Review of the Week: 2-8 October 2023


As conditions over the Atlantic settled into a fairly normal mix of slow-moving and unremarkable pressure systems, the balance shifted away from the Nearctic mania experienced recently. Easterlies generated by a high between Iceland and Scandinavia set up the Northern Isles and the east coast of Britain for a busy conclusion to the week on Saturday and Sunday, delivering a generous selection of later-autumn Palearctic rarities and scarcities.

Picked out among freshly-arrived Redwings at Mirbister on 7th, an Eyebrowed Thrush on Mainland Orkney was a clear highlight of the week on the back of new easterly airflow. The conditions went on to bless Easington Cemetery, East Yorkshire, with a female Black-throated Thrush the next day, although the bird soon vanished.

An arrival of Red-flanked Bluetails with individuals unearthed in Borders, Fife, Lothian, Northumberland, North Yorkshire, Orkney and Shetland was a direct result of the easterlies on 7th and 8th.

The lack of a far-reaching Atlantic airflow didn't preclude new American vagrants being found, though, with one of the week's highlights being a Mourning Dove on a driveway at Inishmore, Co Galway, on 3rd, though it was only moments before the bird was spooked by cars, never to be seen again.

In addition yet another Black-and-white Warbler was trapped and ringed in Nanjizal Valley, Cornwall, on 4th. Perhaps surprisingly, this first-winter female ended up being twitchable, with great difficulty it must be said, until 6th. Fetlar scored its second White-crowned Sparrow this decade when a first-winter was photographed from a kitchen window on the island on 8th. Remarkably, this is the fifth individual to be found in Shetland in the last seven years.

The other big news from Shetland was an accommodating White's Thrush in the Gorie plantation on Bressay from 4th to the end of the week.

White's Thrush, Bressay, Shetland (Penny Clarke).

Birders from far and wide continued to delight in the showy Cape May Warbler on Achill Island, Co Mayo, where it completed the week gleaning the fuchsia of its favoured front garden. On Tiree, Argyll, the American Yellow Warbler stayed at Kilmaluaig till the evening of 3rd. At least one of the Scilly Bobolinks obliged visiting birders near the airfield on St Mary's till 7th, this being the first time the species has been truly twitchable in Britain since the famous Hengistbury Head bird of 2002.

Bobolink, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Mark Leitch).

Birders on Shetland were able to take in the showy Veery at Lunna till the afternoon of 3rd. Late news came through on 3rd of an unidentified Empidonax flycatcher pitching onto a boat south-west of Skokholm, Pembrokeshire, two days earlier.

Veery, Lunna, Mainland, Shetland (Ian Bollen).

There were two Red-eyed Vireos in East Yorkshire on 2nd, when the mist-nets at Spurn caught an individual which continued to show at The Warren for a short while after release, and the Bempton Cliffs bird remained at The Bill. Other ‘REVs' continued in Argyll, the Isle of Man, Scilly and Co Wexford.

Red-eyed Vireo, Bempton Cliffs RSPB, East Yorkshire (Sonia Johnson).

Two eastern stonechats on Mainland Shetland appeared to represent both potential species, with the bird looking the part for Siberian Stonechat near Lunna Ness all week from 2nd, and a likely Amur Stonechat, at Loch of Norby on 5-6th. Other, unidentified, eastern stonechats turned up at Howick, Northumberland, and on Sanday, Orkney, on 7th.

The third Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler of the autumn, but the first away from Shetland, was discovered on the Isle of May, Fife, on 7th, though there were no boats that day and naturally it moved on overnight. North Ronaldsay, Orkney, hosted a Lanceolated Warbler on 8th, with one still on Fair Isle that day too. The River Warbler at Brae, Mainland Shetland, stayed till 3rd.

The week saw six Arctic Warblers, with one on Barra, Outer Hebrides, and the others on Shetland and the east coast. One Greenish Warbler was unearthed, in a garden at Patrington, East Yorkshire. Autumn's first Dusky Warbler was found on Unst, Shetland, on 8th, the same day that Radde's Warblers arrived in East Yorkshire and North Yorkshire, and two Marsh Warblers were on Mainland in the iris bed at Quendale.

Arctic Warbler, Skaw, Unst, Shetland (David Cooper).

Shetland enjoyed five Blyth's Reed Warblers, and another was found on the Isle of May, Fife. 26 Barred Warblers almost entirely on the Northern Isles. Melodious Warblers were reported from St Cyrus, Aberdeenshire and Nanjizal Valley, Cornwall, as well as Bryher, Scilly, where the bird continued from last week. There was a report of an early Pallas's Warbler at Ferry Hills, Fife, on 8th.

Barred Warbler, Wester Quarff, Mainland, Shetland (Tom Hines).

The adult male Red-tailed Shrike seemed content to remain on Fair Isle, where it was still being reported on 8th. Wester Quarff, Shetland, continued to host the female-type Eastern Subalpine Warbler in a garden. In Co Cork, the Iberian Chiffchaff only stayed on Mizen Head till 2nd.

Birders willing to climb Caradon Hill, Cornwall, were rewarded with good views of the Lesser Grey Shrike till 7th, the bird apparently taking its leave that night. Great Grey Shrikes appeared at Scampton, Lincolnshire, and Burnham Overy, Norfolk, both on 8th and representing the first arrivals this autumn. A Red-backed Shrike spent the last three days of the week on Bryher, Scilly, and the Woodchat Shrike was last seen at Marazion, Cornwall, on 6th.

A Bluethroat in Orkney added to four in Shetland. A total of 24 Common Rosefinches included one at Brownstown Head, Co Waterford, and the week saw 16 Little Buntings. Ortolan Buntings were reported on Lundy, Devon, and at Spurn, East Yorkshire. A European Serin flew in off the sea at Ventnor, Isle of Wight, on 5th. An Arctic Redpoll was at Esha Ness, Shetland, on 7th and the islands enjoyed four Rustic Buntings.

Red-flanked Bluetail, Camb, Yell, Shetland (Alan Tate).

There was a brief Tawny Pipit at Happisburgh on 8th, which no doubt would have been much appreciated by Norfolk birders have it stayed longer. Red-throated Pipits were logged on Barra, Outer Hebrides, and St Mary's, Scilly, on 4th and 5th respectively, while Shetland had two Olive-backed Pipits. An increase in Richard's Pipits saw eight birds logged.

Olive-backed Pipit, Voxter, Mainland, Shetland (Andrew Kinghorn).

Greater Short-toed Larks remained in Shetland and Scilly. A Shore Lark flew south through Hornsea then Spurn, East Yorkshire, on 8th. In Shetland, the Northern Treecreeper at Wester Quarff was still present on 6th and another individual struck a window at Exnaboe. The week's 21 Red-breasted Flycatchers were shared between Co Cork, Co Kerry, Lothian, Norfolk, Scilly, Shetland and Co Waterford.

Two Hoopoes appeared in Wales, at Calidcot Pill, Gwent, and Rhoshirwaun, Gwynedd, while the Cornish bird stayed put at Marazion till 3rd. Five Rosy Starlings included at least two on Scilly. At least 19 Wrynecks made the news.

Rosy Starling, Lizard (village), Cornwall (Peter Garrity).

The juvenile Northern Harrier range widely around The Lizard, Cornwall, all week, though the Co Mayo individual stuck around only till 4th, when it was seen at Termoncarragh Meadows. A juvenile Pallid Harrier at Dungeness RSPB from 3-8th provided a superb opportunity to see the species in Kent, while others remained in Orkney and Shetland, and at Wallasea Island, Essex, till 7th.

The adult male Snowy Owl was back at Ronas Hill, Shetland, for another year on 2-3rd.

After more than three weeks of absence, Bishop Rock, Scilly, was perched upon once again by the pale-morph Red-footed Booby on 8th, with boat trips swiftly organised for those who missed it the first time around or fancied another look. Kent — the county which added the species to the British List — enjoyed its second Brown Booby record on 8th when one flew east past Grenham Bay.

Red-footed Booby, at sea, Cornwall (Brian Bolton).

A Great Snipe made a brief appearance at North Roe, Shetland, on 3rd. In Norfolk, the first-winter Wilson's Phalarope spent most of its time at Stiffkey Fen from 4th till the end of the week, shunning North Point Pools aside from a brief return there on 5th.The juvenile Stilt Sandpiper lingered on North Uist, Outer Hebrides, till 3rd, while Tiree, Argyll, held onto its juvenile Baird's Sandpiper till 4th. Semipalmated Sandpipers were discovered at Longhaven, Aberdeenshire, on 5th and Ballycotton, Co Cork, on 8th, though it was a juvenile at Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincolnshire, that proved most popular from 2-8th.

Semipalmated Sandpiper, Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincolnshire (Paul Coombes).

At Howth Head, Co Dublin, the juvenile Spotted Sandpiper pottered around the rocks at the south end of Balscadden Beach till 3rd. A Long-billed Dowitcher was discovered at The Cunnigar, Co Waterford, on 3rd, while others remained in Co Cork, Norfolk, Orkney and Co Wicklow during the week.

There were 12 American Golden Plovers in Britain and six in Ireland this week. A Lesser Yellowlegs was found at Lurgan Green, Co Louth, on 3rd and remained to 6th, making four this week alongside continuing birds in Co Cork, Lincolnshire and the Outer Hebrides. The Lincolnshire bird showed alongside the lingering adult White-rumped Sandpiper, while other White-rumps were in Co Londonderry, Norfolk and Orkney. Cors Ddyga, Anglesey, boasted its first-winter Red-necked Phalarope to 8th.

Lesser Yellowlegs, Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincolnshire (Glyn Sellors).

Buff-breasted Sandpipers remained at Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincolnshire, as well as Loop Head, Co Clare and St Agnes, Scilly. Among a scattering of 17 Pectoral Sandpipers was a noteworthy bird at Bobymoor Gravel Pits, Warwickshire. Migrant Eurasian Dotterel included two in Shetland and others on Bryher, Scilly, and Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire. The juvenile Temminck's Stint just stayed into this review period, leaving Steart, Somerset, after 2nd.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincolnshire (Glyn Sellors).

The regular adult Azores Gull continued to roam The Mullet, Co Mayo. The only Ring-billed Gull was the adult back at Blennerville, Co Kerry. Looking like it might stay the winter, Dorset's Forster's Tern remained regular at Arne RSPB all week, mornings still producing the most sightings. In Co Waterford, the adult White-winged Tern was reported again at Dungarvan on 2nd.

Following news of a Squacco Heron in an inaccessible section of Ham Wall RSPB, Somerset, on 5th, the juvenile bird was pinned down at Long Drove on the afternoon of 8th, before it flew to roost. Flight views were of the juvenile Purple Heron at Marazion Marsh, Cornwall, were still available on 8th.

In Lincolnshire, the juvenile Black Stork stayed put at Frampton Marsh RSPB till 2nd. Two days later, one was reported at Holbeach Marsh. The adult Double-crested Cormorant proved reliable put in a couple of appearances at Doon Lough, Co Leitrim, including at the end of the week. A Spotted Crake was seen briefly on St Mary's, Scilly, on 6th.

An adult drake Lesser Scaup was picked out among Aythya hordes on Loch Leven, Perth and Kinross, on 2nd. Of course, the resident American Black Duck in Co Mayo was still at on The Mullet this week. One of the East Yorkshire Blue-winged Teal carried on commuting between Watton NR and Tophill Low NR till 5th. The drake Ferruginous Duck in Bedfordshire remained at Standford Pit to 8th. The week's 10 Ring-necked Ducks were mostly long-stayers while the Surf Scoter extended its stay on Corbally Road Reservoir, Co Antrim, all week, and another cropped up on Yell, Shetland.
American Wigeon lingered at Kilnsea, East Yorkshire, and at Inishmore, Co Galway, with another found on Sanday, Orkney. A Green-winged Teal was on Barra, Outer Hebrides, on 8th. A drake Ruddy Duck was a strange piece of news off Marwick Head, Orkney, on 2nd.

The Northumberland Red-breasted Goose could be picked out with Barnacle Geese between Budle Bay and Elwick till 4th. Taiga Bean Geese arrived in Scotland this week, with 10 over Ferry Hills, Fife, on 3rd and 44 in a field near Jawcraig Farm in the traditional wintering area in Forth on 6th.


Western Palearctic

The biggest news by far was the region's second-ever Dark-sided Flycatcher, a first-winter at Herdlevær from 5th to the end of the week which was, unsurprisingly Norway's first.

Highlights on the Azores over the course of the week included a White-eyed Vireo on Corvo and lingering Yellow-crowned Night Heron on Flores, alongside a healthy mix of continuing New World warblers.

In the Basque Country, the Belted Kingfisher remained along the Río Lea at Lekeito. A Cape Verde Shearwater rewarded seawatchers at Estaca de Bares, Galicia, Spain, on 5th.

The Black-and-white Warbler at Zeebrugge in Wester Flanders, Belgium, remained to 2nd. In France, the American Yellow Warbler remained at Île d'Ouessant, Finistère, to 8th. The second Eyebrowed Thrush for Heligoland, Germany, was found on 7th.


Written by: David Campbell

David Campbell works for BirdGuides and co-runs Wildstarts Nature Ltd, a Sussex-based guiding company: www.wildstarts.com