Saturday 30 September 2017

Rarities in September 2017

This is my summary of records of rare birds from the UK in September 2017, 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 rarity records to aid my knowledge and feed my interest in UK birds. The dates provided under each species are only the date of the finding of that bird, 'megas' are shown in red and a full date range for these species is shown. I have only included confirmed records and not included possibles or probables. 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

There was a remarkable arrival of American waders in the first two weeks of September, most noticably a good run of Semipalmated Sandpiper from 3rd September with at least four being found in Ireland on that day. This arrival was associated with a complex weather system with a stream of westerlies extending across the Atlantic. As this weather system wriggled its way westwards it produced a stunning American Redstart on Barra which continued to perform in the churchyard until 17th September.

Synoptic chart from 00:00 3rd September 2017

A further low pressure system sweeping across the UK over the 10th and 11th produced a further arrival of rare waders  and the remarkable double arrival of a Least Sandpiper (9th) and Stilt Sandpiper (11th) at Lodmoor, Dorset.

Synoptic chart from 00:00 11th September 2017

Much of the month was dominated by arrivals of low pressure systems from the Atlantic although the Azores high stabilised the weather for a period later in the month but with a return to low pressure systems at the end of the month. Accordingly, American species were often the headline makers in September.

Semipalmated Plover
Keel, Achill Island, County Mayo - 13th-29th September

There are four accepted records of Semipalmated Plover in Great Britain and two from Ireland. Records are from March and April and September and October and are widely spread with birds recorded on the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Chichester and Hampshire (the same bird) and South Uist. Irish records are from County's Donegal and Kerry. Undoubtedly this species occurs more frequently than is know due to its similarity to Common Ringed Plover.

Upland Sandpiper
Fetlar, Shetland - 30th September when it showed well but there was no sign of the bird on 1st October.

There are 45 accepted records of Upland Sandpiper in Great Britain and 12 from Ireland. Records are from April, May, July, September, October, November and December with the peak month being October with 30 records. The species has occurred widely in the UK with six records from Shetland and 15 from the Isles of Scilly being the best locations. The highest total for a mainland county is of nine records from Cornwall. The last 'twitchable' records are from 2011 where a bird spent 16 days at Termoncarragh, Mullet Peninsula, County Mayo from 12th to 27th October and on the Isles of Scilly a bird was at Maypole, St. Mary's from 8th to 27th October, a stay of 20 days.

Hudsonian Whimbrel
Easkey, County Sligo - 4th September and into October. Read the finders account on Birdguides here.

Stilt Sandpiper
Lodmoor - 11th to 15th September then the same at;
Lytchett Bay, Dorset - 21st September and then Middlebere, Poole Harbour until the months end.

Baird's Sandpiper
Aughris Head, County Sligo - 1st September
Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry - 1st September
Brownsea, Dorset - 1st September
Tacumshin, County Wexford - 2nd September
Marazion, Cornwall - 3rd September
Cuckmere Haven, East Sussex - 3rd September
Dinham Flats, Cornwall - 9th September
Clonakilty, Cork - 10th September
Spey Bay, Moray & Nairn - 13th September
White Holme Reservoir, West Yorkshire - 13th September
Wyke Regis, Dorset - 17th September
The Cull, County Wexford - 24th September

Least Sandpiper
Axe Estuary, Devon - 7th September (account here)
Lodmoor, Dorset - 9th September
Seaton Marshes, Devon - 12th September

Least Sandpiper - Lodmoor, Dorset by Peter Moore. Peters blog can be viewed here

Semipalmated Sandpiper
Carrahane Strand, Kerry - 3rd September
The Gearagh, County Cork - 3th September
Ring, County Cork - 3rd September
Tacumshin, County Wexford (2) - 3rd September
Derrymore, County Kerry - 6th September
Smerwick Harbour, County Kerry - 6th September
Blennerville, Kerry - 7th September
St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly - 7th September
Balgarva, South Uist - 11th September
Clogheen Marsh, County Cork - 27th September

Wilson's Phalarope
Alston Reservoirs, Lancashire - 9th September

Wilson's Phalarope by Paul Ellis.
Paul's excellent Flickr site can be viewed here

Lesser Yellowlegs
Lissagriffin, Co. Cork - 1st September
Kenfig NNR, Glamorgan - 3rd September
Montrose Basin, Angus & Dundee - 9th September
Cloghane, County Kerry - 9th September
Devoran, Cornwall - 12th September
Cross Lough, Mullet - 20th September
National Wetlands Centre WWT, Carmarthen - 20th September
Stanpit Marsh, Dorset -22nd September
Termoncarragh Lough, County Mayo - 26th September

Long-billed Dowitcher
Bannow Bay, County Wexford - 1st September
Oare Marshes, Kent - 2nd September
North Ronaldsay - 6th September
Kilnsea, Yorkshire - 9th September
Saltfleet, Lincolnshire - 17th September
Termoncarragh Lough, County Mayo - 27th September

Bonaparte's Gull
Oare Marshes, Kent -1st September
Dawlish Warren, Devon - 8th September
Timoleague, County Cork - 12th September
Kilnsea, East Yorkshire - 13th September
Tolsta Head, Lewis - 21st September

Black-billed Cuckoo
Dale of Walls, Mainland, Shetland - 18th September. Read the finders account on Birdguides here.

There are 14 British Records and 1 Irish record of this species with most birds being Autumn records extending from 23rd September to 8th November so this is a comparitively early bird. Most birds are one or two day stayers and are moribund or found dead. The one exception to this, which has not yet been accepted, was a bird from 22nd May to 1st June at Bayhead, North Uist. The Dale of Walls birds on 18th September proved to be a typical record and could not be located the following day.

Fantastic shot of the Black-billed Cuckoo by G W Petrie. Interesting to see this bird in Japanese Knotweed!

Red-eyed Vireo
Porthgwarra, Cornwall - 24th September
St. Agnes, Isles of Scilly - 24th September

This is the westerly airflow and associated low pressure system located over the west of the British Isles that resulted in this double arrival of Red-eyed Vireo on 24th September (image from

Buff-bellied Pipit
Tawin, Galway - 12th September

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
St. Agnes, Isles of Scilly - 29th September and into October. Read the finders account on Birdguides here.

There are 26 accepted records of the species in Great Britain and eight from Ireland. Records are from May, September, October, November and December with the peak month being October with 29 records. The prime location for Rose-breasted Grosbeak is the Isles of Scilly with 13 records from the Islands. The last switchable bird was a first-winter male that came to feeders in Hugh Town, Isles of Scilly from 18th-29th December 2012.

This deep low pressure appears to have resulted in the arrival of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak. From this position the low tracked northwards along the west coast of the British Isles.

American Redstart
Barra, Outer Hebrides - 1st winter female 7th -17th September.

There are a total of seven British records of American Redstart with the last being in 1985. British records are as follows:
  • Galley Head, County Cork - 13th-15th October 1985
  • Winchester College Water Meadows, Hampshire - first-winter male, 4th - 6th October 1985
  • St. Just, Cornwall, first-winter male, 13th - 24th October 1983
  • Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire, first-winter, probably male, 7th November to 5th December 1982
  • Portnahaven, Islay, female or immature, 1st November 1982
  • Cape Clear Island, County Cork, male, 13th - 14th October 1968
  • Porthgwarra, Cornwall, first-winter male, 21st October 1967

American Redstart - Barra, Outer Hebrides
See Hebridean Imaging website here

With the seemingly constant flow of low pressure systems arriving from the Atlantic and with pretty much consistent westerly winds it was difficult to see how any eastern species might have arrived.  Yet, as a low pressure passed through the UK over the 8th and 9th the top edge produced an easterly airflow from deep into Scandinavia and back to the northern islands sufficient to provide an arrival of at least five Arctic Warbler, a Great Snipe and a Lanceolated Warbler, mainly from Shetland but Sandwich Bay in Kent scored with a Arctic Warbler trapped and ringed at Sandwich Bay on 10th September.

On 16th September low pressure systems were blocked from reaching our shores by the Azores high which extended north at least as far as Iceland. Low pressure systems were squeezed north meaning a temporary end to the arrival of American birds. At the same time a high pressure system was established over the Caspian and western Russia resulting in easterly winds reaching our shores. This resulted in a small arrival of eastern species such as Barred Warbler, Red-throated Pipit, Yellow-browed Warbler, Greenish Warbler and three Arctic Warbler, Western Bonelli's Warbler and a Rustic Bunting. The star bird on the 17th was a Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler that showed well at Burnham Overy Dunes on 17th.

On the 19th a low pressure system, that had passed through the UK, briefly settled to the east of the Baltic, this sent easterly winds off its northern edge resulting in the arrival of two megas, a female Siberian Thrush on Unst and a juvenile Yellow-breasted Bunting on Out Skerries. These eastern megas just two days after a Black-billed Cuckoo on Mainland Shetland.

Great Snipe
Fair Isle, Shetland - 11th September

Eurasian Scops Owl
Ryhope, Durham - 27th September and into October. Read the finders account on Birdguides here.

There are 84 accepted records of Eurasian Scops Owl in Great Britain and 14 from Ireland. Records extend across all months with the exception of February and December with the peak months being April, May and June. The prime location for the species is Orkney with 14 records, this is perhaps somewhat surprising given the southern origin of the species, perhaps, it is simply easier to find a small owl on Orkney where there are few trees, or perhaps this indicates that the individuals occurring here are from the eastern parts of the range but why have there been no records from Shetland?

Eurasian Scops Owl, Ryhope, Durham by Dave Hunton

While researching this Eurasian Scops Owl record I came across Stewart Sexton's blog, Stewchat, he has some fantastic photographs, field sketch's and watercolours of his birding and wildlife experiences. His notes and illustrations of the Scops Owl are exceptional.  Have a look at Stewart's blog here: This is his Scops Owl, I am very envious of his talent:

Arctic Warbler
Unst, Shetland - 8th September
North Ronaldsay - 8th September
Mainland, Shetland - 9th September
Sandwich Bay, Kent - 10th September
Mainland, Shetland - 12th September
Mainland, Shetland - 16th September
Easington, Yorkshire - 17th September
Wells Woods, Norfolk - 17th September
Whitburn Coastal Park, Durham - 26th September

Arctic Warbler - Exnaboe, Mainland, Shetland 12th September. A fantastic 
image by Rob Fray of Nature Shetland

Western Bonelli's Warbler
Fair Isle, Shetland - 17th September
Mire Loch, Borders - 19th September
Skokholm, Pembrokeshire - 24th September, trapped and ringed.

Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler
Burnham Overy Dunes, Norfolk - 17th -24th September. This bird showed late on the 17th and then on and off, mainly off and mainly flushed, for the rest of its stay.
Fair Isle, Shetland - 22nd September

Of the 54 accepted British records there are only 11 records from the mainland and a total of 41 records from Shetland. this remains a very rare bird on the mainland.

Lanceolated Warbler
Mainland, Shetland - 11th September

Booted Warbler
Foula, Shetland - 27th September
Rhossili Bay, Gower - 29th September

Paddyfield Warbler
St. Abbs Head NNR, Borders - 28th September

Siberian Thrush
Balta Sound, Unst - 20th September. Read the finders account on Birdguides here.

Female Siberian Thrush Balta Sound, Unst by Brydon Thomason of Shetland Nature 

There are 10 British and two Irish records of this stunning species. Records extend from 25th September through to 25th December with the majority of records during the last week in September and first couple of weeks of October. Shetland is the top location for the species with four records followed by Orkney and Norfolk each with two records.

Siberian Stonechat
North Ronaldsay, Orkney - 26th September
Nanjizal Valley, Cornwall - 28th September

Isabelline Wheatear
St. Mary's, Isle of Scilly - 28th September and into October.

Red-throated Pipit
Tory Island, County Donegal - 17th September
Fair Isle, Shetland - 27th September
Languard, Suffolk - 27th September
Unst, Shetland - 30th September

Pechora Pipit
Foula, Shetland -27th September

Yellow-breasted Bunting
House, Out Skerries - 20th - 22nd September. Read the finders account on Birdguides here.

There are some 237 British records of Yellow-breasted Bunting, however, since the early 2000's this species has undergone a rapid decline in the UK. This is linked to a decline of 90% and a retraction of its range by 5000 km since 1980 mainly due to an unsustainable trade in the species for as a prized cage bird, see article here.

Rustic Bunting
Fair Isle, Shetland - 17th September
North Ronaldsay, Orkney - 29th September
Foula, Shetland - 29th September
Melby, Mainland, Shetland -30th September
Dale of Walls, Mainland, Shetland - 30th September

Isabelline Shrike
Foula, Shetland - 29th September with two on 30th and three on 1st October!

European Roller
Balnakeil, Highland - 29th-30th September

Pallid Harrier
Burton Marsh, Cheshire - 30th September

With an almost constant flow of low pressure systems it was unsurpring that seawatching produced some exitement with the now annual records of Fea's Petrel but also a run of Barolo Shearwater from Cornwall on 4th and 5th.

Fea's Petrel
North Ronaldsey, Orkney - 2nd September
Lizard and then Porthgwarra - 2nd September
Carnsore Point, County Wexford - 10th September
Toe Head, County Cork - 23rd September

Barolo Shearwater
Moushole, Cornwall - 3rd September
Pentire Point then Newquay, Cornwall - 5th September

Leach's Petrel
Strong winds overnight on 10th September produced a strong passage of Leach's Petrel on the 11th mainly in the west with 60 past Hoylake, Cheshire. Relocating birds were recorded widely on 12th with birds being seen as far up the the River Severn as Fretherne. Storm Aileen produced another flush of records on 12th. While on 13th 51 flew past Hoylake and 60+ past New Brighton both in Cheshire and on 14th a further 70 flew past Hilbre Island, Chesire. During this period there were numerous birds scattered around the country but it was the Wirral that held the lions share - a classic site for the species in certain weather conditions, mainly fast moving Atlantic depressions and stron NW winds.

One of the most amazing images of Leach's Petrel I have seen - ever! By Richard Steel, more of his fantastic images can be seen on his blog here:
New Brighton, September 11th

Synoptic chart from 18:00 11th September 2017 from magicseaweed showing the first major storm of the Autumn, Storm Aileen producing gusts of up to 75mph - the storm stirred up the alreay large numbers of Leach'e Petrel along the east coast and produced a scatter of Sabine's Gull and Grey Phalarope but there were no major American rarieties associated with the storm

Friday 29 September 2017

Pennington Marsh - 29th September

I had a few hours to spare after dropping Tobias at school and so had a quick wander around the marshes. Wandering along the Ancient Highway past Efford Lagoon there were now 42 Tufted Duck, my highest count yet, while 25 Swallow and three Sand Martin foraged overhead. I spent some time grilling a Common Sandpiper to check it was not a Spotted but try as I might I couldn't string this one. Walking out past the flooded grassland at the back of Fishtail Lagoon a Tree Pipit called overhead as it flew south and three Yellow Wagtail headed east. The water levels at Fishtail Lagoon are high after the heavy rains of late and there were very few waders present just four Snipe, two Spotted Redshank and 22 Lapwing. A juvenile Little Stint on the island in Fishtail Lagoon was my first at the site this autumn. While small numbers of Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit and a single Wheatear fed in the grassland. Wandering out to Keyhaven Lagoon a female Marsh Harrier quartered the marsh. I was hoping for larger numbers of wader on Keyhaven Lagoon but the high water levels meant that all that was present were two Black-tailed Godwit and two Spotted Redshank. However, duck numbers have climbed steeply since my last visit on 17th September and I counted 125 Teal, 225 Wigeon and 32 Pintail - all in eclipse plumage. I then wandered out past Butts Lagoon where there were six Mediterranean Gull on the mud off the point while on Jetty Lagoon there were a further 85 Teal and single Spotted Redshank and Greenshank.

Little Stint - Fishtail Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Wigeon - Fishtail Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Little Egret - Keyhaven Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Wigeon - Keyhaven Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Wigeon - Keyhaven Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Wigeon - Keyhaven Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Pintail - Keyhaven Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Thursday 28 September 2017

Spotted Crake, Hornchurch CP and Red-necked Grebe, Roding Valley Meadows - 28th September

I had a bit of an epic survey day today, leaving home at 05:00 I was at Dagenham Docks (even less glamorous than it sounds) by 07:15. After this survey I had to cross Greater London in a north-west direction to St Albans. So having started so early I had a little time to play with and a couple of birds en-route.

First-up I visited Hornchurch Country Park in the Ingrebourne Valley where a Spotted Crake has been present since 16th September. The bird showed well soon after I arrived and I enjoyed excellent views for the time I was there. Also here were Water Rail (two), Cetti's Warbler (six) and a handful of Teal, Gadwall and Snipe. I have seen around seven Spotted Crake in the UK but not for many years and I have never photographed the species. It was a cracking little bird showing fairly well in an area of cattle grazed flooded swamp.

Spotted Crake (juvenile) - Hornchurch Country Park

Spotted Crake (juvenile) - Hornchurch Country Park

Spotted Crake (juvenile) - Hornchurch Country Park

Spotted Crake (juvenile) - Hornchurch Country Park

Spotted Crake (juvenile) - Hornchurch Country Park

Spotted Crake (juvenile) - Hornchurch Country Park

Next I visited Roding Valley Meadows near to Chigwell where a juvenile Red-necked Grebe has been present since 22nd September. While I have seen many Red-necked Grebe I have not seen the species in juvenile plumage so was keen to see this bird as I was pretty much passing by on route to St Albans. The bird was fairly mobile and often distant on the lake but eventually showed well in a secluded corner in the north-west of the lake. 

Long-tailed Tit - Roding Valley Meadows, Chigwell

Red-necked Grebe (juvenile) - Roding Valley Meadows, Chigwell

Red-necked Grebe (juvenile) - Roding Valley Meadows, Chigwell

Red-necked Grebe (juvenile) - Roding Valley Meadows, Chigwell

Red-necked Grebe (juvenile) - Roding Valley Meadows, Chigwell

Wednesday 27 September 2017

Portland - 25th September

It was my birthday today and so I took the day off to go birding. In previous years I have visited the Isles of Scilly but now that Tobias is at school this was not an option so I had decided to spend the day at Portland. The alarm went off at 04:30 and after a few coffee’s I was off and in the main car park at the Bill at 06:45 just as it was getting light. As I opened the car door I could here large numbers of Meadow Pipit and Linnet passing overhead with a few Grey Wagtail and Yellow Wagtail. Off the Bill a pod of around 15 Bottle-nosed Dolphin with around five calves were showing well as they frolicked around a fishing boat. I wandered towards the observatory firstly walking the perimeter of the Pulpit Inn and then to the quarry and past the bushes on the western boundary of the observatory. Large numbers of Meadow Pipit and Linnet were clearly on the move, there were at least 15 Wheatear in the fields while the bushes held good numbers of warblers with three Blackcap and eight Chiffchaff in the observatory quarry.

In the observatory garden there were around five Chiffchaff, two Willow Warbler and a smart Yellow-browed Warbler but no sign of the Greenish Warbler that had been trapped and ringed yesterday although the bird had been showing earlier in the morning. After around 1.5 hours looking for the Greenish Warbler I decided that I would rather go birding so wandered along to Culverwell, up over the Top Fields to the West Cliffs, along Sweet Hill Lane to Southwell and back along the East Cliffs to the observatory. There were large numbers of Linnet, Meadow Pipit and good numbers of Swallow with a few Sand Martin and House Martin passing over. In the fields there were a scatter of Wheatear, probably 10 in total, and two Whinchat. The Sycamores at the north-west end of Sweet Hill Lane held a single Chiffchaff and a Spotted Flycatcher. Back at the observatory the Greenish Warbler had shown again and so I decided to spend the rest of the afternoon looking for it. Within around 30 minutes I had a view of the Greenish Warbler along the access drive the observatory and over the next hour or two it showed fairly well on and off. It was quite a washed out and worn adult bird with a very indistinct wing bar. The was a new British bird for me, I had previously only seen Two-barred Greenish Warbler in the UK, the first British record on Gugh, Isle of Scilly in 1987. The Yellow-browed Warbler also showed well on and off and I spent and enjoyable couple of hours with these birds. It was 15:00 and time to head for home, a brief stop at The Fleet produced little of note. I had had a good day with a British tick and a lifer moth (see below).

Greenish Warbler - Portland Bird Observatory

Greenish Warbler - Portland Bird Observatory

Greenish Warbler - Portland Bird Observatory

Greenish Warbler - Portland Bird Observatory

Yellow-browed Warbler - Portland Bird Observatory

Bottle-nosed Dolphin (two adult and a calf) off Portland Bill early AM

Portland Lighthouses

Wheatear - Top Fields, Portland

Raven - West Cliffs, Portland

Kestrel - Reap Lane, Portland

Kestrel - Reap Lane, Portland 

Ziton Jack-up Vessel off the East Cliffs, Portland - The large struts extend down to the seabed raising the vessel from the water to create a stable platform. These vessels are used to service offshore wind farms.

Beautiful Gothic from the observatory moth trap. This is a Red Data Book 
species and a new moth for me.

Beautiful Gothic from the observatory moth trap

Goldspot from the observatory moth trap

East Cliffs viewed north, Portland

My days totals were as follows:

Goldcrest - 3
Skylark - 17
Swallow - 240
Sand Martin - 5
House Martin - 25
Willow Warbler - 2
Chiffchaff - 35
Yellow-browed Warbler - 1
Greenish Warbler - 1
Sedge Warbler - 1
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Blackcap - 6
Spotted Flycatcher - 1
Wheatear - 15
Stonechat - 3
Yellow Wagtail - 9
Reed Bunting - 1

An account of the day on the Portland Bird Observatory blog can be viewed here