Review of the Week: 8th-14th July 2010


The week at a glance

Sea passage really started to pick up this week, and those dedicated enough to spend long days on headlands were amply rewarded. One of the highlights was another Fea’s Petrel, this time seen between Ramsey and Grassholm islands (Pembrokeshire) on 11th. This is potentially only the third Welsh record, following birds past Bardsey (Gwynedd) in 1994 and Strumble (Pembrokeshire) in 1996. More tantalising, though, was a possible Bulwer’s Petrel past Turnberry Point (Ayr) on 11th. This is a difficult species to confirm at sea, with just one accepted record to date, off Cape Clear (Co. Cork) in 1975.

On the land, for those not able to catch up with the one-day White-tailed Lapwing at Rainham Marshes (London), the bird obligingly moved to Slimbridge (Gloucestershire), where it was found on the morning of the 9th. The finder managed to get some video of the bird, confirming the identity with the site warden over tea. As Rainham staff had done, Slimbridge staff kept the reserve open late, also opening early the next morning. The bird performed admirably until closing (a rather early 18:00) but wasn’t seen the next day. Whether the early closing prompted the message to “not run on site to avoid disturbing nesting birds” I don’t know...

White-tailed Lapwing, Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire (Film: Camerago)

Not content with visiting Lancashire and The Netherlands, then adding the accolade of being the first for London and the first for Gloucestershire, this yellow-legged wonder then moved back east. It was refound at Dungeness RSPB (Kent) on 11th (another county first!) where it remained until the end of the week, showing on the ARC Pit.

White-tailed Lapwing
White-tailed Lapwing, Dungeness RSPB, Kent (Photo: Steve Ray)

Another intriguing ‘possible’ was the report of a Sooty Tern around the Arctic Tern colony at Cross Kirk, Westray (Orkney) on 13th. It was seen by a visiting birder (who also recorded a Red-necked Phalarope), on rocks associating with failed breeders, though couldn’t be relocated.

The River Warbler at Thorpe (Norfolk) continued to sing to 11th at least, which was the last day that access was arranged. The substantial amount of money raised during its stay was been donated to Norfolk Wildlife Trust and to the British Birdwatching Fair cause. Thanks again to the organisers of this twitch and let’s hope it sets a good example for the future.

River Warbler, Thorpe, Norfolk (Film: garybirder)

River Warbler
River Warbler, Thorpe, Norfolk (Photo: Jon Evans)

Amazingly, the Iberian Chiffchaff was singing again at Walderslade (Kent) on 14th, having not been heard since 9th June. It has presumably been in the area all summer, though once silent would be almost impossible to pick up, and this was perhaps just a lucky encounter.

Last up for the megas, the yellow House Finch remained at East Prawle (Dorset) to 12th, though remained rather difficult to see most of the time.

House Finch, East Prawle, Dorset (Film: Gonebirding610)

The drake Ring-necked Duck was still at Angle Park (Fife) until 11th, now coming much more into eclipse plumage, with one also at Loch Gelly (Fife) on 11th. These must be two different birds, but any confirmation would be appreciated. Other Aythyas to see included the drake Pochard × Tufted Duck hybrid, which was still at Stoke Newington Reservoirs (London) on 9th.

The immature drake King Eider that passed Flamborough Head (East Yorkshire) last week had obviously stopped at Filey Brigg (North Yorkshire), present with Eider off the Brigg on 9th–14th. It occasionally showed well on the rocks, but suffered plenty of disturbance from speedboats and jetskis, making viewing sometimes difficult. King Eiders seem to be being picked up more regularly along the east coast now, though this is the first record for North Yorkshire. Last year saw the first for Lincolnshire (off Freiston Shore and Cut End from September to October), with previous Yorkshire records coming from Flamborough Head (East Yorkshire) in 2008 and 2009 and one old record of a bird ‘caught’ at Bridlington in 1846.

King Eider
King Eider, Filey, North Yorkshire (Photo: Dave Mansell)

The only scoters to report were some remaining Commons. The female was at Belvide Reservoir (Staffordshire) to 10th, two drakes were on Audenshaw Reservoirs (Manchester) to 8th, four were on Stocks Reservoir (Lancashire) on 11th with eight on Ashworth Moor Reservoir (Manchester) on 14th.

Aside from the rare petrels already mentioned, there are also plenty of scarce shearwaters to report. Possible Yelkouan Shearwaters were seen in Cornwall past Sennen Cove on 14th and Porthgwarra on 10th and 14th. The latter site also recorded single Sooty Shearwaters on 9th and 14th with the only other past Ballycotton (Co. Cork) on 10th. There were plenty of Balearic Shearwaters seen, with numbers really peaking at the end of the week. Singles were seen past Sheringham (Norfolk) on 8th, Pendeen (Cornwall) and Dawlish Warren (Devon) on 10th, Thurlestone (Devon) on 12th and 14th, and past both Seaton and Thurlston (Devon) on 14th. Porthgwarra recorded a single on 10th and 11 on 14th. Portland (Dorset) recorded singles on 11th and 13th, with two on 12th and three on 14th, with three past Prawle Point (Devon) on 11th. The highest counts, though, were past Berry Head (Devon) with 18 south on 13th and 39 south on 14th. The last date also saw Pomarine Skua and 12 Great Skua.

After a blank last week, there was a single report of a White Stork seen from a car over the coast road near Titchwell (Norfolk) on 14th.

In Somerset, speculation about the Little Bitterns at Loxton Marsh continued. With the male being present for so long, it was the appearance of a female that started the speculation. Both of the pair were seen visiting the same spot by an RSPB fieldworker but details weren’t initially released. However, after news was unofficially broadcast on the web, RSPB stated that although it is assumed that these birds have successfully bred, only through careful observation will it be proved. It may be that definitive proof doesn’t come until fledglings appear. Records from visiting birders will be helpful in building up this picture, so records are welcomed.

Little Bittern
Little Bittern, Ham Wall RSPB, Somerset & Bristol (Photo: Tom Mabbett)

Our other star breeding waterbirds, the Purple Herons at Dungeness (Kent), continued to perform all week. Despite some reports to the contrary, both birds still appear to be feeding young, which may now have left the nest. The Denge Marsh viewpoint also offered views of two Bitterns and the Great White Egret all week. Other Great White Egrets were at Cobh (Co. Cork) on 8th and the colour-ringed bird at Shapwick Heath (Somerset) remained all week.

Great White Egret
Great White Egret, Dungeness RSPB, Kent (Photo: Phil)

Peak counts of Spoonbills were 11 on Arnold’s Marsh, Cley (Norfolk) all week, four at Gibraltar Point (Lincolnshire) on 11th–12th, four on the Ythan estuary (Aberdeenshire) on 11th–12th and three at East Chevington (Northumberland) on 9th–10th. Other singles were at Samson (Isle of Scilly), Tacumshin (Co. Wexford), Conwy RSPB (Conwy), South Walney (Cumbria), Frampton Marsh (Lincolnshire), Titchwell (Norfolk), Trimley (Suffolk) and Normandy Marsh (Hampshire).

Spoonbill, Conwy RSPB, Conwy (Photo: Dave Williams)

Raptors were few and far between and, apart from a few migrant Honey Buzzards, there was just one Black Kite, at Lavenham (Suffolk) on 12th. Ospreys also seem to have stopped wandering, with the only migrant being one at Leighton Moss (Lancashire) on 12th. Common Cranes also vanished, with just one seen over Attenborough (Nottinghamshire) on 11th.

New waders continued to pop up, though one long-stayer was the female Dotterel at Crimdon Dene (Durham) until 10th. New in were an adult Semi-palmated Sandpiper at Ring Marsh (Co. Wexford) on 11th–12th — the first of the year — then moving to Tacumshin on 13th and an unconfirmed report of a Kentish Plover at Cley (Norfolk) on 14th. The first Little Stints will start moving through soon, with one at Shell Ness (Kent) on 14th. Also check the BirdGuides facebook page for a link to an amazing partial-leucistic, orange-legged Little Stint that looks more like a stunted Ruff!

Semipalmated Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper, Ring Marsh, Wexford (Photo: Paul & Andrea Kelly)

The Pectoral Sandpiper remained at Rossie Bog (Fife) on 8th–12th and an adult dropped into Titchwell (Norfolk) on 10th–12th, then presumably moving to Welney (Norfolk) on 13th–14th. The Titchwell Pec shared the marsh with the Buff-breasted Sandpiper, which remained until the end of the week though was sometimes rather elusive, and a rather brown Knot did cause some temporary confusion. For info, the bird is now best seen in the evenings. There was one last Pec, at Sandwich Bay (Kent) on 14th, and elsewhere, an adult Terek Sandpiper was at Blennerville (Co. Kerry) on 11th–13th.

Pectoral Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper, Sandwich Bay, Kent (Photo: Steve Ray)

Buff-breasted Sandpiper
Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Titchwell RSPB, Norfolk (Photo: Bill Plumb)

Terek Sandpiper
Terek Sandpiper, Blennerville, Kerry (Photo: Ed Carty)

Presumably with increased seawatching effort the number of skua records was going to increase. A single Pomarine Skua went past Whitburn (Durham) on 10th, as did an impressive 1,143 Common Scoters in six hours. Long-tailed Skuas were seen past Helvick Head (Co. Waterford) on 10th and at West Burra (Shetland) and past Blackpool (Lancashire) on 11th.

A single adult Ring-billed Gull was at Nimmo’s Pier (Co. Galway) on 10th, with a juvenile Glaucous Gull at Youghal (Co. Waterford) on 10th–11th. Other Glaucs were a first-year bird at Hornsea Mere (East Yorkshire) on 13th and an adult at Port Nis, Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 14th.

Gull numbers continued to build, with various sites reporting interesting mixed flocks. The highlights came from Rutland Water (Leicestershire) on 9th (one Caspian and seven Yellow-leggeds), King George VI Reservoir (Surrey) on 10th (one Caspian and 50 Yellow-leggeds), and the pig fields at Blythburgh (Suffolk). This flock held a first-summer Caspian, 22 Yellow-leggeds and 60+ Mediterranean Gulls on 13th and a probable Baltic Gull, a first-summer Caspian, 34 Yellow-leggeds and 86 Med Gulls on 14th.

Other single Caspian Gulls were adults at Church Wilne Reservoir (Derbyshire) on 13th and Whisby Nature Park (Lincolnshire) on 14th. The French colour-ringed Kittiwake was still at Pleasley Colliery (Derbyshire) to 11th and another (or possibly the same) was at Willington GPs (Derbyshire) on 12th.

Caspian Gull
Caspian Gull, Whisby Nature Park, Lincolnshire (Photo: Dean Nicholson)

In Ireland, the second-summer Laughing Gull sat on the beach at Ballycastle (Co. Antrim) enjoying chips and pizza to the end of the week. There was no report of the Forster’s Tern from Tacumshin (Co. Wexford), though it may well still be present.

Laughing Gull
Laughing Gull, Ballycastle, Antrim (Photo: Mark Carmody)

Devon’s Gull-billed Tern continued to commute up and down the Exe estuary until 11th, variously seen at Exton, Bowling Green Marsh (usually in the evenings) and also as far as Exmouth on its last day.

A rather early returning Wryneck was at Roydon Common (Norfolk) on 14th, though expectedly elusive. A late Alpine Swift headed south along Spurn Point (East Yorkshire) on 11th in the company of 3,000 Swifts and there was also a Pallid Swift with Swifts briefly over a garden in Lymm (Cheshire) on 14th.

After last week’s moan at the lack of passerine news, this week was even worse. The best we could muster was a report of a singing Savi’s Warbler at Blacktoft Sands (East Yorkshire) on 12th–13th, and the male Channel Wagtail at Fiskerton Fen (Lincolnshire) was again reported on 14th.

Photo of the Week

Oystercatcher, Killard NR, Down (Photo: Craig Nash)

The amount of litter on our beaches has doubled over the last 20 years, with the majority of it being non-biodegradable plastic items. Marine littering affects wildlife in countless different ways, many of which would be beyond the imagination of those discarding items around our coasts or at sea. This week, bird photographer Craig Nash submitted an image that perfectly illustrates the problem. Discovering a dead Oystercatcher on his local shoreline, Craig came to realise that the emaciated bird had starved to death as a result if getting its lower mandible stuck in a plastic and metal disc. Craig's image shows that, as well as depicting Nature's beauty and diversity, wildlife photography can raise awareness of real threats and help to change the behaviours that create them. Although it won't solve problems overnight, history has shown that the long-term influence of powerful imagery can be huge.

Other notable photos

Little Owl
Little Owl, Whitstable, Kent (Photo: Mike Gould)

Spotted Flycatcher
Spotted Flycatcher, Fressingfield, Suffolk (Photo: Jon Evans)

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl, Skomer, Pembrokeshire (Photo: Peter Walkden)

Gannet, Fife Ness, Fife (Photo: John Anderson)

Puffin, Farne Islands, Northumberland (Photo: John Betts)

Lesser Kestrel
Lesser Kestrel, Italy (Photo: Paolo Caretta)

Yellow Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail, March, Cambridgeshire (Photo: Bob Garrett)

Sandwich Tern
Sandwich Tern, Brownsea Island NT, Dorset (Photo: Maxwell)

Arctic Tern
Arctic Tern, undisclosed site, Lothian (Photo: Mike Thrower)

Great Skua
Great Skua, Hermaness NNR, Unst, Shetland (Photo: Jason Atkinson)

Little Owl
Little Owl, Charlecote, Warwickshire (Photo: Mike Lane)

Sand Martin
Sand Martin, undisclosed site, Worcestershire (Photo: John Robinson)

Sedge Warbler
Sedge Warbler, undisclosed site, Lancashire (Photo: David Cookson)

Blue Tit
Blue Tit, Courance, Dumfries & Galloway (Photo: Brian Henderson)

Common Redstart
Common Redstart, Long Mynd, Shropshire (Photo: John Fielding)

Grey Heron
Grey Heron, Brandon Marsh NR, Warwickshire (Photo: Kath Everitt)

Little Egret
Little Egret, Cley Marshes NWT, Norfolk (Photo: Ben the Plumber)

Arctic Skua
Arctic Skua, Tresta, Fetlar, Shetland (Photo: Mark Ranner)

Grasshopper Warbler
Grasshopper Warbler, Mull, Argyll (Photo: Pauline Greenhalgh)

Written by: Mark Grantham