SLOW SUMMER BIRDING
The long, hot and dry spell of midsummer did not produce a great rush of rare birds
June 2018 will probably be remembered more for its glorious weather and England’s unexpected progress in the World Cup than for the quality and quantity of the rare birds in the country. That said, there were, of course, plenty of good birds about, just in June-style quantities. One of the most exciting birds for many birders was an old favourite relocating. The Royal Tern which first appeared on Guernsey in February last year, was last seen there in early May. But on 19 June it reappeared, this time on the British mainland for the first time. Initially discovered at Church Norton (Pagham Harbour), West Sussex, within the Sandwich Tern colony, it stayed on to roost. Early birders on the 20th saw the tern fly out to sea not long after 4.30am and it was not seen again in West Sussex. However, in the evening, it was found again, this time 75 miles further west at Weymouth, Dorset, visiting Lodmoor RSPB and Ferrybridge. The next morning it was on Weymouth beach, but has not been seen since 21st. Surely, this is not the last we will see of this ‘long-staying’ bird, which is the sixth ever in the UK. Previous birds have been in Cornwall, Glamorgan (two), Lothian and Gwynedd; the latter being the most recent record, in June 2009 at Porth Ceiriad, Abersoch, Porthmadog and Llandudno. Much of the rest of the rare bird news for the month was dominated by warblers, particularly early in the month. Chief among these warblers was a male Moltoni’s Warbler, singing and calling at Blakeney Point, Norfolk. Hot on the heels of the Duncansby Head, Highland, Moltoni’s, which was last seen on 30 May, the Norfolk individual was found on the 2nd. Those who could face up to the challenge of the long shingle trudge to the point could enjoy the Moltoni’s Warbler until the evening of 3rd. Intrepid walkers over the next couple of days were compensated for the absence of the Moltoni’s with a Paddyfield Warbler (4th to 5th) and a Short-toed Lark (as well as a possible Marmora’s Warbler). Other warbler stars included a singing River Warbler at Skirza, Highland, near the northernmost tip of Great Britain (3rd). Great Reed Warblers are much less regular visitors than they once were, and there were a pleasing three during the month, at Dungneness RSPB, Kent,
Halligarth, Unst, Shetland, and Fen Drayton Lakes RSPB, Cambridgeshire. Greenish Warblers were at Rattray Head and Girdle Ness, Aberdeenshire, and also at Bardsey Island, Gwynedd. Early on, there were Savis’s Warblers reeling at London Wetland Centre WWT, Spurn, East Yorkshire and Minsmere, Suffolk. Half a dozen new Icterine Warblers were found, particularly on Shetland, and there were a dozen or so new Marsh Warblers during the month. And talking of master singers, a male whitespotted Bluethroat was ‘holding territory’ at a site with restricted access in eastern England in the middle of the month, though no female was thought to be present. A remarkable four, widely-scattered, male Black-headed Buntings were seen during the month. They were at Bridlington, East Yorkshire (2nd), Moylgrove, Pembrokeshire (6th), Brims Ness, Highland (17th-18th) and at Norwick, Unst, Shetland (from 26th).
Rare ‘wading birds’
A Semipalmated Sandpiper was a great find at Washington WWT, Co. Durham (21st). A Pacific Golden Plover was at St Gothian Sands, Gwithian, and nearby Hayle Estuary, Cornwall on 29th and 30th. Other rarer waders during June included a Marsh Sandpiper at Pennington Marshes, Hampshire (10th); and Buff-breasted Sandpipers at Davidstow Airfield, Cornwall, and Potter Heigham, Norfolk, mid-month. On a slightly larger scale, a Squacco Heron was at Kilnsea, East Yorkshire on the 29th into early July. Meanwhile, Bonaparte’s Gulls were at Crossness, London (first-summer), Oare Marshes, Kent (adult), and Tiree, Argyll (first-summer).
Continuing one of the themes of the year, Snowy Owls were still grabbing some of the headlines in June. Individuals were present at Bigton, Mainland, Shetland, St Kilda, Outer Hebrides, Point Lynas, Anglesey and Stronsay, Orkney, during the month.
The Rose-coloured Starling influx continued at a pace, with nearly 100 ‘new’ birds recorded across the country by the end of the month. Most were found around the coasts, but there were a decent handful of reports from well inland. How many will come out of the woodwork during the rest of the summer remains to be seen. As we have said before, keep your eyes peeled on those Starling flocks, including the early autumn pre-roost murmurations.
Bonaparte’s Gull, Oare Marshes, Kent, June
Above: Spoonbills, Pennington Marshes, Hampshire, 10 June