The week at a glance
- Trumpeter Finch on the Outer Hebrides
- Collared Flycatcher on Orkney
- Stilt Sandpiper in Leicestershire
- Black-winged Stilt clutch hatches in Cheshire
- Pine Bunting on Guernsey
- Major fall of scarce species along east coast
It seemed as though, initially, the final full week of May was heading towards the birding history books with only the occasional surprise to its name. The mixed bag of weather across the country left many expectant but initially a little disappointedespecially along the east coast, where hopes of a final fling before the summer months start seemed to be all they were, just hopes. However, those patient souls on the east side finally saw things come good on 27th28th, which ended up being just like the days that used to be.
A Trumpeter Finch on the truly far-flung island of North Rona (Outer Hebrides) on 25th almost slipped under the birding radar with barely a fanfarea crazy situation bearing in mind just how rare this irruptive little finch remains here. Following the mini-invasion of 2005 (when four were seen, three in Kent and one in Suffolk), most people have indeed seen this species, but in the grand scheme of things, this remains an outstanding rarity and this record was made all the more remarkable considering that the island lies nearly fifty miles to the northeast of Lewis (and is almost within an Albatross's-eye view of Sula Sgeir). Scotland has managed three previous records of Trumpeter Finch (two in Highland and one on Orkney), the last being seen in Sutherland in 1992. A female Collared Flycatcher was identified on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on the evening of 24th, spending a few hours at the north end of the island, close to the lighthouse. This was the second record of the species for the island (and the fourth for Orkney as a whole). The first for "North Ron", another female, appeared at the end of May in 1999. On 27th, a superb summer adult Stilt Sandpiper was discovered at Rutland Water (Leicestershire) and was, unsurprisingly, a first for the county. The bird spent just under four hours on Lagoon 1 before departing high to the west. Remarkably just a couple of hours after its departure, a Marsh Sandpiper (another county first) was found in almost the very same place! The Marsh Sandpiper remained to 28th and completed an incredible inland double. There was exciting news from Neumann's Flash (Cheshire), where the pair of Black-winged Stilts became a family unit on 28th, when three eggs hatched. Could this pair finally be the ones to hatch and rear young to the fledging stage? A stunning male Pine Bunting was seen at Rue de Hougues, on Guernsey, on 25th26th and was the first record of the species for the island.
After weeks and weeks of seemingly suitable conditions along the east coast (albeit a bit too sunny and maybe even too windy), finally, finally the weather on 27th28th ensured that a significant fall of scarcities appeared, and some in record-breaking numbers too. The main species involved were Bluethroat, Icterine Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Red-backed Shrike and Common Rosefinch, with a few additional goodies thrown in for good measure, and it was the area around Spurn that dominated, while counties from Northumberland to Suffolk also fared well.
Bluethroats numbered up to nine birds over the two days: on 27th, males arrived on Hoy (Orkney), West Runton (Norfolk) and Spurn (East Yorkshire), with a second bird at Spurn on 28th. Also on 28th, males were at Shingle Street (Suffolk) and South Walney (Cumbria) and three birds were seen on Fair Isle (Shetland).
As many as six Icterine Warblers arrived between Spurn and Kilnsea on 27th, and also in East Yorkshire one was found at Buckton. Also on 27th, singles were noted in Norfolk (at Cley and Wells), in Suffolk (at Minsmere) and on North Ronaldsay (Orkney). On 28th, new arrivals seen included seven on Fair Isle and "twos" on Holy Island (Northumberland) and at Flamborough Head (East Yorkshire). Single birds were seen on Whalsay (Shetland), at Thortonloch (Lothian), on the Isle of May (Fife), Hartlepool Headland (Cleveland), Scarborough (North Yorkshire), and Bempton Cliffs RSPB (East Yorkshire). Three singles were seen in Northumberland, on the Farne Islands, Newbiggin and St. Mary's Island Wetland, and in Lincolnshire, four birds were seen (at Gibraltar Point NNR, Donna Nook, Freiston Shore RSPB and near Howden's Pullover). Four birds were seen in Norfolk (at Burnham Overy dunes, Blakeney Point, Holme and Eccles), and another new bird was found in Suffolk, at Corton. However all these were blitzed by the amazing figure of 13 birds between Spurn Point and Easington, making a two-day total of at least 45 birds.
Two Marsh Warblers were found in the fall on Spurn on 27th, with another at nearby Kilnsea too. Another Marsh Warbler was reported at Durlston CP (Dorset), also on the same date. Once again Spurn was to dominate the proceedings on 28th, with at least six birds noted in the Observatory recording area, and a further three at nearby Sammy's Point. Other new arrivals in East Yorkshire on 28th were singles at Bempton Cliffs RSPB and Grimston, while two birds were on Flamborough Head. Two Marsh Warblers were also seen on Fair Isle. In Lincolnshire, three birds were at Gibraltar Point NNR and one was also found at Donna Nook. Singles on 28th were seen on Whalsay (Shetland), North Ronaldsay, Barns Ness (Lothian), Cambois (Northumberland) and Hengistbury Head (Dorset), bringing the tally to at least 25 for the two days.
Seven Red-breasted Flycatchers arrived over the two days: at Spurn, Filey and Troup Head (Aberdeenshire) on 27th, with singles appearing at South Gare (Cleveland), Donna Nook (Lincolnshire) and on Shetland, on Fair Isle and Whalsay on 28th.
Almost 50 Red-backed Shrikes were discovered on 27th28th, with the first birds being found dotted along the east coast on 27th: on Orkney, in Northumberland, East Yorkshire (including at least four between Spurn and Kilnsea), Lincolnshire, Norfolk (two birds on the north coast) and Suffolk. Also on 27th, a Red-backed Shrike was found on North Uist (Outer Hebrides). On 28th, at least ten birds were on Fair Isle, with a further ten on North Ronaldsay. Six birds were seen around Spurn, with three more at Sammy's Point. "Twos" were seen on Whalsay (Shetland), the Isle of May and also Wormiston (Fife) and Flamborough Head. Single males on 28th were seen at Barns Ness (Lothian), Holy Island and Brownsman Island (Northumberland), Seaton Common (Cleveland), Filey (North Yorkshire), Kelling Heath (Norfolk), Thorpeness (Suffolk) and Hengistbury Head (Dorset). A female was at Donna Nook (Lincolnshire) and another Red-backed Shrike was seen at North Gare (Cleveland).
At least 23 Common Rosefinches were found over the exciting two-day periodsingles on 27th were found on the Isle of May and Brownsman Island, Farne Islands (Northumberland). On 28th, at least four birds were found on the Isle of May and Fair Isle, with two birds around Spurn. Single Rosefinches were found on North Ronaldsay and South Ronaldsay, Holy Island and Low Newton (Northumberland), Filey (North Yorkshire), Flamborough Head, Kilnsea and Bempton Cliffs RSPB (East Yorkshire), and Gibraltar Point NNR (Lincolnshire).
Other species caught up in the fall included a Thrush Nightingale singing at Kilnsea on 28th and the same date saw two Subalpine Warblers arrivein Cleveland, at Hartlepool Headland and in North Yorkshire, a singing male at Filey. A Barred Warbler (still a massive spring rarity here) was found on Holy Island (Northumberland) on 28th, when three Ortolan Buntings were discovered at Sammy's Point, Easington (East Yorkshire) and one was also seen on Bryher (Scilly). Some 15-20 Grey-headed Wagtails also arrived, including four at Spurn and six on Fair Isle.
A summer-plumaged adult White-billed Diver was seen at Scourie (Highland) on 27th. Five Balearic Shearwaters were seen this week, including three birds off Worthing (West Sussex) on 25th (with singles in Devon and Dorset as well). Around 20 Pomarine Skuas were noted over the course of the week, including five off Splash Point, Seaford (East Sussex) on 23rd and four off Dungeness (Kent) on 28th. A Long-tailed Skua was seen on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 22nd, while the seemingly relentless northeasterly winds along East Anglia coasts produced up to three adult Long-tailed Skuas on 25thone in Norfolk, past Great Yarmouth, and in Suffolk, passing Orford Ness and Landguard NR. A near-adult Long-tailed Skua was seen passing Newbiggin (Northumberland) on 26th and an adult was at Conisholme (Lincolnshire) on 28th.
A Cattle Egret was seen at South Huish Marsh and Thurlestone on 25th26th and single birds in Dorset remained at Lytchett Bay to 23rd and at Lodmoor RSPB on 26th27th. Two Cattle Egrets were seen at Catcott Lows (Somerset) on 21st, while two birds remained around Frampton (Gloucestershire) to 25th, with one bird seen again on 28th. One remained at Wigan Flashes LNR (Greater Manchester) to 25th while new sightings this week included singles at Miskin (Glamorgan) on 23rd, at Fishnish, Mull (Argyll) on 24th and at Westbere (Kent) on 26th.
The Great White Egret at Cantref Reservoir (Powys) was still in place to 28th, while the bird at Horse Eye Level (East Sussex) to 22nd. In Cornwall, also on 22nd, one flew over Land's End. It was a better week for Spoonbills this week, with up to 24 birds reported this week. The three birds remained at Leighton Moss RSPB (Lancashire) to 25th, while six were again at Arne RSPB (Dorset) on 24th. Five Spoonbills flew over Titchwell RSPB (Norfolk) on 22nd and two birds were seen at Mersehead RSPB (Dumfries & Galloway) on 26th. The Glossy Ibis in Lancashire, at Marshside RSPB, was still present on 23rd-26th and, remarkably, on 27th was joined by another! Some ten Common Cranes were reported, including singles near Balnakeil (Highland) on 23rd, over Old Basing (Hampshire) on 25th, at Holme (Norfolk) on 26th and Titchwell RSPB the following day, then along the coast around Salthouse and Kelling on 28th. Another single bird was in Essex, at East Mersea, also on 27th, moving to Old Hall Marshes on 28th. Back in Norfolk, two Cranes were seen over Honingham, with two more seen on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 25th26th and another pair were in Shropshire, at Wellington, on 28th. Back to Orkney, where a Black Stork was finally pinned down at Evie, Mainland on 23rd, following on from a probable reported there on 21st. The bird remained around the islands until 26th at least (taking in Westray on 25th) before appearing on Shetland, over Ronas Hill, Mainland on 28th. A second Black Stork was seen near Eastbourne (East Sussex) on 28th. Kent was the only county to record any White Storks this week: a single was reported over Canterbury on 23rd, with one then at Dunkirk on 24th. A subadult Purple Heron was at Lydney (Gloucestershire) on 25th27th and the adult Night Heron remained at Catton Moor (North Yorkshire) to 26th at least.
A Black Duck was flushed from pools on Bodmin Moor (Cornwall) on 23rd, and it's not the first time the species has been seen on this desolate part of the county. In Ireland, in County Donegal, the drake Black Duck was still on Lough Swilly, at Blanket Nook, on 27th. A drake Green-winged Teal was seen briefly at Meare Heath (Somerset) on 24th, while a drake Ring-necked Duck was found on Martnaham Loch (Ayrshire) on 25th and 27th. Another drake Ring-necked Duck was on Egilsay (Orkney) on 27th28th. The adult drake American Wigeon was still at Loch a'Charra, North Uist (Outer Hebrides) until 26th (paying a brief visit to Loch Bruist on 22nd). A first-summer King Eider was a huge surprise at Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) on 25th. The species is still a tremendous rarity in Ireland but quite why a King Eider is on the south coast of Ireland as June approaches is anyone's guess...though the thought that it had sneaked across from Devon is an interesting one. The adult drake remained at Girvan (Ayrshire) to 27th (and is thought to have produced a brood of hybrid ducklings with a local Common Eider) while on Shetland, a first-summer male was at Scord, Mainland on 25th and at Pool of Virkie on 27th, following on from the same (aged) bird on Fair Isle to 22nd. The same location and date saw the first-summer drake Surf Scoter still present (where it remained to 25th), and the drake at Joppa (Lothian) remained to 24th. The drake Falcated Duck at Valley Lakes RSPB (Anglesey) was seen to 28th, but does this eastern exotic really stand a chance of acceptance to the British List?
Booted Eagle is another species that has tried and failed (so far) to make the grade as far as British and Irish lists are concerned, and on 24th, a possible was seen in the New Forest (Hampshire). Black Kite sightings this week came from Abbeystead (Lancashire) on 22nd, at Old Basing and Beaulieu Road Station (Hampshire) and Littlehampton (West Sussex) all on 24th, and at Udimore (East Sussex) on 26th.
The past fortnight has seen weekly arrival totals of 24 and 18 Red-footed Falcons and this week's job of calculating how many birds were new to the country was harder to estimate, as previous birds could re-circulate around the counties. However, an informed guess suggested up to ten new birds, including three in Norfolk. Females were seen at Waxham on 22nd and at Haddiscoe on 24th, and an adult male was at Upton Fen on 23rd-24th, reappearing there on 28th. Two new birds were in the New Forest (Hampshire) this week, an adult male at Bishop's Dyke on 22nd and a first-summer male moving between Beaulieu Road Station and Bishop's Dyke on 24th27th. In Kent, new arrivals were at St. Nicholas-at-Wade on 22nd (no sex mentioned) and an adult male was at Grove Ferry NNR on 24th. A male at Howden (East Yorkshire) was new on 26th27th, (and a female was nearby on 27th28th) while another adult male was at Lee Valley CP (Essex) on 24th (following an adult male there on 21st, so perhaps the same individual). Lothian's first twitchable Red-footed Falcon, a super first-summer female, proved extremely showy at Almondell & Calderwood CP on 25th28th, with another Scottish bird, a female, at Pitlochry (Perth & Kinross) on 26th. Lingering from the past week or two were the following birds: the female near Davidstow (Cornwall) to 22nd (with perhaps the same bird near Altarnun on 28th), the female at Fen Drayton (Cambridgeshire) to 27th, the first-summer male at Stewartby (Bedfordshire) also to 24th and the female in Derbyshire, now at Ingleby, from 22nd-28th. In Suffolk the female at Lakenheath Fen RSPB was seen on 23rd and 28th, while the adult male popped up on 24th.
In Ireland, Black-winged Stilts were seen at Lough Ourna (Co. Tipperary) and Cork City (Co. Cork), both on 27th and one arrived at Denge Marsh, Dungeness (Kent) on 28th. At Leighton Moss RSPB (Lancashire) a Pectoral Sandpiper arrived on 24th, but couldn't be located the following day. Another "Pec" was at Kidwelly (Carmarthenshire) on 27th. There were only five Dotterel to report away from Highland breeding areasfour on Shetland, at Sandness on Mainland on 24th and a female at Landguard NR (Suffolk) on 25th. A first-summer American Golden Plover was at Newcastle (Co. Wicklow) on 22nd and the first-summer was seen again at Exminster Marshes RSPB (Devon) on 28th. A female Red-necked Phalarope was at Heacham (Norfolk) on 26th and another female was at Minsmere RSPB (Suffolk) on 27th. Also on 27th, a Red-necked Phalarope was found near Arnol, on Lewis (Outer Hebrides). At least 30 Temminck's Stints were seen this week, including three at Musselburgh Lagoons (Lothian) on 23rd-27th and three at Titchwell RSPB (Norfolk) on 22nd and on 27th (with at least six in the county this week). Two birds were together on mainland Shetland on 24th, and two were at Lough Beg (Co. Derry) on 25th, while one on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) was also of particular note.
There were very few gulls of note this weeka handful of Caspian Gulls included a first-summer again at Ditchford GPs (Northamptonshire) on 23rd-27th and another first-summer was at the London Wetlands Centre WWT on 27th28th. Single Glaucous Gulls were on Lewis and South Uist (Outer Hebrides), at Seahouses (Northumberland) and on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) this week, while Iceland Gulls included two birds at Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway) and three birds still on St. Mary's (Scilly) on 22nd. A second-summer Ring-billed Gull was seen at Slimbridge WWT (Gloucestershire) on 28th. The adult Forster's Tern was still at Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) to 23rd while a Whiskered Tern was reported from Powys, at Sennybridge, on 23rd before reappearing at Llangorse Lake on 27th. Also on 27th, a second-summer White-winged Black Tern was found at Lodmoor RSPB (Dorset).
A Snowy Owl was seen on St. Kilda (Outer Hebrides) on 23rd, one of several great birds seen there over the past few days. The Red-rumped Swallow on St. Agnes (Scilly) was still present to 23rd (and another was reported at Rangeworthy in Gloucestershire on 22nd). Just three Hoopoes were on offer this week with one briefly at Spurn (East Yorkshire) on 23rd, another at Canford Heath (Dorset) on 24th25th and the third bird in Cheshire, at Thornton Hough, on 26th. Up to four single Bee-eaters were seen around west Cornwallat Porthcurno and Carn Brea on 24th, and at Nanjizal and nearby Sennen on 25th. One was at Beaulieu Road Station (Hampshire) on 23rd, and on 24th one was at Westdean Woods (West Sussex) while on 25th another was at Rye (East Sussex). On 27th, at least one Bee-eater was near Loch Inver, at Achmelvich (Highland) and on 28th, one was seen over St. Martin's (Scilly) and it or another was heard over nearby St. Agnes. An Alpine Swift was found over Lewes (East Sussex) on 28th and a Roller was seen in flight near Howden's Pullover (Lincolnshire), also on 28th.
Prior to the excitement of the last two days of the week, it was almost business as usual. The female Bluethroat was still on Inner Farne (Northumberland) on 22nd-23rd, and one reached St. Kilda (Outer Hebrides) on the latter date. On Fair Isle (Shetland) four birds (a male and three females) were seen on 23rd, while two birds were seen on Out Skerries (Shetland) on the same date. A female Bluethroat was on the Isle of May (Fife) on 24th, and a male was found at Kilnsea (East Yorkshire) on 24th. Also on 24th, a female was on mainland Shetland, at Boddam. Only one Wryneck was noted this week, on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 22nd. A Tawny Pipit arrived at Waxham (Norfolk) on 22nd, and was followed by others at Dalsetter, Mainland (Shetland) on 24th26th and at Rye Harbour NR (East Sussex) on 25th27th. A Red-throated Pipit was found on Pabbay (Outer Hebrides) on 24th (another remote Hebridean island claiming a rarity this week!) with another found on Blakeney Point (Norfolk) on 27th, and one was heard at Holme NOA (Norfolk) on 28th. Staying in Norfolk, a female Citrine Wagtail was at Titchwell RSPB on 27th28th, the fourth of the spring so far, and only the second spring record for the county. The Short-toed Lark at Filey (North Yorkshire) remained from last week to early on the first day of the new review week (22nd). Also on 22nd, a Short-toed Lark arrived on Bardsey Island (Gwynedd) and was still there the following day, while one on St. Mary's (Scilly) on 22nd may have been a new arrival, and this bird stayed to 25th. On 24th, new birds were at Sennen (Cornwall) and on St. Kilda (Outer Hebrides), with the Cornish bird still present on 28th.
Firstly on the warbler front, there was belated news from Fair Isle (Shetland) that two Subalpine Warblers were present on 17th-18th, one of which remained to 19th. Rather more up-to-date were the Subalpine Warblers on St. Kilda (Outer Hebrides) on 22nd, at Valley Strand, North Uist (Outer Hebrides) on 23rd and singles at Scatness and Sumburgh on Mainland Shetland on 26th. On 27th, the long-staying female Subalpine Warbler was trapped again on Bardsey (Gwynedd). Icterine Warblers easily made double figures even before The Fall, with several birds being seen on Fair Isle between 22nd and 26th, including three on 24th. Also on 24th one was trapped at Hartlepool (Cleveland), with singles at Dungeness (Kent) and on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 25th. On 26th, a singing male was at Spurn (East Yorkshire), and others were found at Flamborough Head (East Yorkshire) and on the Calf of Man (Isle of Man). A Melodious Warbler was discovered on Great Saltee (Co. Wexford) on 22nd, with a second bird on Bardsey Island (Pembrokeshire) on 28th, but the arguably the rarest warbler of the week (also on 22nd) was the Savi's Warbler on Fair Isle (Shetland)seen fleetingly in the field, before heading in to the ringer's nets. The singing male Great Reed Warbler was still at Amwell GPs (Hertfordshire) and a singing male Marsh Warbler was at Filey (East Yorkshire) on 25th. Two Red-breasted Flycatchers were seen prior to the 27th28th: one was trapped and ringed at Dungeness Bird Observatory (Kent) on 25th, with one at Kilnsea (East Yorkshire) on 26th.
Thirteen Golden Orioles were reported this week, with birds noted from Cornwall (Nanquidno) to Shetland (Fair Isle) on 22nd. On 23rd, one was on Hoy (Orkney) and another was found on Skomer Island (Pembrokeshire) where it lingered until 26th. A Golden Oriole was at Spurn (East Yorkshire) on 24th25th, and a singing male was found at Fairford (Gloucestershire) on 26th. On 27th another Golden Oriole was seen at Spurn (East Yorkshire) and singles on Scilly were seen on St. Agnes and St. Mary's, along with one on South Uist (Outer Hebrides). In Ireland, a Golden Oriole was at Mizen Head (Co. Cork) on 27th. On 28th, singles were at Kilnsea (East Yorkshire) and St. Margaret's at Cliffe (Kent). The male Woodchat Shrike at Caerthillian Cove, Lizard (Cornwall) stayed until 22nd. Finally this spring, a decent showing for Red-backed Shrikes involved at least 13 birds found prior to the end-of-the-week fall, including a remarkable three males at Soussons Plantation, in the middle of Dartmoor (Devon). All three males were present on 24th27th, with two there on 28th. Soussons is a site that is well known as a traditional wintering site for Great Grey Shrike while Kilrenny in Fife is famous as being the site of Britain's first Masked Shrike. This week the town welcomed a female Red-backed Shrike, on 23rd. Two birds were seen on Fair Isle (Shetland) on 23rd and a singing male was at Greenwich Ecology Park (London) on 24th.
A Serin was on the Isle of Wight, at Sandown, on 24th and a singing male was at Easton, Portland (Dorset) on 27th. On 28th, a Serin flew over Easington (East Yorkshire). Two single Common Rosefinches were on Fair Isle (Shetland) on 22nd with a pair (including a red male) there on 23rd. A male Common Rosefinch was at Rattray Head (Aberdeenshire) on 23rd and one was trapped at Kilnsea (East Yorkshire) on 24th. Another male Rosefinch was found at Kyleakin, Isle of Skye (Highland) on 26th. The decent showing of Ortolan Buntings this spring continued with birds at Land's End (Cornwall) on 22nd and a singing male at Drigg (Cumbria) on 24th. A male Rustic Bunting was on South Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 24th and Fair Isle scored with a female on the same date. On 28th, a male Rustic Bunting was seen again on South Ronaldsay, at Burwick, but given the significant arrivals from the Northern Isles southwards, it may well have been a new bird.
Photo of the Week
For the second time in a year, we have been moved to select a dramatic image of a Hobby preying on a Swift as Photo of the Week. This week's image by Rob Smith provides a different view on one of nature's harsher spectacles. Taken as part of a sequence documenting the event, this image clearly shows the profiles and identifying features of both species, with even the eyes of both birds visible. On close inspection, the embedded talons of the Hobby and the doubled-back pose of the Swift make for distressing but compelling viewing.