Thursday, 27 November 2014

October 2014 Rarities

This is my summary of what I consider to be the most exciting records from the UK in October 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 October 2014 can be found here.

October 2014
October is the traditional month for rarity's in Britain and never ends the debate on which location will perform best, will it be the Isles of Scilly, Shetland or the East Coast. With every October expletives rain amongst the birding community with each October seeming to surpass the last with ever more extreme rarities. So October passed with a mix of Asian and American megas with Hurricane Gonzalo making landfall on 21st October giving a final flurry of western megas to the month, see my write-up of this event here.

The Masked Shrike from September lingered until the 3rd October, taking its place as mega of the moment was a stunning Siberian Rubythroat at Levenwick found on the afternoon of the 3rd. The bird showed well on a driveway, often being scolded by Robin's. This was a stunning first winter male and while the 9th UK record it attracted a steady trickle of admirers and will no doubt be the top of many birders 'highlight of the year' list. The bird stayed until the 8th October when it disappeared overnight.

Siberian Rubythroat - Levenwick, Mainland Shetland - Simon Colenutt

A stunning and very confiding Steppe Grey Shrike at Burnham Norton, Norfolk from 5th to 16th October was a first for the county and very popular as a result.

Mike Weedon's fantastic image of the Steppe Grey Shrike at Burnham Norton, See more of Mike's great images on his blog, Weedon's World of nature here

Also on 5th a Blyth's Pipit was on St. Mary's Isles of Scilly where it frequented the airport runway and adjacent fields. the bird lingered until 15th and was perhaps the highlight of a slow autumn on Scilly.

Blyth's Pipit on St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly by Simon Knight. Simon's fantastic gallery of images can be viewed on his website at Simon Knight Photography here

It was again the Scottish Islands coming up trumps on the 6th October when a Scarlet Tanager, the 10th British record if accepted, was found in a Sycamore stand on Barra, Outer Hebrides and lingered until the 9th October.

Scarlet Tanager Barra - A great image by John Kemp really capturing the birds character amongst autumnal Sycamore leaves

A Bonelli's Warbler found in gardens at Scalloway, Shetland on 10th remained until 13th October was eventually identified as an Eastern Bonelli's Warbler after it called on the second day of its stay.

A second winter Audouin's Gull was a short stayer on 12th October at Dungeness, Kent. Images on Michael Southcott's Blog 'Birding the Day Away'.

It was a brave and experienced birder that called a fly-by Brunnich's Guillemot at Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire on 13th October. A write-up of the observation can be read on the 'Birding Frontiers' blog. This to me is a very convincing account and it will be interesting to see if this bird is accepted by BBRC - surely this often hard to identify species is more frequent than is currently known in UK waters.

A Siberian Thrush trapped at Scousburgh, Shetland on 15th October was an amazing record although was seen only by a fortunate few who were able to get to site that evening. The bird was nowhere to be seen the following day. Amazingly the bird had been ringed in Norway on 24th September (images here). It would be fascinating to know where this bird had been in the interim and where its trajectory lead it, did it disappear into the North Atlantic or did it re-orientate and head south or back east?

Classic image of the Siberian Thrush at Scousburgh, mainland Shetland by Roger Riddington

At the end of the month Hurricane Gonzalo struck the uk providing a scatter of mega American birds across the UK from SW Cornwall to North Ronaldsay with the highlights being:

  • Hermit Thrush Balranald RSPB, Outer Hebrides 22nd-23rd October. Read the Birdguides rarity finders article here
  • Black-billed Cuckoo North Ronaldsay, Orkney 23rd October
  • Yellow-billed Cuckoo Porthgwarra, Cornwall 23rd-24th October
  • Chimney Swift Lewis, Outer Hebrides 23rd-24th October. Read the Birdguides rarity finders article here

Yellow-billed Cuckoo at Porthgwarra by Pete Morris

And then finally on the 30th October the third Eastern Crowned Warbler for the UK was found on 30th October at Brotton, Cleveland, the bird lingering until 1st November. The first record of the species was in 2009 and one hopes that the next record will be further south to give those less inclined to drive long distances to the north to see this mega long distant migrant. The Birdguides rariety finders article can be viewed here.

Eastern Crowned Warbler Brotton, Cleveland 30th October- 1st November. Photo by Gary Thoburn, see more of Gary's fantastic Eastern Crowned Warbler shots here and read his blog, here

So onto November, traditionally a quite month after frenetic October but often with a great mega thrown in............

Previous Monthly Accounts Can be viewed here: