The week at a glance:
- Return of the Black-browed Albatross to the Outer Hebrides.
- Black-winged Stilts nesting in Lancashire.
- Exceptional displacement of European Storm-petrels.
- Gyr Falcon on Orkney.
European Storm-petrel: Severn Estuary, Glos (photo: Paul Bowerman).
The event of the week for many was an exceptional displacement of European Storm-petrels into the English Channel. Coastal counties between Kent and Cornwall received unprecedented numbers of these dainty seabirds, with up to 1,000+ passing Portland Bill (Dorset) and 310 at Dawlish Warren (Devon). To put the displacement into perspective, there had previously been no spring records at the famous seawatching location of Dungeness (Kent) but, as part of the present influx, birds were seen daily from 21st with up to 133 noted moving west. This exciting movement was also detected across the Channel and in northern Spain. The movement was not reflected elsewhere in Britain, though modest numbers were seen in South Wales and a handful of birds penetrated into the Severn Estuary (Glos). None were detected in the North Sea counties north of Suffolk and, perhaps surprisingly, none were picked up well inland.
|European Storm-petrel: Severn Estuary, Glos (photo: Paul Bowerman).||Long-tailed Skua: Stevenston Point, Ayrshire (photo: keith Hoey).|
It was a good week for seawatchers in the northwest too. At last some serious skua movement was detected. Long-tailed Skuas featured prominently, with 163 past Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 22nd and 171 at Saltcoats (Ayrshire) on 22nd. Smaller numbers were detected at the usual watchpoints elsewhere in the northwest and Scotland and at a handful of sites in the English Channel. Pomarine Skua numbers were lower, the peak counts occurring on 19th when 60 passed Skinburness (Cumbria) and 83 were off Chanonry Point (Highland). Along the south coast Balearic Shearwater reports were into the teens, with 4 passing Portland and 3 Dungeness maximum counts. Leach's Storm-petrels were seen off Selker Bay (Cumbria) on 21st and Troon (Ayrshire) on 24th. Three Sabine's Gulls were detected: singles past Bowness-on-Solway (Cumbria) on 19th, Carnsore Point (Co. Wexford) on 20th and Formby (Lancs) on 24th.
Gull-billed Tern: Kingsbury WP, Warks (photo: Mark Priest).
News of the week for many will have been the eagerly anticipated return of the Black-browed Albatross to the remote Sula Sgeir (Outer Hebrides) following a sighting there late last summer. For those who failed to see the famous Shetland bird, from 1972-1995, this bird offers another opportunity to witness this fantastic species in British waters - it could even be the same bird. However, it looks like it will be an expensive trip to do so! A Laughing Gull was seen briefly at St. John's Point (Co. Down) on 18th and a Bonaparte's Gull at Kenfig NNR (Glamorgan) the same day, with a Ring-billed Gull at Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway) on 20th. The Gull-billed Tern was last seen at Sherpa Marsh (Devon) on 18th and perhaps the same bird was responsible for highly valued inland sightings at Kingsbury WP (Warks) and then Lound GPs (Notts) on 19th. One was also at Ballymacoda (Co. Cork) from 20th to at least 23rd. A fine summer-plumaged White-winged Black Tern was at Barton-upon-Humber Pits (Lincs) from 23rd onwards; the spring has been disappointingly poor for this marsh tern so far.
White-winged Black Tern: Barton-upon-Humber, Lincs (photo: Graham Catley).
|Red-necked Phalarope: Neumann's Flash, Cheshire (photo: Rob Smallwood).||Dotterel: Ditchling Beacon, E. Sussex (photo: Johnny Carr).|
|Black-winged Stilt: Upton Warren, Worcs (photo: Chris Cook).||Black-winged Stilt: Upton Warren, Worcs (photo: Oliver Wadsworth).|
A Black-winged Stilt was at Upton Warren (Worcs) from 21st-22nd and another was reported over Acton (London) on 18th. The Black-winged Stilts at Martin Mere (Lancs) have finally settled down to nest - let's hope for a successful outcome. A Broad-billed Sandpiper was an excellent inland find at Over Fen (Cambs) on 19th and a Spotted Sandpiper was at Menlough (Co. Galway) on 19th. The Pectoral Sandpiper remained at Martin Mere to the 19th and another was at Backworth Pond (Northumbs) from 22nd-23rd. The first Red-necked Phalarope of the year was at Neumann's Flash (Cheshire) from 23rd-24th and a Grey Phalarope was at North Rona (Outer Hebrides) on 23rd. Just a handful of Dotterel were still at large and 7 Temminck's Stints were a reflection of the westerly airflow.
Woodchat Shrike: Whitburn, Durham (photo: Malcolm Hobbs).
|Woodchat Shrike: Whitburn, Durham (photo: Mark Newsome).||Woodchat Shrike: Whitburn, Durham (photo: David Brown).|
The conditions stifled the arrival of scarce migrants. A Subalpine Warbler was on Ramsey Island (Pembrokeshire) from 23rd onwards and Woodchat Shrikes were at Whitburn (Durham) from 21st, Bryher (Scilly) from 22nd-23rd and still at Portland (Dorset). The few scarcities that were found were nearly all on Shetland, where there were two Red-backed Shrikes and an Icterine Warbler, plus two of the three Bluethroats reported and an Ortolan Bunting. A Short-toed lark was on St. Mary's (Scilly) on 20th, a Hoopoe at Redmires Reservoirs (S. Yorkshire) on 21st, Bee-eaters at Winterton (Norfolk) and Maywick (Shetland). Serins were reported at the Calf of Man (Isle of Man) and Spurn (E. Yorks), and a dozen migrant Golden Orioles put in an appearance. The sole Common Rosefinch was on Yell (Shetland) from 20th-23rd and five brief Red-rumped Swallows included birds in Cumbria and Aberdeenshire. A Rose-coloured Starling was at Forsinard RSPB (Highland) on 21st and the male Northern Long-tailed Tit continued his paternal duties in Southend (Essex).
|Black Kite: Seaton GPs, Kent (photo: Mike Buckland).||Montagu's Harrier: Colne Point, Essex (photo: Sean Nixon).|
|Spoonbill: Filey Dams, N. Yorks (photo: Karl Mainprize).||Purple Heron: College Reservoir, Cornwall (photo: Len).|
The mobile Black Stork of recent weeks again put in appearance, this time in North Yorkshire, passing over Wykeham Forest and then Filey on 23rd - where will it pop up next? A Cattle Egret passed over Ramsgate (Kent) on 21st, a Great White Egret was at Bawdsey (Suffolk) on 18th and a Night Heron at Bridge of Allan (Forth) on 21st. Purple Herons were at College Reservoir (Cornwall), Frampton-on-Severn (Glos) and Slapton Ley (Devon), with three other brief reports. A dashing white-morph Gyr Falcon was seen twice over South Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 23rd and a rare lingering Black Kite was at Seaton GPs (Kent) from 20th-21st with a Red-footed Falcon reported at Fen Drayton (Cambs) on 18th. Rare ducks were just that, but there was a drake King Eider in Aberdeenshire, Surf Scoters in Cornwall and a Ring-necked Duck in Bedfordshire. Drake Blue-winged Teals were still at Longtown (Cumbria) early in the week and at Castle Espie (Co Down).
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: undisclosed, W. Yorks (photo: Sean Gray).
|Black-tailed Godwit: Inner Marsh Farm, Cheshire (photo: Steve Round).|