Bird of the week was an easy call this week, albeit one that was not really anticipated. An adult White-throated Sparrow at Flamborough Head (East Yorkshire) was a surprise find. It has not been a classic autumn, and it has certainly been a poor one for Nearctic passerines, so one at an east coast location might come as a bit of a surprise. Presumably this bird has been ship-assisted into the North Sea and has either jumped ship at sea, or made landfall on the continent and got caught up in a short movement of birds across the North Sea. However it got here, it has certainly been a popular, although elusive, find. It is the first to be collectable on the mainland since a long-stayer in Lincolnshire from December 1992 to March 1993. There have been just 22 accepted records of this attractive species with most, as would be expected, in the spring, and this is the second for Yorkshire.
There was also quite an arrival of Dark-throated Thrushes during the week: at least four black-throated birds including a well-watched bird on Scilly (see http://www.birdguides.com/birdnews/article.asp?a=198) and a tantalising Red-throated Thrush seen briefly in East Yorkshire. This is one of the few sibes that inland birders might realistically have a hope of finding - scan those Redwing flocks diligently this autumn and winter! Also on Scilly, there was an Red-throated Pipits and an Olive-backed Pipit on the islands and Citrine Wagtails were still present early in the week.
After an orange-billed tern frenzy this summer, it was interesting to note yet another (or one of the same?) was found in Co. Kerry. As with the others, this bird was considered to be either an Elegant Tern or Lesser Crested Tern - once the dust has settled on this summer's records there is no doubt that it will prove to have been an educational year for most of us. Surely after the problems of this year, a review of past records would seem appropriate? Also in Co. Kerry a Forster's Tern was present early in the week.
Elsewhere, a Lanceolated Warbler was on Fair Isle, four Olive-backed Pipits and four Red-throated Pipits were seen during the week on offshore islands, and an Arctic Warbler was in Cornwall, where a controversial Acrocephalus was thought to be a Caspian Reed Warbler. Two Penduline Tits were typically brief in Kent, an Icterine Warbler was a late find in Co. Wexford and a Rustic Bunting was on Cape Clear. Just two Little Buntings were reported, with birds in East Yorkshire and Shetland, and the Pied Wheatear was still present early in the week on North Ronaldsay. A modest tally of seven Pallas's Warblers were seen during the week, including a rare west coast record. Of the scarcer species there were at least 26 Yellow-browed Warblers, 15 Barred Warblers, eight Red-breasted Flycatchers, five Wrynecks, 10 Richard's Pipits and a couple each of Bluethroat and Common Rosefinch. Several Red-backed Shrikes were noted and at least 17 Great Grey Shrikes, many of the latter at inland locations following the main arrival a couple of weeks ago. Harbingers of winter in the north included half a dozen Waxwings and three Arctic Redpolls, whilst in the southwest contrast was provided by two Serins and two Red-rumped Swallows. Other noteworthy records during the week included two Quails and a Corncrake, and a Crested Tit at a feeder in Argyll was a superb record. Just over a dozen Rosy Starlings were pleasant reminders of the superb influx during the summer, though most were in the southwest.
White-billed Divers were reported past the northeast coast, with another in Shetland, a Red-breasted Goose was back on Islay and several Surf Scoters included an excellent inland drake in Lancashire. Of the rarer seaducks this is probably the prize for an inland patch-watcher. Rough-legged Buzzards reached almost double figures, with three together in Suffolk and two more in Kent. Hopefully it might be a good winter for this fantastic raptor. Rare waders lingered in a number of places, and Lesser Yellowlegs were in Wexford, Cheshire and Hertfordshire, with Long-billed Dowitcher in Cork, Pacific Golden Plover on the Outer Hebrides, American Golden Plover on Cape Clear and a White-rumped Sandpiper in Dublin. A Temminck's Stint remained in Somerset and Spotted Sandpipers were in Derbyshire and Scilly. A Red-necked Phalarope was in Essex, with a Grey Phalarope at the same site, and inland Grey Phalaropes were in Leicestershire and Worcestershire, plus several coastal birds. A late White-winged Black Tern lingered in Norfolk. A mouthwatering list of possibles during the week included Yellow-browed Bunting, Red-flanked Bluetail and a Grey-cheeked Thrush!
The prospects for the next few days look bleak for sibe lovers, though perhaps the late date might facilitate a fortuitous find somewhere. We're moving into Hume's Warbler and rare wheatear time, so perhaps there is a long shot there. A blast of west and southwesterlies might give hope to those in the west...