The week at a glance
- Audouin's Gull in Kent
- Brünnich's Guillemot past Flamborough (E Yorks)
- Eastern Bonelli's Warbler on Shetland
- Solitary Sandpiper, Blyth's Pipit, Steppe Grey Shrike, Little Crake and Siberian Rubythroat still present at start of period at least
- North Atlantic Little Shearwaters off Cornwall and Clare
There was a perceptible shift in gears this week, as both the scarcities and common migrants arriving on our shores provided a taste of late autumn, although this was not necessarily reflected by the week's new major rarities. Britain's seventh Audouin's Gull, a second-winter, was photographed in the gull roost on the beach by the fishing boats at Dungeness (Kent) on the evening of Sunday 12th. Unfortunately, it has not been seen since, but if accepted, the bird will represent the site's third record since the first British occurrence there in 2003. Other big news came in the form of a report of a Brünnich's Guillemot north past Flamborough Head (E Yorks) mid-morning on 13th. The bird was somewhat unexpected so hot on the heels of the first Yorkshire record last year. An Eastern Bonelli's Warbler that frequented the sycamores in the Houl Road area at Scalloway (Shetland) from 10-13th was the second individual this year to be initially mooted as a Western; the identification settled on orientalis from its second day based on its call, but the bird remained silent thereafter.
The Solitary Sandpiper remained skittish at Duncormick/Rathangan (Wexford) to 14th, favouring Matti Maddock's pond and the nearby marshy area but not tending to settle for long. The week provided two North Atlantic Little Shearwater sightings to supplement the year's tally: one was at sea 22 km WSW of Land's End (Cornwall) on 8th and another was 13 km west of Quilty (Clare) on 7th. The first-winter Blyth's Pipit on St Mary's (Scilly) revealed itself once more in the standing stones field near Lower Moors on 9th, but an organised search the next day revealed nothing. At Burnham Norton (Norfolk), the Steppe Grey Shrike continued to prove a popular attraction and a savoured photographic opportunity, as is often the species' character. Shetland's male Siberian Rubythroat departed Levenwick after last showing on the afternoon of 8th, when a White's Thrush was also reported there. The Scarlet Tanager hung around at Brevig, Barra (Outer Hebrides), to 9th only, and a Lanceolated Warbler performed well at Quendale (Shetland) on 8th.
Although the juvenile Little Crake at Minsmere (Suffolk) was more than capable of providing a challenge to would-be admirers, it went on to show at relatively frequent intervals each day to 13th, but was not seen on 14th. A Fea's-type Petrel flew west at sea off Galley Head (Cork) on 10th and the boat also succeeded in picking up a Wilson's Storm-petrel in the same area that day.
Wildfowl included a first-winter female Lesser Scaup on Rahasane Turlough (Galway) on 12th and the Blue-winged Teal still at Castle Island (Northumberland) on 10th. In addition, the drake King Eider loitered at Burghead Bay (Moray and Nairn) to 11th and a Northern Eider was at the mouth of Loch Fleet (Highland) on 10th. A drake American Wigeon was in Udale Bay (Highland) on 12th and 14th — perhaps it is last winter's bird returning? On Orkney, the drake American Wigeon remained on North Loch (Sanday) on 10th, and the lone drakes were present and correct at Loch Ryan (Dumfries and Galloway) on 8th and Culdaff (Donegal) on 14th.
The Ring-necked Duck was at Rutland Water to 14th, as was the bird at Drift Reservoir (Cornwall), found the previous day, and two were reported from Loch Sturmore on North Uist (Outer Hebrides) on 8th. A drake Green-winged Teal at Caerlaverock (Dumfries and Galloway) appeared on 8th and continued to show to the end of the review period; again, it is tempting to suggest that the reports involve the bird that was on site earlier this year. All Surf Scoters this week were lone drakes; they were reported from Moray and Nairn, Co Louth, Orkney, Conwy, Lothian and Highland. The first Black Brant of the autumn at Butterstreet Cove (Dorset) on 12th was closely followed by three birds in Suffolk the following day: one at Minsmere and two past Landguard. One was at The Naze (Essex) on 14th.
A juvenile Pallid Harrier was observed flying south along the dunes around Loch of Strathbeg (Aberdeenshire) on 8th and the grey-morph Gyr Falcon was again present at Butt of Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 9th. A juvenile Honey Buzzard over Tide Mills (E Sussex) on 11th was the only report of the species this week. Rough-legged Buzzards were at Chelmondiston (Suffolk) on 11th, Sedgefield then Bishop Middleham (Durham) on 12th and 13th respectively, and at Gibraltar Point (Lincs) and Kilnsea (E Yorks) on 14th. In Cornwall on 13th, a Black Kite flew in off the sea at Nanquidno before heading north-east, and Northumberland boasted a superb record in the form of a White-tailed Eagle that cruised over Holy Island on 12th.
The Snowy Owl's loyalty to Ben Macdui (Moray and Nairn) persisted, as did that of the long-staying second-winter Laughing Gull at Ballycotton (Cork), which was seen on 9th. Adult Bonaparte's Gulls were at Dawlish Warren (Devon) on 12th and at Whitburn (Durham) on 13th. The first juvenile white-winged gulls of the season arrived on 12th, with a Glaucous Gull at Rusheen Bay (Galway) and an Iceland Gull on Tory Island (Donegal). Another Glaucous Gull, an immature of unspecified age, was at Rubha Ardvule, South Uist (Outer Hebrides), on 11th. Adult Ring-billed Gulls were at Dingwall (Highland), Cruisetown Strand (Louth), Black Rock Strand (Kerry) and Portrush (Antrim), and the east coast claimed the bulk of the week's slight Sabine's Gull passage.
When ringers embarked on a night-time dazzling session near Llandrindod Wells (Powys), Great Snipe was surely a species very low on their list of expectations, but this is exactly what they caught at 2 am on 9th. With only three other Great Snipe ever ringed in Britain and just three Powys records, all of birds shot before 1900, the event can certainly be described as fortuitous. The Lesser Yellowlegs was on Rogerstown Estuary (Dublin) to 13th, and an American Golden Plover made for a great county record at Scotney GP (E Sussex) on 12th, before being reported on the Kent side of the pits on 13th. The juvenile White-rumped Sandpiper was reported again on South Uist (Outer Hebrides) on 13th, at Baile Gharbhaidh, and there was a predictable light scattering of Pectoral Sandpipers across the British Isles. However, only two Buff-breasted Sandpipers were reported, these being at Tacumshin (Wexford) on 12th and Marloes Mere (Pembrokeshire) on 14th.
Lingering Cattle Egrets were at Burton Mere Wetlands (Cheshire) on 13th, and both Dungeness (Kent) and Braunton Marsh (Devon) on 14th. The Night Heron at Penwortham (Lancs) hardly budged from its favourite willow at Vernon's Lodge to 9th, but was nowhere to be seen on 10th, and a White Stork was near Great Yarmouth (Norfolk) on 14th.
With the only previous record being of a bird picked up dead in 1907, Bedfordshire was long overdue a Lesser Grey Shrike, so county birders were delighted by the arrival of one on 10th, despite it being a one-day bird. Later on in the review period four Red-flanked Bluetails were discovered, kicking off with a bird at Dale of Walls (Shetland) on 12th and followed by singles on Fair Isle (Shetland) and at Warham Greens (Norfolk) the next day. Finally, another was dug out at Stiffkey (Norfolk) on 14th. The small-scale arrival of Siberian Stonechats was supplemented by an individual at Torness Power Station (Lothian) on 14th, and by Shetland birds on Fetlar on 8th and at Hoswick on 11th. Double figures of Great Grey Shrikes arrived this week, many in Norfolk, East Yorkshire and Shetland, but Red-backed Shrikes were few and far between in comparison, with six individuals including the confiding Ness Point bird in Suffolk.
Two new Pechora Pipits cropped up on the news page — one at Kergord (Shetland) on 11th and the other on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 8th — along with four Olive-backed Pipits. A number of other 'OBPs', mainly singles but with the odd sighting of two, were distributed almost exclusively on Shetland and Orkney, but one was at Wells Woods (Norfolk) on 14th. Scilly hosted three of the week's eight Short-toed Larks, the others being singles at Cemlyn Bay (Anglesey), and Rinsey Head and Sancreed (Cornwall), along with two at Loch of Hillwell (Shetland). Richard's Pipits were sprinkled across Scilly, East Yorkshire, Dorset, Somerset, Lincolnshire and Norfolk. Compared with recent years, 2014 seems to have been above average for Tawny Pipit records, and the bird at Tide Mills (E Sussex) to 11th was greatly enjoyed by birders from the county and further afield; another was on St Agnes (Scilly) on 10th. A Grey-headed Wagtail was on Out Skerries (Shetland) for its second day on 8th.
The male Subalpine Warbler at Porthgwarra (Cornwall) from 10-14th ran as an Eastern for a while before the bird's plumage tones began to stir thoughts of Moltoni's Warbler — a recording of the bird's call would likely be necessary for it to be rubber-stamped as such, though. Torness Power Station (Lothian) hosted the county's first Booted Warbler from 11-14th, and the Arctic Warbler found at Donna Nook (Lincs) on 12th went to ground in bad weather the next day, but was still there on 14th. Donna Nook also provided one bird in the week's influx of Radde's Warblers on 12-13th; others were at Mid Dale (Shetland) and Troup Head (Aberdeenshire) on 8th, Sea Palling (Norfolk) on 11th, Kilnsea (E Yorks) on 12th, Flamborough Head (E Yorks) from 12-14th, and at Brancaster, Burnham Overy, Wells Woods and Great Yarmouth (Norfolk) and Gibraltar Point (Lincs) on 14th.
The autumn's first of those long-awaited gems that are Pallas's Warblers were picked up at Donna Nook (Lincs) on 13th, where there were two birds (one of which was still there on 14th). The next day saw singles at Holme Dunes, Happisburgh and Great Yarmouth (Norfolk). Unlike Yellow-browed Warblers, which were plentiful on the east coast and the Northern Isles, Hippolais warblers were in short supply. However, both regular species were accounted for, by a lingering Melodious Warbler on Skomer (Pembrokeshire) on 10th and a new Icterine Warbler at Cruden Bay (Aberdeenshire) on 9th. A Marsh Warbler was ringed on Barra (Outer Hebrides) on 12th and was there again on 14th; the island also laid claim to Scotland's second Cetti's Warbler on the latter date. A reasonable handful of Barred Warblers clung on that bit longer.
A Penduline Tit was audible from the Fen Hide at Strumpshaw Fen (Norfolk) on 11th and 12th, but did not reveal itself; another was found on St Mary's (Scilly) on 14th. The Hoopoe at Willington (Beds) enjoyed the paddocks there till 10th and others were new at Dale of Walls (Shetland) from 8-12th, Alturlie Point (Highland) on 9th and at Kilnsea (E Yorkshire) on 14th. As expected at this stage of autumn, Wryneck numbers have now dwindled and all of the week's birds were shared between Cornwall, Pembrokeshire, Devon and Scilly, these birds having presumably filtered south-west over recent weeks. Ten Rose-coloured Starlings were logged over the week, including lingering juveniles at Penzance (Cornwall) and Portland (Dorset).Bluethroats were at Baltasound, Unst (Shetland), on 8th and 12th, as well as at Kilnsea (E Yorks) on 13th and Whinnyfold (Aberdeenshire) and Toab (Shetland) on 8th. Another was on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 14th. Little Buntings and Red-breasted Flycatchers continued to occur in moderate volumes, but only five Common Rosefinches were reported. In an ongoing reasonable year for Ortolan Bunting, singles were at Flamborough Head (E Yorks) and St Agnes (Scilly) on 10th and Portland (Dorset) on 11th. Fly-over Serins were picked up at Durlston CP (Dorset) and Lizard (Cornwall), both on 11th. The Rustic Bunting was still in the Halligarth area on Unst (Shetland) on 12th and another sighting was made on the island at Uyeasound on 14th. St Agnes (Scilly) also supplied a Rustic Bunting, on 9th at Porth Killier. A report of 12 Arctic Redpolls in geos at North Roe (Shetland) on 9th came out of the blue to say the least, but no more news was received of the group of birds.
In a week which saw the first big arrivals of Redwings and some impressive Ring Ouzel movements (such as more than 550 at Dungeness, Kent, on 14th), inland seabird movement was noteworthy. For instance, 13 Great Skuas at Queen Mary Reservoir (Surrey) on 14th were among many which ventured inland; some of the week's numerous Grey Phalaropes also found themselves miles from the sea, while small numbers of Little Auks began to whizz past the east coast.
Steve Young says: Any species has an equal chance of winning Photo of the Week, as can be seen from previous results. For a rarity to win, however, it has to be something special, and rare birds don’t come any more special and magical than this male Siberian Rubythroat. Beautifully captured by Rebecca Nason, this stunning shot takes this week’s top spot.
Using a 200–400 mm lens with a 1.4× converter, Rebecca looks like she has got into a low-level position while hand-holding her lens to take this image. Despite the tricky side lighting, the exposure is spot on, with ISO 1,600 allowing a shutter speed of 1/500th sec to be used, and the lens effectively wide open at f5.6.
Congratulations to Rebecca on a great image of a fantastic bird. Many Iris photographers will surely wish they had taken this week’s winning image – Shetland might be busier next autumn!