FLAVA OF SPRING RARITIES
Possible ship-jumping North American rarities dominated the headlines, reports Lee Evans
APRIL WAS DOMINATED BY COLD northerly winds, pegging back migration by at least three weeks. Despite the weather, it was a busy month for rarities. The undoubted highlights involved two (presumably) shipassisted strays – a male Snowy Owl from Canada and a first-summer male Gambell’s White-crowned Sparrow. The heavily-sodden owl was found by local Nigel Wheatley the very next day after he’d found a Greenland Gyr, both in Kenidjack Valley in West Cornwall. It spent most of the day sat on a stone wall high above the valley throughout 4th. It flew as it got dark, presumably to hunt, but was not seen again then until 15th, this time favouring a stone wall at Cape Cornwall. On 17th, it was seen at Bartinney Downs, before making the 19-mile journey to Tresco (Scilly) next day, where it commuted between Shipman Head Down and Hell Bay on Bryher and Castle Down on Tresco for the remainder of the month. The White-crowned Sparrow was plucked out of a mist net at Woolston Eyes LNR (Cheshire) on 30th April and was found to be of the western form gambelli, the first of that form to make it to this side of the Atlantic. After release it was seen briefly by the first 25 twitching birders, but then by none thereafter. It was only the 7th record for Britain, the first two both being seen in May 1977. Lee Evans is the UK’S most well-known and fanatical ‘twitcher’, having recorded 585 species in Britain and Ireland, 863 in the wider Western Palearctic and 386 in just one calendar year in the UK. He has written many ornithological publications and runs numerous birding tours throughout the year, including custom-led trips. Visit bbabirding.blogspot.co.uk and uk400clubrarebird alert. blogspot.co.uk Earlier, the Isle of Man played host to a Darkeyed Junco at the Point of Ayre for the day on 2nd. An Alpine Accentor was photographed during the afternoon of 13th April along the clifftop footpath south of Brownwich Farm, west of Titchfield Haven NNR (Hants). The month will also be remembered for its unusual influx of Iberian-type Chiffchaffs, numbering at least 15. Although most turned out to be collybita that had presumably spent a considerable time held up in NW Iberia, five were actually non-mimics and the real deal. The first was a long-staying singing male in Shropshire – at Granville Country Park, Telford, from 10th – followed next day by one at Little Treleaver on the Lizard (Cornwall). A third was discovered on Tresco (Scilly) on 17th, before Kent’s second-ever was discovered at Reculver on 20th and the fifth and Kent’s third at Northdown Park, Margate, from 23rd-27th. The Pacific Diver remained in Mount’s Bay (Cornwall) until at least 26th while White-billed Diver numbers increased with the arrival of at least 10 offshore of Portsoy (Aberdeenshire).