Review of the Week: 26th April-2nd May 2002


Well, we have all been brought back to reality this week with cool, often very wet and windy, weather. However, despite the often poor conditions a good number of rarities were found and there were some interesting seabird movements.

A Greater Yellowlegs on St. Kilda lays claim to bird of the week, but the inaccessibility of the island means that mainland birders must wait a little longer for one to be twitchable. The last on the mainland to remain for any period of time was as long ago as 1996. A Black Stork near Bury St. Edmunds on the 1st would have proved to be popular had it not decided to head off in a northwesterly direction, though there is the strong possibility that it might be picked up elsewhere as birds are often tracked around the country. On the subject of 'big' things a Great White Egret was on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on the 2nd, and was perhaps the bird last seen on Shetland on 24th April. In the southwest the fourth Subalpine Warbler of the spring was found on St. Mary’s (Scilly) and was another bird of the Western form, a Woodchat Shrike was at St. Levan and a Red-rumped Swallow was seen at Land’s End on the 2nd, with others in Leicestershire, Buckinghamshire and Dorset. In Clyde a 1st-summer Whistling Swan quickly attracted the attention of birders interested in different forms just in case of future splits, but the excitement was short-lived as the bird proved partial to a slice or two of bread!

Elsewhere, a Whiskered Tern was reported in Nottinghamshire on the 2nd, a White-billed Diver was off Shetland on 28th, the same day an adult Bonaparte's Gull was on South Uist. On Fair Isle a Little Bunting was seen on the 30th and a white-spotted Bluethroat was in Essex on the 27th. There were relatively few exotic overshoots, with just 5 Hoopoes reported, and 3 Serins, all of the latter predictably in Kent and Dorset. Scarce waders remain just that, with just one Temminck's Stint in Cleveland, a couple of Wood Sandpipers and Kentish Plovers in Kent, Dorset and West Sussex. A total of three Pectoral Sandpipers have been seen during the week with birds in North Yorkshire, Devon and Lancashire. Dotterel passage has still not fully got underway, but several trips during the week included birds that have lingered for a few days, but more birds will be found in the coming weeks, and a recent article provides details on some of the more likely locations.

The gale-force winds noted in many western areas during the week ensured that there was plenty of activity on the seabird front. Pomarine Skuas have not been seen in great numbers along the English Channel, but Bowness-on-Solway has regularly been producing good counts with 51 past on the 30th and 28 on the 29th. The largest count was of 123 past Balranald and 120 near Galway; further details on where to see spring skuas can be found here. In addition a rare inland sighting was one through Carsington Water (Derbyshire) on the 29th. Two Red-necked Phalaropes during the week were exceptionally early, with one at Ferrybridge (Dorset) on 26th and another inland at Daventry Reservoir (Northamptonshire) on 30th. Just for good measure a Grey Phalarope was present off Dunbar (Lothian) on 27th. An adult Sabine's Gull in Somerset was the pick of displaced seabirds, though many coastal locations reported good numbers of Manx Shearwaters and 49 Storm Petrels were noted off Berry Head (Devon) on the 30th. Inland, there was a good scattering of Arctic Terns in small numbers, but most of the larger counts were from coastal locations, much to the disappointment of inland birders. However, a scatter of inland Little Terns will have been ample compensation for many and a splendid summer-plumaged Great Northern Diver was at Draycote Water on 26th.

The next week could, and possibly will, produce anything, it is that time of year. However, as May is the month for overshooting Nearctic sparrow in Britain and Ireland, perhaps the highlight of next week will be a pristine White-crowned Sparrow or perhaps, less ambitiously, a Dark-eyed Junco!!

Written by: Russell Slack, BirdGuides