Review of the Week: 21st-28th September 2001


It seems to have taken an eternity to happen, but twitchers and east coast patch workers alike were treated to by far and away the best week of the year. An initial push of easterlies below a massive high pressure system stretching across to Siberia fell short of their mark and transformed into northerlies off the east coast, delivering a feast of goodies to north-facing coastlines. However, a second push of easterlies delivered a more widespread fall during the middle of the week, with scarce and rare birds delivered to coastlines between Kent and the Northern Isles.

The result of this was that three extreme rarities were accessible to mainland birders within a relatively short distance. The biggest surprise was a 1st-winter Green Heron discovered at a local nature reserve in Lincolnshire on the 24th and presumably the result of a landfall earlier in the autumn. This is only the 4th British record and the first to be twitchable since 1982; thus allowing a whole new generation of listers and admirers the opportunity to connect. Initially aged as an adult, the Bird News Extra team were the first to broadcast the correct age and a look at the pictures on our website allows the pattern of the greater and median wing-coverts and the streaks down the sides of the neck to be seen, which allows confident ageing of this bird. A moulting adult Red-necked Stint at the unlikely location of Somersham GPs in Cambridgeshire will have been met with initial disbelief, but the 5th for Britain remained for 2 days allowing many people the opportunity to see this gorgeous stint. Only one juvenile has been identified in Britain and that was a dead individual, but no doubt many more pass undetected. The third 'big bird' of the week was the first Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler to be twitchable on the mainland, with the discovery of a typically elusive individual on Blakeney Point, Norfolk. With patience, most observers were able to obtain satisfactory views. Despite the fact that there are over 25 British records, nearly all have been confined to the Northern isles, so this was a major prize for mainland birders.

With such a fantastic trio of rarities, anything else was going to struggle. However, a supporting cast included a Red-flanked Bluetail in Cleveland, a female Isabelline Wheatear in Suffolk and two Pechora Pipits. More expected perhaps, but still early, were 8 Radde's Warblers, 8 Dusky Warblers, 2 Lanceolated Warblers, 4 Olive-backed Pipits, 2 Pechora Pipits, 4 Blyth's Reed Warblers, 8 Little Buntings and 4 Rustic Buntings, amongst an array of Yellow-browed Warblers, Red-breasted Flycatchers, Barred Warblers and Richard's Pipits. Added to this was a probable Fea's Petrel in East Yorkshire and a Forster's Tern in Fife.

Unfortunately many of the birds from the midweek fall appeared to have moved on, but the prospects for the weekend suggest that further arrivals of small numbers of rarities are probable, whilst some of the scarce migrants are likely to linger. Lets hope that October has more of the same to come...

Written by: Russell Slack, BirdGuides