Rare Bird Alert weekly round-up: 20 - 26 June 2012
Artiklen er tilføjet af MBH onsdag 27. juni 2012 kl. 16.46. Læst 932 gange
The week's highlights:
Crowd-pleasing Little Swift at New Brighton, Wirral
Black-browed Albatross lingers around the Channel Islands
Pacific Golden Plover at Cley, Norfolk kicks off the wader season
Black Scoter reappears in Aberdeenshire
Late report of Red-headed Bunting on the Western Isles raises interesting issues
With the weather stuck in an autumnal rut and the bird news early in the week amounting to little more than a few lingerers, all seemed set for a quiet report this time, not wholly unexpected for late June. Unless anything happened, the wandering White Storks looked likely to be promoted to ”birds of the week”! But things can change fast! After a slow couple of days, last week’s prediction of action on the seabird and wader fronts quickly came true but the best birds were a surprise to all - a swift on the Wirral and a rather featureless bunting on the Western Isles……
What role the weather played in the appearance of any of this week’s birds is hard to pin down but conditions were shocking nonetheless! After a brief glimpse of summer on 20th (the longest day of the year) there was an immediate descent into autumn with yet another low pressure crossing the country from 21st and bringing the inevitable wind and rain. This week’s winds were exceptionally strong for June and the extra heavy rain brought severe flooding to parts of the country, particularly the North. By 25th things had calmed down a bit, however, and temperatures slowly began to recover.
The best bird of the week was undoubtedly the Little Swift at New Brighton, the Wirral. Found on the early afternoon of 22nd, it roosted on a building that night and was then present until 26th though it became more mobile during the week and, with fewer people looking, became harder to find. It also wandered across the river to the Merseyside side to become the second for that county (following the first, at Seaforth on 22nd May 1984).
It often showed at very close range, delighting observers and photographers alike, and must rank as the best-showing Little Swift ever. New Brighton’s somewhat faded glory formed an interesting backdrop to the bird, as did the famous skyline of Liverpool’s waterfront, and for those familiar with this site and its long history of Leach’s Petrels this was an interesting twist indeed on the ”small dark bird with a white rump” theme. Since the first Little Swift, on Cape Clear Island, Cork on 12th June 1967, a further 23 have been accepted to the end of 2010. Spring is by far the best time, with records spanning April to June. Unsurprisingly this was a first for the Wirral.
Given the excellent views (and photographs) of this bird it is tempting to consider its ageing and form/origin. The strong white fringes to the upperwing, underwing and uppertail coverts all indicate that this is a juvenile, as does the very fresh condition of its wing and tail feathers (so this is actually an autumn bird!). This is not the first ”spring” Little Swift to be aged as a juvenile but this implies that its parents should have been breeding by March, a little earlier than the mid-April egg-laying date given in BWP for North African birds. Either these birds can actually breed earlier than we think or it means that at least some of our Little Swifts may be from other more distant populations. Most of the species range lies in Africa south of the Sahara but there are also populations in the Near and Middle East. Thoughts of the Asian counterpart form/species House Swift, however, seem to be contradicted by this bird’s extremely broad white rump, lack of a shallow tail fork and pale undertail coverts.
Vying for bird of the week (though it was actually last week) was a sub-adult Black-browed Albatross seen around the Channel Islands. First seen on 17th 20 miles north of Alderney, it spent 1.5 hours attending a fishing boat with Fulmars and was well photographed. Further sightings then followed on 20th, from a boat off Alderney, and then on the afternoon of 22nd north-west of Guernsey. It has since emerged that it was also seen 20 miles west of Guernsey on 24th May whilst presumably the same bird was 184 miles south-west of Mizen Head, Cork on 29th February.
Such excellent views of a Black-browed Albatross from a boat immediately bring to mind the bird off the Isles of Scilly in Sept 2009 but since the first records, picked up at Linton, Cambridgeshire on 9th July 1897 and another at Staveley, Derbyshire in August 1952, almost all British albatrosses have fallen into two categories - brief, unpredictable fly-bys on seawatches or from boats (over 40 records to 2010) or long-stayers in Gannet colonies (Bass Rock, Lothian 1967-69 and perhaps the same Hermaness, Unst, Shetland 1972-95 and, more recently, Sula Sgeir 2005-07). This latter category has offered the only real hope of seeing this species in Britain though none is available today.
The other quality find this week was a pristine summer pluamge (presumably adult male) Pacific Golden Plover on the North Scrape at Cley, Norfolk on the evening of 22nd. Missing most of the day on 23rd, it turned up again in the evening and was then present to 26th, commuting between North Scrape and the adjacent Eye Field.
Though distant at first, it nevertheless sported a complete set of Pacific features and therefore offered no identification difficulties. It was typically slightly ”stumpy” at the rear end with long tertials extending as far as the tail-tip and minimal primary projection. This was of course sufficient to ”nail” it as a Pacific but it also showed the requisite list of ”softer” features - very long legs, a broken flank line, modest white breast-side patches which didn’t extend forward to ”pinch” into the black breast centre, a brightly gold-spangled mantle contrasting with black-and-white wing coverts and an extensive white forehead which met the bill base. Some of these individual characters may of course be approached or matched by American Golden Plover but they are each entirely typical of Pacific and, in combination, offer a watertight “back-up” to the key structural features. Up to 2010 this is the 75th accepted record since the first, shot at Epsom, Surrey on 12th November 1870, and is the tenth for Norfolk.
This week also saw the reappearance of the first-summer drake Black Scoter amongst the seaduck off Murcar Golf Course, Blackdog, Aberdeenshire on 24th and again on 26th.
Potentially even more exciting was a belated reported of a female Red-headed Bunting on North Uist, Western Isles on 19th. This is a tough identification but the photographs posted online show very fine forehead/crown streaking, a rather bland face and clear green in the rump. If accepted as a Red-headed Bunting and deemed a wild bird this would require an elevation of the species to Category A of the British List and make this ”bird of the week” (or at least “bird of last week”).
Much more in the full online round-up including
- Gull-billed Tern in Camarthenshire
- Black-headed Bunting also in Camarthenshire
- Rose-coloured Starling Influx continues
>>> Read the rest of the round-up here <<<
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