The first few days of June are never short of a surprise or two. So it proved again this time around, with the eye-popping news of a White-throated Needletail picked up and released from the deck of MV Ortelius 110 km off Duncansby Head, Caithness, on the evening of 4th. With one recorded in Iceland the previous day, it could feasibly be the same bird relocating, although a notch in the right wing of this latest individual suggests the two might very well be different. One at a somewhat more accessible location in Britain would undoubtedly have twitchers scrambling.
MEGA Britain: White-throated Needletail (Hirundapus caudacutus) picked up and released on Ortelius expedition ship close to Fair Isle, Shetland, late on 4 June 2022 (date tbc). Photos ©️Leo Bruynzeel, news via Laurens Steijn / Birding Breaks pic.twitter.com/uxlj77j9Sj— Western Palearctic (@westpalbirds) June 5, 2022
On 3rd, the announcement of the return of the adult male Least Tern to Co Dublin was welcome news to many. Present for at least 12 days at the time of the announcement, it is back in the Portrane Point Little Tern colony for at least its third year. Disappointingly, however, it accompanied the news that the colony has shrunk by more than 70% in size since 2021 and is more vulnerable than ever – visitors should follow on-site directions to avoid disturbance.
To the satisfaction of twitchers the length and breadth of Britain, Kent's pale-morph second-summer Eleonora's Falcon performed impressively at close range at Worth Marshes throughout the week. Worth Marshes also held a continuing female Red-footed Falcon, young male Golden Oriole and a flyover European Honey Buzzard, while the Sardinian Warbler was last noted at South Foreland on 30th.
Continued wanderings of the White-tailed Lapwing saw it rack up two new counties on its British tour – becoming a county first for both. Departing Greater Manchester after 30th, it resurfaced at Woolston Eyes, Cheshire, late on 31st before tracking south along the M6 corridor overnight to put in a one-day appearance at Sandwell Valley RSPB, West Midlands, on 1st. With no sign for the rest of the week, it seems likely that it remains hidden away on a secluded British wetland somewhere. How many more counties might register sightings before it departs from these shores?
The Black-browed Albatross at Bempton Cliffs RSPB, East Yorkshire, proved a reliable fixture throughout the Platinum Jubilee weekend. Earlier in the week it even put in an appearance off the Yorkshire Belle, where it was described as a 'battleship' steaming straight towards the boat by observers!
An exceptional 'fall' on Bardsey Island, Gwynedd, on 2nd saw a singing male Thrush Nightingale unearthed alongside a Golden Oriole, Red-spotted Bluethroat, European Turtle Dove and Wood Warbler, with two Siberian Chiffchaffs on 29th and a different Golden Oriole discovered on 4th – the island's third of the year. On 3rd, another Thrush Nightingale was on Lundy, Devon.
In Shetland, Unst scored the second Moltoni's Warbler of the spring with a vocal male at Valyie on 5th. The same date saw a female Eastern Subalpine Warbler on Foula, while a male Eastern was at Eoligarry, Barra, Outer Hebrides, on 2nd. An unassigned female was on Blakeney Point, Norfolk.
Fair Isle, Shetland, enjoyed another scarcity-packed week. The island hosted the week's only sightings of Red-rumped Swallow and Red-breasted Flycatcher, while the European Serin continued and two Common Rosefinches included a gorgeous adult male. Other highlights comprised two Red-backed Shrikes, Bluethroat, Marsh Warbler and at least five Icterine Warblers.
The European Roller last noted at Praze-an-Beeble, Cornwall, on 30th is perhaps responsible for the reported sighting near Porth Navas on 2nd. European Bee-eaters were well-spread along the south and east coasts of England. A scattering reached the Outer Hebrides too, with birds on North Uist, South Uist and Barra.
After bumper years in 2018, 2020 and 2021, might we be on for another Rosy Starling influx? While far from a classic showing so far, some 11 sites saw arrivals, split between three in Wales, five in England and three in Scotland. Another reached the far western point of the Faroe Islands at Mykines.
Another respectable showing of Golden Orioles saw birds reported from 18 sites, including reports from two sites in Derbyshire and possibles in Surrey and Shropshire. A male sang from a garden in Cork City, Co Cork, with another on Mull, Argyll.
Cambridgeshire's sixth Great Reed Warbler frequented Grafham Water on 31st, while Nottinghamshire's fourth in three years was at Langford Lowfields RSPB from 4th. Another remained at Snettisham Coastal Park, Norfolk.
Icterine Warblers comprised birds trapped at both Dungeness NNR, Kent, and Hartlepool Headland, Cleveland, with several scattered across Shetland. A small tally of Marsh Warblers graced the Northern Isles, with others at Abbot's Cliff, Kent, and St Kilda, Outer Hebrides. Iberian Chiffchaffs continued at Regent's Park, London, and Otterbourne, Hampshire.
Away from Fair Isle, Common Rosefinches were at seven sites, including the first for Buckinghamshire at Milton Keynes on 30th and a rare Irish record at Knockadoon Head, Co Cork, on 5th. A Bluethroat was reported at Bempton Cliffs RSPB, East Yorkshire, on 4th.
Rustic Buntings involved a continuing male on Unst, Shetland, and a female at Nanjizal Valley, Cornwall, while five European Serins included a rare Irish record over Stamullen, Co Meath. A Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll was on North Ronaldsay, Orkney; three Greenland Redpolls were on St Kilda, Outer Hebrides.
The only Woodchat Shrike of the week concerned a popular individual at Roxby Moor, North Yorkshire, from 2nd. Red-backed Shrikes, meanwhile, were at Holy Island, Northumberland, and Burnham Overy, Norfolk. A brief Wryneck was on Islay, Argyll, and a possible Siberian/Stejneger's Stonechat was reported at Horsey, Norfolk, on 1st. Hoopoes were at Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, and Oare Marshes, Kent.
A convincing report was received from a non-birder of a potential White-crowned Sparrow near Mellon Udrigle, Highland, on 31st. Belated news of another Nearctic visitor concerned a Dark-eyed Junco at Port Isaac, Cornwall, on 25th. Continuing with unconfirmed identifications, a possible Little Swift flew over Seahouses, Northumberland, on 1st, and a swift species with a white rump was briefly noted at Clifford Hill GPs, Northamptonshire, on 31st.
Scotland's first Short-toed Snake Eagle proved a popular draw to Highland, noted daily at Strath Brora from 31st. A possible Long-legged Buzzard reported on The Lizard, Cornwall, from 30-1st evaded confirmation, however. Further afield, Black Kites overflew Cornwall, Cheshire, Isle of Wight and Isle of Man. Five sites enjoyed Red-footed Falcons, including a more-than-notable female over Crathie, Aberdeenshire, on 5th. Others were in Norfolk, Suffolk, Kent and Devon.
Other Purple Herons were at Lunt Meadows, Lancashire, Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk, and Beddington Farmlands, London. Scilly was treated to a showy Little Bittern on St Mary's from 4th, the same day a Black-crowned Night Heron overflew the island.
At Tacumshin, Co Wexford, an adult White-rumped Sandpiper accompanied the continuing American Golden Plover. Co Cork hosted a mobile Lesser Yellowlegs, while one at Frankfield Loch was the first for Clyde. Pectoral Sandpipers were at Saltholme RSPB, Cleveland, Skokholm, Pembrokeshire, Letham Pools, Fife, and Portmore Lough RSPB, Co Antrim, with the week's lone Temminck's Stint at Pool of Virkie, Mainland Shetland.
Three Black-winged Stilts visited Lackford Lakes SWT, Suffolk, with a further two at Stodmarsh NNR, Kent. Kenfig NNR, Glamorgan, was treated to a female Kentish Plover on 1-2nd. Migrant Red-necked Phalaropes were at Theale GPs, Berkshire, Idle Washlands, Nottinghamshire, and Insh Marshes RSPB, Highland.
Gull-billed Terns were at both Abbotsbury Swannery, Dorset, and Tacumshin, Co Wexford, mid-week, while a probable flew south past Hornsea, East Yorkshire. In Northumberland, the breeding-plumaged American Black Tern remained at Long Nanny, where two Red-breasted Geese paid a visit on 30th.
In Perth and Kinross, the returning adult Ring-billed Gull continued at the site's Common Gull colony, while a first-summer remained on Benbecula, Outer Hebrides. In Co Mayo, a third-summer Azores Gull was again at Annagh Strand. A Glaucous Gull (or hybrid) at Holme Pierrepont, Nottinghamshire, on 1st transpired to be the same bird seen 275 km to the south-west at Lyme Regis, Dorset, three days previous – the sort of quality relocation that modern birding seems to throw up with increasing regularity.
An adult drake King Eider displayed to disinterested Common Eider in Olas Voe on 4th, while one remained at Musselburgh, Lothian. White-billed Divers were in Highland and Shetland. Four Ring-necked Duck included two in Ireland, including a new bird at Oxford Island NNR, Co Armagh, and singles in England and Scotland. The popular drake Lesser Scaup lingered at Marshside RSPB, Lancashire, and a female Ferruginous Duck held on at Belvide Reservoir, Staffordshire.
A drake Green-winged Teal was at Loch of Tingwall, Mainland Shetland, with the drake American Black Duck again at Cross Lough, Mullet, Co Mayo. American Wigeon included a pair at Lough Beg, Co Antrim, on 2nd, with a drake at Skinflats Lagoons, Forth, on 5th.
Some of the more surprising news of the week concerned a Swallowtail butterfly of the continental gorganus form logged flying in-off the sea at Bempton Cliffs RSPB, East Yorkshire, on 2nd.
One of the most awe-inspiring species on the Western Palearctic list, a White-throated Needletail photographed over Heiðmörk on 3rd was just the second for Iceland and followed the nation's first last June. The White-winged Scoter remained nearby at Keflavík, while the Faroe Islands boasted a Rosy Starling at Mykines.
Another surprise find saw the simultaneous discovery of two singing White-throated Sparrows – one at Les Bouchoux, France, from 30th was followed by another at Porta da Coruña, Spain, on 2-3rd, although the location of that individual makes it all but certain to be ship-assisted. Elsewhere in Spain, an adult Laughing Gull was at Carballo, at least five Lesser Flamingos were at Laguna de Fuente de Piedra, Andalucia, and a blue-morph Western Reef Heron visited Platja d'Aro, Catalonia. An Elegant Tern remained on Île de Noirmoutier, France.
In Cape Verde, a female Amur Falcon photographed on Sal on 1st was a first for the archipelago. Portugal enjoyed a Royal/West African Crested Tern at Ria de Alvor on 3rd, with a Semipalmated Plover at Cais do Pico, Pico, Azores.
One of the week's more exceptional records concerned a Griffon Vulture photographed in Norway's far north at Sirbmá, Finnmark, on 31st – the country's first. Also gracing the far north was a Black Stork at Persfjorden, while a male Lesser Kestrel overflew Tjøstheim on 3rd. A Stejneger's Scoter at Valsörarna was Finland's fourth; a Griffon Vulture was at Ringe, Denmark.
A first-summer drake King Eider flirted with the Dutch-Belgian border between Cadzand-Bad and Knokke-Heist from 28th, becoming just the fifth Belgian record in the process. Elsewhere in The Netherlands, a new Bearded Vulture flew over the coastal port of Maasvlakte (with another still at Deleen), two Griffon Vultures were recorded (over Amsterdam and Texel) and the Western Swamphen lingered.
In Italy, a male Trumpeter Finch was near the French border at Imperia on 31st, while Szczecin Lagoon, Poland, was treated to the nation's fourth American Golden Plover on 3rd. Elsewhere in Poland, on 4th Hel saw the impressive discovery of an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler – the country's fifth – alongside two Booted Warblers – the 10th and 11th Polish records, with two female Black-headed Buntings there on 5th – the fifth and sixth for Poland. A Squacco Heron at Stolin was the third for Belarus.