Review of the Week: 24th-31st August 2001


The week has generally been hot and sunny, with clear blue skies across much of the country. It has not been the warmest of summers, but it appears that summer 2001 wanted to go out in a little bit of style before we get on with the serious business of the autumn. Today is certainly more autumnal in nature with brisk north-westerlies running along the east coast providing a sharp contrast to the earlier part of the week.

Rarity-wise the week has been rather predictable. Bird of the week goes to an adult Sharp-tailed Sandpiper at Grove Ferry on the 30th and 31st, greedily the county's second of the autumn and yet another five-star addition to the list of mouthwatering goodies recorded at Grove Ferry. Elsewhere, a Great Snipe was on North Ronaldsay on the 25th and a typical smattering of Nearctic waders have included a Baird's Sandpiper on Anglesey, a White-rumped Sandpiper at Leighton Moss and a Lesser Yellowlegs on Tresco. A number of Dotterel have also been seen throughout the week. A couple of 'possibles' included a Lesser Kestrel claimed on St. Mary's and a Little Shearwater past Pendeen.

Drifting conditions throughout much of the week have facilitated the arrival of small numbers of scarce migrants, predominantly Wrynecks, Barred Warblers and Red-backed Shrikes, with a scattering of Common Rosefinches on the Northern Isles. Surprisingly there has been just one Ortolan Bunting, a grim testimony to the rarity of this species nowadays. Associated with this were two Yellow-breasted Buntings, both typically in the Northern Isles, a male Isabelline Shrike of the race phoenicuroides on Lundy and the Booted Warbler that remained on St. Agnes for most of the week.

The warm days provided ideal conditions for 'skywatchers' and good numbers of raptors were evident throughout. Honey Buzzards featured in a number of reports, nearly all of which were fly-throughs. However, even after the events of last autumn, observers cannot afford to get complacent with this species, and we would urge anyone fortunate enough to encounter a bird over their patch to take full notes and submit them to their county recorder. It's amazing how many birds in last year's influx were 'assumed' to be this species or were backed up with sub-standard descriptions, with the result that this unique influx of Common Buzzards and Honey Buzzards has been inadequately documented.

Bizarre tale of the week probably concerns the 'Nottinghamshire ratite' (ratites are cassowaries, emus, ostriches and rheas). This innocent bundle of legs started off life as a possible Great White Egret, before it undertook a tricky metamorphosis to a leucistic species of rhea wandering the farmland of rural Nottinghamshire. Slightly easier to identify was the Sedge Warbler seen by two observers following a bus in rural Sheffield who were amazed to see a bird fluttering against the back window to the oblivion of the passengers on board. Does this mean that we can look forward to 'bus-assisted' vagrants!!

Written by: Russell Slack, BirdGuides