06/07/2011
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Review of the Week: 30th June–6th July 2011

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The week at a glance

After the excitement of the last couple of weeks, the rather settled weather put a stop to any really notable new arrivals, although the run of quality seaducks continued, and there was a wader first for Northern Ireland.

The drake Black Scoter remained off Murcar Golf Course (Aberdeenshire) to 1st and was relocated off nearby Blackdog on 3rd–4th, where there were also still up to 5 Surf Scoters. With interest certainly piqued in these moulting flocks, a second Black Scoter, an adult drake, was found at Burghead (Moray & Nairn) on 2nd–3rd. This is presumably a different bird, though the two were never present at the same time.... The only other mega to report was the House Crow still in Cobh (Cork).

Black Scoter
Black Scoter, Burghead, Moray & Nairn (Photo: Bob Johnson)

The escaped blue-morph Snow Goose was again reported from Fountainhall (Borders) on 30th–1st, and the adult Ross's Goose was reported from Loch Leven (Perth & Kinross) on 1st. A single Ruddy Shelduck also remained at Minsmere (Suffolk) to at least 30th, with two moulting birds still at Rutland Water to 1st and another two at Pennington Flash (Manchester) on 2nd.

Snow Goose
Snow Goose, Fountainhall, Borders (Photo: anon)

The timing of the arrival of a Marbled Duck at Arlington Reservoir (East Sussex) on 3rd–6th was sure to generate some discussion, its summer arrival possibly indicating post-breeding dispersal and hence genuine vagrancy. But with so many previous records being proven escapes, it will always be difficult to confirm this without some hard evidence. Otherwise, it was a very quiet week for wildfowl, with two Ferruginous Ducks at Minsmere (Suffolk) over the week being the only highlight.

Ferruginous Duck
Ferruginous Duck, Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk (Photo: Barry Woodhouse)

With a low-pressure system and strong southwesterly winds at the end of the week, seawatching in the southwest was always going to be good. 5,280 Manx Shearwaters past Cape Clear (Cork) on 5th was notable, but was overshadowed by a massive movement of Cory's Shearwaters on 6th. An incredible 1,200 passed Galley Head (Cork) during the day, and 121 passed Ballycotton (Cork), along with a Great Shearwater, three each of Balearic and Sooty Shearwater, 19 Pomarine Skuas and a Sabine's Gull. Elsewhere, 800 Cory's were recorded past Porthgwarra (Cornwall) along with a single Great, 14 Sooty and three Balearic Shearwaters, and 137 Cory's were off Deep Point, St Mary's (Scilly), plus four Sooty Shearwaters. This July movement of Cory's Shearwaters isn't exceptional, but it is the largest seen in five years. Other Balearic Shearwaters were recorded off Portland Bill (Dorset), with two on 5th and 6th.

Good numbers of singing Quail continued to be reported from many widespread locations, including up to 11 around Hunmanby (West Yorks) on 3rd, 11 around Foxholes (North Yorks) on 4th and 10 around Cadeby (South Yorks) on 5th.

The juvenile Night Heron at Stodmarsh (Kent) found a friend this week: two birds were present from 1st–3rd, and one again on 6th. There was also an unconfirmed report of five Glossy Ibis at Ferryside (Carmarthen) on 1st. Fly-over White Storks included one over Send (Surrey) on 2nd and two over Kenley (London) the next day. The Great White Egret remained at Dungeness (Kent) to at least 5th, and other briefer birds were reported from Staveley (Derbys) and Newport Pagnell (Gwent) on 1st and over Pitsford Reservoir (Northants) on 5th. The only Cattle Egrets were one at Swillington Ings (West Yorks) on 2nd, though in an inaccessible area, and one at the National Wetland Centre (Carmarthen) briefly on 2nd.

Night Heron
Night Heron, Stodmarsh NNR, Kent (Photo: Chiddy)

Up to 11 Spoonbills remained at Cley Marshes (Norfolk) this week, including food-begging juveniles, and eight were on Elmley Marshes (Kent). Others were widely spread in the east and southwest, including up to three still at Montrose Basin (Angus & Dundee) and one at Tacumshin (Wexford).

Spoonbill
Spoonbill, Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire (Photo: Mick Colquhoun)

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The juvenile White-tailed Eagle remained around Ruckland (Lincs) all week and the escaped Golden Eagle in the southeast was at Paddock Wood (Kent) on 3rd. The only Black Kite was a possible over Benacre Broad (Suffolk) on 2nd, and there was also just one Red-footed Falcon, a first-summer male over Bentley Wood (Wilts) briefly on 4th.

A lone Black-winged Stilt was at Hazelwood Marshes (Suffolk) on 3rd though it couldn't be relocated after heading off downriver. Passage Stone Curlews were recorded at Lodmoor (Dorset) on 1st and over Hartshill (Warks) on 4th. It was a good week for plover-lovers though, with some notable arrivals. An adult American Golden Plover commuted between Shard Bridge and Skippool Creek (Lancs) on 3rd–4th and there was a flurry of Pacific Golden Plovers. The first for Northern Ireland was an adult at Myroe Levels (Londonderry) on 3rd, though it was soon realised that there were two birds here, the other a first-summer or, more likely, an adult female. Both of them remained to the end of the week. There was then another adult on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 5th. The island now lays claim to eight of the nine Orkney records, with five in the last 10 years alone. This also constitutes a hefty percentage of the total number of British records; only Norfolk comes close.

American Golden Plover
American Golden Plover, Skippool Creek, Lancashire (Photo: Gavin Thomas)

Pacific Golden Plover
Pacific Golden Plover, Myroe Levels, Londonderry (Photo: Derek Charles)

There were few other waders of note, with just a late report of a Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Ouse Washes (Cambs) on 29th, a Red-necked Phalarope at Kirkby on Bain (Lincs) on 30th and a Grey Phalarope at Stodmarsh (Kent) briefly on 5th. There were no reports of any Temminck's Stints, but good numbers of other passage waders at some sites, including 20 Spotted Redshanks at Elmley Marshes (Kent), 15 at Titchwell (Norfolk) and 14 at Blacktoft Sands (East Yorks). The peak count of Green Sandpiper was an impressive 30 at Cantley Beet Factory (Norfolk) on 4th, with other notable counts of 14 at Slimbridge (Glos) and 13 at Upton Warren (Worcs).

Red-necked Phalarope
Red-necked Phalarope, Kirkby on Bain GPs, Lincolnshire (Photo: Russell Hayes)

The first-summer Glaucous Gull remained at Dungeness (Kent) all week, and the only Iceland Gulls were in Shetland, at Pool of Virkie on 30th and Veensgarth on 1st. The first-summer Ring-billed Gull remained at Ballycastle (Antrim) to 2nd and there was another first-summer at Belfast Lough (Antrim) on 2nd. In Devon, the first-summer Bonaparte's Gull was again at various sites along the Exe estuary all week. There was then just one Sabine's Gull, a first-summer past Galley Head (Cork) on 5th, along with three Sooty Shearwaters. An adult White-winged Black Tern was a nice find at Saltholme (Cleveland) on the evening of 1st, but sadly it didn't stay until the next day.

Following bird(s) at Spurn last week, there was another east-coast Alpine Swift this week, at Gibraltar Point (Lincs) on 6th. Presumably just one Bee-eater remained on the Scillies, seen on St Agnes, St Mary's and Tresco to 3rd. There were also singles over Formby Point (Lancs) on 2nd and Dungeness (Kent) on 3rd, and three over the Bird Observatory on the Calf of Man on 1st. Private gardens yet again produced some interesting birds, with Hoopoes reported from Earlswood (Warks) on 4th and Hall Green, Birmingham (West Midlands) on 4th. The Short-toed Lark also remained at Lamba Ness, Unst (Shetland) to 1st. The first Lesser Grey Shrike of the year was at St Justinian (Pembrokeshire) on 4th–5th; this was just the fourth record for the county, with two of the previous being on Skomer, in 1974 and 1993.

Lesser Grey Shrike
Lesser Grey Shrike, St. Justinian, Pembrokeshire (Photo: Stevehinton)

A Marsh Warbler was ringed on North Ronaldsay on 1st and another bird was reported singing in Horningsea (Cambs) on 3rd, although it couldn't be relocated. There was just one Icterine Warbler, by the visitor centre at Titchwell (Norfolk) on 5th, though this proved elusive. One of the highlights of the week, though, was a singing Western Bonelli's Warbler at Arnfield Reservoir (Derbys) on 3rd–6th. This is a first for the county and a great inland find; the only comparable inland records are singing males at Gwastedyn Hill (Powys) in May 2006 and in Delamere Forest (Cheshire) in June 1963. It gives hope to dedicated patch-watchers that even the most inland of sites can still produce some real quality surprises.

Western Bonelli's Warbler
Western Bonelli's Warbler, Arnfield Reservoir, Derbyshire (Photo: Paul Gibbs)

Another passerine record of note was a flock of 11 Bearded Tits in flight at Tacumshin (Wexford) on 3rd. There was just one Serin reported, a bird singing at Seaford (East Sussex) on 2nd. There were three new Rose-coloured Starlings during the week, although none were really twitchable. A mobile bird was at Aberdaron (Gwynedd) on 3rd and another at Laphroaig, Islay (Argyll) on the same day — a find easily celebrated no doubt. There was also a photograph of an adult posted online, present in a garden in Tallanstown (Louth) during the week, though not seen since. There was another male Black-headed Bunting this week, on Fair Isle on 3rd–5th, with the island also seeing a Common Rosefinch on 1st–3rd and a Wryneck on 1st.

Photo of the Week: 30th June–6th July

Corn Bunting
Corn Bunting, undisclosed site, Lancashire (Photo: Richard Steel)

Although larger than most species of similar appearance, Corn Buntings still fall squarely in the 'small brown bird' category and, as such, are not the most sought-after photographic subjects. In fact, we've received only a couple of hundred uploads of this species ever, making it one of the least photographed species relative to its abundance. For many British bird photographers, the only interesting thing about the Corn Bunting is that it's the last bird in their field guide! So how do you go about turning such a lacklustre subject into a great bird image? As Richard Steel shows, it's all about using the full arsenal of photographic techniques: capture your subject in good lighting in an appealing pose, preferably doing something interesting/characteristic; show the bird in its natural environment; make good use of colour (in this case a green 'canvas' with orange and purple 'accent colours') and, last but by no means least, pay attention to composition. Composition is all about what elements are included in the image and how they are laid out. What you leave out of your composition is as important as what you keep in, so keep it simple, in this case just the bird and its perch isolated against a plain background (more vegetation would have cluttered the image). Finally, framing the image with the bird having space to 'look into' adds the aesthetic, professional touch. Remember, even the top portrait photographers don't only photograph supermodels!

Red Kite
Red Kite, undisclosed site, Dumfries & Galloway (Photo: Chas Moonie)

Long-eared Owl
Long-eared Owl, undisclosed site, Lancashire (Photo: Paul Foster)

Common Kestrel
Common Kestrel, Wick, Gloucestershire (Photo: Pete Blanchard)

Yellow Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail, Metfield, Suffolk (Photo: Jon Evans)

Little Owl
Little Owl, undisclosed site, Leicestershire and Rutland (Photo: Paul Riddle)

Cuckoo
Cuckoo, Kibblesworth, Durham (Photo: Steven Fryer)

Turquoise-browed Motmot
Turquoise-browed Motmot, Costa Rica (Photo: Rob Smith)

Common Redstart
Common Redstart, Pant-y-Dwr, Powys (Photo: Kev Joynes)

Marsh Warbler
Marsh Warbler, Poland (Photo: Artur Stankiewicz)

Lesser Redpoll
Lesser Redpoll, Dartmoor, Devon (Photo: Charlie Fleming)

European Stonechat
European Stonechat, South Stack RSPB, Anglesey (Photo: Bob Jones)

Ring Ouzel
Ring Ouzel, undisclosed site, Highland (Photo: Marcus Conway - ebirder)

Red-rumped Swallow
Red-rumped Swallow, Talisker, Skye, Highland (Photo: Ian Fulton)

Whiskered Tern
Whiskered Tern, Italy (Photo: Paolo Caretta)

Gannet
Gannet, Saltee Islands, Wexford (Photo: Craig Nash)

Common Swift
Common Swift, Fleetwood, Lancashire (Photo: Jackie Moreton)

Eider
Eider, Holy Island, Northumberland (Photo: Dave Williams)

Bearded Tit
Bearded Tit, Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk (Photo: Ian Clarke)

Lapwing
Lapwing, undisclosed site, Conwy (Photo: Steve Round)

Written by: Mark Grantham