Review of the Week: 1st–7th September 2011


The week at a glance

Perhaps as a consequence of the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, some incredible seawatching was to be had in the southwest once again, with an arrival of waders also evident. Following a run of excellent shearwater passage, the highlight of the week was a Madeiran Storm-petrel at Pendeen (Cornwall) on 6th. Seen passing the watchpoint at 14:30, what was presumably the same bird was then offshore for five minutes later in the afternoon. There is just one accepted record to date, of a bird found dead in Co Mayo in 1931, with other records pending from the Outer Hebrides in 2005 and at sea off Scilly in July 2007. In more recent years, there have also been records from Pendeen in September 2007, August 2009 and September 2009 and one passed Galley Head (Cork) in July 2010. Also in Cornwall, there was another possible Yelkouan Shearwater past Land's End on 4th and an unconfirmed report of a probable Bulwer's Petrel off Rump's Point on 5th.

In the east, seawatchers pulled out their own top-drawer bird, a Black-browed Albatross south past Kilnsea (East Yorks) on 1st. Incredibly, there have been four previous records of this southern-ocean wanderer in the county, birds at Spurn in November 1965 and September 2002, at Hornsea Mere in April 1969 and off Flamborough Head in October 1974.

Perhaps also related to Hurricane Irene, a juvenile American Black Tern was in Brandon Bay (Kerry) on 3rd, also seen off Brandon Point. This is the second report from the county; there was another juvenile in September 2003.

From the east, a typically tail-pumping Eastern Olivaceous Warbler was on Fair Isle on 2nd–3rd, the third record for the island and sixth for Shetland. Elsewhere, the drake Black Scoter remained with two Surf Scoters off Blackdog (Aberdeenshire) to 4th, the adult Sharp-tailed Sandpiper stayed put at Tacumshin (Wexford) all week and the House Crow remained in Cobh (Cork).

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Tacumshin, Wexford (Photo: Derek Charles)

The adult Snow Goose was reported again from Craobh Haven (Argyll) on 5th. A few groups of Ruddy Shelduck were new in, including three at Bough Beech Reservoir (Kent) on 1st, four at Whitton (Lincs) on 5th and a singleton at Hickling Broad (Norfolk) on 5th.

Whilst the drake Black Duck at Ventry (Kerry) remained and has reasonable provenance, the origin of a Marbled Duck at Freckleton (Lancs) on 4th will no doubt be debated. There were surprisingly few new wildfowl arrivals; only the Ring-necked Duck and Ferruginous Duck that both remained at Chew Valley Lake (Somerset) for most of the week were of note. On the sea, an eclipse drake King Eider was off Wester Quarff (Shetland) on 3rd and a White-billed Diver was reported off Strumble Head (Pembrokeshire) on 1st; a possible passed Tarbat Ness (Highland) on 5th.

Aside from the mega-seabirds reported above, there were also four reports of Fea's Petrels this week: birds off North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 1st and in Cork, past Bridges of Ross on 3rd, Old Head of Kinsale on 4th and Mizen Head on 5th. Aside from the real rarities, one of the seawatching highlights of the week was the incredible numbers of both Great, Sooty and Balearic Shearwaters recorded in the southwest of England and Ireland. The species make-up varied somewhat by region, with the table below summarising the maximum counts by site, from east to west:

Berry Head (Devon) – – 9 304
Start Point (Devon) 3 – 18 238
Porthgwarra (Cornwall) 2003 4 25 38
Pendeen (Cornwall) 16 – 376 18
Seven Heads (Cork) 103 46 54 –
Galley Head (Cork) 66 146 50 1
Mizen Head (Cork) 7 75 17 1
Cape Clear (Cork) 65 107 85 –
Bridges of Ross (Clare) 18 – 4500 3
Annagh Head (Mayo) 226 6 1740 2

There were also good numbers of plenty of other seabirds, including numerous Grey Phalaropes, Leach's Petrels, Pomarine Skuas and Sabine's Gulls, with 73 of the last past Bridges of Ross (Clare) on 6th. Apart from one past Brandon Point (Kerry) on 6th, Bridges of Ross saw the only Wilson's Storm-petrels, on 5th and 6th. There was also a small wreck of newly fledged Manx Shearwaters on Newgale beach (Pembrokeshire) on 6th: 491 were taken into care by RSPCA. There were also reports of stranded birds at Blagdon Lake (Somerset), Draycote Water (Warks), Ormskirk (Lancs) and in the DW Stadium in Wigan (Manchester).

The only Purple Heron flew south over Beal (Northumberland) on 2nd. Great White Egrets were reported from at least 10 sites during the week, including two over Cley Marshes (Norfolk) on 4th that were later refound at nearby Stiffkey Fen. Cattle Egrets remained at Dungeness (Kent) and Thorney Island (West Sussex), with others at Bowling Green Marsh (Devon) on 3rd and Wat Tyler Country Park (Essex) on 5th. The juvenile Night Heron also remained, if rather elusively, at Weir Wood Reservoir (West Sussex) to 3rd. An interesting record was a group of five Glossy Ibis over Atwick (East Yorks) on 4th.

Up to nine Spoonbills were at Alkborough Flats (Lincs); seven also stayed put at Gibraltar Point (Lincs) and seven were also at Brownsea Island (Dorset) during the week. There were just four at Cley Marshes (Norfolk), and other records again spread widely along the south and east coasts.

Spoonbill, Titchwell RSPB, Norfolk (Photo: Darren Chapman)

In Cornwall, there were reports of Black Kite from both the area around Lizard and Nanjizal/Polgigga to 3rd, but it's unclear whether or not these sightings relate to the same bird. The only other report was over the Hog's Back (Surrey) on 3rd. Two of last week's Pallid Harriers remained all week, one continuing to wander widely in Shetland and another at Tacumshin (Wexford). There was also a further possible at Mellon Charles (Highland) on 4th, present for over a week.

The Spotted Crake Meare Heath (Somerset) remained to 4th; a single new bird was at Inner Marsh Farm (Cheshire) on 1st–5th.

In Wexford, Tacumshin's excellent run of waders continued: the site held an American Golden Plover, three Buff-breasted Sandpipers, White-rumped Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper and Grey Phalarope. There was also an American Golden Plover and Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Uig, Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 2nd. Other American Golden Plovers were at Rosslare (Wexford) on 2nd, Whitburn Steel (Durham) on 4th–6th and Ventry (Kerry) on 4th.

American Golden Plover
American Golden Plover, Tacumshin, Wexford (Photo: Derek Charles)

White-rumped Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper, Tacumshin, Wexford (Photo: Derek Charles)

Semipalmated Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper, Tacumshin, Wexford (Photo: Derek Charles)

The autumn's first juvenile Spotted Sandpiper was on the Plym Estuary (Devon) on 3rd–7th. Single Red-necked and Grey Phalaropes went past Pendeen (Cornwall) on 7th and inland phalaropes included a Red-necked at Rutland Water on 4th and Greys at Rye Harbour (East Sussex) on 2nd and Blagdon Lake (Somerset) on 7th. The Great Snipe remained on Fair Isle to 2nd.

Spotted Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpiper, Plym Estuary, Devon (Photo: Phil Stidwill)

All of the week's Semipalmated Sandpipers were in Ireland: birds were at Carrahane Strand (Kerry) on 3rd (along with a Buff-breasted Sandpiper and a White-rumped Sandpiper the next day) and in Cork at Pilmore on 5th, Youghal on 5th and Clonakilty on 6th. Similarly, aside from those already mentioned, the only other White-rumped Sandpiper was at Blennerville (Kerry) on 2nd. The juvenile Baird's Sandpiper remained around the Hayle Estuary (Cornwall) all week, and a new bird was at Bridgend, Islay (Argyll) on 4th–5th.

Perhaps related to the effects of Hurricane Irene, plenty of Pectoral Sandpipers arrived during the week. Birds were reported from at least 25 sites scattered across the country, and included four at Loch of Strathbeg (Aberdeenshire) on 7th and Drift Reservoir (Cornwall) on 7th, three at The Cunnigar (Waterford) on 3rd–6th and two at White's Marsh (Cork) on 2nd–6th and at Butt of Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 7th. Buff-breasted Sandpipers were also present at over 11 sites, primarily in the west (the only eastern bird was at Thornwick Bay (East Yorks) on 3rd). Most were singles, but there were two at Carrahane Strand (Kerry) on 4th, two briefly at Derwent Reservoir (Durham) on 6th and up to three on the airfield on St Mary's (Scilly) during the week.

Pectoral Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper, The Cunnigar, Waterford (Photo: Ronan McLaughlin)

Buff-breasted Sandpiper
Buff-breasted Sandpiper, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Photo: Joe Pender)

Pectoral Sandpiper, Drift Reservoir, Cornwall (video: chippler01).

Long-tailed Skuas were reported past a large number of sites along all coasts, though most were singletons. There were two past Whitburn Coastal Park (Durham) on 1st, two past Fife Ness on 3rd and five headed inland from Inverkeithing (Fife) on 3rd. The Dungeness (Kent) Glaucous Gull remained all week, and the fourth-winter Iceland Gull also remained at Tarbolton (Ayrshire) to 4th. The only Ring-billed Gulls were the adults still at Kinneil Lagoon (Forth) to 2nd and Stanpit Marsh (Dorset) to 7th, and the only Bonaparte's Gull reported was one still at Sunderland and Whitburn Steel (Durham) all week.

Ring-billed Gull
Ring-billed Gull, Kinneil Lagoon, Forth (Photo: John Nadin)

As might be expected, there were records of Sabine's Gull from many sites along the west coast, with one east-coast bird, off the Bridlington Skua Cruise (East Yorks) on 4th, and inland birds comprising a juvenile at Belvide Reservoir (Staffs) and an adult at Swillington Ings (West Yorks), both on 7th. New juvenile White-winged Black Terns were at Gailey Reservoirs (Staffs) on 2nd and Farmoor Reservoir (Oxon) on 5th–7th.

White-winged Black Tern
White-winged Black Tern, Farmoor Reservoir, Oxfordshire (Photo: J Dexter)

The Bee-eater on the Isles of Scilly remained on St Mary's throughout; the only other was over Mold (Clwyd) on 1st. There were rather more Hoopoes, including birds in gardens in Swansea (Glamorgan) on 3rd and Easton (Somerset) on 5th–6th and another photographed at Newmachar in Aberdeenshire on 6th. Wrynecks were again widespread; inland birds were at Horwich (Manchester) on 2nd and Lakeside, Doncaster (South Yorks) on 7th. Most were singletons, but two were at Portland (Dorset) on 2nd, Skomer (Pembrokeshire) on 2nd, Noirmont Point (Jersey) on 3rd and East Prawle (Devon) on 4th.

European Bee-eater
European Bee-eater, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Photo: Martin Goodey)

The first-winter Citrine Wagtail was again at Seaforth (Lancs) on 2nd–3rd and one or more were reported on St Agnes, St Mary's and Tresco (Scilly) on 4th–7th. There were then two together at Tacumshin (Wexford) on 2nd, one staying to 4th. In the Northern Isles one was on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 2nd and 7th and one was ringed on Fair Isle on 6th. Another was on Cley Marshes (Norfolk) on 6th–7th and unconfirmed reports came from Martin Mere (Lancs) on 3rd and Pennington Marshes (Hants) on 5th. The only Tawny Pipits reported were two at Noirmont Point (Jersey) on 2nd.

Citrine Wagtail
Citrine Wagtail, Tacumshin, Wexford (Photo: Paul Kelly)

There were still few reports of Red-backed Shrike — birds at Bournemouth (Dorset) on 1st, Winterton Dunes (Norfolk) to 2nd and at Tilbury (Essex) on 4th — and just one Woodchat Shrike, remaining on St Mary's and Tresco (Scilly) all week. A Bluethroat was ringed at La Claire Mare (Guernsey) on 3rd and a white-spotted male originally ringed at East Chevington (Northumberland) on 27th July was recaught on 1st.

Red-backed Shrike
Red-backed Shrike, Bournemouth, Dorset (Photo: Dave C)

Woodchat Shrike
Woodchat Shrike, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Photo: Martin Goodey)

A late Aquatic Warbler was ringed at South Milton Ley (Dorset) on 3rd. In the Northern Isles a Marsh Warbler was ringed on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 1st and the week's only Booted Warbler was at Scatness (Shetland) on 2nd–3rd. Yet another Melodious Warbler graced the Observatory garden at Portland (Dorset) on 5th–7th, with others on St Mary's (Scilly) on 1st and at Mizen Head (Cork) on 4th, and a further possible in a garden at Dumpton (Kent) on 1st. A Western Bonelli's Warbler ringed on Bardsey (Gwynedd) on 1st was the seventh for the island, the source of all records for the county.

Western Bonelli's Warbler
Western Bonelli's Warbler, Bardsey Island, Gwynedd (Photo: Richard Brown)

Shetland saw most of the rest of the warbler highlights, including Arctic Warblers on Fetlar on 4th and at Hoswick on 7th, and Greenish Warblers remaining at Sumburgh to 4th and a new bird at Sandwick on 2nd. There were also single Barred Warblers at numerous sites, including two on Fair Isle. Further south, Barred Warblers were on North Ronaldsay (Orkney), at Port Nis, Lewis (Outer Hebrides) and at Rattray Head (Aberdeenshire), with a cluster of east-coast records at Spurn (East Yorks) and in Lincolnshire at Donna Nook, Saltfleet and Gibraltar Point. Elsewhere, a further Greenish Warbler was on Cape Clear (Cork) on 3rd–4th.

Greenish Warbler
Greenish Warbler, Sumburgh, Mainland, Shetland (Photo: James Wood)

Last week's Ortolan Bunting on Scilly was followed by perhaps the same on Gugh on 1st, St Mary's on 4th and St Martin's on 5th, with further birds at Fleetwood (Lancs) and Nanquidno (Cornwall) on 2nd. Small numbers of Lapland Buntings also started to arrive, including singletons on Foula and Fair Isle (Shetland), North Ronaldsay (Orkney), Arranmore and Tory Islands (Donegal), Skomer (Pembrokeshire) and at Coverack (Cornwall). Three were at Belmullet (Mayo) on 4th, and on Scilly two were on St Martin's and five at Peninnis Head, St Mary's, on 7th.

The number of Common Rosefinches on Fair Isle reached 15 on 3rd, including a group of 12 together, with other groups of seven at Norwick, Unst (Shetland) on 4th, five on Fetlar (Shetland) on 4th, five on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 1st and four at Baltasound, Unst (Shetland) on 6th. Away from Scotland, one was ringed on Skomer (Pembrokeshire) on 2nd, staying to 7th, and another was on Dursey Island (Cork) on 1st. A new Rose-coloured Starling was at Isle of Whithorn (Dumfries & Galloway) on 5th–7th.

Photo of the Week: 1st–7th September

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl, South Uist, Outer Hebrides (Photo: Paul Foster)

With yet another first Photo of the Week this week, Lancashire-based bird photographer Paul Foster had to go all the way to the Outer Hebrides to finally get his PotW tally off the ground. Paul's best-known images to date have featured various owl species (primarily Long-eared) taken in his home county. With such an obvious 'soft spot' for owls, he must therefore have been pleased to encounter the numerous Short-eared Owls on South Uist during his recent trip there. On his last evening of the trip, Paul made the most of some superb golden light to capture a stunning flight shot of this species. The warm hues of SEOs always look at their best in low-altitude lighting, but Paul has also managed to set this bird against a similarly coloured plain backdrop, giving the whole image a monochrome feel. The head-on angle, straight towards the sun, picks out the bright features of the wings and face, the diagonal wings leading the viewer in to those glowing yellow eyes. The result is both aesthetic and atmospheric.

Bittern, Stodmarsh NNR, Kent (Photo: Mike Gould)

Merlin, Isle of May, Fife (Photo: Joe Wynn)

Yellow Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail, Cley Marshes NWT, Norfolk (Photo: Tom Melton)

Wryneck, Hook-with-Warsash LNR, Hampshire (Photo: Darren Evans)

Pectoral Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper, The Cunnigar, Waterford (Photo: Ronan McLaughlin)

Ruff, Titchwell RSPB, Norfolk (Photo: Garth Peacock)

White-tailed Eagle
White-tailed Eagle, Mull, Argyll (Photo: Matt Morgan)

Little Egret
Little Egret, Lodmoor RSPB, Dorset (Photo: Dave Dowdeswell)

Common Whitethroat
Common Whitethroat, Grutness, Mainland, Shetland (Photo: James Wood)

Puffin, Fife Ness, Fife (Photo: John Anderson)

Curlew Sandpiper
Curlew Sandpiper, North Wirral CP, Cheshire (Photo: Steve Round)

Little Stint
Little Stint, Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk (Photo: Jon Evans)

Rock Bush-quail
Rock Bush-quail, India (Photo: Mital Patel)

Hobby, Chelmarsh Reservoir, Shropshire (Photo: Jim Almond)

Written by: Mark Grantham