The best rare birds seen in the UK and Ireland throughout July
Hands up if you have ever heard of Trindade Petrel, or even can point to Trindade Island on a map. For this bird was potentially the great find of the month (and perhaps of the year). The bird was seen by a group of sea watchers at Porthgwarra, Cornwall on 29 July. Trindade Petrel is a Pterodroma species, closely related to birds such as the Fea’s Petrel and Zino’s Petrel, though potentially distinguishable in the field (being somewhat ‘hooded’ in pale birds, and with dark undertail coverts etc). It breeds in the Southern Atlantic, some 1,100km east of Brazil (which owns the territory) on Trindade and Martim Vaz Islands (and possibly also on Round Island in the Indian Ocean). The global population possibly numbers in the few thousands. In the Pacific Ocean there are very closely related species with which it was formerly lumped, called the Herald Petrel (and the darker Henderson Petrel) Trindade Petrels have been seen somewhat regularly off the south-eastern USA and have been recorded off the Azores (which sit astride the Mid-atlantic Ridge); so the possibility of one wandering into British waters is very much ‘real’. A seabird which is also associated with island nesting, but which is much more abundant on a global scale, is the Sooty Tern. There have been only about 30 Sooty Terns ever seen in the UK, so these handsome birds remain very desirable. So, the finding of one on the Farne Islands, Northumberland on 7th was special. The bird returned on 19th and was also seen at Long Nanny, Northumberland. The next day, however, it relocated to the Ythan Estuary, Aberdeenshire, where it was seen on several dates until the end of the first week of August. Prior to this bird, the last ‘twitchable’ Sooty Tern in the UK was the long-staying individual seen on Anglesey (and in Ireland) in July and August 2005, so it is understandable that this year’s Sooty proved popular. A less tropical seabird, but even rarer in the UK, is Audouin’s Gull, a Mediterranean breeding species, which has seen an upsurge in its population over recent years. Despite this, there
have only been eight accepted records in the UK (the first being at the ‘Audouin’s hotspot’, Dungeness, Kent, in May 2003; and the latest being at the same site in October 2013). All previous records have been coastal (typical for this species), so it was extra special when a second-summer Audouin’s Gull was found on the River Don, at Norfolk Bridge, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, on the early evening of 13th (departing early on 14th). And while on the subject of rare gulls, an adult Franklin’s Gull (just more than 100 UK records) was a great find at Scaling Dam Reservoir, Cleveland, on 21st. It was still present into the first week of August.
Moving away from seabirds, one of the rarest, as well as most attractive, rare birds of the month was the adult male Greater Sand Plover on the beach at Easington, East Yorkshire, on 14th and 15th. There have only been about 20 accepted records of this Asian plover in the UK, and the last was a female in June 2012 (at the delightfully named Stinky Bay, Benbecula, Outer Hebrides). Continuing the plover theme, Pacific Golden Plovers were at Hayle Estuary, Cornwall (to 1st) and Findhorn Bay, Moray and Nairn from 31st into August.
The best of the rest
Other notable rare birds around the country included a singing male Little Bittern at Chelmarsh Reservoir, Shropshire (6th to 13th). A Squacco Heron was seen at Llangwm, Pembrokeshire, on 4th, after the Kilnsea, East Yorkshire, Squacco had departed (on 1st). Purple Herons were at Rutland Water (into August), Studland, Dorset, March Farmers, Cambridgeshire, and Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, Kent, during the month. Rutland Water also had a couple of Glossy Ibises during July. A Lesser Yellowlegs took up residence at Titchwell RSPB, Norfolk, after a brief spell at Buckenham Marshes RSPB, in the same county. There was a family of four Black-winged Stilts (two juveniles) at Oare Marshes, Kent from 5th to the end of the month. The lingering male was again at Potter Heigham, Norfolk, mid-month. A group of four Bee-eaters seen over Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire (4th) were presumably the same four seen at Minsmere, Suffolk the next day. From more northerly climes, Snowy Owls were on Anglesey and North Uist. Up to three Two-barred Crossbills were on Westray, Orkney (19th to 23rd). Finally, there were still at least a dozen or so Rose-coloured Starlings in the country during the month, though nearly all were on Scottish islands.
Lesser Yellowlegs, Titchwell RSPB, Norfolk, 13 July
Above: Male Little Bittern, Chelmarsh Reservoir, Shropshire, 8 July