Review of the Week: 4th–10th August 2011


The week at a glance

All last week's major rarities lingered into the week, the highlight being the adult Red-necked Stint at Ballinskelligs (Kerry) to 5th. The drake Black Scoter remained off Blackdog (Aberdeenshire) to at least 7th, with four Surf Scoters still present there, and the House Crow was again at Great Island (Cork) on 5th.

For the second week in a row, a quite incredible record came from west Cornwall: a probable Atlantic Petrel was seen off Porthgwarra (Cornwall) for just five minutes on 6th. It then appeared to drop down onto the sea but couldn't be relocated. Further investigation by the two observers, including watching video clips of various species, didn't confirm the identification. Such seabird records are notoriously difficult to prove, or at least get past the rarities committee, without photographic evidence (or even with it in some cases), and this extreme vagrant will no doubt be no exception. There are just three Western Palaearctic records of Atlantic Petrel: in Israel in May 1982, Jordan in March 1997 and a bird that commuted between Israel and Jordan in April 1989.

Having not been reported since May, the adult Snow Goose was again at Craobh Haven (Argyll) on 8th. The week saw Ruddy Shelducks still in the east; birds were at Grafham Water and Ferry Meadows (Cambs) and Burgh Castle and Welney (Norfolk). Several Ferruginous Ducks also remained, with birds at Minsmere (Suffolk) and Blagdon Lake (Somerset) all week. The only new duck of note was an eclipse drake Blue-winged Teal seen in flight over Saltholme (Cleveland) on 8th. This may well be the regular bird seen there most years since 2007, and was coincidentally found by the same observer as in most other years! On the sea, the drake Surf Scoter also remained in Lunan Bay (Angus & Dundee) to 9th.

Ferruginous Duck
Ferruginous Duck, Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk (Photo: Jon Evans)

Good seawatching conditions continued in the southwest, though rewards were rather scant for those braving the conditions. Cory's Shearwaters were reasonably regular past Porthgwarra (Cornwall), peaking at 77 by mid-afternoon on 7th, along with three Great Shearwaters, 18 Balearics and 17 Sootys. The 7th also saw six Cory's past Seven Heads (Cork), four off St Agnes (Scilly) and singletons past Porthcawl (Glamorgan) and Spurn (East Yorks). Another single went past Seven Heads on 10th and five were seen off the Scilly pelagic on 8th, along with seven Great Shearwaters. Various other Great Shears were reported from Co Cork, including eight past Galley Head and four past Seven Heads on 7th and three past Cape Clear on 10th. There were also five off the Scilly pelagic on 4th with another the next day. Other seabirds of note included good numbers of Sooty Shearwaters in the North Sea, including 25 past North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 9th, 13 past Fife Ness (Fife) on 8th and 52 past Butt of Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 8th.

Great Shearwater
Great Shearwater, at sea, Isles of Scilly (Photo: Joe Pender)

An immature Purple Heron was new in at Elmley Marshes (Kent), seen on and off over 6th–7th. The only Great White Egrets were the usual suspects at Dungeness (Kent) all week and Blashford Lakes (Hants) on 6th–8th. The Dungeness bird shared the site with a Cattle Egret to 5th, and two also remained at Canvey Island (Essex) to 8th, roosting at Two Tree Island on several evenings. One new bird was at New Alresford (Hants) on 8th–10th. This is now an increasingly regular bird in the county; the first record was in 1986, followed by three in the 1990s and almost 20 records in the last decade. There was just one record of Night Heron, of an immature over Ham Wall (Somerset) on 4th, and the only stork reported was a belated probable Black over Mixenden Reservoir (West Yorks) on 1st. Up to 16 Spoonbills were regular at Cley Marshes (Norfolk), with the only other double-figure count being 13 at Gibraltar Point (Lincs) on 4th.

Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret, New Alresford, Hampshire (Photo: Charles Cuthbert)

Great White Egret
Great White Egret, Dungeness RSPB, Kent (Photo: Mickd)

Spoonbill, Cley Marshes NWT, Norfolk (Photo: Spider Webb)

The juvenile White-tailed Eagle remained around Ruckland (Lincs) to at last 7th, with a Black Kite also reported there on 5th. Could this be the same bird as present in April? The Cornish Black Kite remained around Carn Brea to 7th before moving, via Drift Reservoir, to Catchall towards the end of the week, wandering widely in the local area. One also remained at Kennerleigh (Devon) all week, and others were at Breydon Water (Norfolk) on 5th and over Stutton Mill (Suffolk) on 8th.

Both last week's Spotted Crakes remained into this week, staying at Grove Ferry (Kent) to 4th and Frampton Marsh (Lincs) to 7th. There was just one new arrival: an elusive male at Clayhanger Marsh (West Mids) on 7th.

An adult American Golden Plover was at Doonbeg (Clare) on 5th–10th. The lure of Pegwell Bay (Kent) continued, with a male Kentish Plover there on 6th and two on the morning of 7th, along with a notable 21 Wood Sandpipers. The Marsh Sandpiper departed from Blacktoft Sands, but what was presumably the same bird was seen briefly at Boultham Mere (Lincs) on 4th. It may have turned north or south, with unconfirmed reports from Cresswell Pond (Northumberland) on the evening of 4th and at Cliffe Pools (Kent) on 6th.

American Golden Plover
American Golden Plover, Doonbeg, Clare (Photo: Jeffcopner)

The adult Semipalmated Sandpiper remained at Saltholme (Cleveland) to 6th, with the Temminck's Stint still. Another Semi-P was also at Ventry (Kerry) on 7th–10th. Temminck's Stints were quite widespread, with birds at five sites in the southeast, including two at Titchwell (Norfolk), two at Pegwell Bay (Kent) and one at Llanilid Opencast Workings (Glamorgan) on 6th. There was another new White-rumped Sandpiper this week, on Tiree (Argyll) on 4th. The only other bird remaining was at Snettisham (Norfolk) to 6th.

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Temminck's Stint
Temminck's Stint, Sandwich Bay, Kent (Photo: Steve Ray)

White-rumped Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper, Snettisham RSPB, Norfolk (Photo: J Dexter)

Numbers of Pectoral Sandpipers dropped slightly, with birds at just eight sites over the week, including two at Frampton Marsh (Lincs) on 5th; new birds at Nosterfield (North Yorks) on 4th–5th, Cley Marshes (Norfolk) on 5th–9th, Seaton Marshes (Devon) on 6th; and 'possibles' at both Rookery Pits (Beds) and Semer Water (North Yorks) on 6th and at Spurn (East Yorks) on 10th. The adult Stilt Sandpiper finally left Lodmoor (Dorset), where it was last seen on 7th, and Buff-breasted Sandpipers were at Siblyback Reservoir (Cornwall) on 7th and Loch Bee, South Uist (Outer Hebrides) on 10th. Last of the notable waders was the only southern Red-necked Phalarope, seen flying south past Spurn (East Yorks) on 7th.

Pectoral Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper, Cley Marshes NWT, Norfolk (Photo: Richard Brown)

Stilt Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper, Lodmoor RSPB, Dorset (Photo: Karen Woolley)

Two adults and a first-summer Long-tailed Skua went past Kilcummin Head (Mayo) on 8th, a first-summer passed Flamborough Head (East Yorks) on 9th and a juvenile was reported past Amlwch (Anglesey) on 9th.

The regular Glaucous Gulls at Dungeness (Kent) and Budleigh Salterton (Devon) both remained, and a second-summer was at Ramore Head (Antrim) on 8th and a third-summer at Whitburn (Durham) on 8th–10th. The only Iceland Gull was an adult at Cobh (Cork) on 9th, the only Ring-billed Gull was at Stanpit Marsh (Dorset) on 6th, and there was also just one Bonaparte's Gull: an adult at Whitburn, Seaburn and Sunderland (Durham) from 5th, though it was mobile and often hard to locate. For such a rare county bird, it was perhaps surprising to see just one observer on site the first morning after it was found!

Bonaparte's Gull
Bonaparte's Gull, Whitburn Steel, Durham (Photo: Mark Newsome)

Bonaparte's Gull, Whitburn Steel, Durham (Video: paulhindess)

Despite the strong westerlies, there were surprisingly few reports of Sabine's Gulls; just adults in Staffin Bay, Skye (Highland) and past Newbiggin-by-the-Sea (Northumberland) on 8th.

The single Bee-eater remained on St Mary's (Scilly), reported again on 9th. There was also just one Short-toed Lark, an early migrant on Fair Isle on 7th. The long-staying male Red-backed Shrike was at Carlton Marshes (Suffolk) to 5th and the first-summer female Woodchat Shrike also remained at Chipping Sodbury (Glos) all week. There was also a juvenile on St Mary's (Scilly) on 6th–10th.

Red-backed Shrike
Red-backed Shrike, Carlton Marshes, Suffolk (Photo: Ian Clarke)

Portland's run of Melodious Warblers continued, with one at Top Fields on 10th the third of the autumn, and the second of the autumn for Dungeness (Kent) was by The Patch on 6th. One was ringed at Beachy Head (East Sussex) on 6th, along with an early Redwing, and others were seen at Pleinmont (Guernsey) on 5th and Martin's Haven (Pembrokeshire) on 8th–10th. Further north, Icterine Warblers were at Skaw, Unst (Shetland) on 4th and Flamborough Head (East Yorks) on 6th. Whilst the singing Western Bonelli's Warbler remained at Arnfield Reservoir (Derbys) to at least 6th, another was at Gulberwick (Shetland) on 9th–10th.

Melodious Warbler
Melodious Warbler, Martin's Haven, Pembrokeshire (Photo: Peter Morgan)

Sadly there were no further reports of irrupting Two-barred Crossbills, and the only other noteworthy passerines were Rose-coloured Starlings at Loch Carnan, South Uist (Outer Hebrides) to 7th and a new adult in a garden at Sandown (Isle of Wight) on 7th.

Rose-coloured Starling
Rose-coloured Starling, Sandown, Isle of Wight (Photo: Lisa and Geoff Long)

Photo of the Week: 4th–10th August

Sparrowhawk, Sinah, Hampshire (Photo: Richard Ford)

Although our choice of Photo of the Week is based entirely on the image rather than who took it, regular readers of our PotW citations will have realised that we're always particularly pleased to be able to award people their first PotW, especially it they've been long-standing photo contributors. Bird photographer Richard Ford has been uploading images to BirdGuides since early 2004, at which point his Digital Wildlife website was already up and running. Richard's photography is very focused on the county of Hampshire and he now maintains a blog of his birding and nature photography forays around that county. This week, visiting Hayling Island in the hope of picking up some migrants, Richard had to settle for pointing his camera at the local Sparrowhawk family sparring with crows. Lack of species interest, though, was more than made up for by some gorgeous evening light bathing the hawks, and Richard's pick of the session definitely made his visit worthwhile. The colour combination of the rich blue sky and the warm hues of the flying bird give this image instant appeal, after which the other qualities of the image start to hit the viewer: great bird, great pose, open bill, steep banking, dynamic angles, superb detail, the list goes on. As we've said before, a steeply banking bird front-lit by low altitude sunlight is a great recipe for successful flight shooting, but Richard's image goes way beyond the basic application of this technique.

Little Owl
Little Owl, undisclosed site, Gloucestershire (Photo: Mike Smith)

Sand Martin
Sand Martin, Covehithe, Suffolk (Photo: Chris Darby)

Common Kingfisher
Common Kingfisher, undisclosed site, Worcestershire (Photo: Marcus Conway - ebirder)

Common Tern
Common Tern, Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk (Photo: Carl Wright)

Goldfinch, Draycote Water, Warwickshire (Photo: A J Haynes)

Manx Shearwater
Manx Shearwater, at sea, Argyll (Photo: Will Rawles)

Black-headed Gull
Black-headed Gull, St. Albans, Hertfordshire (Photo: Ben Andrew)

Little Gull
Little Gull, Hornsea Mere, East Yorkshire (Photo: Martin Standley)

European Bee-eater
European Bee-eater, Turkey (Asian) (Photo: Cirano)

Curlew, Eden Estuary, Fife (Photo: John Anderson)

Yellow Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail, Oare Marshes NR, Kent (Photo: Ian Curran)

Wood Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper, Sandwich Bay, Kent (Photo: Mick Southcott)

Booted Eagle
Booted Eagle, Russia (Europe) (Photo: Anatoliy Kuzmin)

Little Grebe
Little Grebe, Wayoh Reservoir, Lancashire (Photo: John Barlow)

Stock Dove
Stock Dove, undisclosed site, Cheshire (Photo: Steve Dolan)

Curlew Sandpiper
Curlew Sandpiper, Lady's Island Lake, Wexford (Photo: Tom Shevlin)

Written by: Mark Grantham