Rar­ity Round-up

THE BEST RARE BIRDS SEEN ALL AROUND BRI­TAIN IN APRIL

Bird Watching (UK) - - Contents - COM­PILED BY: MIKE WEE­DON

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

Of course, April saw a dra­matic in­crease in the num­ber of scarce and rare birds, as it al­ways does. This year, though, April’s main rar­ity head­lines were dom­i­nated by three fish-eat­ing species which had crossed the North At­lantic. The first of these head­line birds was an Amer­i­can Bittern at Carl­ton Marsh, Suffolk. Ini­tially pho­tographed as a ‘Bittern’ (7th), the bird was re-iden­ti­fied as Amer­i­can Bittern al­most as soon as the pho­tos were posted on so­cial me­dia. Then, the twitch was on. Early adopters found the bird dif­fi­cult to con­nect with in test­ing con­di­tions, but it gave it­self up to flight views on its ‘sec­ond day’, when it was seen fly­ing with a Bittern. This was a pre­cur­sor to a pat­tern of be­hav­iour that lucky visi­tors were able to wit­ness at re­spectable dis­tances through scopes. It turned out that the Amer­i­can Bittern was look­ing for a mate, and the lo­cal fe­male Bit­terns would do in the ab­sence of its own species. There was much flirt­ing and the show­ing of bright white shoul­der flashes and more pur­suits. In early May, it fi­nally started adding a bit of boom­ing (Amer­i­can-style) to its reper­toire of dis­play moves. The Amer­i­can Bittern was cer­tainly a male. Though, for the first sev­eral days the views were in­vari­ably dis­tant, by the fourth week of the month, in­cred­i­ble shots of the lovely heron started to emerge on­line, show­ing it­self won­der­fully well and up close, to some lucky pho­tog­ra­phers. Twitch­ing an MP’S gar­den But the Amer­i­can Bittern was not the only North Amer­i­can heron to pro­vide as­ton­ish­ing views dur­ing April. On 28 April, Si­mon Hart MP (Con­ser­va­tive) dis­cov­ered a Green Heron on one of the ponds in his ex­ten­sive gar­den at Llan-mill, Pem­brokeshire. Luck­ily, he was open to vis­it­ing bird­ers com­ing and set­ting up out­side his kitchen win­dow to view the beau­ti­ful, lit­tle, first-sum­mer heron, at least un­til the end of the first week of May, af­ter which visi­tors were not wel­come. Though the bird could on oc­ca­sions prove very elu­sive, it was typ­i­cally not par­tic­u­larly shy when it did ap­pear for the ex­pec­tant pho­tog­ra­phers. This was only the sec­ond record of Green Heron in Wales, af­ter one at Red Wharf Bay, An­gle­sey in

A dis­play­ing Amer­i­can Bittern was the best bird of the spring so far, for many bird­ers

Novem­ber 2005. In fact, there have only been 10 pre­vi­ous ac­cepted records, the last be­ing a bird which stayed for nearly two months from Oc­to­ber to De­cem­ber 2010, at the Lost Gar­dens of Heli­gan, Corn­wall. An eleventh record for the UK is not bad for a gar­den bird, is it?

A real Bel­ter

The third of the fish-eat­ing Amer­i­can birds was not a heron, but a king­fisher. What would be the fourth Belted King­fisher this mil­len­nium (and ninth UK record ever), was found on St Mary’s, Scilly, on the af­ter­noon of 18th, and re­lo­cated in the evening. But it was not seen since. The last UK Belted King­fisher was ini­tially found on 1 April 2005, at Tiall, Stafford­shire, and widely thought to be an April Fool’s Day hoax at the time. But the next day, it reap­peared at Eas­tring­ton Ponds, East York­shire; and the day af­ter that it had found its way to Peter­cul­ter, Aberdeen­shire (4th-8th). Though there was hope that Scilly’s April Belted King­fisher would be sim­i­larly re-found else­where, it had not been dis­cov­ered by the end of the sec­ond week of April.

Other se­lected rar­i­ties

Con­tin­u­ing the fish­ing birds theme, there was an un­usual (to say the least) re­port of a Lit­tle Bittern on a win­dowsill at Tenby, Pem­brokeshire, on 18th. Other rare birds en­coun­tered dur­ing April in­cluded the lin­ger­ing Amer­i­can Horned Lark, at Staines Reser­voirs, Sur­rey, which was last seen on the 14th. A cou­ple of days later, a re­mark­able count of 32 White-billed Divers was made on a boat trip off the Aberdeen­shire coast. The Amer­i­can White-winged Scoter was still off Mus­sel­burgh La­goons, Loth­ian, through­out April and into May. The fe­male Snowy Owl at St David’s Head re­mained un­til 7th. The next day one was at New Quay, Ceredi­gion. An­other was on San­day, Orkney, in the last week of the month. The Lin­colnshire (and pre­vi­ously Nor­folk) fe­male Snowy Owl made an un­ex­pected re-ap­pear­ance at Tabb’s Head, near Framp­ton Marsh in early May. The third week in April saw a surge of Black Kite records, par­tic­u­larly in the east and south­east, with birds seen over Dorset, Kent, East Sus­sex and even wan­der­ing over Lon­don, plus the odd bird over East Anglia. There were at least nine records of Alpine Swift, dur­ing the month, mainly in the south­ern and east­ern half of Eng­land. Up to three were to­gether at Lizard, Corn­wall (10th). There were also dozens of Hoopoes seen, mainly in the south, west and south-west of the coun­try. Pen­du­line Tits were at Low­est­oft, Suffolk; and Tyt­ten­hanger GP, Hert­ford­shire, a first for the county. Also a county first, was a Bon­a­parte’s Gull in Cam­bridgeshire, an adult ini­tially seen at the Ouse Washes, then at RSPB Fen Dray­ton Lakes.

Amer­i­can Bittern, Carl­ton Marshes, Suffolk, April BOOM TIME!

Above:: Green Heron, Llan-mill, Pem­brokeshire, 28 April

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