Review of the Week: 26th September–2nd October 2002


The conditions so far this autumn have not been conducive to American vagrants, with the exception of a nice run of waders in September. Therefore, a Veery on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) was a surprise find. This is only the 6th for Britain and there is only one other European record. The other records have all been from the southwest of England, apart from a bird on North Uist in 1995 which remained for just over a week; the two records since were both one-day birds. This small thrush is a highly desired species for the keen listers.

Also on the Northern Isles, White's Thrushes on both Fair Isle and Shetland will have provoked deep envy amongst those of us further south. Numerically speaking this striking zoothera is not that much of a rarity, with a cumulative total over the years of over fifty records, just under 25 of them since 1958. However, this beautiful thrush is high on the list of many a rarity-finders' 'species I'd love to find' list and records away from the offshore islands are few and far between and lingering birds at any location are even rarer. The last to hang around was one on St. Agnes (Isles of Scilly) in October and November 1999. The last to be twitchable on the mainland was at Brora (Highland) in 1991 when one tantalised the masses from 27th to 29th September. There have been nearly 70 Pechora Pipits recorded over the years. This is another speciality of the Northern Isles, with most on either Fair Isle or Shetland, so two on the former were perhaps not too surprising a find. Also on the Northern Isles, an Alpine Swift was over Fair Isle, with perhaps the same bird seen over Foula. Three Citrine Wagtails have been recorded during the week, with one lingering in Donegal, another in East Yorkshire and one on Tresco. The Yorkshire bird was only the second county record, though there have been over a dozen records on the Isles of Scilly, most of which have been during the 1990s – amazing to think that the first of over 140 or so British and Irish records was as recently as 1954 on Fair Isle! In Norfolk, a male Sardinian Warbler was typically skulking, and is the second autumn record for the county. A Red-headed or Black-headed Bunting was on Tresco during the week and highlights the difficulty of separating some individuals of these two species.

Once again there was a good scatter of Pectoral Sandpipers, supplemented with dwindling numbers of scarcer waders. A Buff-breasted Sandpiper proved popular in North Yorkshire, the Long-billed Dowitcher remained on Foula, as did the Pacific Golden Plover in Durham and a Baird's Sandpiper was in Cork. Elsewhere, a Grey Phalarope was seen in Norfolk, whilst the Glossy Ibis remained in Devon and another was seen in Shetland.

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The outlook at this time of year is more often than not dictated by the date. Easterlies, and high pressure systems stretching way to the east, will facilitate mouth-watering arrivals from Siberia, whilst a quick-moving Atlantic depression will shift the focus onto a search for Nearctic landbirds, but as is often the case anything can, and frequently does, happen!

As always, if you are fortunate enough to encounter anything of interest, or if you have travelled to see one of the birds mentioned on our Bird News Extra page, please call us on our freefone number 08000 350 444, email us at sightings@birdguides.com or use the submission form on our Bird News Extra page - we would love to hear from you with information on what you have found, or been to see.

Written by: Russell Slack