Those wishing to cling to the last rays of summer had them gustily wrenched from their grasp by a period of unsettled autumnal weather this week. The forecast Indian summer has clearly postponed any such plans for the time being, as a settled run of low pressure systems track across the country drawing in west to northwesterly winds, with the prospect for stronger winds along the east coast for the weekend!
Rarity-wise it has been exceptionally quiet, with relatively few arrivals. Waders included a Lesser Yellowlegs at Tresillian, Cornwall, from the 3rd, and two Semi-palmated Sandpipers were new: one on the Ogmore Estuary, Glamorgan on the 3rd and 4th and another at Black Rock Strand, Kerry on the 6th. An adult Forsters Tern at Gormanstown Strand, Meath on the 5th did not linger and a probable Fea’s Petrel was seen distantly off Ramore Head on the 6th. Interesting passerines were not surprisingly in short supply, but a male Black-headed Bunting was on Birsay, Orkney on the 5th. Small numbers of Barred Warblers, Red-backed Shrikes and Wrynecks lingered or filtered along the coast, but the weather systems dictated that commoner migrants were conspicuous by their absence at most locations.
The conditions during the early part of the week lead to some excellent seawatching around the country, particularly on the 4th. In the northwest good numbers of Leach’s Petrels were noted off Hoylake and Point of Ayr with birds further west at Point Lynas. On the other side of the country brisk northwesterly winds ensured a good displacement of seabirds and excellent numbers of Sooty Shearwaters were noted reorientating themselves and heading north off the Yorkshire coast. The stronger winds occurred in the southern sector of the North Sea resulting in some impressive numbers of skuas seen off the Norfolk coast, with good counts of Long-tailed Skuas seen - the majority of which were juveniles. Associated were Sabine’s Gulls at several seawatching sites and a few Leach’s Petrels.
The prospects for the weekend look good for donning the all-weather gear, finding something comfortable to sit on and claiming a cosy location at an east coast watchpoint in readiness for a long seawatch as the winds pass through northwest to northerly. If seawatching is not your cup of tea, exotic long-stayers include Hoopoes in Kent and Osterley Park, whilst good numbers of waders and the chance of the odd seabird provide hope for reservoir and gravel pit watchers. Quick moving Atlantic depressions will also facilitate the arrival of American waders.