Review of the Week: 8th-14th September 2001


With strong winds battering much of our coastline it is not surprising that sea-watching and gravel pit/reservoir watching has been the main pursuit for most birdwatchers during the past week. Extremely strong winds pushed along the east coast on the 9th and this resulted in good numbers of seabirds being observed, including small numbers of Long-tailed Skuas and Sabine's Gulls. Off several watchpoints in Ireland on the 8th up to 3,000 Leach's Petrels were noted passing with a good supporting cast of scarce seabirds. After a lull in conditions during the early part of the week a strong blow affected the western coasts yesterday and large numbers of Leach's Petrels were noted at many sites, including 305 off the Point of Ayr. Rare seabirds are always eagerly sought, and mixed in with the movements of the commoner species were a Little Shearwater reported from St. Abbs on the 9th, with another off Bardsey on the 13th. A Wilson's Petrel from there during the same day was a rare land-based observation and it completed a memorable sea-watch for the lucky observers. An orange-billed tern in Ireland last weekend was thought to probably be an Elegant Tern but its identity could not be confirmed.

In a week dominated by seabirds, the highlight was a juvenile Pallid Harrier on Shetland, which was only the 11th to ever be recorded and is only the second record since 1995. Many birders would love the opportunity to see this species as there have been no really twitchable birds on the mainland; surely it is only a matter of time before one is found at an accessible location? Not quite as rare, but an excellent find, a juvenile Stilt Sandpiper at Lough Beg will be only the 28th to be recorded and would no doubt have proved popular had it been more accessible. A supporting cast of Nearctic waders are also present across the country, though, as would be expected, many now comprise juvenile birds in westerly locations.

The autumn so far will not be remembered for the passerines. Traditionally September is the month that we can expect sizeable falls, but the weather conditions so far have been unfavourable for such events! However, small numbers of migrants are being located and the first Yellow-browed Warbler of the autumn was an early find on Shetland on the 12th. Hopefully, when the westerlies and then north-westerlies of the coming days have passed through we might see a change to an easterly airflow during the coming week to liven things up a bit...

Written by: Russell Slack, BirdGuides