Review of the Week: 20th-27th June 2002


Bird of the week should probably be awarded to the male Collared Flycatcher at Church Norton (West Sussex) on the 20th. News first hit the information services late morning and the bird continued to show well to all-comers throughout the early afternoon, ensuring that many travelled to see it. Those stuck at work, or with other commitments, will have been counting down the minutes. Many will have been disappointed when they arrived later in the day, as it became evident that the bird had done a mid-afternoon bunk. Records have been almost annual since 1995, but most have been on offshore islands and both mainland records have been on the east coast of Scotland. This is the first twitchable English record since 1985 when males were seen in Suffolk and North Yorkshire in May. This is still an exceptionally rare bird with fewer than 25 records, the majority of which have been in the spring, though this is the 'latest' to have been seen by two weeks.

No longer the rarity it once was, several well-watched Isabelline Shrikes in the past few years have ensured that many birders are now familiar with this attractive rarity. Most have been in the autumn, so one at Porthgwarra (Cornwall) on the 26th for several hours was a bit of a surprise. Late spring/summer records are not without precedent, and a bird on Anglesey in 1998 from the 2nd July to the 8th August proved popular. The Cornish bird was considered to belong to the form isabellinus, frequently referred to as Daurian Shrike. Current thinking tends towards placing the four forms of Isabelline Shrike into three distinct species, but the taxonomy and nomenclature are confusing and inconsistent. Daurian Shrike occupies the northeastern portion of the breeding range, but winters as far southwest as East Africa and so, along with Turkestan Shrike, is one of the two most likely forms to reach Britain and Ireland.

Debate was sparked by the discovery of an 'orange-billed' tern in Norfolk on the 20th and news was subsequently broadcast that it was an Elegant Tern. The beauty of the Internet is that pictures were quickly available and it became clear that the bird in question was not an Elegant Tern. Current thinking tends towards the bird being a hybrid Sandwich Tern x Lesser Crested Tern. It was subsequently seen passing south in East Yorkshire on the 22nd and then again past Norfolk on the 23rd. With a record of Elegant Tern from this year awaiting adjudication by the rarities committee, how many of the older fly-by records, confidently considered to be 'Elsie', fully eliminated the other possibilities? Another possible came in the shape of an Eleonora's Falcon over Cornwall. There have been only four accepted records of this dashing falcon; the last was in Norfolk in 1987 and none has been twitchable – birders throughout the land would welcome the chance to redress that situation! Given all that has happened in the last week, a Little Swift for 5 minutes in Lincolnshire will probably not have attracted much interest, dare I say it, but records of this smart swift are becoming regular, with this being the third this year!

A supporting cast to the headlines comprised Squacco Herons in Devon and Norfolk, plus a Purple Heron in Suffolk with another reported in Kent. The Black Stork was seen again in Norfolk and a Great White Egret briefly in Kent. A Caspian Tern was seen at two sites in Norfolk, but was typically mobile, whilst a Red-necked Phalarope in Norfolk was a welcome distraction. An Alpine Swift in Norfolk provided some compensation for those who travelled to see the tern, whilst two more were in Antrim. Bee-eaters have been particularly evident this week, with around 20 reported, including a nice flock of four in Cumbria, and Portland recording its 6th in a fortnight. Scarce birds included Subalpine Warbler, Icterine Warbler and Red-backed Shrike on Shetland, with another Red-backed Shrike in Essex and yet another Woodchat Shrike, this time in Hampshire. Just one Common Rosefinch was reported during the week, with a bird on Scilly for a day, and news of a Hoopoe came to light in Lincolnshire. Rose-coloured Starlings continue to occur, although the pace has dropped off a bit recently, but for those who have missed out, further arrivals are to be expected through the summer and a good crop of juveniles are likely in the autumn!

Finally many thanks to those who took the trouble to make a donation to Mrs Pamela Bell and her bus shelter fund in Runswick Bay, North Yorkshire. We will happily continue to pass on any cheques made payable to "Mrs Pamela Bell" sent care of the BirdGuides office at BirdGuides Ltd, Jack House, Ewden Valley, Sheffield S36 4ZA.

Written by: Russell Slack