Review of the Week: 5th-11th August 2004


Following a very hot start to the week, there were monsoon conditions for large parts of Britain during the latter part of the week and east/southeasterly winds. Needless to say, the rain combined with onshore winds provided some of the most exciting birding of the year as both coastal and inland birders shared in the spoils, with scarce migrants for the former and waders and Black Terns for the latter.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (with Wood Sandpiper): Drift Reservoir, Cornwall. (Photo: Brian Evill)

Rarity of the week goes to the adult Sharp-tailed Sandpiper at Drift Reservoir in Cornwall from Friday 6th-7th. Despite news of the sighting being on our news services within a couple of minutes of the report coming through, this bird proved devilishly difficult to catch up with, being present for only two short periods on Saturday 7th. This bird represents the first for Cornwall and ties in well with the number of rare Siberian waders that have been seen in northwest Europe in recent weeks.

The weather has dominated the news headlines this week, but for birders it has provided an early autumn bonanza, with a notable fall along the east coast. A Great Snipe was at Girdle Ness (Aberdeenshire) on Wednesday 11th, but did not remain long enough to attract a large number of admirers. Other rarities associated with the east coast fall included 4 Greenish Warblers, with one at Cove (Aberdeenshire) from Tuesday 10th onwards, two at Girdle Ness (Aberdeenshire) on Wednesday 11th and another at Gorleston-on-Sea (Norfolk) the same day. A Subalpine Warbler was at Quendale (Shetland) on Wednesday 11th and an exceptionally early Booted Warbler was reported at Hartlepool (Cleveland) on Tuesday 10th.

Red-backed Shrike: Newbiggin, Northumberland. (Photo: Alan Gilbertson) Red-backed Shrike: Unst, Shetland. (Photo: Micky Maher)

Woodchat Shrike: Kennard Moor, Somerset. (Photo: Oliver Wadsworth) Wryneck: Newbiggin, Northumberland . (Photo: Richard Dunn)

An early deluge of scarce and common migrants hit the east coast between Norfolk and Shetland, but their distribution was patchy, most between East Yorkshire and Shetland. Totals comprised around 15 Red-backed Shrikes, 23 Wrynecks, 23 Icterine Warblers and 13 Barred Warblers. Also associated with the fall were large numbers of commoner migrants, predominantly Pied Flycatchers, with small numbers at most places, but double-figure counts at several locations and 200+ at Spurn on 10th. Elsewhere, there was an Ortolan Bunting at Nanjizal (Cornwall) on Tuesday 10th, Common Rosefinch on Fair Isle (Shetland) on Friday 6th, a Tawny Pipit at Hengistbury Head (Dorset) on Saturday 7th and Aquatic Warblers at Farlington Marshes (Hants) on Sunday 8th and Thorney Island (W. Sussex) from Tuesday 10th-11th. A male Red-breasted Flycatcher was at Druridge Pools (Northumberland) on 11th. There were 4 Melodious Warblers noted during the week, including singles in Dorset at Stanpit Marsh on Tuesday 10th and Durlston CP on Wednesday 11th, one on Dursey Island (Co. Cork) on 10th and another at Clare Mare NR (Guernsey) on Friday 6th. A Rose-coloured Starling was at Rockland St. Mary (Norfolk) on Sunday 8th, a Woodchat Shrike was at Clare Mare NR on Friday 6th, the long staying bird remains at Kennard Moor (Somerset) and a Bee-eater was reported from Manchester on Monday 9th. Also at La Clare Mare the Zitting Cisticola was still present on Friday 6th.

Pied Flycatcher: Blakeney Point, Norfolk. (Photo: Josh Jones) Pied Flycatcher: Blakeney Point, Norfolk. (Photo: Josh Jones)

Long-billed Dowitcher: Blennerville, Co. Kerry. (Photo: Michael O'Keefe)

A male Snowy Owl on Arranmore Island (Co. Donegal) was a surprise find on Wednesday 11th. Rare and scarce waders continue to attract attention. A Spotted Sandpiper was reported at Saltholme Pools (Cleveland) on Wednesday 11th, Baird's Sandpipers were at Minsmere (Suffolk) on Saturday 7th and Lissagriffin (Co. Cork) on Monday 9th, with a White-rumped Sandpiper at North Slob Wexford WR (Co. Wexford) from Sunday 8th-9th. A Long-billed Dowitcher was at Blennerville (Co. Kerry) from Friday 6th onwards, whilst the popular Gibraltar Point (Lincs) bird remained all week. In Essex the juvenile Marsh Sandpiper is still present at Fobbing Marshes. There were half-a-dozen Pectoral Sandpipers noted during the week, with 'new' birds at Tresco (Scilly) on Friday 6th, Kilcoole (Co. Wicklow), Trimley Marshes (Suffolk) and Colliford Lake (Cornwall) all on Sunday 8th, and Fair Isle on Wednesday 11th. Small numbers of Temminck's Stints included the 2 birds at Titchwell RSPB (Norfolk) to 5th, 3 at Grove Ferry (Kent) on Tuesday 10th, and singles at Denge Marsh (Kent) and Hickling Broad (Norfolk) on Wednesday 11th.

Curlew Sandpiper: Snettisham, Norfolk. (Photo: Dave Taylor) Greenshank: Titchwell RSPB, Norfolk. (Photo: Nigel Blake)

Wood Sandpiper: East Chevington, Northumberland. (Photo: Alan Gilbertson) Wood Sandpiper: East Chevington, Northumberland. (Photo: Alan Gilbertson)

Commoner waders featured prominently in this week's events. Around 380 Wood Sandpipers were reported, over 135 in East Anglia, 75 in southeast England and 50 in the northeast, though only 17 in Wales, 12 in Scotland and 40 in the southwest of England, with just 15 in northwest England and one reported in the Republic of Ireland. These totals included some notable flocks, such as 28 at Cantley (Norfolk) and 21 at Titchwell RSPB on 9th and 20 at Berney Marshes (Norfolk) and 22 at Dungeness (Kent) on 10th. A notable total of 275 Curlew Sandpipers were noted during the week, the bulk of which was made up of 77 adults at Grbralter Point, 50 adults at Cliffe Pools (Kent) and 57 through Grove Ferry (Kent), all on Tuesday 10th. In addition, there were over 50 Little Stints reported and many inland sites were graced by a variety of commoner wader species.

Seabirds did not feature as prominently as might be expected given the weather conditions resulting from the hurricane. Large shearwater reports were almost confined to Co. Cork with 20 Great Shearwaters, including 6 past Cape Clear on Sunday 8th and Monday 9th. The only report away from southern Ireland was one past Kinnaird Head (Aberdeenshire) on Tuesday 10th. It was a similar picture for Cory's Shearwaters, with 47 reported from County Cork, including 25 past Cape Clear on Sunday 8th; three were noted from the Scillonian pelagic on the 8th. Belated news involves a Scopoli's Shearwater identified from pictures taken during a pelagic from Scilly on 2nd August. A probable Fea's Petrel was noted passing Sennen Cove (Cornwall) on Friday 6th. Around 23 Balearic Shearwaters were seen, 6 from the Swansea-Cork ferry on Sunday 8th the highest count and there were around 50 Sooty Shearwaters, 12 passing Cape Clear on 8th the largest count, though very few were reported from the North Sea. Wilson's Storm-petrels were still being encountered from pelagic trips this week, with 2 seen from the Scilly pelagic on Saturday 7th, and one on 9th, with three seen from the Scillonian pelagic on Sunday 8th and another reported from the Swansea-Cork ferry on Sunday 8th. A Leach's storm-petrel was tape-lured at Filey (N. Yorks) on Saturday 7th and one was seen at Kinnaird Head on Monday 9th. Sabine's Gulls were seen at Ramore Head (Co. Antrim) on Thursday 5th and from the Scillonian pelagic on Sunday 8th.

White-winged Black Tern: East Chevington, Northumberland. (Photo: Alan Gilbertson)

Black Tern: East Chevington, Northumberland. (Photo: Alan Gilbertson) Black Tern: Ynyslas, Ceredigion. (Photo: Marc Hughes)

Black Terns were a very obvious feature of the weather conditions this week with a marked arrival taking place from Monday 9th. Accurate numbers of such a mobile species are difficult to establish, but using site maximums it is likely that just over 1,400 birds were noted, though this could be an underestimate. As would be expected the majority were in East Anglia (nearly 500 reported) and the southeast of England (nearly 570 reported), with smaller numbers in the English midlands (185) and northeast (125). Larger counts included 380 at Shell Ness (Kent) on 10th, with 120 there on 9th, and 140 past Sizewell (Suffolk) on 10th. Inland, 57 at Hoveringham GPs (Notts) was the maximum count. With the Black Terns came 4 White-winged Black Terns: an adult was at East Chevington (Northumberland) from Thursday 5th-6th; a juvenile was at Grafham Water (Cambs) on Monday 9th; an adult was at Hornsea Mere (E. Yorks) from Monday 9th-11th and; an adult was at Christchurch Harbour (Dorset) on Tuesday 10th. An adult Whiskered Tern was at Gibraltar Point (Lincs) on Sunday 8th and a Caspian Tern was reported from the Swansea-Cork ferry the same day. Long-tailed Skuas remain in short supply, 4 were off Hound Point (Lothian) on Saturday 7th, with one there the following day, 2 were reported from the Swansea-Cork ferry on 8th and one passed Berry Head (Devon) on Wednesday 11th. An adult Bonaparte's Gull was seen 20km southeast of Cork in Passage West on Friday 6th. Finally, 2 Great Skuas were inland at Carsington Water (Derbyshire) on Tuesday 10th and were then seen later over Redmires Res (S. Yorks), whilst the Manx Shearwater was last reported at Rutland Water on 7th.

Night Heron: Sheepwash Urban Park, W. Midlands. (Photo: Steve Nuttall) Manx Shearwater: Rutland Water, leics and Rutland. (Photo: Bob Hazell)

Other highlights included a Night Heron at Sheepwash Urban Park (W. Mids) from Friday 6th onwards, with a juvenile on the Ouse Washes (Cambs) on Tuesday 10th. Two Great White Egrets were still present in south Wales, with others at Frampton Marsh (Lincs) on Friday 6th and over Penzance and Marazion (Cornwall) on Saturday 7th. Spotted Crakes were at Witton Brook (Cheshire) from Saturday 7th-8th, with one at Oare Marshes (Kent) also on 7th. In Norfolk the Glossy Ibis was again at Berney Marshes, taking a short excursion to Cantley, before returning to Berney Marshes.

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
Steve Blain: http://www.steveblain.co.uk
Nigel Blake: http://www.nigelblake.co.uk
Will Bowell: http://www.geocities.com/wbowell/
Paul Bowerman: http://mysite.freeserve.com/severnsidebirds
Paul Bowyer: http://www.ukbirds.net
Andy Brett: http://www.freewebs.com/andybrett/
Martin Cade: http://www.portlandbirdobs.btinternet.co.uk
Mark Caunt: http://angusbirding.homestead.com/
Kit Day: http://www.geocities.com/christophe_41/
Lee Dingain: http://www.leedingain.co.uk
Peter Hadfield: http://www.manxbirdphotography.co.uk
Josh Jones: http://www.geocities.com/blgp_birder
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
Jerry O'Brien: http://www.BirdsofBerkshire.co.uk
James Packer: http://www.somersetbirder.co.uk
Tristan Reid: http://www.solwaybirder.org.uk
Steve Round: http://stevenround-birdphotography.com
Tom Shevlin: http://wildlifesnaps.com/
Matt Slaymaker: http://www.freewebs.com/slaymaker
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
Chris Wormwell: http://www.iombirding.co.uk
Dylan Wrathall: http://www.planetthanet.org
Written by: Russell Slack