Review of the Week: 17th-24th August 2001


At last the autumn migration season can officially be declared open. Good numbers of typical northern continental drift migrants arrived on the east coast this week. At least 11 Wrynecks were found from Fetlar to the Isle of Wight, along with 6 Icterine and 10 Barred Warblers, a couple of widely separated Savi's Warblers at Flamborough and Bardsey, 2 Bluethroats, a Common Rosefinch and almost a dozen Red-backed Shrikes. They were of course accompanied by Pied Flycatchers, Redstarts, Whinchats and Garden Warblers, but these tend to pass unnoticed unless on the east coast. The same northeastern breeding grounds hold good numbers of Black Terns, Little Gulls and Spotted Crakes, all of which put in appearances. Black Terns reached treble figures towards the end of the week and Spotted Crakes proved popular, with at least 5 birds showing reasonably well. Remarkably, the first hide at Titchwell has not been graced by the presence of one yet this year, where they appeared to have become annual. One train of thought was that they even bred under the bridge! There is still time for one yet this autumn.

Birds of a slightly more southerly range such as Aquatic and Melodious Warblers were in lower numbers, indicating a more northerly origin for the bulk of migrants reaching us, while birds of a Mediterranean origin were almost non-existent. Raptors were also beginning to move, with Hobby and Montagu's Harriersaway from their breeding areas, but Honey Buzzards continued to be seen from regular watchpoints. Everyone will be hoping for a repeat of last year's influx of these secretive birds.

Wildfowl were in their dull eclipse plumages, with adult Shelducks moving to the continent to moult; perhaps they will bring the backlog of Ruddy Shelducks that must be building up in Northern Europe. The much waited for invasion seems to have petered out – did it ever involve wild birds?

Shorebird numbers still featured well, with several Temminck's Stints continuing the Scandinavian theme; presumably the White Stork in Lincolnshire/Cambridgeshire was also from the same area. A Buff-breasted Sandpiper on the east coast at Musselburgh was an exception, but had this vagrant spent the summer in Europe along with the Essex Wilson's Phalarope? One could hardly have applied the same argument to the Monarch butterfly that reached Bardsey, but where were the Semipalmated, Baird’s and White-rumped Sandpipers that should have followed it across the Atlantic?

Although the most popular bird was probably the Farmoor Sabine's Gull (Oxfordshire), the star rarities of the week were a King Eider in Cornwall and Sardinian Warbler in Northumberland. Suffolk provided a hint of what it could produce, but failed to come up with the goods. Red-necked Stint, Fea's Petrel and Sooty Tern were all 'possibly' seen, but none chose to pause for a closer look – next week perhaps?

Written by: Phil Palmer, BirdGuides