Two more ‘firsts’ appear during a record breaking October, reports Lee Evans
A review of the rare birds seen throughout the UK during October
OCTOBER 2016 WILL go down in history as one of the best months for rare vagrants ever, as an extended period of south-easterly winds saw a flood of extremely rare visitors pour in. Another two species (at least) will be added to the British List. One of these will surely be the biggest bird story of this year of new birds and extreme rarities: Siberian Accentor. After a few examples of this delightful little relative of the Dunnock had appeared in Finland and Sweden, many UK birders were predicting the arrival of the UK’S first. Our own Shetland UKBS correspondent Hugh Harrop and his friend and colleague Judd Hunt came up with the goods with a showy, beautiful individual at Scousburgh, Mainland, Shetland on 9th October. A few of the keenest (and wealthiest!) UK listers rushed up to see the bird still present for one more day. The rest of the nation looked on in agony. But it was short-lived pain, as the UK’S second Siberian Accentor duly turned up at Easington, East Yorkshire on 13th. The floodgates were opened and what appeared a once-in-a-lifetime find soon turned into the first of at least 13 Siberian Accentors found in the UK, all in north-east England or Scotland, particularly the Northern Isles. This was part of a movement of at least 220 into Sweden, Finland, Norway, Germany, Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and the Netherlands. The second ‘new’ bird for the British List will be either Pale-legged Warbler or Sakhalin Warbler, after one was found dead at St Agnes, Scilly on 21st. DNA will confirm the specific identity of this individual of this otherwise just about inseparable (in the field) pair. An immature Black-browed Albatross that flew south past Filey Brigg (North Yorks) on 5th was seen by more than 50 fortuitous observers at Bempton Cliffs (East Yorks) less than half an hour later before passing Flamborough Head at two locations and out into Bridlington Bay. The following afternoon, the same bird was off Cley Coastguards (Norfolk), and other Norfolk sites. Another was then seen north off Sheigra, Highland, on 7th, which perhaps was tracked past Bardsey Island (Gwynedd) on 16th, Lundy (Devon) on 17th and south past Cape Cornwall (Cornwall) on 18th. A Fea’s Petrel flew west past North Ronladsay (Orkney) on 30th. There was a big upsurge in Cattle Egret numbers during the month, including a flock of four at Blithfield Reservoir (Staffs) on 16th then into Cheshire (joining another), and a further flock of five at Slimbridge WWT (Gloucs) from 26th-31st. Meanwhile, Great White Egrets reached new heights, with more than 100 individuals present in Britain and Ireland by the end of the month,
including a record 24 together at Chew Valley Lake (Avon) from 20th, 14 in the Dungeness area (Kent) and an exceptional 11 in the North West, at Burton Mere Wetlands, Cheshire. A juvenile White-tailed Eagle roosted overnight on Black Down, near Blagdon Lake (Avon) on 28th-29th, being later reported over Cheddar Reservoir (Somerset). Another batch of Pallid Harrier sightings including singles in Shetland’s south Mainland until at least 12th, Potteric Carr YWT (South Yorks) on 14th and at Greylake RSPB (Somerset Levels) on 17th-19th. A juvenile Sora frequented the Tresco Great Pool (Scilly) from at least 2nd-15th with another found dead at Exminster Marshes RSPB (Devon) on 17th. The adult Purple Gallinule (aka Swamphen) remained resident but elusive at Alkborough Flats (North Lincolnshire) throughout. Some 15 American Golden Plovers were noted, plus a Pacific Golden Plover at Rattray Head (Aberdeenshire) on 9th. A Great Snipe was at Norwick, Unst (Shetland) from 3rd-7th, a Sharptailed Sandpiper at Carrahane Strand (Co. Kerry) on 7th; late Baird’s Sandpipers were at Boulmer Beach (Northumberland) until 15th, Davidstow Airfield (Cornwall) on 2nd-6th, Low Newton-bythe-sea (Northumberland) on 7th-16th and Kenfig Pool (Glamorgan) on 13th-15th. Six Lesser Yellowlegs included long-staying individuals in Dorset and Somerset, Long-billed Dowitchers at Frampton Marsh RSPB (Lincs) all month, at Oare Marshes, Faversham (Kent) from 15th, Dundalk Harbour (Co. Louth) from 20th-31st and at Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) from 20th. Adult Franklin’s Gulls were at Whittle Dene Reservoir (Northumberland) until 6th and on the Hayle Estuary (Cornwall) from 26th-29th. The first Caspian Tern for Scilly was on St Mary’s, on 6th, later moving to Penzance (Cornwall) then north Devon to the Taw Estuary at Yelland on 7th-8th. The only October Pallid Swifts to be correctly identified were singles on St Mary’s (Scilly) on 24th and on Lundy (Devon) the following day. Nine late Hoopoes were located, as were five Wrynecks. Eight Short-toed Larks included a very confiding bird at St Agnes Head (Cornwall) from 12th-18th. Late Tawny Pipits were at Gore Point, Exmouth (Devon) on 10th and Langstone Harbour (Hants) on 14th, Blyth’s Pipits on Scilly on St Mary’s on 4th-5th and 31st, just 34 Richard’s Pipits, a Buff-bellied Pipit at Dunmoran Strand (Co. Sligo) from 31st, a massive arrival of Olive-backed Pipits perhaps involving 75 individuals. A Pechora Pipit was on Fair Isle from 2nd-7th; Red-throated Pipits on St Mary’s on 7th and Fair Isle from 2nd-6th, An influx of Eastern Yellow Wagtails included singles at Carinish, South Uist (Outer Hebrides) on 11th, St Mary’s (Scilly) on 13th-18th, Cley and Salthouse (Norfolk) on 17th-20th and in the Bosistow area (Cornwall) on 29th and a popular black-bellied Dipper on the River Gipping in Needham Market (Suffolk) from 21st, which stayed into November. Some 20 plus Bluethroats were found, plus a record 37 Red-flanked Bluetails, including the first for Northern Ireland, at St John’s Point (Co. Down) on 8th-10th. An unprecedented influx of Eastern Black Redstarts included first-year males at Spurn Point (East Yorks) on 25th, Donna Nook (Lincs) on 26th-28th and a long-stayer at Skinningrove (Cleveland) from 27th. There was also a record influx of Isabelline Wheatears, including singles at Spiggie (Shetland) on 16th-20th, Easington (East Yorks) from 17th-21st, Godrevy Point (Cornwall) on 20th, Burnham Overy Dunes (Norfolk) from 22nd into November, and a first-winter well inland at Wardy Hill (Cambs) from 29th-30th. Desert Wheatears were at Hartlepool (Cleveland) on 14th, Bridlington North Beach (East Yorks) on 15th-17th, Spiggie (Shetland) on 18th-21st, Gun Hill, Burnham Overy Dunes (Norfolk) on 22nd-26th and Cley/salthouse Beach (Norfolk) on 25th-27th; and Pied Wheatears at Flamborough Head on 14th, Scatness (Shetland)
from 14th-19th, Redcar (Cleveland) on 29th-30th and at Donmouth (Aberdeenshire) on 30th. There was a remarkable influx of ‘Eastern Stonechats’ involving at least a dozen western Siberian (maurus types), perhaps five Stejneger’s (including a first-winter trapped and ringed at Landguard Bird Observatory, Suffolk, on 6th-7th) and a first-winter Caspian on St Mary’s (Scilly) on 21st-22nd. A Swainson’s Thrush remained at Aith, Fetlar (Shetland), from 3rd-7th with an amazing run of White’s Thrushes involving singles at Hamnavoe (Shetland) on 3rd, Kirkwall (Orkney) on 3rd, Fetlar on 5th, Holy Island (Northumberland) on 5th, Skaw, Unst, on 7th and Spiggie (Shetland) on 17th. A first-winter male Siberian Thrush was at Uyeasound, Unst, on 6th while an influx of Black-throated Thrushes included singles on the Out Skerries (Shetland) on 3rd, Sullom Plantation (Shetland) on 4th and Scolt Head Island (Norfolk) on 13th-14th. A Dusky Thrush made landfall on the Isle of Scilly on Peninnis Head, St Mary’s, on 26th constituting the first record for that archipelago. Meanwhile, it was a good month for Barred Warblers with 28 discovered; two different Western Orphean Warblers with singles at Loch of Benston (Shetland) on 6th and trapped and ringed at Firth (Orkney) on 18th-22nd, more than 40 Siberian Lesser Whitethroats, a Desert Lesser Whitethroat at Filey North Cliff Country Park (North Yorks) on 18th. A showy Western Subalpine Warbler was on St Mary’s (Scilly) in Hugh Town on 9th-19th and another at Portland Bill (Dorset) on 5th. Lanceolated Warblers were at Boddam (Shetland) on 2nd and Fair Isle on 2nd-4th; and a remarkable 24 Blyth’s Reed Warblers included 13 on Shetland during 20th September to 15th October. Paddyfield Warblers were on Unst on 2nd-3rd, Flamborough Head on 12th and Nanjizal (Cornwall) on 20th. A very obliging Booted Warbler on the Great Orme (Conwy) from 3rd-7th; a Western Bonelli’s Warbler was on the Isle of May (Fife) on 6th. There was a huge invasion of Dusky Warblers totalling more than 80 individuals and including no fewer than 10 on the Spurn peninsula alone (East Yorks) on 12th-14th. There were also 33 Radde’s Warblers, Arctic Warblers on Fair Isle on 2nd, Bempton Cliffs RSPB (East Yorks) on 6th-8th, Prior’s Park, Tynemouth (Northumberland) on 9th-10th and on Barra (Outer Hebrides) on 13th. An Eastern Crowned Warbler was at Bempton Cliffs RSPB on 4th-6th (fourth British record). There was a Two-barred Greenish Warbler on Papa Westray (Orkney) on 9th. Hume’s Leaf Warblers were at Flamborough on 22nd-24th and 26th-29th, Bempton Cliffs RSPB on 25th and Rhossili (Pembs) on 30th-31st. There were also 44 Pallas’s Leaf Warblers and 39 Red-breasted Flycatchers. An exceptional influx of Brown Shrikes included single first-years at Voe (Shetland) on 6th-7th, Sanday (Orkney) and at Spurn Point on 31st and late juvenile Woodchat Shrikes at Whitburn (Tyne and Wear) on 3rd, South Efford Marshes (Devon) on 2nd-7th, Spurn Point from 11th-12th and at Mizen Head (Co. Cork) on 13th-15th. Isabelline Shrikes were at Girdle Ness (Aberdeenshire) on 18th-19th, Holy Island on 18th-19th, Colchester Hythe (Essex) on 27th-28th, Walney Island (Cumbria) on 28th, South Shields (Tyne and Wear) on 28th-30th, Verne Common, Portland (Dorset) on 30th and at Toe Head (Co. Cork) on 31st. In the Outer Hebrides, the UK’S first Eastern Kingbird was relocated briefly on South Uist on 2nd while a bumper arrival of eight Nearctic Red-eyed Vireos included two in St Agnes Parsonage (Scilly) from 25th September. An unprecedented arrival of Pine Buntings including no fewer than four on Fair Isle during 11th-25th, a male at Hillwell (Shetland) on 22nd and further immature on Blakeney Point (Norfolk) on 24th, Bressay on 25th and trapped and ringed on Portland Bill (Dorset) on 26th. A Black-faced Bunting was on Bressay, Shetland.
ABOVE (LEFT TO RIGHT) Red-flanked Bluetail, Donna Nook, Lincolnshire, 15 October Eastern Black Redstart, Skinningrove, Cleveland, 28 October
Wryneck, St Mary’s Scilly, 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...
ABOVE (CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT) Caspian Tern, Porthellick, St Mary’s, Scilly, 6 October Subalpine Warbler, Hugh Town, St Mary’s, Scilly October Isabelline Wheatear, Burnham Overy, Norfolk, 31 October Swainson’s Thrush, Fetlar, Shetland, October