Review of the Week: 2nd-8th October 2003

Northern Parula: Brownstown Head, Co. Waterford:. 1st-winter male; such birds have greenish edges to the flight feathers and there is less white in the tail. In addition, there is a paler band on the breast. (Photo: PM Walsh)

The pendulum swung to rarities from the west this week, with a couple of ultra-rare American warblers in Ireland. As befits the time of year there were still plenty of rarities from points east and a spell of strong west and northwesterly winds produced some delight for seawatchers.

Common Yellowthroat: Loop Head, Co. Clare. 1st-winter male; only the 8th record of the species for Britain and Ireland. (Photo: Alan Clewes) Common Yellowthroat: Loop Head, Co. Clare. 1st-winters have a hint of the face mask, bordered greyish. Note also the pale eye-ring. (Photo: Paul and Andrea Kelly)

A 1st-winter male Common Yellowthroat was found at Loop Head (Co. Clare) on 3rd October and remained in the lighthouse compound to the 4th. The first for Ireland, this will be the 8th for Britain and Ireland, with the last records occuring in 1997 when birds were seen on Unst (Shetland) and St. Mary's (Scilly). Also in Ireland a Northern Parula was at Brownstown Head (Co. Waterford) on the 5th. Although there have been 16 previous records this was the first since one on St, Agnes (Scilly) in 1995 and was only the 3rd for Ireland. On the Outer Hebrides, the 'place to be' Barra accommodated a Red-eyed Vireo from 5th-7th. However, if we thought we had done well, most birders were left salivating at reports of Least Flycatcher, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing and Baltimore Oriole on Iceland!

Sykes's Warbler: Unst, Shetland. Yet another; look for the long thin bill with at most an indistinct smudge at the tip of the lower mandible, also pale, long-tailed and short-winged. Note the tail and wing movements in the field for a pointer away from Eastern Olivaceous. (Photo: Mike Pennington) Blyth's Reed Warbler: Unst, Shetland. Thanks to the efforts of ringers this is now an annual migrant in varying numbers. The number of birds identified in the field is small, but increasing. (Photo: Mike Pennington)

The Northern Isles again attracted a superb haul of rarities during the week. Another Sykes's Warbler was trapped, this time on Unst, on the 5th and was still present on the 7th. A Pechora Pipit was on Fair Isle (Shetland) from 5th-8th with another on Foula on the 8th, a Blyth's Reed Warbler on Unst on 5th and 7th and an Olive-backed Pipit at Kergord (Shetland) on 2nd. A handful of Arctic Redpolls included a bird of the form hornemanni on Unst and another found dead on Yell. Early in the week lingering rarities in Shetland included a Lanceolated Warbler and Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler on Out Skerries, Paddyfield Warbler on Foula and Arctic Warbler on Fetlar.

Arctic Redpoll: Unst, Shetland:.. A bird of the rarer nominate form hornemanni (Hornemann's Redpoll), which breeds in Greenland and Arctic Canada. Larger than exillipes (Coues's Redpoll), with wider and paler rump band, less streaking on the flanks and much whiter in the field. (Photo: Mike Pennington)

Away from there, a Citrine Wagtail was on the Farne Islands (Northumberland) on 2nd, with one still on North Ronaldsay (Orkney). Booted Warblers were reported from Whitburn (Co. Durham) on 2nd and Walsey Hills (Norfolk) on 6th, a Radde's Warbler was at Tory Island (Co. Donegal) on 2nd and a Dusky Warbler on Tresco (Scilly) on 6th. In Lincolnshire a male Sardinian Warbler skulked in Skegness from 2nd onwards, a Subalpine Warbler was at Crookhaven (Co. Cork) on the 4th and a Penduline Tit was at Rye Harbour (E. Sussex) on 6th. An Eleonora's Falcon was reported in Suffolk on 3rd, but was not relocated.

Red-backed Shrike: Walsey Hills, Norfolk. The only bird to be seen this week. (Photo: David H. Hatton) Barred Warbler: Bembridge, Isle of Wight. One of 7 reported during the week.

Hoopoe: Terrington, N. Yorks. One of three this week; this one was on a farmer's (not a vicar's!) lawn well away from the usual gaze of birders. (Photo: Russell Slack) Rose-coloured Starling: Dawlish Warren, Devon. A cluster of juveniles in the southwest is typical for the time of year. (Photo: Dave Stone)

Scarce migrants were present in much reduced numbers. There were just over 50 Yellow-browed Warblers, two Little Buntings, a dozen Richard's Pipits, around 8 Red-breasted Flycatchers, at least 10 Common Rosefinches and a few Bluethroats and Ortolan Buntings. Just over a dozen Wrynecks were reported, nearly all of which were in the southwest, along with 7 Barred Warblers, Rose-coloured Starlings into double figures, a Red-backed Shrike, two Marsh Warblers and a couple of Tawny Pipits. Of the latter an exceptional record was one at a private site in Derbyshire from 5th-7th. There were four fly-over Red-throated Pipits, three Hoopoes, one Short-toed Lark and Red-rumped Swallows were at Hanningfield Reservoir (Essex) on 4th and at Porthgwarra (Cornwall) on 7th. An Aquatic Warbler was at Nanjizal on 5th and a Woodchat Shrike on Barra to the 2nd plus the lingering Melodious Warbler there.

Long-billed Dowitcher: Swords, Dublin. Scarce so far this autumn. (Photo: Paul and Andrea Kelly) Wilson's Phalarope: Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow. Only the 2nd of the autumn so far. (Photo: Paul and Andrea Kelly)

Lesser Yellowlegs: St. Mary's, Scilly. One of two lingering birds this autumn. (Photo: Tristan Reid) American Golden Plover: Bishopthorpe, N. Yorks. Don't forget the Golden Plover survey this weekend - who knows, you might find one of these!(Photo: Barry Byatt)

On the wader front a Wilson's Phalarope was at Kilcoole (Co. Wicklow) from 2nd-4th and Long-billed Dowitchers at Swords/Rogerstown Estuary (Dublin) from 6th and Semipalmated Sandpiper was at Dungarven (Co. Waterford) on 3rd, being possibly present for a week. American Golden Plovers were on St. Agnes on 6th, St. Mary's from 7th-8th and Edderthorpe Flash (S. Yorks) on 8th, plus the adult remained at Bishopthorpe (N. Yorks). Buff-breasted Sandpipers were at Loop Head from 4th-5th, Davidstow (Cornwall) on 8th and still present at Whalsay, plus the Lesser Yellowlegs were still on St. Mary's and at Cowpen Marsh (Cleveland). At least 25 Pectoral Sandpipers could still be found throughout the country during the week and a Red-necked Phalarope remained at QEII Reservoir (Surrey) to the 3rd. Seawatchers were able to enjoy some interesting seawatching during the week. A small movement of Leach's Storm-petrels was noted in the northwest, with a maximum of 25 past Point of Ayr (Clwyd) on 7th, and associated with this were good numbers of Grey Phalaropes with 43 past Ramore Head (Co. Antrim) on 7th. Around 30 Sabine's Gulls were also reported during the week, with records from west and east coasts, whilst east coast seawatchers noted small numbers of Little Auks peaking at 276 past Whitburn on the 7th. In contrast to last week the only rare tern was a White-winged Black Tern at Snettisham (Norfolk) from 2nd-3rd.

Sabine's Gull: Hartlepool, Cleveland: With a view such as this there is no confusing a bird in juvenile plumage. (Photo: Mike Watson)

With a return to high pressure forecast, the valleys on western coasts might just hold a very special American passerine or two , whilst it is arrivals from the east that will resume as we move into the peak period for sibes...

Written by: Russell Slack