Rare Bird Alert weekly round-up: 29 August - 04 September 2012
Artiklen er tilføjet af MBH onsdag 5. september 2012 kl. 22.36. Læst 612 gange
The week's highlights:
The first Black Skimmer for the Western Palearctic tracks past the Mayo coast
Britain’s second-ever Short-billed Dowitcher has identity resolved in Dorset
Juvenile American Black Tern comes and goes between Lancashire and Merseyside
Suffolk’s first Spanish Sparrow reappears, out on the weekend
Yelkouan Shearwater heads along the coast of County Durham
The fifth Fea’s (type) Petrel of August seen in Cork
Unconfirmed report of a Barolo Little Shearwater off west Cornwall
A new Azorean (Yellow-legged) Gull found in Cork, another remains from last week
Belated news of Eleonora’s Falcon in East Sussex
First pulse of Nearctic shorebirds of the autumn hit the west coast
Well, what a week - a whole host of birds made their way to the shores of Britain and Ireland this week as the predicted first real push of Nearctic arrivals made their collective presence known through the round-up period.
Fronts rippled across the Atlantic as the week commenced - and even if the most startling arrivals had little or nothing to do with Hurricane Issac, there’s little doubt that something is was up in the ocean out to our west.
Unsettled conditions countrywide produced birds right the way through the weekend, but as the review period began to draw to a close, high pressure looked set to build and the hefty showers and breezy conditions seemed likely to be replaced by settled conditions, sunshine and rising temperatures….
What can you say? The buzz and beep of a Mega Alert is always something that will get the pulses racing. That first recognition of the sound and the first glimpse words on the pager screen fill birders with dread and excitement in equal measure….will it be a tick? Will I have to spend a lot of cash to see it? Where is it and, most importantly, what is it? Do I need it?
Obviously depending on the size of said list (and who’d honestly have a pager if there wasn’t an interest in a list to some degree or another?) the Mega Alert effect can vary. A Spanish Sparrow may well be a justifiable mega, but a lot of people have seen one. As neat a record as it maybe, it will elicit a pretty cool response.
Birds that a lot of folk still “need” will certainly quicken the heart rate - at the end of last week’s round-up, as well as surmising that the incoming weather would bring seabirds and shorebirds from the Americas, Yellow Warbler was mentioned as a potential star turn for this week - imagine the scene if a sulphurous Setophaga had rocked up in a west Cornish valley this week ….! But it still wouldn’t be a shock….a surprise yes, but a jaw-dropping shocker, no.
Then you come to those moments of near disbelief….this year’s big bird, the Western Orphean Warbler, didn’t warrant shock and awe - it was a huge bird yes, 30 years of waiting unblocked in a May day, but it was always on the horizon, however distantly.
You have to look beyond birds even of the calibre of Orphean Warbler. Look way out ahead, look to the mindbenders. Anglesey’s Black Lark? That was a different ball game - that was in a different league - that was off the scale, as texts and call of genuine disbelief crashing around mobile networks on that Sunday afternoon….the same rules could be applied to Kent’s astounding Tufted Puffin too…..
….and this week’s top, TOP bird had that exact same effect ….a moment or two of recognition of just what you were reading on the pager screen. Black Skimmer. In Mayo. A Black Skimmer in County Mayo. Wow! Wow!! WOW!!!
The bird, thought to be an adult, was seen by a single observer (the most envied man in birding this week) flying south, some 700 metres offshore, past Annagh Head on the end of the Mullet, during the morning of August 30th.
A quick look at the map gave any number of potential options as to where it may be seen next - there was even a train of thought that wondered if an early evening fly past of the Clare coastline may be on the cards….but the guess work was to no avail. With no further sightings, the trail has gone cold on this ultimate rare - this GIGArare….for now a least….
There’s still hope though, assuming the bird has survived….Shannon Airport Lagoons or the estuaries of north Devon would be a nice stop off point….
In terms of vagrancy potential, there’s nothing to say in terms of the Western Palearctic - in the north-eastern provinces of Canada, Black Skimmer records are known to be (almost always) connected to hurricane activity, occurring casually in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and as a vagrant only species to Newfoundland and the coast of Labrador.
As a breeding species, their range extends as far north as New York State, some 500 pairs or so listed or so as an average yearly breeding figure (with small numbers extending up in to Massachusetts) and post-breeding groups can linger in to late autumn - that and hurricane displacement aside, the view from some birders on the Eastern seaboard is that there little to see them categorised as a potential vagrant.
What’s needed to help things along is a little bit of back up - and, right on cue, up pops a couple more very tidy megas from the west….
The discovery of a newly arrived juvenile Dowitcher at Lodmoor RSPB (Dorset) on 3rd initially met with little more than a “that’s early” mutter or two and thoughts of what would be next in the week’s growing list of North American shorebirds. News was out that the bird had been identified in the field as a Long-billed and not much more was thought about it. Then, with the bird still present on 4th, a photo emerged online that shifted opinions swiftly towards something rather more exciting - suddenly it looked like it could morph in to a Short-billed Dowitcher at any moment.
The single image showed what appeared to be a rather richly toned bird with a seemingly rather striking, contrasting head pattern, some degree of internal markings on the upperparts, some Bar-tailed Godwit like coverts and a very interesting looking set of tiger-striped tertials….all strongly indicative of Short-billed (although the latter feature was not unlike those shown by the interesting dowitcher at the same site in the autumn of 2010). With very few images available and the bird vanishing during the afternoon of 4th, its identity seemed to have hit the buffers - but there was a definite groundswell of opinion heading along the Road to Mega. As midnight approached, the plunge was finally taken and the news was out….
Britain’s only Short-billed Dowitcher to date was the well-twitched juvenile at Rosehearty, in Aberdeenshire, from 11th-24th September 1999 (relocating to Cleveland later that month, where it remained until the end of October).
Ireland’s first, another juvenile, came at Tacumshin in late September 1985, with a first-summer in County Meath and then County Dublin between March and September 2000 (returning in May 2001 to Dublin) with the Republic’s third (and most recent) record coming from Wexford’s Lady’s Island Lake between June and August 2004, before moving to Bull Island, in County Dublin, in October that same year, where it remained in to March of 2005.
To go with this mega wader was a probable Semipalmated Plover - heard at least 10 times around Dunnet Bay in Highland on 3rd, but only seen in flight. With everything else that’s been around this week, it seems completely feasible….
The third big bird of the week from across the Atlantic was Lancashire and Merseyside’s super juvenile American Black Tern.
Found during the late afternoon of 30th (the same day as the Skimmer….) at Eccleston Mere, St. Helens, the bird went missing the following morning, only to reappear at the Mere (and nearby Prescot Reservoirs) the following afternoon. With prolonged views, the identification was clinched but as dusk approached, the new arrival was off, heading away to the west.
The morning of 1st brought the expected negative news from St. Helens but it wasn’t long before better news came from the east - the American Black Tern had been relocated some 10 miles or so away (as the tern flies) at Pennington Flash, on the edge of Greater Manchester. The obliging bird showed for most of the day, but upped sticks just after 4pm - and there was no further sign by dusk. And that’s because it was back at Eccleston Mere where it stayed (mainly) until the morning of 3rd, when it skedaddled off northwest….but returned by mid-afternoon. Clearly an active beast, the week closed with a return to Prescot Reservoir and an evening at nearby Eccleston Mere.
This really distinctive form (destined to be elevated to full species status at some point in the not-too-distant future) has become a bit of a fixture for birders in Britain and Ireland over the last decade.
Last September saw the arrival of a very obliging juvenile at Covenham Reservoir in Lincolnshire - its three week residency giving everyone a chance to enjoy the finer details of separating the US and European versions of this super looking marsh tern.
Before that, in August and September 2009, there was that remarkable trio at Farmoor Reservoir - juvenile American Black Tern, European Black Tern and White-winged Black Tern all jostling for position out on the buoys, often standing together, three in a row. Add to that birds in Ireland in 2011 (in Kerry), 2007 (Wexford and Galway), 2006 (Wexford again) and 2003 (another one for Kerry), along with brief birds in the Outer Hebrides and East Yorkshire (in 2008 and 2011)
More of them then in the last ten years or so (since the original Irish records and the twitchable bird in Somerset) - are they getting commoner or is it (more likely) an understanding of the identification marks?
Last week brought news of a brief, one observer only, photographed male Spanish Sparrow at Landguard Point in Suffolk. The first for the county, and only the ninth for Britain, the new arrival decided not to play the game and, despite significant searches, was nowhere to be seen.
This week, there was better news for Suffolk listers and other interested parties - the bird was relocated during the afternoon of 1st and, although still tough to connect with, was seen again early the next morning and the late afternoon, as it came and went from its roost spot, with the last report coming on the evening of 3rd.
Skimmer aside, there’s little doubt as to what was the star seabird of the week - a close inshore Yelkouan Shearwater seen off Whitburn (Co. Durham) during the late afternoon of 31st. On show for a couple of minutes, at some 700 metres out over a calm, enabling the two experienced seawatchers to piece together an excellent description, leaving little room to think anything other than bona fide Yelkouan.
In the past four years, there have been numerous mentions of “possible” and “probable” Yelkouan-type Shearwaters, almost entirely from west Cornwall’s prime seawatch sites (Porthgwarra scoring most, with reports from Pendeen and St. Ives too) - but it looks as if Devon may be the county that secures a place on the British List for the species ~ a photographed bird seen some 250 metres off Berry Head on July 29th 2008 looks likely to be accepted as a Yelkouan (by BBRC at least).
This time last year, on a very similar date to this week’s Whitburn bird, a Yelkouan Shearwater flew close inshore past the beach shelter at Cley (that bird - seen on August 29th - is with BBRC, along with birds seen in the Firth of Forth in December 2009 and Porthgwarra on August 10th 2010, as well as the Berry Head individual).
There are numerous flys-in-the-ointment though - taxonomic work (including sound analysis) points to a bit of a mess where some western Yelkouan-types are concerned (the “Menorcan” Shearwater, which looks like Yelkouan but has some Balearic mtDNA) and it looks as though any records that past muster at one committee level, may be held in limbo-land at another….
For the third week in a row there was a Fea’s-type Petrel to report - the fifth in 11 days in fact - this one seen from Galley Head (Co. Cork) on 29th. It’s the fourth one in Ireland in that spell of just under a fortnight (after two off Carnsore Point on 18th and one from Cape Clear on 19th) with last week’s bird being seen from Porthgwarra.
Cornwall’s famous seawatching headland also saw a report of a Barolo Little Shearwater this week, seen during the evening of 29th, but additional information is scant at present and remains “unconfirmed”. If something positive comes to light, it could be the third Little Shearwater in nine days, following singles past Cork’s Toe Head and Clare’s Bridges of Ross.
In London, at Rainham Tip and along the nearby River Thames, the possible third-winter Azorean (Yellow-legged) Gull was noted again between 1st-3rd at least. Not much more has been offered by way of opinion as to what that bird may be (beyond being just a possible) but the same was said about the final of last week’s Cork trio of contenders.
With grateful thanks to Owen Foley, it looks as though the bird reported in Britain as just a “possible” at Ballycotton on 26th was anything but a possible - like the birds elsewhere in the county that day, it seems to be the real deal.
Elsewhere in Cork this week, a near-adult Azorean Gull at Ring, Clonakilty on 3rd-4th was another new arrival and the near-adult was again at Rosscarbery on 4th (that’s four birds in just over a week in one county….are there any more out there?)
Finally, in the headline news this week, following on from the photographed young dark morph Eleonora’s Falcon at Porthgwarra on August 11th, news this week of another report of this notoriously hard to connect with mega. A visiting birder from the continent apparently saw (and perhaps even photographed) a dark Eleonora’s at Boreham Street (East Sussex) on 19th. That bird was reported as flying east and could tie in nicely with the report of a dark Eleonora’s over Ramsgate (Kent) the same day. Thickening plots and all that….
Meanwhile, much more of last week's news in the full round-up online
....lots of great photos, video, stats and analysis
>>> Read the rest of the round-up here <<<
(illustrated with photos, videos and maps)
Artiklen er senest opdateret: onsdag 5. september 2012 kl. 22.39
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