Review of the Week: 16-22 May 2022


A run of winds reaching reaching from south-eastern Europe at this time of year is a near-guaranteed recipe for a decent week on the rarity front. So it proved, with some of the best action of the spring so far and a fine array of new scarcities and rarities to boot.

A Motacilla dreamland in the Spurn, East Yorkshire, recording area included the week's rarest bird – Britain's second Masked Wagtail – at Sammy's Point late on 18th. Britain's first of this Central Asian subspecies of White Wagtail, which ranges east from Iran, was noted in Pembrokeshire in late 2016. Amazingly, the third Iberian Wagtail of the spring was at Spurn two days previously, with a Citrine Wagtail flying north the same day. 

Masked Wagtail, Sammy's Point, East Yorkshire (John Hewitt).

Despite the week's weather a new Egyptian Vulture certainly wasn't on anybody's radar, making for an exciting mega alert from Devoran, Cornwall, early on 22nd. Although the odds must be on the Irish bird relocating, the two lucky observers considered it to be a sub-adult with elements of brown in its plumage, which would make it different.

On 20th, Ireland's third White-throated Sparrow was discovered on Great Saltee Island, Co Wexford. The first since 2008 and the first away from Cape Clear, an overnight bunk disappointed would-be twitchers the following day. Just across the Irish Sea, Pembrokeshire was treated to its second Dark-eyed Junco at St Ishmael's on 22nd, following one on Skomer in May 2017.

White-throated Sparrow, Saltee Islands, Wexford (Ed Stubbings & Bee Beuche).

Dark-eyed Junco, St Ishmael's, Pembrokeshire (Rob Jones).

As is often the case in the second half of May, the Northern Isles scored some of the best drift action. Out Skerries hit first, with a visiting group of birders finding a River Warbler on 17th and a male Western Subalpine Warbler on 20th, supported by a female Rustic Bunting, at least three Red-spotted Bluethroats, Red-backed Shrike, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Eurasian Dotterel and two Grey-headed Wagtails.

Western Subalpine Warbler, Out Skerries, Shetland (Nathaniel Dargue).

Fair Isle's best day came on 20th, with Collared FlycatcherThrush Nightingale and European Serin all found, the last being just the fifth for the island. Other additions to the island's tally during the week included a potential Iberian Chiffchaff, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Rustic Bunting, two Red-backed Shrikes, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Lapland Bunting and at least two Red-spotted Bluethroats.

Collared Flycatcher, Fair Isle, Shetland (Alex Penn).

Thrush Nightingale, Fair Isle, Shetland (Alex Penn).

An apparent Western Subalpine Warbler was the best on North Ronaldsay, Orkney, with a supporting cast of Black Kite, Icterine Warbler, Greater Short-toed Lark, Wryneck, Red-spotted Bluethroat, Grey-headed Wagtail and a probable Blyth's Reed Warbler.

Elsewhere in Shetland, another Rustic Bunting was on the Isle of Noss, with a Red-backed Shrike on Muckle Roe. Away from the Northern Isles, Isle of May, Fife, boasted a Rustic on 17th and a female Western Subalpine Warbler was still at Calf of Man, Isle of Man, on 19th.

Rustic Bunting, Fair Isle, Shetland (Alex Penn).

Skokholm, Pembrokeshire, hosted the first Moltoni's Warbler for Wales on 17-18th. The island's fourth European Serin was on hand on 20th, while neighbouring Skomer scored a pair of shrikes – a Woodchat and a male Red-backed.

Moltoni's Warbler, Skokholm, Pembrokeshire (Richard Brown / Skokholm Warden).

The amazing discovery of two Great Reed Warblers singing just a short distance apart at Snettisham Coastal Park, Norfolk, on 19th (with one bird present since 16th) was one of the week's unsung highlights. Norfolk also saw the most noticeable action of the week's bumper Golden Oriole arrival, with at least five noted at West Runton on 20th.

The species enjoyed a wide distribution from Norfolk to as far as Scilly, although pleasant weather across much of Britain and Ireland meant birds weren't confined to coastal areas. Inland individuals comprised birds at Hatfield Moors, South Yorkshire, and Bristol, with another on Bardsey Island, Gwynedd. Irish birds were at Baltimore, Co Cork, and St John's Point, Co Down. Two reached the Outer Hebrides, with a number in the Northern Isles.

Great Reed Warbler, Snettisham Coastal Park, Norfolk (Les Bunyan).

Golden Oriole, Muckleburgh Hill, Norfolk (Sophie Barrell).

European Bee-eater was another species to enjoy a more-than-respectable showing, with a high count of 12 near Loughborough, Leicestershire, on 17th. Eight more were at St Margaret's at Cliffe, Kent, on 22nd, with nine counties in total enjoying sightings. Other notable records hailed from South Stack RSPB, Anglesey, and Skirza, Caithness.

The first half of the week saw a decent spread of Red-spotted Bluethroats along the north-east coast to accompany those in the Northern Isles, including three in Northumberland and singles in Lothian, Fife, Angus & Dundee, Aberdeenshire and Caithness.

Red-spotted Bluethroat, Howick, Northumberland (Frank Golding).

At least three Rosy Starlings arrived in the extreme south-west between Scilly and Cornwall, with an outlier at Seascale, Cumbria. Harbingers of another influx, perhaps? Elsewhere, Hoopoes were at Praa Sands, Cornwall, Beaminster, Dorset, and both Blyth and North Shields, Northumberland. A 'red' male Common Rosefinch was noted on Tiree, Argyll, with the more expected 'brown' birds in Norfolk, Orkney and Shetland.

Rosy Starling, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Kris Webb).

In Norfolk, a Citrine Wagtail headed west over Titchwell RSPB on 16th, the day before a Greater Short-toed Lark overflew Sheringham. A Tawny Pipit was on St Mary's, Scilly, on 19th and a possible Ortolan Bunting flew over Fowlmere, Cambridgeshire, on 22nd. Grey-headed Wagtail totals included an impressive six at West Runton, Norfolk.

Tawny Pipit, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Kris Webb).

Grey-headed Wagtail, Happisburgh, Norfolk (Keith Bilverstone).

Six Red-breasted Flycatchers included no fewer than five in Shetland and one at Tarbat Ness, Highland. The Northern Isles were treated to four Icterine Warblers, with another at Loch of Strathbeg RSPB, Aberdeenshire. Iberian Chiffchaffs continued at Otterbourne, Hampshire, and Regent's Park, London

Iberian Chiffchaff, Regent's Park, London (Tony Duckett).

A remarkable five European Serins were at South Foreland, Kent, on 22nd, with individuals at seven sites overall including another Irish record – one at Lady's Island Lake, Co Wexford. Littlebeck, North Yorkshire, held a Red-backed Shrike, with Woodchat Shrikes at Castlemartin, Pembrokeshire, Porthgwarra, Cornwall, Ingsdon Hill, Devon, and Hovingham, North Yorkshire – the latter the first for the York recording area.

A very notable spring Pallid Swift headed southbound past Boulmer, Northumberland, on 18th, with the fortunate observer obtaining some excellent shots to document the record. Eight east-coast sites again notched up Red-rumped Swallow sightings, with others in Cornwall and Outer Hebrides (two).

Pallid Swift, Boulmer, Northumberland (Daniel Langston).

Pallid Harriers were at Balnakeil, Highland, and Foula, Shetland, while a Pallid/Montagu's Harrier flew east past Langton Matravers, Dorset. The Cornish Montagu's Harrier continued at Bosporthennis. Hampshire scored two Red-footed Falcons – both males – near Woodfidley on 21st, although the young female at Woolhampton GPs, Berkshire, wasn't recorded after 16th. In the Outer Hebrides, the Snowy Owl was back on St Kilda after its North Uist spring getaway on 22nd.

Pallid Harrier, Balnakeil, Highland (Peter Stronach).

Some 20 Black Kite reports included two touring Unst, Shetland, on 19th, with other Scottish islands (Mull, Argyll, and Westray and North Ronaldsay, Orkney) also getting in on the action. Two more were in Ireland – at Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow and offshore at Skellig Michael, Co Kerry. Displaying European Honey Buzzards performed well from publicised watchpoints at Welbeck, Nottinghamshire, and Wykeham Forest, North Yorkshire.

Two Squacco Herons were found concurrently on 17th – one at Lodmoor RSPB, Dorset, and another at Smithy Fen, Cambridgeshire. In the early hours of 20th, a Black-crowned Night Heron was sound-recorded over Hunmanby, North Yorkshire. Purple Herons were at eight sites – including Wales's first of the spring – and an unringed White Stork was again at Hockwold Washes, Norfolk. Spotted Crakes included a brief flight record at North Duffield Carrs, North Yorkshire, on 18th and one heard in flight over Ulverston, Cumbria, in the early hours of 20th.

Squacco Heron, Lodmoor RSPB, Dorset (John Wall).

Purple Heron, Goonhilly Downs, Cornwall (Joe Jones).

A White-rumped Sandpiper at Rutland Water on 21-22nd was a fine inland record. Further afield, a Collared Pratincole was a brief visitor to Predannack Airfield, Cornwall, late on 19th, while Spurn, East Yorkshire, saw an unconfirmed report of a Terek Sandpiper the previous day. A Broad-billed Sandpiper spent most of the week at Loch Paible, North Uist, Outer Hebrides.

Broad-billed Sandpiper, Loch Paible, N Uist, Outer Hebrides (Ian Griffin).

Kentish Plovers were at Tetney Marshes RSPB, Lincolnshire, Aberlady Bay, Lothian, and Gann Estuary, Pembrokeshire, with a possible at Seal Sands, Cleveland. A Eurasian Stone-curlew at Wallington, Hertfordshire, proved a popular customer, with others heard over East Yorkshire and Cornwall.

Eurasian Stone-curlew, Wallington, Hertfordshire (Simon West).

Temminck's Stints were at a modest 16 sites, with Pectoral Sandpipers at four and the Red-necked Phalarope still at Grindon Lough, Northumberland. Six English counties hosted Black-winged Stilts, while Lochwinnoch RSPB, Clyde, boasted an impressive one-day visitor on 19th – just the fourth county record and the first since 1958.

Temminck's Stint, Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire (Mike Trew).

A small arrival of Gull-billed Terns saw birds at Gosford Bay, Lothian, and Harper's Island, Co Cork, alongside a reported possible at Lytchett Fields RSPB, Dorset. Up to three Caspian Terns were also new, comprising an individual touring the Norfolk Broads between Reedham and Hickling from 19th, another south past Snettisham Coastal Park, Norfolk, on 22nd and one along the Kent coast near Swalecliffe on a couple of dates.

Caspian Tern, Hickling Broad NWT, Norfolk (Sophie Barrell).

The American Black Tern at Long Nanny, Northumberland, continued to provide sterling views, while two White-winged Terns flew south-east past Adabrock, Lewis, Outer Hebrides, on 18th. Bonaparte's Gulls were at Exmouth, Devon, and Gibraltar Point NNR, Lincolnshire. A first-summer Ring-billed Gull was at Tivoli, Co Cork, on 20th; a Kumlien's Gull remained on Barra, Outer Hebrides.

American Black Tern, Long Nanny, Northumberland (Ian Bollen).

There appear to be two Long-tailed Skuas on Mainland Shetland currently, with one at East Burrafirth in addition to the one at Loch of Clumlie. The famous Black-browed Albatross, meanwhile, proved largely reliable at Bempton Cliffs RSPB, East Yorkshire.

Black-browed Albatross, Bempton Cliffs RSPB, East Yorkshire (Neil Loverock).

American Wigeon were in Norfolk, Suffolk and Co Londonderry and five Green-winged Teal were logged. Four Ring-necked Duck included new birds at The Wilderness, Fife, and Colonsay, Argyll, and a female Ferruginous Duck was at Belvide Reservoir, Staffordshire, on 22nd – presumably the bird seen recently in Cheshire and Worcestershire. The King Eider was still off Musselburgh, Lothian, mid-week, with a young drake Surf Scoter off Benbecula, Outer Hebrides.

Surf Scoter, Stinky Bay, Benbecula, Outer Hebrides (Dean Eades).

Norfolk's Red-breasted Goose was last noted at Blakeney Harbour on 16th, with no sign thereafter. The Black Brant at Kilnsea, East Yorkshire, remained until 20th at least. In Argyll, the long-staying Pied-billed Grebe held out at Loch Feorlin.

Red-breasted Goose (left), Blakeney Harbour, Norfolk (Tony Duckett).

A significant influx of Striped Hawkmoths was noted across mostly southern portions of Britain throughout the week, with the majority typically being seen in south-west England. More than 100 individuals were thought to have been involved, with a notable outlier reaching as far as Newtownards, Co Down. Two Death's-head Hawkmoths were trapped in Cornwall.

Striped Hawkmoth, Skokholm, Pembrokeshire (Richard Brown / Skokholm Warden).


Western Palearctic

Sweden hosted a female Brown Shrike at Hillerstorp on 18th and an adult male Caspian Stonechat at Erstavik on 19th, while an adult Ross's Gull lingered in a Norwegian Common Tern colony at Vealøs. In Varanger, a Montagu's Harrier on 22nd became just the second record for Finnmark and likely second-most northerly ever recorded anywhere in the world. A Wilson's Storm Petrel photographed out to sea off Denmark's west coast was a national first, while a Booted-Steppe Eagle double-act were at Skagen.

A Bridled Tern was photographed in a tern colony on Île de Ré, France, on 18th, with the Elegant Tern remaining further north along the Biscay coast on Île de Noirmoutier. Just inland of Calais, a young Bearded Vulture was over Saint-Inglevert. Spain's highlight saw two male Moroccan Wagtails in close proximity near San Fernando. Two further Elegant Terns were at Marjal dels Moros, Valencia, with at least one Lesser Flamingo still at Laguna de Fuente de Piedra.

Amazingly, a male Cretzschmar's Bunting photographed at Aisone on 8th is just the second Italian record – with the first dating back as far as 1883. Austria's second Lesser Yellowlegs at Lake Neusiedl on 19th was followed by a Little Bustard at Seewinkle NP on 21st. In Germany, a first-summer Pygmy Cormorant reached the outskirts of Bremen, while the Dutch Bearded Vulture hung on.

In Georgia, the raptor hot-spot of Batumi has seen no fewer than 14 Crested Honey Buzzards pass overhead so far this spring and three likely Crested × European Honey Buzzard hybrids. Two Bar-tailed Larks accompanied two Greater Hoopoe-Larks at Ceylanpınar, Turkey.

Written by: Sam Viles