Monday, 20 November 2017

North Norfolk - 16th - 19th November

On the 16th Sarah and I headed up to Norfolk for a few days staying in a cottage in Great Bircham with our friends Julie and Trevor Codlin. It was Julie's birthday and the wives had wifey things planned for the 17th while the boys went birding and Tobias was with his cousins in Cheltenham - perfect.

On the morning of 17th we headed north from Great Bircham towards Titchwell pausing to scan the fields  around Choseley where we saw around six Corn Bunting and 12 Yellowhammer and picking up a few distant flocks of Pink-footed Goose, a distant Harrier was probably a Hen Harrier but the bird disappeared before we were able to get a scope onto it. A call from the wives then interrupted our birding as we had to head back to Great Bircham as Sarah had no keys to the car and so she needed to borrow mine, while there they then convinced us to drive them to Burnham Market where they were to spend the day shopping - and drinking Champagne! From Burnham Market we headed to Titchwell after a somewhat delayed start. In the carpark at Titchwell two Chiffchaff were showing well on the north edge of the car park and we spent a little while photographing these but they were a little high in a Sycamore. Walking through the Birch trees and out to the reedbeds we added Bearded Tit (heard only), Marsh Harrier (2), Water Rail and Redpoll to the day list. The various lagoons were remarkably empty and there was little of note with only small numbers of WigeonTealShovelerDunlin (15), Black-tailed Godwit (60) and three Knot. We spend some time at the shore scanning to sea where a dispersed flock of several hundred Common Scoter was very distant, single Slavonian Grebe and Eider, c.20 Red-breasted Merganser and Great-crested Grebe were recorded. On the shore there were large numbers of Common GullHerring Gull and Black-headed Gull and waders included Bar-tailed Godwit and Sanderling. Walking back from the shore past the lagoons the numbers of birds had increased with 34 Ruff, 35 Dunlin and approximately 175 Golden Plover plus an adult Yellow-legged Gull.

Chiffchaff - Titchwell RSPB

Pink-footed Goose - Titchwell RSPB

Little Grebe - Titchwell RSPB

Golden Plover - Titchwell RSPB

Yellow-legged Gull - Titchwell RSPB

We then headed a short way west along the coast to Thornham where we fairly quickly located the flock of around 20 Twite that winter at the site. There was little else here and so we soon headed for our next destination which was to try to locate the main feeding gathering of Pink-footed Goose which forms one of the greatest wildlife spectacles in the UK.

Twite - Thornham

Twite - Thornham

Twite - Thornham

Curlew - Thornham

Redshank - Thornham

With a general tip-off that the main Pink-footed Goose flock was feeding regularly on the road between Docking and Brancaster we headed in that general direction and it wasn't long before we located a distant flock of geese dropping into the fields to the east of the road. After navigating the lanes towards the flock we soon came across the main flock feeding in fields off Docking Road to the north of Cradle Hall Farm. It was impossible to estimate the numbers present but there must have been in the region of 15,000 birds in the Sugar Beet and stubble fields. The images and recordings below give an impression of the site that confronted us, an amazing sea of geese and a deafening cacophony of sound. This is a sight that has to be seen and heard to appreciate is full impact.
















And here are a couple of sound recordings, the first of a smaller flock flying over where the individual calls of the geese can be heard and the second of a huge flock taking flight and flying into the distance.







Sonogram of three calls of an individual Pink-footed Goose


After enjoying the geese and around 25 Grey Partridge in the same field, at 15:30 we had to head to Burnham Market to collect the wives and transfer them to Creake for hair appoinments while Trev and I headed to Lady Anne's Drive for dusk. We didn't see a great deal here although enjoyed views of flocks of Starling and Pink-footed Goose heading to roost and four Marsh Harrier dropping into their reedbed roosts for the night. After collecting the wives we headed for the cottage seeing a fly-over Barn Owl in the lights of the car.

On the 18th we were up at 06:30 and by 08:15 were at Weybourne scanning a stubble field for three Lapland Bunting that had been present for the last couple of days. The stubble field was large and there was nothing for it but to walk across it to find the birds. Fairly quickly a flock of around 25 Sky Lark went up and within the flock Trev and I could here the calls of Lapland Bunting and soon located them as the Sky Lark flock circled us. After tracking the flock down once they had landed we soon obtained views of at least two Lapland Bunting but the views were fairly poor as the birds were rather distant and often hidden by stubble. Also in this field were four Golden Plover and a couple of Yellowhammer.

Heading west along the coast we stopped at Salthouse for an Iceland Gull that had been reported but with no luck. At Cley a 'Black Brant' was quickly found in a flock of round 200 Brent Goose, the North American subspecies being quickly apparent by its more black and white appearance, extensive white flanks and well defined white necklace, however, a wide range of intergrades occur. We then stopped at the beach carpark at Cley and walked for around one kilometre east of the car park along the shingle bank looking for a reported flock of Snow Bunting but we saw little, although around 10 Grey Seal offshore entertained us for a while as they played in the breakers. We then headed to Holkham to try and find our own Snow Bunting or Shore Lark but with no luck, in fact we saw little here but for 35 Egyptian Goose, many Pink-footed Goose and Greylag Goose, two Stonechat, 15 Sky Lark, Treecreeper, three Coal Tit and ten Goldcrest. We met with the wives at midday and after a short walk on the beach we retired to the Victoria for lunch and drinks.

'Black Brant' - Cley

Grey Seal - Cley

The 19th was largely a driving day back to Hampshire (via Cheltenham to collect Tobias) and we reflected on a fantastic couple of days birding in Norfolk even through we had not seen any stand out bird species the Pink-footed Goose spectacle was a fantastic highlight of the weekend.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Pennington Marsh - 6th November

After dropping Tobias at school I paid a breif visit to Pennington Marsh mainly to see the Grey Phalarope that had been present since 26th October on Oxey Lagoon and two Cattle Egret that were found yesterday. Arriving at the car park at the bottom of Lower Pennington Lane I quickly located one of the two Cattle Egret preening on the north edge of Efford Lagoon. After a short while this single bird flew east and joined the second bird feeding around cattle on the campsite to the north of the Lower Pennington Lane carpark. I then headed to the coast hearing a Brambling fly over and a couple of Redpoll. At the coast there were good numbers of Brent Goose, Wigeon, Grey Plover, Dunlin and Knot while to sea there were 12 Great-crested Grebe and six Eider. At Oxey Lagoon the Grey Phalarope showed well in the morning sun as it fed in the western corner of the lagoon and I watched this bird for around 45 minutes. In the scrub along the edge of the lagoon were four vocal Dartford Warbler and a Firecrest - the latter is a scarce bird at Pennington.

Grey Phalarope - Oxey Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Grey Phalarope - Oxey Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Grey Phalarope - Oxey Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Brent Goose - Oxey Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Distant shot of one of the Cattle Egret - Lower Pennington Lane, Pennington Marsh

It was a beautiful still day and so I took my sound recording kit with me, here are a mixed flock of Wigeon recorded on Pennington Lagoon with the guttural female calls shown on the sonogram as vertical broadband lines and the evocative male 'wheeoo' calls shown as large inverted 'V's.





This is a recording of one of the Dartford Warbler I saw today. The recording is a substantial length of song while the sonogram shows a short sample of the same song. This was a singing male interacting with two immature birds so various calls can be heard in the recording. The sonogram conveys the scratchy sound of the song with occasional upward, downward and near constant frequency notes thrown in.





Finally, this is the Firecrest at Oxey Lagoon with various seeping calls and a single uprising contact call.


Sound Recording - Cowley Woods 1st November

I have spent many years recording and analysing bat calls as part of my work and have often considered experimenting with bird sound recording but have never done so. Having read the recent article on night sound recording in Birdwatch magazine and seeing the various samples posted on the Portland Bird Observatory website I thought I would finally give it a try. Initially I borrowed a Tascam DR05 from work but I quickly found that this recorder was not suitable (despite good reviews) for recording bird sounds. I found that the recordings were low level and that the playback on the recorder was poor, I considered that the ability to playback a recording at reasonable volume was important. After some research I opted for the Olympus LS-14 and although I tested the inbuilt microphones i found that these were not good enough for anything but the closest of birds. So I then tested a Sennheiser video-microphone that I have had for years but I couldnt get this to work. Finally after digging around I found my Sennheiser ME66 microphone which, again, I have had for many years but barely used. This was, and I believe still is, considered to be one of the best directional microphones for recording bird sounds. My research indicated that the Telinga set-up is the ultimate but this is a considerable financial outlay for one just commencing in bird sound recording.

I then investigated software for analysis of recorded bird sound and after some fairly quick research I decided that the Raven software was a good starting point. Having downloaded the free Raven Lite and watching a number of tutorial videos and reading some of the user manual I found this a fairly straightforward piece of software to get to basic grips with. I then opted to download the Raven Pro one year licence for USD100 with a view to extending this licence if my interest took off.

On 1st November I had my first opportunity to test my kit and here are a few recordings from wandering around Cowley village and to Cowley Woods near to Cheltenham. The calls were uploaded to Sound Cloud and the sonograms were generated in Raven Pro.

First I encountered a flock of Long-tailed Tit and recorded their 'zerrr' call. The sonograms generated remind me of horse heads with the higher pitched 'ze' element of the call forming the head and the lower pitched trilling 'rrr' the body of the horse.



 I then recorded this singing Robin. The recording levels are a little high and therefore there is some distortion to this recording but the sonogram shows some of the complexity of the song.



Here is a fairly distant (c.200m) Great-spotted Woodpecker showing its broadband 'pic' call.



I then encountered a flock of around 50 Redwing and in this sonogram the familiar 'seep' calls at around 7kHz and and low inverted 'V' of the 'gack' call at around 2.50 kHz at 0.4 and 2,5 seconds can be seen and heard,



Finally, at sunset this flock of House Sparrow were socialising just before settling down to roost. The sonogram is so busy that its simply fuzz from the shear level of calling by the birds.




So, I think that this is a fair start but initially I notice that there is a lot of noise to my recordings particularly in the lower frequency. I suspect this is simple background noise from the recording device as the frequency of this noise seems to be consistent across all recordings. There is a way to filter this noise in Raven Pro and I began to get to grips with this in the Robin recording, this reduced noise can be seen in the sonogram above which has a reduced fuzz along the bottom of the sonogram. During my investigations to find suitable kit to commence sound recording I found the following websites very useful and I hope they are useful for you if you decide to embark on this rapidly evolving element of birding.

Resources
ABA Blog - How to Record Birdsong Part 1
Audubon - A beginners Guide to Recording Bird Vocalisation's
Ear Birding Blog
How to Visualise Bird Sounds
Macaulay Library - Audio Recording Techniques
Raven Sound Analysis Software
Sound Approach
Understanding Sonograms
Wild Mountain Echoes

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Rarities in October 2017

Introduction
This is my summary of records of rare birds from the UK in October 2017, this is not aimed at being a comprehensive account of all the rare species in the UK in this month, for such accounts see the Birdguides review of the week or the Rare Bird Alert weekly round-up. I am largely writing this as a personal record of rarity records to aid my knowledge and feed my interest in UK birds. The dates provided under each species are only the date of the finding of that bird, 'megas' are shown in red and a full date range for these species is shown. I have only included confirmed records and, generally, have not included possibles or probables. The photographs that I used have been gleaned from the internet, I aim to provide the photographer with full credit and a link to their website or blog, if you see that one of yours has been used and you object to this then please email me and I will remove it immediately, alternatively if you would like to supply a better image or additional information or links then I will add. Contact me at simon@ecosa.co.uk

NEARCTIC SPECIES
Figure 1 shows the weather system from the 1st October which resulted in the arrival of the American Cliff Swallow on Tresco, Cedar Waxwing on St. Agnes and Red-eyed Vireo on Mizen Head. Note the rapidly moving remnants of Hurricane Maria which swept south of Low 977 on Monday night and resulted in the arrival of these birds. Hurricane Maria lashed Dominica on 19th September and was the tenth-most intense Atlantic hurricane on record, the worst natural disaster in Dominica in its recorded history, and the strongest hurricane to make landfall in Puerto Rico since 1928.

Figure 1 - Synoptic chart for 1st October

After a settled period mid-month a series of low pressure systems sweeping across the Atlantic from 20th to 26th October produced a few more American vagrants including a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Cliff Swallow, three Grey-cheeked Thrush, Blackpoll Warbler and a Common Yellowthroat (on 28th). The synoptic chart in Figure 2 is typical of the weather patterns of this period.


Figure 2 - Synoptic chart for 20th October

American White-winged Scoter
A juvenile male was found at Sand Water, Yell, Shetland on the morning of 18th October before flying off and being relocated at Belmont, Unst in the afternoon of the 18th. The bird was then present until 22nd October.

There are two previously accepted records of American White-winged Scoter as follows:
  • River Esk, Musselburgh - 26th December 2013, an adult male.
  • Murcar, Aberdeens - 11th - 23rd June 2011, a first-summer male.

Northern Harrier
Cottascarth, Mainland / Orkney - Adult male on 14th October was presumably the same bird that winter on North Ronaldsay between 25th September 2015 and 28th February 2016 and again 23rd October 2016 until 17th April 2017.

There are eight British and seven Irish records of this species the bulk of records being from September to November. County Wexford has the greatest number of records with six.

Semipalmated Plover
First found on 13th September and still present on 15th October (see September Rarities for account).

Hudsonian Whimbrel
Easkey, Sligo - Found on 3rd September and still present on 2nd October (see September Rarities for account).

Semipalmated Sandpiper
Clonakilty, County Cork - 23rd October

Wilson's Phalarope
Oare Marshes, Kent - 1st winter 3rd October

Lesser Yellowlegs
Cape Clear, County Cork - 1st October
Inishmore, County Galway - 5th October
Lodmoor RSPB, Dorset - 5th October
Tacumshin, County Wexford - 7th October
Islanddavanna, County Clare - 22nd October
Tacumshin, Wexford - 28th October

Long-billed Dowitcher
Tacumshin, County Wexford - 1st October
Marshside RSPB, Lancashire - 9th October
Baile an Reannaigh, County Kerry - Two on 25th October

Wilson's Snipe
St, Mary's, Isles of Scilly - 10th-31st October with up to three birds claimed. The identification of this/ these bird/s has not been confirmed to date.

There are seven British and one Irish record of Wilson's Snipe. The Isles of Scilly are overwhelmingly the best location for this species within the UK with Lower Moors having held five of the eight records. Undoubtedly this difficult to identify species is overlooked, the bird hides at Lower Moors providing an excellent spot to study Snipe at close range provides optimum opportunities to locate this species. These records are as follows:
  • Lower Moors and Porth Hellick, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly - 28th September to 24th December 2011.
  • Wingletang, St Agnes, Isles of Scilly - 11th October 2008.
  • Lower Moors, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly - 21st October to 26th December 2007. Three birds together.
  • Lower Moors, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly - 3rd October 2007 until 22nd April 2008.
  • Lower Moors, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly - 9th October 1998 to 7th April 1999.
  • Coleraine, County Derry - 28th October 1991, shot.

Spotted Sandpiper
Cape Clear, County Cork - 5th October

Bonaparte's Gull
Dawlish Warren NNR / Devon

Forster's Tern
Soldier's Point, Louth - 8th October
Galway, County Galway - 26th October

Yellow-billed Cuckoo
St. Agnes, Scilly - 20th October. A typically moribund indivdual found sprawled on the lawn of Grinlinton Farm was taken into care but died overnight.

There are 64 British and 10 Irish records of Yellow-billed Cuckoo with 10 previous records from the Isles of Scilly. All records are from September to December with many of these birds being picked up dead or dying soon after their discovery.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo - Image by Robin Mawyer

Red-eyed Vireo
Mizen Head, County Cork - 3rd October
Glanfahan, County Kerry - 4th October
Dursey Island, County Cork - 5th October
Inishmore, County Galway - 7th October
Deerness, Mainland, Orkney - 8th October
Inishmore, Galway - 11th October (thought to be a different bird to that on 7th).
Porthgwarra, Cornwall - 12th October
Nanjizal, Cornwall - 15th October

American Cliff Swallow
Tresco and St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly -  Found on the 2nd on Tresco and present there until the early afternoon of the 3rd. In the later afternoon of the 3rd it was seen at Deep Point on St. Mary's and on the 4th - 6th was seen around North Hellick and the Airfield, St. Mary's. Then on 7th October it was seen at Porthgwarra for around 15 minutes at 09:00 before flying north.

On 22nd October one was reported flying past the seawatching hide at Spurn, East Yorkshire.

There are nine British and one Irish record of Cliff Swallow with records extending from 28th September to 5th December.  The Isles of Scilly are the prime location for this species with four of the 10 records.

  • St Agnes, St. Martins and St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly - First-winter, 26th -30th October 2001.
  • Titchfield Haven, Hampshire - 1st October 2000 (possibly same as Dorset). 
  • The Verne, Portland, Dorset - 29th to 30th September 2000.
  • St Mary's, Isles of Scilly - 28th to 30th September 2000.
  • Church Norton, Sussex - Juvenile, 1st October 1996.
  • Tresco, Isles of Scilly - Juvenile, 4th to 5th December 1995.
  • Dunmore Head, County Kerry - 16th November 1995.
  • Spurn, Yorkshire - Juvenile, 22nd - 28th October 1995.
  • South Gare, Cleveland - Juvenile, 23rd October 1988.
  • St Agnes and St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly - Juvenile, 10th - 27th October 1983.
Cliff Swallow, Tresco, Isles of Scilly by Jamie Partridge. More of Jamie's images can be viewed on his Twitter feed here and his blog here

Figure 2 shows the breeding (yellow) and wintering range of the species. American Cliff Swallow (like many hirundines) forms large post-breeding flocks, the migration southwards in the autumn largely occurs through Mexico and Central America to the wintering grounds in South America. It is rare to uncommon in the West Indies.


Cedar Waxwing
St. Agnes, Isles of Scilly - Juvenile 3rd - 10th October. On the 4th it showed well and was pinned down around the Santa Warna and Coastguards area of St. Agnes it then showed well on and off until its departure. Read the finders account here on Birdguides.

There are six British and two Irish records of Cedar Waxwing with records from February, June, September, October and November. Unusually for an American passerine, the peak month is June with four records. This is the second record for the Isles of Scilly.

  • Treginnis, St David's, Pembrokeshire - 26th June 2015
  • Scarinish, Tiree, Argyll - Adult male, 10th June 2015.
  • Isles of Scilly, Rosehill, St Mary's, adult male, 2nd -19th June 2015.
  • Vaul, Tiree, Argyll - Juvenile, 21st to 29th September 2013.
  • Termon, Mullet Peninsula, County Mayo - First-winter, 10th November 2012.
  • Inishbofin, County Galway - First-winter, 14th October 2009.
  • Nottingham, first-winter, 20th February to 18th March 1996.
  • Noss, Shetland - Adult 25-26th June 1985.
Cedar Waxwing - St. Agnes, Isles of Scilly by Kris Webb (Spider). Spider's account of the Cedar Waxwing record (and the June 2015 record) can be found on his blog here: Scilly Spider. His blog is a great account of day to day birding on Scilly and whenever I read it I want to get back to the islands.

American Buff-bellied Pipit
Grutness, Mainland, Shetland - 4th - 6th October.

There are 43 British records of this species with an additional 21 from Ireland. The species has been recorded in May, September, October and November with the peak month being October. Shetland is the top location for the species with 12 records while there are eight records from the Isles of Scilly.

American Buff-bellied Pipit _ Greatness, Mainland, Shetland. This image is one of Will Bowell's series of great images taken on the birds first afternoon. More of Will's fantastic images can be seen on his blog Just Wild Images here

Scarlet Tanager
Mizen Head, County Cork - 3rd-6th October

There are seven British and four Irish records of Scarlet Tanager with records extending from 28th September to 22nd October. The Isles of Scilly is the prime location for the species with four of the 11 British records being from here.

  • Brevig, Barra, Western Isles - First-winter female, 6th to 9th October 2014.
  • Sandy Lane, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly - First-winter male, 22nd October 2011.
  • St Levan, Cornwall - First-winter male, 20th - 21st October 2011.
  • Garinish, County Cork - First-winter male, 7th to 11th October 2008.
  • Firkeel, County Cork - Adult male, 18th October 1985.
  • Firkeel, County Cork - First-winter female, 12th to 14th October 1985.
  • St Mary's, Isles of Scilly female, 12th to 18th October 1982.
  • Nanquidno, St Just, Cornwall - First-winter male, 11th October 1981.
  • Tresco, Isles of Scilly - First-winter male, 28th September to 3rd October 1975.
  • St Mary's, Isles of Scilly - First-winter male, 4th October 1970.
  • Copeland Bird Observatory, County Down - Female, 12th October 1963.
Scarlet Tanager - Mizen Head, County Cork by Gerard Murray. Gerard's Twitter feed with many of his pictures can be viewed here

Swainson's Thrush
Cape Clear, County Cork - 14th October

There are 36 British and six Irish records of Swainson's Thrush with 11 records from the Isles of Scilly and 13 records from Shetland. The species has been recorded in May, June, September and October. October is the peak month with almost half of all records.

Grey-cheeked Thrush
Galley Head, County Cork - 19th October
Rosscarbery, County Cork - 20th October
St. Martin's, Isles of Scilly - 26th October
Red Strand, County Cork - 26th October

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
St. Agnes, Isles of Scilly - First found on 29th September (see September Rarities for account) the 1st winter female remained until 2nd October.

White-crowned Sparrow
Foula, Shetland - 8th -11th October.

This is still a very rare bird in the British Isles with five British records and one Irish record (plus one at sea record). The most widely seen bird was the 2008 Cley, Norfolk bird was was present from 3rd Januray until 11th March 2008. Of the other five records four have been in the spring between 15th and 27th May with just one previous autumn record from Seaforth, Lancashire on 2nd October 1995.

  • Near Leuchars, Fife - 17th–18th May 2008.
  • Cley-next-the-Sea, Norfolk - 3rd January to 11th March 2008.
  • Dursey Sound, County Cork - 20th - 27th May 2003.
  • Seaforth, Lancashire - 2nd October 1995.
  • Hornsea Mere, Yorkshire - 22nd May 1977.
  • Fair Isle, Shetland - 15th to 16th May 1977.
  • Sea area Shannon, Ireland - June 1948. Seen on board SS Nova Scotia bound for Liverpool and insight of Ireland.

Blackpoll Warbler
Blacksod, County Mayo - 7th - 15th October.
Lochmaddy, North Uist, Outer Hebrides - 23rd October.

There are 47 British and 10 Irish records of Blackpoll Warbler the peak month being October and with the Isles of Scilly claiming a staggering 24 records. County Cork is the next most frequent county with five records, this is the second record for County Mayo the last being on 9th November 2012.

Common Yellowthroat
Toe Head, County Cork - A 1st winter female was found on 28th October but there was no sign of the bird the following day.

There are ten British and one Irish record of Common Yellowthroat. With records from January, February, May, June, September, October and November. The peak month is October with five records. British records are as follows:

  • Rhiwderin, Newport - 10th February to 31st March 2012.
  • Penryn, Cornwall - 23rd October 2006, found dead.
  • Foula, Shetland - 9th to 10th October 2004.
  • Loop Head, County Clare - 3rd to 4th October 2003.
  • St Mary's, Isles of Scilly - 9th October to 2nd November 1997.
  • Baltasound, Unst, Shetland - 16th to 23rd May 1997.
  • Bardsey, Gwynedd - 27th September 1996.
  • Near Sittingbourne, Kent - 6th January to 23rd April 1989.
  • Bryher, Isles of Scilly, 2nd to 17th October 1984.
  • Fetlar, Shetland - 7th to 11th June 1984.
  • Lundy, Devon - 4th November 1954.

PALEARCTIC SPECIES
While the month was dominated by low pressure systems sweeping in from the Atlantic there were sufficient periods of easterly winds to produce some fantastic records of eastern vagrants but there was no repeat of the 2016 invasion of Siberian Accentor. Figure 3 shows one of the weather patterns that produced a flurry of eastern vagrants including perhaps the bird of the autumn, a stunning male Siberian Blue Robin. This weather pattern was typical of the autumns easterly airflows with easterly winds off the top of low pressure systems that had swept from the Atlantic, across the British Isles and then to the Baltic, and there were now settled periods of long distant easterly winds that typified the autumn of 2016.


Figure 3 - Weather pattern on night of 8th October with easterly winds coming off the north edge of the low pressure system centred over the Baltic


Red-breasted Goose
Loch of Skene, Aberdeenshire - 16th October, two flew south-east with Pink-footed Geese.
Collieston, Aberdeenshire - 27th October was presumably one of the above birds.

Ferruginous Duck
Gartmorn Dam County Park, Forth - 12th October.

King Eider
Murvagh, County Donegal - 13th October.

White-billed Diver
Blakeney Point, Norfolk - 8th October

Fea's Petrel
North Ronaldsay, Orkney - 18th October, a presumed Fea's/Desertas/Zino's flew north
North Ronaldsay, Orkney - 30th October, two flew past.

Pallid Harrier
Barrys Head, County Cork - 7th October
Worth Marsh, Kent - 15th October

Pacific Golden Plover
Bannow Bay, County Wexford - 18th October

Ross's Gull
Fenham Flats, Northumberland - 29th October, adult.

Ivory Gull
Papa Westray, Orkney - 30th October, juvenile flew west past Mull Head

Eurasian Scops Owl
Ryhope, Durham - Found on 27th September and present until 5th October (see September Rarities for account).

Pallid Swift
Easington, East Yorkshire - 21st October
Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire - 22nd October

Gyr Falcon
Reiss, Highland - 16th October

Isabelline Shrike
Soldiers' Point, Anglesey - 15th October

Steppe Grey Shrike
Challister, Whalsay, Shetland - 14th - 31st October.

There are 25 records of Steppe Grey Shrike in the UK with the top sites being Shetland and Orkney with three records from each. The peak months are September, October and November with records also from April, June and December.

Steppe Grey Shrike, Whalsay, Shetland by John Irvine. John maintains the 
excellent Whalsay Bird Diary which features bird news from the island as 
well as lots of historical bird stuff from the island.

Eurasian Penduline Tit
Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk - Two on 26th October.

Two-barred Warbler
St. Aldhelm's Head, Dorset - 15th - 18th October. Initially found on 15th October and identified as a probable Arctic Warbler after a brief view. Strong winds over the following days hampered efforts to find the bird and it was not until 17th October, when winds eased, that the bird was refound and its identity confirmed. There are four previously accepted records of Two-barred Warbler in the UK as follows:


  • Filey, Yorkshire - 16th - 18th October 2006
  • Isles of Scilly, Bryher - 27th - 28th September 2003
  • Holkham, Norfolk - 15th - 16th October 1996
  • Isles of Scilly, Gugh - 22nd - 27th October
Two-barred Warbler by Al Orton. Al Orton's Birding Blog can be viewed here


Arctic Warbler
Easington, East Yorkshire - 15th October.

Hume's Leaf Warbler
Foula, Shetland - 22nd October

Booted Warbler
Bressay, Shetland - 6th October

Eastern Orphean Warbler
St.Agnes, Isles of Scilly - 12th - 17th October. Originally identified as an Eastern or Western Orphean Warbler a discussion of its subsequent re-identification as an Eastern can be found here. The key feature being the darer centres to the under tail coverts. Read the finders account on Birdguides here.

This is the first confirmed record of Eastern Orphean Warbler for the UK. There are three confirmed British records of Western Orphean Warbler in the UK as follows:
  • St Brides, Pembrokeshire - 10th November to 5th December 2013.
  • Hartlepool Headland, Cleveland - 29th May 2012.
  • Portland Bill, Dorset - 20th September 1955. 
And there are a further four records of unidentified (Either Eastern or Western) Orphean Warbler.
  • Saltash, Cornwall -  20th to 22nd May 1991. A male in song.
  • Seaton Park, Aberdeen - 10th October 1982.
  • Kitty Down, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly - 16th to 22nd October 1981.
  • Porthgwarra, Cornwall - 22nd October 1967.
Eastern Orphean Warbler - St. Agnes, Isles of Scilly by Jim Almond. Jim's Shropshire Birder website can be viewed here and his blog here. There are some great images on Jim's sites so they are well worth a good exploration.

Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler
Collafirth, Northmavine, Mainland, Shetland - 1st-2nd October.

Short-toed Treecreeper
Samphire Hoe Country Park, Kent - Trapped and ringed on 15th October and whilst seen subsequently on 15th was in an area with no access.

While occurring only just the other side of the Channel the Short-toed Treecreeper is a remarkably rare UK visitor (much like Crested Lark). There are 29 records of the species with 21 of these from Kent with 10 from Dungeness alone. Because of the difficulty in identifying the species many records are of birds mist netted. Short-toed Treecreeper records are spread through the year with the peak month being October with seven records.

White's Thrush
Fair Isle, Shetland - 7th October.

There are 84 British and five Irish records of White's Thrush with 32 of these records being from Shetland. It has occured in all months with the exception of March, July and August.

Black-throated Thrush
Fair Isle, Shetland - 23rd October

Mediterranean Flycatcher
Cloughton Wyke, North Yorkshire - 28th October


Mediterranean Flycatcher - Matt Hobbs, Matts Twitter feed can be seen here

This may well turn out to be a duff desperation listers record. But this rather unstreaked, pallid Spotted Flycatcher has drawn some attention. This is a subspecies of Spotted Flycatcher from Corsica and the Balearic Islands that is split by IOC (article on Birding Frontiers here) while HBW Alive classify this 'species' as a race of Spotted Flycatcher but recognise it as potential future split from this species. They include subspecies tyrrhenica and balearica of Spotted Flycatcher under Mediterranean Flycatcher, they conclude 'W Mediterranean races balearica and tyrrhenica are paler, with less streaking on breast and shorter wings, and differ genetically, leading to suggestion that they might warrant species status; limited evidence reveals no obvious differences in voice, and further study required.' Although of course the UK list will follow IOC from January, I think this a great shame and feel we should follow the more conservative (cautious) approach of HBW - more study before splitting, this is currently a little known taxon which clearly needs more study before it is split. Footnote - And so it proved to be a Spotted Flycatcher with DNA results confirming this in mid-November.


Siberian Blue Robin
North Ronaldsay, Orkney - 8th October

There are four British records of Siberian Blue Robin from Britain as follows:

  • Ham, Foula, Shetland - First-winter female, 1st October 2011, found dead.
  • North Ronaldsay, Orkney - First-winter male, 2nd October 2001.
  • Minsmere, Suffolk - Female or first-winter, 23rd October 2000.
  • Banquette Valley, Sark, Channel Islands - 27th October 1975

Siberian Blue Robin is a rare enough bird in the UK as it stands with only four records all of one day (or dead) birds but when a stunning adult male wass found on North Ronaldsay the birding world was taken aback. The circumstances of the find where similarly remarkable, the bird being flushed and flying into a deserted croft. It was not until the finders caputured the bird as it fluttered against the window of the croft that the full sensation of their find became apparent. Having then been ringed at the observatory the bird flew into a nearby crop, showed briefly and was not seen again.


Siberian Blue Robin - North Ronaldsay, Orkney. Image taken from the Bird Observatory blog with an account of the finding of the Robin here.

Breeding and wintering range of Siberian Blue Robin - It has a similar range to Siberian Rubythroat but that species breeds further north and west hence (partially) accounting for its greater frerquency of occurence in the UK. Additionally, while I can find no hard evidence for this, Siberian Rubythroat appears to be more abundant within its breeding and wintering range than Siberian Blue Robin.


Thrush Nightingale
Sandgarth, Mainland, Shetland - 8th October

Siberian Rubythroat
Bressay, Shetland - Female on 5th October

There are 12 British and no Irish records of this near mythical species. Ten of these records have come from Shetland with one from Fulwell, Sunderland from 26th to 28th October 2006 and one from Osminton Mills, Dorset on 19th October 1997.

Red-flanked Bluetail
North Roe, Mainland, Shetland - 5th October
Fair Isle, Shetland - 18th October

Common Rock Thrush
Pwll du Quarry, Gilwern, Gwent - 1st winter male on 12th - 31st October

There are 28 British and two Irish records of Common Rock Thrush with records from all months but for January, March, August and December, the peak month being May with 14 records. Records are widespread from coastal counties with the Isles of Scilly being the peak county with four records. There are two records from inland Hertfordshire.


One of the first images of the Common Rock Thrush at Gilwern by Paul Taylor. Paul's 
Twitter feed can be seen here

Common Rock Thrush, Pwll du Quarry - Simon Colenutt. Towards the end of the month the Common Rock Thrush was showing well after mealworms had been spread around its chosen quarry. I don't agree with this practice and feel that this bird has been 'held' at the site longer than it would have naturally chosen through the provision of artificial foods - this may ultimately result in the demise of this bird. 


Siberian Stonechat
Hoswick, Mainland, Shetland - 8th October
Fair Isle, Shetland - 9th October
Sanday, Orkney - 22nd October
St. Agnes, Isles of Scilly - 31st October

Pied Wheatear
Out Skerries, Shetland - 26th October

Isabelline Wheatear
St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly - First found on 28th September the bird remained on the airfield until 16th October.

There are 34 British and one Irish record of Isabelline Wheatear with records occurring in May, September, October and November. October is the prime month for the species with 18 records. The Isles of Scilly has had five records with four each from Suffolk, Yorkshire and Shetland.

Pechora Pipit
Foula, Shetland - 8th October

Red-throated Pipit
Lissagriffin, County Cork - 10th October
Berkeley Power Station, Gloucestershire - 24th October
Lundy, Devon - 26th October
St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly - 27th October
Polgigga, Cornwall - 28th October
Cape Clear, Cork - 28th October
Tacumshin, County Wexford - 29th October

Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll
Baltasound, Unst, Shetland - 2 on 6th Ocober with 3 from 7th October
Ollaberry, Mainland, Shetland - 6th October
Skaw, Unst, Shetland - 7th October
Foula, Shetland - 7th October
Norwick, Unst, Shetland - 8th October
Northdale, Unst, Shetland - Two on 8th October
North Ronaldsay, Orkney - 8th October
Baliasta, Unst, Shetland - 16th October
Melby, Mainland, Shetland - 2 on 20th October
Fair Isle, Shetland - 23rd October
Uyeasound, Unst, Shetland - 24th October
North Ronaldsay, Orkney - 24th October

Parrot Crossbill
Baltasound, Uist, Shetland - 5 at Setters Hill Estate on 2nd October
Sand, Mainland, Shetland - 8 on 3rd October
Helendale, Mainland, Shetland - 3 on 3rd October
Lerwick, Mainland, Shetland - 2 on 3rd October
Haroldswick, Unst, Shetland - 1 on 4th October
Ungirsta, Unst, Shetland - 2 on 4th October
Cunningsburgh, Mainland, Shetland - 3 on 5th October.
Gott, Mainland, Shetland - 4 on 5th October
Binscarth, Mainland, Orkney - 1 on 6th October
Levenwick, Mainland, Shetland - 4 on 6th October
Hoswick, Mainland, Shetland - 2 on 6th October
Vidlin, Mainland, Shetland - 2 on 6th October
Feall, Unst, Shetland - 2 on 6th October
Swining, Mainland, Shetland - 7th October
Hestily, South Ronaldsay, Orkney - 22nd October
North Uist, Outer Hebrides - 23rd October

Following the initial flurry of sightings in the northern islands there were several unconfirmed records in mainland Britain, mainly of fly-over birds. Hopefully, there will be further records of more settled birds as the year progresses.

Parrot Crossbill - Sand, Mainland, Shetland. A fantastic image by Josh, 
his blog can be viewed here: Josh's Blog

Black-headed Bunting
Fair Isle, Shetland - 11th October

Rustic Bunting
Foula, Shetland - 1st October
Dale of Walls, Mainland, Shetland - 1st October
Voe, Mainland, Shetland - 4th October
Portland Bird Observatory - 14th October
Cape Clear, County Cork - 15th October