Review of the Week: 6th-12th August 2009


The week at a glance

In terms of birding superstars, this week was really rather quiet. There wasn't a sniff of a mega, although a presumed Little Stint in East Yorkshire during the middle of the review period did set nerve-ends jangling as the words "Long-toed Stint" were associated with the bird for an evening. The weather too was pretty settled and quiet, but not quite in the doldrums, as a puff of northeast to easterly winds did set a few drift migrants loose. The calm before the real autumn storm begins presumably...hopefully.

Wilson's Storm-petrel, at sea, Kerry (Photo: Eric Dempsey)

After the extraordinary haul last week, numbers of Wilson's Storm-petrels fell away to rather more traditional figures, with around 10 birds noted during the week. Six birds were seen from a pelagic that headed out beyond Great Blasket Island (Co. Kerry) on 7th, while one or two were seen from a pelagic off Scilly on 8th, with singles on 7th and 11th. Back to 8th, another Wilson's was seen from Bridges of Ross (Co. Clare).

There was just a single Cory's Shearwater to report this week, seen from Porthgwarra (Cornwall) on 12th (plus there was late news of one last week, seen a couple of miles east of Muck (Argyll) on 5th). Great Shearwaters fared better, with 144 seen from another Kerry pelagic, this one some 34 miles off Great Skellig on 6th. Assorted Scilly pelagics scored a maximum of four birds on 8th, with a handful of birds noted from Galley Head (Co. Cork), where five birds were seen at the end of last week, on 5th. Some 85 Balearic Shearwaters were recorded through the review period with, as expected, Porthgwarra faring best, with 17 birds on 7th the highest count of the week. A couple of birds were seen off Welsh and Scottish coasts and odd singles made it into the North Sea as well. So far this autumn, Sooty Shearwaters have been entirely absent from the weekly review, but a total of 110 birds from the Great Skellig pelagic on 6th is certainly worthy of a mention. The same pelagic also scored a Sabine's Gull and a Grey Phalarope while the other Kerry trip (the one off the Blaskets) saw a further half-dozen Sabine's and two Long-tailed Skuas appear. A juvenile Long-tailed Skua flew over Uisaed Point (Argyll) on 6th. Two Sabine's Gulls were also seen from Bridges of Ross on 8th, with half a dozen Pomarine Skuas there the following day. In Scotland, a Sabine's Gull was again in Loch Gairloch (Highland) on 12th.

Great Shearwater
Great Shearwater, at sea, Kerry (Photo: Rónán McLaughlin)

Balearic Shearwater
Balearic Shearwater, at sea, Isles of Scilly (Photo: Richard Stonier)

Sooty Shearwater
Sooty Shearwater, at sea, Isles of Scilly (Photo: Richard Stonier)

Sabine's Gull
Sabine's Gull, at sea, Kerry (Photo: Rónán McLaughlin)

Long-tailed Skua, at sea, Kerry (Photo: Eric Dempsey)

Pomarine Skua
Pomarine Skua, at sea, Kerry (Photo: Rónán McLaughlin)

In Somerset, the juvenile Cattle Egret was still at Chew Valley Lake to 9th at least, and two more were seen at Ham Wall on 8th. Next door in Dorset, a Cattle Egret was seen on Portland on 7th. On Shetland, a Great White Egret was seen at Tirsa Water, Mainland on 4th and then, this week, at San Water on 6th. Also on 6th, at the opposite end of the UK, a Great White Egret flew over Lower Moors, St. Mary's (Scilly). Further new birds were at Sturminster Marshall (Dorset) on 8th, Ashton's Callows (Co. Tipperary) on 9th and Oare Marshes (Kent) on 12th. Lingering singles also remained in Suffolk and Somerset for much of the week. Up to 10 Spoonbills flew east over Holme (Norfolk) on 7th, with a further 10 or so recorded around the country including two at the National Wetlands Centre (Carmarthenshire) on 9th. Birds were back at regular wintering sites at Middlebere (Dorset) and Isley Marsh (Devon) by the middle of the week. Two Common Cranes flew over Frampton Marsh (Lincolnshire) on 7th while in Norfolk a Crane was again at Burnham Thorpe, seen on 8th and at least 10 birds were seen in the Broads. In Shropshire, two Common Cranes were at Kynnersley Moor on 10th. Finally, for this section, a brief apology! Rather like the England batting XI, someone took their eye off the ball, and managed to fuse two Hampshire Spotted Crakes into one last week! Yes, there was a bird at Pennington Marshes on 2nd; but it was followed by another from 4th at Farlington Marshes, which remained until 10th at least. So, that's that cleared up!

Great White Egret
Great White Egret, Hen Reedbed SWT, Suffolk (Photo: David H Hatton)

In Fife, the Ring-necked Duck and the Ferruginous Duck were still being seen on Loch Gelly to 11th at least, while the adult drake Ferruginous Duck at Chew Valley Lake was still around for much of the week. Three drake Surf Scoters (the two regular adults and a new first-summer) were seen off the golf course at Murcar (Aberdeenshire) on 8th, returning to Blackdog the following day. Another drake was seen again at Kinnaber (Angus), also on 8th.

Ring-necked Duck
Ring-necked Duck and Ferruginous Duck, Loch Gelly, Fife (Photo: John Nadin)

The beautiful, rugged surroundings of Blacksod Bay in County Mayo saw the welcome return of the adult female Snowy Owl from 8th and this was the only "bird of prey" of any note this week (although over a dozen migrant Honey Buzzards seen across southern England and west Wales were worthy of a mention).

Snowy Owl
Snowy Owl, Blacksod, Mayo (Photo: Dermot Breen)

A Collared Pratincole was found at Frampton Marsh (Lincolnshire) on 8th, reappearing again the following day before heading towards Freiston Shore. Many local listers would have been chomping at the bit for this species: the last county record dates back to 1981. Then, on 11th, the bird reappeared in Cambridgeshire, at Tubney Fen, heading south at dusk. The last county record came from nearby Wicken Fen in 2005, that bird relocating to the north Norfolk coast, and this year's roaming individual started its summer sojourn in the very same part of the country.

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Collared Pratincole
Collared Pratincole, Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincolnshire (Photo: Russell Hayes)

In West Sussex, a Pacific Golden Plover was found at Pagham Harbour on the morning of 9th, before flying to Church Norton, but failed to appear again. If accepted, this will be the first county record, drawing level with neighbouring East Sussex. In Ireland, the "either or" Pacific/American Golden Plover was seen again at Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) on 8th.

And talking of Tacumshin: one of the week's two Baird's Sandpipers arrived there this week, the first confirmed record for the year. This bird arrived on 7th (remaining to 9th at least), while the second bird of the week was found at Hickling Broad (Norfolk) on 8th, reappearing briefly on 9th and then settling down on 10th–12th. Also in Norfolk, a grey stint teased observers on Cley Marshes on 10th–12th. The choices were Little Stint or Semipalmated Sandpiper — the smart money remains on the former, rather than the latter, but the smart money sometimes loses!

On Scilly, the obliging adult Marsh Sandpiper on Porth Hellick Pool, St. Mary's, was last seen on 7th while on 12th a Lesser Yellowlegs appeared on the same pool. A juvenile Marsh Sandpiper was a nice find at Bough Beech Reservoir on the evening of 6th and the Lesser Yellowlegs continued its stay at Aberlady Bay (Lothian) until 11th at least. This week saw half a dozen Pectoral Sandpipers on offer with, again, two birds in Lincolnshire (at Frampton Marsh and Saltfleetby) and a new arrival at Pett Levels (East Sussex) on 7th. Singles continued to linger in Norfolk (at Hickling Broad), Cleveland (at Saltholme Pools) and Aberdeenshire (at Loch of Strathbeg). Two juvenile Kentish Plovers were decent finds this week, at Canvey Island (Essex) on 7th and Dawlish Warren (Devon) on 9th. In East Yorkshire, a Red-necked Phalarope was reported from Beacon Ponds, Kilnsea on 7th.

Marsh Sandpiper
Marsh Sandpiper, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Photo: Richard Stonier)

Pectoral Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper, Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincolnshire (Photo: Russell Hayes)

Kentish Plover
Kentish Plover, Dawlish Warren NNR, Devon (Photo: John Lee)

First-summer Ring-billed Gulls were again at Clahane (Co. Clare) on 6th and Sandymount Strand (Co. Dublin) on 12th (along with over 100 Roseate Terns) while a rather stylish adult was at Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway) to 9th at least. In Mayo, a second-summer Ring-billed Gull was seen in Belmullet on 11th. A single Glaucous Gull was seen around the ferry terminal at Dun Laoghaire (Co. Dublin) on 6th–7th and an adult was seen on the Hayle Estuary (Cornwall) on 11th.

Ring-billed Gull
Ring-billed Gull, Nimmo's Pier, Galway (Photo: Ronan mclaughlin)

A report of a probable adult Slender-billed Gull flying offshore from Cley on 11th would, if confirmed, have provided the famous north-Norfolk site with its fifth individual of this elegant species: two pairs of pairs have appeared previously, in May 2000 and, most famously, in May 1987.

Caspian Gulls included an adult at Stubber's Green (West Midlands) on 7th and a third-summer at Redmires Reservoirs (South Yorkshire) on 9th. Two single birds were seen in Cambridgeshire on 10th, at Paxton Pits and Dogsthorpe Tip, while the same day saw juveniles arrive at Seamer Carr (North Yorkshire) and Blackborough End Tip (Norfolk). Then, on 11th, the latter site hosted a remarkable three juveniles (two of them side by side) and another striking juvenile, thought to have been a Caspian Gull × Herring Gull hybrid.

Last week's White-winged Black Tern at Freiston Shore in Lincolnshire presumably accounted for the bird seen for 10 minutes at Snettisham (Norfolk) on 6th and may even have been the same bird that then popped up on 7th at Staines Reservoir (Surrey). That said, another White-winged Black Tern was seen in Lincolnshire on 7th, flying over Humberston Fitties, heading south. On 9th, the final bird of the week was reported from Shapwick Heath (Somerset).

The first Red-backed Shrike of August, a handsome male, was a nice find late in the day on the outskirts of Blakeney (Norfolk) on 9th and was one of a handful of drift migrants found along the English east coast on the same day. These included an Icterine Warbler at Fenham-le-Moor (Northumberland) and single Barred Warblers at Spurn and Kilnsea (East Yorkshire). A Barred Warbler was seen at Crafty (Orkney) on 6th while the first of the year appeared on Whalsay (Shetland) on 5th. Another Red-backed Shrike was seen in Scarborough (North Yorkshire) on 12th.

Red-backed Shrike
Red-backed Shrike, Blakeney, Norfolk (Photo: Penny Clarke)

Last week's Melodious Warbler at Portland (Dorset) was trapped, ringed and released on 5th and a second bird was caught at the Observatory there on 7th. Another Melodious Warbler was on St. Mary's (Scilly) on 11th–12th (initially being identified as an Icterine Warbler). Confirmed Icterine Warblers (as well as the previously mentioned bird in the northeast) were seen at Sumburgh (Shetland), also on 7th, and Dungeness (Kent) on 10th. Back at Kilnsea, a juvenile Marsh Warbler was still along Beacon Lane to 6th at least.

The first Aquatic Warbler of 2009 was at Thurlestone (Devon) on 6th (though news only emerged on 8th) and another was trapped, ringed and released at St. Ouen's Pond (Jersey) on 10th.

A female Serin was at West Bexington (Dorset) on 8th while, further to the west in Cornwall, an adult Rose-coloured Starling was found in Bude on 6th and an early juvenile Common Rosefinch was reported from Trink Hill on 9th.

Photo of the Week

Great Shearwater
Great Shearwater, at sea, Kerry (Photo: RRRnnnn McLaughlin)

This week, unusually, our Photo of the Week is actually a photo of our Bird of the Week, the Great Shearwater. From a pelagic trip venturing over 30 miles off the coast of County Kerry in Ireland, Ronan McLaughlin submitted a superb series of photos recording the various species seen, including Great and Sooty Shearwaters, Storm Petrels and a Sabine's Gull. Even when there are large numbers of seabirds within close range of a boat, taking photos of them can be incredibly difficult. In our pick of Rónán's series, he has managed to capture a handsome Great Shearwater in pin-sharp detail with great lighting, pose and background, including fine facial detail: quite an achievement!

Little Owl
Little Owl, private site, Cheshire (Photo: David Cookson)

Puffin, Sumburgh, Mainland, Shetland (Photo: Kev Joynes)

Swallow, Hightown, Lancashire (Photo: David Cookson)

Great Crested Grebe
Great Crested Grebe, Pitsford Reservoir, Northamptonshire (Photo: John Betts)

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl, North Uist, Outer Hebrides (Photo: Pauline Greenhalgh)

Grey Heron
Grey Heron, Les Grand Pre, Guernsey (Photo: Steve Levrier)

Sand Martin
Sand Martin, Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk (Photo: Jon Evans)

Tree Pipit
Tree Pipit, undisclosed site, Clwyd (Photo: Steve Round)

European Stonechat
European Stonechat, Pleinmont, Guernsey (Photo: Chris Bale)

Turnstone, North Wirral, Cheshire (Photo: Richard Steel)

Dipper, Brecon, Powys (Photo: Steve Wilce)

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal, Canada (Photo: Peter Beesley)

Written by: Mark Golley