AU­GUST’S RARE DE­LIGHTS

Au­gust never fails to pro­duce a de­cent smat­ter­ing of rare birds, and this year was no ex­cep­tion

Bird Watching (UK) - - UK Bird Sightings -

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

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