Review of the Week: 20th-26th May 2004

Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush: Harford, Devon. (Photo: Paul Bowyer)

Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush: Harford, Devon. (Photo: Dave Stone) Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush: Harford, Devon. (Photo: Dave Stone)

Stunning looks combined with extreme rarity appeal always ensure that news of a male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush is greeted with excitement in the birding community. A male in the Erme Valley, Harford (Devon) on Tuesday 25th will have provided quite a surprise for the lucky finder, being well away from the traditional rarity hotspots of the Southwest. Luckily, for those within striking distance, it remained in typical habitat from mid-afternoon through to dark, but had departed by the following morning. This will be the 27th British record (there are also two in Ireland), the majority of which have been spring overshoots. The most popular of these was a male at Hunstanton Golf Course (Norfolk) between 22nd and 25th May 1995, and it is as long ago as 1996 that the last British record occurred when a 1st-winter bird took up residence on Bryher (Scilly) from 28th September-2nd October 1996. Turning up off the 'beaten track', it is yet another illustration of how many rarities must filter through the country undetected.

Greater Yellowlegs: Quoile Pondage, Down. (Photo: Michael Ruddock)

Greater Yellowlegs: Quoile Pondage, Down. (Photo: Tom Shevlin) Greater Yellowlegs: Quoile Pondage, Down. (Photo: Tom Shevlin)

Bufflehead: Loch Branahuie, Outer Hebrides. (Photo: Martin Scott) Bufflehead: Loch Branahuie, Outer Hebrides. (Photo: Martin Scott)

A Greater Yellowlegs at Quoile Pondage (Co. Down) from Monday 24th onwards was a nice spring find and ties in well with a good period for Nearctic species. Ducks also continue to dominate the headlines. Two pristine drake Buffleheads were located during the week: a male was at Loch Branahuie, Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on Thursday 20th (and was presumably the same bird that had passed Balranald, North Uist on 10th May) and another was found at Branston GPs (Staffs) on Monday 24th-25th, then at Drayton Bassett on Wednesday 26th. How many birds may have been involved in the sightings this spring? Also on Lewis the drake Cinnamon Teal at Loch Thuaimistear continues to attract attention from listers for 'insurance purposes' and was still present at the end of the week.

White-winged Black Tern: Hickling Broad, Norfolk. (Photo: Kit Day) White-winged Black Tern: Hickling Broad, Norfolk. (Photo: Kit Day)

Temminck's Stint: Seaton Common, Cleveland. Left, with 2 Dunlin. (Photo: Jane Hanson)

Pectoral Sandpiper: St. Mary's Wetland, Northumbs. (Photo: John Malloy) Red-necked Phalarope: Oare Marshes, Kent. (Photo: Dylan Wrathall)

Back-up to the quality rarities was in relatively short supply. Three White-billed Divers included one off Coll (Argyll) from Saturday 22nd-23rd, another off Collieston (Aberdeenshire) on Sunday 23rd and one at North Roe (Shetland) on Wednesday 26th. Three brief adult Bonaparte's Gulls provided a good showing with birds at Inner Marsh Farm (Cheshire) and Handa (Highland) on Thursday 20th and another at Scourie (Highland) on Saturday 22nd. The two White-winged Black Terns at Hickling Broad (Norfolk) were present to at least 23rd, 2 were at New Swillington Ings (W. Yorks) from Friday 21st-22nd and one was at Cliffe Pools RSPB (Kent) from Monday 24th onwards. The Great White Egret at Loch of Strathbeg (Aberdeenshire) remained to the 20th, with others over Hill Head (Hants) on Thursday 20th and Astley Green (Gtr Manchester) on Monday 24th. Three Purple Herons were reported, of which a 1st-summer at Minsmere (Suffolk) performed intermittently through the week. Rare raptors comprised 4 Red-footed Falcons and 2 Black Kites, but typically none remained for long. Good numbers of Temminck's Stints continued to be reported, pushing the total ever closer to a record year, half-a-dozen Pectoral Sandpipers added extra interest for wader buffs, along with a Red-necked Phalarope at Oare Marshes (Kent) from Sunday 23rd onwards, and at least 24 Dotterel were in Norfolk and Yorkshire. Skuas were in short supply in comparison to previous weeks, but small numbers of Long-tailed Skuas along the northeast coastline between North Yorkshire and Northumberland were noteworthy.

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Rose-coloured Starling: Freiston Shore, Lincs. (Photo: Will Bowell) Rose-coloured Starling: Freiston Shore, Lincs. (Photo: Will Bowell)

A male Subalpine Warbler graced Fair Isle (Shetland) on Sunday 23rd with a female on Bressay (Shetland) the same day. A Rose-coloured Starling was at Freiston Shore RSPB (Lincs) from Friday 21st-23rd – the forerunner of another late spring influx perhaps? An Alpine Swift was over Cefni Reservoir (Anglesey) on Friday 21st and a Short-toed Lark was on Bryher from Sunday 23rd-25th. The first arrival of Common Rosefinches was noted with 4 well-spread males: Holkham (Norfolk) on 24th; Unst (Shetland) on 26th; Cape Clear (Co. Cork) on 27th; and Fair Isle on 27th. A Woodchat Shrike was at Portland (Dorset) on Tuesday 25th, with the bird remaining on St. Mary's (Scilly) to 22nd. Thirteen Red-backed Shrikes included one inland at Hartwell (Northants). There were 3 Bluethroats, all on 23rd, at Land's End (Cornwall), Fair Isle and Lundy (Devon), and there were just 2 Wrynecks and 3 Hoopoes. A Melodious Warbler was at Trevarrick (Cornwall) on Wednesday 26th and Bee-eaters included 2 over Stonar Lake (Kent) on 22nd, one over Lodmoor (Dorset) on 25th and one over Oare Marshes (Kent) on 26th.

The Chiffchaff puzzle in the northwest was solved by sonogram analysis this week. The Skelmersdale (Lancs) bird was found to be a Chiffchaff of the nominate race and the Spital (Cheshire) individual was found to be a 'mixed singer' and cannot be definitely assigned to a particular race or species. In Essex the Great Reed Warbler remains at Abberton Reservoir and In Oxon the Glossy Ibis is still on Otmoor, but would appear to be elusive.

Ring-necked Duck: S. Uist, Outer Hebrides. One of four still present in the country. (Photo: Andrew Easton) Garganey: Attenborough NR, Notts. It appears to have been a good spring for this striking duck. (Photo: John Dickenson)

Glaucous Gull: Benbecula, Outer Hebrides. One of four reported during the week. (Photo: Andrew Easton) Woodcock: Grantown-on-Spey, Highland. An easy enough species to see when 'roding', but views like this are difficult to come by. (Photo: John Merchant)
Written by: Russell Slack