Review of the Week: 7-13 August 2023


August 2023 will remembered fondly for its awesome run of mega-rare seabird discoveries – a trend continuing in earnest into this week. Yet more outstanding seabird action in the South-West saw Britain's second Red-footed Booby fly past the MV Sapphire on 7th, the latest in an incredible line of megas recorded from Scilly pelagics this season. Read an exciting account of the find from Scilly stalwart Bob Flood here.

A Barolo-type shearwater headlined the action in neighbouring Cornwall, heading past Porthgwarra on 12th. A red-letter day in Ireland on 12th produced no fewer than two Scopoli's Shearwater candidates off west-coast headlands – Bridges of Ross, Co Clare, and Annagh Head, Co Mayo – which would become only the second and third Irish records if confirmed. The first came just a year ago this week, from a pelagic off the Co Cork coast. Three more were noted from Scilly pelagics this week – two on 7th and one on 8th – taking the year's tally to 11.

Red-footed Booby, Scilly pelagic, Isles of Scilly (Mark Johnson).

Scopoli's Shearwater, Scilly pelagic, Isles of Scilly (Richard Stonier).

Cory's Shearwaters continue to have an excellent August, with this week's high count seeing 4,542 pass Toe Head, Co Cork, in nine hours on 11th – an average more than eight per minute. Other notable shout-outs include almost 4,000 past Annagh Head and 1,500 past Porthgwarra on 12th. In the Outer Hebrides, some 17 past Brevig, Barra, in 140 minutes on 11th shattered the previous Hebridean day record of two, with the most seen in any one year previously numbering just three! Smaller Great Shearwater numbers remained in the South-West, with others logged off Calf of Man, Isle of Man, and North Ronaldsay, Orkney.

Cory's Shearwater, Scilly pelagic, Isles of Scilly (Scott Usher).

Two Wilson's Storm Petrels were in Wales – one from a Celtic Deep pelagic off Pembrokeshire on 9th and one, amazingly, photographed being captured by a Peregrine Falcon from a boat off New Quay, Ceredigion, on 13th – made more extraordinary still by virtue of being the first county record! It has been another record-breaking late summer showing for this seabird, with the species' regularity from on-land watchpoints unthinkable to those familiar with pioneering 'Wilson's Triangle' pelagics of the 1990s and early 2000s. Birds were off seven Cornish headlands this week, plus four more in Ireland.

Wilson's Storm Petrel, Eastern Isles, Isles of Scilly (Scott Usher).

Long-tailed Skua numbers saw a small increase, including birds in the North Sea past Withernsea, East Yorkshire, and Girdle Ness, Aberdeenshire. An adult Sabine's Gull made for a surprise inland find at Pugney's CP, West Yorkshire, with birds past double-figure coastal sites. Seven Grey Phalaropes from a pelagic trip to Seven Stones reef, Scilly, included a number with remnants of their delightful brick-red summer gowns.

Sabine's Gull, Scilly pelagic, Isles of Scilly (Richard Stonier).

Grey Phalarope, Scilly pelagic, Isles of Scilly (Richard Stonier).

The Gwynedd Bridled Tern proved popular at Afon Wen at the start of the week, before being watched heading out to sea early on 9th, never to return. An adult Franklin's Gull for 10 minutes at Bann Estuary, Londonderry, on 10th was another of the week's top finds, with a returning adult Ring-billed Gull at Mutton Island, Co Galway. Bonaparte's Gulls were reported in Kent and on Mull, Argyll, a juvenile White-winged Tern flew east past Cley Marshes, Norfolk, on 13th and the Forster's Tern remained a reliable visitor to Arne RSPB, Dorset. An orange-billed tern species at Arne RSPB and Brownsea Island from 9-12th would never be seen well enough to identify to species level.

Bridled Tern, Afon Wen, Gwynedd (Alan Boddington).

Forster's Tern, Arne RSPB, Dorset (Mike Barth).

An adult drake Stejneger's Scoter provided additional offshore interest, present off Musselburgh, Lothian, with 345 Velvet Scoter from 12th. The King Eider also remained there, while the Ring-necked Duck was still at Carlton Marshes, Suffolk.

Stejneger's Scoter (centre) with Velvet Scoter, Musselburgh, Lothian (Ian Andrews).

King Eider (centre) with Common Eider, Musselburgh Lagoons, Lothian (Jim Coyle).

Lingering shorebirds in the Northern Isles comprised a Hudsonian Godwit in Mainland Shetland, Pacific Golden Plover on North Ronaldsay and Long-billed Dowitcher on Sanday. Another Long-billed Dowitcher was still in Norfolk, with White-rumped Sandpipers in Orkney and Co Wexford, Pectoral Sandpipers at five sites and a Eurasian Stone-curlew in Kent. The American Golden Plover count at Myroe Levels, Co Londonderry, increased to two, with the Black-winged Pratincole still in Co Donegal. A brief juvenile Black-winged Stilt was at Buckenham Marshes RSPB, Norfolk, with family groups still in Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire.

Pectoral Sandpiper, Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire (Chris Teague).

Black-winged Stilt, Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincolnshire (Nick Appleton).

Surprising news from Pembrokeshire saw the Greater Short-toed Lark at Dale Airfield noted for the first time since early June. Freshly moulted, it has retained its strikingly pale appearance and looks a decent match for one of the African or Arabian desert subspecies. A first-winter Red-backed Shrike at Anderby Creek, Lincolnshire, was new in on 12th, as were two adults on Foula, Shetland. Singles remained in South Yorkshire and Orkney.

Greater Short-toed Lark, Dale, Pembrokeshire (Andy Bookless).

Red-backed Shrike, Auckley Common, South Yorkshire (Glyn Sellors).

It was a quiet week for passerines otherwise. A scruffy European Bee-eater at Withins Reservoir, Greater Manchester, on 7th is thought to possibly relate to a bird from the unsuccessful breeding attempt nearby back in July. Another overflew Pegwell Bay, Kent, with a Marsh Warbler trapped and ringed at Kingfishers Bridge NR, Cambridgeshire, on 13th. A Red-rumped Swallow flew south over St Andrew's, Fife, Black Kite reports were received from Norfolk and Wiltshire, and Montagu's Harriers were in Norfolk and Essex, with a possible reported from North Yorkshire.

European Bee-eater, Elton Reservoir, Greater Manchester (Aaron Wilkinson).


Western Palearctic

An excellent run of finds in Fennoscandia culminated with an early autumn treat in the form of a male Common Yellowthroat on Værøy, Norway, on 7th. An immature Brown Booby, the first for the Baltic Sea, boarded MS Silja Serenade 9 km south of Helsinki, Finland, and remained onboard until it docked at Stockholm, Sweden, where it was unfortunately taken into care in front of gathered onlookers. It is the first record for Finland and just the second for Sweden.

A Cory's Shearwater photographed from a research vessel west of the Faroe Islands on 12th is a first for the archipelago. Previously, the islands have enjoyed records of a Scopoli's Shearwater and one Cory's/Scopoli's not identified to species level. Mainland Denmark hosted a Steppe Eagle at Rødhus.

Cory's Shearwater, at sea 15 nautical miles west of Suðuroy, Faroe Islands (Silas Olofson).

Another booby made the headlines on the south side of the English Channel, with an adult Brown Booby in a Northern Gannet colony at Sept-Îles, France, having first been seen nearby on 18 July. At least three Pygmy Cormorants were along the French-Swiss border, while the Elegant Tern and Long-legged Buzzard both remained.

An Eastern Bonelli's Warbler at Agigea, Romania, was a national fourth, while a juvenile Audouin's Gull at ÖlbÅ‘ was Hungary's third record. Lingering rarities included a Grey-headed Gull on Sicily, Italy, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper in Poland and a White-headed Duck in the Netherlands.

Further excellent seawatching off Estaca de Bares, Galicia, saw the premier Spanish site record an amazing eight Bulwer's Petrels past on 11th, while a Lesser Crested Tern was off the Andalucian coast. A juvenile Bateleur was an excellent find at Saint Catherine, Egypt, on 12th, with two Swinhoe's Storm Petrel again noted from a pelagic trip off Eilat, Israel. The White-faced Whistling Duck lingered on Sal, Cape Verde.


Written by: Sam Viles