Review of the Week: 3-9 October 2022


Continuing westerly winds ensured that Nearctic passerines continued to arrive, although few would have predicted the week's star bird. Britain's first Least Bittern was an outstanding discovery in the dunes at Scousburgh, Mainland Shetland, on 7th, although its poor state of health meant it was taken into care soon after, unfortunately dying overnight.

Remarkably, it turned up three years to the day of Ireland's first record, found moribund at Farranfore, Co Kerry (see here). There are just 10 additional Western Palearctic records – nine in the Azores and one in Iceland. All of these were either dead or dying at the time of discovery.

Least Bittern, Scousburgh, Mainland, Shetland (Simon Colenutt).

Least Bittern, Scousburgh, Mainland, Shetland (Tom Hines).

The following day would become Ireland's turn to enjoy a national first, with an Alder Flycatcher on Inishbofin, Co Galway. Thankfully, it would prove to be in a much better condition than the aforementioned bittern, allowing a number of twitchers to connect on 9th. Just the sixth (or seventh) record for the Western Palearctic, the taxon has been recorded twice in Britain – Cornwall in October 2008 and Norfolk in September 2010.

Alder Flycatcher, Inishbofin, Galway (Brian McCloskey).

A simply spectacular adult male Baltimore Oriole that graced Lundy, Devon, on 8th must be one the finest examples of the species ever to grace British shores. To the disappointment of many the following day, it would prove a one-day visitor – instead reserved as a well-earned treat for the resident volunteer team. This is now Lundy's fourth, a more-than-respectable tally that comprised one on 2-9 October 1958 and two on 17 October 1967. In spring 2007, an equally stunning male spent several days in a Caithness garden (see here).

Baltimore Oriole, Lundy, Devon (Tom Wright).

Myrtle Warblers were the talk of the town in Shetland, with two less than one kilometre apart on Mainland. The first was at Ellister from 5th, with the second at Bigton from 7th. Amazingly, both were found by the same observer. This is not the first time birds of this species have turned up side by side: twos were found in similarly close proximity on Inishmore, Co Galway, in both 2012 and 2019.

Myrtle Warbler, Ellister, Mainland, Shetland (Tom Hines).

For the second week in a row two Swainson's Thrushes graced the news pages. First up was one on Tresco, Scilly, from 6th, while one at Aghernagallagh on 7th was the first for Co Mayo since 1956. St Agnes, Scilly, was a land of possibility: a possible Red-eyed Vireo on 3rd and a possible Buff-bellied Pipit on 6th. Both Red-eyed Vireos at Kilbaha, Co Clare, lingered into the review period, although there would be no sign of the Baltimore Oriole.

Swainson's Thrush, Aghernagallagh, Mayo (Josh Jones).

Red-eyed Vireo, Kilbaha, Clare (Sam Viles).

An American Buff-bellied Pipit on St Kilda on 4th accompanied the island's second Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler on 4th. St Kilda's only other record hails from 2009 – a young Blackburnian Warbler had been present just a few weeks prior … Other American Buff-bellied Pipits graced North Ronaldsay, Orkney, on 7th and St Mary's, Scilly, on 8th.

Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, St Kilda, Outer Hebrides (Craig Nisbet).

Exceptional numbers of large shearwaters continue to roam the South-West Approaches off Scilly: a remarkable congregation of 6,000 Great and Cory's Shearwaters were off St Agnes and St Mary's on 4th, while a pelagic aimed at targeting these the following day found several hundred of each and a Fea's/Desertas Petrel! Rarer still, a seawatch off the fabled Bridges of Ross, Co Clare, on the same included two Barolo-type shearwaters alongside 52 Leach's Storm Petrels and 25 Grey Phalaropes.

Fea's/Desertas Petrel, Scilly pelagic, Isles of Scilly (Anthony Griffiths).

The action continued: a Fea's-type petrel was tracked past three Suffolk sites on 9th, while a Great Shearwater accompanied over 2,000 Sooty Shearwaters in The Minch, Highland, on 8th. Leach's Storm Petrels were ubiquitous, logged from 14 spots on both the east and west coasts, with smaller numbers of both Long-tailed Skuas and Sabine's Gulls. Rarity-wise, an adult Bonaparte's Gull was at Rough Point, Co Kerry, from 8th, while the Forster's Tern remained at Soldier's Point, Co Louth. 

A remarkably Long-billed Dowitcher record saw one trapped and ringed at The Spinnies, Gwynedd, on 8th. Others were at Caistron NR, Northumberland, and Hayle Estuary, Cornwall, with a dowitcher species at Cashen Estuary, Co Kerry. Topping the Nearctic shorebird tally, however, was a smart juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper on Achill Island, Co Mayo, from 4-6th – an excellent find by two of the BirdGuides team.

Long-billed Dowitcher, The Spinnies NWWT, Gwynedd (Ian Jones).

Semipalmated Sandpiper, Sruhill Lough, Achill Island, Mayo (Josh Jones).

Farlington Marshes, Hampshire, boasted a Spotted-Baird's Sandpiper double-act, with another 'Spot Sand' on St Kilda, Outer Hebrides. An arguably even more impressive double-act concerned two Lesser Yellowlegs keeping close proximity at Hayle Estuary, Cornwall. Another lingered at Saltholme RSPB, Cleveland.

Lesser Yellowlegs, Hayle Estuary, Cornwall (Alex Mckechnie).

Buff-breasted Sandpipers at seven sites included new birds in Lancashire, Shetland and Argyll, while Baird's Sandpipers were in Aberdeenshire, Co Wexford, Co Kerry and Co Cork. A strong showing of American Golden Plovers included at least one in Wales. Grey Phalaropes were reported from 39 fresh localities, with Pectoral Sandpipers at 17 sites. The Kentish Plover was still at Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset & Bristol.

Pectoral Sandpiper, Dernford Farm Reservoir, Cambridgeshire (Stephen Dutton).

Grey Phalarope, Goldcliff Pools NR, Gwent (Kyle Smith).

A stone's throw from the continuing Homeyer's Grey Shrike at Hillswick, Mainland Shetland, was a Pechora Pipit from 3-5th. Another excellent week of Shetland action also saw a Lanceolated Warbler unearthed at Wester Quarff, Mainland, on 4th, while a White's Thrush provided some decent views of this tricky species at Lerwick, Mainland, on 9th. The Fair Isle Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler lasted until 3rd.

Homeyer's Grey Shrike, Hillswick, Mainland, Shetland (Ian Bollen).

Lanceolated Warbler, Wester Quarff, Mainland, Shetland (Tom Hines).

Both of the week's Radde's Warbler discoveries hailed from South-West England on 9th – at Portland, Dorset, and St Mary's, Scilly. Four Blyth's Reed Warblers included a notable Hebridean record at Lionel, Lewis, with another at Spurn, East Yorkshire, and two on Unst, Shetland. The week's sole Melodious Warbler resided on Skomer, Pembrokeshire, from 6-8th, with a Barred Warbler on neighbouring Ramsey Island. St Agnes, Scilly, held a Greenish Warbler and a putative Siberian Lesser Whitethroat was at Clousta, Mainland Shetland.

Barred Warbler, Climping, West Sussex (Graeme Duckworth).

Radde's Warbler, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Richard Stonier).

A snowball invasion in the far north continued to gather speed, with Hornemann's Arctic Redpolls spread across some 13 Shetland sites and two more in Orkney. A probable at Cross Lough, Co Mayo, on 8th would have proved an excellent Irish record if confirmed.

Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, North Ronaldsay, Orkney (George Gay).

An Ortolan Bunting racked up 10 days at Norwick, Unst, Shetland, while Scilly scored two Little Buntings. Three Olive-backed Pipits were in Shetland, with another in Cornwall. Nine Common Rosefinches included a surprise trio on Inishbofin, Co Galway. Two more were on Barra, Outer Hebrides, with singles in Shetland, Pembrokeshire and Scilly.

Olive-backed Pipit, Aith nr Aith Voe, Mainland, Shetland (Ian Bollen).

Common Rosefinch, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Mark Leitch).

Two Eastern Yellow Wagtails were in Mainland Shetland – at North Roe and Gott – and a Red-breasted Flycatcher was at Dungeness NNR, Kent, with five Bluethroats in the Northern Isles. Siberian Stonechats were at Blackhall Rocks, Durham, and Quendale, Mainland Shetland.

In Cornwall, a young Woodchat Shrike at Pendeen provided excellent views from 4th. Three Red-backed Shrikes also proved popular – at Holkham Pines, Norfolk, New Duston, Northamptonshire, and Medmerry RSPB, West Sussex, while a Great Grey Shrike was at Easton Bavents, Suffolk.

Woodchat Shrike, Pendeen, Cornwall (Peter Garrity).

Red-backed Shrike, Northampton, Northamptonshire (Mike Alibone).

Five Wrynecks were in the extreme south-west – two on the Lizard, Cornwall, and three in Scilly. Young Rosy Starlings resided at Lodmoor RSPB, Dorset, and Lundy, Devon.

Wryneck, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Anthony Griffiths).

Confirmed Pallid Harriers were at three sites – Radipole Lake RSPB, Dorset, Whithorn, Dumfries & Galloway, and Wideford, Mainland Orkney – with a probable at Edgefield, Norfolk. A Rough-legged Buzzard bedded down near Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk; European Honey Buzzards were reported from five sites.

Pallid Harrier, Whithorn, Dumfries & Galloway (Matthew Naylor).

Up to two young Red-footed Falcons provided characteristically excellent views in the airspace over Elmley NNR, Kent, from 3rd. A couple more were reported in Norfolk – near Potter Heigham and Colkirk. Amazingly, an unconfirmed report of Ireland's Egyptian Vulture was received – over Athlone, Co Westmeath, on 9th. It was last conclusively recorded in the area as far back as 6 May.

Red-footed Falcon, Elmley NNR, Kent (Steven Ashton).

A new Purple Heron appeared at Seasalter, Kent, on 9th, with at least one still in Lancashire – noted at Martin Mere WWT until 7th and over Marshside on 9th. In Essex, the Stanway Green White Stork lingered.

Purple Heron, Martin Mere WWT, Lancashire (Steve Young).

A decent platter of Ring-necked Duck saw birds at 13 sites. A brief female Ferruginous Duck was at Belvide Reservoir, Staffordshire, on 6th, with a young drake still at Draycote Water, Warwickshire. The drake Blue-winged Teal held on at Fairlop Waters, London, too, with American Wigeon at Marshside RSPB, Lancashire, Grafham Water, Cambridgeshire, and Inishmore, Co Galway.

Ring-necked Duck, Hornsea Mere, East Yorkshire (Ian Howard).

American Wigeon, Marshside RSPB, Lancashire (Stuart Darbyshire).

Two King Eider were off Shetland and the Black Scoter remained off Cocklawburn Beach, Northumberland. Surf Scoter, meanwhile, were at Ben Head, Co Meath, and Sound of Taransay, Outer Hebrides. Unsurprisingly, the Pied-billed Grebe was still in Argyll.

Two brief Todd's Canada Geese dropped into The Wilderness, Fife, with Pink-footed Geese on 4th, while Snow Geese visited both Aghernagallagh, Co Mayo, and Banks Marsh, Lancashire.


Western Palearctic

For good reason, French birders flock to the island of Ouessant at this time of year, with the island off the Brittany coast a veritable migrant trap and a well-known producer of lost Nearctic vagrants. Even by its lofty standards, the island enjoyed an incredible run of birds this week, including two national firsts – a Baltimore Oriole on 5th and juvenile Northern Harrier from 6th. Supporting cast was provided by a Red-eyed Vireo, while nearby Île-de-Sein produced France's second Common Nighthawk on 8th. The nation's third Pechora Pipit was there too, while, elsewhere in France, a Brown Booby flew past Cap Gris-Nez and a juvenile Long-legged Buzzard at Thibie. The Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Bridled Tern and Elegant Tern all remained.

The first American Yellow Warbler for the Faroe Islands was an excellent find at Gasadalur on 7th, with an even more remarkable record seeing one reach the Danish mainland at Agger Tange on 8th. The Faroes also boasted an American Black Duck at Fámjin. In Iceland, an American Buff-bellied Pipit was on Grímsey, while the Rose-breasted Grosbeak lingered at Eyrarbakki until 3rd.

In the Azores, an American Redstart was best of the action on Corvo, backed up by three Bobolinks, three Red-eyed Vireos, two Brown Boobies and an American Black Duck. A Wood Duck, Hudsonian Whimbrel and Mourning Dove were on Flores, with Great Blue Herons on three islands. Mainland Portuguese birders enjoyed a Lesser Crested Tern at Lagoa dos Salgados, Algarve, on 5th, while no fewer than three South Polar Skuas were logged from a pelagic off Muxía, Spain, on 1st.

Red-headed Bunting, Hel, Pomerania (Zbigniew Kajzer).

A Polish surprise saw the country score big with a first-winter male Red-headed Bunting at Hel on 6th – a national first. Germany's third Two-barred Warbler was inadvertently photographed on Heligoland on 4th, with two Long-billed Dowitchers at Hauke-Haien-Koog. A Paddyfield Warbler was trapped and ringed at Meijendel, The Netherlands. Just the second Black-winged Kite for Bulgaria was at Kaliakra, with Slovenia's third Long-tailed Skua at Cerknica.

Finland's second Pygmy Cormorant at Maari on 5th follows the country's first earlier this year, while, in Norway, a Grey-cheeked Thrush remained on Utsira, a White's Thrush was at Husøy and an Oriental Turtle Dove was unfortunately found dead at Kvitholomen. A Siberian Accentor was trapped and ringed at Stora Fjäderägg, Sweden, on 6th.

Written by: Sam Viles