09/08/2001
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Review of the Week: 2nd-9th August 2001

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August is generally seen as a quiet month birding-wise, and the past week did little to change this viewpoint. The Rose-coloured Starling invasion seems to have petered out and Little Egrets and Balearic Shearwaters again dominated reports. The latter is making way for the first of an increasing stream of Cory's and Great Shearwaters. Numbers of both are expected to rise as the sea-watching and pelagic season reaches its peak in August. The headlands of south-west Ireland arguably offer the best sea-watching in Europe at this time. Britain's premier large shearwater site is Porthgwarra, Cornwall, with views usually distant. Weather conditions play a large part in observer success and close views of individual birds are possibly better on the East Coast. Finding any large shearwater in eastern Britain is not so predictable however.

A steady increase in vagrant American waders is expected this month. The Wilson's Phalarope at the Old Hall Marshes, Pectoral Sandpipers in Norfolk, Essex and East Yorkshire, together with a White-rumped Sandpiper in the Western Isles consolidates the start of the shorebird season. Adult waders begin their southward journey before juveniles and a steady change over from July’s summer-plumaged Curlew Sandpipers and Spotted Redshanks has already begun. Fresh plumaged young birds are now turning up more frequently among them and will dominate the scene by September. July American vagrants are invariably adults but inexperienced juvenile White-rumped and Pectoral Sandpipers will be leaving North American breeding grounds over coming weeks; some will arrive here. Ireland generally enjoys the lion's share of records, which peak at the month's end and well into September.

Mega-rarities among the shorebirds can turn up this month and the Bird Fair weekend is always good for something unexpected. Lesser Sand Plover and Western Sandpiper are the most memorable, while the news of a Blue Rock Thrush in Hertfordshire and a Middle Spotted Woodpecker in Kent have caused a stir there in the past. Why not call at the BirdGuides stand next weekend to check if the staff have disappeared?

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Written by: Phil Palmer, BirdGuides