Review of the Week: 30 August-4 September 2022


It was a week dominated by easterlies. The product of this was a hefty arrival of Curlew Sandpiper and with a large percentage of the birds being juveniles it's fair to assume this species has had a good breeding season. 403 reports made the news page, with Cliffe Pools RSPB and Frampton Marsh RSPB hosting 50 apiece, while 30 at Seafield, Co Clare, was a great count for Ireland. 

Curlew Sandpiper, Baston & Langtoft Pits, Lincolnshire (Josh Jones).

Curlew Sandpiper sightings during the week (BirdGuides news pages)

Wryneck also arrived in good numbers, detected at 61 sites across the country with an untold number left lurking. Pied Flycatchers and Little Stint were other beneficiaries of the easterly airflow, while the first Yellow-browed Warbler in Norway over the weekend had east coast birders champing at the bit. A handful of displaced seabirds were on offer, too. Guillemots were at Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, on 29th, the River Thames at London on 3rd, and most surprisingly of all one at Stubber's Green, West Midlands, on 4th. Predictably, the latter arrived in poor shape and didn't last the day. Deeping Lakes LWT, Lincolnshire, recorded a sickly Northern Gannet on 31st and Kittiwake on 4th, a stark reminder that avian influenza is out of sight, out of mind rather than gone for good.

Pied Flycatcher, Cley Marshes NWT, Norfolk (Andy Thompson).

Onto rares and September started off on a strong footing, with a male Lesser Sand Plover breaking on the morning of 1st. Unfortunately, it proved all-too brief and the bird flew off shortly after news broke and wasn't seen thereafter. The initial photo invited thoughts of Mongolian Sand Plover, with a large white forehead patch, and indeed a subsequent picture hinted a dark dividing line between the chin and breast. However, more footage shows clean flanks, a relatively long bill and a forehead patch all in keeping with a late-in-the-season Tibetan Sand Plover, to which this bird should be consigned. All important for a species with an all-but-certain future split of course … 

Tibetan Sand Plover, Cliffe Pools RSPB, Kent (Gus Wilson).

Not to be outdone by its smaller counterpart, the Greater Sand Plover was still posing for pictures at Redcar, Cleveland, until 1st. Sadly, the dream of a two sand plover day lives on.

Greater Sand Plover, Redcar, Cleveland (Peter Garrity).

Before this year, any Eleonora's Falcon would've made top spot of the week's roll call but two twitchable birds in just four months have removed the mythical factor somewhat. The Norfolk bird was reported sporadically from several sites in the TG42 square until 1st. Interestingly, a dark-morph first-summer was reported in off the sea at Hunmanby Gap on 4th – which could easily be the same bird off on a long foray … sadly the bird wasn't picked up again along the Yorkshire coast. 

A probable Blyth's Pipit was reported at Nanjizal Valley, Cornwall, on 30th but nothing more came of it. The constant effort to consign wagtails to species and even subspecies level is fraught with mistakes along the way. A quick glance at new photographs of the Tresco Citrine Wagtail revealed apparent dark lores, no pale framing to ear coverts and a pale bill base. Alongside some on-site doubt, it was upgraded to possible Eastern Yellow Wagtail – jumping the gun slightly, as further pics had the bird looking more Citrine-esque again. Structure pointed away from any yellow wagtail species, with a longer tail than you'd wish, plus a thick greater covert bar, hindclaw length and paler lores all now apparent. More conventional Citrine Wagtails were reported from nine other sites, inevitably the showy first-winter at Kilnsea proved most popular.  A male Grey-headed Wagtail at Climping, West Sussex, was the only other Motacillidae of note. 

Citrine Wagtail, Kilnsea, East Yorkshire (Paul Coombes).

Eastern Stonechats aren't typically associated with August, so news of one at Flamborough Head on 30th was intriguing, but, lo and behold, pictures emerged showing just that. The overall washed-out peachy vibe, particularly the rump, land it in the maurus camp. Big white tips to primary coverts and pointed tail feathers show the bird is a first-winter, and the apparent dark feather centres in the head make it a male. Another one for the list of birds acceptable on field views …

The Ferruginous Duck enigma continued, with at least three birds at four sites within a Coventry-Daventry-Banbury triangle … Both juveniles were reported on an irregular basis at Draycote Water, Warwickshire, and the Daventry Reservoir CP, Northants, juvenile drake remained until 1st and made a re-appearance on 4th. In the interim an unaged drake was found at Grimsbury Reservoir, Oxon. Did the Northants bird really take a one-day jaunt south-west? Maybe. A female American Wigeon was a brief visitor to Lofts Farm GPs, Essex, on 1st. Yell's eclipse drake King Eider was reported again on 31st, while the young drake continued off Musselburgh, Lothian. It almost goes without saying that the Pied-billed Grebe held out at Loch Feorlin, Argyll. 

Highland's east coast produced some of the best mainland Scotland seawatching ever this week, with a steady supply of Great, Cory's, Balearic and Sooty Shearwaters all tracked past several sites. However, this all came to a head on 4th when a Fea's-type petrel flew north during the morning. Another probable was reported past Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire, that afternoon. It was a steady enough week for seawatching sites elsewhere in the country, with the aforementioned shearwater species logged from east coast and south-west sites, plus Ireland. Two Wilson's Storm Petrels flew past Lizard Point, Cornwall, on the evening of 3rd along with an impressive 652 Great Shearwaters. It felt like you could sit yourself down anywhere along the east coast and a juvenile Long-tailed Skua would pass you before too long. Pomarine Skuas were on the move too, but with a more northerly bias with most from Spurn northwards. Smaller numbers of Grey Phalaropes were on the move, too.

The adult Forster's Tern continued to commute the short distance between Soldier's Point and Dundalk, Co Louth. Three White-winged Terns were reported, firstly a juvenile past Hartlepool, Cleveland, on 31st; then a juvenile at Dungeness RSPB, Kent, on the evening of 2nd; and another brief bird at Cemlyn Bay, Anglesey, on 4th. Black Terns were reported from 39 sites. Kent's Bonaparte's Gull lasted at Oare Marshes NR until at least 2nd. Meanwhile, it was a slow week for Sabine's Gulls with just a handful logged, most notably a juvenile on the scrape at Holland Haven CP, Essex, on 31st.

Pallid Harrier, Staines Moor, London (Pippa Hyde).

A large-scale westerly movement of Red-footed Falcons is currently underway in the Baltics, and record numbers have been reported in Finland. Three have so far made it over the North Sea. A juvenile flew in off the sea at Southwold, Suffolk, on 31st and another flew south over Landguard NR, Suffolk, on 2nd. However, a showy juvenile stole the show at Marton Mere, Lancashire, throughout the week. London's first Pallid Harrier was photographed at Staines Moor on 1st but sadly didn't prove twitchable for all but those on the doorstep.

Red-footed Falcon, Marton Mere, Lancashire (Craig Bell).

Onto waders. Often a crowd favourite, the arrival of the first juvenile Nearctic species is a welcome event each year. The 4th saw a juvenile Baird's Sandpiper arrive on Tresco, Scilly, and another at Tacumshin, Co Wexford. Two juvenile Wilson's Phalaropes in by the end of August is a good showing, with a new bird briefly at Blennerville, Co Kerry, on 30th and the bird at Loch Paible, North Uist, lingering until 2nd. Buff-breasted Sandpipers, however, got off to a rocky start, with just two touching down: an adult at Cemlyn Bay, Anglesey, and a juvenile at St Kilda, both also on 4th. In contrast, Pectoral Sandpipers are off to a decent start, with juveniles padding out any lingering adults at 23 sites.

Wilson's Phalarope, Blennerville, Kerry (Graham Davies).

Pectoral Sandpiper, Pennington Marshes, Hampshire (Ian Wells).

Just one White-rumped Sandpiper remained, with the adult still at Aberlady Bay, Lothian, until 2nd. The adult American Golden Plover was still on North Ronaldsay until 30th, with fresh adults at Cemlyn Bay, Anglesey, from 31st and Seaforth LWT, Lancashire, from 1st. The juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs was still putting on a show at Dundalk, Co Louth.

American Golden Plover, Seaforth LWT (Permit only), Lancashire (Steve Young).

Great Snipe proved fashionable on the Northern Isles this week, with one on Fair Isle on 2nd and another on North Ronaldsay the following day. Red-necked Phalaropes were spread across nine sites between Lothian and Kent, and another on the west coast of Ireland. Eurasian Dotterel also had a good run, with Cornwall getting the lion's share. Away from here, reports came from two Welsh sites, three in Kent, and one in Shetland, while the juvenile lingered in Northumberland. Temminck's Stints were scattered across England.

Red-necked Phalarope, Beacon Ponds, East Yorkshire (Miles Cluff).

Eurasian Dotterel, Skokholm, Pembrokeshire (Richard Brown / Skokholm Warden).

The dry conditions saw Spotted Crakes at six new sites, including one at the Calf of Man on 2nd – the first record there since the 19th Century! Purple Herons remained scattered across five sites including the juvenile still at Willington Wetlands, Derbyshire. Two new Glossy Ibis joined the now resident population, with singles at Ballymena, Co Antrim, and Gatton Park Lake, Surrey. 

Four Paddyfield Warblers were new-in this week, continuing the species' great run. One was at Blakeney Point, Norfolk, on 31st; another at Mire Loch, Borders, on 31st proved twitchable for those in the area. Another was ringed on North Ronaldsay on 1st and lingered until the following day, and Fair Isle hosted one on 4th. A subalpine warbler was at Blakeney Point on 3rd. The Scilly Booted Warbler remained on St Mary's until 30th and another possible was reported from the Spurn area. A Western Bonelli's Warbler was a smart find on Great Saltee, Co Wexford, on 4th. An arrival of Icterine Warblers saw birds at 13 sites, notably one on the Skellig Islands, Co Kerry, on 1st and one trapped and ringed at Hick's Lodge, Leics, on 2nd. Melodious Warblers were less numerous, with birds on Bryher, Scilly, Kenidjack and Nanjizal Valleys, Cornwall (on 2nd), and Fair Isle (on 2nd). 

Paddyfield Warbler, Fair Isle, Shetland (Daniel Gornall).

Western Bonelli's Warbler, Saltee Islands, Wexford (Tom Shevlin).

Blyth's Reed Warblers were at five mainland sites and a further two in Shetland. Notably, the bird at Bempton Cliffs RSPB was an adult, aged by eye colour, overall colder plumage tones and feather wear. Just two Marsh Warblers were on offer with one on Bardsey Island, Gwynedd, on 31st and another on Fair Isle. Barred Warblers were well received, largely in the Northern Isles.

Three Greenish Warblers made landfall at Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire, on 2nd. Others came from Filey, East Yorkshire, Nanjizal Valley, Cornwall, Holy Island, Northumberland, and two in Shetland. Five Arctic Warblers were in Shetland, with singles at Spurn, East Yorkshire, on 31st and Loch of Strathbeg, Aberdeenshire, on 3-4th. Interestingly, the Iberian Chiffchaff was reported again from Regent's Park, London, from 2nd.

Arctic Warbler, Loch of Strathbeg RSPB, Aberdeenshire (Ron Macdonald).

Icterine Warbler, Holy Island, Northumberland (Frank Golding).

Four Hoopoes were around – in Kent, East Sussex, Aberdeenshire and Highland. Red-backed Shrikes arrived along the east coast, including a first-winter trapped and ringed at Marston sewage farm, Lincolnshire. One at Mizen Head, Co Cork, on 4th was notable.  A Bluethroat was at Farlington Marshes HWT, Hampshire, on 3rd. Two Rosy Starlings were unearthed in Scotland: one in a private garden in Kilchoan, Highland, on 30th having been present a few days already, and a juvenile at Turnberry Point, Ayrshire, on 31-1st. A Golden Oriole was an elusive customer at Glenn, Barra, on 1st.

Five Ortolan Buntings were along the south coast and Scilly, including brief birds at Tide Mills, East Sussex, on 2nd and St Aldhelm's Head, Dorset, on 3rd. The Common Rosefinch tally stood at 26 from 14 sites, including one on Great Saltee, Co Wexford. European Serins were at both Worth Marsh and South Foreland, Kent, while one on North Ronaldsay on 1st was a first for Orkney.


Western Palearctic 

Iceland recorded its first Grey-tailed Tattler at Ásmundarstaðaey, Norðurland Eystra, on 4th, with the country's second Squacco Heron discovered in the vicinity a few days prior.

The adult Sandhill Crane was again at the Lakselv River Delta, Norway, from 31st and lingered into September. A Thick-billed Warbler was trapped and ringed at Reve, Rogaland, on 30th – the bird was an adult, making the record even more impressive. A Sharp-tailed Sandpiper was at Vigrestad on 2nd. Finland bagged its sixth Lesser Kestrel at Loviisa, Uusimaa, on 29th.

Swinhoe's Storm Petrel, at sea, Malta (Raymond Galea).

Germany also joined the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper action, with one discovered at Helmestausee on 3rd, the country's third. In Austria, three adult Pacific Golden Plovers were at Lake Neusiedl, Burgenland, on 4th, while the Spanish bird lingered at Ebro Delta NP, Catalonia. Belated news came through of Malta's second Swinhoe's Storm Petrel photographed at sea on 28 August.

The region's first juvenile Baird's Sandpiper made landfall at Praia de Traba, Galicia, on 2nd. The run of South Polar Skuas continues off northern Spain, with one past the Estaca de Bares, Galicia, on 31st and an immature observed from a pelagic off Muxía on 1st. In the Azores, the male White-winged Crossbill remained at Nordeste, São Miguel.

Written by: Dan Owen

Dan Owen is a Cheshire-based birder with a keen interest in ringing and wildfowl. He works for the BirdGuides news team. Follow him on Twitter: @_danielowen