Review of the Week: 17-23 October 2022


There can only be one place to start this action-packed review. On 19th, perfect east-coast fall conditions opened the floodgates for the largest arrival of Redwings in recent memory. The highest counts were to be had on either side of the Pennines, with an astounding record-breaking count of some 122,600 over Crosby Marine Park, Lancashire, in seven hours, accompanied by approximately 18,950 Fieldfares.

In total, counts numbering into the tens of thousands darkened the skies over 16 sites, with minima of 43,040 over Lower Wharfe, North Yorkshire, and 33,565 over Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire. In Staffordshire, a new county record count saw 10,160 overfly Black Bank. Accompanying unprecedented Redwing numbers on 21st were a couple of Dusky Thrushes – one in a garden at Scoulton, Norfolk, and another trapped and ringed at an undisclosed Lothian site – while a probable Black-throated Thrush flew over Kynance Cove, Cornwall.

Redwing, Sumburgh, Mainland, Shetland (Steve Wilson).

Fieldfare, Lundy, Devon (Tom Wright).

Redwings aside, the week was particularly memorable for the number of Red-flanked Bluetails and Pallas's Warblers discovered. The former were at 14 locations – five were at sites bordering the Firth of Forth, although most notable of all was a rare adult male at Kergord, Mainland Shetland, from 18th. Pallas's Warblers, meanwhile, could be found at an impressive 37 east-coast sites: 10 in Norfolk, nine in Northumberland, seven in Yorkshire and four in Durham. In East Yorkshire alone, five were at Flamborough Head on 21st, with four at Spurn the previous day. Elsewhere, birds were in Glamorgan, Devon and Scilly.

Red-flanked Bluetail, Kergord, Mainland, Shetland (Tim Sykes).

Pallas's Warbler, Spurn YWT, East Yorkshire (Miles Cluff).

This week's mild conditions and strengthening southerly winds led to a bumper influx of Common and Pallid Swifts. At least 26 sites scored flyovers, with all of those confirmed to species level looking like Pallid Swifts – nine to be exact, with three in Scilly, twos at both Knott End-on-Sea, Lancashire, and Cley next the Sea, Norfolk, and singles at Birchington, Kent, and Templetown, Co Louth. The latter would prove especially notable if relocated – the species has never been twitchable in Ireland.

Pallid Swift, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Scott Reid).

The week's rarity highlight, however, concerned a Blue Rock Thrush at Winterton-on-Sea, Norfolk, on 20th. Residing in the grounds of Hermanus Holidays, this county first was present for one day only. The species has seen a small increase in records nationally in recent times: of the 11 on record, five have occurred in the last six years. Earlier this year, East Anglia's first was at The Naze, Essex.

Blue Rock Thrush, Winterton-on-Sea, Norfolk (Sue Bryan).

With phone and internet networks down in Shetland on 20th, a stunning male Siberian Rubythroat at Quendale, Mainland, was a surprise treat awaiting birders once communications were restored that afternoon. A Siberian Stonechat remained there too, with two Parrot Crossbills lingering at Ungirsta, Unst, at the start of the week. Desert Wheatear is a quintessential late autumn arrival, with a male at Scatness, Mainland, from 20th.

Siberian Rubythroat, Quendale, Mainland, Shetland (Dan Brown).

North Ronaldsay enjoyed an excellent run of vagrants from Central Asia on 23rd – a White's Thrush, male Eastern Black Redstart and a Central Asian Lesser Whitethroat. Best of the action on Fair Isle concerned a Black-bellied Dipper from 20th.

White's Thrush, North Ronaldsay, Orkney (Dante Shepherd).

Black-bellied Dipper, Fair Isle, Shetland (Alex Penn).

At the opposite end of Britain, perfect fall conditions for arrivals from the east on 17-18th delivered the goods to St Mary's, Scilly – a Booted Warbler and Hippolais species on 18th and a Pechora Pipit on 19th, while a Red-throated Pipit spent the week on the island.

Booted Warbler, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Rik Addison).

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

Continuing to attract crowds to the islands was the young male Blackburnian Warbler on Bryher, which remained throughout. Other vagrant landbirds of a Nearctic persuasion comprised two American Buff-bellied Pipits on St Mary's and the Swainson's Thrush at Carinish, North Uist, until 17th. A Red-eyed Vireo was at Mizen Head, Co Cork, from 17-21st, with a credible claim from Penryn, Cornwall, on 23rd.

Blackburnian Warbler, Bryher, Isles of Scilly (Scott Reid).

American Buff-bellied Pipit, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Terry Laws).

Elsewhere, an apparent Stejneger's Stonechat at Crail, Fife, was perhaps the star find. While the species can be very difficult to separate from Siberian on field views only, indicative features include an apricot-buff rump and rufous-brown crown and mantle. In any case, the required faecal sample for DNA testing has been obtained …

Stejneger's Stonechat, Crail, Fife (John Nadin).

Other Red-throated Pipits were at Portland, Dorset, Park Head, Cornwall, North Ronaldsay, Orkney, and Fair Isle, Shetland. Olive-backed Pipits were at nine locations – most notably one at Loop Head, Co Clare – and at least 12 Richard's Pipit were spread across Britain, with another in Ireland at Ballydonegan, Co Cork. In Scilly, both St Agnes and St Mary's hosted Greater Short-toed Larks. Shore Larks are beginning to show up again, with birds at two sites in Yorkshire and five in Norfolk.

Red-throated Pipit, Fair Isle, Shetland (Georgia Platt).

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

The Blyth's Reed Warbler on Tory Island, Co Donegal, was joined by an Arctic Warbler from 22nd. Other Blyth's Reeds were in Highland, Orkney and Shetland, with a probable in Scilly. Eight Dusky Warblers were along the east coast, plus one at Sand Point, Somerset & Bristol. An appreciable arrival of Radde's Warblers deposited birds at 13 sites, including two at Beachy Head, East Sussex. Two were in Ireland – at Cape Clear, Co Cork, and Rathlin Island, Co Antrim. Perhaps most intriguing of all was an elusive, silent Bonelli's warbler species at Kilnsea, East Yorkshire, on 20th.

Radde's Warbler, Low Newton-by-the-Sea, Northumberland (Gary Woodburn).

Presumed Siberian Lesser Whitethroats were at nine sites, including the western islands of Tiree, Argyll, and Skokholm, Pembrokeshire, while 15 Barred Warblers included birds in Dorset, Cornwall, Gwynedd, Co Cork and Co Galway. Unidentified subalpine warblers, meanwhile, were at Tynemouth, Northumberland, and North Ronaldsay, Orkney.

Siberian Lesser Whitethroat, Kilnsea, East Yorkshire (Craig Bell).

Barred Warbler, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Alex Carlisle).

Red-breasted Flycatchers and Little Buntings were at nine sites each, with Bluethroats at three. A Rustic Bunting was at Cape Clear, Co Cork and a European Serin overflew South Foreland, Kent. At least seven Hornemann's Arctic Redpolls remained in Shetland.

Bluethroat, Fair Isle, Shetland (Rebecca Nason).

Rustic Bunting, Cape Clear, Cork (Luke Geraty).

Multiple Great Grey Shrikes showed up on the east coast for the first time this autumn, with birds at eight sites. A young Red-backed Shrike performed admirably at Kenfig NNR, Glamorgan. Elsewhere, Hoopoes were scattered between Beeston Bump, Norfolk, and Mull, Argyll, with national totals of seven Wrynecks, three Common Rosefinches and four Rosy Starlings. A marvellous group of at least three Red-rumped Swallows was over Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire, on 22nd, with one overflying nearby Holmpton on the same date. Another was in Gwynedd at Aberdaron on 19th.

Wryneck, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Rik Addison).

Yet another fantastic week on the seabird front included some remarkable action off Cornish coastline on 22nd, with a Barolo-type shearwater off Lizard Point starring alongside Band-rumped Storm Petrels off both Porthgwarra and Lizard Point. On 17th, a Fea's/Desertas Petrel scythed east past the Scillonian III off Wolf Rock, Cornwall, while, in Ireland, an adult Brown Booby was at Great South Wall, Co Dublin, on 20th.

Fea's/Desertas Petrel, Scillonian crossing, Cornwall (Lee Gregory).

Brown Booby, Dublin, Dublin (Shay Bagnall).

Accompanying rarer seabirds off the Cornish coastline were astounding numbers of Great Shearwaters. A tally of 10,325 off Bass Point on 22nd took the plaudits as the highest count, with four-figure counts made from two further headlands – including at least 2,500 tucked well into Falmouth Bay off Pennance Point. Others were off Devon and Scilly, with a notable Welsh count of 25 over the Celtic Deep some 100 km off Pembrokeshire. Single-figure Cory's Shearwater counts were made in the South-West, with at least one in the North Sea off Dunbar, Lothian. Grey Phalaropes were at eight coastal sites, including five at Clahane Strand, Co Clare. Inland, one was at Nosterfield LNR, North Yorkshire. Eight Sabine's Gulls and seven Leach's Storm Petrels were also logged.

Great Shearwater (left) and Cory's Shearwater, Scilly pelagic, Isles of Scilly (Jonathan Farooqi).

Grey Phalarope, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland (Colin Bradshaw).

Co Kerry hosted a Bonaparte's Gull at Lough Leane, the Whiskered Tern held on at Forfar Loch, Angus & Dundee, and a Kumlien's Gull headed south past Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, on 19th. A first-winter Ring-billed Gull was in Co Clare, while an adult Ring-billed × Lesser Black-backed Gull hybrid roosted in Derbyshire. In Co Leitrim, the Double-crested Cormorant was again at Doon Lough.

Whiskered Tern, Forfar Loch, Angus & Dundee (Mark Bolton).

Double-crested Cormorant, Doon Lough, Leitrim (Seamus Feeney).

A Collared Pratincole at Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincolnshire, on 18th perhaps related to the bird from north-east England continuing southwards; it or another was at Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire, from 20th. Wetland Bird Survey counters at Ince Marshes, Cheshire, scored a Black-winged Pratincole on 22nd. The Kentish Plover was again at Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, although the Shetland Black-winged Stilt wasn't noted after 18th.

Collared Pratincole, Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire (Ian Stewart).

Long-billed Dowitcher, Cley Marshes NWT, Norfolk (Nick Brown).

Last week's ringed Long-billed Dowitcher in Conwy was joined in the county by an unringed juvenile on 23rd, with others in Norfolk and Cheshire. Other rarities comprised a new Semipalmated Sandpiper at Black Rock Strand, Co Kerry, and lingering Wilson's Snipe on St Mary's, Scilly, and Spotted Sandpiper on St Kilda, Outer Hebrides.

Wilson's Snipe, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Rik Addison).

Spotted Sandpiper, St Kilda, Outer Hebrides (Craig Nisbet).

American Golden Plovers were at two sites apiece in Scotland and Ireland, with singles in England and Wales. Yell, Shetland, held a Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Basta Voe and Pectoral Sandpipers graced nine sites. White-rumped Sandpipers were at Goldcliff Pools, Gwent, and three sites in Co Wexford. Three Lesser Yellowlegs were in Cornwall, with two in Lancashire and singles in Cleveland and Co Cork.

American Golden Plover (right), Holy Island, Northumberland (Jonathan Farooqi).

Lesser Yellowlegs (right), Leighton Moss RSPB, Lancashire (Craig Bell).

An immature Red-footed Falcon drifted over Thorne Moors NNR, South Yorkshire, on 17th, with a young Black Kite at West Moor, Somerset. On 23rd, juvenile Pallid Harriers were logged at St David's Head, Pembrokeshire, and Three Castles Head, Co Cork. Rough-legged Buzzards were in South Yorkshire, East Yorkshire and Suffolk.

Islay, Argyll, is the hotbed of Nearctic Branta action in Britain. This week, burgeoning Barnacle Geese flocks played host to two Todd's Canada Geese and three Cackling Geese. While two of the latter were of the more expected Richardson's variety, the third looked a decent match for an altogether rarer form – Taverner's Cackling Goose – a subspecies never conclusively recorded in Britain. Another Todd's was with Pink-footed Geese at Skateraw, Lothian, with two more Richardson's lingering on North Uist, Outer Hebrides.

Todd's Canada Goose (centre), Loch Gorm, Islay, Argyll (Steve Percival).

Possible Taverner's Cackling Goose (right of centre), Bridgend, Islay, Argyll (Stephen Percival).

A white-morph Ross's Goose, perhaps last winter's bird returning, overflew Kinbuck, Forth, on 22nd; Snow Geese were in Moray & Nairn and Caithness, with two in Co Mayo. In Essex, a Red-breasted Goose flew south past Frinton-on-Sea with Dark-bellied Brents on 19th. Two Black Brant visited Seasalter, Kent

Two Blue-winged Teal were at Baile an Reannaigh, Co Kerry, on 17th, with the young female last noted at Halton Marshes, Lincolnshire, the following day. Up to four Green-winged Teal were noted – drakes at Lossie Estuary, Moray & Nairn, Barra, Outer Hebrides, and Blennerville, Co Kerry – with a probable at Abbotsbury Swannery, Dorset. American Wigeon were at four sites too – Banks Marsh, Lancashire, Grafham Water, Cambridgeshire, Ballo Reservoir, Fife, and Inishmore, Co Galway. The Ferruginous Duck remained in Warwickshire, with Ring-necked Duck at 13 sites.

Green-winged Teal, Lossie Estuary, Moray & Nairn (Graham Larrington).

Continuing King Eider were at both Musselburgh, Lothian, and Scalloway, Mainland Shetland, with a drake Black Scoter still off Cocklawburn Beach, Northumberland. A Surf Scoter tracked along the Northumberland coast on 20th; others were off Outer Hebrides and Co Clare. White-billed Divers, meanwhile, comprised two off Shetland and one off Lewis, Outer Hebrides.

Arguably one of the most spectacular migrant moths to be recorded on these shores, Crimson Speckled is typically a rare migrant from the Mediterranean and North Africa. This week, however, has seen a notable arrival along the south and east coasts of both Britain and Ireland, with individuals reported from over 30 sites so far – including several counts of multiples. Red, yellow and black markings on a white forewing make it instantly recognisable and it is well worth readers keeping an out for more arrivals over the next few days, especially in southern counties.

Crimson Speckled, undisclosed site, Hampshire (Alan Lewis).


Western Palearctic

France's bountiful autumn of Nearctic vagrants stepped up a gear on 23rd, when a first-winter Dickcissel was reported as photographed well inland at Saint-Genès-de-Castillon, just east of Bordeaux – although there is apparently some doubt about the authenticity of the record. Ouessant Island scored big again when the nation's second Black-faced Bunting was trapped and ringed on 20th. Two Red-eyed Vireos, a Northern Harrier, Isabelline Shrike and an Isabelline Wheatear also remained on the island. Elsewhere, a Sociable Lapwing was at Coudray and a Long-legged Buzzard continued at Thibie. In the Channel Islands, a Desert Wheatear was at Noirmont Point, Jersey.

The Netherlands enjoyed a national first, with a Bobolink photographed at Nieuwe Driemanspolder on 18th. Although it was untwitchable, better luck came with the country's second Yellow-browed Bunting – with a first-winter male feeding on roadside seed at Donderen from 21st. Otherwise, an Eastern Yellow Wagtail was on Texel and a Black Scoter continued off Schiermonnikoog.

Yellow-browed Bunting, Donderen, Drenthe (Jaap Denee).

Another surprising record of a plentiful week saw a Song Sparrow found a long way inland in mistnets at Djura Nöbbele, Sweden, on 19th. This, the country's second record, wasn't seen again after release. The southernmost island of the Faroes, Suðuroy, enjoyed a veritable bounty of Nearctic visitors too: the nation's second White-crowned Sparrow, American Buff-bellied Pipit, American Black Duck and three Ring-necked Duck.

In Norway, an immature Turkey Vulture photographed in Gloppen municipality is somewhat of an eye-opener. Never before recorded in the region, it appears a decent shout for ship assistance, although is also fairly widespread in captivity. Otherwise, an Oriental Turtle Dove was on Røst. Christiansø, Denmark, held a Pine Bunting and a returning drake Black Scoter was off Blåvands Huk, while some five Sociable Lapwings were in Hungary and a Blyth's Pipit was at Hel, Poland.

A quieter week in the Azores nevertheless produced a new Pied-billed Grebe, three American Great Egrets and a Great Blue Heron on Terceira, with a Green Heron, Wood Duck, Hudsonian Whimbrel and two American Great Egrets on Flores. Corvo hosted a Red-breasted Flycatcher, Lesser Whitethroat, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Red-eyed Vireo, Brown Booby and Lesser Yellowlegs; another Wood Duck was on São Miguel.

Two House Buntings in Gibraltar in recent weeks constitute the territory's third and fourth records. A White-rumped Swift at Cabo de Peñas was the first for northern Spain, while a Least Sandpiper was at Nois and an Elegant Tern was again at Chipiona.

In Israel, the remarkable occurrence of 16 Swinhoe's Storm Petrels in the Red Sea off Eilat on 17th is by far the largest count ever recorded in the Western Palearctic and is close to unprecedented anywhere away from the Pacific Ocean.

Written by: Sam Viles