A blistering couple of days made for conditions more suited to a long stint in a local beer garden rather than birding, although for those tempted out into the field, a productive midsummer week produced a Pacific Swift, a second Black-browed Albatross and a pristine Pacific Golden Plover. Otherwise, exciting news of two rare southern breeders made headline news.
Opposite outposts of Shetland were responsible for the week's two stand-out mega highlights. On 16th, a Black-browed Albatross was photographed approximately 1.5 km off Lamba Ness, Unst, from a fishing boat. Analysis of photographs suggests that, unexpectedly, it is a better match for the recent bird from the eastern North Sea. Noticeable differences to the Bempton Cliffs RSPB, East Yorkshire, adult include a washed-out bill with a dusky area on the base of the upper mandible and near the bill tip, both indicators of immaturity. There was no sign of the regular East Yorkshire individual after it headed out to sea on 13th.
Shetland's first Pacific Swift made for a stunning sight as it hawked at close range over Sumburgh Head, Mainland, until dusk on 19th. A notoriously difficult species to catch up with in Britain, it will undoubtedly prove popular if it's seen again – just one of 10 previous records lingered for more than a few hours.
In arguably the biggest news of the week, European Bee-eater is nesting in Norfolk for the first time, with seven individuals including two pairs present at a quarry on the coast near Trimingham. Remarkably, four of the birds could be traced back to those seen on Scilly in late May, with one of the birds showing the same feather damage. The RSPB has established a viewpoint for the public to watch the breeding birds, with additional details available on the BirdGuides sightings pages.
Believed to be the most northerly breeding success on record for Black-winged Stilt in Britain, a pair was seen accompanied by up to four chicks at Potteric Carr, South Yorkshire, from 14th, with a total of four eggs laid at the site approximately a month prior. The first breeding record for Yorkshire, viewing was swiftly arranged once the chicks were known to have hatched. A continuing Purple Heron added to the Mediterranean flavour, with the same bird likely moving to Calder Wetlands, West Yorkshire, on 14th.
Cornwall's seventh Pacific Golden Plover consisted of an adult male at Stithians Reservoir on 15-16th. In Lancashire, an apparent American Golden Plover was discovered with Grey Plovers in the Birkdale, Lancashire, high tide roost on 15-16th.
In Devon, the Collared Pratincole lingered at Horsey Island until 13th. Two further Black-winged Stilts were noted near White Colne, Essex, and South Yorkshire boasted a Eurasian Stone-curlew at South Anston, with another on St Agnes, Scilly. Red-necked Phalaropes were at Belvide Reservoir, Staffordshire, and Elmley NNR, Kent, with a Grey Phalarope at Covenham Reservoir, Lincolnshire.
Norfolk aside, European Bee-eaters roamed over coastal areas of Suffolk, Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire. In Lancashire, brief birds visited Lunt Meadows and Brockholes (two). The week's only Hoopoe was at Levington, Suffolk, with Golden Orioles in London, West Sussex and Scilly.
Rosy Starlings continued to trickle in, with birds at 18 sites including several on Scilly. While sightings generally had a western bias, individuals were in Surrey and East Sussex, with northern Scotland managing four. Two were in the north of Ireland, at Malin Head, Co Donegal, and Rathlin Island, Co Antrim.
Marsh Warblers were split between Gibraltar Point NNR, Lincolnshire, Beeston Bump, Norfolk, and North Ronaldsay, Orkney, while a Blyth's Reed Warbler sang at Kilnsea, East Yorkshire. A vocal Iberian Chiffchaff remained at Regent's Park, London.
On 16th, a Greenish Warbler sang from a private forest near Dunoon, Argyll, and a singing male Melodious Warbler was at Dungeness RSPB, Kent. Great Reed Warblers hung on at both Snettisham Coastal Park, Norfolk, and Langford Lowfields RSPB, Nottinghamshire.
A notable Irish Grey-headed Wagtail was at Garretstown, Co Cork, on 18th, while Sandwich Bay, Kent, boasted a brief singing male European Serin. Common Rosefinches included a male at Low Row, Cumbria, with others at North Foreland, Kent, and Fair Isle, Shetland.
Four Red-backed Shrikes saw birds in Buckinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Fife and Shetland. On 18th, an unidentified grey shrike species was reported at Marloes Mere, Pembrokeshire. At opposite ends of Britain, Red-rumped Swallows were on Tresco, Scilly, and North Ronaldsay, Orkney. A brief Alpine Swift overflew Langdon Hills, Essex, on 18th.
A smart male Little Bittern made for a rare Warwickshire find at Ladywalk NR on 19th, with the male on St Mary's, Scilly, last noted on 13th. An unringed White Stork remained at Smithy Fen, Cambridgeshire.
A probable male Red-footed Falcon was reported from wires over two different Nottinghamshire A roads (near Coddington and Kirklington). European Honey Buzzard reports were widespread, with no fewer than 44 sightings logged during the course of the week. Black Kites were reported over Kent, Hampshire, Devon and Lothian, while an immature Rough-legged Buzzard was reported on Mull, Argyll, on 14th.
After seemingly becoming harder to pin down to the Portrane Point Little Tern colony late last week, there was no sign of the adult male Least Tern at the Co Dublin site after 13th. With no sign of the bird in several days and Least Tern very much on the radar of volunteers at other Irish east coast Little Tern colonies, might there be a chance that it has crossed the Irish Sea to that at Gronant, Clwyd? One of the largest of its kind in Britain and Ireland, turnover of Little Terns has been well documented between the two sites in the past.
The American Black Tern was again reliable at the Long Nanny, Northumberland, tern colony. Elsewhere, a notable Long-tailed Skua record saw one on an inland moor near Newtonmore, Highland, on 11th, and a probable Cory's Shearwater flew past Tarbat Ness, Highland, on 18th. The Pied-billed Grebe remained at Loch Feorlin, Argyll, and White-billed Divers were still off Embo, Highland, and Lerwick, Mainland Shetland.
Lingering American Wigeon included three at Lough Beg, Co Antrim, and a drake at Skinflats Lagoons, Forth, while the Green-winged Teal remained at Loch of Tingwall, Mainland Shetland. In Staffordshire, the female Ferruginous Duck remained at Belvide Reservoir, with a young drake King Eider still off Musselburgh, Lothian. Two Red-breasted Geese of unknown origin were at Saltholme RSPB, Cleveland.
A wandering immature Bearded Vulture crossed the Skagerrak to reach Mangskog, Sweden, on 15th – the same bird was last noted at Skagen, Denmark, on 12th. Elsewhere in Denmark, a Wilson's Phalarope was at Agger Tange and a Griffon Vulture was at Thorsager. A singing male White's Thrush at Rasimäki proved to be Finland's seventh record.
The Channel Islands' star find – the Les Ecrehous Bridled Tern – was last noted on 15th. In France, the singing White-throated Sparrow and Île de Noirmoutier Elegant Tern both remained. A Lesser Spotted Eagle overflew Wuustwezel, Belgium, on 5 June, and the country's sixth Franklin's Gull was at Zeebrugge on 4th, while the King Eider remained at Het Zwin. An Italian Lesser Flamingo was at Valli di Comacchio.