Review of the Week: 19th-25th September 2002


A 'steady' week given the time of year. A blast of northeasterlies provoked an exceptional Sooty Shearwater movement past Yorkshire, whilst settled conditions have facilitated the detection, and arrival, of small numbers of rare and scarce migrants.

A River Warbler on Fair Isle will be only the 30th British record, but the 10th for this famous island, five of which have been in the autumn. Nationally, this is the first record since 1998 and you will have to go back to 1996 for 'accessible' individuals, when birds in Staffordshire and Northumberland pleased the masses.

Rarities have been a bit thin on the ground, but a Western Bonelli's Warbler in Cornwall is one of only a handful of records in the last few years. The southwest also played host to an Alpine Swift in Cornwall, and Woodchat Shrikes in Cornwall and Dorset. From points further north and east came an Arctic Warbler and Blyth's Reed Warbler on Barra, Greenish Warbler in Cumbria and Black-headed Bunting in Suffolk. A Lanceolated Warbler found on Annet (Scilly) was the first for the islands and one of relatively few birds seen away from the Northern Isles. Citrine Wagtails were on Shetland, but the second for Donegal was much more unexpected. Several juvenile Rose-coloured Starlings have been found during the week, and these are no doubt a result of the exceptional summer incursion into western Europe. Britain and Ireland in the autumn really is the meeting place for east meets west, north meets south.

Seawatchers along the east coast had an enjoyable weekend, with unprecedented numbers of Sooty Shearwaters noted off Yorkshire watchpoints on the 22nd. A Black-browed Albatross past Spurn (East Yorkshire) on the 22nd will have been the envy of many. It has been an exceptional autumn for Fea's Petrels and another was seen from North Ronaldsay (Orkney), whilst for the third time this autumn a bird was multi-observed along the east coast. Presumably the same bird has been responsible for all the east coast sightings, and is associating with the higher-than-normal numbers of Sooty Shearwaters. On the 23rd, a bird was seen passing East Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland, with one observer in Durham receiving a phone call and being able to watch the bird pass north from his bedroom window - now that's what I call a garden tick!

Wader enthusiasts can be entertained by a number of Pectoral Sandpipers scattered around, along with commoner fare. However, more interesting delights are restricted to a Long-billed Dowitcher on Foula, American Golden Plovers in Galway and Orkney, and the Pacific Golden Plover still in Durham. Several Buff-breasted Sandpipers have been reported during the week with birds in South and North Yorkshire, Cork and Wexford, whilst a Semipalmated Sandpiper was in Kerry and a Baird's Sandpiper in Cork. The Glossy Ibis is still in Devon, and the Gull-billed Tern remains in Cornwall. A White-winged Black Tern was a nice find in Cambridgeshire and a Bonaparte's Gull was in Armagh. Winter must be fast approaching because the Redhead is again back in Glamorgan, Snow Geese have arrived with the Pinkfeet and a small form Canada Goose has been seen already...

As always, if you are fortunate enough to encounter anything of interest, or if you have travelled to see one of the birds mentioned on our Bird News Extra page, please call us on our freefone number 08000 350 444, email us at sightings@birdguides.com or use the submission form on our Bird News Extra page - we would love to hear from you with information on what you have found, or been to see.

Written by: Russell Slack