Review of the Week: 21st–27th October 2010


The week at a glance

The year's run of amazing seabirds continued this week, with one of the most bizarre birds of the year sadly eluding confirmation. Birders watching the King Eider at Dunwich (Suffolk) on 25th watched in amazement as a large, unfamiliar seabird flew through their 'scopes. It drifted slowly past at half-distance and was watched for around five minutes. With little idea of what the bird was at the time — even to family! — later investigation suggested that this may have been a species of giant petrel. Surprisingly this isn't unprecedented, and an immature giant petrel sp. was seen off Flamborough (East Yorkshire) on 4th July 1988, with further European records from the Adriatic Sea off Italy in September 1991 and off Ouessant, France, in November 1967. Interestingly, just two weeks before this last record one was reported from Cornwall, but never accepted. Cornwall did manage one last good seabird though, when a Little Shearwater passed Pendeen (Cornwall) on 23rd, along with Leach's Petrel, 2 Sabine's Gulls, 2 Pomarine Skuas, 7 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Sooty Shearwaters and 37 Great Skuas.

Also in the southwest, the first-winter Green Heron continued to show well in the Lost Gardens of Heligan (Cornwall) all week.

Green Heron
Green Heron, Heligan, Cornwall (Photo: Rob Cross)

The only remaining Buff-bellied Pipit was on the beach at Clonea Strand (Co Waterford) until 24th, and also in Ireland the House Crow remained at Cobh (Co Cork) to at least 26th. Lastly, the East Prawle (Devon) House Finch popped up again on 22nd.

Buff-bellied Pipit
Buff-bellied Pipit, Clonea, Waterford (Photo: Mark Carmody)

The only Ross's Goose was at Rockliffe Marsh (Cumbria) again to 24th and the reported Snow Goose there was later identified as a hybrid, though a more genuine white-morph bird was again at West Burra (Shetland) on 24th. After the autumn flurry, there were fewer records of Ruddy Shelduck, with the only one reported at Farlington Marsh (Hampshire) on 24th–27th.

Loch Gruinart, Islay (Argyll) continued to hold various interesting races of Canada Goose, with a Richardson's to 21st, a Todd's on 22nd–25th, a Taverner's on 25th and a Cackling on 22nd. There was also a Richardson's at Bridgend, Islay (Dumfries & Galloway) on 21st, and Ynys-Hir (Ceredigion) saw a Cackling on 23rd and a Lesser reported on 23rd.

Todd's Canada Goose
Todd's Canada Goose, Loch Gruinart RSPB, Islay, Argyll (Photo: Steve Percival)

Richardson's Canada Goose
Richardson's Canada Goose, Loch Gruinart RSPB, Islay, Argyll (Photo: Steve Percival)

Up to two Black Brants remained at Ferrybridge (Dorset) to 26th and two (or possibly one and a hybrid) graced the pitch of Wells Town Football Club (Norfolk) on 21st–24th. There were also singles at Ardtermon (Co Sligo) on 21st, Newtownards (Co Down) on 23rd and The Cunnigar (Co Waterford) on 24th.

There have been a few Red-breasted Geese reported recently, but many appear to relate to escaped birds. Birds this week were at St Ouen's Pond (Jersey) on 22nd, Exminster Marshes (Devon) on 23rd and at Fluke Hall and Pilling Marsh (Lancashire) on 24th.

Up to two Ferruginous Ducks were at Chew Valley Lake (Somerset) and another remained at Pugney's Country Park (West Yorkshire) to 25th. The drake Ring-necked Duck remained at Kirkby on Bain Gravel Pits (Lincolnshire) to 26th with others on Foxcote Reservoir (Bucks) to 25th and at Ardcloony (Co Clare) on 23rd. On Barra (Outer Hebrides), a female was on Loch an Duin on 22nd–26th and a drake was on Loch Tangasdail on 26th. Other females were on Ranworth Broad (Norfolk) on 22nd and Llyn Pencarreg (Carmarthen) on 22nd.

Ring-necked Duck
Ring-necked Duck, Kirkby on Bain GPs, Lincolnshire (Photo: Trevor Gunby)

Another record of Blue-winged Teal from Tacumshin (Co Wexford) was on 22nd with two on Knockaderry Lake (Co Waterford) on 25th. The drake Green-winged Teal was again at Kinneil Lagoon (Highland) to 22nd with a moulting drake very well picked out at Cley Marshes (Norfolk) on 22nd–26th, and others at Wigtown (Dumfries & Galloway) and Bell Harbour (Co Clare) on 23rd. A female American Wigeon was at Slimbridge (Gloucestershire) on 21st–22nd and a drake was at Wheldrake Ings (North Yorkshire) on 26th–27th.

Green-winged Teal
Green-winged Teal, Cley Marshes NWT, Norfolk (Photo: James Lowen)

On the sea, the drake Surf Scoter was again reported from Inganess Bay (Orkney) on 25th and the King Eider remained off the Suffolk coast between Minsmere and Dunwich Cliffs all week. There was then another drake at Burghead (Moray & Nairn) on 21st. The drake Northern Eider was again at Embo (Highland) to 26th.

The second White-billed Diver of the winter (following an early October bird in Shetland) appeared in South Nesting Bay (Shetland) on 24th and surely many more will follow.

Also at sea, Balearic Shearwaters were reported past Grosnez Point (Jersey) on 23rd, five past St Ives (Cornwall) on 23rd, 15 past Pendeen (Cornwall) on 24th and one past Mousehole (Cornwall) on 27th. Other seabird interest included good numbers of Little Auk along the east coast, with peak counts of 142 past the Farne Islands (Northumberland) on 24th and 97 past the Isle of May (Fife) on 23rd.

The long-staying Glossy Ibis continued to commute between the Otter estuary and Exmouth (Devon) all week, and the colour-ringed bird that had previously visited the Otter estuary and Avonmouth remained at Valley Lakes (Anglesey) to 24th. Others were at Dunwich Pools (Suffolk) on 23rd, Ring Marsh (Co Wexford) on 23rd–26th and Welney (Norfolk) on 24th–27th.

Glossy Ibis
Glossy Ibis, Welney (village), Norfolk (Photo: Willie)

The only Purple Heron reported was on the Gann estuary (Pembrokeshire) on 24th. Great White Egrets remained at Minsmere (Suffolk), Shapwick Heath (Somerset) and Pitsford Reservoir (Northamptonshire) all week, with others at Spetisbury (Dorset), Leighton Moss (Lancashire), Llandovery (Carmarthen) and Rumney Great Wharf (Glamorgan). There were also three at Westhay (Somerset) on 23rd.

Great White Egret
Great White Egret, Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk (Photo: Mike Parker)

Lonesome Cattle Egrets remained at Donna Nook (Lincolnshire) all week and Poyston (Pembrokeshire) to 26th, with another touring St Mary's (Scilly) on 23rd. The Squacco Heron also remained at Angle Bay (Pembrokeshire) all week.

Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret, Poyston, Pembrokeshire (Photo: Julian Evans)

Squacco Heron
Squacco Heron, Angle Bay, Pembrokeshire (Photo: Julian Evans)

As many as 31 Rough-legged Buzzards were recorded around the country, mostly along the east coast from Durham to Kent. Elsewhere there were three records from Lancashire, one from the Isle of Wight and a possible reported in Leicestershire. The calidus or tundrius race Peregrine Falcon was again reported on St Mary's (Scilly) on 22nd and 26th. A 'possible' worthy of mention was the further reports of a juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk, also on St Mary's. This species should be relatively straightforward to identify, but has yet to be confirmed (or otherwise).

Rough-legged Buzzard
Rough-legged Buzzard, Easton Bavents, Suffolk (Photo: Chris Darby)

Rough-legged Buzzard
Rough-legged Buzzard, Burnham Overy, Norfolk (Photo: Paul Newport)

The single Spotted Crake remained at Greylake RSPB (Somerset) to 21st. Several American Golden Plovers remained, with one at Lissagriffin (Co Cork) all week and another at Baleshare, North Uist (Outer Hebrides) to 22nd; the Norfolk bird roamed between Blakeney Freshmarsh and Harbour and Cley Marshes on 22nd–27th. New birds then turned up at Turf (Devon) from 22nd to the end of the week, at Exminster Marshes (Devon) on 23rd and at Moyne (Co Tipperary) on 26th.

The only remaining Buff-breasted Sandpiper was the Cornish bird, which remained at Sennen to 25th, also seen at Crows-an-Wra on 23rd. There were also very few Pectoral Sandpipers reported, with the only birds at Welney (Norfolk) to 24th and Arlington Reservoir (East Sussex) to 25th, and a new bird at Low-Newton-by-the-Sea (Northumberland) on 26th.

Pectoral Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper, Arlington Reservoir, East Sussex (Photo: Mickd)

Other remaining Nearctic waders included an incredible three White-rumped Sandpipers at Tacumshin (Co Wexford) on 22nd, with two on 24th, and another at Clonea Strand (Co Waterford) on 24th–27th. The Baird's Sandpiper remained at Holland Haven Country Park (Essex) to 21st.

White-rumped Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper, Clonea, Waterford (Photo: Ronan McLaughlin)

The Lesser Yellowlegs was on Port Meadow (Oxfordshire) all week and the first-winter was again at Tacumshin (Co Wexford) on 23rd–25th. The Long-billed Dowitcher also remained at The Cunnigar (Co Waterford) to 24th and one new Nearctic arrival was another Spotted Sandpiper, on the beach on St Agnes (Scilly) on 27th.

Lesser Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs, Port Meadow, Oxfordshire (Photo: Nigel Forrow)

Long-billed Dowitcher
Long-billed Dowitcher, The Cunnigar, Waterford (Photo: Sean Cronin)

There were still small numbers of Grey Phalaropes seen at sea, with singles off Newbiggin-by-the-Sea (Northumberland), Southport (Lancashire), Caister-on-Sea (Norfolk), Shell Ness (Kent), Portland (Dorset), Dungeness (Kent), Inverbervie (Aberdeenshire) and Steart Point (Somerset). Two were seen past Southwold (Suffolk), in Chesil Cove (Dorset) and off Thurlestone (Dorset) and five passed Pendeen (Cornwall) on 23rd (with three Pomarine Skuas, 15 Balearic Shearwaters, six Sooty Shearwaters, two Little Gulls and 45 Great Skuas). Non-seawatched birds were at Cley (Norfolk) all week, Hanningfield Reservoir (Essex) on 21st, Walney Island (Cumbria) on 21st–22nd, at Wellington Gravel Pits (Herefordshire) for 10 minutes on 24th and Hitchin (Hertfordshire) on 25th.

Grey Phalarope
Grey Phalarope, Cley Marshes NWT, Norfolk (Photo: Chris Cook)

Numbers of Glaucous Gulls were slowly increasing, with birds reported from Shetland, Orkney, the Outer Hebrides, Lothian, Northumberland, Cleveland and Grafham Water (Cambridgeshire). The only Iceland Gulls were adults west of Melvig (Highland) on 22nd, at Girdle Ness (Aberdeenshire) on 24th, at Ayr on 25th, and at Cobh (Co Cork) on 23rd–27th, with juveniles at Dowlaw (Borders) on 25th, Siadar, Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 25th and past the Farne Islands (Northumberland) on 27th.

Two Ring-billed Gulls remained, at Portrush (Co Antrim) and Oban (Argyll) to 25th, with a second-winter also at Dinham Flats (Cornwall) on 22nd. Also new in were a couple of Bonaparte's Gulls, with an adult past Bardsey Island (Gwynedd) on 21st and a first-winter at the sewage outfall at Blennerville (Co Kerry) on 22nd. An adult on the beach in Sunderland (Durham) may have been the long-staying bird in the region.

The adult Sabine's Gull remained at Cobh and Cuskinny Marsh (Co Cork) to 23rd, with others past Strumble Head (Pembrokeshire), Hartlepool Headland (Cleveland), Covehithe (Suffolk), Calf of Man (Isle of Man), Pendeen (Cornwall) and Thurlestone (Devon).

Sabine's Gull
Sabine's Gull, Cobh, Cork (Photo: Ronan McLaughlin)

The only Wryneck reported was on St Mary's (Scilly) on 25th. After a short absence it was good to see Penduline Tits back in the country, with singletons at Rainham Marshes (London) on 21st–23rd and Dungeness (Kent) on 23rd–27th.

Penduline Tit
Penduline Tit, Dungeness RSPB, Kent (Photo: Mike Gould)

Some of last week's Shore Larks moved on, with only small groups and singletons remaining. Up to 11 remained at Cley (Norfolk) with 11 at Dingle Marshes (Suffolk) and eight at nearby Walberswick. One at Galley Hill (Bedfordshire) on 23rd-24th was only the second record for the county.

The highlight of the week, though, was the very early and very large arrival of Waxwings, with literally thousands around Scotland from mid-week. More details on numbers are in our 'Focus on' article in the webzine.

The Richard's Pipits were still on St Martin's (Scilly) on 22nd and at Cromer Point, Burniston (North Yorkshire) to 23rd, with others on the Great Orme (Conwy) on 24th and at Turnberry Point (Ayrshire) on 25th. Porthgwarra (Cornwall) was the place to be for pipits, though, with both Richard's and Red-throated there on 24th–25th.

The amazing Bluetail autumn continued, with birds still on St Martin's (Scilly) to 23rd, at Sandy Point (Hampshire) to 23rd and in Lowestoft (Suffolk) to 24th. The second record for Wales was then a one-day bird on Skomer (Pembrokeshire) on 25th — the first was as recently as October 2007, on Bardsey Island.

Red-flanked Bluetail
Red-flanked Bluetail, Sandy Point, Hampshire (Photo: Maxwell)

The only Bluethroats reported were at Holmpton (East Yorkshire) on 23rd and on Fair Isle (Shetland) on 24th. Assuming all records are accepted, this looks to be a record year for Black-throated Thrush, with one on Fair Isle (Shetland) on 23rd–24th being the sixth this month alone. Add to this seven from earlier in the year and this easily outstrips the previous 'best' of six accepted records in 2005.

On the Isles of Scilly, the St Mary's Subalpine Warbler remained to 25th and a typically late Dusky Warbler was also on St Mary's on 27th.

The Barred Warbler remained at Treen (Cornwall) to 22nd with others at Landguard (Suffolk) on 22nd, Inishmore (Co Galway) on 24th–26th and Gibraltar Point (Lincolnshire) on 27th.

Most of the Yellow-browed Warblers now seemed to be in the south, with as many as 16 on the Isles of Scilly (including five at Porth Hellick on 21st), 11 in Cornwall and 10 in Co Cork (including four at Old Head of Kinsale on 24th). Records came from 16 other counties, with inland birds in Somerset (two) and Northamptonshire (two). Pallas's Warblers are surprisingly scarce, with the only reports coming from Bird Observatories at the end of the week. After one at Kilnsea, Spurn (East Yorkshire) on 24th–25th, the 27th then saw birds at Portland (Dorset) and Dungeness (Kent).

Yellow-browed Warbler
Yellow-browed Warbler, Holkham Pines, Norfolk (Photo: Andy Thompson)

Red-breasted Flycatchers remained at several sites, with birds at Holkham (Norfolk) to 21st, St Mary's (Scilly) to 27th and others at Old Head of Kinsale (Co Cork) on 21st–22nd, Newhaven (East Sussex) on 22nd, Rame Head (Cornwall) on 23rd and two at Langais, North Uist (Outer Hebrides) on 22nd–25th.

Great Grey Shrikes were again numerous, with birds well spread across the country. The only notable record was of two at Westleton Heath (Suffolk) on 22nd, although a photo appeared recently showing a remarkable three caught together on the Isle of May (Fife) on 8th. There was just one Red-backed Shrike, on Bryher (Scilly) on 25th.

The juvenile Rose-coloured Starling was last seen in Cornwall on 22nd, with Starlings at Land's End. The juvenile remained at Lepe Country Park (Hampshire) to 26th and the adult remained at Newhaven (East Sussex) to 25th. Shetland produced a juvenile at Voe on 23rd and this or another was found dead at Cunningsburgh the next day.

Rose-coloured Starling
Rose-coloured Starling, Newhaven, East Sussex (Photo: Michael Wretahm)

The only Arctic Redpolls were both hornemanni-race birds on Shetland, at Toab on 23rd–25th and on Fair Isle all week. There were more late autumn Serins, with one on St Mary's (Scilly) on 21st–26th and others at Durlston Country Park (Dorset) on 22nd and (heard calling) at Barton on Sea (Hampshire) on 24th. Common Rosefinches included three on the Isles of Scilly (on Tresco, St Agnes and St Martin's) and others at Blacksod (Co Mayo) and on Ramsey Island (Pembrokeshire).

The only Little Buntings were one on St Mary's (Scilly) to 25th and one ringed at St Ouen's Pond (Jersey) on 22nd–23rd. Most of the big flocks of Lapland Buntings seem to have dispersed now, although many turned up in more inland areas. The peak counts regionally included 35 at Askernish, North Uist (Outer Hebrides), 35 on Flamborough Head (East Yorkshire), 35 on Carmel Head (Anglesey) and 28 at Scatness (Shetland).

Photo of the Week: 21st—27th October

Waxwing, Fair Isle, Shetland (Photo: Rebecca Nason)

This winter's irruption of Waxwings into the UK looks set to bring these hugely photogenic birds within reach of all the country's bird photographers. We've received more photo uploads for this species (almost 2,000 photos) than any other and we're certainly expecting to see some stunning shots of them over the coming months. To get the ball rolling, Shetland-based bird photographer Rebecca Nason has submitted an outstanding composition featuring a pair of Waxwings atop a fir tree, each with its own perch, set against a diffuse 'colour wash' background. With the two birds placed one above the other, facing opposite directions across each other, this is an unusual and striking arrangement. Rebecca timed the shot perfectly, with the top bird facing the camera, bill agape and wing detail visible, whilst the lower bird gazes sideways out of the frame. It's easy to imagine these complementary poses being chosen by an artist planning to paint these birds. A well-balanced image of a delightful species.

Other notable photos

Lesser Striped Swallow
Lesser Striped Swallow, South Africa (Photo: Paul Hillion)

Jay, North Wirral, Cheshire (Photo: Richard Steel)

Hen Harrier
Hen Harrier, Worlaby Carrs, Lincolnshire (Photo: Dean Eades)

Common Kingfisher
Common Kingfisher, Alphington, Devon (Photo: Charlie Fleming)

Grey Heron
Grey Heron, Barton-upon-Humber, Lincolnshire (Photo: Andy Shepherd)

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl, Southwold, Suffolk (Photo: Bryan Wright)

Common Kestrel
Common Kestrel, The Ayres NNR, Isle of Man (Photo: Sean Gray)

Siskin, Huttoft Bank, Lincolnshire (Photo: Matt Latham)

Red-flanked Bluetail
Red-flanked Bluetail, Kergord, Mainland, Shetland (Photo: James Wood)

Scaly-breasted Munia
Scaly-breasted Munia, India (Photo: Mital Patel)

Lesser Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs, Port Meadow, Oxfordshire (Photo: Nigel Forrow)

Long-billed Dowitcher
Long-billed Dowitcher, The Cunnigar, Waterford (Photo: anon)

Red-necked Grebe
Red-necked Grebe, Bawdsey, Suffolk (Photo: Chris Mayne)

Greylag Goose
Greylag Goose, Regent's Park, Greater London (Photo: Fraser Simpson)

Goldcrest, undisclosed site, Warwickshire (Photo: Tom Melton)

Lapwing, Martin Mere WWT, Lancashire (Photo: David Cookson)

Red-breasted Flycatcher
Red-breasted Flycatcher, Porthgwarra, Cornwall (Photo: Dave Perrett)

Grey Wagtail
Grey Wagtail, undisclosed site, Kent (Photo: Mick Southcott)

Wryneck, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Photo: Richard Stonier)

Tree Sparrow
Tree Sparrow, undisclosed site, Cheshire (Photo: Pauline Greenhalgh)

Written by: Mark Grantham