Review of the Week: 22nd-28th July 2010


The week at a glance

With the departure of the White-tailed Lapwing — where will it turn up next? — there was little in the way of megas this week. All the start of the week could muster was a 'possible' Yelkouan Shearwater past Porthgwarra (Cornwall) on 24th. Things livened up a bit towards the end of the week, with the return of the House Finch, seen again at East Prawle (Devon) on 27th. It was last reported on 12th July, though is now in moult, so will be more elusive. Interestingly, it appears to be losing its yellow colouration as it moults, with the new feathers coming through in the more expected red colour. The timing of this moult perhaps suggests this is an adult bird, as we have always thought it was.

Now if the House Finch is considered to have hitched a lift, then even more likely to have jumped ship was the possible House Crow in Edinburgh (Lothian) on 27th. Photos of a bird seen at a garden feeding station showed a large crow with some features of House Crow, though none were entirely convincing. There was also the suggestion that it may be a juvenile hybrid Hooded × Carrion Crow — of which there is a well-known population in the Edinburgh area — although the limited extent of black on the face, not extending behind the eye, may not support this.

House Crow
Putative House Crow, Edinburgh, Lothian (Photo: BirdGuides)

The House Crow is native to the Indian subcontinent, but there is a small and sedentary population at Hoek van Holland in The Netherlands, originating from ship-borne birds. They have only spread slightly, to a smaller satellite population at nearby den Haag, though both these populations are likely to be controlled or 'rehoused' in the near future. The IUCN consider this to be an invasive species of concern (see its entry in the Global Invasive Species Database), so opinions are split on how we should greet this arrival. You can read more on the invasive potential of House Crow in the Journal of Avian Biology. There is just one previous record, of a bird in Ireland.

Some might consider a fly-by seabird and two ship-assisted passerines a poor showing of megas, so we'll go directly to the supporting cast.

Most of the long-staying ducks remained, with the female Ferruginous Duck at Minsmere (Suffolk) reported on 27th and 28th. The two moulting drake Ring-necked Ducks in Fife were also infrequently reported, from Angle Park on 24th and 26th and from Loch Gelly on 24th. The two hybrid Pochard × Tufted Ducks were also still at Stoke Newington (London), reported on 26th.

Of more interest in some circles have been the small groups of Ruddy Shelducks that have been turning up recently. The nine that have been at Loch of Strathbeg (Aberdeenshire) since 13th July were still present on 26th and seven were at Whitton Sand (East Yorkshire) on 24th–26th. As ever, these birds prompted some debate, though they will always remain 'of unknown origin', unless someone starts colour-marking or satellite-tracking birds. It is likely that some of these late-summer occurrences involve birds from the Continent, though from exactly where is a different question. There are healthy feral populations in several parts of eastern and northern Europe, with a large moult flock (numbering over 1,000 birds) at Emmeer in The Netherlands. This is probably the most likely origin of our birds, either overshooting pre-moult (and I wonder if this is what the Aberdeenshire birds were doing) or dispersing post-moult. Alternatively, of course, some of these birds could have a similar origin to the pair of Spot-billed Ducks at Gaddon Loch (Fife) on 26th.

Also choosing to moult, but causing less contention, was the first-summer drake King Eider, which remained on the rocks off Filey (North Yorkshire) to 25th. Perhaps the continual disturbance eventually got too much, and after being flushed by a canoeist it left. It didn't go too far, though, and was seen drifting past Sheringham on 27th. It then continued to wander along this strip of coast, best seen off West Runton beach.

King Eider
King Eider, Filey, North Yorkshire (Photo: Russell Hayes)

Also on the sea, a lone drake Surf Scoter was in Lunan Bay (Angus & Dundee) on 23rd–26th. Inland Common Scoters continued to be reported, with birds at Ogston Reservoir (Derbyshire), QE II Reservoir (Surrey), Grimley New Workings (Worcestershire), Grafham Water (Cambridgeshire) and Carsington Water (Derbyshire). Most were singles, though the largest group were 11 at Blagdon Lake (Somerset) on 25th. Not quite inland, but equally notable, were the 28 that drifted past Cross Ness (London) on 26th, then seen off Rainham Marshes through most of the day.

There were just two records of Cory's Shearwater, past Snab Point (Northumberland) on 22nd and past Spurn (East Yorkshire) on 25th. As expected, there were increased numbers of Sooty Shearwaters, with birds past Loch of Strathbeg (Aberdeenshire), Hartlepool Headland (Cleveland), Whitburn Coastal Park (Durham) on three dates, Flamborough Head (East Yorkshire) on two dates, Lizard Point (Cornwall), off the Scilly pelagic on 23rd, four past Porthgwarra (Cornwall) on 23rd and three there on 28th. In Ireland, birds were recorded past Rossadilisk (Co. Galway) on 24th and six flew past Bridges of Ross (Co. Kerry) on 27th.

Balearic Shearwater records were widespread, with birds from as far north as Holy Island (Northumberland) on 23rd, Whitburn Coastal Park (Durham) on three dates, Scarborough (North Yorkshire) on 26th and St Bees Head (Cumbria) on 24th. Aside from birds at Flamborough Head (East Yorkshire) on 24th and two past Spurn (East Yorkshire) on 23rd, the rest were in the south and west. Site maxima reported included 37 past Porthgwarra (Cornwall) on 28th, 20 off Dawlish Warren (Devon) on 26th, 18 past Lizard Point (Cornwall) on 25th and 17 past Prawle Point (Devon) on 24th.

Wilson's Storm-petrels were seen off the Isles of Scilly pelagic on 22nd, 26th and 28th though more out of place, and perhaps long overdue, was Norfolk's first, which passed Sheringham on 23rd, then 50 minutes later passed through a line of 'scopes at Cley. There are very few records of Wilson's Storm-petrel in the North Sea, with the last record being one past Hartlepool Headland (Cleveland) in September 2006.

Wilson's Storm-petrel
Wilson's Storm-petrel, Scilly pelagic, Isles of Scilly (Photo: Joe Pender)

In Staffordshire, a juvenile Cattle Egret came in to roost with Grey Herons at Doxey Marsh on the evenings of 23rd–28th, with a second bird seen briefly at Vange Marshes (Essex) on the morning of 25th. It roosted with Little Egrets at Wat Tyler CP that evening and returned to Vange Marshes the next day.

Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret, Doxey Marshes, Staffordshire (Photo: anon)

The Great White Egret continued to show at Dungeness (Kent) to 28th, by which time it had moved to the ARC Pit. The colour-ringed bird was still at Shapwick Heath (Somerset) on 24th, with one more over Hythe (Hampshire) on 27th. In Ireland, the Glossy Ibis was reported at Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) to 28th.

Great White Egret
Great White Egret, Dungeness RSPB, Kent (Photo: Phil)

After a long wait, final proof of breeding of the Little Bitterns at Walton Heath (Somerset) came on 23rd, when the first juvenile popped up, seen twice in flight in the evening. Closer observation of the behaviour of the adults also suggested that there may be at least two juvenile birds.

The breeding Purple Herons remained at Dungeness (Kent) all week, with others including a sub-adult at Sandwich Bay (Kent) on 25th, a juvenile at Summer Leys (Northamptonshire) briefly on 25th and 27th and one at Vallee des Vaux Trinity (Jersey) on 26th. One was reported at Fobbing Marshes (Essex) on 26th but couldn't be relocated.

Good numbers of Spoonbills remained, with long-staying birds including up to 11 still at Cley (Norfolk) all week, eight at Gibraltar Point (Lincolnshire) to 27th, and four on the Ythan estuary (Aberdeenshire) to 26th. New groups included 15 on Havergate Island (Suffolk) on 23rd–24th, four at Middlebere (Dorset) on 25th–28th and three on Pennington Marshes (Hampshire) on 27th. Singles were then at Oare Marshes (Kent) on 22nd–24th, Samson (Isles of Scilly) on 24th and 27th, Stiffkey (Norfolk) on 24th and Cliffe Pools (Kent) on 25th–26th.

Spoonbill, Welney WWT, Norfolk (Photo: Simeon Grundy)

A few early migrant Ospreys were reported along the south coast, with birds at Blackfield (Hants) and Christchurch Harbour (West Sussex) on 25th, Lower Test Marshes (Hampshire) on 26th–28th, over Weir Wood Reservoir (East Sussex) on 26th and Pilsey Island (West Sussex) on 27th. The only other raptor of note was a Golden Eagle reported over Brodgar (Orkney) on 26th.

An American Golden Plover was on Oronsay (Argyll) on 26th and possibly of similar origin were Pectoral Sandpipers at Welney (Norfolk) to 25th and at Titchwell (Norfolk) again to 25th. In a good week, new Pecs were also at Summer Leys (Northamptonshire) on 23rd–24th, Maer Lake (Cornwall) and Hesketh Out Marsh (Lancashire) on 28th.

Pectoral Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper, Welney WWT, Norfolk (Photo: Simeon Grundy)

The adult Terek Sandpiper remained at Blennerville (Co. Kerry) to 22nd, and new in was a White-rumped Sandpiper at Saltholme and Greenabella Marsh (Cleveland) on 28th. This showed well and at times stood right next to the juvenile Whiskered Tern — a rare event indeed!

Terek Sandpiper
Terek Sandpiper, Blennerville, Kerry (Photo: Ed Carty)

As wader passage picked up, inland records of coastal species became more common, with some sites holding various species. Grafham Water (Cambridgeshire) held three Sanderling on 23rd–26th and a Turnstone on 24th–26th, QE II Reservoir (Surrey) held Sanderling on 23rd and Turnstone on 22nd–25th and Blithfield Reservoir (Staffordshire) held Sanderling on 26th and five Knot on 26th. Other Sanderling were at Broom GP (Bedfordshire), Farmoor Reservoir (Oxfordshire), Draycote Water (Warwickshire) and Belvide Reservoir (Staffordshire), with Turnstone at Walton Reservoir (Surrey), Moatlands GP (Berkshire), Rutland Water (Leicestershire) and three at Chasewater (Staffordshire) on 27th.

At sea, a Grey Phalarope went past Strumble Head (Pembrokeshire) on 22nd with another past Mangurstadh, Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 24th. The only Long-tailed Skua came from the east, with an adult past Scarborough (North Yorkshire) on 22nd.

As is often the case, Ireland stole to show with gulls, with a second-summer Glaucous Gull at Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway) on 24th, an adult at Tarbert (Co. Kerry) on 27th, the only Iceland Gull of the week — a juvenile at Barnabaun Point (Co. Mayo) on 25th — and an adult Ring-billed Gull at Nimmo's Pier on 24th. The highlight, though, was a first-summer American Herring Gull at Blennerville on 22nd–25th.

Caspian Gulls seemed less numerous, with singles at Grafham Water (Cambridgeshire) and Trimley Marsh (Suffolk) on 22nd, Annesley Pit Top (Nottinghamshire) on 26th, Paxton Pits (Cambridgeshire) on 27th, and Eyebrook Reservoir (Leicestershire) and Kempston (Bedfordshire) on 28th. Rutland Water (Leicestershire) saw an adult on 23rd and a third-summer on 25th and King George VI Reservoir (Surrey) saw an adult on 23rd and 27th. Yellow-legged Gulls are now really much too numerous to mention, aside from the highest counts of 45 at roost at Grafham Water (Cambridgeshire) on 26th and 38 at Paxton Pits (Northamptonshire) on 26th.

Ireland's second-summer Laughing Gull at Ballycastle (Co. Antrim) remained until 28th and, after a two-day absence, the Franklin's Gull at Chasewater (Staffordshire) appeared again briefly in late afternoon of 24th. The only other gull of real note was an unseasonable adult Sabine's Gull at Draycote Water (Warwickshire) for just 15 minutes on 27th.

Following a report of a moulting adult Whiskered Tern at the power station outfall at Cross Ness (London) on 24th, an early juvenile was found at Saltholme (Cleveland) on 28th. This is the second record for the county, following two birds at the same site in April 2009, and there are very few records further north than this. A few more records of Black Tern also trickled in, including birds at Attenborough (Nottinghamshire) on 23rd, a juvenile at Rutland Water (Leicestershire) on 26th–27th and a moulting adult at Cross Ness (London) 26th.

Whiskered Tern
Whiskered Tern, Saltholme RSPB, Cleveland (Photo: Ian Forrest)

Return migration of warblers also got underway, but only just. The first Melodious Warbler of the autumn was on Bardsey Island (Gwynedd) on 25th, only the second of the year following a singing male also in North Wales, in Conwy in May. The first few Wood Warblers were being recorded in the south, with birds at Sandwich Bay (Kent) and Abbot's Cliff (Kent) on 27th and Easton Brevants (Suffolk) and Graveney Marshes (Kent) on 28th. Other migrants included 45 Yellow Wagtails at Slimbridge (Gloucestershire) on 27th and Pied Flycatchers at Pagham (West Sussex) and Dungeness (Kent) on 26th and South Walney (Cumbria) on 27th.

Last seen on 5th July, the male white-spotted Bluethroat reappeared at Welney (Norfolk) on 24th and again on 28th. Birds generally keep their heads down when moulting, so it has presumably been there all that time.

Last up were a female Common Rosefinch, on Fair Isle (Shetland) on 23rd–24th, where there was also a Quail, and a high migration count of 90 Common Crossbills came from Darwen (Lancashire) on 23rd.

Photo of the Week

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

Common Kingfishers are such good photographic subjects that they look great in any pose, allowing stunning images to be captured even from brief encounters. However, Devon-based bird photographer Charlie Fleming shows that spending longer with these birds can really pay diviends. Putting in many hours in his hide over the last couple of weeks, Charlie has been able to capture a wide range of shots of his local Kingfishers. As reward for his commitment, though, he has now managed to witness a rarely seen occurrence as two female birds engaged in a vicious fight. Keeping his nerve as the event unfolded, Charlie recorded the behaviours in detail. Our pick of the sequence freezes the action as the birds ended up rolling around in the brook, with one bird trying to drown the other. This superb action shot sums up the event that Charlie described as the best wildlife-watching session of his life.

Other notable photos

Gannet, Bass Rock, Lothian (Photo: David Cookson)

Gannet, Hermaness NNR, Unst, Shetland (Photo: Paul Hillion)

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl, Skomer, Pembrokeshire (Photo: Peter Walkden)

Fulmar, undisclosed site, Antrim (Photo: Ian Dickey)

Reed Warbler
Reed Warbler, Lackford Lakes SWT, Suffolk (Photo: Jon Evans)

Red-legged Partridge
Red-legged Partridge, Fressingfield, Suffolk (Photo: Ian Clarke)

House Martin
House Martin, Welford Reservoir, Northamptonshire (Photo: Douglas McFarlane)

Barn Owl
Barn Owl, undisclosed site, Kent (Photo: Steve Ashton)

Wilson's Storm-petrel
Wilson's Storm-petrel, Scilly pelagic, Isles of Scilly (Photo: Joe Pender)

Hobby, Brandon Marsh NR, Warwickshire (Photo: A J Haynes)

Sand Martin
Sand Martin, Hauxley NR, Northumberland (Photo: Tim Mason)

Skylark, Barns Ness, Lothian (Photo: James Wood)

Purple Heron
Purple Heron, Spain (Photo: Chris Baines)

Dartford Warbler
Dartford Warbler, Dunwich Heath NT, Suffolk (Photo: Chris Mayne)

Common Tern
Common Tern, Rye Meads RSPB, Hertfordshire (Photo: Bryan Wright)

Common Kestrel
Common Kestrel, Trevose Head, Cornwall (Photo: Pixellence)

Green Woodpecker
Green Woodpecker, Louth, Lincolnshire (Photo: Nick Clayton)

Common Redstart
Common Redstart, Courance, Dumfries & Galloway (Photo: Brian Henderson)

Little Grebe
Little Grebe, undisclosed site, Hertfordshire (Photo: Ian Curran)

Wren, Barnstaple, Devon (Photo: Roy Churchill)

Written by: Mark Grantham