Review of the Week: 31st July-6th August 2008


The week at a glance

July conceded to August this week and, not unlike the England cricket team's recent performance, rather rolled over and didn't really put up much of a fight considering the flourish of its last full week. August, the new kid in town, was rather bashful to begin with, but has already started to find its rarity feet and, being the month it is, those feet are likely to get bigger and bigger as the days pass by.

Two-barred Crossbill
Two-barred Crossbill, Fair Isle, Shetland (Photo: Mark Breaks)

Two-barred Crossbill
Two-barred Crossbill, Sumburgh, Mainland, Shetland (Photo: Dougie Preston)

Leftover Two-barred Crossbills from last week could still be seen on Orkney, at Queenamidda near Rendall to 31st and at Crafty near Finstown to 1st (the latter bird was trapped and ringed). On Shetland, the juvenile at Esha Ness was still present to 3rd at least while on Fair Isle, two became four on 1st, with an adult male and a third female-type joining the party - these birds were all still present the following day, with the male present to 2nd. On 3rd, a female or juvenile was seen on Stronsay (Orkney) and a female reached the remote confines of St. Kilda (Western Isles) the same day and was still present on 4th. Possible new arrivals found on 5th were both on Shetland, a juvenile on Fair Isle (but this may have been leftover from the previous group) and one at Norwick, Unst. On 6th, up to 16 (yes 16!!!) new arrivals appeared: two birds were found on North Ronaldsay (Orkney), a single bird was found on Fetlar (Shetland), while Sumburgh Head, on mainland Shetland, weighed in with six birds (a male and five juveniles) and then nine birds were counted on Fair Isle. This single count represents the largest bunch of Two-barred Crossbills in Britain since six (possibly up to ten) were found, also in Shetland, on Foula on 15th August 1987, and this could actually be Britain's largest group of Two-barred Crossbills since around 20 were recorded at Ampthill, in Bedfordshire, in January 1890. With around 30 individuals recorded so far in this invasion, the record books are looking as though they are in need of a rewrite. Out at sea, hot on the heels of the presumed Yelkouan Shearwater in Devon last week, came a "possible" in Cornwall, seen from Pendeen then, 20 minutes later, off The Cowloe, Sennen Cove.

The summer adult White-billed Diver was again noted off South Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 6th. The first Fea's Petrel of the autumn was logged (and photographed) by a discerning fisherman from a boat west of Slyne Head (Co. Galway) on 28th July (the news only coming to light on 31st). This species was doubtless still top of many seawatchers'"wants" lists, especially those notching up some of this week's Cory's Shearwaters. On 31st, Cornwall lead the way with 60 from Chynhallis Point comfortably the highest total of the day; Porthgwarra scored 18, while two were seen from Rame and one was noted off Gribbin Head. Elsewhere on 31st, singles were seen from Berry Head in Devon and in Dorset, one was seen from Durlston CP. On 1st, it was Ireland that scored most heavily, with Galley Head (Co. Cork) registering a superb 750 (in just three and a half hours). Porthgwarra managed another 52, while 43 were seen from an evening Scilly pelagic and 11 were noted from Helvick Point (Co. Waterford). Three were seen from Cape Cornwall (Cornwall) and singles passed Berry Head and Portland Bill (Dorset). On 2nd, 162 birds flew past Galley Head, with a further 100 Cory's off Cape Clear Island (Co. Cork), and four birds were seen from a Scilly pelagic, while on 4th, four birds were seen from Giant's Castle, St. Mary's (Scilly). On the same date, single Cory's were noted from Porthgwarra and Pendeen (Cornwall) with another seen in Blue Anchor Bay (Somerset), while on 5th, one flew past Galley Head. Once again, there were rather fewer Great Shearwaters recorded this week: on 1st, nine were seen from a Scilly pelagic, one was seen from Sennen Cove (Cornwall) and in Ireland eight were seen from Galley Head, with seven there the following day. Arguably the pick of any seabird record this week was the Great Shearwater seen off Dungeness (Kent) on 2nd, while the highest total of the week, 13, were seen from Galley Head. Singles were then noted off Galley Head on 3rd and Porthgwarra on 4th. Over 140 Balearic Shearwaters were recorded this week, mainly in the southwest, with 21 from Porthgwarra on 3rd the highest individual day total, with two further days of double figures there (on 4th and 5th) and two double-figure days off Berry Head (on 2nd and 5th). Away from Cornwall, Devon and Dorset, other Balearics were seen in Kent (including six off Dungeness on 2nd), Suffolk, Ayrshire, Gwynedd and Pembrokeshire. Sooty Shearwaters were the scarcest shearwater species of the week, with around 50 birds recorded, with Cornwall claiming the lion's share, including five from Porthgwarra on 1st (although eight were seen from Galley Head in Cork on 2nd). Elsewhere, birds were also seen in Suffolk, Aberdeenshire and the Outer Hebrides. Single Wilson's Storm-petrels were seen on consecutive Scilly pelagics on 2nd and 3rd this week, while other seabird highlights included just a handful of Pomarine Skuas (around 10 seen - birds noted in West Sussex, Kent, Dorset, Fife and Ayrshire) while an adult Long-tailed Skua flew past Selsey Bill (West Sussex) on 5th. Sabine's Gulls this week were seen from Kearney (Co. Down) on 31st, in East Yorkshire, off Grimston and Spurn on 4th, off Scilly on 5th and from Hartlepool Headland (Cleveland) on 6th.

Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret, undisclosed site, Somerset & Bristol (Photo: Jeffrey Hazell)

Spoonbill, Cley Marshes NWT, Norfolk (Photo: John Peacock)

More exciting news this week from Somerset, where it was announced that a second pair of Cattle Egrets has bred successfully in the county. Just one Great White Egret was seen this week, flying over Reculver (Kent) on 1st. There were some 40 Spoonbills to report this week, with a fantastic 19 at Havergate Island (Suffolk) on 3rd being one of the largest counts of the species in Britain during the modern birdwatching era. Seven birds were in Poole Harbour (at Middlebere) on 1st-3rd and four birds were at Cley Marshes (Norfolk) to 6th. Inland records included the bird in the Dearne Valley (South Yorkshire) to 2nd and another at Ferry Meadows CP (Cambridgeshire) on 5th, and presumably the bird was at Rutland Water on 6th. In Scotland, the two birds at Kinneil Lagoon (Forth) were still present to 3rd at least and the adult near Kirkcudbright (Dumfries & Galloway) was still present to 6th. On 31st, a Glossy Ibis was seen over Hade Edge, near Holmfirth (West Yorkshire) and must surely have been the bird last seen heading west from Spurn last week; on 5th two Glossy Ibises were seen over Ardcath (Co. Meath). The summering Common Cranes remained near Crudgington (Shropshire) to 4th, while another pair were at Welney (Norfolk) on 3rd and 5th. The bird at Caerlaverock (Dumfries & Galloway) was still in the area until 3rd at least. Across in Northumberland a Black Stork was seen for 10 minutes over Cramlington before drifting south, while in the Avon Valley (Hampshire) a White Stork was seen on 6th.

The drake Ferruginous Duck remained at Chew Valley Lake (Somerset) until 5th at least. The eclipse drake Lesser Scaup was at Balgray Reservoir (Clyde) on 5th, while in Fife, the eclipse drake Ring-necked Duck remained at Loch Gelly until 31st. An eclipse drake American Wigeon spent 1st-2nd at Loch of Strathbeg (Aberdeenshire) and the first-summer drake King Eider remained around Lady's Island Lake (Co. Wexford) until 3rd. In Dorset, the first-summer drake Hooded Merganser at Radipole Lake (Dorset) was still bobbing around amongst the resident bread-beggers until 6th.

A Black Kite drifted low over Rainham Marshes (London) on 31st while Honey Buzzards continued to be seen at Swanton Novers (Norfolk) and Wykeham Forest (North Yorkshire). Away from breeding sites, the only Montagu's Harriers this week were seen at Coldharbour Lagoon (Kent) on 3rd, near Covenham Reservoir (Lincolnshire) on 5th and on 6th, at Porthmadog (Gwynedd) and Choseley (Norfolk).

Pectoral Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper, Gibraltar Point NNR, Lincolnshire (Photo: Andy Booth)

American Golden Plover
American Golden Plover, Elmley Marshes RSPB, Kent (Photo: Pekka Valo)

Buff-breasted Sandpiper
Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Doonfoot, Ayrshire (Photo: Jim Woods)

Up to three Pacific Golden Plovers were seen this week: the adult on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) remained until 6th, another adult was at Aberlady Bay (Lothian) on 2nd, and on 3rd the third bird of the week was reported out on Havergate Island (Suffolk). An American Golden Plover at Elmley (Kent) was not seen after 30th. The first Baird's Sandpiper of 2008, an adult, was at on Shanagarry Pools, Ballycotton (Co. Cork) on 1st-2nd, while White-rumped Sandpipers appeared at Skippool Creek (Lancashire) on 31st-1st, at Spurn (East Yorkshire) on 2nd and Cresswell Pond (Northumberland) on 3rd (after one there on 28th), and the second bird in a fortnight at Cley Marshes (Norfolk) popped in and out on the evening of 4th. A summer-plumaged Spotted Sandpiper was on the Camel Estuary (Cornwall) on 6th and the same date saw two Buff-breasted Sandpipers arrive in northern parts, one at Doonfoot (Ayrshire) and one on North Ronaldsay (enjoying a real purple patch at the moment). Numbers of Pectoral Sandpipers fell away again this week, and it was mainly "hangers-on" that kept numbers up. In Essex the bird at Holland Haven remained to 31st. Birds at Titchwell (Norfolk) and Gibraltar Point (Lincolnshire) lingered to 5th, and one was Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) on 2nd. New birds were seen on the beach at Great Yarmouth (Norfolk) and at Ballycotton, both on 1st. A Temminck's Stint was at Old Hall Marshes (Essex) on 31st-2nd, and another was reported from Stiffkey Fen (Norfolk) on 4th. In West Sussex, a Kentish Plover was seen at Sidlesham Ferry, Pagham Harbour on 1st-2nd.

A first-summer Ring-billed Gull was a brief visitor to Helston Loe Pool (Cornwall) on 1st, while a summering adult remained at Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway) to 4th. A juvenile Iceland Gull was in Sligo harbour on 1st and a second-summer was at Portrush, on Corbally Road Reservoir (Co. Antrim) on 5th. The only Glaucous Gulls of the week were both in Ireland: one was seen near Kilrush (Co. Clare) on 4th and another was at Ramore Head (Co. Antrim) on 6th. Only two Caspian Gulls were seen, a second-summer at Minsmere (Suffolk) on 31st and the Polish colour-ringed first-summer was found again at Cley Marshes (Norfolk) on 1st. In Lancashire, a Caspian Tern flew past Formby Point on 4th while in Northumberland, although much commoner than the previous species, the count of 61 Roseate Terns at Long Nanny on 3rd is certainly worthy of inclusion in this week's review.

Lesser Grey Shrike
Lesser Grey Shrike, Hartland Moor, Dorset (Photo: Dave Stone)

Lesser Grey Shrike
Lesser Grey Shrike, Middlebere, Dorset (Photo: Lee Fuller)

Out on St. Kilda (Outer Hebrides) the Snowy Owl was seen again on 3rd, while in Ireland, an Alpine Swift was seen over Webb's Field, Kilcoole (Co. Wicklow) on 31st. A presumed Pallid Swift found at Sumburgh Head (Shetland) on 5th-6th was well watched and photographed, but was re-identified as a juvenile Common Swift on the latter date. A juvenile Citrine Wagtail was an early August surprise on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 2nd-4th and, still on Orkney, a Bee-eater spent 1st over on Shapinsay. In Dorset, a female Lesser Grey Shrike was found at Hartland Moor on 2nd and remained until 6th, while another Lesser Grey Shrike spent 15 minutes at Balephuil, Tiree (Argyll) on 6th. The Hartland Moor bird was the first record of the species in Dorset for over 19 years and was only the fifth record of the species in the county as a whole. In London, a male Red-backed Shrike was something of a surprise find in Richmond Park on 2nd, while the summering male in Norfolk, at Sea Palling, was still present to 31st at least. The first juvenile Red-backed Shrike of the autumn was found on the Farne Islands (Northumberland) on 6th. The unseasonable Shore Lark at Spurn (East Yorkshire) remained around the area until at least 3rd.

The same weather system that dropped the juvenile Citrine Wagtail on neighbouring Orkney this week was doubtless responsible for providing Shetland with the Aquatic Warbler that arrived on Unst on 4th. A Marsh Warbler was seen on Fair Isle (Shetland) on 1st along with a Common Rosefinch. Another Rosefinch was seen at Skaw, Whalsay (Shetland) on 5th. A Melodious Warbler at Sumburgh (Shetland) on 6th must have struggled to make itself seen amongst the mass of crossbill wing-bars, while over on Fair Isle, on the same date, an Icterine Warbler was found. Rather commoner, but still worth a quick mention, were the half a dozen or so migrant Wood Warblers that were noted along the south and east coasts over the course of the week.

The round-up concludes this week with the Rose-coloured Starling at Dervaig, Mull (Argyll), which was still present on 31st.

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Photo of the Week

Swallow, Shustoke Reservoir, Warwickshire (Photo: Richard Dawkins)

Swallows are masters of flight, their unceasing aerobatics enabling them to scoop insects from the air in quick succession. As a result, capturing their aerial manoeuvres is one of the most difficult but compelling challenges in bird photography. Even without the optimal camera equipment for the task, though, Richard Dawkins has managed a perfect action shot, made doubly difficult by having to focus on the bird against a mixed-tone background. Banking only a couple of inches above the ground, the bird looks totally at ease, as if revelling in its aerobatic prowess. The Swallow's pose emphasises its sleek form, especially its tail streamers, whilst the lighting picks out every detail in its plumage and facial features. An image any bird photographer would be proud to have captured!

Other notable photos

Common Kingfisher
Common Kingfisher, Summer Leys LNR, Northamptonshire (Photo: John Peacock)

Spotted Flycatcher
Spotted Flycatcher, Finland (Photo: Matt Latham)

Spotted Redshank
Spotted Redshank, Belgium (Photo: Rudi Debruyne)

Wryneck, Finland (Photo: Matt Latham)

Gannet, Bass Rock, Lothian (Photo: Steve Race)

Kittiwake, Bempton Cliffs RSPB, East Yorkshire (Photo: Dean Eades)

Common Kestrel
Common Kestrel, undisclosed site, Cheshire (Photo: Richard Steel)

Common Tern
Common Tern, Belgium (Photo: Rudi Debruyne)

Little Grebe
Little Grebe, Dunham Massey NT, Cheshire (Photo: Pauline Greenhalgh)

Tawny Owl
Tawny Owl, Spital, Cheshire (Photo: Steve Round)

Avocet, Marshside RSPB, Lancashire (Photo: Robert Askew)

Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret, Spain (Photo: Steve Fletcher)

Sparrowhawk, undisclosed site, Staffordshire (Photo: Bob Morton)

Written by: Mark Golley