Review of the Week: 27th September-3rd October 2007


The week at a glance:

Rare and scarce birds

Brown Flycatcher: Flamborough Head, E. Yorks (photo: Tony Dixon).

Brown Flycatcher: Flamborough Head, E. Yorks (photo: Phil Bishop).

Brown Flycatcher: Flamborough Head, E. Yorks (photo: Steve Arlow).

As expected the switch from a northwesterly airflow to an easterly one delivered instant results, with a major influx of 'sibes' noted all along the east coast. The cream of the crop made landfall on Shetland, but later in the week it was a 1st-winter Brown Flycatcher in Old Fall Plantation on Flamborough Head (E. Yorks) that stole the honours by a mile. This east Asian flycatcher has flirted with the British list on several occasions in the past, most recently in 1992 when one made landfall on Fair Isle (Shetland) on 1st July. However that individual was assigned Category D status by the keepers of the British list, despite protestation in many quarters. However, the discovery of a 1st-winter bird at Flamborough on 3rd October should secure ascendancy onto Category A for this unassuming flycatcher. Time for a reassessment of the Mugimaki Flycatcher anyone?

Siberian Thrush: Foula, Shetland (photo: Rob Fray).

Swainson's Thrush: Fetlar, Shetland (photo: Brydon Thomason).

Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler: Fair Isle, Shetland (photo: Mark Breaks).

Paddyfield Warbler: St. Margaret's at Cliffe, Kent (photo: Lee Fuller).

Red-flanked Bluetail: Weybourne, Norfolk (photo: Peter Simpson).

Blyth's Reed Warbler: Woodhorn, Northumbs (photo: David Dack).

Subalpine Warbler: Burnham Overy, Norfolk (photo: Steve Morgan).

Isabelline Shrike: Buckton, E. Yorks (photo: Craig Shaw).

Lanceolated Warbler: Fair Isle, Shetland (photo: Dougie Preston).

American Buff-bellied Pipit: St. Mary's, Scilly (photo: Steve Copsey).

Thrush Nightingale: Fair Isle, Shetland (photo: Mark Breaks).

Mouth-watering rarities arrived thick and fast during the week, most of them on the various parts of Shetland, though rarities made landfall all along the east coast as far south as Kent. A male Subalpine Warbler at Burnham Overy (Norfolk) from 30th onwards was widely considered to belong to the race moltoni, often referred to as Moltoni's Subalpine Warbler, an endemic race of the western Mediterranean islands. This bird may prove to be the first well-documented occurrence of this race for Britain, though it has been suspected in the past. Rarities more in keeping with the airflow included the first Siberian Thrush for Shetland on Foula on 28th, a White's Thrush found dead on Fair Isle on 2nd and Pallas's Grasshopper Warblers on Fair Isle on 28th and Out Skerries (Shetland) on 2nd. From points west, a Swainson's Thrush was on Fetlar (Shetland) from 28th to 3rd and a Grey-cheeked Thrush on Fair Isle on 30th. The, now expected, arrival of Red-flanked Bluetails included birds at Corton (Suffolk) on 28th, Weybourne (Norfolk) on 29th and the first for Wales on Bardsey Island (Gwynedd) on 1st. A Paddyfield Warbler showed well at St. Margaret's at Cliffe (Kent) from 28th to 29th, three Lanceolated Warblers were on Fair Isle and half-a-dozen Blyth's Reed Warblers included three in northeast England. A Pechora Pipit was briefly on Out Skerries on 28th; at least two American Buff-bellied Pipits were on the Scillies and what was thought to possibly be a different individual was on Fair Isle, where there was also a Thrush Nightingale and two Citrine Wagtails; three other Citrine Wagtails were on Shetland and another on North Ronaldsay (Orkney). In East Yorkshire an Isabelline Shrike, considered to be of the race phoenicuroides (known as Turkestan Shrike), was at Buckton from 29th onwards and a Lesser Grey Shrike was at Holkham (Norfolk) from 2nd onwards.

Yellow-browed Warbler: Kilnsea, E. Yorks (photo: Steve Morgan).

Barred Warbler: Holme, Norfolk (photo: Garth Peacock).

Red-backed Shrike: Great Wakering, Essex (photo: Steve Arlow).

Great Grey Shrike: Gunner's Park, Essex (photo: Steve Arlow).

The Sardinian Warbler remained at South Scousburgh (Shetland), as did the Arctic Warbler on Out Skerries to 27th. Half-a-dozen Greenish Warblers were noted, most in Norfolk, and Radde's Warblers included one at Sea Palling (Norfolk) on 30th and another on The Naze (Essex) from 2nd to 3rd. A widespread arrival of Yellow-browed Warblers included double-figure counts on both Fair Isle and Whalsay (Shetland) and there were in the region of 30 Barred Warblers reported and three each of Icterine Warbler and Melodious Warblers. An Aquatic Warbler was trapped at Titchfield Haven (Hants) on 29th and another on St. Agnes (Scilly) on 1st, plus four Marsh Warblers included one on South Uist (Outer Hebrides). Four Siberian Stonechats were detected between Northumberland and East Yorkshire, and three Arctic Redpolls included two assigned to the race hornemanni, known as Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, on Fetlar and Whalsay. Three Red-throated Pipits included one on St. Mary's (Scilly), a Serin was at Wells Woods (Norfolk) on 29th, Hoopoe at Trondra (Shetland) and the Rose-coloured Starling still at Pennington Marshes (Hants). An influx of Great Grey Shrikes brought over 30 birds, mostly to eastern counties, and eight Red-backed Shrikes were noted. Seven Little Buntings and Richard's Pipits into the mid-teens was perhaps below par, with similar numbers of Common Rosefinches, ten Wrynecks and approaching 20 Red-breasted Flycatchers. Just six Bluethroats were further testament to the increasing scarcity of this attractive species. A dozen Shore Larks included seven over Cley (Norfolk).

Pectoral Sandpiper: Gwithiam, Cornwall (photo: Mike Barker).

Buff-breasted Sandpiper: Flamborough Head, E. Yorks (photo: Steve Race).

White-rumped Sandpiper: Unst, Shetland (photo: Mike Pennington).

Long-billed Dowitcher: Branston Fen, Lincs (photo: Russell Hayes).

The Greater Yellowlegs remained at Farlington Marshes (Hants) to early on 27th - many will be hopeful of a south-coast relocation later in the autumn - and in County Cork the Lesser Yellowlegs was still at Clonakilty. The Killdeer continued its residency at Pool of Virkie (Shetland) and a Semipalmated Plover was reported from Colonsay (Argyll) from 27th to 28th. A Great Snipe was seen briefly on Fetlar on 29th and four Long-billed Dowitchers included birds at Bough Beech Reservoir (Kent), Shannon (Co. Clare), Rusheen Bay (Co. Galway) and Branston Fen (Lincs). There were Baird's Sandpipers at Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) and on the Ythan Estuary (Aberdeenshire), plus White-rumped Sandpipers were on Fair Isle, Unst (Shetland) and Carrahane Strand (Co. Kerry). Spotted Sandpipers graced Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 27th and Ballycotton (Co. Clare) on 3rd, plus the long-stayer remained on Yell (Shetland). There were Temminck's Stints at Slimbridge (Glos) and Needingworth Quarry (Cambs) and a Kentish Plover was at Pagham Harbour (W. Sussex) on 29th. Over 20 Pectoral Sandpipers were reported and a good spread of Buff-breasted Sandpipers reached double figures. Four American Golden Plovers and five Dotterel were noted, good numbers of Grey Phalaropes included a number of typically obliging inland birds and five Red-necked Phalaropes were present along the east cost between Spurn (E. Yorks) and Cley (Norfolk).

Red-necked Phalarope: Gibraltar Point, Lincs (photo: Ray Purser).

Grey Phalarope: Blithfield Reservoir, Staffs (photo: Dave Hutton).

Seawatchers were able to enjoy good numbers of Sabine's Gulls along the east coast; three penetrating inland to Rutland Water (Leics) were notable, as was another at Farmoor and Balscote (Oxon), whilst 21 were off the Scilly pelagic on the 3rd. Several Great Shearwaters were off the east coast on the 27th and good numbers of Gannets were an inland treat for 'local patchers'. A Gull-billed Tern was observed passing Spurn on 29th with presumably the same bird past Hartlepool (Cleveland) later the same day. A Baltic Gull was at Chew Valley Lake (Somerset) on 30th, a Franklin's Gull briefly at Alvecote Pools (Warks) on 29th and the 2nd-winter Laughing Gull at Topsham (Devon). A Bonaparte's Gull was at Strangford Lough (Co. Down) on 29th.

Sabine's Gull: Flamborough Head, E. Yorks (photo: Andy Booth).

A juvenile Pallid Harrier was reported from Jura (Argyll) on 1st and Black Kites continued at both Nocton Heath (Lincs) and Wacker Quay (Cornwall). Snowy Owls were still present on Lewis (Outer Hebrides) and Blacksod (Co. Mayo) and the Glossy Ibis returned to Marshside (Lancs). The Cattle Egret remained near Thurso (Highland) and several Great White Egrets included two over Holkham (Norfolk) on 3rd. The Night Heron was still present at Gibraltar Point (Lincs) and an escaped bird was in Cleveland, whilst the Great Bustard from the reintroduction project was in Somerset. A Lesser Scaup at Blagdon Lake (Somerset) was presumably the returning drake and there were Ferruginous Ducks still at Hornsea Mere (E. Yorks) and Chew Valley Lake, plus Ring-necked Ducks in Somerset, Shetland and Outer Hebrides. The Blue-winged Teal remained in Cleveland, as did the Marbled Duck in Suffolk and American Wigeon in Pembrokeshire. There was a Surf Scoter in Co. Kerry and King Eider off Trondra (Shetland). Both Snow Goose and Ross's Goose were present with Pinkfeet in Norfolk.

Lesser Scaup: Blagdon Lake, Somerset (photo: John Martin).

Photo of the week

Gull attacks on seabirds are a common occurrence but, because of where they take place and their unpredictability, they are very difficult to photograph. Even if you manage to point your camera at one, following the action, keeping the birds in focus and timing the shot are a real challenge. John Anderson has therefore done extremely well to freeze the action as this Manx Shearwater was being forced into the sea by a pursuing Herring Gull. This image really sums up a dramatic event in time, with the much bigger gull almost reaching the open-billed Manxie, both banking steeply only millimetres above a menacing sea.

Manx Shearwater: Fife Ness, Fife (photo: John Anderson).

Other notable photos from the week

Grey Phalarope: Blithfield Reservoir, Staffs (photo: Jim Almond).

Kingfisher: Summer Leys, Northants (photo: Richard Bedford).

Grey Plover: Titchwell, Norfolk (photo: Garth Peacock).

Grey Heron: Cley, Norfolk (photo: Peter Simpson).

Chiffchaff: Leics (photo: J. Toon).

Linnet: New Brighton, Cheshire (photo: Richard Steel).

Knot: Blithfield Reservoir, Staffs (photo: Dave Hutton).

Lewin's Honeyeater: Queensland, Australia (photo: Adam Bowley).

Many of the images that appear in our weekly reviews can be purchased from the photographers, some of whom have their own websites:

John Anderson: http://www.pbase.com/crail_birder
Bill Aspin: http://billaspinsnatureblog.blogspot.com
Mike Atkinson: http://mikeatkinson.net
Richard Bedford: http://www.richardbedford.co.uk
Steve Blain: http://www.steveblain.co.uk
Will Bowell: http://www.wanderingbirders.com
Paul Bowerman: http://www.severnsidebirds.co.uk
Paul Bowyer: http://www.birdlist.co.uk
Graham Catley: http://pewit.blogspot.com/
Mark Caunt: http://www.AngusBirding.com
Dean Eades: http://www.deaneadeswildlifephotography.co.uk
Andrew Easton: http://home.clara.net/ammodytes/
Graham Eaton: http://www.eatonphotography.co.uk
Stuart Elsom: http://www.stuartelsom.co.uk
Steve Evans: http://www.isabelline.co.uk
Katie Fuller: http://bogbumper.blogspot.com
Ian Fulton: http://www.pbase.com/ianfulton
Sean Gray: http://www.grayimages.co.uk
David Hatton: http://www.kowapower.com
Josh Jones: http://www.wanderingbirders.com
Paul and Andrea Kelly: http://www.irishbirdimages.com/
Matt Latham: http://www.mattlathamphotography.com
Micky Maher: http://www.aardfoto.co.uk/
John Malloy: http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/johnmalloy
Brian Mcgeough: http://www.brianmcgeough.com/
Tony Mills: http://www.notjustbirds.com
Jerry O'Brien: http://www.BirdsofBerkshire.co.uk
Mark Newsome: http://www.durhambirdclub.org/
James Packer: http://www.somersetbirder.co.uk
Mike Pennington: http://www.nature.shetland.co.uk
Ken Plows: http://www.kenswildlifepics.co.uk
Ray Purser: http://www.pbase.com/02purser
Marc Read: http://www.marcread-pix.com
Tristan Reid: http://www.atricillaimages.co.uk/
Steve Round: http://stevenround-birdphotography.com
Craig Shaw: http://craigsukbirdpictures.bravehost.com/
Tom Shevlin: http://wildlifesnaps.com/
Peter Simpson: http://www.blueskybirds.co.uk
Matt Slaymaker: http://www.mattslaymaker.co.uk
Oliver Smart: http://www.smartimages.co.uk
George Spraggs: http://www.bird-watching.co.uk
Richard Steel: http://wildlifephotographic.bblogspot.com/
Stephen Tomlinson: http://stevesbirding.blogspot.com
Sue Tranter: http://www.suesbirdphotos.co.uk/
Damian Waters: http://www.drumimages.co.uk
Steve Williams: http://www.hilbrebirdobs.co.uk
Simon Wilson: http://www.bakewellbirder.co.uk/
Chris Wormwell: http://www.iombirding.co.uk
Dylan Wrathall: http://www.planetthanet.org
Written by: Russell Slack