Review of the Week: 25th September-1st October 2008


The week at a glance:

A search for "new" megas on Bird News Extra this week returns an impressive total of 19 matching reports. However, on closer inspection many of these are "probables" and most referred to fleeting visits. Thursday 25th saw the bulk of the week's action, perhaps fortunately just too late for last week's already bumper review.

Siberian Thrush
Siberian Thrush, Fair Isle, Shetland (Photo: Mark Breaks)

Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler
Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, Fair Isle, Shetland (Photo: Mark Breaks)

Red-flanked Bluetail
Red-flanked Bluetail, North Ronaldsay, Orkney (Photo: Paul A Brown)

The Northern Isles produced the majority of the week's significant arrivals, with the male Siberian Thrush on Fair Isle perhaps the most obliging. This bird appeared on Thursday 25th, three days short of a year after the last report of this species, another male, on Foula in 2007. The first White's Thrush reports of the year came in, though neither will have been seen by many. The first, at Inishbofin in County Galway, was found on Sunday morning, 28th, but not seen subsequently. The second turned up on Wednesday 1st October on Fair Isle. The third Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler report of the year was unusual for the week, and the species, in not coming from the Northern Isles. Had it lingered at Donna Nook (Lincs), where it was found on the morning of Thursday 25th, it might have attracted a significant crowd, but it was not seen after the initial sighting: mainland occurrences of this species are still a rarity. Another was photographed on Fair Isle on Wednesday 1st. A Sykes's Warbler—the first for 5 years—turned up at Sumburgh Head (Shetland) on 25th; the bird lingered until the evening but there was no sign of it the following morning. It seems hard to credit the huge crowds that attended the famous Red-flanked Bluetail twitch at Winspit in Dorset in 1993. Nowadays this attractive species turns up annually: after last week's bird on Fair Isle, on a single day this week, Thursday 25th again, three birds appeared on our bird news services: one on Foula (Shetland); another on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) which lingered till Friday; and an unconfirmed report of a mainland bird at Titchwell (Norfolk). Foula added to its impressive roll-call with a Bobolink at Hametoun on Sunday 28th. The rest of the week's new megas were all "probables": a putative Thick-billed Warbler was located, but not seen subsequently, in an iris bed on Housay in the Out Skerries (Shetland) on Thursday 25th; a "mobile and elusive" Trumpeter Finch was claimed from the Kenidjack valley in Cornwall the same day; a probable 2nd-winter Audouin's Gull was on the sea off St. Aldhelm's Head (Dorset) on Saturday 27th; a small crake, provisionally identified as Little Crake, but possibly a Baillon's Crake, was at Hoswick (Shetland) the same day; an unidentified Frigatebird sp. was seen at sea off Jersey on Saturday 27th; an American Robin was claimed from a Strawberry Hill (London) garden on Monday 29th; and finally three probable "Eastern" Redstarts were reported (where else?) on Foula (Shetland) on Wednesday 1st.

Brown Shrike
Brown and Red-backed Shrikes, Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire (Photo: Steve Race)

Brown Shrike
Brown Shrike, Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire (Photo: Steve Evans)

Stilt Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper, Campfield Marsh RSPB, Cumbria (Photo: Frank Golding)

Of the megas found last week, a few lingered. The Brown Shrike at Flamborough Head (E. Yorks) was still present in the evening of Thursday 25th, but not since. Cumbria's Stilt Sandpiper was still present at Campfield Marsh to Wednesday 1st October (and late news was received of another at Glascoe Dubh on the Isle of Man on 17th September). Similarly, a late report of the Buff-bellied Pipit on St. Kilda to 22nd September was received on 30th. The Eastern Olivaceous Warbler was last seen on Foula on Friday 26th. The Brown Flycatcher on Fair Isle was last seen on the early morning of Thursday 25th, and the Hudsonian Whimbrel on St. Mary's (Scilly) disappeared on Sunday 28th.

Sooty Shearwater
Sooty Shearwater, Bridlington RSPB Skua Cruise, East Yorkshire (Photo: Nigel Stewart)

The White-billed Diver continued its stay on South Ronaldsay (Orkney) to Sunday 28th at least. Northwesterly winds meant seawatching reports were primarily from western coasts. Reports of Leach's Storm-petrel were concentrated in the northwest of England, from Walney Island to the Wirral, but numerous reports came in from western coasts of Cornwall, Wales, Scotland and Ireland as well. Counts in excess of 100 birds were made during seawatching sessions off the traditional locations on the Wirral peninsula. An impressive fifteen Wilson's Petrels were seen from a pelagic near the Blasket Islands (Co. Kerry) on Friday 26th. No Cory's Shearwaters were reported, and the only Great Shearwaters seen were singles on the above-mentioned Blasket pelagic and one off St. Ives (Cornwall) on Wednesday 1st. Sooty Shearwaters were seen off Cornwall, Pembrokeshire, Highland, Orkney and counties Clare, Donegal, Kerry and Mayo in Ireland, with east-coast sightings off Norfolk, Suffolk and East Yorkshire. The bulk of the week's Balearic Shearwater sightings were from Cornwall, but birds were also reported off Pembrokeshire, Co. Donegal, Jersey, Norfolk and Suffolk. The week's largest count was of 20 off Pendeen (Cornwall) on Wednesday 1st. Pomarine Skua sightings were also concentrated off western coasts—mostly in small numbers, but with some larger counts from the western coast of Ireland, the largest 323 off Portacloy, County Mayo, on 1st—but isolated east-coast reports came in from Norfolk and East and North Yorkshire. Long-tailed Skuas showed a similar pattern, but in smaller numbers: the largest count was just 5, off Bridges of Ross (Clare). Seawatchers reported Sabine's Gulls off Cornwall, Cheshire, Highland, Clare, Donegal and Mayo. Grey Phalaropes were seen in good numbers, again off western coasts, with counts around the 100 mark off Kilcummin Head (Mayo) and Bridges of Ross.

White-winged Black Tern
White-winged Black Tern, undisclosed site, Manchester, Greater (Photo: A.Dancy)

A White-winged Black Tern appeared at Elton Reservoir (Greater Manchester) on Thursday 25th and relocated to nearby Heaton Park Reservoir the following day, where it remained to Saturday 27th. An adult Gull-billed Tern was on Tiree (Argyll) from Monday 29th.

Great White Egret
Great White Egret, Blashford Lakes HWT, Hampshire (Photo: Steve Copsey)

Spoonbill, Snettisham RSPB, Norfolk (Photo: Douglas McFarlane)

New Great White Egrets appeared on Canvey Island (Essex) on Friday 26th and at Attenborough NR (Notts) on Saturday 27th, and unconfirmed new reports came from Swillington Ings (W. Yorks) on 27th and Elford GPs (Staffs) on 1st. More settled birds remained at Ynys-Hir (Ceredigion) to Monday 29th, Blashford Lakes (Hampshire) to Tuesday 30th and Minsmere (Suffolk) to Wednesday 1st, at least. Cattle Egrets are still roaming the west country: the family party at Shapwick Heath (Somerset) remained into their second month, a bird arrived on the water-meadows at Abbotsbury (Dorset) on Sunday 28th, and in Devon on Monday 29th singles were reported from both the Axe and Exe estuaries. An adult Night Heron flew over Sparkes Marina on Hayling Island (W. Sussex) on the morning of Saturday 27th. New Spoonbills included a single at Tacumshin (Wexford) and seven flying past Orford Ness (Suffolk) on Sunday 28th, and three at Connah's Quay (Clwyd) at two at Bradwell-on-Sea (Essex) on Tuesday 30th. The juvenile bird on Scilly commuted between Tresco and Green Island near Samson, two juveniles remained at Paxton Pits (Cambs) to Friday 26th, and the flock of 10 remained on Brownsea Island (Dorset); this flock was, however, just pipped by the 11 at nearby Middlebere within the species' Poole Harbour stronghold. A Glossy Ibis appeared on the Ouse Washes (Cambs) on 28th and spent much of the time in the Sutton Gault area, roosting with Cormorants and Little Egrets at Fen Drayton GPs on Wednesday 1st; the adult remained at Swillington Ings (W. Yorks). Wandering Common Cranes were reported from Aberdeenshire, Dumfries & Galloway, Kent, Northamptonshire, South Yorkshire, Scilly and Warwickshire and up to 34 birds were reported in the traditional Broadland roost. Spotted Crakes were at Slimbridge (Glos) on Thursday 25th and Neumann's Flash (Cheshire) on Monday 29th, and a Corncrake was at Ballintoy (Co. Antrim) on Friday 26th.

Ferruginous Duck
Ferruginous Duck, Sence Valley Forest Park, Leicestershire and Rutland (Photo: Neil)

Caerlaverock WWT (Dumfries & Galloway) hosted both Richardson's and Cackling Canada Geese during the week. The long-staying adult drake Black Duck was still on Lough Swilly (Donegal) to Monday 29th at least, a drake Ferruginous Duck was on Stonebridge Pool (Leics) on both days of the weekend, and another drake Ferruginous Duck remained at Barrow Gurney Reservoirs (Somerset) to Saturday 27th at least. Drake Green-winged Teal were at Siddick Ponds (Cumbria) on Sunday 28th and Inner Marsh Farm (Cheshire) to 28th at least. The drake Ring-necked Duck in eclipse plumage was reported again on Inch Island Lake in County Donegal on Saturday 27th. Another long-staying duck reported was the Surf Scoter in Lunan Bay (Angus & Dundee). A Northern Eider of the Nearctic race borealis was seen around Foula (Shetland).

Honey Buzzard
Honey Buzzard, Corton, Suffolk (Photo: Andrew Easton)

Red-footed Falcon
Red-footed Falcon, Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire (Photo: Rob Smallwood)

Sixty-two Honey Buzzard reports were widely scattered, from Angus & Dundee in the north to the Mull of Galloway and Cornwall in the west, but with a slight preponderance in the southeast of England. The most prolific site was, however, Portland (Dorset) with several sightings of ones and twos at the end of last week and into the weekend. Passage appears to be thinning though, with only a couple of reports in the last few days. A Black Kite flew north over Hill Head (Hants) on the evening of Thursday 25th and a Montagu's Harrier was at Ring Marsh (Wexford) on Saturday 27th. The long-staying 1st-summer male Red-footed Falcon remained at Tophill Low (E. Yorks) to Wednesday 1st at least; a probable immature was reported from Speeton (N. Yorks) and nearby Buckton (E. Yorks) on Thursday 25th, and a female flew over Saltburn (Cleveland) on Saturday 27th.

American Golden Plover
American Golden Plover, Benbecula, Outer Hebrides (Photo: Steve Duffield)

Pectoral Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper, Llanrhystud, Ceredigion (Photo: Paul_leafe)

Turning from raptors to waders, a juvenile American Golden Plover was on Benbecula (Outer Hebrides) on 25th and 26th, with the same bird or another at North Boisdale (S. Uist) on Monday 29th. At least one of the birds at Dalsetter (Shetland) remained to Saturday 27th. An adult at Baltasound on Unst (Shetland) on Monday 29th may have been the same bird seen the following day in the south of the island. The juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs was at Tacumshin (Wexford) but the bird that reappeared on the Eden Estuary in Fife on 24th after 10 days' absence was not reported subsequently. A juvenile Spotted Sandpiper was new on North Ronaldsay on Tuesday 30th. The long-staying Red-necked Phalarope at Titchwell (Norfolk) remained to Sunday 28th, and another was at Northward Hill (Kent) on Friday 26th. Aside from offshore passers-by, the only lingering Grey Phalarope was a sometimes-elusive bird at Horsey Island on the Taw Estuary (Devon), reported "for its sixth day" on Thursday 25th and still present the following day. A Long-billed Dowitcher was at Rahasane Turlough in Galway on 27th–28th, with four Pectoral Sandpipers also on-site on the latter date. A possible Semipalmated Sandpiper was at Pulborough Brooks (W. Sussex) on 28th and 29th, but the final outcome of the debate was not vouchsafed to us. The only confirmed Temminck's Stint of the week was at Dinham Flats (Cornwall) on 29th and 30th, but a possible was flushed from the Etton Road Pits (Cambs) on Wednesday 1st. Baird's Sandpiper sightings were restricted to Ireland, with reports from Carrahane Strand and Burnham Lagoon (Kerry), Leam Lough (Mayo) and Tacumshin (Wexford). Pectoral Sandpiper reports for the week showed a scattered coastal distribution, with inland birds at Nosterfield (N. Yorks) on 25th, Bothamsall Flash (Notts) from 29th–1st and Llangorse Lake (Powys) from 30th–1st. A remarkable count of seven birds on the Loch of Strathbeg reserve (Aberdeenshire) was reported on Monday 29th. A Buff-breasted Sandpiper was seen twice in flight at Barton-on-Sea (Hants) on Friday 26th, up to two were at Tacumshin (Wexford) over the weekend, and two were at St. Fergus (Aberdeenshire) on Saturday 27th.

Citrine Wagtail
Citrine Wagtail, Balranald RSPB, N. Uist, Outer Hebrides (Photo: anon)

The long-staying female Snowy Owls remained on North Uist (Outer Hebrides) and at Blacksod (Mayo), and an Alpine Swift graced the skies over Black Head (Antrim) on Saturday 27th. A Bee-eater put in a typically brief appearance at Lavernock Point (Glamorgan) the same day. Hoopoes were reported at Durlston Country Park (Dorset), Point of Ayre (Isle of Man) and Newtown (Powys). Twenty Wryneck reports were restricted to southern and eastern coasts, spreading from Scilly to Shetland via Cornwall, the Isle of Wight, West Sussex, Suffolk, Cleveland and Lothian (and a bird on Guernsey). The Outer Hebrides produced two Citrine Wagtails, one at Aird an Runair (N. Uist) and another at Castlebay (Barra). The rarest pipit of the week was a Pechora Pipit on Fetlar on the afternoon of Tuesday 30th. A scattering of Richard's Pipit records included one over St. Mary's (Scilly) and mainland birds in Cheshire, Cornwall, Dorset, Dumfries & Galloway, Hertfordshire, Lincolnshire and Norfolk. The only Tawny Pipit of the week was a probable at Bamburgh (Northumberland) on Friday 26th. Three Red-throated Pipits were reported, at Rame Head (Cornwall) and Burnham Overy (Norfolk) on Friday 26th and at Barton-on-Sea (Hants) on Monday 29th.

Red-backed Shrike
Red-backed Shrike, Pennington Marshes, Hampshire (Photo: Steve Purcell)

Lesser Grey Shrike
Lesser Grey Shrike, Weybourne, Norfolk (Photo: Mike Lawrence)

Great Grey Shrike
Great Grey Shrike, Spurn, East Yorkshire (Photo: Lee Fuller)

Great Grey Shrike
Great Grey Shrike, Spurn, East Yorkshire (Photo: Russell Hayes)

Woodchat Shrike
Woodchat Shrike, Beeston Bump, Norfolk (Photo: John Miller)

With the Brown Shrike, no fewer than five shrike species were represented this week. The following counties produced Red-backed Shrikes sightings over the course of the week: Cork, Cumbria, Devon, East Sussex, East Yorkshire, Hampshire, Kent, Norfolk, Scilly, Shetland, Somerset, West Sussex and Worcestershire. The Worcestershire bird, at Larford Pool on Thursday 25th, was the only bird more than a few miles from the sea. Last week's Lesser Grey Shrike remained at Weybourne (Norfolk) until Sunday 28th. Great Grey Shrikes showed an eastern bias; only two individuals, at Ashleworth Ham (Glos) and Bredicot (Worcs) bucked the trend. Two Woodchat Shrikes put in an appearance this week, both juveniles: at Beeston Bump (Norfolk) on 28th–29th, and on Papa Westray (Shetland) from 30th to date.

Siberian Stonechat
Siberian Stonechat, West Runton, Norfolk (Photo: Robert Wilson)

Bluethroats were on Lundy (Devon), North Ronaldsay (Orkney) and Fair Isle; the only mainland bird was one trapped and ringed at Hartlepool Headland (Cleveland) on Thursday 25th. Keen-eyed birders picked up Siberian Stonechats at West Runton and Stiffkey (Norfolk), on Fair Isle and the Out Skerries (Shetland), and a probable female was reported from Bere Regis (Devon).

Blyth's Reed Warbler
Blyth's Reed Warbler, West Runton, Norfolk (Photo: Peter Simpson)

Western Bonelli's Warbler
Western Bonelli's Warbler, Lunna, Mainland, Shetland (Photo: Dougie Preston)

Radde's Warbler
Radde's Warbler, Shingle Street, Suffolk (Photo: Bill Plumb)

Yellow-browed Warbler
Yellow-browed Warbler, Spurn, East Yorkshire (Photo: Lee Fuller)

Yellow-browed Warbler
Yellow-browed Warbler, Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire (Photo: Jon Lowes)

Arctic Warbler
Arctic Warbler, Fair Isle, Shetland (Photo: Micky Maher)

Barred Warbler
Barred Warbler, Westing, Unst, Shetland (Photo: Mike Pennington)

Red-breasted Flycatcher
Red-breasted Flycatcher, Spurn, East Yorkshire (Photo: Lee Fuller)

The only Lanceolated Warbler of the week was a bird on Fair Isle on Wednesday 1st. A Savi's Warbler was briefly at Sandwich Bay in Kent and an Aquatic Warbler showed well at times in a reedbed alongside Slapton Ley (Devon) on 28th and 29th. There were two Marsh Warblers in Cornwall (at Land's End and Nanquidno), on Lundy (Devon), at Udale Bay (Highland) and at Quendale and, inevitably, on Foula (Shetland). Foula also hosted a Blyth's Reed Warbler (from Thursday 25th to Tuesday 30th); a probable was on the Out Skerries and a well-photographed bird was at West Runton (Norfolk) from 26th–27th. Three Booted Warblers were found: one was in Margate Cemetery (Kent) on the morning of Friday 26th, another was at Spurn Point (E. Yorks) the following day, and a third was on Lundy (Devon) the day after that. Melodious Warblers were at Gibraltar Point (Lincs) on Thursday 25th and at Kealkil (Cork) the following day. Gib Point also hosted an Icterine Warbler on Monday 29th and another was on Fetlar (Shetland) on Wednesday 1st. A Western Bonelli's Warbler was seen and well photographed at Lunna (Shetland) on Saturday 27th. The only Dusky Warbler of the week was at St. Margaret's at Cliffe (Kent) on 26th–27th, whereas there were 9 Radde's Warblers to be found, in Conwy, East Yorkshire, Essex, Kent (2), Norfolk (3) and Suffolk. Yellow-browed Warblers were everywhere this week—predominantly along the east coast, on Scilly and the Northern Isles as might be expected, but there were over a dozen inland reports as well. Arctic Warblers were represented by two birds on Shetland (one on Fair Isle, the other on the Out Skerries). There were two Greenish Warblers on the east coast, one at Sea Palling (Norfolk) and the other at South Gare (Cleveland). Barred Warblers were similarly distributed but more widespread, being reported from Kent, Norfolk, Lincolnshire (2), East Yorkshire, the Orkneys and the Shetlands, as were Red-breasted Flycatchers, reported along the east coast from Norfolk to Aberdeenshire, but with a handful in the southwest as well.

Rustic Bunting
Rustic Bunting, South Walney NR, Cumbria (Photo: Richard Powell)

Rose-coloured Starling
Rose-coloured Starling, Burniston, North Yorkshire (Photo: Steve Race)

The first Penduline Tit of the autumn showed up briefly at Hengistbury Head (Dorset) on Monday 29th. There were only two Ortolan Buntings this week, in an autumn that has seen a "return to form" for this attractive species: at Kilnsea (E. Yorks) on Thursday 15th and on Bardsey Island (Gwynedd) on Sunday 28th. Single Little Buntings were at Blakeney Point and Weybourne in Norfolk and on Fair Isle, and two were at Carn Friars on St. Mary's (Scilly) from Sunday 28th and were still present this morning. A popular Rustic Bunting spent the same period on at South Walney (Cumbria) and another was at Voe (Shetland) on Wednesday 1st. The only Serin of the week was at Flamborough Head (E. Yorks) on Friday 26th. Common Rosefinches were largely restricted to the Northern Isles this week, apart from singles on Lundy (Devon), at Strawtown (Cork) and at Castlebay (Barra). Hornemann's Arctic Redpolls showed up on Unst, Fair Isle and Foula. Rose-coloured Starlings were on Islay (Argyll) and Burniston (N. Yorks), while Cornwall boasted two birds: one at Lizard village and a mobile bird in the Land's End area. And finally, a juvenile was found in an unlikely setting, midway across the Forth Road Bridge (Lothian) on Thursday 25th.

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Photo of the Week

Water Rail
Water Rail, Titchfield Haven NNR, Hampshire (Photo: Steve Purcell)

Although usually seen skulking around the edges of reedbeds, Water Rails can become quite bold, especially when establishing and defending a winter territory. A perfect illustration of this was seen at Titchfield Haven NNR in Hampshire this week, when a violent fight broke out between two birds right in front of the hide, providing an opportunity for a couple of BirdGuides contributors to grab some superb action shots. Our pick of the collection is this incredible shot by Steve Purcell that shows just how vicious these fights can be, with one bird reeling backwards into the mud as the other bears down on it, attacking its head with both its bill and its foot.

Other notable photos

Melodious Warbler
Melodious Warbler, Portland, Dorset (Photo: Kev Joynes)

Hobby, Brockholes Quarry, Lancashire (Photo: Brian Rafferty)

Hoopoe, France (Photo: Mick Southcott)

Cuckoo, Parkgate Old Baths, Cheshire (Photo: Tom Charles)

Grey Heron
Grey Heron, Regent's Park, London, Greater (Photo: Fraser Simpson)

Common Kingfisher
Common Kingfisher, undisclosed site, Lancashire (Photo: Tom Charles)

Little Grebe
Little Grebe, Cley Marshes NWT, Norfolk (Photo: Nigel Pye)

Little Egret
Little Egret, Aylburton Warth, Gloucestershire (Photo: Lewis Thomson)

Red-breasted Flycatcher
Red-breasted Flycatcher, Kilnsea, East Yorkshire (Photo: John Dickenson)

Green Sandpiper
Green Sandpiper, Upton Warren NR, Worcestershire (Photo: Rob Smith)

Zitting Cisticola
Zitting Cisticola, Spain (Photo: Steve Fletcher)

Common Buzzard
Common Buzzard, Stithians Reservoir, Cornwall (Photo: Brian McGeough)

Written by: Dave Dunford