Review of the Week: 31 October-6 November 2022


The changing of the clocks may signify the end of autumn proper, but early November often still has a prize or two in store. It wasn't to be in Britain or Ireland this week, however, with the outrageous occurrence of a Red-breasted Nuthatch in Germany drawing the widest acclaim.

Red-breasted Nuthatch (top), Tönsheider Wald, Schleswig-Holstein (Arne Torkler).

Back on home shores, perhaps the most popular bird of the week concerned a first-winter male Pied Wheatear at Whitley Bay, Northumberland, from 1st. Rare Oenanthe would go on to define the first few days of November, with an Isabelline Wheatear at Uwchmynydd, Gwynedd, from 3rd – the county's fourth but the first away from Bardsey Island. Another 'Issy' continued at Toe Head, Co Cork, until 5th at least.

Pied Wheatear, Whitley Bay, Northumberland (Alan Jack).

Isabelline Wheatear, Uwchmynydd, Gwynedd (Stephen Culley).

In Norfolk, the Blakeney Point Alpine Accentor put in an admirable stint until 3rd, tempting many into attempting the four-kilometre trek along the shingle. A Desert Wheatear lingered at neighbouring Cley Marshes until 31st, although a probable logged flying in-off the sea over Covehithe, Suffolk, on 2nd would have proved an even more remarkable record if confirmed.

Alpine Accentor, Blakeney Point, Norfolk (Paul Coombes).

Desert Wheatear, Cley Marshes NWT, Norfolk (DAVID Griffiths).

The Pallid Swift influx continued in earnest into November, although had begun to tail off by the week's end. In total, birds were reported from at least 45 sites, with the majority north-east of the Pennines. Perhaps most notable of these were several in Scotland – a country with just six accepted records before 2022 – including trios over Dunbar, Lothian, Girdle Ness, Aberdeenshire, Montrose, Angus & Dundee, and Lossiemouth, Moray & Nairn. Other trios were logged in Northumberland and Gloucestershire.

Pallid Swift, Lossie Estuary, Moray & Nairn (Kevin Broadbent).

Kent birders enjoyed a Siberian Stonechat at Dungeness NNR, Kent, on 5-6th, with Northumberland's example last noted on 31st. A Siberian/Stejneger's Stonechat was at Loch of Spiggie, Mainland Shetland, and the Whinchat × Siberian/Stejneger's Stonechat remained at Marsden, Durham. 

Siberian Stonechat, Budle Bay, Northumberland (Tom Tams).

Whinchat × Siberian/Stejneger's Stonechat, Marsden, Durham (Martyn Sidwell).

Sneaking under the radar somewhat was an inland Red-flanked Bluetail at Ambergate, Derbyshire, on 4th, the county's second in just three years. Adding to the November roll call was the Eastern Black Redstart on North Ronaldsay, Orkney, until 1st and a Bluethroat on neighbouring Papa Westray, with Red-breasted Flycatchers in Orkney and Shetland. A probable Eastern Yellow Wagtail was at Carlton Marshes, Suffolk; Little Buntings were at Felixstowe Ferry, Suffolk, and Galley Head, Co Cork.

Red-flanked Bluetail, Ambergate, Derbyshire (Andrew Thorpe).

Bluethroat, Papa Westray, Orkney (Jonathan Ford).

Nanjizal Valley, Cornwall, hosted a Blyth's Reed and Dusky Warbler double act. Further Dusky Warblers were in Scilly (two), Dorset and Shetland, with Radde's Warblers split between Cornwall, Dorset and Co Cork. A brief subalpine warbler was on St Mary's, Scilly, on 3rd, with the probable Western last noted at Tynemouth, Northumberland, on 1st. Ireland was treated to an Arctic Warbler at Knockadoon Head, Co Cork, on 3-4th. A Hume's Leaf Warbler was at Grutness, Mainland Shetland, and a Melodious Warbler remained on St Mary's, Scilly. At least eight Pallas's Warblers made the airwaves, along with five putative Siberian Lesser Whitethroats.

Pallas's Warbler, Mount Park, Fleetwood, Lancashire (Tony Wilson).

Subalpine warbler sp, Tynemouth, Northumberland (Matthew Naylor).

Lancashire's Hoopoe remained popular, with new birds in Suffolk in Kent. Perennially popular winter visitors, Great Grey Shrikes were at 10 sites. Half of these were in the Northern Isles, with others in North and South Yorkshire, Shropshire, Buckinghamshire and Anglesey. Red-backed Shrikes, meanwhile, were in Anglesey and Glamorgan.

Great Grey Shrike, Stoke Common, Buckinghamshire (Rik Addison).

Red-backed Shrike, Kenfig NNR, Glamorgan (Gavin Vella).

An American Buff-bellied Pipit was again on St Mary's, Scilly, on 31st, with a Richard's Pipit there on 5th and another at Great Orme, Conwy. Two Red-throated Pipits kept close company on St Mary's, Scilly, with another at Loch of Norby, Mainland Shetland, on 4th. In landlocked Hertfordshire, an exceptional Olive-backed Pipit record saw one at Hatfield on 31st. Two were on Barra, Outer Hebrides, with others at five sites. Shore Larks were again in Norfolk and East Yorkshire, while one overflew North Foreland, Kent.

Hoopoe, Ince Blundell, Lancashire (Gary Clarke).

Three sites – two in East Sussex and one in Dorset – hosted Wrynecks, while a probable European Serin overflew Tynemouth, Northumberland. Hornemann's Arctic Redpolls were at Lerwick, Mainland Shetland, and North Ronaldsay, Orkney. Two Red-rumped Swallows were at Foreness Point, Kent, with singles over Spurn, East Yorkshire, and St Mary's, Scilly.

Red-rumped Swallow, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Paul Freestone).

The week's most exceptional seabird record saw a Band-rumped Storm Petrel off Lizard Point, Cornwall, on 2nd – perhaps the site's third this year. Almost as notable was a Cory's Shearwater that circled over Tweseldown Hill in inland Hampshire on 4th! At least one was in the North Sea off Spurn, East Yorkshire, with two off Berry Head, Devon. Great Shearwaters were off six Cornish sites and Leach's Storm Petrels were widespread in south-western areas. Inland, one was picked up in Dumfries, Dumfries & Galloway, on 2nd.

In Kent, a popular juvenile Sabine's Gull hung out in the car park of Port Lympe Safari Park. Three Ring-billed Gulls were reported in Galway, Co Galway, with an adult still at Blennerville, Co Kerry. On 4th, a probable adult Eastern Common Tern was photographed at Thorpeness, Suffolk. A returning Bonaparte's Gull was back off Stag Rocks, Northumberland, and the Double-crested Cormorant was again at Doon Lough, Co Leitrim.

Sabine's Gull, Lympne, Kent (Terry Laws).

Collared Pratincole, Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire (Ian Curran).

New shorebird arrivals included two White-rumped Sandpipers – on  Benbecula, Outer Hebrides, from 1st and Inch Island Lake, Co Donegal, from 2nd – and a Lesser Yellowlegs at Loch of Strathbeg RSPB, Aberdeenshire, on 3-4th. Other 'Lesserlegs' lingered in Lancashire and Orkney, with a Long-billed Dowitcher still at Salthouse, Norfolk, and a Wilson's Snipe continuing on St Mary's, Scilly. Five American Golden Plovers were split between Scotland and Ireland. Three Pectoral Sandpipers comprised birds in Greater Manchester, Nottinghamshire and Co Dublin, while at least three Eurasian Stone-curlews remained near the mouth of the Thames Estuary. Also lingering was the Somerset Kentish Plover, although the Gloucestershire Collared Pratincole wouldn't make it into November, departing Slimbridge WWT after 31st.

Lesser Yellowlegs, Marshside, Lancashire (Denis Eagling).

Wilson's Snipe, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Mark Dawson).

A juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard flirted with the North Norfolk coast near Holkham on 2-3rd, with others reported from Kirby Misperton, North Yorkshire, Lyminge, Kent, and Westray, Orkney. The apparent Northern Harrier was again at Lough Boora Parklands, Co Offaly, while young Pallid Harriers were at three sites – Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk, Fort Victoria, Isle of Wight, and Islay, Argyll.

Devon's first Purple Heron of the year was at Bowling Green Marsh RSPB on 3-4th, with another remaining at Seasalter, Kent. Wandering Common Cranes away from usual areas were in Kent and Nottinghamshire. More intriguing was an African Swamphen photographed on the quayside at Parkeston, Essex, on 6th, having been present at neighbouring Dovercourt in recent weeks. While presumably an escape from captivity, the species has seen a pronounced northwards expansion in recent years and is perhaps worthy of an open mind.

African Swamphen, Harwich, Essex (Jonathan Flynn).

Equally worthy of further consideration were two Wood Duck noted arriving in-off the sea at Helston Loe Pool, Cornwall, late on 6th. Never conclusively recorded as a wild vagrant in Britain and Ireland, it nevertheless feels likely that the species reaches the islands on a semi-regular basis. Both Iceland and the Azores have several accepted records apiece and the taxa is widespread on the eastern seaboard of North America. Naturally, it is one of the more common species in captivity and escapes are widespread, making distinguishing between wild vagrants and local escapes almost impossible. The credentials of this latest record could hardly be better though, one would suggest …

Black Scoter (centre), Cocklawburn Beach, Northumberland (Steve Wilson).

Blue-winged Teal, Halton Marshes, Lincolnshire (Peter Garrity).

In Co Donegal, last week's Ferruginous Duck and Lesser Scaup both persisted. Ring-necked Duck were at 19 locations and a Blue-winged Teal lingered at Halton Marshes, Lincolnshire. Five of the week's eight Green-winged Teal were in Scotland, while American Wigeon were in Somerset, Lincolnshire, Dumfries & Galloway and Shetland. The Lothian White-winged Scoter-King Eider duo and Northumberland Black Scoter all lingered. Up to four Surf Scoter were in Brandon Bay, Co Kerry, with one still at Lunan Bay, Angus & Dundee. Possible Pacific Divers were off Islay, Argyll, and Cairnryan, Dumfries & Galloway; a White-billed Diver was off North Ronaldsay, Orkney.

Green-winged Teal, Lossie Estuary, Moray & Nairn (Graham Larrington).

American Wigeon, Meare Heath, Somerset & Bristol (David Betteridge).

Presumed Todd's Canada Geese were at three sites – Budle Bay, Northumberland, Skateraw, Lothian, and Southerness Point, Dumfries & Galloway – Richardson's Cackling Geese remained on both Islay, Argyll, and North Uist, Outer Hebrides, with one still at Lissadell, Co Sligo. Black Brant were in Dorset, Essex and East Yorkshire, while the juvenile Snow Goose continued Tyninghame Bay, Lothian, until 3rd. Decent numbers of Taiga Bean Geese were back near Slamannan, Forth, while one was with Pink-feet at Castle Stuart, Highland, on 31st and four flew south-west over North Queensferry, Fife, on 4th.

Snow Goose, Tyninghame Bay, Lothian (John Nadin).


Western Palearctic

No fewer than two national firsts made it a start to November to remember for German birders, and few would have predicted either of them! The most unlikely concerned a Red-breasted Nuthatch trapped and ringed at Tönsheider Wald on 30th. Reported belatedly, committed German birders managed to track it down from 3rd – and many birders across Europe will be hoping it chooses to spend the winter in the area. Next up was an apparent adult Western Olivaceous Warbler on Heligoland on 6th – just the second record for North-West Europe after one trapped and ringed on Eggegrund, Sweden, in September 1993.

Red-breasted Nuthatch, Tönsheider Wald, Schleswig-Holstein.

Two Alpine Accentors graced The Netherlands – the country's first autumn records – visiting Middelburg on 31st and Ouddorp on 2-3rd. Elsewhere, the Black Scoter was again off Schiermonnikoog and the released Bearded Vulture 'Eglazine' wandered to the German border near Haaksbergen.

The first Red-flanked Bluetail for Luxembourg was mist-netted at Schifflange on 3rd, while a Long-legged Buzzard and Sociable Lapwing both continued in France. On 4th, an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler dropped into Ouessant Island and a Brown Booby flew past Cancale on the Bretagne coast. A short distance away, a Blyth's Pipit was at Jullouville on 5th, with one in the Channel Islands at Pleinmont, Guernsey, from 4th even more notable. A Pallid Swift overflew Mannez Quarry, Alderney, on 31st.

Danish birders were treated to a first-winter male Western Black-eared Wheatear at Fanø from 1st, while the Hooded Merganser continued near Randers. Oriental Turtle Doves were in both Norway and Finland and a Black Scoter returned to Jurata, Poland. The Common Yellowthroat held on at Magadino, Switzerland, throughout, while belated news concerned Italy's first Sharp-tailed Sandpiper photographed at Paùli 'e Sali, Sardinia, on 13 October. In Hungary, the Sandhill Crane was again near Balmazújváros on 5th.

Cape Verde's first Greater Yellowlegs – a juvenile – was at Santa Maria, Sal, while both a Snowy Egret and Great Blue Heron remained on Terceira, Azores. The first Black-capped Petrel for the Canary Islands was a remarkable find aboard the MV Queen Victoria while moored 1.5km off La Palma early on 4th. At least two Pied Crows made for a surprise arrival at Playa de Almaciga, Tenerife, with at least one still on Gran Canaria in recent weeks too.

Major news out of Israel concerned an adult Verreaux's Eagle in the Eilat Mountains from 20 October, which remained present and correct until 5 November at least.

Written by: Sam Viles