Saturday, 2 August 2014

July Rarities

This is my summary of what I consider to be the most exciting records from the UK in July 2014, this is not aimed at being a comprehensive account of all the rare's 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 UK records and sightings to aid my knowledge and feed my interest in UK bird records. I aim to publish the previous months records in the first week or so of the following month. 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

A summary of the weather for July 2014 can be found here.

July 2014
The month started relatively slowly with the Bridled Tern and Short-toed Eagle lingering from June. The Short-toed Eagle was last seen in Ashdown Forest on 29th June before, remarkably, being once again relocated at Pig Bush in the New Forest, where it had previously spent a brief period in June, before relocating to Ashdown Forest. The eagle lingered at Pig Push and the surrounding area showing well at times and allowing Hampshire birders a chance to get the species on their county list after showing to a small crowd earlier. It was present at Pig Bush until 2nd July and then at Thursley Common, Surrey on 12th when it finally disappeared having spent almost six weeks touring the south-east of England.

The Bridled Tern, as it did last year, began touring more widely in July. It was last seen on the Farne Islands on 8th July and was then present at Port Seton and Seacliff, Lothian on 9th and 10th July, respectively. It was then seen again on the Farne Islands on 12th before relocating to Cleveland where it was seen off Hartlepool Headland on 13th before disappearing although there was a report of it from Winterton-on-Sea, Norfolk on 19th. Will it return next summer?

On 5th July amazing news of a Black-browed Albatross flying east past Portland Bill, Dorset in conditions that one would not normally associate with a classic seawatch. It then appeared to pass the length of the south-east coast of England and was reported from a boat off Durlston Head at 08:30, and off Worthing, Sussex and finally off Dungeness, Kent at 11:00, the latter two as possibles. This was no doubt the bird from Helgoland, Germany that thrilled visitors in June. The amazing photograph below is of the bird taken by Jochen Dierschke of the Birding Frontiers team. More can be read on the account of the bird in Germany here and an account and a photograph off Portland here.

There are 27 records of Black-browed Albatross for the British Isles, 26 of these since 1950. Obviously, many of these are birds recorded as fly-bys on seawatches but also includes the long staying bird which spent 1972 to 1995 in the Gannetry on Hermaness, Shetland and a bird that followed a fishing boat off Peninnis Head, Isles of Scilly on 21st September 2009. The Black-browed Albatross occurs in seas throughout the southern hemisphere and ranges widely across these oceans. A distribution map can be viewed here.

Black-browed Albatross - Helgoland, Germany 
by Jochen Dierschke of the Birding Frontiers team

Both Black-winged Pratincole and Collared Pratincole are fantastic birds to see and when both began to tour the east of England some birders were able to see both on the same day. The Black-winged Pratincole was found on 5th July at Hurworth Burn Reservoir, Durham (see below for photograph) where it remained until 6th before relocating to Hoywell Pond, Northumberland on 7th where it remained for only the morning. It was then not seen again until 14th July when it was relocated at Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire and remained for a morning. next stop was North Norfolk where it was seen at Cley Marshes, Stiffkey Fen on 15th until 17th. It was then relocated on the Ouse Washes, Cambridgeshire where it settled (relatively speaking) from 19th-27th although at times it was very elusive during this period. Finally, what would seem to be a different bird was seen way to the south at Cuckmere Haven, East Sussex on 30th July. In contrast the Collared Pratincole found on 15th July at Minsmere was a far more sedentary creature remaining at the reserve, often on the East Scrape, until 27th before it was relocated, surprisingly, to the north at Castle Island, Northumberland where it remained for the day before disappearing.

There have been 103 records of Collard Pratincole and 36 records of Black-winged Pratincole up to the end of 2012 in the British Isles. The Collard Pratincole has a more westerly distribution than Black-winged nesting from Spain east to Pakistan and wintering in sub-Saharan Africa. Black-winged Pratincole breeds in a more restricted area from Romania east to northern Kazakhstan it winters in South Africa and in smaller numbers in West Africa. This more easterly distribution accounting for its greater rarity in the UK, Collard Pratincole regularly occurring as a spring overshoot and summer wanderer to the UK. A distribution map for Collard Pratincole can be viewed here and Black-winged Pratincole here.

Black-winged Pratincole - Hurworth Burn Reservoir by Martyn Sidwell. There were many shots of this bird, many distant, Martyn's was one of the best I have seen and shows the key field characters well. More of Martyn's photographs can be seen here.

On Fair Isle on the 9th July during annual European Storm-petrel trapping sessions a Swinhoe's Storm-petrel was caught in the nets, this was the same bird as was trapped on the island between 27th July and 3rd September 2013, being first heard on 22nd July. The bird is evidently frequenting the European Storm-petrel breeding colonies on the island and may well return in future years. A write-up of the 2013 record can be found here. In 2014 the bird was being trapped on a regular basis to the end of the month.

There have been five records of Swinhoe's Storm-petrel in the British Isles to the end of 2012 with the first off County Clare on 15th August 1995. The most remarkable being a bird that returned to Tynemouth, Northumberland between 1989 and 1994 being trapped in a similar manner to the Fair Isle bird during European Storm-petrel netting sessions in July. The occurrence of Swinhoe's Storm-petrel in the British Isles is remarkable given its distribution, it occurs only in the north-west Pacific and northern Indian oceans although it is increasingly believed that the species breeds in the north-east Atlantic given recent records in the UK and others on the Canaries and Balearic Islands. A distribution map can be viewed here.

Swinhoe's Storm-petrel - Fair Isle 27th July - Photo by Tommy Hyndman a Fair Isle resident, Tommy's blog can be viewed here. It provides a nice account of birding and life on Fair Isle

On 12th July news broke of a Great Knot seen in the evening at Breydon Water, Norfolk. Fortunately, the following day the bird was still present and remained at the site until the 15th giving many birders the opportunity to catch up with this fantastic long distant migrant. The bird would show well if a little distantly either side of high tide but at low tide would become mobile or very distant and at high tide would disappear amongst salt marsh vegetation at a high tide roost.

There have been four records of Great Knot in the British Isles to the end of 2012. These are:

  • Scatness and Pool of Virkie, Shetland 15th September 1989; 
  • Greenabella Marsh, Cleveland 13th October to 5th November 1996;
  • Swords Estuarty, County Dublin 25th July 2004; and
  • River Wyre, Lancashire 31 July to 17th August 2004.

Great Knot is a far eastern species breeding in North-east Siberia and winters in south-east Asia and Australasia. It is a long distant migrant but its migration route is poorly known. A distribution map  for Great Knot can be viewed here.

Great Knot, Breydon Water, Norfolk - Joshua Burch. 
View more of Joshua's fantastic images here

In mid-July a pair of Bee-eater were found breeding on the Isle of Wight by Ian Ridett on the National Trust Wydcombe Estate just north of Niton in the south of the Island. The birds are nesting in a shallow scrape just a few centimetres above ground level. A 24 hour surveillance operation was quickly established and a public viewing area created. The breeding pair are being assisted by up to two helpers which are presumably failed breeders and/or young birds related to the breeding pair. This is the third record of Bee-eater breeding in the UK previous records were a pair in County Durham in 2002 which successfully raised two young and two pairs in Sussex in 1955 which raised seven young. A Birdguides article can be found here and the National Trust article here.

Bee-eater - Morocco - Simon Colenutt

Previous Monthly Accounts Can be viewed here: