The autumns are definitely longer nowadays. Long gone are the days when the autumn finished on the 31st October - now there is the hope of a small number of rare passerines all the way through to early December. That was the case this week, with a small arrival of several quality migrants, mostly to the southeast following a spell of winds coming off the continent.
Pride of place went to the latest ever Red-flanked Bluetail to be Recorded in Britain. A surprise find was one was at Gibraltar Point (Lincs) on the 15th and 16th. Although no longer the rarity they once were, with several mainland records over the past decade, this bird drew an appreciative audience and performed well on occasion. The only other Red-flanked Bluetail in November was the extremely popular Winspit valley (Dorset) bird in 1993 which entertained several thousand birders between 30th October and 8th November.
In Cornwall a male Sardinian Warbler at Sennen was easily the latest ever British record: one in Kent in 1999 was present from 30th October to 2nd November. More in keeping with the date was a Hume's Warbler on St.Mary's and two Pallas's Warblers in Kent, though a cracking male Red-breasted Flycatcher in Dorset, Bluethroat in Essex and a Red-backed Shrike in Suffolk were notable. Three Richard's Pipits were reported, as was a very late Melodious Warbler on Scilly, plus three Serins were also noted in the southwest. In the southwest, another (or the same) Killdeer was seen, this time on the mainland at Godrevy (Cornwall) for a day on the 20th.
On the Outer Hebrides two female Lesser Scaup are now present, plus a White-billed Diver was seen in Shetland and the Black Scoter was once again off Llanfairfechan. A Quail picked up as a road casualty on Anglesey was a very late record, as was a Common Whitethroat in Hampshire, plus several other late migrants. The Bobolink was seen again in Dorset, and indicates that not all rarities have gone just because there has been no news for several days. An unusual Catharacta skua was found moribund on the beach at Dungeness and immediately prompted many to consider the possibility that it might be yet another Brown Skua. This follows the exciting news that birds on Scilly in 2001 and Glamorgan in early 2002 were in actual fact Brown Skuas, based on DNA results. Whatever the outcome from this bird, field identification of this tricky group is an ongoing melting pot, but no doubt all moribund or dead Bonxies from now on are going to be under close scrutiny and minus a few feathers!
Rarities continued to linger in many places. Long-billed Dowitchers remained in Lincs, Highland and Carmarthen, the Lesser Yellowlegs continued to perform well in Norfolk and the White-rumped Sandpiper was present until early in the week in Lothian. The White-winged Black Tern remained in Norfolk and was then perhaps responsible for the sighting in Lincolnshire, whilst another was in Co. Cork. The Forster's Tern was seen again in Co. Kerry, and on the Exe Estuary the Glossy Ibis continued to entertain. In Glamorgan the Redhead remained with the Pochard flock and looks set for the winter.