Review of the Week: 11th-17th September 2003

Buff-breasted Sandpiper: Tacumshin, Co. Wexford. Ruff can be eliminated by the short black bill, and black eye with pale eye ring. (Photo: Paul and Andrea Kelly)

Another exceptionally good week as rapidly moving north Atlantic airflow glanced Ireland, deluging many locations with rare Nearctic waders. The Northern Isles continued to enjoy a few 'Sibes' and scarcities and the rest of us, well, we just enjoyed the high pressure and an Indian summer!

Buff-breasted Sandpiper: Tacumshin, Co. Wexford. Further features include the spotted breast sides, mustard-coloured legs and long primary projection. (Photo: Paul and Andrea Kelly) Pectoral Sandpiper: Bough Beech Reservoir, Kent. In early autumn juveniles show nice rufous fringes to the upperparts with white mantle and scapular 'V's', indistinct supercilium and darker cap. (Photo: John Reeves)

The wader hotspots of southern Ireland accommodated a mouth-watering array of rare waders during the week. The pick of the bunch was a Stilt Sandpiper at Burnhamwood Lagoon (Co. Kerry) between 14th and 17th. No fewer than 7 Semipalmated Sandpipers were reported: 3 at Blennerville (Co. Kerry) on 11th with 2 from 12th-13th; one remained at Crookhaven (Co. Clare) to 14th; one was at Ballycotton (Co. Cork) on 12th; one was at Inchydoney (Co. Cork) from 11th-14th and one on St. Agnes (Scilly) on 17th. Four White-rumped Sandpipers included 2 at Blennerville from 11th-12th, one at Shannon (Co. Clare) on 16th and another at Trabeg (Co. Kerry) on 16th. Single Lesser Yellowlegs graced Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) from 12th-13th, Druridge Bay (Northumberland) on 13th and Lady's Island Lake (Co. Wexford) on 15th. Just four Buff-breasted Sandpipers were found, one at Ballycotton on 11th and 12th, with 2 there on 13th, another was at Tacumshin from 12th-15th and one was reported at Blithfield Reservoir (Staffs) on the 14th. Long-billed Dowitchers included singles at Ballycotton on 13th and Smerwick Harbour (Co. Kerry) on 15th and the latter site hosted a Wilson's Phalarope on 14th. A handful of American Golden Plovers included singles at Ballycotton on 12th, Loop Head (Co. Clare) on 15th, St. Agnes on 15th and the adult remained at Sandwick (Shetland). As would be expected Pectoral Sandpipers continued to be present in excellent numbers, with at least 75 reported during the week, many of which were found across the Midlands and southern England. In Scotland the Baird's Sandpiper remained at Threipmuir Reservoir (Lothian) to the 15th. One that got away, perhaps for the time being, was a report of a Semipalmated Plover at Smerwick Harbour. As is often the case, it is perhaps more mind-boggling to think about what wasn't found rather than the birds that were!

Arctic Warbler: Foula, Shetland. Note the long supercilium, dark forehead and lores, mottled ear-coverts and broad dark eye-stripe. (Photo: Tony Mainwood) Yellow-breasted Bunting: North Ronaldsay, Orkney. Straight culmen, pinkish lower mandible and paler median crown stripe. This bird is quite well streaked on the underparts with a nice yellow wash. (Photo: Tony Disley)

It was also an interesting week for typical mid-September rares, most of which were typically located on the Northern Isles, much to the chagrin of mainland birders. A Lancolated Warbler was on Fair Isle (Shetland) - where else? - on 11th, and a Blyth's Reed Warbler was trapped there the same day, with another at Quendale (Shetland) on 16th. Quendale also accommodated a Booted Warbler from 14th to at least the 17th. Arctic Warblers were on Foula (Shetland) from 16th-17th and another was at Grutness (Shetland) on 17th. Still on the Northern Isles, Yellow-breasted Buntings were at North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 12th and 17th, with one reported at Chichester (W. Sussex) on 11th. Just a single Citrine Wagtail this week, but it chose site of the moment, Ballycotton, to reveal its presence on 13th and remained to the 15th. The first Siberian Stonechat of the autumn was at Thorpeness (Suffolk) on 14th and the first of 9 Yellow-browed Warblers arrived on the 11th with 3 on Fair Isle and a single at Low Newton (Northumbs).

Woodchat Shrike: North Ronaldsay, Orkney. The first on the island for c.30 years. Often confused with Red-backed Shrikes, juvenile Woodchats are noticeably 'cold' with pale scapulars and rump. (Photo: Tony Disley) Woodchat Shrike: Maywick, Shetland. This bird appears as quite advanced and 'warm', but Red-backed can be quickly eliminated by the stout bill, pale scapular patch and pale buffish patch at the base of the primaries; the latter eliminates birds of the form badius (Photo: Micky Maher)

Red-backed Shrike: Beeston Bump, Norfolk. Warm reddish-brown upperparts, and in flight lacks a paler rump. (Photo: Major Gilbert) Common Rosefinch: Spurn, E. Yorks. Often unassuming in appearance and easily confused, but the hefty rounded bill, large dark eye and double wing-bars are distinctive. Juvenile birds can be aged as such by the bright obvious wing bars and pale tertial tips. (Photo: Peter M Macdonald)

Scarce migrants included a Red-throated Pipit over Fair Isle on 17th, a Short-toed Lark at Loch of Spiggie (Shetland) on 17th and a Red-breasted Flycatcher on Cape Clear (Co. Cork) from 15th-16th. During the week there were just two Bluethroats, with singles on Fair Isle and Foula, whilst there were 5 Icterine Warblers, 4 Melodious Warblers, 11 Barred Warblers and a dozen Red-backed Shrikes, plus at least 16 Common Rosefinches, around 40 Wrynecks and just under 20 Ortolan Buntings. Three Woodchat Shrikes included singles at Talbot Heath, Bournemouth (Hants) on 14th, Maywick (Shetland) from 15th-16th, and North Ronaldsay on 16th. A trio of predictably elusive Aquatic Warblers included birds trapped at Slapton Ley (Devon) on 13th and at Ashleworth Ham NR (Gloucestershire) on 14th and one seen at Coombe Haven (E. Sussex) on 15th. A handful of juvenile Rose-coloured Starlings included birds at Keynsham (Somerset), Kenfig Pool NNR (Glamorgan), Skomer (Pembrokeshire), Lundy (Devon) and Lihou (Guernsey). Hoopoes were on Guernsey and in East Sussex briefly.

Wryneck: Dawlish Warren, Devon. Another good week for this cryptic beauty with around 40 birds reported. (Photo: Dave Stone) Rose-coloured Starling: Keynsham, Somerset. Five were present during the week. (Photo: Chris Trott)

Tantalising seabirds included a probable Bulwer's Petrel sat on the sea for a short period off Brandon Head (Co. Kerry) on 11th, a probable Little Shearwater past Galley Head (Co. Cork) on 13th and a Fea's Petrel past North Ronaldsay on 15th. There were half-a-dozen Grey Phalaropes, but 21 passed Annagh Head (Co. Mayo) on 11th, whilst Red-necked Phalaropes were represented by 2 birds at Rutland Water from 11th and another at Sandwich Bay (Kent) on 15th. Highlights elsewhere included a Great Snipe at Covehithe (Suffolk) on 13th and an American Herring Gull at Ballycotton on 17th. Continuing the recent run of Red-footed Falcons further birds were at Horwich (Gtr Manchester) and Barton (Cambs), plus the long-staying female on the Ythan Estuary (Aberdeenshire). Other notable long-stayers during this busy week include the juvenile Pallid Harrier on Unst, Snowy Owl on North Uist (Outer Hebrides) and Blue-winged Teal still at Lough Beg (Co. Londonderry).

Red-necked Phalarope: Egleton NR, Leics. Often rarer than many Nearctic waders; juveniles show obvious yellowish-buff 'V's on the upperparts, rufous-brown neck sides and a dark cap. Note also the fine needle-like bill compared with Grey Phalarope. (Photo: Andy Brett) Spotted Crake: Chew Valley Lake, Somerset. Despite suitable conditions for seeing this skulking crake during the autumn, sightings have been few and far between. (Photo: Gary Thoburn)

White-headed Duck: Belvide Reservoir, Staffs. Genuine influx or mass breakout? Unless there is a corresponding spread of records from elsewhere in northwest Europe the latter would seem the favoured hypothesis at this point in time. (Photo: Steve Nuttall) White Stork: Hawley, Kent. The eternal dilemma for birders nowadays is which ones are genuine? (Photo: Andrew Lawson)
Written by: Russell Slack