Review of the Week: 25th-31st October 2007


The week at a glance

Pine Bunting: Fair Isle (photo: Mark Breaks)

Rose-breasted Grosbeak: St. Agnes, Scilly (photo: James Packer)

Wilson's Snipe: St. Mary's, Scilly (photo: Richard Stonier)

As the clocks went back and the final days of October ticked away, one of the very favourite months for many birdwatchers eased its way towards November. The cream of the rarity crop were to be found, as is often the case, on our far-flung islands at the far north and west of the country. Still attracting star billing was the first winter male Rose-breasted Grosbeak on St. Agnes (Scilly) which remained until 29th, much to the delight of many of the "half-termers" present on the islands for "Teacher's Week", but has not been reported since. The second Wilson's Snipe of the autumn remained, present and correct, around the pools on Lower Moors, St. Mary's (Scilly) and, just as with the first individual of the autumn, was well photographed to present the British Birds Rarities Committee with another identification conundrum to ponder. Some thousand miles or so to the north, a super male Pine Bunting was discovered lurking on Fair Isle (Shetland) on 25th and remained until 29th at least. A Blyth's Pipit was discovered on the same island on 27th, the second record in Shetland this autumn, but was sadly picked up dead later on the day of discovery. Faring a little better was yet another American Buff-bellied Pipit, in an outstanding autumn for the species, discovered at Ballycotton (Co. Cork) on 31st. Back on Shetland, the Killdeer continued its residency around the Pool of Virkie on Mainland until at least the 28th.

Out at sea, the summer-plumaged White-billed Diver reappeared again off Selsey Bill (E. Sussex) on 25th-26th. On the latter date, two late Great Shearwaters passed Galley Head (Co. Cork). Little Auks have been few and far between so far this autumn, so seven off Labost, Lewis (Western Isles) 29th were noteworthy, as were the nine Leach's Petrel past the same site, on the same seawatch on the same date. A late juvenile Long-tailed Skua flew by Strumble Head (Pembrokeshire) on 29th.

Great White Egret: Leighton Moss, Lancs (photo: Damian Waters)

Spoonbill: Brownsea Island, Dorset (photo: Chris Cook)

At least six or seven Great White Egrets were seen during the week, with the two around the saltings of Lodge Marsh, Wells (Norfolk) proving most popular over the weekend of 27th-28th. Other records came from Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Oxfordshire (a county first) and the Western Isles. The juvenile Purple Heron was still present around the Meare Heath area (Somerset) on 26th and again on 29th, while a Common Crane drifted over Dawlish Warren and then Stokenham (Devon) on 26th. What was presumably the same bird was seen at Thurlestone (Devon) on 28th. The long-staying Glossy Ibis remained at Marshside Marsh RSPB (Lancashire) until at least 30th. Spoonbill numbers tailed off a little, with the peak count at Brownsea Island NT (Dorset) of 13 on 27th being half the number seen there during the previous week. Seven birds at Wacker Quay (Cornwall) on 26th were also of note.

Snow Goose: Kilconquhar Loch, Fife (photo: John Anderson)

Lesser Scaup: Blagdon Lake, Somerset (photo: John Martin)

Ring-necked Duck: St. Mary's, Scilly (photo: Richard Stonier)

With each passing week of the autumn, numbers of geese and ducks heading into the country continues to rise, but the focus remained, primarily, on birds that had already made landfall in previous weeks. The two adult Ross's Geese around Aberlady Bay (Lothian) remained to at least 27th, with a further Scottish sighting at Crailing (Borders) on 31st. In Norfolk, single birds were at Holkham Freshmarsh (Norfolk) from 26th-30th and at Chedgrave Marshes (Norfolk) on 30th. A blue-morph Snow Goose was seen again near Kilconquhar Loch (Fife) on 28th and 31st, with what may well have been the same bird seen east of Stranraer (Dumfries and Galloway) on 29th. The roaming white-morph adult Snow Goose was back at Holkham (Norfolk) on 30th-31st, where the Lesser White-fronted Goose (of unknown origin) was still to be found to at least 29th, in the presence of both Greylag and White-fronted Geese. A flock of 53 Greenland White-fronted Geese flying by North Queensferry (Fife) on 29th was certainly of note. In north Norfolk, a single Black Brant was reported during the week, but with hybrid adults present along the coast, there was some potential for confusion. A Richardson's Canada Goose was seen amongst Barnacle Geese on Islay (Argyll) on the 26th while a Lesser Canada Goose was seen at Loch of Skene (Aberdeenshire) on 27th. A drake American Wigeon was at Yelland (Devon) on 31st, and the adult female Blue-winged Teal found last week at Bull Island (Dublin) was still present to 27th at least. Another Blue-winged Teal was reported, belatedly, on 20th, at Kilkerin (Co. Mayo). A drake Ferruginous Duck was again seen at Chew Valley Lake (Somerset) on 28th. A quartet of drake Lesser Scaups remained throughout the week, at Blagdon Lake (Somerset) to 27th, at Stourton (Wiltshire) on 27th-29th at least, at Woolhampton gravel pits (Berks) on from at least 29th-31st, and at Inch Island Lake (Co. Donegal) on 27th (with a pair of Ring-necked Ducks there for company). Two more Ring-necked Ducks were reported from Lough Fern (Co.Donegal) on 26th, while the resident male was still in Somerset to 27th at least, while two females made landfall on North Uist (Western Isles) on 29th. Drake Green-winged Teals remained at Inner Marsh Farm RSPB (Cheshire) to 26th and at Marshside RSPB (Lancashire) to 28th. Of particular note were the three drakes, seen together, at Inch Island Lake (Co. Donegal) on 28th. Following the report of a Surf Scoter from Lough Swilly (Co. Donegal) on 27th, a drake was in Largo Bay (Fife) on 30th, along with two juveniles in Studland Bay (Dorset) on the same date.

In Scotland, a wing-tagged White-tailed Eagle was at Friockheim (Angus/Dundee) on 29th. The Black Kite remained around the Nocton Heath area (Lincolnshire) throughout the week, and may perhaps be content to reside there for some while to come. Another Black Kite was reported from Reculver (Kent) on 30th. Just as with last week, the mini Rough-legged Buzzard invasion continued, with a very distant bird at East Hills, Wells (Norfolk) from at least 25th-27th proving most popular (though its cause was helped by the two Great White Egrets on the marshes in front of it!) Up to eight more were reported, mainly from Suffolk and Kent, including two on the Isle of Sheppey on 30th.

American Golden Plover: Aberlady Bay, Lothian (photo: Mike Thrower)

Spotted Sandpiper: Llanishen Reservoir, Glamorgan (photo: Steve Hinton)

Waders continued to attract a great deal of interest with five American Golden Plovers still up for grabs during the week, with the bird at Aberlady Bay (Lothian) proving to be a rather photogenic individual, and still in situ to 31st. The juvenile Spotted Sandpiper continued to perform nicely on the banks of Lisvane Reservoir (Glamorgan) from 25th- 31st, while the juvenile Long-billed Dowitcher continued to show itself along the River Clyst at Bowling Green RSPB (Devon) from 25th to 30th at least. A juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs was found at Minsmere RSPB (Suffolk) on 30th, but proved to be a one-day bird only. Three Pectoral Sandpipers were noted: at Nosterfield Quarry (N. Yorks) on 27th-29th, one (trapped and ringed) at the Montrose Basin (Angus/Dundee) and another at Lound gravel pits (Notts) on 30th. A dozen Grey Phalaropes were reported, including five past Labost, Lewis (Western Isles) on 29th, while a White-rumped Sandpiper was a new arrival at Kenfig (Glamorgan) on 29th-31st.

Ring-billed Gull: Gosport, Hants (photo: Trevor Carpenter)

Forster's Tern: Cruisetown Strand, Louth (photo: Enda Flynn)

An adult Bonaparte's Gull was seen in Ardmore Bay (Co. Waterford) on 27th-28th. Of the eight Ring-billed Gulls seen during the week five were regular fixtures - adults at Stromness (Orkney), Dingwall (Highland) on 31st, Walpole (Hants) and Westcliff-on-Sea (Essex), with a returning third-winter at Crosby (Merseyside) on 29th. A first-winter Laughing Gull was an excellent find on the creek banks alongside the Mucking Flats, near Stanford le Hope (Essex) on 26th. The bird flew towards the tip not to be relocated. Intriguingly, a first-winter Laughing Gull was seen in the roost at Fidwell Fen (Cambs) later that same day, some 80 miles to the north-west. Whether the same bird or not, it was the third record for landlocked Cambridgeshire within the past twelve months. Another first-winter Laughing Gull was seen around St. Mary's (Scilly) on 30th. Far less easy to identify (with any degree of certainty) was the probable adult Baltic Gull at the gull roost at Ogston Reservoir (Derbyshire) on the evening of 27th. As many observers now know, the best identification criteria for this distinctive form, a nice Finnish colour-ring, is tough to find. A juvenile Sabine's Gull was seen from Elie (Fife) on 26th, and four more were noted (in the Western Isles, Devon, Suffolk and Co. Clare) on 29th with the Suffolk bird (near Bawdsey) remaining to 30th. A Forster's Tern was found at Cruisetown Strand (Co. Louth) on 29th, while the mobile juvenile White-winged Black Tern was still to be found around Loch of Skene (Aberdeenshire) until 29th.

Pallas's Warbler: Hartland Point, Devon (photo: Jon Turner)

Great Grey Shrike: Stiffkey, Norfolk (photo: Michael Hunt)

There was a belated report from Suffolk of a Hoopoe near Hadleigh on 20th, but with no sign since. A Red-rumped Swallow was seen on Guernsey on 26th, while two further Red-rumped Swallows managed to veer much further around the west coast, arriving on Tory Island, (Co. Donegal) on 27th-28th, with another, even further north, near the Butt of Lewis (Western Isles) on 28th. A fourth bird was found on St. Mary's (Scilly); also on 28th. Just four Richard's Pipits were reported during the week with a Red-throated Pipit seen briefly at Porth Hellick, St. Mary's (Scilly) on 27th. An Olive-backed Pipit was discovered late in the day; also on 27th, lurking in the taiga-like confines of the Dell in Wells Woods (Norfolk), and was still present, though ultra-elusive, to 29th.

Four Dusky Warblers appeared during the week, at Bishopstone Gate (Kent) from 25th-29th, on St. Agnes (Scilly) from 25th-29th, at Spurn (E. Yorks) from 26th-28th and on the Lizard (Cornwall) on 27th. Numbers of Pallas's Warblers slumped to just eight, with three of these along the Yorkshire coast. At least 30 Yellow-browed Warblers were seen, including five on Tresco (Scilly) on 27th, as well as one still in London and another on Tiree (Argyll) on 27th. Five Barred Warblers were seen during the week across the country (including Cornwall to the west, Hampshire to the south, Norfolk to the east and Shetland to the north). The male Subalpine Warbler remained on Fair Isle (Shetland) to at least 29th. Some 15 or more Great Grey Shrikes were seen during the week, widely scattered, but they did include two together at Holkham Freshmarsh (Norfolk) on 27th and two in Ashdown Forest (W. Sussex) on 29th. A first-winter Red-backed Shrike was at Abbotsbury Swannery (Dorset) on 30th, while the Bluethroat lingered until 29th on Fair Isle (Shetland).

Red-breasted Flycatcher: St. Mary's, Scilly (photo: David H Hatton)

"Hornemann's" Arctic Redpoll: The Mullet, Mayo

The week's only Red-breasted Flycatcher was found on St. Mary's (Scilly) on 31st. Staying on Silly, three Penduline Tits were reported from the south side of the Abbey Pool, Tresco on 26th, but not seen subsequently. A Serin flew over Durlston Country Park (Dorset) on 30th (along with over 8,000 Woodpigeons). Two Hornemann's Arctic Redpolls were on the Mullet (Co. Mayo) on 30th, while four birds at near Carrigaholt (Co. Clare) were thought to be Coues' Arctic Redpolls. A Little Bunting was at Spurn (E. Yorks) on 26th, while an Ortolan Bunting was seen on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 28th. Finally, the Common Rosefinch on the Gower Peninsula (Glamorgan) remained to at least 30th, with another found near Carrigaholt (Co. Clare) on 30th-31st.

Photo of the Week

Bittern (Photo: Bob Tomlin)

Bitterns are one of those species that many people have never seen. To see one, you normally have to visit one of a few special locations, where you'd be lucky to catch more than a glimpse at the edge of a reedbed. Close-range flypasts are very unusual, so Bob's sharp, well-lit flight shot is a good example of what makes many of the best bird photos: a lot of luck combined with a lot of skill.

Other notable photos

Nuthatch: Wyre Forest, Warks (Photo: Mark Hancox)

Wilson's Snipe: St. Mary's, Scilly (Photo: Richard Stonier)

Chough: Slea Head, Kerry (photo: Peter Williams)

Ring Ouzel and Blackbird, Claerwen Reservoir, Powys (Photo: Kev Joynes)

Night Heron, Coulby Newham, Cleveland (Photo: Liz Musgrove)

Fieldfare, Ringstone Edge Reservoir, W Yorks (Photo: Sean Grey)

Kea, Mackinnon Pass, New Zealand (Photo: Ian Hirst)

Magnificent Frigatebird, Galápagos (Photo: Andrew Moon)

Waved Albatross, Galápagos (Photo: Andrew Moon)

Many of the images that appear in our weekly reviews can be purchased from the photographers, some of whom have their own websites:

John Anderson: http://www.pbase.com/crail_birder
Bill Aspin: http://billaspinsnatureblog.blogspot.com
Mike Atkinson: http://mikeatkinson.net
Richard Bedford: http://www.richardbedford.co.uk
Steve Blain: http://www.steveblain.co.uk
Will Bowell: http://www.wanderingbirders.com
Paul Bowerman: http://www.severnsidebirds.co.uk
Paul Bowyer: http://www.birdlist.co.uk
Graham Catley: http://pewit.blogspot.com/
Mark Caunt: http://www.AngusBirding.com
Dean Eades: http://www.deaneadeswildlifephotography.co.uk
Andrew Easton: http://home.clara.net/ammodytes/
Graham Eaton: http://www.eatonphotography.co.uk
Stuart Elsom: http://www.stuartelsom.co.uk
Steve Evans: http://www.isabelline.co.uk
Katie Fuller: http://bogbumper.blogspot.com
Ian Fulton: http://www.pbase.com/ianfulton
Sean Gray: http://www.grayimages.co.uk
David Hatton: http://www.kowapower.com
Josh Jones: http://www.wanderingbirders.com
Paul and Andrea Kelly: http://www.irishbirdimages.com/
Matt Latham: http://www.mattlathamphotography.com
Micky Maher: http://www.aardfoto.co.uk/
John Malloy: http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/johnmalloy
Brian Mcgeough: http://www.brianmcgeough.com/
Tony Mills: http://www.notjustbirds.com
Jerry O'Brien: http://www.BirdsofBerkshire.co.uk
Mark Newsome: http://www.durhambirdclub.org/
James Packer: http://www.somersetbirder.co.uk
Mike Pennington: http://www.nature.shetland.co.uk
Ken Plows: http://www.kenswildlifepics.co.uk
Ray Purser: http://www.pbase.com/02purser
Marc Read: http://www.marcread-pix.com
Tristan Reid: http://www.atricillaimages.co.uk/
Steve Round: http://stevenround-birdphotography.com
Craig Shaw: http://craigsukbirdpictures.bravehost.com/
Tom Shevlin: http://wildlifesnaps.com/
Peter Simpson: http://www.blueskybirds.co.uk
Matt Slaymaker: http://www.mattslaymaker.co.uk
Oliver Smart: http://www.smartimages.co.uk
George Spraggs: http://www.bird-watching.co.uk
Richard Steel: http://wildlifephotographic.bblogspot.com/
Richard Stonier: http://www.birdsonline.co.uk
Stephen Tomlinson: http://stevesbirding.blogspot.com
Sue Tranter: http://www.suesbirdphotos.co.uk/
Damian Waters: http://www.drumimages.co.uk
Steve Williams: http://www.hilbrebirdobs.co.uk
Simon Wilson: http://www.bakewellbirder.co.uk/
Chris Wormwell: http://www.iombirding.co.uk
Dylan Wrathall: http://www.planetthanet.org
Written by: Mark Golley