Review of the Week: 18th-24th September 2003


Another week in much the same vein as the previous one, dominated by Nearctic waders in good numbers, with Pectoral Sandpipers seemingly 'everywhere'. The Northern Isles continued to produce rare and scarce birds with relative ease, though pickings elsewhere were in short supply. There was some seawatching to be had and some local patch stalwarts found that persistence does pay.

Citrine Wagtail: Filey, N. Yorks. Although this bird is not as 'crisp' as some, the proportions and plumage features all accord with this species. (Photo: Mark Thomas) Citrine Wagtail: Filey, N. Yorks. The third for Yorkshire, and the 2nd for the Filey area following one there in June 1995. (Photo: Mark Thomas)

The Northern Isles lead the way with rarities. A Lanceolated Warbler was on Fair Isle (Shetland) on 21st, with the same island hosting an Arctic Warbler on 21st and a Citrine Wagtail on 20th. Continuing the good autumn for Citrine Wagtails, further birds were at Loch of Spiggie (Shetland) from 18th-20th and at Filey (N. Yorks) on 21st; the latter was only the third county record. Also on Shetland, Booted Warblers were at Sumburgh on 19th and Unst on 20th, with the bird in Quendale remaining to 19th. That Northern Isles speciality, Great Snipe, was on Out Skerries on 20th and Arctic Redpolls were on Fair Isle on 22nd, with another found dead at Lerwick the same day. The latter was of the nominate form, often referred to as Hornemann's Redpoll. The only other notable passerine rarities away from the Northern Isles were a Yellow-breasted Bunting on Bryher (Scilly) from 21st-22nd and a Red-throated Pipit over Portland (Dorset) on 24th.

Leach's Storm-petrel: Rother Valley, S. Yorks. Four were seen on inland waters, providing size comparisons with Canada Geese not normally noted at sea! Long-winged with a prominent long pale panel on the upperwing; at close range there is a grey centre to the white rump and a forked tail. (Photo: Roy Harvey) Sabine's Gull: At least 35 were noted, most off western Britain and Ireland. The upperwing pattern on passing birds is very distinctive and on the genuine article easily eliminates Kittiwake or Little Gull. (Photo: Bill Aspin)

Seawatchers produced two of the week's rarest birds, with a BrĂ¼nnich's Guillemot reported passing North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 24th and a Little Shearwater reported passing Spurn (E. Yorks) on 22nd. Other seawatching highlights included around 170 Leach's Storm-petrels with a peak of 44 past Ramore Head (Co. Antrim) on 22nd, and 4 birds on inland waters. Around 35 Sabine's Gulls were reported, including 6 from the Scilly pelagic on 19th. Rare terns included a White-winged Black Tern at Sandymount (Dublin) on 21st and a Whiskered Tern at Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) on 23rd. A juvenile Purple Heron was at Venus Pool (Shropshire) on 24th. Blue-winged Teals included birds at Egleton NR (Rutland) from 22nd and another at Bowling Green Marsh (Devon) on 24th.

American Golden Plover: Old Moor RSPB, S. Yorks. Juveniles are subtle but distinctive birds being greyish with a prominent supercilium. They are also smaller than Golden Plovers with a longer primary projection with the wings projecting beyond the tail tip by some margin. (Photo: Keith Pickering) American Golden Plover: Swords, Dublin. Despite the fact that this bird is in moult the extent of black on the underparts is clearly evident as is the primary projection. (Photo: Paul and Andrea Kelly)

Lesser Yellowlegs: Cowpen Marsh, Cleveland. The straight fine dark bill and slender shape plus the finely streaked breast are pointers towards eliminating Greater Yellowlegs when size is not immediately apparent. (Photo: Tom Francis) Baird's Sandpiper: Nosterfield NR, N. Yorks. The upperparts of juveniles are distinctly scaly and the shape distinctive with short legs and a long primary projection. (Photo: Richard Jackson)

Waders still featured prominently on our news reports during the week. Six American Golden Plovers included birds at: Annagh Head (Co. Mayo) on 18th; Swords (Dublin) from 19th; Old Moor RSPB (S. Yorks) on 20th and 22nd; Leasowe (Cheshire) on 20th; Islay (Argyll) from 22nd and the adult remained at Sandwick (Shetland). A Baird's Sandpiper at Nosterfield NR (N. Yorks) from 20th-23rd was widely appreciated and in Co. Kerry Semipalmated Sandpipers were at Ballyferriter on 18th and Smerwick from 19th-20th. A White-rumped Sandpiper was at Trabeg (Co. Kerry) from 18th-19th and at least 70 Pectoral Sandpipers were widely scattered during the week. Lesser Yellowlegs included birds on St. Mary's (Scilly) from the 18th and another at Cowpen Marsh (Cleveland) from 23rd, whilst one was again at Lady's Island Lake (Co. Wexford). The juvenile Stilt Sandpiper was still at Burnhamwood Lagoon (Co. Kerry). Buff-breasted Sandpipers included singles at Burniston (N. Yorks) on 21st, St Agnes from 22nd-24th, St. Mary's on 22nd and Loop Head (Co. Clare) on 23rd, plus the bird at Ballycotton (Co. Cork) was still present on the 18th. Long-billed Dowitchers were at Kilcoole (Co. Wicklow) from 20th-22nd and Swords on 23rd. Seawatchers produced over 70 Grey Phalaropes, most noted on the 22nd with 22 past Kilcummin (Co. Mayo), 15 past Pendeen (Cornwall) and 12 past Ramore Head (Co. Antrim), with an inland bird at Grafham Water (Cambs). Red-necked Phalaropes included singles at Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir (Glamorgan) from 21st and Abberton Reservoir (Essex) the same day, with two at Egleton NR last seen on 19th.

Tawny Pipit: Hook Head, Co. Wexford. Four were reported during the week. (Photo: Tom Shevlin) Richard's Pipit: North Ronaldsay, Orkney. The first three of the autumn appeared during the week. (Photo: Tony Disley)
Bluethroat: North Ronaldsay, Orkney. Very few have been seen away from the Northern Isles during the autumn so far. (Photo: Tony Disley) Shore Lark: North Ronaldsay, Orkney. The first of the autumn arrived on the 21st. (Photo: Tony Disley)

Scarce migrants were still to be found in good numbers, though most were typically on the Northern Isles. A total of 31 Yellow-browed Warblers were seen, most arriving courtesy of a brief high pressure over Scandinavia on the 20th and included 8 on Fair Isle and 4 on Fetlar. The first Richard's Pipit was on North Ronaldsay on 20th, with 2 there on 21st and one still on 22nd, with one at Holme (Norfolk) on 22nd. Little Buntings were on Out Skerries on 20th and Fair Isle from 22nd-24th, and there were around a dozen Red-breasted Flycatchers, including 4 on Fair Isle on 20th, and similar numbers of Common Rosefinches. Wrynecks totalled just under 30 birds during the week, there were 9 Red-backed Shrikes, 9 Bluethroats and a dozen Barred Warblers. There were four Tawny Pipits reported, 9 'left-over' Ortolan Buntings, 4 Icterine Warblers and one Melodious Warbler. There were Short-toed Larks at Aldeburgh (Suffolk) on 18th and St Agnes from 21st, plus the bird at Loch of Spiggie remained to the 18th. A Marsh Warbler was trapped at Spurn on 19th and Hoopoes were at Cubert (Cornwall) on 21st and at Loch Eye (Highland) on 22nd, plus an Aquatic Warbler at Lodmoor CP (Dorset) on 22nd. Juvenile Rose-coloured Starlings continued to be found in good numbers with 7 reported during the week, plus an adult on Tiree (Argyll). Elsewhere, an Alpine Swift was present over Cape Clear (Co. Cork) on 21st.

Pectoral Sandpiper: Hickling Broad, Norfolk. It's been a great autumn for Pecs, with birds adding to patch lists in a number of locations. On a back view like this Sharp-tailed Sandpiper can be eliminated by the clean white rear flanks and undertail coverts. (Photo: Andy Kane)

Purple Heron: Venus Pool, Shrops:. Juvenile present on 24th. (Photo: Steve Nuttall)
Written by: Russell Slack