The week was yet another fusion of west meets east, meets south - plus a bit of intrigue from the north for good measure!
The latest ever Pallid Swift for Britain at Christchurch Harbour, Dorset on 21st was presumably the result of a strong southerly airflow from Iberia. On the same day unidentified swifts were seen in Devon, East Sussex and Staffordshire, with another in Norfolk a couple of days later. The intriguing possibility is that most, if not all, were Pallid Swifts. The record books have been rewritten for this species over the past few years, nearly always as a result of strong southerly winds originating in the Mediterranean in the late autumn period. Damp, mild, prolonged autumns keep stretching last dates and producing the unexpected.
On Guernsey on the 24th the second Desert Wheatear for the island was perhaps a more predictable late autumn migrant. On the Isles of Scilly a Dusky Warbler and Pallas's Warbler were on St. Mary's, whilst Yellow-browed Warblers were seen (and heard) in Essex and on St. Martin's, plus a Bluethroat was in Lincolnshire. Of interest, following last week's Common Whitethroat others were seen in Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire. Further excitement was provided by a Snowy Owl in Co. Mayo from the 23rd, a typically brief white Gyr Falcon in Shetland on 24th and a Ross's Gull on 21st in Co. Kerry. Typical in date and location were a Forster's Tern in Co. Mayo and a lingering bird in Cornwall from the 25th. On the Outer Hebrides an American form Great White Egret was present on South Uist: had it made landfall on the mainland a large number of people would no doubt have been tempted to travel north. In Lincolnshire a 1st-winter Rose-coloured Starling was yet another addition to the tally for a superb year for this species - no doubt the BBRC are breathing a sigh of Relief that this species ceased to be considered a rarity from the 1st January this year!
Strong winds along the east coast prompted an unusual southerly movement of Little Auks, with 553 past Hartlepool Headland in Cleveland. Smaller numbers were seen at a number of coastal sites - had these birds come through the Channel rather than the usual route through the North Sea? Four Grey Phalaropes included an inland bird in South Yorkshire for a day, though white-winged gulls were still scarce, with just four Iceland Gulls and two Glaucous Gulls. Many inland birders were able to share in the bountiful supply of Slavonian Grebes, enabling many observers their best ever views of this delightful grebe, plus a number of Great Northern Divers are present on inland waters around the country. Waxwings increased in number during the week with at least 27 reported, though the majority were in Scotland and the northeast.
Long-stayers included the Bobolink in Dorset on the 23rd, but not since, plus the Lesser Yellowlegs was still in Norfolk, Long-billed Dowitcher in Carmarthen and Redhead in Glamorgan. In the Outer Hebrides the two female Lesser Scaups continued to be seen, and the wintering Rough-legged Buzzards reported so far remained faithful to their chosen sites. Finally, in Bedfordshire the Dotterel was once again detected amongst the Golden Plover flock.
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 freephone number 08000 350 444, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.