Three new birds to the UK included a much-anticipated Siberian visitor, reports Lee Evans
Lee Evans reviews the rare birds seen in the UK and Ireland throughout September
SEPTEMBER SAW A deluge of rarities, with Ireland continuing to excel and the Northern Isles of Scotland taking a full hit. Records were being broken, with the total number of species recorded combined breaching 340, almost as many as were recorded in the whole of 2015. An incredible three new birds for the UK have appeared in the last month. The most recent was a magnificent Siberian Accentor on Shetland found in early October (more on this next month). The other two were Red-footed Booby and Eastern Kingbird, both in September. The adult brown-morph, white-tailed Red-footed Booby came hard on the heels of last month’s Irish Brown Booby. This individual was seemingly moribund, being picked up on a St Leonards Beach, near Hastings (East Sussex), after being watched for a couple of hours at very close range on 4th. It was taken to a local animal hospital, then the RSPCA Centre at Mallydams, where it reasonably quickly made a recovery. It remained in care at the centre into October. This Caribbean species has recently colonised Cape Verde. With a highly volatile hurricane season in full swing and a jetstream making a direct beeline for the Outer Hebrides and Shetland, it came as no surprise that the first of the Nearctic passerines would arrive, heralded by a first-winter Yellow- billed Cuckoo that spent a day in a South Dell garden, just south of Ness, at the far north-west of the island of Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 28th. Although not seen next day, its occurrence was eclipsed later that afternoon, when the island of Barra (Outer Hebrides) hit back with the UK’S first-ever Eastern Kingbird at Eoligarry, showing well sallying after insects in a sheltered garden opposite the churchyard. This third for Britain and Ireland continued to show well up until dusk and for much of the following day, before flying high north to South Uist, where it was relocated on South Uist on 2nd October. Again, its reappearance was brief, the bird flying off high to the north early afternoon. Also associated with this arrival were a couple of Swainson’s Thrushes (singles on Tiree on 23rd and on South Uist on 23rd-24th), a Rose-breasted Grosbeak at Firkeel, Garinish (Co. Cork) from 29th, four Red-eyed Vireos (including two in Ireland and two on St Agnes from 26th) and Scilly’s fifth Cliff Swallow at Porthellick Pool, St Mary’s, from 6th-10th. Scotland also saw the first-ever September Brünnich’s Guillemot appearance, with a sickly first-summer swimming close inshore of the pier at Anstruther Harbour (Fife) from at least 25th (possibly 8th) which was found dead on 30th. September also saw an unprecedented invasion
of Yellow-browed Warblers from mid-month, involving at least 1,200 individuals. Although the majority were recorded in the Northern Isles, a mammoth 137 made landfall in the Flamborough/ Bempton area (East Yorks) on 21st. A seawatch from Cape Clear Island (Co. Cork) on 3rd resulted in the passage of no fewer than 2,243 Great Shearwaters and 725 Cory’s Shearwaters past as well as a Fea’s Petrel, while equally exceptional was a Cory’s Shearwater that flew south-west over Regent’s Park (Central London) on 15th. A further Fea’s flew past Pendeen Watchpoint (Cornwall) on 3rd, while Wilson’s Petrels included late singles from the Scilly Pelagics on 1st and 5th, two from a Galley Head (Co. Cork) pelagic on 6th and another off Brandon Point (Co. Kerry) on 16th. About 60 Leach’s Petrels were noted, including a first-year at Queen Mother Reservoir (Berks) on 10th. About eight Cattle Egrets remained from August with those in the Dungeness RSPB area (Kent) and Marshside Marsh RSPB (Lancs) all month, with 40 or more Great White Egrets, including 19 in Avon/ Somerset. A long-staying juvenile Purple Heron remained at Otmoor RSPB (Oxon). A Black Stork was over Portland (Dorset) on 7th and at Roadford Reservoir (Devon) next day. Up to a dozen Glossy Ibis were seen. Intriguingly, there was a flock of 24 Snow Geese at Banks Marsh, Southport (Lancs) from 25th August to 9th, including a single juvenile and presumably part of a post-moulting dispersal from the German/dutch border population. The drake Black Duck remained at Strontian (Highland) throughout; with a drake American Wigeon at Cossington Meadows (Leics) from 8th-22nd and a drake Ferruginous Duck of unknown origin at Brent Reservoir (London) from 20th-30th. September saw another influx of Pallid Harriers, with as many as 10 recorded, including one or two on Shetland’s south Mainland. Ireland saw yet another Semipalmated Plover record, while a juvenile Kentish Plover entertained those at Spurn (East Yorks) on 10th. Pacific Golden Plovers were identified on Tiree (Argyll) on 1st-3rd and on Inner Farne (Northumberland) on 13th; with at least a dozen American Golden Plovers recorded, mostly in Ireland. There were seven Temminck’s Stints, the long-staying Hudsonian Whimbrel in Boat Cove, Perranuthnoe (Cornwall) all month, and a Great Snipe on Fair Isle (Shetland) from 16th-20th and on the Out Skerries (Shetland) on 27th. An exceptional influx of Baird’s Sandpipers included at least nine in Ireland and singles at Boisdale, South Uist (Outer Hebrides) on 7th, Upton Warren NR (Worcs) from 9th-16th, Seafield (Lothian) on 17th, on the Gannel Estuary, Newquay (Cornwall) from 25th-30th and at Boulmer Beach (Northumberland) from 30th. There were single White-rumped Sandpipers at Filey Brigg (North Yorks) from 8th-10th and at Pennington Marshes (Hants) from 19th-24th. It has been an excellent autumn for Semipalmated Sandpipers, particularly in Ireland, with up to five together at Tacumshin (Co. Wexford). A juvenile Western Sandpiper was at Aird an Runair beach, Balranald RSPB (Outer Hebrides) from 31st August to 3rd. The biggest influx of juvenile Buff-breasted Sandpipers for years, with 28 birds seen, included five on Tiree, four on Scilly and confiding birds at Marazion Beach and Davidstow Airfield, Cornwall. There were 23 Pectoral Sandpipers. Lesser Yellowlegs were well above average in number, with five in Ireland and singles at several British sites. Two ‘new’ Long-billed Dowitchers were in Ireland and two Red-necked Phalaropes of at Dungeness ARC Pit (Kent) on 2nd-3rd and Thorney Little Deep (West Sussex) from 5th-12th. The regular adult Azorean Atlantic Gull roosted regularly at either Stanwick GP (Northants) or Grafham Water (Cambs) with at least two additional birds in Ireland, while inland Sabine’s
Gulls involved an adult at Elton Hall Flash, Sandbach (Cheshire) on 5th and juvenile at Queen Mother Reservoir (Berks) on 20th and Upton Warren NR (Worcs) on 21st-22nd. An adult Franklin’s Gull remained at Whittle Dene Reservoir (Northumberland) from 16th-20th, with the adult Forster’s Tern in Co. Louth throughout, a juvenile Whiskered Tern at College/ Argal Reservoirs, Falmouth (Cornwall) from 14th-18th and White-winged Black Terns at Rishton Reservoir (Lancs) on 4th, on the River Thames in the Cliffe/east Tilbury area (Kent/essex) on 5th-8th, off Mudeford Quay, Christchurch (Dorset) on 6th, South Gare (Cleveland) on 7th and Carsington Water (Derbyshire) on 12th. Of half a dozen Hoopoes, popular ones included singles on Shetland at Easter Quarff from 26th30th and in north Norfolk at Brancaster Golf Course from 20th-28th. Some 38 Wrynecks were noted (mostly in the South West). There were six Short-toed Larks, Tawny Pipits at Dungeness Beach on 11th, Easington Gas Terminal (East Yorks) on 11th, Titchwell Marsh RSPB (Norfolk) on 12th and at Exmouth (Devon) on 20th; several early Richard’s Pipits; four Red-throated Pipits (mostly on islands) and Citrine Wagtails at Longtown on the River Esk (Cumbria) on 3rd-4th, Fair Isle on 13th (two), St Agnes on 14th and on Benbecula (Outer Hebrides) on 26th. A showy Thrush Nightingale spent the day on Holy Island (Northumberland) on 18th, with seven Bluethroats recorded (mostly on Shetland) and a very early one or two Red-flanked Bluetails at East Hills, Wells-next-the-sea (Norfolk) on 18th. There was a paucity of Barred Warbler sightings, with just 17 reported, the odd Subalpine Warbler, an Aquatic Warbler in Lytchett Bay (Dorset) on 1st, early Lanceolated Warblers on Fair Isle on 13th, 21st and 26th and near Sumburgh on 26th, and a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler trapped and ringed at Kew, Kilnsea (East Yorks) on 16th. There was an excellent crop of Blyth’s Reed Warblers on Shetland, involving at least eight individuals; Paddyfield Warblers at Nanquidno (Cornwall) on 7th and on Fair Isle on 28th; a Great Reed Warbler on Shetland on 22nd; 18 Icterine Warblers; eight Melodious Warblers including two long-staying birds on Bardsey Island (Gwynedd). Booted Warblers were on Shetland at Sumburgh Farm on 3rd and 9th-12th, Fair Isle on 4th-9th, Noss on 7th-11th, Melby on 9th and at Funzie, Fetlar on 10th. Western Bonelli’s Warblers were at Galley Head (Co. Cork) on 15th-17th and at Watermill Cove, St Mary’s (Scilly) on 24th-27th. An early Dusky Warbler was at Burrafirth, Unst (Shetland) on 28th, and an early Radde’s Warbler on Unst on 29th-30th. Arctic Warblers appeared on Sanday (Orkney) on 3rd, at Valyie, Unst, on 3rd-7th, East Hills, Wells (Norfolk) on 15th-16th, Landguard NR (Suffolk) on 20th, Hoswick (Shetland) on 23rd-28th, Ham, Foula (Shetland) on 27th-29th and Frakkafield (Shetland) on 28th. At least nine Greenish Warblers and upwards of 2,000 Yellow-browed Warblers followed the first arrivals, exceptionally early in the month. Red-breasted Flycatchers were well represented, with 33 noted, 17 Red-backed Shrikes, a very early Isabelline Shrike on Foula from 17th-20th and juvenile Woodchat Shrikes in the Lyth Valley (Cumbria) on 4th-5th, Wyke Regis (Dorset) on 11th, Tresco Heliport (Scilly) on 16th-19th and at South Efford Marsh, Aveton Gifford (South Devon) from 24th-30th. Most unexpected was a white-ringed juvenile Lesser Grey Shrike from a Spanish reintroduction scheme in Northumberland at the Long Nanny Burn from 13th-15th, while an exceptionally confiding adult remained at Jennycliff Slope, Mount Batten, Plymouth (Devon) from 19th-27th. Some 15 juvenile Rose-coloured Starlings were recorded, a Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll on Unst on 28th-30th, 25 plus Little Buntings, a Rustic Bunting on Papa Westray (Orkney) on 9th, 23 Ortolan Buntings and an immature/female Black-headed Bunting at Haroldswick, Unst on 17th.
Siberian Accentor, Scousburgh, Mainland, Shetland, 9 October
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 uk400clubrarebirdalert.blogspot.co.uk
ABOVE (LEFT TO RIGHT) Eastern Crowned Warbler, Bempton Cliffs, East Yorkshire, 6 October
White-rumped Sandpiper, Filey Brigg, East Yorkshire, 8 September
ABOVE (CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT) Eastern Kingbird, Barra, Outer Hebrides, 30 September.
Brünnich’s Guillemot, Anstruther, Fife, September
Bairds Sandpiper and Lapwing, Upton Warren, Worcestershire, 11 September