Wednesday, 2 July 2014

June Rarities


This is my summary of what I consider to be the most exciting records from the UK in June 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 at and I will remove it immediately.

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

June 2014
On the 31st May a Short-toed Eagle was found during a guided 'Birds of Poole Harbour' field trip at Morden Bog, Wareham Forest, Dorset. The bird remained in its favoured Scot's Pine until 10:00 on 1st June before it circled and flew south-west. The bird then proceeded to undertake a tour of south-east England being present at Beaulieu Road, Station on the morning of 8th June before settling at Ashdown Forest in East Sussex from 15th to 29th June where it showed well on occasion. An account of the finding of the bird in Ashdown Forest can be viewed here. Remarkably, after its disappearance from Ashdown Forest it relocated back to the New Forest in the Beaulieu Road Station/Pig Bush area from 30th June to the months end.

This was the third record of Short-toed Eagle (if accepted) for the UK with previous records being of the famous Isle of Scilly bird which wandered the islands from 7th-11th October 1999 and a bird seen at Dawlish Warren and Orcombe Point, Exmout on 16th October 2011.

Short-toed eagle typically breeds in arid areas where there is a high abundance of its reptilian prey although in the north of its range it occurs in wooded landscapes interspersed with heathland and grassland. The species breeds through southern and Eastern Europe, north-west Africa, Turkey and as far east as Lake Balkhash in Kazahkstan. In the Western Palearctic it is almost entirely a summer visitor with eastern populations wintering mainly in India while western populations winter in the northern tropics of Africa from the Sahel to Ethiopia.

Short-toed Eagle - Morden Bog, Dorset (Paul Morton)
Photo by Paul Morton of 'Birds of Poole Harbour'. This is taken at the point the bird was found, must have been mind blowing!

Short-toed Eagle - Morden Bog, Dorset (Aidan Brown)
Short-toed Eagle by Aidan Brown, see more of Aidan's 
stunning photos on his blog A Dorset Diary

On 2nd June a stunning male Spectacled Warbler was found singing near to Gun Hill on Burnham Overy Dunes, Norfolk. The bird showed well on and off until 18th June. This will be the 8th record for the UK if accepted following birds in Yorkshire (1996), Suffolk (two records in 1997 and 2008), Devon (1999), Isles of Scilly (2000), Norfolk (2011) and Hampshire (2011). The Scilly 2000 bird being the last widely accessible bird with the more recent birds being either suppressed or short stayers.

Spectacled Warbler, Burnham Overy Dunes - Taken by John Richardson, see John's fantastic photographs of birds and more on his blog 'Old Man of Minsmere'

Spectacled Warbler breeds around the Mediterranean including Spain, southern France, Italy, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya. The species breeds in low scrub, salt flats and semi-desert. In the south of its range it is largely sedentary while birds from the northern part of the range move southwards a relatively short distance to areas to the north of the Sahara.

On the 15th June a Eurasian Scops-owl was disturbed from its roost in the garden of Holland House, North Ronaldsay where it promptly flew straight into open nets and was ringed. It was returned to its roosting area  and was still present at around mid-night on 16th June but was not seen subsequently. However, it or another was present on 24th June west of Camb on Yell, Shetland (the 14th for Shetland). An account of its finding on Orkney can be found on the North Ronaldsey Bird Observatory Blog here.

Eurasian Scops-owl - North Ronaldsay - Rael Butcher
Eurasian Scops-owl - North Ronaldsay. 
Photo by Rael Butcher.

To the end of 2012 there have been 97 records of Eurasian Scops-owl in Britain and Ireland. Geographically these are widespread with Shetland (13 records) and Orkney (7 records) being favoured localities. Away from these islands there is a slight south and south-east bias to the records. The species has been found in all months of the year with the exception of February and December with a clear peak in records during the Spring. 

Eurasian Scops-owl is a widespread species being ground throughout southern Europe, the Middle East and as far east as Lake Baikal. Through much of its range it is migratory wintering in Africa south of the Sahara. Those that occur in the UK are typically returning birds that over shoot there southern breeding grounds and hence the spring bias to records.

The Scottish Islands scored again on the 16th June with a stunning Bridled Tern in the tern colony at Buness on the fabled island of Fair Isle. An account of the find on Fair Isle can be found on the Fair Isle Bird Observatory Wardens blog here and here. The bird then toured the island over the coming days being seen at the South Light, in the tern colony at Shalstane and at South Harbour until the late afternoon of 19th June. Then, amazingly on the 20th the bird was refound on the Farne Islands, Northumberland on 20th June and remained until the months end. An account of the re-find on the Farne Islands can be found on the FFarne Islands Blog here. This was most certainly the same bird that was found on 1st July 2013 on Farne Islands where it remained until 19th August with tours to Saltholme and Cresweel Pond, Northumberland, East Chevington in Cleveland, Isle of May in Fife and the Ythan Estuary in Aberdeenshire. 

Bridled tern - Farne Islands, Northumberland - David Kinchin-Smith
Bridled Tern - Farne Islands (David Kinchin-Smith)

Bridled Tern is a Pantropical species breeding widely in the Caribbean, West Africa, through the Indian Ocean and in Australasia. It is widespread at sea but movements away from breeding colonies are poorly known.

There are 23 records of the species in the UK up to the end of 2012, these are widely distributed as would be expected for such a wide-ranging species although there are four records from Northumberland. Records have occurred from April to November with the peak months being in June, July and August.