25/04/2002
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Review of the Week: 19th-25th April 2002

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Difficult to believe it is still April! A fine week, with temperatures soaring to the mid-20s under a nice high pressure and blue skies. Reassuringly, perhaps, we know that it will not last, and a cool blast over the next few days is set to bring us back to earth, and to April!

The southerlies over the weekend enabled another less conspicuous burst of overshoots to hit our shores, coupled with a sizeable fall of commoner migrants along the east coast. Sighting of the week once again belongs to a superb Red-billed Tropicbird, this time seen 7 miles off Falmouth (Cornwall) on 22nd. Coming just a few weeks after the sighting from the Scillonian III near the Isles of Scilly on 29th March, this lends further weight to the tantalising possibility that a bird is perhaps summering in the Western Approaches, as there have been sightings in the southwest for the last three years. Perhaps, this year, one of the biggest seawatching prizes is about to fall to an intrepid group of birders willing to venture out on a pelagic trip in search of this beauty?

Unseasonable Cory's Shearwaters have also been seen this week with a single past Portland Bill (Dorset) and two past Skinburness (Cumbria). Skua passage so far has been relatively quiet, with single-figure reports of Pomarine Skuas and small numbers of Arctic Skuas from the watchpoints in the English Channel. Further information on where to watch for spring skuas can be found at

http://www.birdguides.com/birdnews/article.asp?a=78

In contrast, the Solway has attracted the largest number of birds with 30+ seen passing on the 24th. Staying with the watery theme, a cormorant at Chew Valley (Somerset) was thought to be a possible Double-crested Cormorant, but may prove to be a sinensis Cormorant, an ever-present obstacle for claimants of Double-crested Cormorants in our waters.

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Back to land and there was a Mediterranean feel once again to the news service. A Western Subalpine Warbler was at Winterton (Norfolk), Sardinian Warbler on St. Martin's (Scilly) and a Woodchat Shrike at Porthgwarra (Cornwall). In the air, Alpine Swifts whizzed over Guernsey, Somerset and Dorset on the 21st, whilst up to 6 Red-rumped Swallows were reported during the week, including the departure of the long-staying bird in Hull (East Yorkshire). Serins were seen briefly in East Sussex, Dorset and Cornwall, though none lingered, an Ortolan Bunting was heard over Portland and the first Montagu's Harrier of the spring was seen in West Sussex. Elsewhere, a Rose-coloured Starling was in Guernsey and a summer-plumaged Red-thoated Pipit gave exceptional views on Skomer (Pembrokeshire) from 22nd, whilst another was reported on the Isle of Man on 20th. Also of interest, a female Bluethroat caught on Fair Isle was the earliest Red-spotted bird ever seen on the hallowed island by 13 days.

Other highlights this week include three Wrynecks, with birds in Kent, Dorset and Norfolk, an early female Red-footed Falcon reported over Dunwich Heath (Suffolk) and a Little Bunting at Rame (Cornwall). At least two calling Spotted Crakes have been heard at Strumpshaw Fen (Norfolk) during the week, and yours truly was delighted to be called by one of our subscribers one evening and treated to the sound of a bird calling in the background as I entered the information into our database – modern technology, what would we do without it? In Nottinghamshire up to 3 Quail were heard calling from Gringley Carr during the week, but surprisingly there were no reports from elsewhere. Several more trips of Dotterel have been seen over the last week, with groups in Conwy, Staffordshire, and Cambridgeshire. If you want to know of more potential sites for this delightful wader in the coming weeks go to:

http://www.birdguides.com/birdnews/article.asp?a=68

in order to see if there is a site near you. The weekend produced a notable arrival of Grasshopper Warblers across southern Britain and on some days birds appeared to be everywhere. This coincided with good numbers of Ring Ouzels and Yellow Wagtails, with a good scattering of Blue-headed Wagtails for good measure.

Written by: Russell Slack, BirdGuides