Review of the Week: 26 October – 1 November


The week at a glance

With the almost constant easterly airflow enjoyed throughout October finally tailing off to become much more intermittent, it proved a quieter seven days. That said, there were still a number of fantastic finds this week in an autumn that has already been very generous to birders across Britain and Ireland.

New Siberian Accentors were discovered this week on Fetlar, Shetland, on 26th and at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland, on 29th. Though spending much of its time on private land, the latter would occasionally pop in to view from public rights of way and, judging by photos, is perhaps the brightest of the dozen now recorded in Britain this autumn...

Siberian Accentor
Siberian Accentor, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland (Photo: John Malloy)

Siberian Accentor
Siberian Accentor, Houbie, Fetlar, Shetland (Photo: Brydon Thomason)

... elsewhere continuing accentors were still on Unst to 27th and at Sandside Bay, Orkney, to 28th. With a new pulse of finds over the weekend across Northern Europe, will more be found in November?

Siberian Accentor
Siberian Accentor, Sandside Bay, Mainland, Orkney (Photo: Ian Cunningham)

Arguable highlight of the week, though, was a Dusky Thrush on the Isles of Scilly. Unfortunately the bird, on Peninnis Head, St Mary's, was not seen after its initial discovery. This will represent a first for the archipelago if accepted.

A stunning male Eastern Black Redstart graced coastal rocks at Skinningrove, Cleveland, from 27th, performing brilliantly for the cameras and attracting a large crowd. It was one of two seen this week: another was at Donna Nook, Lincs, for three days to 28th but was not widely twitched because its identity was only firmed up on the final afternoon.

Eastern Black Redstart
Eastern Black Redstart, Skinningrove, Cleveland (Photo: John Dickenson)

Spurn's magnificent autumn continued on 31st with a first-winter Brown Shrike at the Canal Zone. Though not the top-drawer rarity it once was it was, this is nevertheless another classy find for the Spurn area and a welcome grip-back on its great East Yorkshire rival, Flamborough Head, which has two previous records (in 2008 and 2010). Incidentally the recent Stejneger's Stonechat was last seen at Spurn Point on 26th, while another strong candidate for stejnegeri was recorded at Lothian's John Muir Country Park on 26th.

Brown Shrike
Brown Shrike, Kilnsea, East Yorkshire (Photo: Richard Willison)

Stejneger's Stonechat
Stejneger's Stonechat, John Muir CP, Lothian (Photo: Kris Gibb)

In what is now a record-breaking year for Pine Buntings, three more were discovered this week. Belated news surfaced on 30th of a female photographed at Blakeney Point, Norfolk, on 24th — the lateness of the identification was largely immaterial, as the bird flew high inland after its brief stop. Another female was trapped and ringed at Portland, Dorset, on 26th (the island's second after a male in April 1975) but it was not seen following its release near the observatory. Thirdly, a young male was unearthed at Baltasound, Unst, on 30th. A Rustic Bunting was on Scilly at Borough Farm, Tresco, on 30th.

Pine Bunting
Pine Bunting, Baltasound, Unst, Shetland (Photo: Brydon Thomason)

An apparent Eastern Yellow Wagtail on St Mary's was the second seen on the Scillonian island this October; elsewhere there were reports of candidates from two sites in Norfolk and Polgigga, Cornwall.

Eastern Yellow Wagtail
Eastern Yellow Wagtail, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Photo: Martin Goodey)

A new Isabelline Wheatear appeared at the surprising location of Wardy Hill, Cambs, on 29th and lingered throughout the following day. To quantify just what a great find this is, it's not only a first for Cambridgeshire but also appears to be the first record for an inland county, anywhere. Last week's bird at Burnham Overy Dunes also lingered throughout.

Isabelline Wheatear
Isabelline Wheatear, Wardy Hill, Cambridgeshire (Photo: Mark ferris)

A smart male Pied Wheatear entertained visitors to Redcar, Cleveland, on 29–30th and proved a fine second fiddle to the nearby Eastern Black Redstart. In terms of pure looks, though, it was the male Pied at Donmouth on 30th that really took the biscuit. The only Desert Wheatear this week was a male entertaining birders at Cley, Norfolk, to 29th. After last week's excitement, just one Red-flanked Bluetail could be found — a new bird at Mire Loch, Borders, on 30th.

Pied Wheatear
Pied Wheatear, Redcar, Cleveland (Photo: Ron Marshall)

Pied Wheatear
Pied Wheatear, Donmouth, Aberdeenshire (Photo: Alex Penn)

Desert Wheatear
Desert Wheatear, Cley Marshes NWT, Norfolk (Photo: Nick Appleton)

Four Isabelline Shrikes were seemingly all isabellinus (i.e. Daurian Shrike); first-winters were in Essex, Cumbria and Co Cork (the latter at Toe Head on 31st), and an adult female entertained the crowds at South Shields, Durham, from 28–30th.

Daurian Shrike
Daurian Shrike, The Leas, S.Shields, Durham (Photo: Heiko Peters)

The only Hume's Leaf Warblers this week were birds at Flamborough Head, E Yorks, from 26–30th and at Middleton, Gower, Glamorgan, from 29th. The excellent autumn for Dusky Warblers continued with 17 sites logging birds this week — and, given that this is a bird that often turns up well in to November, you wouldn't bet against many more being found before winter settles in. Pick of the records this week was probably that by the River Thames at Rainham Marshes, London, on 29–30th, while at least four were in Norfolk. In contrast, the only Radde's Warbler was on Cape Clear, Co Cork, from 29–31st. Around 25 Pallas's Warblers were seen.

Pallas's Warbler
Pallas's Warbler, Tresinwen, Pembrokeshire (Photo: Richard Stonier)

In the Outer Hebrides the White-throated Sparrow was again seen in Lochmaddy, North Uist, on 29th. Continuing the Nearctic theme, a late Red-eyed Vireo was on St Agnes, Scilly, on 1st, and the first American Buff-bellied Pipit of the autumn was found at Dunmoran Strand, Co Sligo, on 30th and was still there on 1st. A Blyth's Pipit was seen briefly on St Mary's, Scilly, on 31st. The only Red-throated Pipit report was of one over Portland Bill on 29th, while on Scilly up to two Olive-backed Pipits were on St Mary's and a third was on Tresco. A Tawny Pipit at Loop Head lighthouse on 29th was a great record for Co Clare, while Richard's Pipits were reported from 16 sites.

A couple of Common Swifts were seen in West Cornwall and another lingered in Amble, Northumberland, from 26–28th.

The Western Swamphen put in another week at Alkborough Flats, and news surfaced of a Sora at Exminster Marshes, Devon, on 17th — though it had unfortunately been found dead. The Spotted Crake was again at Chew Valley Lake, Somerset, on 27th and another was at Winchester Sewage Farm, Hants, from 28th.

Sora, Exminster Marshes RSPB, Devon (Photo: Aaron Boughtflower)

North Ronaldsay's male Northern Harrier was again reported fairly regularly during the week and was there to at least 30th — presumably it'll be around all winter, as last year. It doesn't look as though it's going to be a vintage year for Rough-legged Buzzards: just three recorded included a bird a confiding bird at Spurn.

Rough-legged Buzzard
Rough-legged Buzzard, Spurn YWT, East Yorkshire (Photo: Nigel Genn)

A smart adult Franklin's Gull performed daily on the Hayle Estuary, Cornwall, after its discovery on 26th. The adult Bonaparte's Gull was still at Quilty, Co Clare, on 30th while the Devon bird was also still at Dawlish Warren. Only one Ring-billed Gull was noted — an adult at Nimmo's Pier, Co Galway.

Franklin's Gull
Franklin's Gull, Hayle Estuary, Cornwall (Photo: Alex McKechnie)

Last week's Lesser Yellowlegs continuing to show well at Cheddar Reservoir, Somerset, throughout. Long-billed Dowitchers remained in Kent, Lincolnshire and Co Wexford. A Pectoral Sandpiper arrived at Titchwell on 28th and the long-stayer continued at College Reservoir, Cornwall, all week. A juvenile American Golden Plover was at Carrahane Strand, Co Kerry, from 28th. Just a few Grey Phalaropes were recorded including the showy bird at Farmoor, Oxon, to 26th.

Lesser Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs, Cheddar Reservoir, Somerset & Bristol (Photo: Clive Daelman)

Long-billed Dowitcher
Long-billed Dowitcher, Oare Marshes NR, Kent (Photo: Jan Fagg)

Pectoral Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper, College Reservoir, Cornwall (Photo: Toby Phelps)

The drake Black Scoter was still off Rossbeigh, Co Kerry, on 29th. A juvenile Surf Scoter flew past Uisaed Point, Argyll, on 27th and at least two were in Lothian/Fife. Four Ring-necked Ducks included the confiding bird back near Pitlochry, Perthshire. The young male Ferruginous Duck continued at Wilstone Reservoir, Herts, to 30th, four Green-winged Teal included two on Orkney and eight American Wigeon were seen.

Ring-necked Duck
Ring-necked Duck, Pitlochry, Perth & Kinross (Photo: Sam Northwood)

Three Snow Geese were logged in Scotland, while an impressive seven Richardson's Cackling and three Todd's Canada Geese were seen on Islay during the week. Another Richardson's was back in Co Sligo and the Todd's continued in Northumberland. At least six Black Brants were seen.

Richardson's Cackling Goose
Richardson's Cackling Goose, Loch Gruinart RSPB, Islay, Argyll (Photo: Steve Percival)

Todd's Canada Goose
Todd's Canada Goose, Loch Gorm, Islay, Argyll (Photo: Steve Percival)

A Fea's/Zino's Petrel past North Ronaldsay mid-morning on 30th could surely not have been the bird reported past Lamba Ness, Unst, just a few hours later; that said, the occurrence of multiple Pterodromas in this part of the world at the end of October would be amazing in itself. There was an intriguing report of a possible Scopoli's Shearwater past two sites in Norfolk on 1st. A handful of Little Auks were noted late in the week — perhaps the precursors to a bigger movement in the coming days?

A Squacco Heron was a cracking late-autumn find at Llangwm, Pembrokeshire, on 25th; it lingered to 27th and was then reported at nearby Narberth on 1st. The Cattle Egret influx continues apace, with birds reported at 16 sites. Up to six were at Slimbridge, Glos, with fives in Co Cork and Cheshire, fours in Co Wexford and Lancashire and several further ones and twos. Nine sites held Glossy Ibises, including a new bird as far north-west as Malin, Co Donegal. The rise of Great White Egret continues, with counts including 24 at Blagdon Lake, Somerset, and double figures in Kent and Cheshire.

Squacco Heron
Squacco Heron, Llangwm, Pembrokeshire (Photo: Thomas Winstone)

Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret, Grove Ferry NNR, Kent (Photo: Steve Ashton)

Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret, Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire (Photo: Chris Teague)

An amazing 60 Shore Larks were at Holkham, Norfolk on 30th and up to 26 were still at Saltfleetby, Lincs. Five in off the sea at Goswick, Northumberland, on 1st showed that birds are still arriving. We put out 107 reports of Waxwing this week, the peak count being of 200+ at Kinlochbervie, Highland.

Shore Lark
Shore Lark, Hayling Island, Hampshire (Photo: Lee Fuller)

Up to two Coues's Arctic Redpolls continued to show well in Lerwick, Shetland. European Serins were on Scilly, at Portland Bill and in Pembrokeshire. Around 20 Little Buntings included five spread across the Isles of Scilly on 30th. In Suffolk the Black-bellied Dipper continued at Needham Market, Suffolk.

Coues' Arctic Redpoll
Coues' Arctic Redpoll, Lerwick, Mainland, Shetland (Photo: Brendan Doe)

Serin, Portland, Dorset (Photo: Martin Cade)

Black-bellied Dipper
Black-bellied Dipper, Needham Market, Suffolk (Photo: Jon Evans)

A handful of Barred Warblers, three Common Rosefinches and 10 Red-breasted Flycatchers were among the scarce migrants, while the week's forty or so Great Grey Shrikes largely involved birds back on wintering territories. Rose-coloured Starlings included a bird at Hunterston Sands, Ayrshire, on 26th and another juvenile at the classic location of Penzance Morrison's on 1st. Of the five Hoopoes reported it was a bird at Suffolk's Hazlewood Marshes from 28th that drew the biggest crowd. Unfortunately last week's bird at RSPB Conwy became Peregrine food on 26th.

Great Grey Shrike
Great Grey Shrike, Strensall Common, North Yorkshire (Photo: IV Brookes)

Hoopoe, Hazlewood Marshes SWT, Suffolk (Photo: Chris Mayne)

Western Palearctic news

Finland's first Upland Sandpiper was discovered at Nakkila on 1st while Corvo struck late with the Western Palearctic's fifth (and Corvo's fourth) Lincoln's Sparrow on 31st. Other records from the latter island included a showy Common Nighthawk, Cliff Swallow, Scarlet Tanager and Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Upland Sandpiper
Upland Sandpiper, Finland (Photo: Mika Bruun)

Lincoln's Sparrow, Corvo, Azores (Photo: David Monticelli)

Highlights from the east included an Oriental Turtle Dove trapped on the Dutch island of Vlieland on 30th, Sweden's third Asian Desert Warbler of the autumn at Borlänge, and plenty more Siberian Accentors. A female Pine Bunting was on Ouessant, France, on 1st, with a couple of further occurrences in the Netherlands.

A particularly unusual record was of a female-type Harlequin on the outskirts of Riga from 26th — the first record for Latvia. A Black-browed Albatross flew past Tjome, Norway, on 27th and a Dalmatian Pelican remained in the Netherlands. Two Lesser White-fronted Geese were in Israel's Beit She'an valley on 31st, while the Pallas's Warbler at Yeruham on 28th represents just the fourth national record.