Review of the Week: 3rd-9th May 2002


Rather typically the Bank Holiday weekend was a cool affair, with northerlies and clear skies, hardly inspiring stuff for a mass arrival of rarities. An easterly drift and murky conditions along the coast from Monday onwards have ensured that some rarities and have been found along with a few scarce migrants. However, it is May and that has ensured that, regardless of the weather, quality rarities have occurred over the last week, though relatively few remained long enough or were accessible for the masses.

In Gwent the Hudsonian Whimbrel made a ‘reappearance’ over the Bank Holiday weekend. This is almost certainly the bird at the same site in 2000 at which time it was only the third British record and the first since 1974. So, for those into forms and potential armchair ‘ticks’ in the future this return visit allowed a number of observers to catch up with this distinctive bird. Not quite as rare but more desired a Pallid Harrier was seen in Kent on the 5th, but could not subsequently be found. Frustratingly a ringtail harrier had been seen in the area during the 10 days or so prior to this sighting. There had only been 10 accepted records by the end of 2000 and others were seen in 2001, though there has never been a twitchable bird on the mainland – surely it is only a matter of time though!

Elsewhere, a White-billed Diver was seen in Shetland, Black Storks were reported in Suffolk and North Yorkshire and a Gyr was seen on Unst. Rare waders were represented by a Marsh Sandpiper in West Sussex on private land and a male and 1st-summer female Black-winged Stilt in Norfolk (could these be the same two birds seen in Hampshire towards the end of April - if so, where have they been since?). A touch of the Mediterranean was added by Bee-eaters over Portland, Woodchat Shrikes in Scilly, Dorset and Cornwall, Ortolan Bunting in Dorset, plus Red-rumped Swallows in East Yorkshire, Cornwall and Kent. A male Red-footed Falcon was seen at Oulton Broad (Suffolk) and a female was seen to come in-off at Dungeness (Kent). A Thrush Nightingale was seen on The Farnes (Northumberland), with another ‘possible’ at Spurn (East Yorkshire), whilst a Little Bunting was on Fair Isle and a Richard’s Pipit on St. Martin’s (Scilly), with Short-toed Larks at the extremes of the country with one on Fair Isle and another in Cornwall.

Scarce migrants have been just that, but it is still a tad early. However, six red-spotted male Bluethroats have added a nice dash of colour between East Yorkshire and Fair Isle. Additional interest has come in the form of an early Icterine Warbler in Norfolk, a male Red-backed Shrike in Nortumberland and at least nine Wrynecks including an inland bird in Lincolnshire. Low cloud and easterlies have resulted in good numbers of waders passing through inland sites, including several Wood and Curlew Sandpipers, along with the commoner species. At least four Temminck’s Stints have been reported along eastern counties, plus one in the West Midlands. A good number of Artic Terns were brought down to inland waters by the weather conditions and a scattering of Black Terns have been reported. In addition Dotterels have been seen at a number of sites during the week, from inland fields to coastal fields to upland peaks.

Written by: Russell Slack