From seabirds to passerines, August delivered the goods, reports Lee Evans
Lee Evans reviews the rare birds seen in the UK and Ireland throughout August
AUGUST WAS A very busy month in terms of rare vagrants, with no fewer than 12 new species being added to the country’s year list and thus pushing the cumulative Britain and Ireland total to a very impressive 413 species. If we take the continuing Purple Gallinule out of the equation, the highlights of the month were both seabirds and both in the Republic of Ireland – a stowaway immature Brown Booby off County Kerry and a near-adult Royal Tern in Counties Kerry, Clare and Mayo. The booby roosted overnight on a trawler not far offshore of Dingle on 13th-14th, while the tern pitched up on Roonagh Lough, south-west of Louisburgh, on 16th-17th, entertaining and pleasing 19 of Ireland’s top twitchers before being relocated at Beale Point, north-west of Listowel, on 23rd. It then became a bit easier, roosting with Sandwich Terns at Littor Point in Bunnaclugga Bay for almost a week, being last noted on 28th. An adult White-billed Diver off Murcar Beach (Aberdeenshire) on 14th was most unexpected, while the only Red-necked Grebes inland involved singles at Abberton Reservoir (Essex) until 7th and a juvenile at Farmoor Reservoir (Oxon) from 22nd. It was an excellent August for the scarcer seabirds, with bumper numbers of both Cory’s and Great Shearwaters, particularly off Ireland and Cornwall/scilly and involving numbers of 200 or more on several days, and almost a dozen Fea’s Petrels with the majority off Ireland but also including singles past Pendeen Watchpoint (Cornwall) on 28th and Port Eynon Point (Glamorgan) on 21st. There was a massive displacement of Balearic Shearwaters in the English Channel on 20th, with 532 past Portland Bill (Dorset), 287 past St Aldhelm’s Head (Dorset) and 116 past Rame Head (Cornwall) and Wilson’s Petrels almost on a daily basis from the Scilly boat trips, including six on 4th and four on 22nd. At least one Wilson’s Petrel flew west past Pendeen on 21st while on Fair Isle, one of the previously ringed Swinhoe’s Petrels was trapped there again overnight on both 14th-15th August. In west Cornwall, the adult Dalmatian Pelican remained on the Hayle Estuary from 1st-4th, before moving back to the Restronguet Creek Point Quay on 5th-23rd and discovering Helston Loe Pool from 25th into September. A single barking male Little Bittern remained at Ham Wall RSPB, Shapwick Heath (Somerset) until 2nd, while the first in Bedfordshire in more than 120 years involved a juvenile at The Pillinge Pit, Marston Vale Millenium Country Park all day on 20th. Several Cattle Egrets remained, with long-staying, semi-resident birds at Marshside
Marsh RSPB, Southport (Lancs) and Tacumshin (Co. Wexford), two at the Nene Washes RSPB (Cambs) on 18th-21st, Sandwich Bay (Kent) on 18th and at Slimbridge WWT (Gloucs) on 21st. Great White Egret numbers levelled out at about 35, including at least nine juveniles from this year’s nesting attempts on the Somerset Levels. A Squacco Heron visited Far Ings NR, just south of the River Humber (North Lincs), from 4th-8th, with Purple Herons at Hickling Broad (Norfolk) on 3rd, Otmoor RSPB (Oxon) from 7th into September and at Brandon Marsh NR (Warks) on 17th, White Storks were at Beddington Sewage Farm, Croydon (Surrey) until 6th, Pulborough Brooks RSPB (West Sussex) again on 7th, Coward’s Marsh, Christchurch (Dorset) on 7th and over Portland Harbour (Dorset) on 8th. A Black Stork flew over Soham (Cambs) on 6th. At least 16 Glossy Ibises were recorded, several now seemingly resident, such as the pair at Ham Wall RSPB; with perhaps 52 Spoonbills in the UK. Two Ruddy Shelducks remained in East Kent at Pegwell Bay and environs from 10th-19th, while in Highland, the drake Black Duck remained with Mallard at Loch Sunart, Strontian, throughout. An unseasonal Ring-necked Duck on Fair Isle (Shetland) on 23rd was not only that island’s second record but the first since October 1978. The drake deglandi White-winged Scoter continued to moult off Blackdog Dunes (Aberdeenshire) until at least 22nd, as did at least two Surf Scoters, 43 Velvet and upwards of 2,200 Common.
Raptors to terns
Up to four different Honey Buzzards were found to be summering on the Suffolk coastal belt around Minsmere, Westleton and Walberswick. Also in Suffolk, Britain’s first-ever Purple Gallinule stayed at Minsmere RSPB until dusk on 5th. For those that dipped over the weekend that followed, there was a reprieve when it (or another adult) was located just south of the River Humber in north Lincolnshire at Alkborough Flats NR on 30th, surviving to at least 12th September. Spotted Crakes were once again scarce, with that at Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB (Cheshire) being seen to 4th and an oft-confiding juvenile at North Cave Wetlands NR (East Yorks) from 16th to the month’s end. August is the month for rare waders and this year a wide variety was recorded. A Kentish Plover was at Pegwell Bay (Kent) on 10th, Pacific Golden Plovers at Tacumshin on 14th and on Tiree (Argyll) on 29th-30th, five Temminck’s Stints, Least Sandpipers at Cley NWT (Norfolk) on 7th-8th July (initially misidentified as a Temminck’s Stint), Black Hole Marsh, Seaton (Devon) on 2nd-3rd (with an incredible two present on 3rd), Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) on 13th and at Cloughaun Lough, near Loop Head (Co. Clare) from 14th-20th. Semipalmated Sandpipers were on the Gann Estuary at Dale (Pembs) on 4th-7th, Balgarva, South Uist (Outer Hebrides) on 20th-22nd and at Ferriter’s Cove, Ballyferriter (Co. Kerry) from 26th-31st and White-rumped Sandpipers at Montrose Basin LNR (Angus) on 1st-3rd, Frampton Marsh RSPB (Lincs) on 1st-6th, Cley Marshes NWT on 4th and 17th, Snettisham (Norfolk) again on 6th, Belfast Lough RSPB (Co. Down) on 3rd-7th, Girdleness (Aberdeenshire) on 10th-15th and Amble Harbour (Northumberland) from 21st-31st. A Terek Sandpiper visited Tacumshin on 21st-22nd, and a Solitary Sandpiper was at Cloughaun Lough, Loop Head, on 15th-18th, while
an influx of August Spotted Sandpipers included adults at Hauxley NR (Northumberland) from 4th-26th, Sutton Bingham Reservoir (Somerset) on 5th-8th, South Efford Marsh, Aveton Gifford (Devon) from 8th-20th and Fluke Dub, Dunbar (Lothian) from 15th-22nd, with an early juvenile on Tiree from 14th-18th and further arrivals on Great Skellig (Co. Kerry) and Cape Clear Island (Co. Cork) on 31st. There was also an influx of Lesser Yellowlegs from North America with singles on the Swords Estuary (Co. Dublin) from 11th-15th, Ring Marsh (Co. Wexford) on 14th, Clonakilty (Co. Cork) on 16th, Black Rock (Co. Cork) on 19th, Blithfield Reservoir (Staffs) on 20th and Vange Marshes RSPB (Essex) on 21st-31st, with the only Baird’s Sandpiper, a juvenile, on Packards South, Hatfield Moors NNR (South Yorks) from 30th, Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Portnoo on 15th and an arrival of at least 16 widely scattered Pectoral Sandpipers. A juvenile Red-necked Phalarope remained at Snettisham Pits (Norfolk) from 8th-16th, with two together at Tacumshin on 11th. A dozen or so juvenile Long-tailed Skuas were seen, including a confiding dark-morph feeding on a dead Oystercatcher at Ainsdale Beach (Lancs) on 22nd, with the long-staying adult Bonaparte’s Gull at Oare Marshes (Kent) all month, the adult Azorean Atlantic Gull at Stanwick GP (Northants) again from mid-month, a marked arrival of Caspian Gulls involving at least 65 individuals, one or two Sabine’s Gulls in The Minch, Skye (Highland), all month, the Forster’s Tern in County Louth all month and White-winged Black Terns at Meikle Loch (Aberdeenshire) on 5th, Watermead CP (Leics) on 21st, Lodmoor (Dorset) on 27th, Llangorse Lake (Powys) on 28th and Saltholme Pools (Cleveland) on 29th. Hoopoe sightings came from Aldborough Hatch on 18th and Portsmouth (Hants) from 25th-30th, with Bee-eaters on Biggar Ferry (North Sea) on 4th, Walberswick (Suffolk) on 16th and Minsmere RSPB on 18th. There was a major arrival of Wrynecks from 11th, eventually involving 70 or more individuals by the month’s end. The first of the autumn’s Citrine Wagtails involved juveniles on Bardsey Island (Pembs) on 17th and Polgigga (Cornwall) on 25th-26th, while Barred Warblers began appearing from the second week, with perhaps eight recorded by 31st, including two at Spurn (East Yorks). An Aquatic Warbler was ringed at Titchfield Haven NNR (Hants) on 13th, with one at Pagham Harbour (West Sussex) on 16th and one at Lytchett Fields, Poole Harbour (Dorset) on 31st. Other rare warblers included an extremely early Blyth’s Reed Warbler on Fair Isle on 28th, 18 Icterine Warblers, eight Melodious Warblers, early Booted Warblers on Fetlar (Shetland) on 22nd, at Porthgwarra (Cornwall) on 23rd, Sumburgh Head (Shetland) from 27th-31st and on Fair Isle on 27th-31st, a possible Sykes’ Warbler on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 28th, Western Bonelli’s Warbler on Bardsey Island on 15th-17th, Arctic Warblers at Scatness (Shetland) on 28th and Geosetter Burn (Shetland) on 29th and an influx of at least a dozen Greenish Warblers. An early male Red-breasted Flycatcher was on Shetland late in the month, while nine Red-backed Shrikes appeared, a Rose-coloured Starling at East Mey (Highland) on 8th (adult) and Fair Isle on 31st (juvenile) and Ortolan Buntings at Skokholm (Pembs) and Spurn Point on 17th and at a number of Dorset localities during 25th-31st soundrecorded overnight.
Great Shearwater, Scilly pelagic, 20 August
Lee Evans is the UK’S most well-known and fanatical ‘twitcher’, having recorded 588 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
Purple Gallinule (Swamphen), Minsmere, Suffolk, 31 July
ABOVE (LEFT TO RIGHT) Icterine Warbler, Garrison, St Mary’s, Scilly, 19 August
ABOVE (CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT) Royal Tern, Beale Point, Co. Kerry, Ireland, 23 August
Least Sandpiper, Seaton Marshes, Devon August
Wilson’s Petrel, Scilly pelagic, 20 August
Terek Sandpiper, Tacumshin Lake, Co. Wexford, Ireland, 22 August