Review of the Week: 22-29 May 2023


In a week where sunshine and warm temperatures had many heading to the nation's beaches or perhaps a beer garden, birders might have been minded to check out their local wader scrapes. Passage movements built up in both inland and coastal areas, with Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone and Temminck's Stint three of the more noticeable species on offer, the former appearing in good numbers after a previously poor spring. The occurrence of Broad-billed Sandpipers with passage Ringed Plovers is an exciting event when it happens, especially inland. One starred at Hatfield Moors, South Yorkshire, on 27th, with another at Budle Bay, Northumberland, on 22nd. Little Stint was another species making a move, with more than 50 reported.

Broad-billed Sandpiper, Hatfield Moors, South Yorkshire (Tom Hines).

Temminck's Stint, Toft Newton Reservoir, Lincolnshire (Tim Melling).

The biggest rarity news of the week saw the relocation of the Grey-headed Lapwing in the Outer Hebrides at Balemore, North Uist, from 26th. Last noted at Balormie, Moray, on 13th, its new location is pretty much due west of there and it is tempting to speculate where it has been in the interim. It is equally intriguing to wonder where it may venture next – might it head further west to St Kilda, south to Ireland, or even north to the Faroes or Iceland? Fife birders will rue the belated news of its presence near Crail on 12 May, when it was filmed by a non-birder.

Grey-headed Lapwing, Balemore, N Uist, Outer Hebrides (Dan Pointon).

Other rarer visitors included a Long-billed Dowitcher still on the north Norfolk coast and American Golden Plovers at Paull Holme Strays, East Yorkshire, and The Cull, Co Wexford, with Pectoral Sandpipers in Cumbria, Orkney and Outer Hebrides. Black-winged Stilts continued to wander, with birds at 13 sites in nine counties, while Eurasian Dotterels were reported from four sites.

Belatedly, Black Tern passage picked up this week, with high single-figure counts at in excess of 40 sites stretching east and south from the Midlands. Staines Reservoirs, London, enjoyed the largest collection, with at least 20 on 29th. White-winged Terns were in Kent and East Yorkshire, with a brief Gull-billed Tern at Grafham Water, Cambridgeshire, on 27th.

Black Tern, Walthamstow Wetlands LWT, London (Eugene Dillon-Hooper).

The tern colony on Inishroo, Co Galway, continued to be graced by both Forster's and Elegant Terns throughout, while a first-summer Caspian Tern again roamed the Norfolk Broads near Hickling. An adult Laughing Gull was back on Gugh, Scilly, and an early Great Shearwater was off Mangurstadh, Lewis, on 23rd, with Long-tailed Skuas off four Scottish sites.

Caspian Tern, Hickling Broad NWT, Norfolk (Paul Evans).

Intriguing Short-toed Snake Eagle reports hailed from Ambleside, Cumbria, on 22nd and Butterstone, Perth and Kinross, on 24th. Might both of these relate to the Highland bird returning for a third summer? The pick of the bunch elsewhere concerned an adult male Snowy Owl on Fair Isle from 22nd.

Snowy Owl, Fair Isle, Shetland (Georgia Platt).

A Pallid Harrier at Long Mynd, Shropshire, appears to be bedded in for the foreseeable, with another on Westray, Orkney. It continues to be a strong spring showing for Montagu's Harrier by modern standards, with birds in five counties. At least one Black Kite continued to linger in far south-west Cornwall, with flyovers in Dorset, Kent, Cambridgeshire and Staffordshire. European Honey Buzzards, meanwhile, were back at publicised watchpoints in Norfolk, Nottinghamshire and North Yorkshire, with migrants over eight more counties.

Montagu's Harrier, Otmoor RSPB, Oxfordshire (Joe Downing).

'Brick-red' adult male Common Rosefinches make for rare visitors to Britain and are always popular when they appear. From 26th, it was Cumbria's turn to host this attractive continental overshoot, with an adult male singing in gardens on the outskirts of Kendal. Interestingly, photos of the bird showed it to be ringed with a metal, BTO-style ring on its right leg. Hopefully, closer photographs might allow the code to be read and add some fascinating insight into this bird's life history. More typical 'brown' first-summers sang on Lundy, Devon, with one more at Bamburgh, Northumberland.

Common Rosefinch, Kendal, Cumbria (Mike Barth).

A visiting birder found a Greater Short-toed Lark at Dale Airfield, Pembrokeshire, on 29th during their second visit to the site – remarkably, the same birder found another there back in September on their very first visit! Elsewhere, Red-throated Pipits were on Papa Westray, Orkney, and Lundy, Devon, and a Tawny Pipit overflew St Mary's, Scilly. The first Iberian Wagtail for Scotland was at Balormie, Moray, on 24th. Equally dapper were Grey-headed Wagtails in Norfolk, Devon and Shetland.

Greater Short-toed Lark, Dale, Pembrokeshire (Lee Gregory).

Iberian Wagtail, Lossiemouth, Moray & Nairn (Peter Stronach).

Two 'subalps' were on Fair Isle, with an adult male Western Subalpine Warbler joined by a first-summer male Western Subalpine/Moltoni's Warbler. A male on Dursey Island, Co Cork, and females on Unst and Out Skerries, Shetland, weren't identified to species level, 

Western Subalpine Warbler, Fair Isle, Shetland (Georgia Platt).

Subalpine warbler sp, Fair Isle, Shetland (Georgia Platt).

While it has been a quiet spring for Marsh Warblers so far, four were found this week – songsters at Tankerton, Kent, Tooting, London, Filey, North Yorkshire, and Topham, South Yorkshire. A couple of Great Reed Warblers were in Norfolk, with a one-day bird at Grimley, Worcestershire, unfortunately untwitchable. A Savi's Warbler sang at Blacktoft Sands RSPB, East Yorkshire, for much of the week, with a vocal Iberian Chiffchaff still at Staple-edge Wood, Gloucestershire.

Great Reed Warbler, Strumpshaw Fen RSPB, Norfolk (Nick Clayton).

Ramping up the colour scale somewhat, other scarce migrants included 17 Golden Orioles, three Hoopoes and several wide-ranging European Bee-eaters along the east coast, with one at Helmsdale, Highland. Facebook bird identification groups produced two Rosy Starling discoveries – birds in Cornwall and at Trefasser, Pembrokeshire. Red-backed Shrikes numbered 18 – with four at Spurn, East Yorkshire, alone.

Golden Oriole, Fair Isle, Shetland (Georgia Platt).

Red-backed Shrike, Thornwick Bay, East Yorkshire (Paul Bateson).

A decent run of arrivals on the Isle of May, Fife, comprised three Red-spotted Bluethroats, Red-breasted Flycatcher and Icterine Warbler. Female Bluethroats were on Unst, Shetland, and Isle of May, Outer Hebrides, with the territorial White-spotted Bluethroat still at Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire. A putative black-eared wheatear species was photographed at Widecombe in the Moor, Devon, on 21st, though there would be no further sign.

They say the best things come in pairs. Two Squacco Herons were on offer, with one at Leighton Moss RSPB, Lancashire, followed by one at Filey Dams, North Yorkshire, on 26th. The last moved to nearby Potter Brompton on 28/29th. On 29th, unconfirmed Little Bitterns were reported calling from both Marston Vale Millennium CP, Bedfordshire, and Martin Mere WWT, Lancashire. Black-crowned Night Herons were at nine sites – seven of those new locations – while all six Purple Herons concerned new birds.

Squacco Heron, Filey Dams YWT, North Yorkshire (Lee Johnson).

The ongoing Glossy Ibis influx went from strength to strength, with six past Budle Point, Northumberland, the most northerly. All but six of the week's 57 reports hailed from eastern England, with notable high counts seeing 14 moving along the Norfolk coast on 23-24th and 11 at Alkborough Flats, Lincolnshire. White Storks continued to wander too, although it can prove increasingly difficult to separate the genuine vagrants from Knepp wanderers or even escapes from captivity. The bird that recently wandered from Scarborough, North Yorkshire, through Cleveland and into Fife later resurfaced back at its South Lakes Wildlife Park home in Cumbria!

Glossy Ibis, Alkborough Flats, Lincolnshire (Ian Unwin).

White Stork, Meare, Somerset & Bristol (Robin Morrison).

Historically, records of Ferruginous Duck in Britain tend to appear between late summer and early spring, so the recent trend of birds in late spring-early summer is somewhat unexplained. New finds this week comprised a pair at Arundel WWT, West Sussex, and a female at Potteric Carr, South Yorkshire, with at least three still in the Norfolk Broads. A drake Lesser Scaup graced Belvide Reservoir, Staffordshire, on 26th and Ring-necked Ducks were in Yorkshire and the Outer Hebrides.

Lesser Scaup, Belvide Reservoir (PERMIT ONLY), Staffordshire (Steve Nuttall).

Ring-necked Duck with Common Pochard, Fairburn Ings RSPB, West Yorkshire (Joe Seymour).

It appears that 'Elvis' might have left the building once and for all. It was presumed that the drake King Eider found on the Ythan Estuary, Aberdeenshire, on 1 May was the regular adult drake, nicknamed 'Elvis', however a close analysis of photographs and video footage instead looks to show the same second-summer drake that spent much of the winter in Fife and Lothian. Surf Scoter were off Lothian, Fife, and North Ronaldsay, Orkney. Scotland enjoyed three drake American Wigeon – in Dumfries and Galloway, Outer Hebrides and Shetland – with the week's only Green-winged Teal at Kilnsea, East Yorkshire. The resident American Black Duck was still in Co Mayo and White-billed Divers were off Orkney and Outer Hebrides. Also in the Outer Hebrides, a Taiga Bean Goose was at Loch Stiapavat, Lewis, from 26th.

Rare Lepidoptera news, meanwhile, saw the exciting news of two Black-veined Whites on the south coast of England – one near Dover, Kent, and another along The Solent, Hampshire. This former breeding species is now a mega-rare vagrant to Britain, so two in such a short space of time in likely locations for genuine vagrants have raised hopes of a potential influx.


Western Palearctic

A staggering report of an Ancient Murrelet at Huelva, Spain, by a Dutch visitor on 23rd shocked pretty much everybody by its continued presence with non-breeding Razorbills the following morning – not least the Spanish birders on site. Attracting a steady stream of admirers until the week's end, this jaw-dropping record is unsurprisingly a first for Spain, as well as just the third record for Western Palearctic. Elsewhere in Spain, a Steppe Grey Shrike was at Villafáfila and a Western Reef Heron was again at Platja d'Aro.

Ancient Murrelet, Huelva, Andalucia (Canal do XoFred).

Continuing the recent remarkable run of Afrotropical vagrants to the region was an immature Bateleur over Chachuna, Georgia, on 29th. The country's first, it is just the third recorded in Asia after two in Turkey. Speaking of Turkey, the Southern Carmine Bee-eater was still at Kızılırmak Delta on 22nd.

A French-ringed first-summer Bonelli's Eagle, meanwhile, proved a remarkable find over Umeå in north-east Sweden on 28th – the nation's first. In Norway, the Pallas's Reed Bunting remained on Utsira until 23rd and the Pacific Diver was still at Vanse.

It was raptor central in the Low Countries, with a Bonelli's Eagle crossing from Belgium to The Netherlands alongside a Lesser Spotted Eagle at Spier, The Netherlands. The Dutch Falcated Duck relocated Vlaardingen, Rotterdam, although Dutch birders will be hoping it moves on soon. Both an Elegant Tern and American Herring Gull remained in France, with an Iberian Wagtail in the Channel Islands at St Ouen's Pond, Jersey.

Two Slender-billed Gulls at Altmühlsee, Germany, while the third Franklin's Gull for Switzerland was at Klingnauer Stausee. Croatia's first Cretzschmar's Bunting was at Dinjiška and Montenegro enjoyed its first Spur-winged Lapwing since 1859.


Written by: Sam Viles