week's promise, Honey Buzzards failed to deliver, and fairly typical numbers were reported. Similarly, eastern Europe's Red-footed Falcons are yet to reach us (though there were a few probables and possibles this week). No such problems with the male Snowy Owl on Ben Macdui, which was successfully twitched by several bands of birders taking advantage of the settled conditions over the weekend.

Pallid Harrier
Pallid Harrier, Fair Isle, Shetland (Photo: Fair Isle Bird Obs)

Snowy Owl
Snowy Owl, Ben Macdui, Moray & Nairn (Photo: David Aitken)

Snowy Owl
Snowy Owl, Ben Macdui, Moray & Nairn (Photo: Jaz)

Two drake Surf Scoters were off Blackdog (Aberdeenshire) on 11th, with one still there on 16th; another drake had returned to the Conwy coastline on 12th, being seen off Pensarn that day. A drake Ring-necked Duck was at Kyle of Durness (Highland) on 13th, while the drake Lesser Scaup continued at Cardiff Bay (Glamorgan) and the apparent Blue-winged Teal stuck around at Castle Island (Northumberland).

Blue-winged Teal
Blue-winged Teal, Castle Island, Northumberland (Photo: Tristan Reid)

A juvenile Night Heron was a great find at the confluence of Rivers Severn and Salwarpe on 12th; it hasn't been seen since, but the oft-elusive nature of this species means it could well still be around. A juvenile Purple Heron at South Huish Marsh (Devon) on 10th reflected a strong passage in The Netherlands at the end of last week; it lingered in the area until 16th at least. The Cattle Egret was still at Burton Mere Wetlands (Cheshire) and was often seen directly alongside both Great White and Little Egrets. Elsewhere, an impressive 11 Great White Egrets roosted at Ham Wall (Somerset) on 11th, a White Stork flew over Moatlands GP (Berks) on 14th and Glossy Ibis were noted in Kent, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Cleveland.

Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret, Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB, Cheshire (Photo: Andy I)

The Stilt Sandpiper was at Lady's Island Lake (Wexford) on 10th before relocating to Rosslare Backstrand on 12th. A juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs arrived on Skomer (Pembrokeshire) on 11th and lingered until the following morning; what was presumably the same individual was at Marloes Mere from 15th. Another remained at Blanket Nook (Donegal) to 12th, and the Hampshire bird relocated to Titchfield Haven from 15th. American Golden Plovers consisted of adults at Whitburn Steel (Durham) briefly on 11th, Carrahane Strand (Kerry) on 12th, the Ythan Estuary (Aberdeenshire) on 14th and Ferriter's Cove (Kerry) from 14th–16th, in addition to last week's bird still on Tiree (Argyll).

A juvenile Temminck's Stint was a nice find at Upton Warren (Worcs) from 15th. Buff-breasted Sandpipers comprised two at Kilauley (South Uist) on 12th, rising to three there on 13th (but one on 15th), two at Exnaboe (Shetland) on 14th and singles on Fair Isle from 10th and at Tacumshin (Wexford) on 16th. The Red-necked Phalarope remained at Burton Mere Wetlands (Cheshire) on 16th and two Black-winged Stilts flew over Ferrybridge (Dorset) on 13th. At least 35 Pectoral Sandpipers across Britain and Ireland included threes at Frampton Marsh (Lincs) on 11th, Grindon Lough (Northumberland) from 13th, Loch Bee (South Uist) from 14th and Truska (Galway) on 16th, in addition to twos at Ballycotton (Cork) and Tacumshin.

Temminck's Stint
Temminck's Stint, Upton Warren NR (Permit Only), Worcestershire (Photo: Vern Wright)

Buff-breasted Sandpiper
Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Exnaboe, Mainland, Shetland (Photo: Roger Riddington)

Pectoral Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper, Tacumshin, Wexford (Photo: Paul Kelly)

At least two juvenile Baltic Gulls were seen at Flamborough Head throughout the week, with one appearing to possess a Finnish darvic ring (white with black lettering). The adult Bonaparte's Gull again popped up in Durham at Whitburn Steel on 11th–13th; another adult was at Dun Laoghaire (Dublin) on 16th. Ring-billed Gulls included a second-winter at Fahamore (Kerry) on 10th and the returning adult back at Portrush (Antrim) that day; the Highland bird was still in Dingwall on 11th, as was the Louth bird at Lurgan Green.

Apparent Baltic Gull, Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire (Video: Martin Garner/Birding Frontiers)

The Forster's Tern turned up again for its usual autumn stay on the east coast of Ireland, being present at Soldier's Point (Louth) from 14th. A Whiskered Tern was a great record on Tresco (Scilly) on 13th, while juvenile White-winged Black Terns arrived at Chew Valley Lake (Somerset) and Poole Harbour (Dorset) on 10th; only the former lingered, and was still there on 16th.

Forster's Tern
Forster's Tern, Soldier's Point, Louth (Photo: Paul Kelly)

Photo of the Week

Starling, Bann Estuary, Londonderry (Photo: Ian Dickey)

It's a difficult enough task to photograph a Starling or a House Martin in flight, especially when they're flying towards the camera, but to get both species together in the same frame is a remarkable feat. This is exactly what Ian Dickey has managed with this winning composition. The first-winter Starling almost seems to have a 'scared' look on its face as the martin pursues it — perhaps its first experience of such an event — while the martin seems intent on chasing it down. Both birds look sharp in the frame, another achievement bearing in mind the depth of field involved, while a strong blue sky provides the perfect background. Congratulations to Ian on a very different type of winning shot.

Other notable images

Swallow, Titchwell RSPB, Norfolk (Photo: Simon Richardson)

Red-breasted Flycatcher
Red-breasted Flycatcher, Blakeney Point, Norfolk (Photo: John Friendship-Taylor)

Dunlin, Knighton Reservoir, Shropshire (Photo: Dave Barnes)

Swallow, Holy Island, Northumberland (Photo: Dave Arthur Porter)

Wryneck, Hadston Carrs, Northumberland (Photo: Hilary Chambers)

Black-crowned Finch Lark
Black-crowned Finch Lark, Cape Verde (Photo: Tony Small)

Grey Heron
Grey Heron, Pennington Flash CP, Greater Manchester (Photo: John Tymon)

Spotted Flycatcher
Spotted Flycatcher, Bardsey Island, Gwynedd (Photo: Ben Porter)

White-tailed Eagle
White-tailed Eagle, Mull, Argyll (Photo: Marcus Conway - ebirder)

Ruff, Titchwell RSPB, Norfolk (Photo: Chris Cook)

Little Grebe
Little Grebe, Cromford, Derbyshire (Photo: Mr Clive Daelman)

Kingfisher, private site, Devon (Photo: Rob Cross)

Sanderling, Walberswick, Suffolk (Photo: Matt Crosby)

Jay, undisclosed site, Staffordshire (Photo: Graham Allbutt)