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|Wednesday 23rd May 2012, 17:12||#1|
Join Date: Jun 2007
Rare Bird Alert weekly round-up: 16 - 22 May 2012
From the RBA weekly round-up: 16 - 22 May 2012
The weeks highlights:
Britain’s first-ever spring Cream-coloured Courser appears in Herefordshire
A White-throated Sparrow drops in briefly on the Isle of Skye
The Greater Yellowlegs still in residence in north-east Scotland
Great White Egrets nesting successfully for the first time in the UK
The forecasters were spot on with their predictions of a decent north-easterly airflow this week and, coupled with assorted bits of murk and grot, the favourable conditions ensured a tasty arrival (in relative terms) of typical mid-May species, many of them making their collective presence felt along the coastline of the North Sea.
Birders in east coast counties were indeed licking their lips as pockets of birds appeared at many a familiar location and plenty of news was forthcoming and the occasional surprise here and there kept everyone on their toes.
In truth though, despite the “fall”, it seemed as if it was still all a little on the slow side, and the first few days of the new round-up period passed by with little to really trouble the scorers but, with the metaphorical birding stumps being drawn and close of play on Sunday having passed a couple of hours beforehand, news broke of what is, undoubtedly, the bird of the year so far…..
There are many locations which, in mid to late May, are always top of many birders’ hit-lists in terms of places they may have to drop everything to head for ~ Shetland is always there or thereabouts (for those with time and deep pockets), waiting to unleash a bird of Pallas’s Sandgrouse quality once again. Spurn, Filey and Flamborough always have the potential for something outrageous if the weather is right, likewise Norfolk’s Blakeney Point or the fabled East Hills along with any number of choice sites running from the northern most Scottish islands right the way down to Kent and all the way along the south coast. Yes, if conditions suit, something sensational could be uncovered ~ which made the late evening news on 20th even more remarkable….
As many folk headed to bed, or caught up with Family Guy, the late night headline of a Cream-coloured Courser in Herefordshire was one of those shake-your-head, rub-your-eyes bits of news that, even if you’ve been fortunate enough to see the species in the UK before, was still a massive surprise (a Cream-coloured Courser, in Herefordshire, in strong north-easterlies ~ huh!?!) and incredibly exciting too….
Found in the last hour or so of the day by a local lady talking her dog for a walk on Bradnor Hill, there was even a photo to go with it ~ as bold as brass there was Britain’s first-ever spring Cream-coloured Courser, a delicious adult, standing in some cut bracken on the edge of the local golf course. Incredible.
Happily, the bird was still present the following morning and remained to 22nd. As well as being the first-ever spring record, the Herefordshire individual became just the fourth Cream-coloured Courser since 1980 (and only the third twitchable one of that quartet).
Many birders saw at least one of the most recent 3C’s (it keeps that little motif running along nicely after two weeks of the F3….) ~ the obliging island-hopping youngster on Scilly in the autumn of 2004 attracted the crowds, while hundreds also paid homage to the only other twitchable Courser of the modern era, the muddy-billed bird at Hadleigh Castle in Essex, in the autumn of 1984 (immediately christened “Cream-cup and saucer” by those of a certain youthful air).
Prior to that, you have to head to the brief appearance of one at Ruan Lanihorne (Cornwall) in October 1980, before that, it's all the way back to October and November 1969, when a Cream-coloured Courser graced Blakeney and then Ormesby before finding itself in the Castle Museum in Norwich….
Britain’s first Cream-coloured Courser was recorded in Kent in 1785 and several of the records that followed over the next couple of centuries were never dated. Those that have had notes regarding their dates of occurrence show an overwhelming peak for late September and early October, with half of the 44 records to date falling between September 9th and October 23rd. November and December have three records each.
The earliest of the British bunch was at Dungeness in 1916 (though a bird on Jersey in 1995 beats the Kent record by three days, appearing on September 6th) and also of note is the only multiple occurrence ~ three birds spending a day in Lanarkshire on October 10th 1949.
The Scilly individual of 2004, as well as being one of the star turns that autumn, also became the ultimate padder too ~ birders who made the trip to see the ultra-showy Ovenbird at the end of October also managed to take in the Cream-coloured Courser too ~ and those two species also run hand-in-hand as being (arguably) the two rarest species recorded in the last couple of decades (or more) in Herefordshire….this year’s Courser proving to be rather less controversial than the wintering (photographed) Ovenbird in the county from December 2001 to February 2002.
The other major bird of the week, also found on 20th, pretty much slipped under the radar as the Courser stole all the headlines. Funnily enough, White-throated Sparrow is still (just) rarer than this week’s star bird ~ but the location, Broadford on the Isle of Skye, the short amount of time it was under observation, and the relative frequency of “available” records in the past decade or more meant that it barely caused a ripple in the birding pond.
It's the first new White-throated Sparrow for nearly two years ~ the spring of 2010 providing a remarkable run of no fewer than seven records between April 30th and June 19th ~ singles for Scilly, Cornwall, Suffolk, Lincolnshire and Gwynedd and two for Shetland (which now boasts a startling 15 records) ~ and this is only the second record for the west of Scotland (Britain’s first White-throated Sparrow was shot on the Outer Hebrides on May 18th 1909) and only the second ever in Highland (the first spending around four months at Thurso from May 1970).
Amongst all this commotion, the Greater Yellowlegs remained faithful to Loch of Strathbeg, still present on 22nd, heading towards its third month in situ.
On the morning of 22nd, historic news emerged from the Somerset Levels regarding the first-ever successful breeding of Great White Egrets in Britain. A pair of these wonderfully elegant birds set up territory at Shapwick Heath NNR late in the winter and in early April a local birder noticed that something was happening…..now, six weeks on, the pair have at least one youngster in their nest ~ the round-the-clock protection employed by volunteers from Natural England, the RSPB and the Somerset Ornithological Society seems to have paid dividends and history has been made.
Great White Egrets have found the Somerset Levels to their liking in recent years and breeding behaviour has been rumoured in the past couple of years but never substantiated. Over recent months, ones and twos were frequently reported, there were several occasions when three birds were seen together and on October 16th and three dates in December last year, five birds were noted, culminating in eight together at Shapwick on February 3rd this year.
This species now joins a growing role call of continental herons that have bred successfully in the UK ~ Little Egrets have firmly established themselves as a breeding species across many parts of the country now, following their first successes in Dorset in the mid-90’s. The Somerset Levels have, in the last five years, hosted successful pairs of Cattle Egret and Little Bittern, while Purple Herons raised young for the first time in Kent in 2010 with a small colony of Spoonbills establishing themselves in north Norfolk the same year. The next candidate must surely be Glossy Ibis….
Much more in the full online round-up including
- London Mega's of Bonaparte's Gull and Melodious Warbler
- A red-fest, with Red-throated Pipits, Red-breasted Flycatchers, Red-spotted Bluethroats and Red-backed Shrikes
- A nightingale double on Fair Isle
Plus much more...
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Last edited by Rare Bird Alert : Wednesday 23rd May 2012 at 17:15.
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