The week at a glance
- White-throated Needletail on Harris
- Brief Black-winged Pratincole in Kent
- Wilson's Phalarope lingering on the Isle of Wight
- Black-headed Bunting double in Dumfries & Galloway
- Nottinghamshire's first Melodious Warbler proves popular
Solstice week tends to be a lazy affair: the days are long, but the pace of bird news invariably reaches the lowest of the low. Birds are breeding and, save a few wandering Crossbills, migration is at a premium. And, with the weather settling down and many birders still basking in post-Pacific Swift glory, this time out looked destined for doziness. That was until 25th when, almost out of the blue, birders were stunned by quite astonishing news from the Isle of Harris.
That news concerned the arrival of one of Britain's 'most wanted' — arguably upstaging the previous week's Apus — in the form of a White-throated Needletail seen over the town late afternoon. Appearing a few more times until 18:30, it set the wheels in motion for what will likely go down as one of those remarkable events in British birding folklore. The following day proved one of contrasting emotions, as sheer jubilation regularly rubbed shoulders with apprehension when the bird became more mobile during the afternoon and relocated to the moorland at Plocrapol, several miles south of Tarbert. This was until some time after 17:00, when the mood suddenly plummeted as the bird was observed to collide with the only (small) wind turbine on the south side of the island. Worst fears were confirmed shortly afterwards as the bird was found dead below the blades — a sickening end to the most dynamic of days in British twitching, and an utterly undeserved end for the world's fastest bird.
Needletail aside, it was a relatively quiet week across Britain and Ireland. The other highlight of the period was a brief Black-winged Pratincole in Kent, present at Shell Ness on Sheppey from late morning until mid-afternoon on 26th and ultimately untwitchable. Last week's shorebird highlight — the magnificent female Wilson's Phalarope on the Isle of Wight — was still present at Yarmouth to 23rd. Red-necked Phalaropes were seen in Suffolk, Northumberland and at Slimbridge (Glos) on 20th; the latter would occasionally appear in the reserve's 'Avocet Webcam' and could be watched live on the WWT website! Pectoral Sandpipers were at Burton Mere Wetlands (Cheshire) and North Ronaldsay (Orkney), a Buff-breasted Sandpiper was at Cemlyn Bay (Anglesey) on 20th, and Temminck's Stints were at Letham Pools (Fife) on 23rd–24th and Cley (Norfolk) on 26th.
Despite it being late June, wildfowl remained prominent. Four different drake Ring-necked Ducks were noted: at Scorton and Catterick (N Yorks) on 21st–24th, Barns Ness (Lothian) on 22nd–25th, Oxford Island (Armagh) on 22nd–26th and still on Shetland throughout the week. The Green-winged Teal was again at Slimbridge (Glos) on 23rd. A drake Surf Scoter was new off Filey (N Yorks) on 26th, as was another off Rhunahaorine Point (Argyll) that day; in Aberdeenshire, at least four were seen off Blackdog/Murcar golf course throughout the week, and nearby the King Eider remained on the Ythan Estuary.
It is still early in the season, and the settled conditions no doubt didn't help, but it was again a sleepy week for seawatching. A possible Yelkouan Shearwater was identified off Ballycotton (Cork) on 22nd, with the first Cory's Shearwater of the summer off Strumble Head (Pembrokeshire) the following day; a Sabine's Gull was seen from a Scilly pelagic on 24th.
In Somerset, the pair of Little Bitterns continued to be seen at Ham Wall, where a Night Heron was also reported; another Night Heron — an immature — was at Old Moor (S Yorks) during the evening of 26th. The [very] long-staying Purple Heron was still at Kenfig (Glamorgan) on 26th, with others past Cromer (Norfolk) on 24th and at Tophill Low (E Yorks) on 24th–25th. Cranes were near Kilmacolm (Clyde) and still on Unst (Shetland), the Glossy Ibis was still in Pembrokeshire and a Black Stork was seen and photographed over Woorgreens Lake then Staple-edge Wood (Glos) on 25th.
A Black Kite was reported at Bernisdale, Skye on 21st. Red-footed Falcon reports emanated from near Cattawade (Essex) on 22nd and Marston Vale Country Park (Beds) on 23rd; news also came from Arranmore Island (Donegal) that the Snowy Owl was still there on 24th.
The Bonaparte's Gull at Oare Marshes (Kent) is becoming an ever more familiar fixture and was still there throughout the week. The week's only Ring-billed Gull was a first-summer near Loch Sandary, North Uist on 22nd, while the Outer Hebrides also claimed an adult White-winged Black Tern in the Sound of Harris on 25th. A Gull-billed Tern was a brief visitor to Bowling Green Marsh (Devon) on 25th.
Two reports of male Black-headed Buntings came from Dumfries & Galloway during the week: one was photographed at Mainsriddle on 22nd, and it (or another) was at Gatehouse of Fleet the following day. An Arctic Warbler was on Skaw, Whalsay (Shetland) on 23rd, while the Western Subalpine Warbler remained on Fair Isle to at least 25th. Two of the week's half-dozen Marsh Warblers were also on Fair Isle, with other notable records including one still singing at Uig, Skye on 26th and one trapped and ringed at Swindon sewage works (Wilts) on 20th.
Nottinghamshire's first Melodious Warbler was a marvellous find near Tiln (Notts) on 21st; lingering to 26th, it afforded a great opportunity to listen to the species' fantastic song and it occasionally showed well too.
Four Red-backed Shrikes were seen in Lincolnshire, in Northumberland and on North Ronaldsay and Fair Isle. The male Rose-coloured Starling remained in Wells (Norfolk) to 22nd, with others at Dounby (Orkney) on 21st and Newquay (Cornwall) on 25th. A Serin was at Portland (Dorset) on 23rd–24th, five Common Rosefinches included the continuing red male at Tressait (Perth/Kinross) and two on North Ronaldsay, a Grey-headed Wagtail was at Letham Pools (Fife), the White-spotted Bluethroat remained at Martin Mere (Lancs) to 21st and a Bee-eater was reported from Lymm (Cheshire) on 23rd. Finally, County Roscommon's first Hoopoe was seen and photographed in Ballaghaderreen on 20th.
When Lancashire-based bird photographer John Barlow got his first BirdGuides Photo of the Week in January, we commented on the fact that almost all his photos were taken on his local patch. Although most of the birds visiting his patch are familiar species, they were recently joined by a much rarer bird — a Greenish Warbler — for a week or so. As well as making only rare appearances in the UK, this species is also difficult to photograph because of its tree-dwelling tendencies. For this reason, the 100 or so photos we've received of this eastern visitor are mostly in the record shot category. Thankfully, though, this individual felt moved to sing for most of its visit and so John was finally rewarded with an unobscured view of it in full song. Capturing the bird atop a simple coniferous perch against a diffuse yet natural background has once again shown that aesthetic images can still be created even when scarce birds are the subject.