The week at a glance
- No fewer than four Brown Shrikes in Scotland
- Hudsonian Whimbrel on Shetland
- Sykes's Warblers in County Cork and Shetland
- Red-eyed Vireos in Counties Cork and Kerry
- Isabelline Wheatear in Wales
- Huge arrival of Yellow-browed Warblers
As one would expect for the end of September and start of October, the week was a bird-filled one, with no shortage of targets on offer right across Britain and Ireland. The easterly airflow continued and, although it perhaps did not produce quite as much quality as anticipated, contributed heavily to a busy week on Bird News Extra.
The week's rarest bird, though, was not an eastern passerine but a Nearctic shorebird. Britain's eighth Hudsonian Whimbrel was a momentous find on Yell on 30th, continuing Shetland's rich vein of form — 2nd October was the first day since 18th September that a new BB rarity was not found on the islands. The whimbrel hung around until the end of the review period, and proved a real highlight for many currently enjoying a holiday on Shetland.
But perhaps the biggest talking point of the week was an unprecedented arrival of Brown Shrikes. In addition to the elusive North Ronaldsay bird (still there on 29th), three new birds were discovered this week: at Wester Quarff (Shetland) on 27th–30th and then, on 28th at Balcomie (Fife) and Collieston (Aberdeenshire). Of the two mainland birds, only the latter lingered to the following day, although both were well twitched. Given that there have been only 13 previous British and Irish records before this year, September's tally of five (including the Hampshire bird) is well and truly unheard of.
Fair Isle weighed in with a stunning Sykes's Warbler on 26th–30th, and the island's second Lanceolated Warbler was also there on 28th. Meanwhile, in the far south- west, another Sykes's was discovered at Garinish Point (Cork) on 2nd, the second Irish record following one on Cape Clear in 1990. A White's Thrush on St. Agnes (Scilly) during the evening of 2nd also brought back memories of '99 — here's hoping it proves as prolific a Scilly Season as that year! Not to be forgotten was Wales' sixth Isabelline Wheatear, found at Martin's Haven (Pembrokeshire) on 30th and lingering to the end of the review period.
Further excitement was provided by a Roller discovered near Castlebay, Barra (Outer Hebrides) on 29th–30th. No fewer than five Hoopoes were seen: in Counties Waterford, Cork, and Dublin (the latter lingering in Howth on 27th–1st), at Bamburgh (Northumberland) on 1st and as far north as South Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 29th. County Cork enjoyed a real purple patch during the week, with an Alpine Swift seen at Old Head of Kinsale on 26th along with excellent numbers of scarce migrants — for example, four Wrynecks were at Galley Head on 2nd.
One of the most popular birds on Shetland this week was a fine Pechora Pipit at Levenwick from 28th onwards, found there as the observer headed over to help relocate a Thrush Nightingale that had just been found nearby! Four of the week's seven Olive-backed Pipits were also on Shetland this week, with others on Papa Westray (Orkney) on 26th, the Isle of May (Fife) on 30th and at Spurn (E Yorks) on 1st, the latter bird being trapped and ringed. The year's first Red-flanked Bluetail was on Out Skerries (Shetland) on 29th, while last week's Siberian Stonechat remained on Bardsey Island (Gwynedd) to that date. Other maurus were later found at Trimley Marshes (Suffolk) on 1st–2nd and Cliffe Pools (Kent) on 2nd.
Shetland's confusing male Subalpine Warbler saw identification yo-yo between Eastern and Western more than once, although diagnosis as albistriata (Eastern) now looks the most likely. Another Subalp was on St. Agnes (Scilly) from 28th, while the male Sardinian Warbler continued to give the occasional burst of scratchy song at Mire Loch (Borders) throughout the week.
The week's only Greenish Warbler was reported at Reiss (Highland) on 27th, though the productive autumn for Arctic Warblers continued with three new birds found: at St. Margaret's Hope, South Ronaldsay on 26th and, on Shetland, at Loch of Voe on 30th–1st and at Baltasound, Unst on 1st in addition to the remaining bird at Ellister. Western Bonelli's Warblers were at Garinish (Cork) on 27th–2nd and Marrister, Whalsay (Shetland) on 29th–1st, while a Bonelli's warbler species remained elusive at Hunstanton (Norfolk) from 1st.
Ireland's fifth Booted Warbler was still at Hook Head (Wexford) to 27th, with others on Out Skerries (Shetland) on 26th–27th and at Seaford (E Sussex) on 30th. All three Melodious Warblers were to be found considerably further south and west: at Cahore (Wexford) on 28th, Sennen (Cornwall) on 29th–2nd, and in the same county at Rame on 30th. An Aquatic Warbler, a very rare occurrence so far this year, teased on St. Agnes (Scilly) on 28th, while an elusive Great Reed Warbler was unearthed at Wester Quarff (Shetland) the same day.
Blyth's Reed Warblers are a permanent fixture of the peak autumn dates these days, and no fewer than a dozen were recorded this week, all but one new birds. Six were on Shetland, compared to just a single Orkney record (South Ronaldsay on 26th). Another was on Barra (Outer Hebrides) on 26th; further notable records away from the Northern Isles concerned birds at Whitburn (Durham) on 26th–27th, Holy Island (Northumberland) on 28th, and one trapped and ringed on Skokholm (Pembrokeshire) on 27th. An Acrocephalus warbler at Red Rocks (Cheshire) from 30th was also reported as this species.
The first Red-eyed Vireos of 2013 were unearthed, perhaps unsurprisingly, in southwest Ireland this week. Following a bird near Inch Strand (Cork) on 26th, another was found at Dunquin (Kerry) on 1st and was still present there the following day.
Several Hornemann's Arctic Redpolls continued to be found on Shetland, with three at Sullom on 27th the pick of the bunch. Others were at Fladdabister, Norwick, Virkie and on both Foula and Fair Isle. A female/juvenile Two-barred Crossbill at King's Wood (Kent) on 29th was new, while at least one remained at Lynford Arboretum (Norfolk) and four at Broomhead Reservoir (S Yorks). A Serin was on St. Agnes (Scilly) on 26th.
Five of the week's eleven Little Buntings were on Shetland, though three in Northumberland included two on the Farne Islands on 30th and a third on Holy Island on 29th. One was on Blakeney Point (Norfolk) on 26th–27th and another graced the Isle of May (Fife) in addition to a three-dayer on St. Mary's (Scilly) from 28th. Dursey Island (Cork) boasted an Ortolan on 2nd, with a flyover at Bardsey (Gwynedd) on 29th and the Scilly bird still on St. Mary's early on. A Rustic Bunting was at Whitburn (Durham) on 27th. Meanwhile, on Shetland, the autumn's fantastic showing of Snow Buntings continued, with amazing flocks of 1,500+ on both Fetlar and Unst!
Scarce passerines included another good showing of Rose-coloured Starlings. Of the nine reported, six were lingering birds in Norfolk, Devon, Cornwall and on Scilly, but new juveniles were at Selsey Bill (W Sussex) on 1st, and Newport Wetlands (Gwent) and over Pegwell Bay (Kent) on 2nd.
Thirty-four reports of Richard's Pipit on Bird News Extra this week involved a typically well-spread set of records. Of these, three lingering at Whitburn (Durham) on 27th–30th were the easiest to connect with. A good scattering of Wrynecks, Common Rosefinches, Red-breasted Flycatchers, Barred Warblers and the odd Red-backed Shrike and Bluethroat continued, though it was really all about one species this week: Yellow-browed Warblers. A flood of biblical proportions engulfed the Northern Isles and much of the east coast from Norfolk northwards, leading to some quite astonishing counts — particularly early in the week. Over 160 birds on Shetland on 26th included 40 on Fair Isle alone, while almost 200 others across the country that day was no doubt just the tip of the iceberg — it's tempting to speculate that thousands must have arrived this week. Many sites claimed double-figure counts, and many coastal patchers were reporting that it was one of the (if not the) most common migrants seen! Further excitement was provided as the first Redwings and Bramblings began to arrive on a widespread front — winter is not far away now!
Other odds and sods included a Short-toed Lark on Foula on 30th, a Red-rumped Swallow over Landguard (Suffolk) on 26th, and County Galway's second Woodchat Shrike on Inishbofin that day. A Penduline Tit overflew Dungeness (Kent) on 30th.
Three Black Brants were picked out among the returning Dark-bellied Brent Geese at Leigh-on-Sea (Essex) on 2nd and on the Exe Estuary (Devon) from 27th. The drake Ferruginous Duck was still at Chew Valley Lake (Somerset), while three Irish Ring-necked Ducks (two in Mayo and one in Sligo) trumped Britain's one (still in Aberdeenshire). The drake Lesser Scaup returned once more to Cardiff Bay (Glamorgan) from 30th, and the Manchester drake was also still present on 2nd. A drake Green-winged Teal was at Martin Mere (Lancs) on 1st and the three Blue-winged Teal were still at Boultham Mere (Lincs) throughout, as was the drake in Clyde. A drake American Wigeon was at The Gearagh (Cork) on 28th and a Surf Scoter was again off Blackdog (Aberdeenshire) on 27th.
Cattle Egret records came from Gibraltar Point (Lincs) on 27th, Minsmere (Suffolk) on 29th, Cley/Salthouse and then Burnham Overy (Norfolk) on 30th–1st — could they all relate to the same, roving individual? A remarkably confiding Purple Heron arrived on St. Mary's (Scilly) from 28th, while Great White Egrets included an impressive six at Dungeness (Kent) on 2nd and three at Minsmere (Suffolk) throughout.
The influx of Glossy Ibis continued unabated, with top counts this week involving 15 in the Wiltshire section of the Cotswold Water Park briefly on 26th, 12 over Leighton Moss (Lancs) on 27th and 13+ at High Foulshaw (Cumbria) on 28th, with at least seven still there to the week's end. Of course, it is possible these reports could all refer to the same flock — before it split up around the Solway. Four at Caerlaverock (Dumf & Gall) from 30th were notable, as were four in Horwich (Gtr Man) on 27th–1st. Singletons were also reported from many western localities: Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Ceredigion, Anglesey, Clwyd, Cheshire, Lancashire and Shropshire all registered records.
A good week for American Golden Plovers saw another influx of ten new birds, including juveniles at Nanquidno (Cornwall) and Tory Island (Donegal) on 28th. Two adults still on the Myroe Levels (L'derry) were joined by a juvenile on 27th, while two also remained at Tacumshin (Wexford). The Myroe Levels also held on to the two continuing Buff-breasted Sandpipers; new Buff-breasts were at Balcomie (Fife) on 28th, Frampton Marsh (Lincs) from 29th and Donnybrewer (L'derry) on 27th, and two were at Loop Head (Clare) on 30th. Scilly records came from St. Agnes and St. Martins, while another was again on Sanday (Orkney). A Semipalmated Sandpiper was new in at Derrybeg (Donegal) on 28th, with another still at Tacumshin. Two Kerry records of Baird's Sandpiper came from Carrahane Strand on 28th–30th and Derrymore on 28th. Lesser Yellowlegs remained on Shetland and in Kent and County Galway, while the Long-billed Dowitcher reappeared in Hampshire.
Adding European flavour was a first-winter Black-winged Stilt on the Hayle Estuary (Cornwall) from 27th; a Kentish Plover on Tresco (Scilly) on 30th was a massive bird for the islands but failed to linger beyond that afternoon. A Red-necked Phalarope was at Anglers Country Park (W Yorks) on 2nd.
What is presumably the 'usual' Forster's Tern on its way back to County Louth for the autumn was on the Rogerstown Estuary (Dublin) on 29th. The Laughing Gull was still on Sanday (Orkney) to 29th, while four Ring-billed Gulls included returning adults at Kinneil Lagoon (Forth) and Portrush (Antrim) in addition to those still in Counties Kerry and Clare.
It was only a few weeks ago that we marvelled at the feat of the photographer who managed to capture a Red-backed Shrike catching a bee in mid-air. This week, Robbie Brookes has managed a very similar shot featuring another scarcity, a Red-breasted Flycatcher seen briefly in Shetland. At this time of year, Shetland is a superb place to photograph rarer birds and has yielded several Notable Images this week as well as our last two Photos of the Week. As Robbie explains in his blog, he moved from Gloucestershire to Shetland with his family five years ago: what a wonderful base for someone with a lifelong interest in birds and other wildlife. Thankfully, he is also a passionate photographer and regular BirdGuides contributor, so we can all share (albeit vicariously) some of his avian encounters."
Southern Grey Shrike, Tunisia (Photo: Mr Clive Daelman)
Yellow Wagtail, Israel (Photo: Wally Harris)