Unsettled weather dominated by gusty westerlies and southwesterlies meant meagre pickings for rarity hunters and yet another week without any hint of fall conditions along the east coast. Many seasoned east-coast patch birders have already started to comment that it has been the worst spring for some time. Time is running out, with just a week or two to go to redress that!
The find of the week was unusual in that it was both inland and a wader. A diminutive Least Sandpiper was found on pits in southern Staffordshire late on the 23rd and remained to the 25th. During its stay it also journeyed across the border into Warwickshire. There have only been 38 accepted records of this rare Nearctic peep. This was the first since a juvenile in East Yorkshire in 1999, but more surprisingly it as the 2nd for Staffordshire following a bird in 1971. There have also been inland records in Berkshire, Worcestershire and Derbyshire - clearly it is worth checking inland stints very carefully! By a extraordinary coincidence the Least Sandpiper was replaced on Sunday by a Pectoral Sandpiper, causing a few short-lived difficulties for some - never take anything for granted in birding!
A Lesser Grey Shrike at Dawlish Warren (Devon) on 26th proved attractive for many newer rarity enthusiasts as sightings have been a bit thin on the ground in recent years, and spring birds more so. A Tree Swallow reported on Unst (Shetland), will, if accepted, be only the 2nd sighting of the species in the Western Palearctic; the first was on Scilly from 6th-10th June 1990. Another probable involved a Little Swift in Cornwall. Elsewhere, large' birds dominated the news page, with a Black Stork lingering in Norfolk and another reported in Aberdeenshire. Several Great White Egrets were seen, and a Cattle Egret was present in Somerset, whilst there were several mobile parties of Spoonbills and Little Egrets wandering widely. Concluding the 'large' theme, Purple Herons were seen in Carmarthen, Northumberland and London and the 2nd-summer Night Heron remained in Norfolk with another in Herefordshire. On the Isle of Man a King Eider was the first record for the island, whilst the female remained in Lothian. Waders were represented by Lesser Yellowlegs in both Carmarthen and Pembroke and the Pectoral Sandpiper again appeared briefly in Lancashire. Superb Red-necked Phalaropes were located in Hertfordshire/Buckinghamshire, Norfolk and Lancashire, whilst the 4 Black-winged Stilts in South Devon clearly find the conditions to their liking. Long-stayers included the Whiskered Tern in Manchester, Ross's Gull on Shetland, Great Reed Warbler in Surrey and the Lesser Kestrel on Scilly to at least the weekend.
Less-than-favourable conditions ensured that scarce migrants were kept to a minimum, though a handful of typically late migrants had been noted by the end of the week: half a dozen Common Rosefinches, including an adult male in Norfolk, three Marsh Warblers and a Red-breasted Flycatcher on North Uist. Backup was confined largely to the Northern Isles, and tallies of half a dozen Icterine Warblers and Red-backed Shrikes, plus a single Bluethroat, Short-toed Lark and Tawny Pipit hinted at the lack of scarcities at many coastal 'hotspots'. A splash of colour was provided by at least 15 Golden Orioles, whilst 3 European Bee-eaters included one in Cambridgeshire, and three Woodchat Shrikes were on Scilly. The blustery conditions with winds from a westerly vector ensured that once again seawatchers along the west coast were able to enjoy themselves. A superb skua passage was noted off Balranald on the 25th with 450 Long-tailed Skuas and 625 Pomarine Skuas. Good numbers of Pomarine Skuas were also noted through Bowness-on-Solway and Galway during the week, whilst 5 Sabine's Gulls were reported off the Outer Hebrides.
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