Review of the Week: 1st-7th August 2002


The weather continues to be unsettled, with heavy downpours and flooding in some areas interspersed with hot, muggy, sunshine. A light drift of easterlies, coupled with cloud and low pressure stretching across the low countries resulted in an early scatter of scarce migrants, good numbers of waders and small numbers of Black Terns.

Two Broad-billed Sandpipers at Cley (Norfolk) from 3rd were a good find for a species that we normally associate with the spring. More expected were Pacific Golden Plovers, with one briefly in Cumbria and another on the Outer Hebrides. A supporting cast of waders included Grey Phalaropes in North Yorkshire and Staffordhire (the same bird perhaps?), a Buff-breasted Sandpiper reported in Fife, Pectoral Sandpipers in Lincolnshire and Northumberland and White-rumped Sandpipers in Wexford and Kerry. Apart from the rarer waders it was an excellent week for a number of species, with a scatter of Curlew Sandpipers, including 73 at Minsmere and at least five Temminck's Stints located during the week. Many observers along the east coast will remember the week for the exceptional number of Wood Sandpipers, with many birds penetrating into the northwest and the Midlands. At least 200 were reported on our Bird News Extra service, but the likely number of birds involved will undoubtedly have been much higher, with many groups moving through quickly. A flock of 14 were seen in North Lincolnshire and 10 in Northumberland, with many locations reporting up to half a dozen birds together. For departing rarities, the 3rd was the last date that the Stilt Sandpiper was seen in Hampshire, whilst the Red-necked Stint at Ballycotton was last seen on the 1st.

Waders aside there were plenty of quality birds reported during the week. A handful of Wilson's Petrels were seen from pelagic trips, including 4 off Kerry; pelagics are no doubt only scratching the surface with respect to the actual number of birds that are 'out there'. A brief incursion of over 30 Black Terns resulted from the weather conditions, amongst which there were White-winged Black Terns in Cleveland, Down and Aberdeenshire, and a Whiskered Tern briefly on Anglesey. An adult Bonaparte's Gull in Armagh on the 3rd was unseasonable, but Spotted Crakes in Kent, Durham and Cheshire were more expected.

During the weekend there was an early arrival of scarce and rare passerines. An Aquatic Warbler in the 'canal zone' at Spurn (East Yorkshire) performed well on occasion from late morning to early evening on the 4th and was the 11th county record; 10 of these have been at Spurn, over half of which have been seen in the 'canal zone' - how many pass through undetected? Elsewhere, a Two-barred Crossbill was on Fair Isle, with another on a boat 100 miles NW of Shetland - one further south would be a popular find. Less expected was an early female Parrot Crossbill on North Ronaldsay. Drifting conditions deposited half a dozen Red-backed Shrikes, and Icterine Warblers between Shetland and Norfolk, plus Barred Warblers in Shetland and Fife. Four Melodious Warblers were found, typically, between Dorset and Cornwall, with a Wryneck in Devon. A Woodchat Shrike was a good find in Ceredigion and a group of 3 Bee-eaters were seen in both Lothian and Aberdeenshire. A handful of Rose-coloured Starlings between Shetland and East Yorkshire hinted at a fresh arrival of birds in what has already been a spectacular summer for the species.

With the forecast suggesting strong winds over the weekend, seawatching might be the order of the day. So far the autumn has been disappointing, but a run of northwesterlies along the North Sea should result in a good movement of Manx Shearwaters, with the possibility of Cory's Shearwater and a few skuas mixed in for good measure – numbers tend to be greatest on the day after the 'blow' from Yorkshire northwards as birds reorientate in a northerly direction. Strong winds are also suggested for the southwest, hinting at the possibility of movement for the larger shearwaters from the well known coastal watchpoints, though wind direction will dictate the best site for observing any passage that may take place. However, to the best of my knowledge seabirds do not always pay close attention to the weather forecasts, and movement can never be guaranteed, so a nice dollop of luck and good fortune will play their part in any potential success!

Written by: Russell Slack