Review of the Week: 10th-16th May 2002


The action certainly warmed up this week, with a mixture of some superb rarities and excellent seawatching. Listers were forced to dig deep in their pockets to go in search of their far-flung quarry as a quartet of mega-rarities appeared. Patchwatchers were treated to a mixture of migrants, passage waders and seabirds – dependant upon where their patch was of course!

Bird of the week goes to the Lesser Sand Plover found in Lincolnshire on the 11th which obligingly remained to the 15th. This was only the second British record and was gratefully received by those who missed the first in West Sussex in 1997. As with that bird, this was first identified as a Greater Sand Plover, but fortunately this time the true identity was confirmed before the birds departure, and the county was once again put on the rarity map.

On the 10th, the 11th Calandra Lark for Britain was found on North Ronaldsay (Orkney). Despite the number of records, all of the previous birds have been relatively brief affairs and only the 1985 bird on Scilly remained for more than a couple of days. This species has a particular affinity to islands and remained for the day, and was seen early on the 12th tempting many to make the trip north by plane. However, the bird could not be relocated and many will have returned home disappointed, though no doubt the Sand Plover was excellent compensation!

Surely two quality birds in a week would be enough? Well, such is the pace of modern birding nowadays that news of a possible 1st-summer male Lesser Kestrel on St Mary’s (Scilly) on the 14th sounded intriguing. With just 17 previous records, most lists have a gap next to this tricky species and the following day the identity was confirmed and the dedicated made rapid plans to head southwest to the Isles of Scilly – an expensive week for some!.

Three quality birds then, what a superb week. Well, no, there was yet more. Just as I was completing this, news of yet another mega rarity came through with a Little Swift on the Saltee Islands (Wexford). This will be the 18th British and Irish record if accepted. Thankfully for most, last years bird in Nottinghamshire performed well for all interested parties, negating the need to dash off once again!.

If long-distance twitching is not your game there has been plenty in the last week to keep most people happy. A Black Stork sailed high over Essex, several Great White Egrets were present in the southeast and a Purple Heron was seen in East Sussex. Last weeks White-winged Black Tern in Cleveland was relocated in North Yorkshire on the 10th, and perhaps the same bird continued northwest to arrive on Lewis (Outer Hebrides) from 12th to at least 16th. In Norfolk a typically mobile Caspian Tern was present from the 12th after first being seen in Suffolk, and a Whiskered Tern was at Lakenheath Fen on 16th. Rare waders were well represented. A Broad-billed Sandpiper in Yorkshire on the 15th was the third inland record for the county, whilst a Greater Yellowlegs was present on Islay from the 11th (perhaps the bird seen on St. Kilda on 29th-30th April?). Elsewhere, the 2 Black-winged Stilts were seen again in Norfolk, Pectoral Sandpipers were seen in Devon and Hampshire and a rare summer plumaged Grey Phalarope was seen off the Farne Islands (Northumberland). In an exceptional year for Ross’s Gulls yet another was found, this time a 1st-summer bird on Shetland from the 10th.

Other delights included a brief Roller and male Red-footed Falcon in Norfolk, with a more obliging Citrine Wagtail in Cornwall. Three Thrush Nightingales were found at typical locations, with birds at Spurn (East Yorkshire), Isle of May (Fife) and Fair Isle (Shetland). An Olive-backed Pipit was a surprise on the Calf of Man, but a Red-throated and Richard’s Pipit on Fair Isle less so, whilst a Tawny Pipit in Aberdeenshire was an excellent local record. Just one Red-rumped Swallow was seen this week, with one at Waxham (Norfolk) on the 12th. Further interest was provided by 2 Bee-eaters over Cornwall and Devon, Woodchat Shrike on Scilly and Subalpine Warblers at Winterton (Norfolk), Skomer (Pembroke) and on Fair Isle. A male Rustic Bunting at West Hove (East Sussex) on 10th and 11th was a superb find and a Great Reed Warbler skulked on Skomer (Pembroke) on the 16th. A Waxwing on Cape Clear was unseasonal, and will no doubt have been looked at very carefully to eliminate Cedar Waxwing!

Back-up to this superb list of rarities was provided by at least 4 Short-toed Larks with one in Cornwall, two in Devon and one in North Yorkshire. At least 23 red-spotted Bluethroats were seen, including 10 on Fair Isle on 10th, and at least 18 Red-backed Shrikes included 5 on Fair Isle and 4 on North Ronaldsay. Just three Wrynecks have been seen during the week, along with 8 Hoopoes, 2 Ortolan Buntings on Fair Isle on the 12th and 2 Common Rosefinches on Shetland. Rare passerines were not confined to the Northern Isles, with a Melodious Warbler at Portland (Dorset), Icterine Warbler at Sandwich Bay (Kent), Serin in Essex, and several migrant Golden Orioles between Kent and the Isle of Scilly. Wader buffs were treated to 20+ Temminck’s Stints during the week, including 3 at Cley (Norfolk), plus there were 6 Kentish Plovers, including a female at Aberlady Bay (Lothian) and pair in Kent. There were also good numbers of Wood Sandpipers, Sanderlings, Turnstones and Bar-tailed Godwits to enliven many a reservoir or local gravel pit.

The week provided some entertaining seawatching, with a Cory’s Shearwater past the Isle of Wight on 14th. However, it was skuas that grabbed the headlines, with 199 Pomarine Skuas past Balranald on 15th, an excellent 135 past Bowness-on-Solway on the 14th and 112 past Galway the same day. Small numbers were seen in the English Channel with a maximum of 13 off Chesil Cove on 14th. Small numbers of pristine Long-tailed Skuas were also seen with 3 in East Yorkshire, singles in West and East Sussex, plus a superb record in Gloucestershire and half a dozen in the Solway.


Written by: Russell Slack