Review of the Week: 8th–14th August


The week at a glance

'Inexplicable' seems an accurate term to describe the behaviour of Fair Isle's Swinhoe's Storm-petrel this week. This, the second for the island in as many weeks (as mentioned in last week's review), became bizarrely twitchable from Saturday onwards. After being trapped again on 8th, a couple of days passed before petrel ringing recommenced and, for five consecutive nights from Saturday night through until the early hours of Thursday, the bird could consistently be heard singing in the South Havens and was even trapped each night (twice in the early hours of Tuesday). This allowed charters from the mainland to twitch the bird successfully on both Monday and Tuesday nights, although advancing poor weather suggests storm-petrel ringing may be put on hold for the next few nights at least — Thursday, Saturday and Sunday all look like write-offs though there is hope for Friday. As mentioned in last week's review, the re-trapping of the same birds is very unusual to say the least, and quite what this particular bird thinks it is doing is anyone's guess.

Swinhoe's Storm-petrel
Swinhoe's Storm-petrel, Fair Isle, Shetland (Photo: Dougie Preston)

On Thursday 8th, the wandering Bridled Tern made another appearance — this time for the evening only — on the Ythan Estuary (Aberdeenshire), allowing a small number of fast-moving Scottish listers the chance to connect. Alas, there was no sign throughout Friday and for the rest of the week, and predicting the site of its next appearance is a lottery.

Five consecutive days of trips with Joe Pender's Sapphire Pelagics proved fruitful in Scilly waters this week. The highlight was a Fea's-type Petrel seen and photographed from the boat on 9th, although Joe has kindly summarised the week's activities more fully:

"I've just finished five days of pelagic trips in a row over one of our Birder Special pelagic weekends. We have seen a wide variety of well-sought-after seabirds and many participants saw one or more lifers. The highlight for everybody was the Fea's Petrel on Friday evening. There are probably in the region of only 700 pairs breeding in Cape Verde and the Desertas (maybe even less). It is a very special moment to observe this Pterodroma petrel at sea and the atmosphere on the boat was electric. There was another highlight on Sunday — this year has been exceptionally poor with only a few records of Wilson's Storm-petrel in Britain (two of those off Scilly). However, we managed to pull one at the eleventh hour, the bird flying past the port side of the boat as we were packing up. It seemed to head away and off, but then it turned around and flew back to the boat and everyone got great views. We also saw Great Shearwaters on all but one day and the views were simply stunning. The photographers filled their boats, so to speak! Apart from seabirds, we saw a good selection of cetaceans and two species of shark. Here is a complete list of sightings with numbers seen in brackets: Fea's Petrel (1), Great Shearwater (10), Sooty Shearwater (4), Balearic Shearwater (2),Manx Shearwater (perhaps 1,000+), Wilson's Storm-petrel (1), European Storm-petrel (270), Grey Phalarope (2), Great Skua (10), Pomarine Skua (1), Arctic Skua (1) and Yellow-legged Gull (several). Cetaceans included Minke Whale (1), Bottlenose Dolphin (c.50), Risso's Dolphin (2) and Common Dolphin (300+), with Porbeagle Shark (2), Blue Shark (6) and Ocean Sunfish (15) also seen!"

Fea's Petrel
Fea's Petrel, Scilly pelagic, Isles of Scilly (Photo: Joe Pender)

Great Shearwater
Great Shearwater, Scilly pelagic, Isles of Scilly (Photo: Joe Pender)

Elsewhere, other seabirds included a Little Shearwater seen from a vessel c.85 miles west of Dursey Island (Cork) on 9th and another Fea's-type Petrel past Porthgwarra (Cornwall) in the late afternoon on 14th. A scattering of Cory's and Great Shearwaters were seen in western areas, while four of the former flew past Spurn (E Yorks) during the morning of 10th; another flew past Flamborough then Filey on 12th with further singletons past Thorpeness (Suffolk) on 11th and North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 13th. North Ron also claimed a first-summer Sabine's Gull on 9th, with regular records also coming from Hebridean Whale Cruises in The Minch (Highland).

Notable wildfowl records were headlined by the remaining Blue-winged Teal on the Ouse Washes (Cambs) to 13th and the Black Duck on the estuary at Ballylongford (Kerry) to 9th; the Ring-necked Duck also moved from Brompton-on-Swale to Scorton by 13th and a drake Ferruginous Duck was back at Chew Valley Lake (Somerset) from 9th. In Angus, the drake Surf Scoter lingered off Lunan Bay to at least 10th.

There was a report of two Black Storks near Farthing (Wilts) on 9th but not again. Pembrokeshire's Glossy Ibis predictably lingered on through another week and is now looking a realistic candidate to rival the Devon (and later Norfolk) bird of the early 2000s for longevity of stay. Several Great White Egrets included one at Dungeness (Kent) rising to three there by 13th. The Cattle Egret remained in north Kent throughout, while the popular Night Heron was last seen at Thornton Reservoir (Leics) on 11th — though the South Yorkshire bird continued to appear sporadically to 13th at least.

Great White Egret
Great White Egret, Middleton Lakes RSPB, Warwickshire (Photo: Mark Priest)

Night Heron
Night Heron, Thornton Reservoir, Leicestershire and Rutland (Photo: Ian Curran)

Still scarce this year, Spotted Crakes at Balgavies Loch (Angus & Dundee) on 13th and Chew Valley Lake on 14th were both notable. As is so often the case, it was Tacumshin (Wexford) that proved the hotbed for scarce wader action — a single Buff-breasted Sandpiper there on 9th became three on 10th–14th, last week's White-rumped Sandpiper lingered until 11th and a Pectoral Sandpiper arrived from 11th. Further Pecs included new birds on Holy Island and at Low Newton-by-the-Sea (Northumberland) on 12th and 14th respectively, and at Dundalk docks (Louth) on 13th–14th in addition to a lingering bird on North Ronaldsay (Orkney). Temminck's Stints were in Cheshire, Norfolk and Kent, with the latter showing particularly well.

Temminck's Stint
Temminck's Stint, Oare Marshes NR, Kent (Photo: Ian Curran)

Carmarthen's Lesser Yellowlegs saw out another week at the National Wetlands Centre, while the Long-billed Dowitcher in Hampshire was at Keyhaven Marshes on 8th–9th before relocating back to Pennington from 13th. A juvenile Red-necked Phalarope spent four days on the reserve at Cley (Norfolk) from 10th and a juvenile Dotterel graced Bryher (Scilly) late on.

Back over in County Wexford, the adult Gull-billed Tern became reliable at Lady's Island Lake on 9th–11th but not again. The year's first juvenile White-winged Black Tern popped in at East Chevington (Northumberland) on 10th but departed early the next morning, only to turn up again at Bothal Pond later that day. Staying with Northumberland for the time being, we keep mentioning what a great year or two it's been for Bonaparte's Gulls. Well, the praise was further justified as another new adult was found at Cresswell Pond on 14th just a few days after the Durham bird returned to Whitburn Steel (on 10th, and seen at Cleadon on 13th). Long-stayers remained in Lancashire to 12th and Kent all week, the latter now in an altogether smarter second-winter plumage. Adult Ring-billed Gulls were at Kinneil Lagoon (Forth) on 13th and still at Laugharne (Carmarthenshire) on 8th.

Gull-billed Tern
Gull-billed Tern, Lady's Island Lake, Wexford (Photo: Derek Charles)

Bonaparte's Gull
Bonaparte's Gull, Whitburn, Durham (Photo: Mark Newsome)

County Donegal's male Snowy Owl continued its vigil upon Arranmore Island all week though, for the first time in some time, no rare birds of prey were reported.

In Norfolk, the colourful (though often distant) adult Roller continued to frequent fence-posts and trees from the Nelson Head track at Horsey until 13th, although there was no sign on 14th. A Bee-eater came somewhat out the blue, being seen over Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park (Lancs) on 14th.

Roller, Horsey, Norfolk (Photo: John Richardson)

It was no real surprise that Fair Isle claimed the first Citrine Wagtail of the 'autumn' — a smart first-winter there from 12th, with the male Western Subalpine Warbler also clocking up another week. Short-toed Larks were at Tacumshin on 11th and on Bryher (Scilly) on 9th–13th. Right on cue, the first Melodious Warbler of August was trapped and ringed in Dorset on 13th — Portland you might have instantly guessed, but no — Durlston Country Park, for a change.

A few Rose-coloured Starlings included adults at West Burra (Shetland) on 11th–13th and Vale (Guernsey) on 11th–14th, with a juvenile reported out on Inishmore (Galway) on 9th. A male Red-backed Shrike was photographed at Rutland Water on 10th.

Rose-coloured Starling
Rose-coloured Starling, West Burra, Shetland (Photo: G Petrie)

Two-barred Crossbill reports fell away sharply this week — with westerly winds dominating, conditions were hardly conducive to the arrival of further birds in the north and east while many of the birds to arrive on the Northern Isles in recent weeks have presumably now filtered down. That said, a flock of six crossbills described as possessing white wing bars were reported from Finstown (Orkney) on 8th and, well inland, a juvenile at Broomhead Reservoir (S Yorks) on 12th quickly became five (four juveniles and a female) on 13th and then six by the week's end. And, as this article goes to press, we've just heard that eight individuals (two females and six juveniles) have now been identified.

Two-barred Crossbill
Two-barred Crossbill, Broomhead Reservoir, South Yorkshire (Photo: Jon Lowes)

Two-barred Crossbill
Two-barred Crossbill, Broomhead Reservoir, South Yorkshire (Photo: Jon Lowes)

Exciting news for butterfly fans concerned the arrival of a female Long-tailed Blue at Kingsdown Leas on 11th, with a male there the following day. An impressive four were counted on 13th and, on 14th, this was eclipsed with seven present in the area! Also in Kent, two Swallowtails were at Dungeness on 8th and another was at Folkestone on 14th.

Long-tailed Blue
Long-tailed Blue, Kingsdown, Kent (Photo: Marc Heath)

Long-tailed Blue
Long-tailed Blue, Kingsdown, Kent (Photo: Marc Heath)

Photo of the Week

White-tailed Eagle
White-tailed Eagle, Loch na Keal, Mull, Argyll (Photo: Chas Moonie)

Nicknamed 'flying barn doors', White-tailed Eagles are magnificent raptors that, following a long-term reintroduction programme, can once more be seen in select locations in Scotland. As well as the obvious biodiversity benefit, these creatures have become a tourist attraction in their own right, with a variety of organisations catering for people wanting to see and photograph these avian celebrities. In theory, this allows UK-based photographers to just whizz over to places like the Isle of Mull, jump on a boat trip and fill their memory cards with close-ups of the birds as they repeatedly swoop in for their free fish suppers. In practice, things are much harder than this as the dives can be infrequent, unpredictable and very fast. When everything comes together, though, the result can be a thrilling action shot like the one captured by Chas Moonie this week. With talons forward and wings back, this is the moment the action really starts to peak.

Other Notable Photos

Little Owl
Little Owl, undisclosed site, Lancashire (Photo: Austin Thomas)

Kingfisher, undisclosed site, Norfolk (Photo: Iain H. Leach)

Cuckoo, undisclosed site, Suffolk (Photo: Neil Rolph)

Gannet, Bass Rock, Lothian (Photo: Mike McKenzie)

Common Snipe
Common Snipe, Poland (Photo: Artur Stankiewicz)

Roller, Horsey, Norfolk (Photo: Tim James)

Peregrine, Campbeltown Loch, Argyll (Photo: Jimmy MacDonald)

Chough, undisclosed site, Anglesey (Photo: Ivan Ellison)

Turtle Dove
Turtle Dove, Romania (Photo: Richard Steel)

Great Crested Grebe
Great Crested Grebe, Knypersley Reservoir, Staffordshire (Photo: Mick)

Jay, Redditch, Worcestershire (Photo: Mr Clive Daelman)

Curlew, Wood Lane NR, Shropshire (Photo: Paul Burgess)

White-billed Diver
White-billed Diver, Russia (Asian) (Photo: Jacques Cloutier)

Green Sandpiper
Green Sandpiper, Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincolnshire (Photo: Russ Telfer)

Kestrel, Llandderfel, Gwynedd (Photo: Neill Carden)