Review of the Week: 23rd-29th September 2004

Cream-coloured Courser: St. Martin’s, Scilly. (Photo: Roy Harvey) Cream-coloured Courser: St. Martin’s, Scilly. (Photo: Roy Harvey)

The autumn continues to progress in a steady fashion with below-average numbers of rarities and scarcities, interspersed with the occasional five-star rarity. This week ran to form with two megas and a couple of notable rarities on Shetland.

Pride of place goes to a Cream-coloured Courser on the Isles of Scilly. An inhabitant of semi-desert areas from North Africa eastwards to southwest Asia, it is an extremely rare vagrant to Britain with just over 30 records. There have been just six records since 1958, the last of which was a 1st winter at Hadleigh Marsh (Essex) from 29th September to 2nd October 1984. The Essex individual was extremely popular at the time and has remained a 'blocker' for those who saw it for almost 20 years to the day, though one on Guernsey in October 1995 gave a new generation of birders hope that another might be a possibility one day. When news broke of a 1st-winter on St. Agnes (Scilly) on Tuesday 28th it had many making hasty travel arrangements to the islands, which by their own high standards have had a quiet autumn so far. Unfortunately it was only seen for a few hours early afternoon on the 28th before being flushed by cows. With no sign the following morning it seemed as though the bird had gone, but many will have breathed a sigh of relief when it was finally relocated on St. Martin's later in the day, where it has been showing well since.

Western Sandpiper: Brownsea Island, Dorset. (Photo: John Dickenson)

The 2nd mega of the week came in the shape of a juvenile Western Sandpiper on Brownsea Island (Dorset) from Wednesday 29th onwards. Although there are just 10 previous British and Irish records, twitchable individuals in each of the years between 1996 and 1999 have ensured that many keen listers have seen the species. The most popular, and accessible, individual was one at Musselburgh Lagoon (Lothian) from at least 9th-25th August 1997. Given the westerly airflow for most of September an ultra-rare American wader will not come as much of a surprise for many; perhaps there are others waiting to be found?

High pressure slipping over Scandinavia over the past few days has provided a window of opportunity for east coast watchers and those on the Northern Isles. Results were almost instantaneous, with a male Red-flanked Bluetail on Fair Isle (Shetland) on Wednesday 29th. Also on Shetland, a juvenile Pallid Harrier was on Trondra from Sunday 25th-26th - juveniles have been seen on Shetland each September since 2001 and this superb raptor is an annual vagrant to the islands nowadays! A Red-throated Pipit was at Reskajeage Downs (Cornwall) on Monday 27th and an Arctic Redpollof the nominate race, hornemanni, was on Foula on Wednesday 29th, associated with Common Redpolls of Icelandic/Greenland origin. The Brown Shrike was last reported from Whalsay (Shetland) on Friday 24th and the Citrine Wagtail on the same island on Sunday 26th.

Lapland Bunting: Salthouse, Norfolk. (Photo: Kevin P. Elsby)

Melodious Warbler: Nanquidno, Cornwall. (Photo: Josh Jones) Rose-coloured Starling: Rousse, Guernsey. (Photo: Mark Lawlor)

Red-breasted Flycatcher: South Gare, Cleveland. (Photo: Ian Boustead)

Around 24 Yellow-browed Warblers crossed the North Sea to make landfall between Norfolk and Shetland on Wednesday 29th, with around a dozen Red-breasted Flycatchers the same day. A Richard's Pipit was on Bardsey (Gwynedd) on Monday 27th and a Marsh Warbler on Unst (Shetland) on the 28th had been ringed there on 4th September. An Aquatic Warbler was at Steart (Somerset) on 29th. As has been the case recently scarcities were in short supply, but there were eight Barred Warblers, a dozen Common Rosefinches, 10 Wrynecks, and three Bluethroats, plus a report of a Little Bunting from Fair Isle on the 29th. In addition, three Melodious Warblers were noted, two of which were from last week, plus Rose-coloured Starlings were seen at Old Head of Kinsale (Co. Cork) and Porthgwarra (Cornwall), with others at Rousse (Guernsey) from 26th-27th, St. Agnes from 26th-28th and Bideford (Devon) from 26th onwards. Five Short-toed Larks included one at Tremoncarragh Loch (Co. Mayo) on 23rd and 29th, Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) on 25th, Glencolmkille (Co. Donegal) from 27th-29th and singles on 29th on St. Mary's and Out Skerries (Shetland). Finally, around 25 Common Redpolls were noted on the Northern Isles and over 40 Lapland Buntings were reported, the majority on the Northern Isles.

Baird's Sandpiper: Flamborough Head, E. Yorks. (Photo: Jane Hanson) Baird's Sandpiper: Flamborough Head, E. Yorks. (Photo: Graham Catley)

Baird's Sandpiper: Butt of Lewis, Outer Hebrides. (Photo: Martin Scott) Red-necked Phalarope: Kelling WM, Norfolk. (Photo: Kit Day)

Lesser Yellowlegs: Drift Reservoir, Cornwall. (Photo: Josh Jones) Lesser Yellowlegs: Rutland Water, Leics. (Photo: Darren Chapman)

Rare waders continue to feature prominently on our news page. A Wilson's Phalarope was at Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) from Friday 24th-25th, where there was also a Spotted Sandpiper from 25th-26th, plus the juvenile is still present at Listowel (Co. Kerry). The Lesser Yellowlegs at Stiffkey (Norfolk) was last reported on 24th, with it, or another, at Rutland Water (Leics) from 25th onwards and another at Drift Reservoir (Cornwall) from 25th onwards. The flood of Baird's Sandpipers continues, with birds at Buckenham Marshes (Norfolk) to 25th and Minsmere (Suffolk) through the week, plus singles at Stithians Reservoir (Cornwall) from 24th-27th, Carrahane Strand (Co. Kerry) on 24th, Rosscarbery (Co. Cork) from 25th-26th, Butt of Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 26th and Flamborough Head (E. Yorks) from 27th onwards. Three juvenile American Golden Plovers included birds on South Uist (Outer Hebrides) from 25th-29th, Lady's Islands Lake (Co. Wexford) on 25th and Papa Westray (Orkney) on 27th. A White-rumped Sandpiper was at Hickling Broad (Norfolk) from 23rd-25th and another reported from Montrose (Angus/Dundee) on 25th. The Semipalmated Sandpiper was last reported from Drift Reservoir on the 23rd and the juvenile on The Mullet (Co. Mayo) was still present on the 29th. There was a Red-necked Phalarope at Kelling WM (Norfolk) from 23rd-25th and around 40 Grey Phalaropes were noted on seawatches, including 13 passing Ramore Head (Co. Antrim) on the 23rd. Elsewhere, there was a Pacific Golden Plover reported from St. Mary's Island (Northumberland) on Saturday 25th with a Broad-billed Sandpiper reported from Salthouse (Norfolk) the same day. The Terek Sandpiper is still at Blennerville (Co. Kerry) as is the Long-billed Dowitcher at Gibraltar Point (Lincs). A Temminck's Stint was at Dungeness (Kent) on 25th, Pectoral Sandpipers crept into double figures and nine Buff-breasted Sandpipers included three on St. Mary's. A total of seven Dotterel were noted and a small Curlew at Minsmere (Suffolk) from Tuesday 28th onwards generated interest, but would appear to be a bird of the race orientalis.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper: St. Mary's Scilly. (Photo: Martin Goodey)

Spotted Sandpiper: Tacumshin, Co. Wexford. (Photo: Paul and Andrea Kelly) Spotted Sandpiper: Tacumshin, Co. Wexford. (Photo: Paul and Andrea Kelly)

Pectoral Sandpiper: Toft Newton Reservoir, Lincs. (Photo: Graham Catley)

Pectoral Sandpiper: Toft Newton Reservoir, Lincs. (Photo: Dean Eades) Pectoral Sandpiper: Rogerstown, Co. Dublin. (Photo: Paul and Andrea Kelly)

A Black Kite was at Pleinmont (Guernsey) from 25th-26th and a Purple Heron was at East Mersea (Essex) from 28th onwards. A Great White Egret was in E. Sussex and the long-staying bird remains in Glamorgan/Carmarthenshire. Two adult and two juvenile Lesser White-fronted Geese of unknown origin were at Tyrham GPs (S. Yorks), and it was a good week for geese movement with good numbers of Pink-footed Geese arriving and a movement of Barnacle Geese along the northeast coast; a Lesser Canada Goose was amongst Pinkfeet at Holkham (Norfolk) on 28th and 29th. Seabird passage continued to entertain seawatchers in the Northwest and along the east coast, with Leach's Storm-petrels leading the way. Inland birds were at Broomhill Flash (S. Yorks) and Staines Reservoir (Surrey), with one at Battersea (London) and over 50 Sabine's Gulls were noted, including inland birds at Kingsmill Reservoir (Notts) and Old Moor (S. Yorks) on the 25th. A White-winged Black Tern was at Titchfield Haven (Hants) on the 26th and the Bonaparte's Gull was at Thurso (Highland) to at least the 25th. Finally, a Laughing Gull was reported passing Gibraltar Point (Lincs) on Friday 24th and Spotted Crakes were noted at Bowling Green Marsh (Devon) and Tresco (Scilly).

Sabine's Gull: Old Moor, S. Yorks. (Photo: Keith Pickering) Sabine's Gull: Old Moor, S. Yorks. (Photo: Keith Pickering)

Leach's Storm-petrel: New Brighton, Cheshire. (Photo: Sue Tranter) Manx Shearwater: Leasowe, Cheshire. (Photo: Steve Round)

Black Tern: Fairhaven, Lancs. (Photo: Karl Johnson) Great Skua: Queen Mother Reservoir, Berks. (Photo: Jerry O'Brien)
Many of the images that appear in our weekly reviews can be purchased from the photographers, some of whom have their own websites:

Bill Aspin: http://www.eastlancashirebirding.net
Ian Barnard: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/sussex.birder
Bill Baston: http://billbaston.com
Steve Blain: http://www.steveblain.co.uk
Nigel Blake: http://www.nigelblake.co.uk
Will Bowell: http://www.geocities.com/wbowell/
Paul Bowerman: http://mysite.freeserve.com/severnsidebirds
Paul Bowyer: http://www.ukbirds.net
Andy Brett: http://www.freewebs.com/andybrett/
Martin Cade: http://www.portlandbirdobs.btinternet.co.uk
Mark Caunt: http://angusbirding.homestead.com/
Kit Day: http://www.kitday-uk.com/
Lee Dingain: http://www.leedingain.co.uk
Sean Gray: http://www.grayimages.co.uk
Peter Hadfield: http://www.manxbirdphotography.co.uk
Josh Jones: http://www.geocities.com/blgp_birder
John Judge: http://www.draycotebirding.co.uk
Paul and Andrea Kelly: http://www.irishbirdimages.com/
Jack Levene: http://www.birdingimages.com
John Malloy: http://mysite.freeserve.com/JohnMalloyBirdPhotos
Jerry O'Brien: http://www.BirdsofBerkshire.co.uk
James Packer: http://www.somersetbirder.co.uk
Tristan Reid: http://www.solwaybirder.org.uk
Steve Round: http://stevenround-birdphotography.com
Tom Shevlin: http://wildlifesnaps.com/
Matt Slaymaker: http://www.freewebs.com/slaymaker
Glen Tepke: http://www.pbase.com/gtepke
Phillip Tomkinson: http://www.philliptomkinson.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk
Stephen Tomlinson: http://www.digitalbirds.co.uk
Sue Tranter: http://www.suesbirdphotos.co.uk/
Steve Williams: http://www.hilbrebirdobs.co.uk
Chris Wormwell: http://www.iombirding.co.uk
Dylan Wrathall: http://www.planetthanet.org
Written by: Russell Slack