Review of the Week: 13th–19th November 2003


Rarities during the week were dominated by rare wheatears and sprites, but there was a definite feel of things finally starting to slow down after the hectic pace of the past few weeks - it had to happen eventually! Surprisingly for the time of year, perhaps, many of the rarities were on the Northern Isles.

Desert Wheatear: Denge Marsh, Kent. Another addition to the superb influx during the late autumn. (Photo: Andrew Lawson) Desert Wheatear: Denge Marsh, Kent. Always nice to see rarities making use of RSPB facilities! (Photo: Marcus Lawson)

Rare wheatears continued to turn up. A female Pied Wheatear was present on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) from 17th onwards. This will be the 2nd record for the island if accepted, following the first in 1999. A male last autumn was felt by the BBRC to be either Black-eared Wheatear or the eastern form melanoleuca or a Pied Wheatear. Further Desert Wheatears included birds on Skokholm (Pembrokeshire) on 13th, Gulberwick (Shetland) on 14th and Denge Marsh (Kent) on 16th; others at Girdle Ness (Aberdeenshire) and Kilminning (Fife) remained into the early part of the week.

Hume's Warbler: Flamborough Head, E. Yorks. The record autumn continues with the first two records for Shetland during the week. (Photo: Darren AP Ward) Yellow-browed Warbler: Sandown, Isle of Wight. (Photo: Mark Pike)

It will be a surprise to many that a Hume's Warbler on Fair Isle (Shetland) from 13th-18th was the first for Shetland. Like buses, this was followed a few days later by the 2nd at Bressay from 17th onwards. Others were present at Druridge Pools (Northumberland) and Flamborough Head (E. Yorks) into the early part of the week. At least 8 Pallas's Warblers were reported and at least 15 Yellow-browed Warblers. A Dusky Warbler was at St. Mary's (Scilly) on 19th, with others from last week at Sennen (Cornwall), South Ronaldsay (Orkney), Porth Clais (Pembrokeshire) and Pegwell (Kent). Half-a-dozen Richard's Pipits included 2 long-stayers at Easington (Co. Durham). A late Barred Warbler remained at Flamborough Head to 13th and a late Red-breasted Flycatcher was at Beachy Head (E. Sussex) on 16th. A Little Bunting was at Bressay on 16th, with the long-staying bird still at Walsey Hills (Norfolk). 'Eastern' Lesser Whitethroats included birds ascribed to the form minula (Desert Lesser Whitethroat) at Filey (N. Yorks) and another to halimodendri at Portland (Dorset). Serins were in Dorset and Kent and Rose-coloured Starlings included juveniles at Weston-Super-Mare (Somerset), Lisburn (Co. Antrim) and St. Agnes (Scilly).

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Grey Phalarope: Chasewater, Staffs. Present since 4th November. (Photo: Oliver Smart) Grey Phalarope: Chasewater, Staffs. Several long-stayers on inland waters have been seen during the autumn. (Photo: Oliver Smart)

Seawatchers had some reward during the week. A White-billed Diver was seen passing both Cley and Weybourne (Norfolk) on 16th and another was at Kirkabister (Shetland), 12 Balearic Shearwaters passed Pendeen (Cornwall) on 14th and 16 Leach's Storm-petrels were noted past Brandon Head (Co. Kerry) the same day. Four Sabine's Gulls were seen during the week, and there were half-a-dozen coastal Grey Phalaropes, plus inland birds at Chasewater (Staffs) and Queen Mother Reservoir (Berks) still and another at Drift Reservoir (Cornwall). Long-tailed Skuas were reported from Sennen (Cornwall) and Brandon Head, and there was a report of a Caspian Tern passing Portland (Dorset) on 15th.

Little Auk: Flimby, Cumbria. Wind-blown seabirds can often be found in incongruous surrounds - this one was on a rugby pitch (Photo: Tristan Reid)

Great Northern Diver: Cheddar Res, Somerset. November is a great month for inland Great Northerns. (Photo: Gary Thoburn) Great Northern Diver: Clumber Park, Notts. (Photo: Simon Mitchie)

A Long-billed Dowitcher was at Lough Beg (Londonderry) on 13th and the juvenile Pacific Golden Plover was again present on the Ythan Estuary (Aberdeenshire), as was the Pectoral Sandpiper in Berkshire to the early part of the week. Lingering Lesser Yellowlegs included birds on the Hayle Estuary (Cornwall) and Gann Estuary (Pembrokeshire). The grey Gyr Falcon was reported from Blanket Nook (Co. Donegal) again and a probable was on Fetlar (Shetland) on 16th, whilst the only Rough-legged Buzzards to be found were birds at Capel Fleet (Kent) and Massingham Heath (Norfolk). A King Eider was at Catfirth (Shetland) and 2 probable Lesser Scaups were again on the Outer Hebrides, plus the drake in Dorset. A scattering of Tundra Bean Geese were reported along the east coast, 2 Black Brants were at Old Hall Marshes (Essex) and at Strangford Lough (Co. Down) and Red-breasted Geese were still on Islay (Argyll) and Martin Mere WWT (Lancs).

Red-breasted Goose: Martin Mere, Lancs. Gorgeous birds, the problem of escapes often rears its head with many records. (Photo: Gary Thoburn) Tundra Bean Goose: Tophill Low NR, E. Yorks. A small influx was noted in the northeast during the past couple of weeks (Photo: Paul Ashton)
Written by: Russell Slack