AUGUST’S RARE DELIGHTS
August never fails to produce a decent smattering of rare birds, and this year was no exception
There are few sites in the UK so productive for great birds and yet so relatively underwatched as Frampton Marsh RSPB in south Lincolnshire. Brilliantly situated very close to The Wash and brilliantly managed to maximise the action, Frampton delivered the goods once again in style during August. Top of the bill was a moulting adult Stilt Sandpiper which appeared on 22nd, the first in the county for more than 50 years. The next day, this beauty of a North American shorebird was sharing a pool with a hyperactive juvenile Red-necked Phalarope. And the day after that, a more elusive moulting adult Long-billed Dowitcher was also present, there (though the phalarope departed in the morning). By the end of the month, the Stilt Sandpiper was still showing to all comers and the Long-billed Dowitcher had begun a routine of touring different shallow habitats on the reserve, sometimes very close to the few viewers there to enjoy this rare American shorebird. And just to illustrate how great Frampton is, in early September, both the Stilt Sandpiper and dowitcher were even seen next to each other, like a scene from a North American wetland. Other interesting juxtapositions of rare birds, this month, included Citrine Wagtail and Spotted Sandpiper being photographed together at Porth Hellick, St Mary’s, Scilly, on 21st (though the wagtail was generally favouring Lower Moors, there). The juvenile Spotted Sandpiper took second fiddle on Scilly (in terms of rare American waders), as an adult Solitary Sandpiper was hogging the limelight on the Great Pool on Tresco. This first properly twitchable one since 2012 was, you may recall, predicted in our ‘Rarity Predictor’ in this year’s September issue (page 9)! The dark-rumped beauty was found on 15th and stuck around until 25th, allowing anyone who wanted it plenty of time to make the pilgrimage. Another North American bird which stirred up quite a bit of attention was an American Black Tern, a juvenile, which turned up at Dungeness RSPB, Kent, in the company of Black Terns
(up to 80 at times late in the month; so allowing side by side comparison of features such as the dusky flanks). It turned up on 21st and was last seen on 30th. This was the first record for Kent, and only just more than a dozen have ever been recorded in the UK. It was also the first American Black Tern since a juvenile in Lincolnshire in September 2012. Surely it is only a matter of time before this bird, currently regarded as a subspecies of Black Tern (surinamensis), gets full species status. Also from across the pond were an expected smattering of more regular waders, with a juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper at Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk (18th-23rd) and the Lesser Yellowlegs at Titchwell Marsh RSPB, Norfolk to 4th. An adult White-rumped Sandpiper proved particularly photogenic at Pool of Virkie, Shetland (from 15th).
Other rare stars
The Sooty Tern was last seen on the Ythan Estuary, Aberdeenshire on 5th. A female Hooded Merganser took up residence on Shetland (mainly on Mainland), though was reported to be suspiciously tame by some observers. Like many wildfowl species, Hooded Merganser suffers from popularity in collections, and this bird suffered extra stigma in being seen on little more than a ‘pond’ which has apparently been ‘used’ as a place to abandon unwanted domestic geese and ducks over the years… Also from North America, but surely more believably wild, was a Blue-winged Teal at Alkborough Flats, Lincolnshire (11th). Once again, the late summer pelagic season off Scilly delivered a fine crop of the desired species. One trip on 9th produced 14 Wilson’s Petrels (with 10 on 16th), while a further excursion on 18th providing superb totals of 350 Cory’s Shearwaters and 750 Great Shearwaters. Taking high counts to extremes was a flock of Cattle Egrets at South Huish Marsh, Devon, which reached an incredible 51 in number on 28th. Also in the South West region, one of the most intriguing birds of the month was an Iduna warbler seen at the seabirding hotspot of Porthgwarra, Cornwall on 30th. Photos confirmed that it was not the more familiar Booted Warbler, but rather the much rarer (but extremely similar) Sykes’s Warbler. With fewer than 20 accepted records in the country, this is a bird which is highly sought-after by many birders.
Wilson’s Petrel, Pelagic off Scilly, 16 August
Above: Stilt Sandpiper, Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincolnshire, 22 August