Review of the Week: 21st-27th October 2004

Rufous-tailed Robin: Fair Isle, Shetland. (Photo: Deryk Shaw)

Rufous-tailed Robin: Fair Isle, Shetland. (Photo: Deryk Shaw) Rufous-tailed Robin: Fair Isle, Shetland. (Photo: Deryk Shaw)

One of the birds of the year so far chose Fair Isle (Shetland) to announce its presence on the Western Palearctic list - a superb Rufous-tailed Robin. Initially identified as a Hermit Thrush on Saturday 23rd, the identification was solved early afternoon and the bird was trapped and aged as a 1st-winter. Unfortunately for those who travelled to Fair Isle on the Sunday morning, the bird had departed overnight under clear skies. This species has long been predicted as a potential vagrant to the Western Palearctic and represents yet another exceptional rarity to occur this autumn. Also referred to in some literature as Swinhoe's Red-tailed Robin and Whistling Nightingale, it has a similar distribution to Siberian Blue Robin, and breeds in the eastern Palearctic, wintering southern China to northern southeast Asia.

Ovenbird: St. Mary's, Scilly. (Photo: Martin Goodey)

Ovenbird: St. Mary's, Scilly. (Photo: Steve Nuttall) Ovenbird: St. Mary's, Scilly. (Photo: Steve Nuttall)

It was an expensive week for those with the time, money and inclination to twitch. The Rufous-tailed Robin was followed with news of Britain and Ireland's 6th Ovenbird on St. Mary's (Scilly) from Monday 25th. None of the previous records have been available for the masses, and the last was the much-debated garden bird in Herefordshire from late 2001 into 2002, so a long-staying bird would always prove to be popular. This obliging bird between Trenoweth and Watermill performed exceptionally well, though there were reports that it was not in good health (as many Nearctic landbird vagrants tend not to be by the time they arrive on our shores). The bird was taken into care on Thursday 28th, no doubt leaving many who had planned trips to Scilly over the coming days disappointed. Though if listing is your game such disasters often befall those who wait to see a bird, whether it be a departing bird, a predated bird, or one simply taken into care, and success favours those in a position to drop everything at a moment's notice. No doubt taking the bird into care will cause some debate. Should the bird have been left to the whims of nature? After all it was probably doomed once it arrived on Scilly, especially once it was realised that it was carrying an injury. However, at the end of the day we should all care more about the welfare of a bird rather than filling a box on a list - shouldn't we?

Pied Wheatear: Newbiggin, Northumberland. (Photo: Paul Hackett)

Pied Wheatear: Newbiggin, Northumberland. (Photo: Tom Tams) Pied Wheatear: Newbiggin, Northumberland. (Photo: David Brown)

Pied Wheatear: Newbiggin, Northumberland. (Photo: Tristan Reid) Pied Wheatear: Newbiggin, Northumberland. (Photo: Tom Tams)

Other Nearctic vagrants included a Swainson's Thrush on Gugh (Scilly) on Tuesday 26th and a Red-eyed Vireo at Marsden Quarry (Durham) on Wednesday 27th was a good, but not unprecedented, east-coast find. From points east, an Asian Desert Warbler was at Caistor-on-Sea (Norfolk) briefly on Friday 22nd, and an Isabelline Wheatear was at Sumburgh Head (Shetland) from Friday 22nd-25th and was the 4th for Shetland, whilst a Lanceolated Warbler on Bressay (Shetland) on Tuesday 26th was a late British record. A Pied Wheatear was at Scousburgh (Shetland) on Saturday 23rd and the obliging bird at Newbiggin (Northumberland) was present to the 24th. The Blyth's Reed Warbler was last seen at Tynemouth (Northumberland) on Thursday 21st and the Hume's Leaf Warbler was at Cove Bay (Aberdeenshire) until the 22nd. In Norfolk the male Sardinian Warbler remained at Winterton Dunes throughout the week, showing well on occasion.

Sardinian Warbler: Winterton, Norfolk. (Photo: Steve Round)

Sardinian Warbler: Winterton, Norfolk. (Photo: Josh Jones) Sardinian Warbler: Winterton, Norfolk. (Photo: Bob Hazell)

Subalpine Warbler: Church Norton, W. Sussex. (Photo: Pete Ryder)

Olive-backed Pipits were seen on St. Agnes (Scilly) on Sunday 24th and St. Mary's (Scilly) on Monday 25th and a Citrine Wagtail was reported from St. Mary's on Saturday 23rd. A Subalpine Warbler was at Church Norton (W. Sussex) on Tuesday 26th, a Bonelli's Warbler sp. (probably Western) was at Vatersay (Outer Hebrides) on Saturday 23rd and a Radde's Warbler at Landguard (Suffolk) on Wednesday 27th. Dusky Warblers were at Scarborough (N. Yorks) from 21st onwards, Eccles-on-Sea (Norfolk) on 23rd, and Bornish, S. Uist (Outer Hebrides) on 25th, plus one remained at Walsey Hills (Norfolk) through the week and a Dusky/Radde's was at Thornham Point (Norfolk) on 22nd. Two Penduline Tits were at Dungeness RSPB (Kent) on Tuesday 26th with one the same day at Land's End (Cornwall). An Arctic Redpoll was on Tiree (Argyll) on Saturday 23rd.

Siberian Stonechat: Spurn, E. Yorks. (Photo: Steve Tomlinson)

Siberian Stonechat: Spurn, E. Yorks. (Photo: R.J.P) Siberian Stonechat: South Gare, Cleveland. (Photo: Ian Boustead)

Pallid Swifts were present at several locations. On 21st one was seen leaving its roost at Spurn (E. Yorks) and others were at Bawdsey (Suffolk) and Pegwell Bay (Kent), plus a 'probable' at Minsmere (Suffolk). In Lincolnshire one was reported over Skegness on 23rd and it or another over Chapel St. Leonard's on 24th; birds were at Blakeney Point (Norfolk) and Caister-on-Sea (Norfolk) on 24th with one at Thorpeness (Suffolk) the same day. In addition, there were several 'swift sp' reported as well as Common Swifts.

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Pallas's Warbler: Thorpeness, Suffolk. (Photo: Kit Day) Pallas's Warbler: St. Agnes, Scilly. (Photo: Michael McKee)

Pallas's Warbler: St. Mary's Wetland, Northumberland. (Photo: John Malloy) Pallas's Warbler: St. Mary's Wetland, Northumberland. (Photo: Tom Tams)

Little Bunting: St. Mary's, Scilly. (Photo: Martin Goodey)

Little Bunting: St. Mary's, Scilly. (Photo: Tony Mills) Little Bunting: St. Mary's, Scilly. (Photo: Oliver Smart)

Reasonable numbers of scarce migrants continued to arrive. Siberian Stonechats were noted at Spurn (E. Yorks), Collieston (Aberdeenshire), Hastings CP (E. Sussex), Bressay (Shetland) and South Gare (Cleveland). There were half-a-dozen Little Buntings, including an obliging bird on St. Mary's. There were around 40 Pallas's Warblers, 30 Yellow-browed Warblers, a dozen Barred Warblers, similar numbers of Richard's Pipits, five Red-breasted Flycatchers and two Common Rosefinches, two Wrynecks, two Bluethroats, and half-a-dozen Serins. Rose-coloured Starlings were seen on Whalsay (Shetland), Dundalk Bay (Louth) and Bardsey (Gwynedd), there were several Red-backed Shrikes and eight Great Grey Shrikes. A Short-toed Lark was at Brier Dene (Northumberland) and another on Fair Isle. An Icterine Warbler was on St. Mary's from 21st-24th, a late Ortolan Bunting at Blakeney Point (Norfolk) on 24th and good numbers of Waxwings began to arrive in northern Scotland and along the east coast, plus the influx of Northern Bullfinches continued. An 'eastern' Spotted Flycatcher was at Cawsand (Cornwall) from 24th-25th.

Red-breasted Flycatcher: St. Mary's, Scilly. (Photo: Oliver Smart) Icterine Warbler: St. Mary's, Scilly. (Photo: Oliver Smart)

Short-toed Lark: Brier Dene, Northumberland. (Photo: Tom Tams) Short-toed Lark: Brier Dene, Northumberland. (Photo: Alan Gilbertson)

Red-backed Shrike: Foreness Point, Kent. (Photo: Marc Read) Great Grey Shrike: Weather Heath, Suffolk. (Photo: Jonathan Theobald)

Cream-coloured Courser: St. Mary's, Scilly. (Photo: Michael McKee) Cream-coloured Courser: St. Mary's, Scilly. (Photo: Oliver Smart)

There was sad news on the Cream-coloured Courser on St Mary's, which was taken into care on the 27th and died in care at Mousehole (Cornwall) overnight on 27th/28th - this bird was the highlight of the 'Scilly season' for many. The Lesser Yellowlegs remains at Stiffkey Fen (Norfolk), but the White-rumped Sandpiper at Minsmere (Suffolk), Baird's Sandpiper at Loch Paible (Outer Hebrides) and Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Grove Ferry (Kent) all departed during the week. American Golden Plovers were noted from Flint Cross (Cambs), Ythan Estuary (Aberdeenshire) and the Bann Estuary (Londonderry), plus long-staying birds were still at Seabank (Co. Louth) and on S. Uist (Outer Hebrides). A Pectoral Sandpiper was on the Hayle Estuary (Cornwall) from 24th-27th and stormy weather produced just over 20 Grey Phalaropes.

Grey Phalarope: Grimley, Worcs. (Photo: Andy Warr) Lesser Yellowlegs: Stiffkey, Norfolk. (Photo: Steve Round)

A Snowy Owl was at Loch Bee (Outer Hebrides) on Friday 22nd and a Dark-breasted Barn Owl was at Veensgarth (Shetland) on 24th. A Yelkouan Shearwater was reported passing Branksome Chime (Dorset) on Friday 22nd, but other seawatching highlights comprised three Great Shearwaters off south Devon, and four Sabine's Gulls. A Spotted Crake was at Beddington SF (London) from 22nd onwards, a Great White Egret was over Penmon Point (Anglesey) on 27th and the Squacco Heron is still at East Chevington (Northumberland).

Barred Warbler: Holy Island, Northumberland. (Photo: Alan Gilbertson) Barred Warbler: Marton Mere, Lancs. (Photo: Phillip Tomkinson)

Barred Warbler: Brier Dene, Northumberland. (Photo: John Malloy)

Ortolan Bunting: Bryher, Scilly. (Photo: Oliver Smart) Ortolan Bunting: Bryher, Scilly. (Photo: Chris Turner)

Northern Bullfinch: Buckton, E. Yorks. (Photo: Mark Thomas) Waxwing: Tory Island, Donegal. (Photo: Paul and Andrea Kelly)

Northern Bullfinch: Tory Island, Donegal. (Photo: Paul and Andrea Kelly)
Many of the images that appear in our weekly reviews can be purchased from the photographers, some of whom have their own websites:

Bill Aspin: http://www.eastlancashirebirding.net
Ian Barnard: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/sussex.birder
Bill Baston: http://billbaston.com
Steve Blain: http://www.steveblain.co.uk
Nigel Blake: http://www.nigelblake.co.uk
Will Bowell: http://www.geocities.com/wbowell/
Paul Bowerman: http://mysite.freeserve.com/severnsidebirds
Paul Bowyer: http://www.ukbirds.net
Andy Brett: http://www.freewebs.com/andybrett/
Martin Cade: http://www.portlandbirdobs.btinternet.co.uk
Mark Caunt: http://angusbirding.homestead.com/
Kit Day: http://www.kitday-uk.com/
Lee Dingain: http://www.leedingain.co.uk
Jon Dunn: http://www.surfbirds.com/blogs/Stercorarius/
Sean Gray: http://www.grayimages.co.uk
Peter Hadfield: http://www.manxbirdphotography.co.uk
Josh Jones: http://www.geocities.com/blgp_birder
John Judge: http://www.draycotebirding.co.uk
Paul and Andrea Kelly: http://www.irishbirdimages.com/
Jack Levene: http://www.birdingimages.com
John Malloy: http://mysite.freeserve.com/JohnMalloyBirdPhotos
Jerry O'Brien: http://www.BirdsofBerkshire.co.uk
James Packer: http://www.somersetbirder.co.uk
Mike Pennington: http://www.nature.shetland.co.uk
Tristan Reid: http://www.solwaybirder.org.uk
Steve Round: http://stevenround-birdphotography.com
Deryk Shaw/FIBO: http://www.fairislebirdobs.co.uk
Tom Shevlin: http://wildlifesnaps.com/
Matt Slaymaker: http://www.freewebs.com/slaymaker
Oliver Smart: http://www.smartimages.co.uk
Glen Tepke: http://www.pbase.com/gtepke
Phillip Tomkinson: http://www.philliptomkinson.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk
Stephen Tomlinson: http://www.digitalbirds.co.uk
Sue Tranter: http://www.suesbirdphotos.co.uk/
Steve Williams: http://www.hilbrebirdobs.co.uk
Chris Wormwell: http://www.iombirding.co.uk
Dylan Wrathall: http://www.planetthanet.org
Written by: Russell Slack