Review of the Week: 20-25 September 2022


Brisk north-westerly winds for prolonged periods over recent days have put autumn on hold somewhat and it proved a steady week at best. Migration from the east was greatly curtailed, although some Nearctic shorebirds managed to sneak through – the Scottish islands were especially profitable

However, the forecast is looking particularly exciting for the next week or so, with new arrivals surely on the cards from both east and west as we head towards next weekend. In fact, just as this article was being finished on Monday morning, news broke of a Common Nighthawk happily roosting on a garden fence in Wantage, sparking a mass arrival of twitchers in this unassuming corner of Oxfordshire. It must have proved a huge shock to the system for local birders!

Common Nighthawk, Wantage, Oxfordshire (Mark Coller).

Back to the review period, and a smashing double arrival in the Northern Isles saw juvenile Long-billed Dowitchers discovered concurrently on Fair Isle and North Ronaldsay on 24th – the first records for both islands since the mid-1990s. These outstanding waders evidently arrived on the back of westerly winds mid-week that also produced a scattering of other Nearctic shorebirds across Britain and Ireland.

Long-billed Dowitcher, Fair Isle, Shetland (Alex Penn).

The supporting cast included Semipalmated Sandpipers on Westray, Orkney, and at Eochar, South Uist, while Aberdeenshire birders were treated to a juvenile Baird's Sandpiper at Meikle Loch, with another at Blanket Nook, Co Donegal. Aberdeenshire also scored a brief American Golden Plover at Loch of Strathbeg RSPB, while a popular adult remained at Cemlyn Bay, Anglesey. A probable calling over Hilbre Island, Cheshire, on 20th unfortunately evaded confirmation. In North Yorkshire, a juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs at Scorton on 25th made for a smart inland find.

Baird's Sandpiper, Meikle Loch, Aberdeenshire (Paul Hackett).

In addition, there was a respectable crop of Buff-breasted Sandpiper sightings. Scotland saw the bulk of reports, with one on Sanday, Orkney, alongside three in the Outer Hebrides – at Loch Ordais, Lewis, Peninerine, South Uist, and Loch Paible, North Uist. Arguably the pick of the bunch was one by the taxiway at Caernarfon Airport, Gwynedd, from 24th, while three sites in Ireland also profited – two at Tacumshin, Co Wexford, and singles at both Brownstown Head, Co Waterford, and Keel, Achill Island, Co Mayo.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper, South Uist, Outer Hebrides (Ron Macdonald).

At Spurn, East Yorkshire, a young Temminck's Stint starred for much of the week, often in the company of a juvenile Little Stint – allowing for excellent comparisons. Pectoral Sandpipers at 22 sites included new birds at 14 – with notable birds in Essex, Lancashire, North Yorkshire, Carmarthen and Pembrokeshire.

Pectoral Sandpiper (right) and Jack Snipe, Langford Lakes, Wiltshire (David Betteridge).

Temminck's Stint (right) and Little Stint, Spurn YWT, East Yorkshire (Gary Vause).

The German-ringed adult female Kentish Plover returned to Burnham-on-Sea for its third autumn in a row along the Somerset coast. A Pacific Golden Plover overflew Donna Nook, Lincolnshire, on 25th and at least one Great Snipe lingered on Fair Isle until midweek. A juvenile Eurasian Dotterel at Whiteford, Glamorgan, made for a notable Gower record, with others in Conwy, Devon and Cornwall. Along the River Thames, a Eurasian Stone-curlew flew over Rainham Marshes RSPB, London, and three remained at East Tilbury, Essex. Red-necked and Grey Phalaropes, meanwhile, were at two and four sites apiece.

Kentish Plover, Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset & Bristol (Jake Klavins).

Grey Phalarope, Salthouse, Norfolk (Keith Bilverstone).

Reported a hefty 199 times during the week, Yellow-browed Warblers began to spread westwards, with two logged inland (at Cheslyn Hay, Staffordshire, and Port Meadow, Oxfordshire), 11 along Britain's west coast and two in Ireland. Tresco, Scilly, hosted a Barred Warbler, with three more along England's eastern flank and six in the Northern Isles. A Blyth's Reed Warbler was at Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire, on 20th.

Yellow-browed Warbler, Holy Island, Northumberland (Colin Bradshaw).

Barred Warbler, Lunna, Mainland, Shetland (Tony Mills).

A Western Bonelli's Warbler lingered at Quendale, Mainland Shetland, until 22nd, with the archipelago also boasting three Arctic Warblers – at Scousburgh, Mainland, Arisdale, Yell, and on Fair Isle. Unsurprisingly, a Melodious Warbler on St Kilda on 23-24th was the island's first record. Another remained at Kynance Cove, Cornwall, with the week's lone Icterine Warbler on Blakeney Point, Norfolk. A brief Iberian Chiffchaff was at Nanjizal Valley, Cornwall, on 22nd.

Icterine Warbler, Blakeney Point, Norfolk (Rik Addison).

The Welsh Ortolan Bunting racked up a four-day stay at Lavernock Point, Glamorgan, before departing after 20th, with another at Portland, Dorset, typically brief. As is typical for late September, Common Rosefinch was ubiquitous in Shetland, with three untwitchable birds in England. In East Yorkshire, Spurn birders were treated to a delightfully tame Little Bunting on 20-21st, with a Lapland Bunting at St Mary's Island, Northumberland, similarly habituated. The slightly odd-looking Citrine Wagtail was last reported at Lodmoor RSPB, Dorset, on 20th and two Richard's Pipits were in Cornwall, with one at Covenham Reservoir, Lincolnshire.

Little Bunting, Spurn YWT, East Yorkshire (John Hewitt).

Citrine Wagtail, Lodmoor RSPB, Dorset (Tim White).

A Woodchat Shrike at Haroldswick, Unst, was one of Shetland's best finds of the week, while Red-backed Shrikes were at 10 sites – eight in England and two in Scotland. A decent cluster of Wryneck reports came from Cornwall and Scilly. Birds were at 27 British sites in total, with a rare Irish sighting at Ballycotton, Co Cork.

Red-backed Shrike, Lodmoor RSPB, Dorset (Jeremy McClements).

Wryneck, Lepe CP, Hampshire (Nick Truby).

Two Red-breasted Flycatchers were in Kent – at Leysdown-on-Sea and Dungeness – with another at Spurn. Four Bluethroats were reported – one in Orkney, two in Shetland, and one on St Martin's, Scilly. Rosy Starlings, meanwhile, comprised new birds at Abbotsbury Swannery, Dorset, and Roches Point, Co Cork. and lingering examples in Devon and West Sussex.

Red-breasted Flycatcher, Kilnsea, East Yorkshire (James Wild).

After its reappearance late last week, the young European Roller at Bere Ferrers, Devon, went on to provide phenomenal views until the week's end. A European Bee-eater overflew two Isle of Wight sites on 20th and Hoopoes graced Hill of Forss, Caithness, and Polbain, Highland.

European Roller, Bere Ferrers, Devon (Chris Lake).

A smart immature male Pallid Harrier spent the week at Goonhilly Downs, Cornwall, although the identification wasn't confirmed until 24th. Nearby, a brief Red-footed Falcon visited Foxhole, while two were reported at Hickling Broad, Norfolk, on 25th.

Warwickshire birders enjoyed their first Purple Heron since 2018 at Lighthorne on 24th. In Lancahire, the Brockholes juvenile briefly resurfaced on 22nd, with another showing on and off throughout the week at Martin Mere WWT. A young Black-crowned Night Heron performed at Lade GPs, Kent, from 21-23rd and the unringed White Stork was back at Stanway Green, Essex. Spotted Crakes were split between Martin Mere WWT, Lancashire, and both St Mary's and Tresco, Scilly, while Corncrakes were reported from Walberswick, Suffolk, and Porthcurno, Cornwall.

Black-crowned Night Heron, Lade GPs, Kent (Shane Vale).

Large shearwaters continued to linger in the far north, with a Cory's off Rubha Ardvule, South Uist, and Greats off Highland and Orkney. Larger numbers were to be found in the South-West Approaches, including 150 Cory's and 25 Greats past Cape Clear, Co Cork, on 21st. Long-tailed Skuas at 17 sites included a smart juvenile that dropped in to bathe at Kilnsea Wetlands on 22nd. The same date saw Scilly pelagic-goers treated to a Leach's Storm Petrel, with two others off Highland. Sabine's Gulls flew past nine coastal sites. In Co Leitrim, the Double-crested Cormorant was again noted at Doon Lough on 23rd, with a Ring-billed Gull still at Blackrock, Co Louth.

Long-tailed Skua, Kilnsea, East Yorkshire (John Hewitt).

Wildfowl interest in Shetland included an eclipse drake King Eider again at Basta Voe, Yell, on 25th, with a fine adult male Surf Scoter off Gulberwick, Mainland, from 23rd. A drake flew past Pendeen, Cornwall, the following day, with others continuing off Blackdog, Aberdeenshire, and Rossbeigh, Co Kerry. On 23rd, Northumberland's regular Black Scoter returned to the coastline off Cocklawburn Beach, while the Pied-billed Grebe remained in Argyll. Ring-necked Duck, meanwhile, continued at Lough Nambrack, Co Mayo, and Loch Stiapavat, Lewis, Outer Hebrides. A blue-morph Snow Goose accompanied Pink-footed Geese at Thorne Moors, South Yorkshire, on 22nd.

Surf Scoter, Gulberwick, Mainland, Shetland (George Dunbar).

An exceptional week for rare butterflies culminated with an American Painted Lady at Nare Head on 20th – the first Cornish record since 1876! Other notable finds comprised a Pale Clouded Yellow at Cliffe Pools RSPB, Kent, on 20th and a Bath White at Keinton Mandeville, Somerset, on 21st, while a very popular congregation of Queen of Spain Fritillaries saw at least 11 in wheat fields at Walmer, Kent.


Western Palearctic

Nearctic action on Corvo, Azores, involved a Northern Waterthrush, Tennessee Warbler and at least two Red-eyed Vireos. An impressive shorebird list from Cabo da Praia, Terceira, included a Hudsonian Whimbrel, Least Sandpiper, Baird's Sandpiper, two Semipalmated Plovers, two Semipalmated Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, three Buff-breasted and four Pectoral Sandpipers, with a Solitary Sandpiper at Achada das Furnas, São Miguel.

Tennessee Warbler (right) and Azores Chaffinch, Corvo, Corvo (Zbigniew Kajzer).

In The Netherlands, a notable Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler record saw one trapped inland at Erlecom on 23rd, while an adult Semipalmated Sandpiper was on Vlieland. A Sharp-tailed Sandpiper continued on Île de Noirmoutier, France, and a Lesser Crested Tern was near Cádiz, Spain.

A Two-barred Warbler at Røst on 23rd was just Norway's second. In Finland, the Sandhill Crane relocated again to Tyrnävä and Sweden's eighth Melodious Warbler was trapped and ringed on Björn. Iceland's fourth Gull-billed Tern visited Höfn, while the largest gathering of Western Cattle Egrets ever recorded in the country – four – were at Kröggólfsstaðir.

Written by: Sam Viles