Review of the Week: 31st October-6th November 2002


The week was characterised by a large fall of Scandinavian migrants overnight on the 1st/2nd. High pressure over Scandinavia facilitated an exodus of thrushes, predominantly Blackbirds, and large numbers were caught up in damp weather and southeasterlies off the British coastline. Simultaneously, low pressure systems in the North Atlantic brought westerly winds bridging North America and Northwest Europe facilitating the arrival of two quality Nearctic vagrants.

A difficult call for 'bird of the week', with a trio of Nearctic rarities in the running. Statistically this should be awarded to the Bobolink in Dorset or the Stilt Sandpiper on Shetland. However, a Killdeer on St. Agnes may lay claim to the title due to the lack of collectable birds in recent years.

With three mainland records in the last two years, Bobolinks are almost in danger of becoming 'commonplace'! With just 23 accepted records, another mainland bird would always prove popular, despite birds in Devon and East Yorkshire in 2001. On the 1st one was found at Hengistbury Head and was present to the 5th. This is the second record for Dorset, following one at Portland in 1992.

The second star was a Stilt Sandpiper on Unst. If it had not been for the long-staying bird in Hampshire earlier this autumn there would have been a number of forlorn faces throughout the land contemplating a trip to the Northern Isles. As it is, it's a nice complement to the other sightings, and coincides with the arrival of a Buff-breasted Sandpiper at the other end of the country.

The third of the Nearctic stars of the week was a Killdeer on St. Agnes. Despite 57 previous records, it was as long ago as 1995 that one lingered for any period of time, though there have been four one-day birds since. Records of this rare wader, not surprisingly, have a southwest/west bias, and although there have been 11 previous birds seen on the Isles of Scilly, this was the first since one in 1989.

Equally rare was a Paddyfield Warbler on Gugh from 1st, almost mirroring a late bird in Cornwall in 2001. This is the 4th for Scilly (one from 2001 awaits publication), and is the second year in succession for a bird on the islands. With a supporting cast of Blyth's Reed Warbler and Red-rumped Swallow, the Isles of Scilly illustrated that early November is a prime time for rarities and should be ignored at peril!

A Franklin's Gull straddled Northants/Leicestershire, appearing in the roost at Stanford Reservoir from the 3rd. Formerly an extreme rarity, the last decade has produced quite an upsurge in sightings. The beauty of this delightful gull always ensures that long-stayers attract an appreciative audience and this really is one of the ultimate prizes for gull-roost aficionados.

The autumn is slowing down (some might say that it never got going!) but a late push of sibes included a Siberian Stonechat on Shetland, Short-toed Lark in East Yorkshire, Red-throated Pipit on Scilly, Dusky Warbler in Suffolk and on Scilly and a Radde's Warbler on Scilly. Back-up came in the form of four Pallas's Warblers, six Yellow-browed Warblers, just over a dozen Richard's Pipits, plus Barred Warbler, Wryneck and a Red-breasted Flycatcher. The geographical origin of a Subalpine Warbler on Bardsey was trickier to determine, as was that of three Hoopoes reported during the week. Conduits of the rarer species were a nice arrival of Blackbirds and a few associated migrants. Many birders stumbled across numerous Woodcocks in their quest for something rarer, with 61 at Filey (N. Yorks) alone – who knows how many thousands clandestinely sneaked across the North Sea during the arrival?

A supporting cast included a White-billed Diver in the Outer Hebrides and at least three Great White Egrets were at large (West Midlands, Cleveland and Lincs). Waders included three American Golden Plovers (Cambs, Wexford and Argyll), Pacific Golden Plover (Outer Hebrides), three Long-billed Dowitchers (Londonderry, Lincs and Carmarthen), three late Dotterel with Golden Plover flocks (South Yorks, Cambs and Essex) and a Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Scilly). The White-winged Black Tern remained in Norfolk, as did the Glossy Ibis in Devon, Surf Scoter in Cornwall, Redhead in Glamorgan, and the Western Bonelli's Warbler was again seen in Cornwall. The late Icterine Warbler lingered in Lincs, and watchable Rough-legged Buzzards continued to entertain in Lincs, Suffolk and Kent. In Cheshire a Spotted Crake was at Parkgate Marsh.

As always if you are fortunate enough to encounter anything of interest, or if you have travelled to see one of the birds mentioned on our Bird News Extra page, please call us on our freephone number 08000 350 444, email us at sightings@birdguides.com or use the submission form on our Bird News Extra page – we would love to hear from you with information on what you have found, or been to see.
Written by: Russell Slack