Review of the Week: 25th-31st July 2002


A strange week with some exceptionally high temperatures and a brief glimpse of summer, followed by a monsoon-type deluge and flooding in many places! Bird of the week belonged to an adult Red-necked Stint found at Ballycotton (Co. Cork) on 31st. This is the second record for the site, and follows a bird there in 1998. If accepted this will be the 8th for Britain and Ireland and the fourth since 1998. Perhaps just one or two birds have been involved in the recent run of records, the most popular of which was undoubtedly last year's individual in Cambridgeshire.

Although there have been in the region of 40 presumed Fea’s Petrels seen in British and Irish waters so far, this fantastic seabird remains high on most birders' ‘wanted’ list, with last year's bird from the Scillonian fuelling this desire for those not fortunate enough to have been on the boat. Almost expected nowadays, the first of the year were seen this week, with birds, presumably Fea’s, seen off North Ronaldsay and Porthgwarra. This remains the Holy Grail for ardent seawatchers, and with records annually since 1989, these two records bring most birders’ dream seabird even closer to reality. Predicting where and when is never easy, though a protracted effort through August and early September off southern Ireland or a North Sea promontory have got to be the best bet. June and July records are not without precedent and fit nicely into the emerging occurrence pattern. Larger shearwaters were evident in numbers for the first time this year in the southwest, with 41 Cory's Shearwaters off St. Mary’s (Isles of Scilly) on 28th, and 55 past Porthgwarra on the same day, with smaller numbers of Great Shearwaters associated with the movement. A gathering of at least 8 Wilson's Petrels from a pelagic off the Isles of Scilly was noteworthy, but treats for seawatchers along the east coast were in short supply, the highlight being a Sabine's Gull past Barns Ness.

Wader buffs had plenty to keep them occupied during the week. A Terek Sandpiper in Cumbria was a first for the county, but was present only for the evening of the 29th. A Kentish Plover in Devon was more predictable, whilst elsewhere, the Marsh Sandpiper in Cheshire and Stilt Sandpiper in Hampshire continue their temporary residence. Three Pectoral Sandpipers were seen, and the White-rumped Sandpiper remained at Titchwell into the early part of the week. Other highlights included two Great White Egrets together in Dorset, Red-footed Falcons reported in Norfolk and Staffordshire and the first Spotted Crakes of the 'autumn' in Dorset and Conwy. A Gull-billed Tern was reported at the Point of Ayr, and fly-through Bee-eaters in Suffolk and Norfolk. Signs of autumn came in the shape of an Icterine Warbler in Suffolk and a Melodious Warbler in Dorset, with the Arctic Warbler seen again on Fair Isle.

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The long-staying White-headed Duck and Canvasback were both seen during the week, as was the Ferruginous Duck in Essex. Another potentially rare duck of unknown origin was added to this trio in the shape of a Marbled Duck in West Yorkshire. Refreshingly, Surf Scoters past Flamborough Head and in Aberdeenshire leave no doubts as to their origins!

The prospects for the week ahead span seabirds through to waders. Roseate Terns have been regularly seen in Durham and Northumberland recently, and doubtless others will be associated with groups of commoner terns as they move along the coast. Early August offers the start of the 'Aquatic Warbler season', though most tend to be the prize of ringers in reedbeds along the south coast. However, there is always the possibility of a showy bird or two over the coming weeks, so keep an eye on our Bird News Extra page for the latest details.

Written by: Russell Slack