Review of the Week: 26 June-2 July 2023


It might have seemed like the doldrums of summer were in full effect, though the first returning waders began to move through the country and Common Swifts were on the move, with several four-figure counts recorded south on the east coast. A small movement of Crossbills made it to Shetland.

It was a week with several new rarities too, with a first-summer Steppe Grey Shrike near Kilmory, Highland, arguably the highlight. The bird was first reported on 29th, though the bird was present the day before, and remained there until at least the weekend. Thankfully it has been showing well to its admirers, allowing for flight and tail shots to be obtained, thus confirming the identification. This represents Highland's first record and is just the second June record ever, following a first-summer male on the Isle of Man in 2003.

Steppe Grey Shrike, Kilmory, Highland (Peter Stronach).

Two brief mega swifts were reported this week. Firstly, Lincolnshire's third Little Swift was a brief visitor to Alkborough Flats, for all of five minutes on the morning of 29th. In a similar fashion, a Pacific Swift was busy slicing up Sumburgh Head's airspace mid-morning on 2 July, before promptly disappearing. The same spot Shetland's first was found nearly a year to the day - surely there's a fair chance the same bird is responsible for both records. 

Norfolk finally recorded its first Lesser Scaup this week, a moment long anticipated by the county's birders. Well, the bird – an eclipse drake – has been present at the site since 20 June, though identity was confirmed on 28th. Viewing has proven difficult, as without a fishing permit the duck is only viewable from particular 'gaps in the hedge' and has to be using certain parts of the pits …

Lesser Scaup, Colney GPs, Norfolk (Robin Chittenden).

The second-summer King Eider remained on Ythan Estuary, Aberdeenshire, throughout, and the long-staying American Black Duck was reported again from Cross Lough, Co Mayo. The adult drake Surf Scoter was last reported off Blackdog, Aberdeenshire, on 26th. Drake Ring-necked Duck remained at Carlton Marshes SWT, Suffolk, sporadically, and the West Yorkshire bird made a reappearance at Fairburn Ings RSPB on 27th.

To add to Shetland birder's swift déjà vu, a smart Broad-billed Sandpiper was at Pool of Virkie and later at Grutness, Shetland, on 2nd. Although the sandpiper had a better sense of time, as it was exactly a year to the day it moved to Virkie last year and is almost certainly the bird that was holding territory at Levenwick earlier in the season. A Pacific Golden Plover was a smart find on North Ronaldsay on 30th and remained the next day. This strengthens the island's monopoly of this species in a county context, as now the 12th of the 15 Orcadian records hail from the island. A Long-billed Dowitcher was new-in with Black-tailed Godwits at Hickling Broad NWT, Norfolk, from 29th after presumably following them up to breeding grounds in Iceland. A Pectoral Sandpiper was on Westray, Orkney, for much of the week, and another was at Maiden's Hall Lake, Northumberland, on 29th. A slightly unseasonable Temminck's Stint was at Bishop Middleham, Co Durham, on 27th.

The Black-winged Stilt 'situation' has plateaued for the forceable, though remain readily accessible for anyone wanting their fix. Two pairs continue to raise young at Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincolnshire, and another pair with four chicks remain at Edderthorpe Flash RSPB, South Yorkshire. The lone male at Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire, also continues to attract attention. 

Black-winged Stilt, Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire (Andrew Jordan).

Seabird season continues to get going, and with worrying news of a Category 4 marine heatwave around the UK and Ireland one 'side effect' of this could be a bumper season. A Fea's-type petrel past Pendeen, Cornwall, on 30 June was a reasonably early record. Wilson's Storm Petrels are off to a good start, with five English sites and two Irish sites recording birds already, including the first land-based record for Devon, off Start Point on 28 June. Single Cory's Shearwaters were reported off Scilly and more unusually, North Uist, while Great Shearwaters were logged at five sites. Leach's Storm Petrels also featured at two sites, while a movement of European Storm Petrels included 144 past Pendeen on 1st.

Wilson's Storm Petrel, Scilly pelagic, Isles of Scilly (Richard Stonier).

Portrane Point, Co Dublin, continued to host the adult male Least Tern, where it could be seen displaying to the accommodating Little Terns. An adult Caspian Tern at Lower Moor, Worcestershire, on 26th was a welcome county tick to all who connected that evening. Two birds were present on 27th, when Hickling Broad NWT, Norfolk, continued to prove its attractiveness to the species with its second bird this year and another was at Dungeness RSPB.

Caspian Tern, Lower Moor, Worcestershire (Daniel Gornall).

The adult American Black Tern put in appearances at Long Nanny, Northumberland, though wasn't easy to pin down. The East Coast's well-travelled White-winged Tern made its way north to Saltholme RSPB, Cleveland, on 26th before relocating to two sites in Northumberland between 27-29th. While on the other side of the country, an adult was at Brockholes LWT, Lancashire, from 29th, the site's first record. The bird also commuted to nearby Alston Reservoirs that evening, before reappearing at both sites again on 2nd. One flew north past Norbreck, Lancashire, on 1st.

White-winged Tern, Saltholme RSPB, Cleveland (Andrew Kinghorn).

White-winged Tern, Druridge Pools, Northumberland (Frank Golding).

Lingering Purple Herons were last reported from Rostellan Lake, Co Cork, and Rookery Pits, Bedfordshire, on 26th, and a new first-summer was reported from Gosforth Park NR, Northumberland, from 29th. None of the three new Black-crowned Night Herons proved twitchable, though lingering birds were more accommodating. The first-summer at Adwick Washlands RSPB, South Yorkshire, proved semi-reliable most evenings, and the adult was reported daily from Ouse Washes RSPB, Cambridgeshire. The first-summer was reported again from Marazion Marsh RSPB, Cornwall, on 2nd.

Three new Marsh Warblers were reported in the week, notably at Adwick Washlands, South Yorkshire, on 28th and Sheepcote Valley, East Sussex, on 30th though neither proved twitchable. The singing Icterine Warbler was reported again from Lerwick, Shetland, on 27th before presumably relocating to nearby Sound the next day. Another singing 'Icky' was at an undisclosed site near Lanark, Clyde, on 29th. Frustratingly for local birders, belated news arose of a Melodious Warbler reportedly photographed near Eastbourne, East Sussex, on 29 June. 

Sadly, it was reported that Norfolk's European Bee-eater nest had failed but all three adults remained at the site throughout the week raising hope they may try again before the season is over. Elsewhere, 12 arrived on St Mary's, Scilly, from 1 July when five were on overhead wires at Dalkeith, Lothian. 

European Bee-eater, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Kris Webb).

European Bee-eater, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Kris Webb).

The good spring for Red-backed Shrikes continued with a new male found at Middleton Lakes RSPB, Staffordshire, on 29th, where it spent the day. Others were at the most accustomed locations of North Ronaldsay, Orkney, and Hillswick, Shetland. Slimbridge's male White-spotted Bluethroat continued to perform well. Meanwhile, the singing adult male Common Rosefinch was last reported on 26th – might it have finally bid adieu to its Cumbrian territory? Another singing male was at Kilnsea, East Yorkshire, on 29th. A European Serin was heard overflying Beachy Head, East Sussex, on 30th.


Western Palearctic

A particularly smart Stilt Sandpiper was discovered 70°N on the Varanger Peninsula, Norway, on 28 June. A Short-toed Snake Eagle overflew Værøy on 26th, and is likely the most northernmost record of this species. An adult Laughing Gull was photographed at Kvilijooden on 29th.

Germany hosted its fourth Stilt Sandpiper on 23-24th. In France, a West African Crested Tern was discovered just outside of Nice on 29th and at least two Elegant Terns remained in the country. 

The lingering Ancient Murrelet proved harder this week and had disappeared completely until 2 July. A different West African Crested Tern flew past Cabo Raso, Portugal, on 28th, where a Brown Booby flew north on 2nd. A Lesser Crested Tern also flew past Lota, Algarve, on 28th. A Red-billed Tropicbird was recorded on a Madeiran pelagic on 28th.

Written by: Dan Owen

Dan Owen is a Cheshire-based birder with a keen interest in ringing and wildfowl. He works for the BirdGuides news team. Follow him on Twitter: @_danielowen