Review of the Week: 31st July-6th August 2003


It's certainly been a very hot week, but despite the sultry weather there has not been a slow-down in the rarity action. Once again rare waders dominated proceedings with several photogenic performers delighting digiscopers and birders alike.

Least Sandpiper: Startops End Reservoir, Herts. (Photo: Steve Blain) Least Sandpiper: Startops End Reservoir, Herts. (Photo: Rob Andrews)

Least Sandpiper: Startops End Reservoir, Herts. (Photo: Ben Miller) Least Sandpiper: Startops End Reservoir, Herts. (Photo: Rob Andrews)

An adult Least Sandpiper was found at Startops End Reservoir, Tring (Herts) on 5th and was still present at the time of writing. With just under 40 records nationally and only 6 in the last 10 years, this diminutive 'peep' is a superb find at an inland site. This bird follows hot on the heels of last year's late-May bird in the Midlands. In Co. Cork a summer-plumaged Stilt Sandpiper was found in Cork Harbour on 6th. Following two birds in 2002 and one in 2001, this ultra-rare Nearctic wader is almost becoming 'common' although there have only been just over 30 records. The third of the rare waders this week was an adult Semipalmated Sandpiper at Porth Hellick, St. Mary's (Scilly) from 2nd onwards. As with many rare waders, we will never know for sure how many are 'new' birds and how many are birds being picked up in subsequent years following their arrival on this side of the Atlantic.

Semipalmated Sandpiper: St. Mary's, Scilly. (Photo: Bob Flood) Semipalmated Sandpiper: St. Mary's, Scilly. (Photo: Martin Goodey)

White-rumped Sandpiper: Wyre Estuary, Lancs. (Photo: Paul Ellis) White-rumped Sandpiper: Wyre Estuary, Lancs. (Photo: Paul Ellis)

Elsewhere, an adult White-rumped Sandpiper was on the Wyre Estuary (Lancs) from 3rd onwards, Pectoral Sandpipers included two at Snettisham RSPB, one at Cley (Norfolk), with one at Denge Marsh/Dungeness RSPB (Kent) on 5th and 6th and one remained at Quoile Pondage (Co. Down). Four Temminck's Stints included singles at Kirkby-on-Bain GPs (Lincs) from 31st-2nd, Titchwell RSPB (Norfolk) on 3rd, Blacktoft Sands RSPB (E. Yorks) and Grove Ferry (Kent) on 4th. From last week, the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper was last seen at Ballycotton (Co. Cork) on 31st and the Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Kilcoole (Co. Wicklow) also on 31st.

Pectoral Sandpiper: Snettisham RSPB, Norfolk. (Photo: Mike Lawrence) Pectoral Sandpiper: Snettisham RSPB, Norfolk. (Photo: Mike Lawrence)

Cattle Egret: Bowling Green Marsh RSPB, Devon. (Photo: Dave Stone) Cattle Egret: Bowling Green Marsh RSPB, Devon. (Photo: Dave Stone)

A Cattle Egret was at Bowling Green Marsh RSPB (Devon) for the afternoon of the 5th and Great White Egrets were seen at a number of locations. Singles were at Bassenthwaite Lake (Cumbria) from 1st-2nd, Wigg Island and Frodsham (Cheshire) on 3rd and 4th, Blithfield Reservoir (Staffs) on 4th, Abbotsbury (Dorset) on 4th, Leighton Moss (Lancs) on 5th and Nevern Estuary and Nicton Point (Pembroke) on 5th and 6th. A Blue-winged Teal was at Kilcoole on 4th, there were several Black Kite reports and a Red-footed Falcon was reported at Great Leighs (Essex). Alpine Swifts were seen over St. Germans (Cornwall) on 2nd and Atherstone (Warks) on 3rd. On North Ronaldsay (Orkney) a male Black-headed Bunting was present from 2nd-6th. Signs of the approaching autumn were provided by Common Rosefinches on Unst and Fair Isle (Shetland) and at Portland (Dorset), with small falls of Willow Warblers noted from a few coastal locations. A Melodious Warbler was at Start Point (Devon) on 1st and Red-backed Shrike at Greenham Common (Berks) from 3rd-6th and a Woodchat Shrike at Trevose Head (Cornwall) from the 5th. A male Serin was at Rainham Marshes (London) on 3rd, a Hoopoe was at Spurn (E. Yorks) on the 5th and Bee-eaters included one over Belfast on 2nd, over Gibraltar Point (Lincs) on 3rd and two over Tynemouth (Northumberland) on the 6th.

There were 8 White-winged Black Terns reported during the week: Pulfin and High Eske NR (E. Yorks) on 31st; Titchwell RSPB (Norfolk) on 31st; Lough Derg (Co. Tipperary) from 31st-4th; Cley (Norfolk) on 1st; Carnsore Point (Co. Wexford) on 2nd; Marston Vale Millennium CP (Beds) on 4th. These were in addition to the long-staying East Chevington (Northumberland) bird and the Summer Leys/Earls Barton GPs (Northants) bird which remained to the 4th. There was also a small incursion of Black Terns during the week, the maximum number being 38 past Shellness (Kent). Once again the week produced little seawatching of note with just 5 Cory's Shearwaters and 6 Great Shearwaters, plus a couple of Sabine's Gulls.

Cory's Shearwater: At sea, Scilly. It's been a poor year so far for ardent seawatchers. (Photo: Bob Flood)

In Co. Cork the 1st-summer Bonaparte's Gull was seen at Mallow Sugar Factory Lagoons to the 4th, and the Short-toed Lark was still at Tacumshin. The juvenile Great Spotted Cuckoo was last seen at Spurn (E. Yorks) on the 31st the same day that the Gull-billed Tern was last seen on South Uist (Outer Hebrides). Long-staying ducks include the Lesser Scaup at Pennington Flash (Gtr Manchester), Ferruginous Duck at Loch Gelly (Fife), Black Duck on St. Mary's (Scilly) and King Eider in Fife.

Finally, tape-lurers of European Storm-petrels along the east coast can take heart from the news from Norway that a Swinhoe's Storm-petrel was tape lured and trapped at Revekaien, Jaeren, overnight on the 4th/5th. This was the same bird that was initially trapped there in August 1997 and then controlled twice there in July/August 2000.

Great White Egret: Blithfield Reservoir, Staffs. (Photo: Nick Smith) Ring-billed Gull: Helston, Cornwall. (Photo: Paul Norris)
Written by: Russell Slack