Rar­ity Round-up

June saw a po­ten­tial first for the UK and some very rare breed­ing birds

Bird Watching (UK) - - Contents -

The best rare birds seen in the UK and Ire­land through­out June

AN­OTHER MONTH comes and goes and an­other po­ten­tial ‘first’ ap­pears, look­ing for ad­mit­tance to the Bri­tish List. June’s con­tri­bu­tion to this trend was an El­e­gant Tern which was first seen on Hayling Is­land, Hamp­shire, on 7 June, then re­lo­cated to Church Nor­ton at Pagham Har­bour, West Sus­sex, on 10th. There, it set­tled with Sand­wich Terns and was iden­ti­fied to a par­tic­u­lar in­di­vid­ual, by its coloured rings. How­ever, it moved fur­ther west on 21 June, set­tling for a cou­ple of days on Brownsea Is­land in Poole Har­bour, Dorset. It was a colour-ringed and Dna-tested bird of known prove­nance, known as ‘Bird C’ aka Sterna 2, one of three proven ‘ge­net­i­cally pure’ El­e­gant Terns which have been vis­it­ing Euro­pean waters since the turn of the Mil­len­nium. This in­di­vid­ual, a male, was first seen at Bac d’ar­guin in France in 2002, and was colour-ringed in July 2003, and has bred with fe­male Sand­wich Terns over sev­eral years in France. In­ter­est­ingly, its hy­brid off­spring have looked much more like Sand­wich Terns than El­e­gant Terns, sug­gest­ing that the pre­vi­ous ‘El­e­gant-look­ing’ birds which have oc­curred in the UK and Ire­land may well be true El­e­gant Terns, rather than hy­brids. So, although this month’s bird will doubt­less gain ac­cep­tance to the Bri­tish List, per­haps fur­ther re­views may bump it down the peck­ing or­der of oc­cur­rence (af­ter birds seen in 2002 in Devon, 2002 in Caernar­fon­shire and 2005 in Dorset). Dur­ing the tern’s stay in Sus­sex, the south of the coun­try en­joyed a bit of a heat­wave, which is usu­ally a sig­nal to for­get bird­watch­ing and find some al­ter­na­tive pur­suit. But this would have been a ma­jor er­ror on the Pem­brokeshire is­land of Skokholm on 18 June, as a singing male Yel­lowrumped War­bler had taken the stage at the court­yard, for one day only. A dozen or so watch­ers were able to con­nect with the im­mac­u­late Amer­i­can beauty be­fore its pre­sumed overnight de­par­ture. There have been about 20 pre­vi­ous records of Yel­low-rumped War­bler in the UK, mostly in au­tumn and with only one hav­ing been in the coun­try in June (on Fair Isle in 1999). With only eight very widely spaced pre­vi­ous UK records (but five of them be­ing dur­ing June),

White-throated Needle­tail is an­other very rare and ex­tremely de­sir­able sum­mer bird. Al­most ex­actly four years since the fa­mous Harris in­di­vid­ual met its sad end af­ter ap­par­ently crash­ing into a small wind tur­bine, an­other was found on the Outer He­brides, this time on Barra, at Castle­bay (22 June). It was only seen for one day, dis­ap­pear­ing around mid­day and was not sub­se­quently re­lo­cated. One bird which did get re­lo­cated, this month, how­ever, was a Black-browed Al­ba­tross on the North Sea coast. You may re­call that in mid-may a Black-browed Al­ba­tross was seen and pho­tographed off Bemp­ton Cliffs, East York­shire, reap­pear­ing a few times on sub­se­quent days (13th-18th). Well, on 28 June (and per­haps 27 June), pre­sum­ably the same bird was back at Bemp­ton, even com­ing in to land among (and dwarf) the breed­ing Gan­nets, there. The next day, the al­ba­tross was seen pass­ing sites in Durham, Northum­ber­land, Bor­ders and Loth­ian, but at the time of writ­ing, in early July, has yet to be re­lo­cated yet again in Bri­tish waters. A seabird from dis­tant oceans which has also, for now at least, dis­ap­peared into un­watched seas, was a Sooty Tern which flew past Uisead Point, Ar­gyll on 2 June. Per­haps by the time you read this, it will have reap­peared some­where around our coast… At least one tern ap­pears to be en­gaged on a bit of a tour of sites scat­tered around the coun­try. From 20 June, there were Caspian Tern sight­ings at Leighton Moss RSPB, Lan­cashire, Sker Point and Ken­fig NNR, Glam­or­gan, and Na­tional Wet­lands Cen­tre WWT, Car­marthen, pos­si­bly all re­lat­ing to

the same in­di­vid­ual. At the be­gin­ning of July, pre­sum­ably the same bird turned up at a cou­ple of pits along the Nene Val­ley in Northamp­ton­shire, be­fore re­turn­ing to Car­marthen via Chew Val­ley Lake, Som­er­set. And while we are still in the ball park of rare seabirds, men­tion must be made of the three first-sum­mer Sabine’s Gulls found on the morn­ing of 24 June at Bel­vide Reser­voir, Stafford­shire. It is an un­usual enough age group of Sabine’s Gull in the UK, but at an in­land site, in June, and three of them! One of the trio turned up a cou­ple of days later at Noster­field Quarry, North York­shire, where it hung around into July.

Rare breed­ers

As noted last month, there was plenty of spec­u­la­tion that the pub­licly an­nounced breed­ing pair of Black-winged Stilts at Wel­ney WWT, Nor­folk, was prob­a­bly just the first of a few such an­nounce­ments. Dur­ing June, it was re­vealed that a pair of stilts had also bred at nearby Ouse Washes RSPB, over the bor­der in Cam­bridgeshire. This pair had two chicks, with at least one of them sur­viv­ing into July, though both may have been pro­tected by the feisty par­ents. Fur­ther east in Nor­folk, at the ex­cit­ing site of Pot­ter Heigham, a pair of Black-winged Stilts hatched four fluffy stilt chicks, which were still go­ing strong into the first week of July. Even more ex­cit­ing than breed­ing stilts, was the likely breed­ing of Bee-eaters at East Leake in Not­ting­hamshire (near the Le­ices­ter­shire bor­der, a bit north of Lough­bor­ough). The birds were first re­ported on 25 June, when there were three present at the quarry. By the next day, seven were seen, and park­ing ar­range­ments were al­ready be­ing or­gan­ised by the RSPB in a nearby field. In the first week of July, at least six were still present, and breed­ing was look­ing in­creas­ingly likely. By this time thou­sands of vis­i­tors had ap­par­ently made the pil­grim­age to wit­ness the mag­nif­i­cent birds. Bee-eaters only rarely try to nest in the UK. Re­cent breed­ing at­tempts have in­cluded a cou­ple of pairs near Bramp­ton, Carlisle, Cum­bria in 2015 and two pairs in 2014 on the Isle of Wight.

Slavo­nian Grebe, near Aviemore, High­land, June

 Bee-eater,East ABOVELeake, Not­ting­hamshire, 2 July Black-wingedç LEFT Stilt fam­ily, Pot­ter26 June Heigham, Nor­folk, ç BOT­TOM LEFT El­e­gant Tern, Pagham Har­bour, West Sus­sex, 17 June è RIGHT King Eider, Nether­town/carn­sore Point Co. Wex­ford 22 June

Num­ber of young 4 Black-winged Stilt young­sters at Pot­ter Heigham, Nor­folk

To­tal num­ber of 0 ac­cepted records of El­e­gant Tern in the UK

7 Max­i­mum sin­gle count of the Not­ting­hamshire Bee-eaters

 ABOVE (CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT) Red-footed Fal­con, Fren­sham Com­mon, Sur­rey, 11 June

Black-winged Stilt, Cley, Nor­folk, 3 June

Great White Egret, Holkham, Nor­folk, 26 May

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