Review of the Week: 3rd-9th November 2005


The week at a glance:

Magnificent Frigatebird: Chester zoo(photo: Mark Eaton).
Magnificent Frigatebird: Chester zoo(photo: Mark Eaton).

During the week 2005 took the accolade of the best year ever for the total number of species seen in Britain and Ireland, surpassing the previous record set in 2004, and it is still only early November! So, it came as no surprise that yet more quality rarities were found and doubtless before the year is out more will be discovered!

Fall-out from Hurricane Wilma continues to deliver a superb mix to our late autumn birding scene. News of the week involved a Frigatebird sp. picked up on a farm at Whitchurch (Shropshire) on Monday 7th and taken to Chester Zoo, where it was identified as a male Magnificent Frigatebird. Although the bird received care, it unfortunately died on the 9th. If accepted this will be the first British record of this highly pelagic species, though an immature bird was picked up exhausted at Castletown (Isle of Man) on 22nd December 1998 and reportedly died in care in December 1999 (Accepted Magnificent Frigatebird and Frigatebird sp. records). Although there is a very small population on the Cape Verde Islands in the Western Palearctic, the nearest sizeable breeding colonies are to be found in Brazil and the Caribbean. This bird will have presumably got caught up in Hurricane Wilma and correlates nicely with a number of frigatebird sightings, all presumably relating to Magnificents, recently in the mid-Atlantic states. The main surprise is perhaps that it was an adult, but it is also an illustration that many of those old seabird records in the last century from bizarre locations may have more credibility than we might think! In addition, late news of a Frigatebird sp. over Gwennap Head (Cornwall) for at least half an hour on Sunday 6th before flying off towards Land's End and a male Frigatebird sp. over Flat Holm Island (Glamorgan) the same day raises the possibility of more to come; perhaps the latter was the bird that ended up in Shrops?

Laughing Gull: Newquay, Cornwall (photo: Marc Read).

Laughing Gull: St. Mary's, Scilly (photo: David Hatton). Laughing Gull: St. Mary's, Scilly (photo: Martin Goodey).
Laughing Gull: Gosport, Hants (photo: Jeremy McClements). Laughing Gull: Gosport, Hants (photo: Nic Hallam).
Laughing Gull: Newquay, Cornwall (photo: Marc Read). Laughing Gull: Newquay, Cornwall (photo: Tristan Reid).
Laughing Gull: Radipole, Dorset (photo: Chris Parnell). Laughing Gull: Radipole, Dorset (photo: Mike Campbell).

Franklin's Gull: Cubert, Cornwall (photo: Tony Mills).

Franklin's Gull: Hayle Estuary, Cornwall (photo: Tristan Reid). Franklin's Gull: Gannel Estuary, Cornwall (photo: Mike Barker).

Further 'Wilma delights' included an unprecedented arrival of Laughing Gulls and Franklin's Gulls. The 'fall' was primarily restricted to the southwest, though a later wave of Laughing Gulls made landfall in Scotland. Perhaps as many as 35 Laughing Gulls were involved, including 18 in Britain on the 9th alone, though at this early stage it is difficult to assess how much duplication is involved. On the Isles of Scilly four birds were seen together on St. Mary's, whilst Cornwall (10-11 birds) and Devon (3-4 birds) provided the majority of other sightings, with birds also seen in Dorset, Hampshire (3 birds), East Sussex and Somerset (2 birds); in Wales birds were found in Glamorgan, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. Also, the long-stayer was still in West Yorkshire, its presence somewhat eclipsed by the arrival. Later in the week birds arriving from perhaps a different route began to make landfall in Scotland, with two in Argyll, two on the Outer Hebrides and one on Fetlar (Shetland); the latter only the sixth Shetland record and the first since 1998. What is interesting is that this deluge seems to have, for the time being at least, bypassed Ireland. A handful of Franklin's Gulls were also associated with the arrival: two in Cornwall (Newquay and Hayle Estuary), and one at Drwslwyn (Carmarthenshire) which was present in the company of a Laughing Gull. The ongoing winter distribution of these birds will be of interest, and it seems likely that a bumper spring passage will ensue next year!

Green Heron: Red Wharf Bay, Anglesey (photo: Steve Round). Green Heron: Red Wharf Bay, Anglesey (photo: Steve Round).
Green Heron: Red Wharf Bay, Anglesey (photo: Steve Tomlinson). Green Heron: Red Wharf Bay, Anglesey (photo: Steve Round).
Green Heron: Red Wharf Bay, Anglesey (photo: Marc Hughes). Green Heron: Red Wharf Bay, Anglesey (photo: Marc Hughes).

News of a Green Heron at Red Wharf Bay (Anglesey) on Monday 7th had birders once again rushing to the island for a quality rarity - a familiar routine for listers over the past few years. Apparently the bird had already been present for 8 days when news reached the grapevine, so perhaps there was no need to rush. A 1st-winter bird, scrutiny of the photographs revealed it to be the same bird that was present at Schull (Co. Cork) from 11th-13th October, highlighting just how mobile some of our rarities can be. There have been four previous British records, including a well-watched bird in Lincolnshire during late September and early October 2001, and even further back a long-stayer in East Yorkshire in 1982. A bird was also on Jersey and Guernsey in 1992 (Accepted Green Heron records).

Content continues after advertisements
Pallid Swift: Newbiggin, Northumbs (photo: Stef Mcelwee).

Chimney Swift: Spurn, E. Yorks (photo: Garry Taylor). Chimney Swift: Spurn, E. Yorks (photo: Garry Taylor).

The remnants of the Chimney Swift influx from last week continued to be detected. It was no surprise that last week's bird on Holy Island (Northumberland) was picked up passing through Spurn (E. Yorks) on Friday 4th, the second record for the Observatory and the 5th swift species seen there this year! Other Chimney Swifts included one over Woolston Eyes (Cheshire) on Saturday 5th with one at Berry Head (Devon) the same day. A 'possible' was over Boulmer (Northumbs) on 5th and one was over Tynemouth (Northumbs) on 6th. A possible was belatedly reported from Penmon Point (Anglesey) on 2nd and one was noted over Farranfore (Co. Kerry) on Wednesday 9th. Several Pallid Swifts lingered during the week; a bird in Northumberland between 5th and 8th was eventually pinned-down at Newbiggin, and others were reported from Overstrand (Norfolk) on 3rd, and North Foreland (Kent) on 4th, plus several unidentified swifts were reported.

Solitary Sandpiper: St. Agnes, Scilly (photo: David Hatton). Solitary Sandpiper: St. Agnes, Scilly (photo: Tristan Reid).
Solitary Sandpiper: St. Agnes, Scilly (photo: Tristan Reid). Solitary Sandpiper: St. Agnes, Scilly (photo: Tristan Reid).

It has been a superb autumn for Nearctic waders, so the addition to the roll-call for the year of a Solitary Sandpiper on St. Agnes (Scilly) from Friday 4th-6th will have come as no surprise. The Isles of Scilly is THE place for the species, the islands having accommodated around a third of all British records (Accepted Solitary Sandpiper records). Other quality finds included a Eurasian Scops Owl killed by a car at Crookhaven (Co. Cork) on Friday 4th and a male Pine Bunting at Challister, Whalsay (Shetland) from Friday 4th-5th. A male Pied Wheatear was a superb inland record at Bredon Hill (Worcs) on Saturday 5th, but unfortunately it did not linger for the masses the following day. The Blackpoll Warbler was last reported from St. Mary's (Scilly) on 3rd, the Grey-cheeked Thrush remained on Cape Clear (Co. Cork) until the 6th. Perhaps more Nearctic landbirds will surface during the winter in suburban gardens?

Desert Wheatear: Holy Island, Northumbs (photo: Ian Boustead). Desert Wheatear: Holy Island, Northumbs (photo: Stef Mcelwee).

Waxwing: Elgin, Moray (photo: A Jensen).

Hoopoe: Inverythan, Abderdeens (photo: Chris Jones). Hoopoe: Inverythan, Abderdeens (photo: Chris Jones).

The Desert Wheatear continued to perform well through the week on Holy Island (Northumbs) and another was belatedly reported from Eccles-on-Sea (Norfolk) from 1st-4th. A Penduline Tit was at Dungeness (Kent) on 6th and the two Northern Long-tailed Tits remained elusive in Easington (E. Yorks) and the Blyth's Reed Warbler remained on St. Mary's to the 3rd. Olive-backed Pipits were on Fair Isle (Shetland), the elusive bird was again at Sumburgh (Shetland) on 9th and one was at Port Nis, Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 5th. A Dusky Warbler was at Porthgwarra (Cornwall) on 7th and most of the 20 or more Yellow-browed Warblers were in the southwest, though one was inland at Dogsthorpe Star Pit (Cambridgeshire) and another at Preston (Lancs). It's been a poor autumn for Pallas's Warblers and singles on St. Mary's (Scilly) on 4th and Weymouth (Dorset) on 3rd did little to buck the trend. The Little Bunting remained at Stiffkey (Norfolk) and a Red-breasted Flycatcher was on Tresco (Scilly) on 4th. Nine Richard's Pipits included three together at Huntspill (Somerset) and two at Sennen (Cornwall), a late Wryneck was on St. Mary's (Scilly) on 4th and late Red-backed Shrikes were at Newhaven (E. Sussex) from 5th-9th and Church Cove (Cornwall) on 7th and nine Great Grey Shrikes were noted. A Rose-coloured Starling was at Sennen (Cornwall) from 5th-7th, a Hoopoe at Inverythan (Aberdeenshire) from 4th-5th and an influx of six Serins included birds over Blacktoft Sands (E. Yorks) on 4th, on Sherkin Island (Co. Cork) on 5th, at Easington (E. Yorks) on 6th, at Portland (Dorset) on 9th and two at St. Levan (Cornwall) on 9th. The seemingly regular winter influx of Waxwings continues, mostly in Scotland, where up to 80 were in Aberdeen, though small numbers had reached Lancashire and Northern Ireland with one over Scilly. With good numbers in southern Norway, it seems likely that we are in for another good wintering population of these ever-popular birds. The only Shore Larks noted during the week were at Minsmere (Suffolk) and two at Holkham (Norfolk) and six Lapland Buntings was a poor showing.

Semipalmated Sandpiper: Grutness Voe, Shetland (photo: Craig Holden). White-rumped Sandpiper: Radley GPs, Oxon (photo: Stephen Burch).
Lesser Yellowlegs: Butt of Lewis, Outer Hebrides (photo: Andy Robinson). Lesser Yellowlegs: North Killingholme, Lincs (photo: Sean Gray).
Long-billed Dowitcher: Old Hall Marshes, Essex (photo: Sean Nixon). Long-billed Dowitcher: Inner Marsh Farm, Cheshire (photo: Julie Rogers).
Long-billed Dowitcher: Hayle Estuary, Cornwall (photo: Tristan Reid). Long-billed Dowitcher: Hayle Estuary, Cornwall (photo: Tristan Reid).

The Semipalmated Sandpiper remained at Grutness Voe (Shetland) to the 6th and a Buff-breasted Sandpiper was reported from Ardmore Point (Clyde) on 4th and another from Broad Lough (Co. Wicklow) on 6th. A new Lesser Yellowlegs was at Butt of Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 6th and the long-staying bird remained at Killingholme Pits (Lincs). Three American Golden Plovers were at Annagh Head (Co. Mayo), with others at Gluss (previously at Sullom) (Shetland) and Wall Common (Somerset), plus the long-staying bird on Lewis (Outer Hebrides). The White-rumped Sandpiper remained at Radley GPs (Oxon) and Long-billed Dowitchers remained in Essex, Cheshire and Co. Mayo, with the popular Cornish bird last reported on 4th. A Dotterel was in Kent on 4th. A superb adult White-billed Diver off Skerries/Balbriggan (Co.Dublin) from 5th-9th was only the 8th Irish record and was deservedly popular, whilst the Kirkabister (Shetland) bird again put in an appearance during the week. The Cattle Egret was again at Elmley Marshes (Kent) and the known escapee was still in Norfolk, as was the Great White Egret in Leicestershire. A record count of 34 Common Cranes was made at the Horsey (Norfolk) roost during the week.

White-billed Diver: Balbriggan, Co. Dublin (photo: Paul and Andrea Kelly). White-billed Diver: Balbriggan, Co. Dublin (photo: Mike O'Keeffe ).
Grey Phalarope: Covenham Res, Lincs (photo: Matt Latham). Grey Phalarope: Covenham Res, Lincs (photo: Russell Hayes).
Grey Phalarope: Covenham Res, Lincs (photo: Graham Catley). Grey Phalarope: Covenham Res, Lincs (photo: Dean Eades).

Storm-driven Grey Phalaropes totalled well over 120 birds, the majority along the south coast, most in Cornwall, Devon and Dorset, and inland reports were into the mid-teens. Largest counts were 22 past St Ives (Cornwall) on 4th, a minimum of eight past Chesil Cove (Dorset) on 6th and eight past Hengistbury Head (Dorset) the same day. A Red-necked Phalarope was off Hengistbury Head (Dorset) on 7th. Leach's Storm-petrels also featured prominently during the storms, with 40 past Chesil Cove (Dorset) on 3rd and 37 past St Ives (Cornwall) on 4th; an inland bird was at Queen Mother Reservoir (Berks) on 9th. Pomarine Skuas were noted from a number of watchpoints, with impressive tallies of 85 past Brandon Head (Co. Kerry) and 37 past St Ives (Cornwall) on 3rd, and a handful of Long-tailed Skuas were also reported. A Great Shearwater passed Brandon Head on 3rd and a Cory's Shearwater was reported past Orcombe Point (Devon) on 8th. Good numbers of Balearic Shearwaters included 35 past St Ives (Cornwall) on 4th. Eight Sabine's Gulls were reported, nearly all along the south coast, and a scattering of Little Auks comprised single-figure counts.

The juvenile Rough-legged Hawk taken into care in Co. Clare in October was released at North Slob (Co. Wexford) during the week, and the only Rough-legged Buzzard reported was one at Durris Forest (Aberdeenshire) on 8th. Geese-watchers had plenty to keep them occupied, with two small-race Canada Geese at Loch of Strathbeg (Aberdeenshire), but as usual it was on Islay (Argyll) that most were to be found, with two Richardson's Canada Geese, Lesser Canada and Todd's Canada Geese detected amongst the wintering geese flocks. The blue-morph Snow Goose remained at Montrose Basin (Angus), while Black Brants were at Lough Foyle (Londonderry), Harty Ferry (Kent) and West Wittering (W. Sussex). In Norfolk the wintering Taiga Bean Geese flock at Cantley Marshes (Norfolk) numbered 30 early in the week, and 115 were at Slamannan (Forth). A Blue-winged Teal was at Cley (Norfolk) from 5th-9th and the bird was still on Bull Island (Co. Dublin). An inland Surf Scoter at Foremark Reservoir (Derbys) on 9th was an excellent find, and six others were in more typical coastal locations including a fly-by in Lancashire. The Black Scoter remained distantly offshore at Llanfairfechan (Conwy), providing a brief stop-off for birders returning from Anglesey, whilst the Lesser Scaup remained in Lancashire and a probable was at Drift Reservoir (Cornwall). It was another good week for Ring-necked Ducks, with three at Chew Valley Lake (Somerset) from 5th, plus eight others in Britain and Ireland. American Wigeons were still at Wick (Highland) and Termoncarragh Loch (Co. Mayo), whilst another masqueraded as such at Hickling Broad (Norfolk) but was found to be a hybrid. Nine Green-winged Teals were reported, four of them in Norfolk.

Common Redpoll (and Lesser Redpoll): Williamthorpe NR, Derbys (photo: Steve Mann). Common Redpoll: Williamthorpe NR, Derbys (photo: Steve Mann).
Slavonian Grebe: Draycote Water, Warks (photo: Bob Hazell). Red-necked Grebe: Covenham Res, Lincs (photo: Russell Hayes).
Great Northern Diver: Draycote Water, Warks (photo: Brian McGeogh ). Shag: Fowey, Cornwall (photo: Richard Bedford).
Velvet Scoter: Benacre, Suffolk (photo: Mike Parker). Long-tailed Duck: Covenham Res, Lincs (photo: Geoff Gamble).
Lapwing: Martin Mere, Lancs (photo: Sue Tranter). Snipe: Titchwell, Norfolk (photo: Peter Simpson).
Many of the images that appear in our weekly reviews can be purchased from the photographers, some of whom have their own websites:

Bill Aspin: http://www.eastlancashirebirding.net
Ian Barnard: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/sussex.birder
Bill Baston: http://billbaston.com
Richard Bedford: http://www.richardbedford.co.uk
Steve Blain: http://www.steveblain.co.uk
Nigel Blake: http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/birdphotos/index.htm
Paul Boulden: http://southdevonbirds.mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/
Will Bowell: http://www.wanderingbirders.com
Paul Bowerman: http://mysite.freeserve.com/severnsidebirds
Paul Bowyer: http://www.ukbirds.net
Andy Brett: http://www.freewebs.com/andybrett/
Andy Bright: http://www.Digiscoped.com
Martin Cade: http://www.portlandbirdobs.btinternet.co.uk
Graham Catley: http://pewit.blogspot.com/
Mark Caunt: http://angusbirding.homestead.com/
Kit Day: http://www.kitday-uk.com/
Eric Dempsey: http://www.birdsireland.com/
Lee Dingain: http://www.leedingain.co.uk
Jon Dunn: http://www.surfbirds.com/blogs/Stercorarius/
Andrew Easton: http://home.clara.net/ammodytes/
Graham Eaton: http://www.eatonphotography.co.uk
Steve Evans: http://www.powow.com/birds2004/
Katie Fuller: http://bogbumper.blogspot.com
Sean Gray: http://www.grayimages.co.uk
Peter Hadfield: http://www.manxbirdphotography.co.uk
Josh Jones: http://www.wanderingbirders.com
John Judge: http://www.draycotebirding.co.uk
Paul and Andrea Kelly: http://www.irishbirdimages.com/
Jack Levene: http://www.birdingimages.com
John Malloy: http://mysite.freeserve.com/JohnMalloyBirdPhotos
Brian Mcgeough: http://www.pbase.com/bmcgeough/british_birds
Tony Mills: http://www.notjustbirds.com
Jerry O'Brien: http://www.BirdsofBerkshire.co.uk
Charlie Moores: http://www.charliesbirdblog.com
Mark Newsome: http://www.whitburnbirding.co.uk
James Packer: http://www.somersetbirder.co.uk
Mike Pennington: http://www.nature.shetland.co.uk
Marc Read: http://www.marcread-pix.com
Tristan Reid: http://www.solwaybirder.org.uk
Steve Round: http://stevenround-birdphotography.com
Gerald Segelbacher: http://www.digiscoping.uk.md
Deryk Shaw/FIBO: http://www.fairislebirdobs.co.uk
Tom Shevlin: http://wildlifesnaps.com/
Peter Simpson: http://www.blueskybirds.co.uk
Matt Slaymaker: http://www.mattslaymaker.co.uk
Oliver Smart: http://www.smartimages.co.uk
George Spraggs: http://www.bird-watching.co.uk
Garry Taylor: http://www.spurnbirdobservatory.co.uk/
Glen Tepke: http://www.pbase.com/gtepke
Phillip Tomkinson: http://www.philliptomkinson.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk
Stephen Tomlinson: http://www.digitalbirds.co.uk
Sue Tranter: http://www.suesbirdphotos.co.uk/
Steve Williams: http://www.hilbrebirdobs.co.uk
Simon Wilson: http://www.bakewellbirder.co.uk/
Chris Wormwell: http://www.iombirding.co.uk
Dylan Wrathall: http://www.planetthanet.org
Written by: Russell Slack