Review of the Week: 1st-14th July 2004


The last couple of weeks have produced a number of quality rarities. These have included an early run of rare waders, together with several rare terns and gulls and a Nearctic sparrow for good measure! So, in spite of the autumnal feel to the last couple of weeks (or is that the whole summer!), there has been plenty of early movement to keep birders on their toes.

Lesser Sand Plover: Aberlady Bay, Lothian. (Photo: Tristan Reid) Lesser Sand Plover: Aberlady Bay, Lothian. (Photo: Tristan Reid)

Lesser Sand Plover: Aberlady Bay, Lothian. (Photo: Tristan Reid) Lesser Sand Plover: Aberlady Bay, Lothian. (Photo: Paul Baker)

Bird of the week was the 5th British Lesser Sand Plover, a striking male at Aberlady Bay (Lothian) between Thursday 8th and 9th. The Aberlady bird belongs to the form mongolus ('Mongolian Sand Plover') from eastern Siberia, as did last year's bird in Hampshire - the same bird perhaps? This will be the 3rd record of this form in Britain. The two other records both belonged to the atrifrons group ('Lesser Sand Plover'). It has been proposed that Lesser Sand Plover and Mongolian Sand Plover be treated as separate species, rather than races of the same species. Previous Lesser Sand Plover records in Britain have been at Pagham Harbour (W. Sussex) from 14th-16th August 1997, and Rimac (Lincs) from 11th-15th May 2002 (both of which were birds belonging to the atrifrons group). An earlier bird on the Don Estuary (Aberdeenshire) from 18th-19th August 1991 was also of the mongolus group. So, if it is decided that these groups merit specific status and you saw the Lincolnshire bird in 2002, and either the Hampshire bird last year or this year's bird, you will have been fortunate enough to have now seen both species in Britain!

Greater Sand Plover: Snettisham RSPB, Norfolk. (Photo: Dave Hawkins) Greater Sand Plover: Snettisham RSPB, Norfolk. (Photo: Mike Lawrence)

Greater Sand Plover: Snettisham RSPB, Norfolk. (Photo: Graham Catley) Greater Sand Plover: Snettisham RSPB, Norfolk. (Photo: Andy Warr)

It was clearly a good couple of weeks for sand plovers as an unidentified sand plover was seen briefly at Beacon Ponds (E. Yorks) on Saturday 3rd, before heading off south. Presumably the same bird was then relocated at Snettisham RSPB (Norfolk) on Sunday 4th and identified as a Greater Sand Plover. Fortunately it remained until late on Monday 5th providing a welcome opportunity for large numbers of birders to see this striking male. Although statistically Greater Sand Plover is the commoner of the two sand plover species at a national level, with 13 accepted records, the last to remain for any length of time was in 1992 when one was seen in Norfolk, Essex and Kent between 5th and 14th August. With just two brief records since (in W. Sussex in 1996 and Lothian in 1999), this Norfolk individual allowed a new generation of the birders the opportunity to catch up with the species, and if they were so inclined to, they were able complete the 'double' in the space of a week!

Long-billed Dowitcher: Gibraltar Point, Lincs. (Photo: Mike Lawrence) Long-billed Dowitcher: Gibraltar Point, Lincs. (Photo: Lee Johnson)

Long-billed Dowitcher: Gibraltar Point, Lincs. (Photo: David Coxon) Long-billed Dowitcher: Gibraltar Point, Lincs. (Photo: Mike Lawrence)

Short-billed Dowitcher: Lady's Island Lake, Co. Wexford. (Photo: Paul and Andrea Kelly) Short-billed Dowitcher: Lady's Island Lake, Co. Wexford. (Photo: Tom Shevlin)

Short-billed Dowitcher: Lady's Island Lake, Co. Wexford. (Photo: Paul and Andrea Kelly) Short-billed Dowitcher: Lady's Island Lake, Co. Wexford. (Photo: Paul and Andrea Kelly)

A dowitcher at Beacon Ponds/Spurn (E. Yorks) on Saturday 4th was presumably the summer-plumaged Long-billed Dowitcher present at Gibraltar Point (Lincs) from Monday 5th onwards. In Co. Wexford the 1st-summer Short-billed Dowitcher has remained in residence at Lady's Island Lake throughout the period. Other rare waders included a Broad-billed Sandpiper at Snettisham RSPB (Norfolk) on Saturday 10th and another at Bowling Green Marsh (Devon) from Tuesday 13th to at least 14th, a summer-plumaged American Golden Plover at Breydon Water (Norfolk) from Sunday 11th-12th, and the Greater Yellowlegs that was again reported at Quoile Pondage (Co. Down) on Tuesday 13th. Of note was a Stone Curlew at Powfoot (Dumfries and Galloway) on Friday 2nd. Scarce waders comprised 4 Pectoral Sandpipers, with singles at Brockholes Quarry (Lancs) on Friday 9th, Kilcoole (Co. Wicklow) on Saturday 10th, North Cave Wetlands (E. Yorks) from Monday 12th onwards and Cork (Co. Cork) on Wednesday 14th. It only seems yesterday that we were enjoying record numbers of Temminck's Stints heading north in the spring, but there were 8 returning birds reported during the period. Singles were at Skinflats Lagoon (Forth) from Sunday 4th-5th, Staines Reservoir (Surrey) on Monday 5th, Upton Warren and then Grimley (Worcs) on Monday 5th, Kingston (Moray/Nairn) on Monday 5th, Wellington GPs (Herefordshire) on Friday 9th, Hornsea Mere (E. Yorks) on Friday 9th, Quoile Pondage (Co. Down) on Friday 9th and Rutland Water (Leics) from Saturday 10th to at least 14th. Good numbers of waders were reported from many locations, and at least 25 Wood Sandpipers were reported, including 6 at Grove Ferry (Kent) on 9th.

Pectoral Sandpiper: North Cave Wetlands, E. Yorks. (Photo: Peter Baker) Pectoral Sandpiper: North Cave Wetlands, E. Yorks. (Photo: Gordon Rickers)

Cattle Egret: Fairburn Ings, W. Yorks. (Photo: Darren AP Ward)

Cattle Egret: Fairburn Ings, W. Yorks. (Photo: Stephen Tomlinson) Cattle Egret: Fairburn Ings, W. Yorks. (Photo: David Brown)

A Cattle Egret at Fairburn Ings from Wednesday 7th-10th appeared to make good use of the free transport available on the backs of Highland Cattle! A Purple Heron was noted passing The Lizard (Cornwall) on Tuesday 6th and another was seen to come "in-off" at Hemsby (Norfolk) on Wednesday 14th. The Glossy Ibis was relocated at Minsmere (Suffolk) from Friday 2nd-3rd and was then seen to head north, only to be relocated later on Saturday 3rd at Berney Marshes (Norfolk) where it has remained since. Three Red-footed Falcons included two brief males: a male flew over the National Wetlands Centre (Carmarthen) on Friday 2nd, a 1st-summer female was at Sulby Reservoir (Isle of Man) from Thursday 8th at least 12th and a male was at Dogsthorpe Star Pit (Cambs) on Wednesday 14th. Rare ducks comprised an eclipse drake Lesser Scaup (last year's bird?) at Pennington Flash CP (Gtr Manchester), a female Blue-winged Teal at Trimley Marshes (Suffolk) from Tuesday 13th onwards and Ring-necked Ducks in Somerset and on the Outer Hebrides.

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Red-footed Falcon: Sulby Reservoir, Isle of Man. (Photo: Peter Hadfield)

White-winged Black Tern: Fairburn Ings, W. Yorks. (Photo: Roy Harvey) White-winged Black Tern: Taw Estuary, Devon. (Photo: Dave Stone)

Gull-billed Tern: North Slob, Co. Wexford. (Photo: Tom Shevlin) Roseate Tern: Long Nanny, Northumberland. (Photo: Mark Breaks)

A scattering of rare terns included a Gull-billed Tern at North Slob (Co. Wexford) from Saturday 11th onwards, with the same bird perhaps responsible for the sighting at Wall Common (Somerset) on Thursday 1st. White-winged Black Terns were in evidence, with an adult on the Taw Estuary (Devon) from Friday 2nd-7th, a 2nd-summer at Fairburn Ings (W. Yorks) from Monday 5th-7th and an intriguing record of an exceptionally rare 1st-summer at Rutland Water (Leics) from Thursday 8th-12th. Rare gulls comprised a 1st-summer moulting to 2nd-winter Laughing Gull at Lough Beg (Co. Cork) from Saturday 10th-11th and a summer-plumaged Franklin's Gull that was noted at Freiston Shore (Lincs) on Monday 12th, whilst the 1st-summer Ring-billed Gull is still on Lewis (Outer Hebrides) and the 1st-summer American Herring Gull in Co. Galway.

Wilson's Storm-petrel: Scilly Pelagic, Scilly. (Photo: Ben Lascelles) Wilson's Storm-petrel: Scilly Pelagic, Scilly. (Photo: Ben Lascelles)

Cory's Shearwater: Scilly Pelagic, Scilly. (Photo: Ben Lascelles) Gannet: Dinton Pastures, Berks. (Photo: Marek Walford)

Seabirds continue to feature prominently in the daily reports, as many observers have had ample opportunity to start their seawatching early this year thanks to the unsettled weather. Pelagic trips from St. Mary's (Scilly) have been producing regular sightings of Wilson's Storm-petrels with one on Sunday 4th, 2 on Saturday 10th, singles on Sunday 11th and Monday 12th and 4 on Tuesday 13th. Half-a-dozen or so Cory's Shearwaters have been noted so far. One was seen from the Scillonian crossing on Saturday 3rd, and another performed well for the Scilly pelagic on Sunday 4th. North Sea records comprised one past Cley on Wednesday 7th, one or two past Sheringham (Norfolk) on Thursday 8th, one passing Sutton-on-Sea the same day and one north at Eyemouth (Borders) on Tuesday 13th. A Great Shearwater passed Helvick Head (Co. Waterford) on 8th July. Nearly 40 Balearic Shearwaters were reported during the period, the peak count 19 past St. Margaret's (Kent) on Friday 9th. A Yelkouan Shearwater was reported past Flamborough Head (E. Yorks) on Saturday 10th and a total of 9 Sooty Shearwaters were noted from several watchpoints. Sabine's Gulls passed Burniston (N Yorks) and Hartlepool (Cleveland) on 8th and 4 Long-tailed Skuas involved singles past Trusthorpe (Lincs) on Thursday 8th, Hartlepool and St. Mary's Island (Northumberland) on Friday 9th and Flamborough Head on Saturday 10th. There were 5 inland Gannets noted during the period in the Midlands and Southeast, with birds at Dinton Pastures (Berks) from Saturday 3rd-4th (when taken into care), Stewartby Lake (Beds) on Saturday 3rd, Kinsham Pits (Worcs) on Sunday 4th, Dartford/Rainham (Kent/London) on Sunday 4th and Stratford-upon-Avon on Monday 5th (also taken into care). The Dinton Pastures bird, which died in care, had been ringed as a chick on Great Saltee Island, Co Wexford in June 2002. Other inland seabirds included Roseate Tern at Rother Valley CP (S. Yorks) on Sunday 4th July, a Fulmar at Farmoor Reservoir (Oxon) from Tuesday 6th-7th, a Great Skua over Blacktoft Sands (E. Yorks) on Thursday 8th, an Arctic Skua the same day at Belvide Reservoir (Staffs), and another flew over Barden (N. Yorks) on Monday 12th.

Common Rosefinch: Hunmanby, N. Yorks. (Photo: Graham Catley)

A White-throated Sparrow was perhaps a surprise find on Foula (Shetland) on Thursday 1st. Not surprisingly, scarce passerines were in short supply. A Common Rosefinch was on Coll (Argyll) on Monday 5th whilst the male remains at Hunmanby (N. Yorks). A Serin was on St. Mary's (Scilly) on Wednesday 14th. Male Red-backed Shrikes were reported at Hickling Broad (Norfolk) on Monday 5th and Carnock (Fife) on Saturday 10th. The Icterine Warbler was last reported from Outney Common (Suffolk) on Saturday 3rd. A Bee-eater at The Mullet (Co. Mayo) on Friday 9th will have brightened up a dreary summer day. Unseasonable sightings include a male Snow Bunting at Spurn (E. Yorks) from Sunday 11th-12th and a Brambling at Beestwood CP (Notts) on Saturday 10th. A Waxwing was at Maywick (Shetland) from 7th-10th - the first July record for Shetland.

Finally, news from Wales is that the first breeding attempt by Ospreys has taken place in the country. A pair bred at Pont Croesor (Gwynedd) and successfully hatched two eggs. Unfortunately the nest collapsed and the chicks died, but this gives further hope for the continued expansion of the species as a breeding bird in Britain.

Lesser Scaup: Pennington Flash CP, Gtr Manchester. (Photo: Stephen Tomlinson) Black-necked Grebe: Precott Reservoirs, Lancs. (Photo: Stephen Tomlinson )
Written by: Russell Slack