Review of the Week: 23rd-29th October 2003


With a breakdown of the easterly airflow, rarities were not quite in such abundance this week, though as would be expected for the time of year, there was still plenty to be found and seen regardless of the weather.

Pied Wheatear: Waxham, Norfolk. This obliging bird was one of two this week. (Photo: Tim Brown) Pied Wheatear: Collieston, Aberdeens. Another 1st-winter male, the 3rd this autumn. (Photo: Ian Broadbent)

Isabelline Shrike: Burnham Norton, Norfolk. Daurian Shrike pointers in some 1st-winters are the buffy wash to the underparts, paler crescents on underparts, less contrasting ear coverts and indistinct crown pattern. (Photo: Nigel Blake) Isabelline Shrike: Burnham Norton, Norfolk. Daurian Shrike is the commoner of the two forms to have been recorded in Britain, although identification of 1st-winters is trcky some can be separated from Turkestan Shrikes. A review of past records by the BBRC is ongoing in a bid to assign birds to form (species?); split by the Dutch, but not by the BOURC. (Photo: Mike Lawrence)

A Red-flanked Bluetail was present in a private Caister-on-Sea (Nofolk) garden on 27th. Two Pied Wheatears proved deservedly popular. A 1st-winter male was at Waxham (Norfolk) from 23rd-26th and another 1st-winter male was at Collieston (Aberdeenshire) from 25th-28th. A Desert Wheatear was on Lundy (Devon) on 26th. Isabelline Shrikes considered to be of the form isabellinus (split by some authorities and known as Daurian Shrike) were on St. Martin’s (Scilly) from 23rd-26th and at Burnham Norton (Norfolk) from 26th-27th. An Arctic Warbler was a late find on St. Martin’s on 28th, a 1st-winter male Siberian Stonechat was at Titchwell RSPB (Norfolk) from 24-27th and a possible Blyth’s Pipit was on Out Skerries (Shetland) from 25th-26. A small influx of Penduline Tits included 5 at Dungeness RSPB (Kent) on 24th, one at Grove Ferry (Kent) on 26th, and 2 at Lodmoor RSPB (Dorset), also on 26th.

Dusky Warbler: Fairhaven Lake, Lancs. An excellent west coast find. (Photo: Phillip Tomkinson) Pallas’s Warbler: Easington, E. Yorks. Almost 50 birds delighted birders again this week. (Photo: Bill Aspin)

Little Bunting: Walsey Hills, Norfolk. Birds have been few and far between this autumn, so this obliging bird from the 15th has been a nice diversion for birders travelling to Norfolk for rarities over the past week or so. (Photo: Mike Lawrence) Black Redstart: Vazon Bay, Guernsey. This bird was trapped and appeared to show features of the form phoenicuroides, with no 'obvious' hybrid characters. (Photo: M. Lawlor)

Record numbers of Hume's Warblers continue to be picked out from the mass of ‘sprites’ this autumn. There were 6 new birds this week, with Norfolk accommodating birds at Waxham from 26th-27th, Hemsby on 25th and Titchwell RSPB from 26th-27th. Elsewhere, singles were at Gibraltar Point (Lincs) from 23rd-28th, Cot Valley (Cornwall) from 25th-26th, Flamborough Head (E. Yorks) from 23rd-24th and Kilnsea (E. Yorks) from 26th-29th; birds in Suffolk remained at Sizewell to 23rd and Southwold to 27th. The week produced 5 new Dusky Warblers, with one at Fairhaven Lake (Lancs) from 23rd-24th being noteworthy. Others were seen at Out Skerries, Waxham, Brotton (Cleveland) and Filey (N. Yorks), with birds from last week at Hemsby and Foula. Four Olive-backed Pipits included one on Fair Isle on 23rd, with 2 on 24th and one on 26th, one on St. Martin’s on 24th and one on St. Agnes from 27th-28th, with the bird on St. Mary’s remaining to 26th. Superb numbers of ‘sprites’ continued to be found, with at least 48 Pallas's Warblers during the week and just under 100 Yellow-browed Warblers. Other scarcities included 3 Arctic Redpolls on Shetland, 4 Hoopoes, at least 27 Richard’s Pipits, 2 Bluethroats, 4 Barred Warblers, around 17 Great Grey Shrikes, lingering Red-backed Shrike, 4 Rose-coloured Starlings, 7 Red-breasted Flycatchers and 4 Little Buntings. A Black Redstart on Guernsey at Vazon Bay appeared to show some features of an Eastern bird, and was in appearance similar to a recent bird in The Netherlands. Waxwings continued to arrive in good numbers with double-figure flocks in a number of Scottish locations. The largest flocks reported were 40 at Rhu (Argyll) on 27th and 40 in Aberdeen on 29th. With good numbers along the coast of Norway, more can be expected.

Great Grey Shrike: Bempton, E. Yorks. At least 17 during the week, most at traditional inland wintering sites. (Photo: Barry Byatt) Red-backed Shrike: Knockadoon Head, Co. Cork. A late bird present from the 19th, Isabelline Shrikes tend to outnumber Red-backed at this time of year. (Photo: Paul and Andrea Kelly)

Waxwing: Forres, Moray and Nairn. It seems quite a long time since part of a winter period did not contain good numbers of these delightful birds, which prove ever-popular for birders and the public alike. (Photo: A Jensen)

A Solitary Sandpiper was a great find on Lewis (Outer Hebrides) from 23rd-25th; there have been just a handful of previous Scottish records. Lesser Yellowlegs were at Tregaron Bog (Ceredigion) on 26th, one was on the Gann Estuary (Pembs) on 27th and the bird on the Hayle Estuary (Cornwall) was still present. An American Golden Plover was at Bressingham (Norfolk) and the juvenile was again on Islay (Argyll), with the White-rumped Sandpiper remaining on South Uist (Outer Hebrides) to 25th. Half-a-dozen Pectoral Sandpipers were reported during the week. A Gull-billed Tern was at Sennen (Cornwall) on 25th and a Forster's Tern at Nethertown (Co. Wexford) on 26th. The Redhead returned to Kenfig (Glamorgan) and a White-tailed Eagle passing Hunstanton (Norfolk) on 28th must have been an impressive sight.

Solitary Sandpiper: Lewis, Outer Hebs. The fourth for Scotland and second for the Outer Hebrides. (Photo: Martin Scott) Solitary Sandpiper: Lewis, Outer Hebs. (Photo: Martin Scott)

Grey Phalarope: Bawdsey, Suffolk. Approachable birds away from the coast always prove popular, and of course obligingly photogenic. (Photo: Bill Baston) Spotted Crake: Wormleighton Reservoir, Warks. It’s been a poor autumn for these charismatic crakes. (Photo: Nic Hallam)

With Ovenbird in Norway and Black-throated Green Warbler in Iceland during the week, might that mega ‘yank’ still be on the cards during an excellent autumn for vagrants?

Pallas’s Warbler
Pallas’s Warbler: Southwold, Suffolk. The record tally of 171 birds in 1997 will surely fall following the spectacular events of the autumn. (Photo: Bill Baston)
Written by: Russell Slack