Review of the Week: 16th-22nd October 2003


High pressure remained over Scandinavia for much of the week and coupled with the easterly airflow produced some stonking rarities.

Siberian Rubythroat
Siberian Rubythroat: Fair Isle, Shetland. 1st-winter female, the 2nd for Fair Isle and 4th British record. (Photo: Steve Nuttall)

Siberian Rubythroat is one of a highly desired group of rarities that most birders would dearly love to see. News of a 1st-winter female on Fair Isle (Shetland) on 17th prompted many to dig deep in their pockets to get themselves on charter flights to this magical island. Fortunately, the bird remained to the 19th allowing the most ardent of listers plenty of time to witness this superb sibe. With just three previous records, this was the first female to be recorded and was the second for Fair Isle, following the first British record there in 1975. A 1st-winter male was present for the late afternoon in Dorset in 1997 and a male was picked up dead on Shetland in 2001.

Red-flanked Bluetail: Crail, Fife. This obliging bird was one of two this week. (Photo: Alan Clewes) White's Thrush: North Ronaldsay, Orkney. Yet another excellent rarity on North Ron this autumn. (Photo: Peter Donnelly)

Grey-cheeked Thrush: Tresco, Scilly. It's been a good year for the two commoner American thrushes. (Photo: Andrew Lawson) Swainson's Thrush: Unst, Shetland. This bird from last week was considered to be a different bird to the one on the island at the end of September; the Bryher bird was the 3rd this autumn. (Photo: Micky Maher)

Bobolink: Bryher, Scilly. This was the 2nd of the autumn. (Photo: Darren AP Ward) Bobolink: Bryher, Scilly. Two records from Scilly this week, perhaps involving the same bird?. (Photo: Andy Warr)

The 16th and 17th were clearly the days to be out and about in search of megas. A Red-flanked Bluetail was seen briefly on Fair Isle on 16th, the first for the island since 1993, with the bird at Denburn Wood (Fife) remaining to 17th. A Bobolink was on Bryher (Scilly) from 16th-17th with one on St. Mary's on 20th. On North Ronaldsay (Orkney) a White's Thrush was trapped on the 17th, being seen again on 19th. A Blackpoll Warbler was at Snishival, South Uist (Outer Hebrides) from 17th-20th and a Grey-cheeked Thrush was on Tresco from 17th-19th. Also on Scilly, a Swainson's Thrush was on Bryher on 21st and a juvenile Little Crake at Porth Hellick pool, St. Mary's on 20th. On Fair Isle the Savannah Sparrow was last seen on the 19th and on Scilly the Pied Wheatear was last seen on St. Mary's on 17th, whilst in the Kent the Short-toed Treecreeper was again at Dungeness on 16th.

Savannah Sparrow: Fair Isle, Shetland. The 3rd British record. (Photo: Alan Clewes) Savannah Sparrow: Fair Isle, Shetland. Birders were able to watch this and the Siberian Rubythroat on the same day! (Photo: Nigel Blake)

Subalpine Warbler: Easington, E. Yorks. (Photo: Bill Aspin) Olive-backed Pipit: Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. This obliging bird was one of eight during the week. (Photo: Tristan Reid)

A Desert Lesser Whitethroat was on North Ronaldsay from 16th-18th, Dark-throated Thushes were on Fair Isle and at Busta (Shetland) on 16th, with the bird on Foula remaining to the 18th. Six Hume's Warblers were reported during the week, a Subalpine Warbler was at Easington (E. Yorks) on 18th and 19th, and the Sardinian Warbler remained at Skegness (Lincs). A Radde's Warbler was reported from Hengistbury (Dorset) on 21st and there were five Dusky Warblers, three of which were on Shetland. Rare pipits were well represented with eight Olive-backed Pipits, three Red-throated Pipits, one Tawny Pipit and the Pechora Pipit was again at Helendale (Shetland) to 17th. A Rustic Bunting was on St. Mary's on 18th, a Parrot Crossbill was reported from The Mullett (Co. Mayo) on 17th and the Penduline Tit remained at Lands End (Cornwall) to the 18th.

Hume's Warbler
Hume's Warbler: Southwold, Suffolk. An excellent arrival of 6 birds during the week. (Photo: Tim Brown)

Arctic Redpoll: Unst, Shetland. A handful of birds remain on Shetland. (Photo: Micky Maher) Penduline Tit: Land's End, Cornwall. Still enough of a rarity to attract attention. (Photo: Chris Wormwell)

Just over 90 Pallas's Warblers dazzled their admirers during the week, with multiples at a number of locations, plus excellent numbers of Yellow-browed Warblers. Just under 30 Richard's Pipits were present, along with six Wrynecks, two Bluethroats, a dozen Red-breasted Flycatchers, nine Barred Warblers, Marsh Warbler, Melodious Warbler, three Little Buntings and an Ortolan Bunting. At least 24 Great Grey Shrikes included a number back at traditional wintering sites, and there were two late Red-backed Shrikes. Four Hoopoes brightened the scene, there were at least eight Rose-coloured Starlings and a Red-rumped Swallow went over Skokholm (Pembrokeshire). A handful of Arctic Redpolls remained on Shetland and the first of over 50 Waxwings during the week arrived on Fair Isle on 16th.

White-rumped Sandpiper
Pallas's Warbler: Over 90 of these gems were present this week. (Photo: Mark Caunt)

An American Black Tern was off Bardsey (Gwynedd) on 16th and White-winged Black Terns were reported from Grove Ferry (Kent) on 18th and Larne harbour (Co. Antrim) on 16th. A brief blast of northerlies produced White-billed Divers past Hauxley (Northumbs) and Eyemouth (Borders) on 19th and 20th. A Great Snipe at Noss Head (Highland) on 16th was the pick of the waders. Nearctic waders included a White-rumped Sandpiper on South Uist on 22nd, Buff-breasted Sandpipers in Powys and Shetland, three Lesser Yellowlegs and half-a-dozen American Golden Plovers. There were seven Pectoral Sandpipers, three Red-necked Phalaropes and around 18 Grey Phalaropes.

Pied Wheatear
Pied Wheatear: St. Mary's, Scilly. Male wheatears of any species are fine birds, this one was no exception. (Photo: Darren AP Ward)
Written by: Russell Slack