18/07/2002
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Review of the Week: 12th-18th July 2002

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The week started with the Blacktoft Sands Marsh Sandpiper and the Pennington Flash Canvasback remaining, along with the White-headed Duck at Hardley Floods and the Purple Heron at Minsmere. There are signs, however, that summer is releasing its grip.

Breeding continental birds such as Bluethroat, Wryneck, Arctic Warbler and Red-backed Shrike have all appeared early. They would normally be expected to turn up in August or September, so these are presumably adults that have failed to breed successfully. Adult birds return to their wintering grounds earlier than juveniles, which tend to form the bulk of our autumn vagrant records, so this is the time to see breeding-plumaged birds. This is much more noticeable among waders at this time, and breeding-plumaged or moulting adults are now being found at a variety of sites. Large gatherings of Black-tailed Godwit have been reported, while the widespread movement of Greenshank and Green and Common Sandpipers continues. Among them the first vagrant Pectoral Sandpipers have been seen at Grindon Lough, Wheldrake Ings and Greetham Creek, Teeside. The latter area is also claiming Temminck's Stint, White-rumped Sandpipers and Semipalmated Sandpipers. Another Temminck's was at Bowling Green Marsh, Devon, but pride of place must go to the two Pacific Golden Plovers found in the evening of the 17th at Horseshoe Point, Lincolnshire. July is the best month to search for birds of this species, as their extensive black underparts make them very striking indeed. The Humber area in July has become 'the' place to see one in recent years.

As well as adult birds returning from the Arctic, there are some birds clearly relocating within the country having failed as breeders, or completed their parental duties already, such as Garganey, Black-necked Grebes, Honey Buzzards and Ospreys, all turning up at sites where they have not bred. Some may be too young or have failed to attract a mate, possibly the case with the Red-footed Falcon still lingering at Hickling.

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Birds that breed in the Mediterranean region tend to do so earlier than at home; consequently they are likely to begin turning up now. This has included a flurry of Bee-eater records from the south and east coast, the largest being a group of six that toured Norfolk. The same high-pressure system presumably carried a Black Kite to Kent, Red-backed Shrike to Guernsey and a Red-rumped Swallow to South Yorkshire. The same could be said for a Woodchat in Dorset, but one in the far north at Foula was a little intriguing. Unfortunately most were short stayers.

Yellow-legged Gulls began to turn up at inland roosts; no doubt the first Caspian Gull reports will follow soon, and a Two-barred Crossbill on Shetland may herald an invasion year for the species. Rose-coloured Starling records started to dry up.

This week's 'dodgy birds' included a Reed Warbler at Paxton Pits, which was an excellent education for those wishing to find their own Marsh Warbler. A Pink-backed Pelican in the Midlands provided this week's escape highlight, and a possible Pallid Harrier at Beachy Head provided more controversy, although it was not seen by as many observers as the orange-billed terns, the identity of which will provide headaches for the BBRC, no doubt. Ireland boasted a fine Laughing Gull in Armagh, along with a White-winged Black Tern, and while a King Eider in Kerry would seem a little unseasonable, seaduck movements have been noticeable. These have chiefly concerned Scoters however. A massive flock at Murcar Golf Course contained a Surf Scoter, while Common Scoters passed the coast in good numbers, the highest count being 120 in an hour past Sheringham on the 16th. Inevitably, birds turned up inland, as they do at this time of year, at widely scattered localities in West Yorkshire, Hampshire and Berkshire.

Roseate Terns were also more noticeable, recorded passing various coastal sites, while the early signs that we are entering seawatching season emerged. Sooty and Great Shearwaters were recorded, Storm Petrels were being tape-lured at various sites and Wilson's Petrels became predictable from the Scilly pelagics. What will the Scillonian produce this year?

Written by: Phil Palmer