Review of the Week: 12-18 June 2023


Cambridgeshire has produced some exceptional birds in recent summers, culminating in Britain's first Cape Gull at Grafham Water last August, while recent weeks have seen a veritable heron-fest at Ouse Washes. Amazingly, what is presumably the same bird, now in an adult-type plumage, returned to Grafham Water on 18th. A boating regatta would mean the bird would prove brief and mobile, but there is every chance it will prove more accommodating as the summer progresses. Last year it was present for nine days, from 2-10 August.

Cape Gull, Grafham Water, Cambridgeshire (Richard Patient).

The county's purple patch wasn't finished there, with a male Little Crake holding territory at Ouse Fen RSPB from 14th. Though not viewable, the bird could be heard singing from one of the site's lookouts. Remarkably, it is now the third to hold territory in the county in just five years, following females at Eldernell in May 2020 and Ouse Fen in May 2018. Owing to the taxon's secretive habits, might some of these relate to clandestine breeding attempts?

As is often the case in June, a cadre of uncommon terns made for the bulk of the rarity action otherwise. The American Black Tern graced Long Nanny, Northumberland, on four dates, the Least Tern again commuted between Cos Dublin and Louth, and a Caspian Tern wandered between waterbodies in Durham and Cleveland. In addition, as many as three White-winged Terns brightened English waterbodies – two in Norfolk and one in Devon – while on 14th, a Gull-billed Tern headed east past Inchmery, Hampshire.

Least Tern (bottom right), Baltray, Louth (Josh Jones).

American Black Tern, Long Nanny, Northumberland (Bob Howe).

The first Wilson's Storm Petrel of the Scilly seabird season was off MV Sapphire on 12th. A bumper early count of Cory's Shearwaters saw 50 off Skellig Islands, Co Kerry, on 17th, with the following day producing two off Porthgwarra, Cornwall. Unseasonal Sooty Shearwaters were off Cornwall and Co Sligo, while a Long-tailed Skua flew past Dunure, Ayrshire, and a White-billed Diver was still off Caithness.

Pacific Golden Plover is regularly a highlight of the midsummer rarity scene. Two were found this week, the first – at Loughor, Glamorgan, on 13th – becoming just the third for Wales. Rather grippingly for Carmarthen birders, the bird never crossed the county line before heading high north-east a couple of hours after discovery – despite the border running down the middle of the estuary and the small gaggle of appreciative birders viewing from the Carmarthen bank of the river! Further north, Lothian birders enjoyed the county's first since 1977 at close range at Musselburgh Lagoons on 17th.

Pacific Golden Plover, Musselburgh, Lothian (Dennis Morrison).

It was an American Golden Plover that would instead headline in Norfolk, at Cley Marshes from 17th. Other notable finds included a Lesser Yellowlegs at Lady's Island Lake, Co Wexford, from 15th, with a White-rumped Sandpiper still at Hatfield Moors, South Yorkshire, on 12th and a Pectoral Sandpiper lingering in Northumberland. Belated news concerned a Spotted Sandpiper at Hopton-on-Sea, Norfolk, on 5th. As many as 17 Black-winged Stilts were split between seven counties.

Black-winged Stilt, Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire (Chris Teague).

Exciting news from Norfolk saw the announcement that up to eight European Bee-eaters have returned to last year's Norfolk breeding site, including at least one nesting pair. Marking the first time the species has returned to the same breeding site in Britain in consecutive years, the RSPB have again set up a public viewing area, with full details available here. Others were in Cornwall, Kent, Suffolk, Forth and Fife.

European Bee-eater, Trimingham, Norfolk (Adrian Webb).

One of the week's smartest finds concerned a gorgeous male Citrine Wagtail at London Wetland Centre WWT, London, on 14th – the second Surrey record and the first since August 1993. Though far from a new find, Gloucestershire White-spotted Bluethroat provided some excellent views at Middle Point, Slimbridge WWT, for the first time during its prolonged stay. Typically, it has proved distant and elusive for much of its time in the country since its first appearance in 2022, with many observers having to put in many hours or even days for a glimpse. Elsewhere, the 'scarlet' male Common Rosefinch hung on in Kendal, Cumbria, for another week, with others in Suffolk, Shetland and Outer Hebrides. Fair Isle's second Rustic Bunting of 2023, another male, was trapped and ringed on 16th. 

Citrine Wagtail, London Wetland Centre WWT, London (Ed Stubbs).

White-spotted Bluethroat, Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire (Tim Salkeld).

Although far from a classic summer showing by the species, three new Rosy Starlings were uncovered. Notably, this included the first widely twitchable modern record for Nottinghamshire in a Carlton garden from 9th. A Woodchat Shrike photographed at Betws-yn-Rhos, Conwy, unfortunately wouldn't be relocated, though one on Mainland Shetland would prove more accommodating. Other scarce migrant totals comprised European Serins in Kent and Dorset, a couple of Golden Orioles in the south-west, two Red-breasted Flycatchers in Shetland, a Hoopoe in an Orkney garden, and in excess of 22 Red-backed Shrikes.

Rosy Starling, Carlton, Nottinghamshire (David Carr).

It was another excellent week for Marsh Warblers, as continuing easterlies again bore fruit. No fewer than 28 across Britain included new inland songsters in Somerset (two), West Sussex, Suffolk, Staffordshire, and West and North Yorkshire. These were accompanied by at least seven Icterine Warblers, with female subalpine warblers on both Bressay and Out Skerries, Shetland. Unexpectedly, two Great Reed Warblers made their way into ringers' bags on North Ronaldsay, Orkney, with others still in Somerset, Norfolk and Cleveland. A Blyth's Reed Warbler afforded largely brief views at Holme NOA, Norfolk, on 14th, though one mist-netted at Landguard, Suffolk, the following day unfortunately not seen after release. Five more were in Shetland. It was a good week for Landguard ringers, also bagging a Greenish Warbler on 18th. Unfortunately, a Paddyfield Warbler at Cley Marshes, Norfolk, early on 12th would make a prompt disappearance.

Marsh Warbler, Calder Wetlands, West Yorkshire (Alex Aylward).

A singing Eurasian Scops Owl reported on Tresco, Scilly, on the evening of 17th would be sure to prove popular if confirmed – the last to hold territory in Britain returned for two consecutive summers near Thrupp, Oxfordshire, in 2006 and 2007. Up to three Red-footed Falcons were in East Anglia, most popular of all a first-summer male at Thorpe, Norfolk. A Montagu's Harrier was in Cambridgeshire and a rare Midlands Black Kite passed through Nottinghamshire on 17-18th, with another over Kent the previous day. European Honey Buzzards from watchpoints in Nottinghamshire, Norfolk and North Yorkshire remained popular fixtures, with wandering birds over sites in Kent, Lincolnshire and Isle of Wight.

As spring rolls into summer neither Purple nor Black-crowned Night Herons show signs of departing anytime soon. The latter numbered over 20 (at least 15 in England and five in Ireland), comprising trios in Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire. Purple Herons, meanwhile, numbered seven, including one notably tracked over urban Wolverhampton, West Midlands, on 18th. Unringed White Storks lingered in both Kent and Cambridgeshire.

Purple Heron, Summer Leys LNR, Northamptonshire (Elliott Middleton ).

The Blue-winged Teal hung on at Fen Drayton Lakes RSPB, Cambridgeshire, until 13th, though the second-summer King Eider still at Ythan Estuary, Aberdeenshire, throughout. Other news included two Ring-necked Ducks and single Ferruginous Duck and Green-winged Teal. A surprise record saw three Snow Geese fly in off the sea at South Stack RSPB, Anglesey, on 12th, the last day the Taiga Bean Goose was noted in the Outer Hebrides.

Ring-necked Duck, Fairburn Ings RSPB, West Yorkshire (Dave Ward).


Western Palearctic

Biggest news of the week saw an adult Grey-headed Gull on Sicily at Pantani Longarini on 14th, the second for Italy. Like Cape Gull, the species is an Afrotropical vagrant with a history of turning up in southern Europe, particularly in spring and summer. Often recorded in the company of northbound Black-headed Gulls, it has long been predicted as a potential vagrant to Britain.

A Lesser Flamingo was again in the Camargue, France, with the usual adult Elegant Tern still on Île de Noirmoutier. Luxembourg's first Zitting Cisticola held territory at Mensdorf and an adult male Red-tailed Shrike was at Wassenaar, The Netherlands, on 13th.

Red-billed Tropicbird, at sea, Madeira (Jacob Everitt).

The popular Ancient Murrelet was still at Huelva, Spain, with a Red-billed Tropicbird from a Madeiran pelagic on 15th a treat for visiting Brits. Other notable sightings comprised the third Eleonora's Falcon for Hungary at Soltszentimre and the third Rosy Starling for Cape Verde on Sal. Both a Steppe Eagle and Paddyfield Warbler were at Skagen, Denmark

A male Red-headed Bunting at Ezuz was Israel's third. The Yellow-throated Sparrow tally increased to eight, with four pairs in the Hula Valley. Belated news from Ukraine concerned the nation's first Great Knot at Tuzlovski lymanu National Park on 20 May.


Written by: Sam Viles