Review of the Week: 12th-18th October 2001


It was perhaps inevitable that, after the excitement of the last few weeks, there would come a time when the week in question could not live up to the dazzling standards set earlier in the month. However, we are now moving into 'prime time' for the major rarities and, given the quality of the autumn so far, surely we can expect a few more 'megas' in the next few weeks?

The week has been one dominated firstly by a south-easterly airflow and then a more southerly one, the latter no doubt accounting for stifling movements from both east and west. The huge window of high pressure discussed in last week's review delivered the 'goods' over the weekend and provided excellent conditions for long-distance reverse migrants. The majority of the action was confined to the north-western limits of the high-pressure system and, as a result, the south and south-west of England received the lion's share of the action, though a massive movement of thrushes was noted from the Northern Isles all along the east coast, with thousands swirling around at many sites.

Rarity of the week belongs to the first-winter male Black-faced Bunting that frequented Lundy for much of the 12th. Only the third British record of this Siberian bunting, it eluded all but those fortunate few present on the island. How many more five-star rarities would this fantastic island yield if it received as much attention as the Isles of Scilly? The latter has had a surprisingly quiet autumn by its own high standards, but a Paddyfield Warbler and a first-winter male Pied Wheatear went some way towards redressing this. From points west, the second Rose-breasted Grosbeak of the autumn betrayed itself on St. Martin's and a second Red-eyed Vireo joined the one at Porthgwarra for a day. Talking of magical islands, Bardsey continued its excellent year with a Blyth's Reed Warbler trapped on the 13th, but how many pass through unhindered by mist nets? Also contained within the arrival of 'Sibes' were no less than 8 Dusky Warblers, most in the south-east with the exception of one on the North Yorkshire coast, several Radde's Warblers, a Lanceolated Warbler, and two Olive-backed Pipits. A Grey-cheeked Thrush on Orkney on the 16th perhaps made landfall further north in Europe and arrived with the thrush movement earlier in the week, whilst the arrival of a male Sardinian Warbler in Somerset was an excellent local find. Additional wanderers included a Whiskered Tern in Ayrshire on the 17th and an Alpine Swift at Porthgwarra on the same day. A Pacific Golden Plover on South Uist enhanced its growing status as a rarity hotspot. Elsewhere, two Marbled Ducks at Minsmere prompted the usual discussion regarding authenticity versus escape...

The prospects for the weekend look promising: once again high pressure stretches from north-western Europe way to the east and south-east, facilitating the continued arrival of reverse migrants and, coupled with south-easterly/easterly winds and several fronts of rain moving east, should produce the goods at coastal locations in the east and south-east. In the south-west the prospect of overshooting vagrants remains, whilst winds originating from Iberia will no doubt facilitate the arrival of a few more Mediterranean species. As always at this fascinating time of year, anything is possible - anywhere!

Written by: Russell Slack, BirdGuides