Review of the Week: 26 September-2 October 2022


Notable birds came from both the east and the west this week. Strong north-westerlies blew in a decent arrival of Hornemann's Arctic Redpolls, but by the weekend the first promising Atlantic weather system of the autumn made landfall.

Oxfordshire has produced some surprising records in the past, but a Common Nighthawk on a garden fence in Wantage on 26th will take some beating. Typically, the showy juvenile was a one-day bird, but fortunately news broke late morning and the bird stuck around till dusk, completely unfazed by the growing crowd. Of the 27 accepted records, just nine are from mainland England (compared to 13 from Scilly), so a twitchable, mainland, nighthawk has been long overdue and was predictably well-received. The result of this was a healthy donations bucket to be distributed to local charities.

Common Nighthawk, Wantage, Oxfordshire (Mark Rayment).

Ireland's sixth Baltimore Oriole was a strong second best, with a bright first-winter at Kilbaha, Co Clare, on 1st. The bird was still present the following day, and two Red-eyed Vireos were in the vicinity – one being in the same garden as the oriole! Another Red-eyed Vireo was on Inishmore, Co Galway, on 2nd. A Bobolink was a brief encounter at Garnish Point, Co Cork, also on 1st. Away from Ireland, a Blackpoll Warbler was noted in an area with no public access at Nanjizal Valley, Cornwall, on 2nd and is thought to have been present since 30 September. A probable Semipalmated Plover was heard over the latter site on 29th.  

Baltimore Oriole, Kilbaha, Clare (Sam Viles).

Red-eyed Vireo, Kilbaha, Clare (Sam Viles).

Two Swainson's Thrushes also made the news page. Barra's second was trapped and ringed at Creachan on the evening of 28th, and another was at West Yell, Shetland, on 29-1st. A possible American Buff-bellied Pipit was reported at Holy Island, Northumberland, on 1st. Meanwhile, the long-staying Double-crested Cormorant was again noted on its favoured post at Doon Lough, Co Leitrim, on 2nd.

Swainson's Thrush, West Yell, Yell, Shetland (Ian Bollen).

Great Grey Shrikes have taken a bit of a nosedive in recent winters, with just 17 confirmed birds reported in the winter of 2021-22. The first bird to be reported this autumn was in Shetland, at Hillswick, Mainland. However, when pictures made it online the bird revealed a lot of white in the wing and tail. Crucially, the two outermost tail fathers (T6 and T5) are wholly white and the primary patch is also large (c 50% of exposed primaries at broadest point) and runs along the secondaries. The bird also has a pale rump, blurry white scapulars, and a white supercilium that bridges the bill. Plus, the bird's underside is relatively plain, with subtle scaling on the breast. OK there's variation/overlap with excubitor but to have so many pro-homeyeri features makes this a good candidate for Britain's first accepted Homeyer's Grey Shrike.

Homeyer's Grey Shrike, Hillswick, Mainland, Shetland (Tom Hines).

Homeyer's Grey Shrike, Hillswick, Mainland, Shetland (Tom Hines).

Two Siberian Thrushes were in the Northern Isles, although neither were twitchable. The first was a male found dead on Papa Westray on 27th – thought to be a window strike. The second was a brief first-winter male at Mid Yell, Shetland, on the evening of 1st. A White's Thrush was on North Ronaldsay on 27th.

A possible Yelkouan Shearwater was logged past Porthgwarra, Cornwall, on 30th and a possible Barolo-type Shearwater flew west past Hoylake, Cheshire, on 1st. Great Shearwaters were well-spread, with birds logged past Cornwall, the east coast, Orkney and Lewis. Cory's Shearwaters also had a good showing, with a peak count of 73 on the Scilly pelagic on 2nd. Birds were also reported from Cornwall, plus Norfolk and several eastern counties. Long-tailed Skuas were recorded at 24 sites and Leach's Storm Petrels at 22, the latter typically concentrated off the North Wirral coast between 26th and 27th.

The week saw a respectable Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll arrival up north, 25 birds were split across 20 sites. Shetland had the lion's share, with 18 birds at 15 sites, while Orkney had five at four sites. Elsewhere, one with Common Linnets at Rattray Head, Aberdeenshire, on 29th is thought to be the first country record. Another was on St Kilda on 29th. Another redpoll at Hillswick, Mainland Shetland, on 1st was thought to be a better match for Coues's.

Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, Hillswick, Mainland, Shetland (Tony Davison).

A first-winter 'Eastern Stonechat' at Quendale, Mainland Shetland, on 29-2nd looked like a safe Siberian Stonechat

Two apparent first-winter Eastern Yellow Wagtails were in Shetland. One was near Walls, Mainland, on 26-27th and one at Brae, Mainland, on 2nd.  A brief Red-throated Pipit was at Bempton Cliffs RSPB, East Yorkshire, on 29th.

Belated news of a Rustic Bunting came from Holy Island, Northumberland, on 29th. Sadly, there was no further news thereafter. Another, more co-operative bird was at Horsey, Norfolk, from 1st and remained until late morning of 2nd. 

A first-winter Ring-billed Gull was reported at Portscatho, Cornwall, on 29th and the adult was reported again at Blackrock, Co Louth, on 28th. An adult Bonaparte's Gull was at Whitegate, Co Cork, on 29th. The adult Forster's Tern made a further two appearances at Soldier's Point, Co Louth, on 28th and again on 1st. The Mullet's near-adult Azores Gull also re-appeared, this time at Cross Lough, on 2nd. Sabine's Gulls picked up a little, and were noted past 21 sites, with a high count of four past Low Hauxley, Northumberland on 29th.

A white-morph Gyr Falcon was a smart find on Lewis on 27th. The bird was originally found at Loch Ordais then later flew south near Garynahine, sadly the last time the bird was seen. Four Pallid Harriers were noted this week, with three juveniles new in: one east at Henigstbury Head, Dorset on 27th; one in the Worth area, Kent, on 27th; and one at Whithorn, Dumfries & Galloway on 30-2nd. The second-winter male was reported again at Goonhilly Downs, Cornwall, on 28th. European Honey Buzzards moved over three sites, including no less than four over Carlton Colville, Suffolk, on 27th. Another flew west over Wormleighton, Warwickshire, on 27th and Beachy Head, East Sussex, on 30th. A Rough-legged Buzzard was reported near Donna Nook, Lincs, on 1st.

The juvenile Long-billed Dowitcher remained at North Ronaldsay until 29th and another juvenile was at Hayle Estuary, Cornwall, from 2nd. Other new ‘yanks' included a juvenile Baird's Sandpiper at Cashen Estuary, Co Kerry, on 1st and a Lesser Yellowlegs at Saltholme RSPB, Cleveland, on 2nd. The juvenile Baird's Sandpiper lingered at Meikle Loch, Aberdeenshire, until 29th. Eight American Golden Plovers made landfall between 26th and 2nd. In Ireland, birds were at Ventry and Cashen Estuary, Co Kerry; Bridges of Ross, Co Clare; Myroe Levels, Co Londonderry; in Scotland, they reached Tiree, South Uist, St Kilda and Fair Isle. Four Buff-breasted Sandpipers were on offer and 22 sites recorded Pectoral Sandpipers, including three at Lough Beg, Co Londonderry and two at Idle Valley NR, Notts.

American Golden Plover, Fair Isle, Shetland (Georgia Platt).

Long-billed Dowitcher, Hayle Estuary, Cornwall (Peter Garrity).

The German-ringed adult female Kentish Plover was seen daily between 28th and 1st, although was mobile. Eurasian Dotterel remained scattered, including seven at Cairnsmore of Fleet, Dumfries & Galloway, on 28th and a showy juvenile at Valentia Island, Co Kerry, on 1-2nd. Up to three Eurasian Stone-curlews remained at East Tilbury, Essex, until 29th. Grey Phalaropes were reported from 28 sites including a flock of six off the Mullet, Co Mayo, on 30th, five off Downpatrick Head, Co Mayo, on 2nd and three off Perranporth, Cornwall, on 1st. Red-necked Phalaropes were new at four sites.

Kentish Plover, Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset (James Packer).

The arrival of wintering geese brought two Snow Geese in. One was mingling with Pink-footed Geese at Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB, Cheshire, on 26-27th and another was with Barnacle Geese at Caerlaverock WWT, Dumfries & Galloway, on 2nd. The Todd's Canada Goose was again at Crossens Outer Marsh, Lancashire, on 28th and a Black Brant was off Freiston Shore RSPB, Lincolnshire, on 29th.

A juvenile drake Blue-winged Teal was an unexpected find at Fairlop Waters, London, on 28th. The bird remained until at least 2nd and was proven to be unringed and fully winged. Two new drake American Wigeon were also on offer, one at Grafham Water, Cambs, on 1-2nd and another on Inishmore, Co Galway, on 2nd. Last spring's drake Black Scoter was again off Rossbeigh, Co Kerry, on 29th and the Northumberland drake was again off Cocklawburn Beach on 1-2nd. The smart drake Surf Scoter continued off Gulberwick, Mainland Shetland, until 27th and another was off Ben Head, Co Meath, on 2nd. An eclipse drake King Eider was off Wester Quarff, Mainland Shetland, from 27th and the second-winter drake was noted again off Musselburgh, Lothian, on 29th. A possible Ferruginous Duck at Pitsford Reservoir, Northants, on 27th evaded closer scrutiny. A new Ring-necked Duck, a juvenile, was on the Exe Estuary between Dawlish Warren NNR and Topsham on 28th before relocating to Blackhill Quarry, Woodmanton. Otherwise, lingering drakes were at Loch Stiapavat, Lewis, and Lough Nambrack, Achill Island, Co Mayo.

Blue-winged Teal, Fairlop Waters, London (Stephen Bacon).

The adult male Pied-billed Grebe remained at Loch Feorlin, Argyll. A possible White-billed Diver flew north past Cullercoats, Northumberland, on 29th, when one was again off Skaw, Whalsay. 

The juvenile Purple Heron lingered at Martin Mere WWT, Lancashire, throughout and paid a brief visit to nearby Scarisbrick on 30th. New Glossy Ibises were at five sites. A Corncrake was trapped and ringed on Fair Isle on 1st.

Glossy Ibis, Deal, Kent (tony flashman).

An Alpine Swift was belatedly reported from Loose, Kent, on 26th. 

A Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler was on Fair Isle from 27th, found by the observer just 10 minutes after getting off the plane! It later proved to be a showy bird and was last reported on 1st. North Ronaldsay hosted two Lanceolated Warblers, with one ringed on 1st and an unringed bird present the following day. Thursday saw a small arrival of Radde's Warblers into the country, with six between Kessingland, Suffolk and Fair Isle, including Papa Westray's first. Another was at Benacre, Suffolk the following day. A Dusky Warbler was lurking in irises at Quendale, Mainland Shetland. Shetland recorded three Blyth's Reed Warblers midweek and another on St Kilda on 29th was the island's third record. Norfolk's Icterine Warbler remained at Blakeney Point until 29th and another was at Winterton Dunes NNR on 30th. The Melodious Warbler lingered at Kynance Cove, Cornwall, until 28th.

Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, Fair Isle, Shetland (Alex Penn).

Yellow-browed Warblers became more prevalent as the week wore on, with some 413 reports on the news page this week. Several were noted in inland English counties and birds made it as far west as Inishbofin, Co Galway, and Achill Island, Co Mayo. At least four putative Siberian Lesser Whitethroats were along the east coast.

Red-flanked Bluetail, Fair Isle, Shetland (Georgia Platt).

A mobile Red-flanked Bluetail was on Fair Isle between 29th and 1st. Six Red-backed Shrikes included just one new bird, at Seaford Head, East Sussex, on 25th. None of the three Hoopoes were particularly obliging during the week (Papa Westray, Orkney, on 27th; Saltwick Nab, North Yorkshire, on 29th; and Abergavenny, Gwent, on 1st). Just two Rosy Starlings were on offer: a juvenile on Sanday, Orkney, on 28th and a juvenile at Fincham, Lancashire, on 30th. Wrynecks were at eight sites between the Humber and Severn, with another on St Agnes and several on St Mary's, Scilly. 

Red-backed Shrike, Medmerry RSPB, West Sussex (Rik Addison).

Seven Red-breasted Flycatchers were involved three in Shetland, two in Norfolk and singles in Cornwall and Scilly. Meanwhile, Bluethroats were restricted to the Northern Isles with two in Orkney and five in Shetland.

There was a healthy push of Olive-backed Pipits this week. Birds were reported from nine Shetland sites including two at Dale of Walls, Mainland. Elsewhere, singles were at North Ronaldsay; Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire; Portland, Dorset; and St Mary's, Scilly. Three Richard's Pipits were present on 30th, one over Holme Dunes NWT and another over Cley Marshes NWT, both Norfolk and one at Paull Holme Strays, East Yorkshire. A possible flew over Stiffkey, Norfolk, on 29th.

Common Rosefinches began to filter west, with nine away from Shetland (where seven were reported at five sites). A juvenile on Inishbofin, Co Galway, was most notable. An Ortolan Bunting moved between Haroldswick and Norwick, Unst, and a Little Bunting was between Vidlin and Lunning, Mainland.


Western Palearctic

A first-winter Rose-breasted Grosbeak was at Hallskot on 2nd, constituting Iceland's fourth record. The adult drake White-winged Scoter was again off Keflavík on 26th, when, impressively, the country's fourth Gull-billed Tern was joined by another at Höfn.

The Azores' 10th American Yellow Warbler was recorded on Corvo on 29th, when a flock of three Bobolinks were also on the isle. The Northern Waterthrush remained and a Black-and-white Warbler was noted on 1st. Other bits on the island included American Black Duck, Ring-necked Duck, Great Blue Heron, two Semipalmated Plovers and Spotted Sandpiper.

Bobolink, Corvo, Corvo (Zbigniew Kajzer).

Two drake Wood Duck were on offer: one on São Miguel and one on Flores, the latter also hosting an American Great Egret. A juvenile Western Sandpiper was on Terceira on 26th.

A male Moroccan Wagtail was at Mimbeau-Plage on 28-29th, the second French record of this smart subspecies. An Elegant Tern was just up the Cap Ferret peninsula, while the adult Sharp-tailed Sandpiper lingered at Barbâtre until at least 30th. Some belated news concerned an adult Cape Gull at Épône on 14 July.

Belgium's 10th Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler was found at Zeebrugge on 29th and remained until at least 2nd. A Bonelli's Eagle flew over Hollain on 1st. The fourth Eleonora's Falcon for The Netherlands was photographed at Texel on 30th but sadly proved another untwitchable bird. A Steppe Eagle lingered at Nationaal Park De Groote Peel between 30th and 2nd, and a Baikal Teal was at Reeuwijkse Plassen on 1st.

Two Long-billed Dowitchers were at Hauke-Haien-Koog, Germany, while a first-winter Eastern Yellow Wagtail at Hel on 27th will be Poland's first record if accepted. 

More belated news came from Finland, as a Masked Wagtail had been photographed at Ekenäs on 19 September. The first record for the country.

Norway's west coast was productive once more. A Grey-cheeked Thrush was trapped and ringed at Utsira on 2nd when a Red-eyed Vireo was also present, the country's third and fourth records respectively. The same day a Swainson's Thrush was trapped and ringed at Drange, Norway's sixth. The Two-barred Warbler lingered at Røst until 27th and another was at Fedje on 1st, the country's third. Pechora Pipits were at Tisler on 24th and Sklinna on 27th, and a White's Thrush was at Sula on 29th.

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