Review of the Week: 19-25 July 2021


It would be remiss to start this week with anything other than the simply gorgeous adult Western Sandpiper at Snettisham RSPB from 23rd – Norfolk's second. A species with only 10 accepted records in Britain to date, it is the earliest autumn occurrence by two days, with one at Musselburgh, Lothian, in 1997 thought to have been found on 25 July.

Western Sandpiper, Snettisham RSPB, Norfolk (Chris Kelly).

Impressively, detailed analysis of photographs of the summering Black Tern at Long Nanny, Northumberland – first reported on 18 May and also present in 2020 – showed it to be an American Black Tern, Britain's first occurrence of a summer-plumaged bird. When news emerged on 20th it was thought to have already departed the site, although was reported again briefly by wardens on 22nd. Should it reappear it will likely prove popular with Northumberland birders – there is just one county record to date, a very brief offshore visitor to St Mary's Island on 7 October 2019.

American Black Tern, Long Nanny, Northumberland (Frank Golding).

Ireland's Least Tern relocated to the Little Tern colony at Baltray, Co Louth, from 21-25th, before commuting back to its regular haunt at Portrane Point, Co Dublin. Across the Irish Sea, the Elegant Tern held out at Cemlyn Bay, Anglesey, despite the post-breeding departure of many of the colony's Sandwich Terns.

Elegant Tern, Cemlyn Bay, Anglesey (Tim Smith).

Belated news emerged of a Short-toed Snake Eagle photographed during bird survey work at an undisclosed Sutherland location on 20 June. A first for Scotland and a fifth for Britain, all but one has occurred since 2011 – most recently one taken into care at Hengistbury Head, Dorset, last October.

In Co Limerick, news emerged of an adult male Pallid Harrier displaying on breeding territory at an undisclosed location in the west of the county between mid-May and 29 June, although any potential breeding attempt was unsuccessful. Meanwhile, St Kilda's Snowy Owl continued for another week, while an unconfirmed report of the Egyptian Vulture was received from Avoca, Co Wicklow, on 19th.

Snowy Owl, St Kilda, Outer Hebrides (Brian Matthews).

At Bempton Cliffs RSPB, East Yorkshire, the Black-browed Albatross continued to perform admirably for the adoring crowds, regularly gliding along the cliffs to and from its favoured 'seat' above the Staple Newk Northern Gannet colony.

Black-browed Albatross, Bempton Cliffs RSPB, East Yorkshire (Christopher Bell).

Kent's Bonaparte's Gull remained at Oare Marshes throughout, resplendent in near-full summer regalia, while the immature in Shetland at Norwick, Unst, lasted another week. A possible adult spent 10 minutes over Doxey Marshes, Staffordshire, on 25th before heading north-west. In other news, an early Fea's-type petrel headed past Kilcummin Head, Co Mayo, on 19th.

Bonaparte's Gull, Oare Marshes NR, Kent (Terry Laws).

Cleveland was the latest county to get in on this summer's Caspian Tern fest, with an unringed bird at Salthome RSPB from 23rd. On 22nd, Gull-billed Terns were in both Kent and Lincolnshire – at Chartham and Stallingborough respectively

Caspian Tern, Saltholme RSPB, Cleveland (Martyn Sidwell).

A smart Western Bonelli's Warbler was at Kenidjack Valley, Cornwall, from 23rd, while a possible Black Stork circled high over Quarry Bank, West Midlands, on 19th.

Western Bonelli's Warbler, Kenidjack Valley, Cornwall (David Dack).

A small Long-billed Dowitcher influx at the week's end saw adults at Dickleburgh Moor, Norfolk, and Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB, Cheshire. Elsewhere, a Pacific Golden Plover was new at Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincolnshire, from 19th and the Norfolk bird at Burnham Norton from 23rd, with Clonakilty, Co Cork, holding onto its Short-billed Dowitcher.

Long-billed Dowitcher, Dickleburgh, Norfolk (Lee Gregory).

Pacific Golden Plover, Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincolnshire (Ian Bollen).

In Shetland, the immature drake King Eider was still around the mussel beds off Baltasound, Unst, while the reliable Pied-billed Grebe remained at Loch Feorlin, Argyll.

It was an exciting week on the rare cetacean front, peaking with a stunning Beluga Whale off Norwick, Unst, on 20th, Shetland's first since 1996. Meanwhile, the RV Celtic Explorer scored a Blue Whale approximately 135 km west of Slyne Head, Co Galway, on 25th. The young Walrus remained between Tresco and St Mary's in the Isles of Scilly throughout, while the Firth of Forth Sei Whale was joined by two Sowerby's Beaked Whales on 25th.


Scottish mainland

Four Ruddy Shelduck at Belhaven Bay, Lothian, on 24-25th included at least three juveniles, with a further individual at Montrose Basin, Angus and Dundee, on 25th. A first-summer Surf Scoter was off Kinnaber Links, Angus and Dundee, on 20th and three Red-necked Grebes remained off Longniddry Bents, Lothian, with another off Ruddon's Point, Fife.

Little Stints were at Spey Bay, Moray and Nairn, and Skinflats Lagoons, Forth, while two Eurasian Spoonbills remained at Findhorn Bay, Moray and Nairn. Three sites held Wood Sandpipers – Loch of Strathbeg RSPB, Aberdeenshire (two), Mochrum Loch, Ayrshire, and Caerlaverock WWT, Dumfries and Galloway.

On 25th, a Eurasian Hobby overflew Buxley, Borders, with a Black Redstart on Isle of May, Fife, on the same date and a Hawfinch in a garden at Durness, Highland, on 22nd. Common Quail were at six locations.

Dispersing Roseate Terns graced a number of south-east sites, including three at Seton Sands, Lothian. Three more were on the Isle of May, where the species displayed over the summer but failed to breed.


Northern Isles and the Hebrides

Shetland enjoyed some Nearctic finery this week with a spangled adult White-rumped Sandpiper at Pool of Virkie, Mainland, from 22nd. The adult Long-tailed Skua continued to put in sporadic appearances at Dalsetter, Boddam throughout while the Western Osprey was still at Sand Water, Mainland, on 19th. During a storm petrel ringing session at Lamba Ness, Unst, on the night of 23-24th two Leach's Storm Petrels were heard investigating the net. An adult Rosy Starling was at Girlsta, Mainland, on 24th and a Marsh Warbler was at Norwick, Unst.

White-rumped Sandpiper, Pool of Virkie, Mainland, Shetland (Roger Riddington).

Fair Isle endured a quiet spell, although the female European Honey Buzzard continues to put on a show and was even observed flying out to sea before thinking better of it. A Rosy Starling was also on the isle on 21st.

European Honey Buzzard, Fair Isle, Shetland (Alex Penn).

Orkney was largely devoid of bird news, although the Rosy Starling made another appearance at Toab, Mainland, on 19th. North Ronaldsay's seawatching period got underway this week with a handful of Sooty Shearwaters logged past. The lingering Rosy Starling was joined by a second bird on 20th while Common Quail and Curlew Sandpiper kept things ticking over. 

A Common Crane lolloped east over Carnan, South Uist, on 22nd, while an Avocet was on the River Howmore on 20th. A Pomarine Skua was noted off Barra on the evening of 23rd. The first-summer Glaucous Gull was still feasting on a dead cetacean at Orosay, South Uist, on 21st and a first-summer Iceland Gull was at Loch Sandary, North Uist, on 22nd. Rosy Starlings were at Borgh, Barra, and St Kilda.

Dan Owen


North-East England

A Pectoral Sandpiper near Holywell Pond on 24th was the highlight of the week in Northumberland. Long-tailed Skuas were seen passing St Mary's Island and the Farne Islands on 21st, with a Pomarine Skua off Stag Rocks three days later. Eurasian Spoonbill, Spotted Redshank and Wood Sandpiper all continued to linger in the Druridge Bay area and a Western Osprey flew over both East Chevington and Newbiggin-by-the-Sea on Saturday. An adult Yellow-legged Gull at Castle Island was a good local record, joining the long-staying Ruddy Shelduck there. Common Quail were heard at three localities. 

Roseate Tern, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland (Andy Hall).

A group of seven Ruddy Shelduck flew past Hartlepool Headland, Cleveland, on 20th, with six in the Saltholme area at the end of the week. The county has now recorded 17 individuals since 13 June, more supporting evidence in favour of a potential upgrade to Category C5 status on the British List. Saltholme RSPB also produced a Great Egret, with it or another at Cowpen Marsh.

Ruddy Shelduck, Saltholme RSPB, Cleveland (BobH).

In Durham, a Great Egret spent most of the week at Hurworth Burn Reservoir with a Common Quail singing there on Saturday. Bishop Middleham produced a Greater Scaup and six Ruddy Shelduck. A Sooty Shearwater and Velvet Scoter flew past Whitburn Coastal Park. 

Jonathan Farooqi


North-West England

Over in Cumbria, the Eurasian Spoonbill held out at Hodbarrow RSPB. Lancashire enjoyed a mixed bag, sadly a 'Lesser Golden Plover' that paid a brief visit to Hesketh Out Marsh RSPB on 19th wasn't nailed to species level. A video emerged online of a Hoopoe was in a private garden in Formby on 19th, although sadly there were no reports since. The two adult Roseate Terns again flirted with Seaforth LWT and another was off Formby Point on 25th. Wood Sandpipers had a small arrival, with a max count of five at Martin Mere WWT on 22nd. 

Hilbre Island decided to kick off Cheshire's autumn this week with a Melodious Warbler trapped and ringed on 20th. The bird was later re-trapped but there were no sightings thereafter. This represents the 12th record for Cheshire and Wirral, with the last Hilbre record dating back to 1994. The following day a Hoopoe put in an appearance and thankfully proved an altogether more twitchable bird. A moulting White-winged Tern was at Ashton's Flash on 21st but proved a one-day bird.

White-winged Tern, Ashton's Flash, Cheshire (Mark Woodhead).

Dan Owen


Lincolnshire and Yorkshire

A Red-rumped Swallow reported from Alkborough Flats, Lincolnshire, on 25th was an unusual record for late July; less surprising was the Glossy Ibis there. The coast was otherwise fairly quiet, with Common Quail at Gibraltar Point NNR and Pomarine Skua past Saltfleetby. Close to 30 species of wader could be seen at Frampton Marsh RSPB, with multiples of Curlew and Wood Sandpipers, and Little Stint. A White Stork flew over Sutton Bridge on 22nd and a Black-necked Grebe took up resident at Baston & Langtoft Pits.

A Pectoral Sandpiper lingered at Adwick Washlands, South Yorkshire, from 21st, with an adult Caspian Gull at Harthill Reservoir on 23rd and Sanderling at a couple of sites. Black-necked Grebes and Eurasian Spoonbills were at multiple West Yorkshire sites.

Pectoral Sandpiper, Adwick Washlands RSPB (Dearne Valley), South Yorkshire (Peter Garrity).

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European Honey Buzzards were still on show from Wykeham Forest raptor watchpoint, while there was also a staggering record of a Norfolk Hawker dragonfly from nearby Wykeham Lakes on 21st. Juvenile Caspian Gulls were at Long Nab on 20th and Filey on 23rd. Two Common Cranes flew south at Wheldrake Ings on 23rd; presumably the same went over North Cave Wetlands on 20th.

Seven Ruddy Shelduck past Bempton Cliffs RSPB on 20th was notable; nearby Flamborough Head produced both Long-tailed and Pomarine Skuas. Numbers of Little Gulls at Hornsea Mere have been low so far this summer, so 400 on 19th was notable. Best from the Spurn area was a Red-necked Phalarope on 24th, as well as the first juvenile Caspian Gull on 19th.

Josh Jones


West Midlands

Up to two Garganey were still frequenting Jubilee Wetlands at Middleton Lakes RSPB, Staffordshire, with another at Belvide Reservoir from 24th. A male Lesser Emperor was at the latter site on 23rd only, representing the 10th individual out of six records for the site. 

Keeping Worcestershire entertained, a Wood Sandpiper was at John Bennett Wetland, Gwen Finch NR, on 25th. A Wood Sandpiper was also at Ealswood Lakes, Warwickshire, on 22nd only while at least two Garganey were at Ladywalk NR throughout.

Dan Owen


East Midlands

Derbyshire remained quiet this week but the two Ruddy Shelducks lingered at Carsington Water. A single European Honey Buzzard was still being reported sporadically from the Welbeck watchpoint, Nottinghamshire, while another was reported over Budby Pumping Station on two occasions. The Idle Washlands continued to serve as a focal point, with a Wood Sandpiper still on 20th, a Black-necked Grebe on 22nd and two Sandwich Terns through on 23rd.

A Garganey was at Stanwick GPs, Northants, on 19th, with another at Pitsford Reservoir on 22nd. Rutland Water continued to host the first-summer Black Tern, while a Garganey was at Eyebrook Reservoir, Leicestershire, from 24th.

Dan Owen


East of England

A White-rumped Sandpiper was among the throngs of returning shorebirds at Snettisham RSPB on 22nd; nearby Ken Hill Marshes held on to the Glossy Ibis, while the Pectoral Sandpiper also lingered at Hickling Broad. A Golden Oriole briefly sang in an East Dereham garden on 20th, while a Common Crane hung around at Cley for a while on 24th. A decent arrival of Wood Sandpipers took place, with the first few juvenile Caspian Gulls of the summer also arriving on the coast.

Caspian Gull, Cromer, Norfolk (Josh Jones).

An adult White-rumped Sandpiper was the pick of the bunch in Suffolk, putting in a stay at Minsmere RSPB from 19-24th. A Roseate Tern flew north past Landguard NR on 19th. In Essex, the Pectoral Sandpiper reappeared at Old Hall Marshes RSPB on 23rd, while Hertfordshire's best bird was a Wood Sandpiper at Amwell NR on 23rd.

White-rumped Sandpiper, Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk (Sean Nixon).

The only snippet of news from Bedfordshire was a Caspian Gull at Rookery Pits on 20th. Cambridgeshire was fairly quiet, with a Little Tern at Grafham Water on 20th, as well as a couple of Caspian Gulls. At least one Southern Migrant Hawker dragonfly was at Fen Drayton Lakes RSPB.

Josh Jones


South-East England

In Sussex, a Hooded Crow lived it up on the central reservation of the A22 near Polegate, while a possible European Honey Buzzard flew north-west over Seaford on 22nd. Medmerry RSPB saw a Wood Sandpiper, a Garganey was at Weir Wood Reservoir and Common Quail were at two sites – Steep Down and Steyning.

Western Cattle Egret, Pagham Harbour LNR, West Sussex (Doug Kelson).

Nine Wood Sandpipers was an impressive count at Worth Marsh, Kent, on 25th. A strong showing from the species, four more were on New Downs, Sandwich Bay, on the same date, with others at Minster Marshes (two) and Capel Fleet, Sheppey (two). A European Honey Buzzard overflew Samphire Hoe on 19th, Garganey were at both Oare Marshes and Grove Ferry, and two Eurasian Spoonbills lingered at Cliffe Pools RSPB.

A remarkably tame Black Guillemot highlighted in Hampshire, performing along the Barton on Sea coast from 19-23rd. Elsewhere, a Little-Temminck's Stint duo were at Pennington/Keyhaven Marshes and Titchfield Haven hosted a Wood Sandpiper, Roseate Tern and several Black Terns, including an early juvenile. A Black-necked Grebe graced Blashford Lakes alongside the lingering Ruddy Shelduck.

Black Guillemot, Barton on Sea, Hampshire (Ian Wells).

Otmoor RSPB was the epicentre of Oxfordshire's week, with a Wood Sandpiper, Black-necked Grebe and four Garganey all on site; other Garganey were at Standlake and Bicester Wetland Reserve. Meanwhile, Common Quail were at Blewbury and Churn (two), while at least seven Western Cattle Egrets remained near Thrupp.

An adult Kittiwake over Colnbrook on 22nd was a Buckinghamshire highlight, with an early juvenile Caspian Gull at Little Marlow GPs on the same date. In the capital, a Wood Sandpiper visited Rainham Marshes RSPB and two Sandwich Tern flew through Walthamstow Wetlands, while Black-necked Grebe numbers at Staines Reservoirs slowly crept up to 10 by the week's end.

Yellow-legged Gull, Rotherhithe, London (Richard Bonser).


South-West England

The Isles of Scilly continued to play host to a Rosy Starling and Iceland Gull on St Mary's. Two Balearic Shearwaters were seen from a Scilly pelagic on Monday, but it was an otherwise slow start to the pelagic season.

New scarcities in Cornwall comprised of a Common Rosefinch at Falmouth 20th, Melodious Warbler at Porthgwarra on 21st and European Bee-eaters over Gunwalloe and Gwennap. A possible Purple Heron flew over Gwithian on Thursday too. Six Balearic Shearwaters were seen off Pendeen with smaller numbers off other sites. 

In Devon, Wood Sandpipers were seen at Seaton Marshes and West Charleton Marsh NR (two). The latter locality also produced a Western Cattle Egret at the start of the week. A Roseate Tern was at Dawlish Warren NNR and Balearic Shearwaters were off two coastal sites. 

Great Northern Diver, Dawlish, Devon (Steve Nuttall).

A Melodious Warbler at Portland on 22nd and a European Honey Buzzard over Poole on 25th were the only scarcities recorded in Dorset. The Hampshire Black Guillemot was off Highcliffe on 23-24th, before being taken into care on the latter date. Ferrybridge produced a couple of Roseate Terns and a Common Quail at the start of the week. Eurasian Spoonbills were at five localities and the peak count of Balearic Shearwater during the week was 26 off Portland on Sunday. Two Curlew Sandpipers were at Brownsea Island NT on 21st. 

In Gloucestershire, Slimbridge WWT continued to host a Spotted Redshank throughout the week and Wood Sandpipers were at Northwick Warth and Cotswold Water Park. The former locality also produced a Blue-headed Wagtail and Common Quail reports consisted of seven at Marshfield and one at Coombe Hill Meadows.

Late news in Somerset and Bristol concerned a White Stork over Yatton on 18th. Two Garganey lingered at Chew Valley Lake throughout the week, with a Black Tern and Western Cattle Egret there too. Two Ruddy Shelduck were at Steart and at least 40 Western Cattle Egrets were at Catcott Lows NR. 

Seven Common Quail sang at three localities in Wiltshire during the week, with a peak of three at Salisbury Plain on 24th.  

Jonathan Farooqi



A ringtail Montagu's Harrier reported over Cemlyn Bay, Anglesey, on 18th was the best bird of a quiet Welsh week. A Roseate Tern lingered too, while four Anglesey sites held Hooded Crows. Goldcliff Pools, Gwent, hosted a Wood Sandpiper and young Eurasian Spoonbill, with another Wood Sandpiper sound-recorded over Penrhyn Bay, Conwy, on 21st. In Glamorgan, a Common Quail sang at Pilton Green, Gower.

Common Quail, Pitton, Gower, Glamorgan (Mark Hipkin).



Rosy Starlings at Baginburn Head, Co Wexford, on 20th and Galley Head, Co Cork, on 20-21st were likely on their way south-east, while another was in Wicklow Town this week.

A Greater Scaup at Tacumshin, Co Wexford, on 23rd was a very unusual record for July, with Garganey also confirmed as having bred at the famous site this summer.

Josh Jones


Western Palearctic

Sweden's first Rüppell's Warbler – a male – was an impressive find on Koster Islands on 24th. With Britain's last record as long ago as June 1995 another would be warmly appreciated over here. Elsewhere, the Kamchatka Leaf Warbler lasted at Kilpisjärvi, Finland, until 19th (read more about the occurrence of this regional first here), while Norway's Sandhill Crane remained near Lakselv on 23rd.

Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Kilpisjärvi, Lapland (Petteri Lehikonen).

In Spain, a Brown Booby headed past Barbate on 24th, while a Western Reef Heron was at L'Albufera de València. Meanwhile, a juvenile Great Spotted Cuckoo photographed at Ponta dos Rosais, São Jorge, on 21st is the first record for the Azores.

Greece's fifth Lesser Crested Tern was at Chalkida on 22nd; two Greater Crested Terns were off Eilat, Israel, too. Two Black-winged Kites resided at Bafra, Cyprus.

A surprising national first concerned an adult Pacific Golden Plover at Dobříkov, Czech Republic, on 24th. The released Bearded Vulture continued at Ede, The Netherlands, while a Pygmy Cormorant remained at Everdingen, Utrecht.

Written by: Sam Viles & the BirdGuides team