FLAVA OF SPRING RAR­I­TIES

Pos­si­ble ship-jump­ing North Amer­i­can rar­i­ties dom­i­nated the head­lines, re­ports Lee Evans

Bird Watching (UK) - - Uk Bird Sightings -

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).

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