Review of the Week: 13th-19th June 2002


So far June has been decidedly rosy! A minimum of at least 105 Rose-coloured Starlings have been reported to date, with no doubt more to come and others lurking undetected in non-birders' back gardens. In Lothian five were seen together at Gullane Point, and several other multiple sightings have occurred. For many local patch watchers there will probably never be a better time to see this species on 'your patch', so no doubt many of us are systematically checking every flock of Starlings that we come across in the hope of a "Pink Stinker". To put the invasion into context, there were just under 400 records between 1958 and 2000 and an average of around 20 records per year between 1990 and 2000. Last summer's influx was unprecedented at the time, but even this year has eclipsed that influx of around 60 birds between June and August.

Other rarities have been few and far between. A male Black-headed Bunting on the 19th was reported from Southport, a typical west coast record and the second record of the summer. Spotted Sandpipers have been extremely rare in the past couple of years with just two records, so a summer-plumaged bird from the 19th in Durham will have been a particularly welcome bonus for those travelling to see the Bee-eaters. A Broad-billed Sandpiper in Cleveland was only the fourth of the year, but lingered for two days to allow those interested the opportunity to see this striking wader. Continuing with waders, a Grey Phalarope provided a rare glimpse of a summer-plumaged bird with one in Essex, whilst a female Red-necked Phalarope in East Yorkshire was more in keeping with the date. It would not be summer without a few contentious wildfowl to look at and East Anglia has monopolised events yet again! A drake Surf Scoter off the Norfolk coast will have proved popular and clearly raises no questions about its origin, but a White-headed Duck in Norfolk will provoke the usual arguments for and against vagrancy for this globally threatened duck. The Bufflehead remains in Suffolk ensuring 'insurance' visits all round.

More interesting for most of us will have been the superbly showy 1st-summer female Red-footed Falcon in Notts, allowing many their best ever views of this beautiful falcon. Likewise, an Alpine Swift in Dorset lingered long enough, for a change, to allow people to travel and see this dashing swift. A splash of the exotic was added by several brief Bee-eaters, with four together in Cornwall and two still in Durham. This theme also applied to a Woodchat Shrike on the Isle of Wight and two Golden Orioles on the south coast. More subtle was the second reeling Savi's Warbler of the spring, this time a bird at Dungeness RSPB reserve in Kent. A Gull-billed Tern in Lincolnshire would have proved popular had it lingered, and of several Purple Herons reported, only one at Minsmere chose to reveal itself on more than one occasion. Not surprisingly spring migrants were in short supply, with just three Marsh Warblers and a Red-backed Shrike in Shetland and the Wryneck still on St. Mary's. The male Common Rosefinch well inland in North Yorkshire was surprisingly the only one to be reported.

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Finally, given that a proportion of Rose-coloured Starlings, plus the Common Rosefinch in North Yorkshire, have been turning up in private gardens please show some consideration for the local residents if you travel to see these birds. Last week we were called by a lady in Runswick Bay (North Yorkshire), who excitedly told us that she had a superb Rose-coloured Starling in her garden. She said that she was quite happy for people to come and see the bird, as she wanted to share this fantastic bird with as many people as possible. She asked that if they did so, they might make a small donation to the building of a bus shelter in the coastal village, a cause for which she has been fundraising for quite some time. The bird stayed for several days and the lady in question allowed a large number of birders into her garden, often at great inconvenience to herself. She even made coffees and baked cakes to cater for those enjoying 'her' bird. Sadly, the donations amounted to a paltry £16.50, £5 of which was given by one observer. Many birders refused to make a donation and the lady in question was left with trampled flowers and several rude visitors to her garden. She has vowed never to tell anyone again of any unusual birds in her garden and her impression of birdwatchers is now tarnished for ever. So, please try and remember to treat people with the manners and respect that you would expect if it were your garden. Also, if you are prepared to spend £10, £20, £30 on petrol, it is surely not too much to drop a few pounds into a donation bucket. Think what your neighbours would think of you if they had people snooping around their garden, blocking their drives and interrupting their daily lives and think how you would feel if you found someone snooping around in your garden at 3:30 in the morning (as happened elsewhere)! The next rarity in someone's garden might be much, much rarer than a Rosy Starling and it will be to everyone's loss if the householder does not wish news to be released because of the attitude of a selfish minority.

Several kind readers have asked how they can contribute to the Runswick Bay bus shelter fund mentioned in the above review. We will happily pass on any cheques made payable to "Mrs Pamela Bell" sent care of the BirdGuides office at BirdGuides Ltd, Jack House, Ewden Valley, Sheffield S36 4ZA. Thanks to those who have already contributed.
Written by: Russell Slack, BirdGuides