The week at a glance
- White-tailed Lapwing on Merseyside
- Trumpeter Finch in Norfolk
- Collared Flycatcher in the Outer Hebrides
- Iberian Chiffchaffs still in Gwent, Kent and South Yorkshire
Aside from a crop of presumed ship-assisted vagrants from the Americas and a presumed returning rare Asian shorebird, May 2010 hasn't really set the birding world alight. That funny finch, the stripy-headed sparrows, an all-at-sea Junco and the Lincolnshire pratincole had been the headline-makers for this often stellar month and, nowadays, most people barely bat an eyelid at some of those species. Thankfully, there was a grand finale to be had, one that proved especially welcome to any of those who were given the runaround in 2007.
Liverpool's Seaforth docks were the focus of attention for a couple of days this week. No ship-assisted White-crowned Sparrow, Song Sparrow or Blackpoll Warbler this time around; no, this was a full-on, made-it-under-its-own-steam, fifth-for-Britain, cracking White-tailed Lapwing. Found on the LWT reserve on the afternoon of 27th, the bird showed fantastically well to all those holding the necessary permits. Those without had to make do from the boundary fence, but any views are better than no views, right? The bird remained throughout the day on 28th, but may well have ventured eastwards overnight — a similarly pale-faced White-tailed Lapwing appeared in The Netherlands on the morning of 29th. Lancashire was, of course, one of the hosts of Britain's most recent White-tailed Lapwing, seen at Leighton Moss from 10th–17th June 2007 after a three-day stay at Caerlaverock (Dumfries & Galloway) on 6th–8th of the same month. This relocating trick mirrored the third British record in May 1984, a bird originally discovered in County Durham before heading to Shropshire. Before that, the only records of this tremendous-looking bird were in Dorset in July 1979 and, famously, in Warwickshire in July 1975.
Coming in a close second, the final day of May performed the old Bank Holiday Monday trick of delivering a humdinger in the outrageous candy-floss pink guise of a stonking male Trumpeter Finch on the north Norfolk coast. Initially found out on Blakeney Point (the same site that hosted the county's first, and only, other record, two years to the day in 2008) the bird did the decent thing and relocated to the shingle bank adjacent to the famous Arnold's Marsh, where it stayed for the rest of the day, and, edging closer to Salthouse, throughout the 1st and 2nd of June. Meanwhile, out on the Outer Hebrides, a male Collared Flycatcher was a tremendous find on the afternoon of 1st near Garrynahine on Lewis. This will be the second record for the islands, the first coming in May 1992 over on St. Kilda.
The three singing male Iberian Chiffchaffs stayed on through the week, reported at Walderslade (Kent) to 2nd, Potteric Carr (South Yorkshire) to 1st and Wentwood Forest (Gwent) to 31st.
A White-billed Diver was seen flying past Skaw, Unst (Shetland) on 31st with one off Holy Island (Northumberland) on 2nd. Some five or six single Balearic Shearwaters were noted around our coasts this week, with two fewer Pomarine Skuas noted. It's fair to say that it hasn't been a particular good week for seabirds.
Five Great White Egrets were reported: singles in Carmarthenshire, East Sussex, Hampshire, Essex, Aberdeenshire and Wexford. Around 30 Spoonbills included a single bird in Leicestershire and Derbyshire on 29th and three together at Holland Haven (Essex) on 30th. Three Common Cranes flew over Chester-le-Street (Co. Durham) on 29th and two were at Loch of Strathbeg (Aberdeenshire) on 30th. Two were on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 31st and singles were seen elsewhere on Orkney and also in Cleveland, East Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and County Clare.
In Somerset, last summer's male Little Bittern made a surprise appearance back at Ham Wall from around 25th, moving to Walton Heath on 28th. In Kent, a Night Heron was reported at Dungeness on 26th–27th and, nearby, one of the breeding pair of Purple Herons was seen occasionally on Denge Marsh. Two single Purple Herons were also seen in Suffolk this week, at King's Ferry on 27th and Minsmere on 27th–30th.
For the third year in a row a Black Stork appeared in County Durham, this time around Deepdale Wood on 27th–28th, and one was on Skye on 31st and another on Unst (Shetland) on 2nd. A White Stork was seen along the River Annan (Dumfries & Galloway) on 31st, while in Ireland the Glossy Ibis was again at Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) on 30th–2nd.
Single drake Ring-necked Ducks were at Oxford Island (Co. Armagh) on 29th–1st and Angle Park GP (Fife) on 29th, moving to nearby Birnie & Gaddon Lochs from 30th. In Somerset, the drake Ferruginous Duck was again at Chew Valley Lake all week. Last week ended with the appearance of a female Blue-winged Teal in Leicestershire; this week began with the same bird reappearing at Paxton Pits (Cambridgeshire) — she stayed, with her male Shoveler companion, until 28th. In Scotland, the drake King Eider remained on the Ythan Estuary (Aberdeenshire) to 1st at least.
Birders at Frampton Marsh in Lincolnshire enjoyed a pair of Black-winged Stilts, hot on the heels of the ever-so-popular Oriental Pratincole, on the morning of 29th but they were gone within an hour of touching down. The only other report came from Guernsey, of three at Claire Mare on 2nd, with nine Spoonbills also there. In the West Midlands, a Collared Pratincole was reported from Sandwell Valley late in the evening of 27th.
A fly-over Stone-curlew at Oakham (Leicestershire) at 22:40 on 1st was a good record, but was beaten the next day by the county's first Broad-billed Sandpiper, present for just 40 minutes at Rutland Water on 2nd. This continued the excellent run for the species this spring, and one also remained on the Ythan Estuary (Aberdeenshire) to 27th; the Pectoral Sandpiper stayed there to 28th. Further 'Pecs' were at Esha Ness (Shetland) on 27th, Summer Leys (Northamptonshire) on 28th and Cowpen Marsh (Cleveland) on 30th. In Aberdeenshire again, a Buff-breasted Sandpiper was discovered at Rattray Head on 29th.
There were still reasonable numbers of Temminck's Stints around this week: at least 20 birds were noted including up to four still at Cley (Norfolk) on 27th and three each for Port Clarence (Cleveland) and Frampton Marsh (Lincs) on the same day. Single female Red-necked Phalaropes appeared at Rutland Water on 27th, Westwood Pools (Worcestershire) on 28th and Martin Mere (Lancashire) on 2nd and a Dotterel was on the Cleveland/North Yorkshire border at Scaling Dam Reservoir on 31st. There was just one record of Pacific Golden Plover, a bird reported from Brenish, Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 2nd.
In the Republic of Ireland, all eyes were on Tacumshin down in Wexford this week, where a small flock of Red-footed Falcons was discovered on 27th. First came a female; she was joined by a young male and they were then joined by a further young male and another female. The following day four birds were still present, but there were now three males and just one female. By 29th, two males and a single female remained (although there was a report of seven from the site on the same date, four of them males), with one of each sex on 30th. Over in County Kildare, last week's female was still at Timahoe West to 31st. At Wilstone Reservoir (Hertfordshire) last week's adult male Red-footed Falcon was joined by a first-summer male on 27th; the latter bird stayed to 2nd at least (two were reported there again on 30th). Another young male was seen at St. Just and Gunnard's Head (Cornwall) on 27th, two females were reported from Breydon Water (Norfolk) on 28th, a male was at Dungeness on 30th and last up was a young male at Ouse Fen (Cambridgeshire) on 1st–2nd.
A Black Kite was over the Lizard (Cornwall) on 27th (along with at least 20 Red Kites, the remarkable passage through the county continuing unabated) and the second of the week was seen at Portree (Skye) on 30th. A third was seen, also in Scotland, at Dalmally (Argyll) on 31st.
Summer Sabine's Gulls are barely annual, so one off the ferry at Papa Stour (Shetland) on 2nd was an excellent find. A Ring-billed Gull was at Bunmahon (Co. Waterford) on 27th, while white-winged gulls tallied just two Iceland Gulls and three or four Glaucous Gulls. A Caspian Gull was at Dungeness on 31st. In Cambridgeshire, a Whiskered Tern put in a brief appearance at the Ely Beet Factory on 28th, while at Tacumshin the summer Forster's Tern remained to 1st.
The male White-spotted Bluethroat was still singing at Welney (Norfolk) all week and a Bluethroat was seen on Unst, also on 31st. A Red-throated Pipit flew over Samson (Scilly) on 27th and nearby on Bryher a Short-toed Lark was seen on 31st–1st with another on Papa Stour (Shetland) on 2nd. A Grey-headed Wagtail was a nice find at Hunterston Sands (Ayr) on 1st.
In Norfolk, a controversial Luscinia was singing from time to time (and showing far less frequently) at Walsey Hills near Cley throughout 1st. It looked and sounded just like a Thrush Nightingale (and responded to tape of Sprosser song rather than Nightingale) so that's presumably what it was!!
Most of the excitement on Scilly this week though came in the multi-coloured guise of a flock of Bee-eaters. Starting as a quintet on St. Agnes in the early morning of 27th, within an hour 11 were on show, but by midday they'd relocated to St. Mary's. The following day, 10 were seen on St. Martin's and then Tresco. Elsewhere, six were over Pett Levels (East Sussex) on 2nd with singletons in Dorset, Norfolk, Suffolk and Lincolnshire.
The Red-rumped Swallow remained on South Ronaldsay (Orkney) to 1st, while new arrivals were seen at Dawlish Warren (Devon) on 27th and Ogston Reservoir (Derbyshire) on 29th–30th.
Scilly, Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire fared particularly well in the Golden Oriole stakes this week, while Bardsey Island (Gwynedd) and Inishbofin (Co. Galway) scored one apiece, with further birds on Orkney and Shetland.
In South Yorkshire, at Old Moor RSPB reserve, a singing male Savi's Warbler from 27th–30th proved popular, despite often proving to be extremely elusive. The bird seems to have appeared around 23rd and is only the second county record since the start of the 2000s — the other was also at Old Moor, back in April 2001.
The singing Great Reed Warbler at Straw's Bridge NR (Derbyshire) remained all week and one-day singing male Marsh Warblers were at Gramborough Hill, Salthouse (Norfolk) on 1st and Minsmere (Suffolk) on 2nd. Icterine Warblers were at Trimingham (Norfolk) and on Fair Isle (Shetland) on 27th, at Quendale (Shetland) from 29th, at Burnham Overy Dunes (Norfolk) on 31st, heard singing in a private garden in St. Margaret's (Kent) on 1st and on Whalsay (Shetland) on 2nd. Shetland was also host to the week's only Subalpine Warbler, a female still on Foula on 27th.
A Woodchat Shrike spent the Bank Holiday weekend at Filey (North Yorkshire), along with a very late Redwing on 30th. Twelve Red-backed Shrikes included a female in Nottinghamshire (presumably the same bird that was seen in the county at the end of last week) and a popular male at Salthouse and Kelling (Norfolk), which may well then have moved to Cley on 1st–2nd. The fall conditions of 1st also plonked three Red-backed Shrikes down on the Spurn peninsula, along with a Red-breasted Flycatcher and an Icterine Warbler.
At least one Common Rosefinch was at Flamborough Head (East Yorkshire) on 28th and another was seen a Spurn the same day. Another was a brief visitor to Gibraltar Point (Lincolnshire) on 30th. On Shetland, single Rosefinches were at Sumburgh Head on 29th, on Fair Isle on 30th and on Out Skerries on 1st; off the Welsh coast, one was on Bardsey on 31st. Back in the northern isles, Rustic Buntings were seen on Fetlar (Shetland) on 28th and Papa Westray (Orkney) on 1st.
Photo of the Week
As a result of reintroduction schemes, White-tailed Eagles can once again be seen in the wild in a few UK locations. With an 8-foot wingspan, these birds are truly huge, even making Golden Eagles look small in comparison. Most people who have seen one of these magnificent eagles up close have done so at a Bird of Prey centre. On a recent trip to the Isle of Mull, though, bird photographer Marcus Conway was lucky enough to experience this thrilling sight in the bird's natural environment. Capturing the bird in a banking dive at close quarters, Marcus bagged a detailed, dynamic shot that conveys the awesome size and power of the species.
Other notable photos
European Bee-eater, Spain (Photo: Ian Curran)