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


There can be no doubting that the autumn is a little bit slow in getting under way, and rarities have been just that - rare! A welcome easterly airflow during the week has produced the first proper arrival of Yellow-browed Warblers, whilst a stormy blast in the North Sea once again stimulated a large movement of Sooty Shearwaters past a number of coastal promontories.

Rarity of the week goes to a Red-flanked Bluetail at Marsden Quarry in County Durham. Present for the day on the 7th, it allowed all interested parties to journey to the site to enjoy the splendour of this beautiful chat. There have now been 26 accepted records and until recently this was on many a birder's 'wish list'. However, a westward breeding range expansion has resulted in almost annual sightings in Britain since 1993, the only 'blank' year occurring in 1996. In 1993 a long-staying bird in Dorset provoked a pilgrimage from many a latent twitcher, and even those who could not muster themselves then have had several other opportunities on the mainland since.

On the Northern Isles, two Pechora Pipits and a Lanceolated Warbler reinforced perceptions that there is only one area in Britain to be fairly sure of seeing both these species, as did a Yellow-breasted Bunting on Unst, whilst a Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler on Foula was a return to predictability following birds in Norfolk and Northumberland last year! A blast of easterlies after the weekend has resulted in the first proper arrival of Yellow-browed Warblers so far this autumn, with at least 50 reported during the week, including 8 on Fair Isle. In Norfolk, the first Pallas's Warbler of the autumn was also found, though other expected Sibes remain absent so far. Elsewhere, two more Citrine Wagtails were added to the growing tally of records this autumn, with individuals on St. Martin's and in Pembrokeshire. In addition, a Western Bonelli's Warbler was on St. Martin's, a Subalpine Warbler in Co. Cork, and Scilly mustered a Rustic Bunting, Aquatic Warbler, Short-toed Lark and a Red-throated Pipit. Alpine Swifts were noted in Yorkshire and on Anglesey. However, scarce migrants were in short supply, with relatively meagre totals of a single Little Bunting and Serin, five Red-backed Shrikes, six Great Grey Shrikes, two Bluethroats, a dozen Barred Warblers, 13 Red-breasted Flycatchers and 13 Richard's Pipits. Interestingly two of the latter were located well inland, with birds in Staffordshire and Oxon, but how many more of this realistic inland find pass undetected? Also associated with the easterly airflow have been the first major thrush movements of the autumn, plus at least 60 Firecrests mingled in with Goldcrests. There has also been a noticeable influx of Lapland Buntings during the past week with at least 60 birds reported, so now is a good time to get out and work that coastal stubble or head to your nearest 'vis mig' point to try and pick up on an inland bird passing over amongst the commoner migrants. On the Isle of Wight the first Shorelark of the autumn was found, followed by another in North Yorkshire later in the week, though just a handful of Snow Buntings have been seen so far.

Waders are starting to thin out, but Long-billed Dowitchers were in Co. Cork, Co. Mayo and Co. Clare, with a Lesser Yellowlegs in Co. Wexford. White-billed Divers were reported passing Norfolk and Aberdeenshire, as was a Laughing Gull in Borders and a White-winged Black Tern in Lothian. A party of three Great White Egrets in Norfolk was an excellent record, whilst the Glossy Ibises remained in Devon and Shetland, plus the Redhead in Glamorgan. On North Ronaldsay the Veery was present to at least the 6th and in Norfolk the Sardinian Warbler was still at Old Hunstanton.

Winds off the continent are forecast to continue to the end of the week and rarities, if they are to occur, might be expected. So, the Possibility is there for Radde's Warblers, Dusky Warblers and Olive-backed Pipits, and perhaps something rarer, though a low-pressure system way to the east might be a party-pooper in the short term. Birders throughout the land will be hoping for a little bit of excitement as the weeks are passing quickly - it's mid-October already!

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 freefone 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