Review of the Week: 5th-11th October 2001


Incessant southwesterly to westerly winds have dominated the weather scene during the week, leaving east-coast birders staring forlornly into empty bushes and praying for easterlies. Expectations for nearctic species have been high, but the weather systems have not really produced the 'goods' and the Isles of Scilly have been surprisingly bereft of quality rarities. Visible migration watchers have been presented with superb conditions over the week and 10,000 Meadow Pipits were noted passing one Peak District location in just one hour!

The megas to occur during the week all had their origin across the Atlantic, but the lack of quantity was compensated by the quality. The Grey Catbird gave birders the runaround over the weekend, and its presence, or otherwise, was a bone of contention for many, whilst the scruples of a few were tested given the elusive nature of the bird. Elsewhere, a Baltimore Oriole touchingly found its way to Baltimore in County Cork, whilst another was reported from County Cork yesterday. Rumours that birders are desperately trying to change the names of some Cornish villages to Tennessee and Cape May in order to meet with similar successes are completely unfounded! A first-winter male Rose-breasted Grosbeak frequented Millcombe Valley on the magic island of Lundy for several days, and a first-winter Bobolink was found at Prawle Point on the 9th (pictures of which can be seen on the link from the Bird news Extra page). Just two Red-eyed Vireos were seen, one at South Stack and another at Porthgwarra. In addition a Shorelark on Tresco is considered to belong to one of the North American forms. Reports of an adult Sora on Tresco today will no doubt lift the spirits of those tramping the islands of the archipelago.

Despite the prevailing conditions a few reverse migrants have still managed to reach the coastline, most notably a Radde's Warbler in Kent and a Dusky Warbler in East Yorskhire, with the first Pallas's Warbler of the autumn noted on Shetland. A first-winter Lesser Grey Shrike at Girdle Ness yesterday appears to have been an all-too-brief visitor. A Yellow-breasted Bunting on St. Agnes did linger for those with patience and was yet another record of this species away from the Northern Isles. A couple of Alpine Swifts were reported during the week and another Pallid Swift was found, this time at Porthgain Harbour, Pembroke. As I stated last week any swift at this time of the year merits a close inspection!

For the second week running excellent numbers of Grey Phalaropes were watched off many southwest watchpoints, whilst inland birders had several to look at in the Midlands and Northwest. Little else was caught up in the severe winds early in the week, with the exception of a scattering of Sabine's Gulls and several reports of Little Shearwaters. Waders have been well distributed and quite thin on the ground, the pick perhaps a Lesser Yellowlegs in Norfolk and Essex, though two American Golden Plovers in Cambridgeshire were an excellent local find. For larid enthusiasts, two Laughing Gulls have been noted, with birds on Barra and a bird in Warwickshire today.

The prospects for the weekend look like more of the same, though moderating winds will undoubtedly lead to more birds being found in exposed locations, whilst a large area of high pressure stretching from northwest Europe eastwards will hopefully aid the passage of some reverse migrants. In these trying times it is always good to have a laugh, so whilst the Scarlet Tanager hoax will have been considered ill-conceived by many, the arrest by local police of a stork called Saturn fitted with a satellite tracking device in Burundi will no doubt have brought a smile to many of us during the week!!

Written by: Russell Slack, BirdGuides