Weekly birding round-up: 16 - 22 Oct

The week at a glance
A Chestnut-eared Bunting seen briefly on the Isles of Scilly
A Bobolink on the English east coast
The Common Nighthawk from Northern Ireland remarkably relocated in London
A Short-billed Dowitcher identified in County Louth
A Lesser Kestrel found online


Headline birds
Chestnut-eared Bunting on the Isles of Scilly

The highlight of the week was the discovery of a Chestnut-eared Bunting on St Mary's, Isles of Scilly on 20th by Scilly stalwarts Dick Filby and Tim Vaughan. Seen and heard in a field at Peninnis Head early in the morning it was soon lost and could not be relocated much to the chagrin of all the other birders on islands. Only the third British record following singles on Fair Isle on 15th-20th October 2004 and at Virkie on 23rd-25th October 2012 with only other Western Palearctic record in Sweden in Uppland at Singö, Understen on 25th October 2011.


Bobolink on the English east coast

Tom Hibbert made a sensational find with a Bobolink at Theddlethrope, Lincolnshire on 18th October - the first county record. Discovered mid afternoon it showed into the evening but could not be located the following day by which time a retrospective claim of what was presumed to be same bird having flown over Sammy's Point, Easington on 15th October, close to the site of the only previous Bobolink on the English east coast; at Long Bank, Easington on 27th October 2001. Although there are now 36 records of Bobolink across Britain and Ireland the last individual to be widely twitched was at Hengistbury head, Dorset on 1st-23rd November 2002.

Bobolink, Theddlethrope, Lincolnshire (© Neil Drinkall)


Common Nighthawk remarkably relocated in London
Common Nighthawk, Bushy Park, London, (© Lewis Newman)

The Common Nighthawk at Galgorm, County Antrim, present since 13th September, remained on show until 17th but could not to be found on 18th but then on 19th the same individual was photographed in flight at Bushy Park, London; 345 miles to the southeast. Soon after being photographed it left Bushy Park to the northeast heading in the direction of Richmond Park where it was later reported briefly: only a mile from where the only previous Common Nighthawk in London was found moribund at Barnes Common on 23rd October 1984. The 1984 bird died in care on 28th October and similarly was also an adult male.

Common Nighthawk, Bushy Park, London, (© Lewis Newman)

Finder Lewis Newman's has written exclusively for RBA on his amazing find, read it here


Short-billed Dowitcher identified
Short-billed Dowitcher, Dundalk, Louth, (© Fergal Stanley)

On 17th September a dowitcher species in County Louth at Rockmarshall was found, identified and photographed as a Long-billed Dowitcher. Despite good coverage around Dundalk the bird was not relocated until 13th October when it was again reported as a Long-billed and as an adult. On 19th October video was released that - although of low quality - showed the coverts to be juvenile feathers and prominent pale internal markings on the innermost greater covert diagnostic of Short-billed Dowitcher. In retrospect there was two clues to the specific identity of this dowitcher were given even before the bird was examined: the early arrival date with three of the four British records being discovered in early September (the first in Aberdeenshire from 11th September 1999 and in 2012 the second in Dorset from 3rd September and the third on the Isles of Scilly from 9th September) and the preference for saltwater habitat. This is only the fourth Irish record following singles in County Wexford on 30th September-2nd October 1985, County Meath and County Dublin intermittently from 18th March 2000 until 26th May 2001, and County Wexford and County Dublin intermittently between 30th June 2004 and 9th April 2005.


Lesser Kestrel online find

A nod to the skills of John Judge when on the evening on 22nd when he noted the apparent pale claws of a confiding Kestrel photographed by Kevin Groocock earlier in the day at Fraisthorpe, East Yorkshire, indicating it was a Lesser Kestrel. Only the 21st record for Britain and hopefully it will linger to become the first to be twitchable in Yorkshire.

Lesser Kestrel, Fraisthorpe, East Yorkshire (© Kevin Groocock)



An adult Pacific Diver in County Cork at Crookhaven was back for its third winter at Crookhaven having previously been recorded there from 18th January until 17th April 2018 and 7th October 2018 until 28th March 2019. Presumably just one White-billed Diver was responsible for both sightings in Yorkshire on 21st where it passed Flamborough Head in the morning and Long Nab, Burniston in the afternoon.

Pacific Diver, Crookhaven, Co.Cork, (© Brian McCloskey)



A total of 46 Balearic Shearwaters was recorded but just three Leach's Petrels; at sea off County Galway on 16th, passing Spurn, East Yorkshire on 20th and Cliftonville, Kent on 21st. Northerly winds brought good seawatching from North Sea watchpoints with a total off 22 Long-tailed Skuas including five passing Kinghorn, Fife on 19th and a grounded adult at Clevedon, Somerset on 16th before it returned to Port Eynon, Glamorgan later the same day. 102 Pomarine Skuas including 20 passing Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire on 21st and a confiding adult in coastal Hampshire on 16th-20th.


Herons, Egrets & allies

A Purple Heron in East Sussex on 20th at Pett Level was at the same site where two had been reported on 26th August, whilst Glossy Ibis reported were limited to one near Haddiscoe, Norfolk on 17th and the regular bird at Fremington Pill, Devon until 21st.


Geese and Ducks
Richardson's Cackling Goose, Loch Indaal, Argyll and Bute, (© Steve Percival)

On the Western Isles two Richardson's Cackling Geese remained on North uist with Barnacle Geese at Loch Paible until 21st with another Cackling Goose with Barnacle Geese on Islay on 21st. Single Todd's Canada Geese were located with Pink-footed Geese at Carnwath, Clyde on 18th and with Barnacle Geese in County Sligo at Lissadell on 19th and in Argyll on Islay at Loch Gruinart on 17th-21st. The latter bird was sporting a metal ring and was presumably one of the two ringed on the Inishkea Islands, County Mayo on 30th March 2019 returning to winter again with the Greenland Barnacle Geese.

Todd's Canada Goose, Loch Gruinart RSPB, Islay, Argyll and Bute, (© Steve Percival)

Black Brants were with Dark-bellied Brent Geese in Lincolnshire at Donna Nook on 16th-22nd and Frampton Marsh on 19th, and reported in Norfolk at Titchwell on 17th. Six Snow Geese was a good showing with singles in Clyde at Carnwath with Pink-footed Geese on 17th-22nd, still on the Western Isles on North Uist on 19th, in Ayrshire at New Cumnock on 18th-22nd, and flying southwest over Ogston Reservoir, Derbyshire on 21st, with two together on Islay, Argyll on 16th-18th. All were white morphs. Two Tundra Bean Geese lingered throughout in Kent between Stodmarsh and Grove Ferry whilst two Taiga Bean Geese overflying North Quuensferry on 17th were presumably en-route to Slamannan, Forth where 158 were counted on 22nd.

The lingering adult female Hooded Merganser in London was present throughout at King George V Reservoir but the adult male Lesser Scaup in Leicestershire at Rutland Water was only noted until 19th at Rutland Water after which it was replaced by a look-a-like hybrid aythya.

Blue-winged Teal, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly, (© Richard Tyler)

The juvenile male Blue-winged Teal remained on the Isles of Scilly on St Mary's until 18th, and male Green-winged Teals were on North Ronaldsay, Orkney Isles on 16th-19th, Islay, Argyll on 16th-21st, Walmsley Sanctuary, Cornwall on 17th, Read's Island, Lincolnshire on 21st and North Cave, East Yorkshire on 22nd, whilst adult male American Wigeons were on Inishmore, County Galway until 20th and back at Grindon Lough, Northumberland for a fifth winter from 20th. An adult male Surf Scoter was again the Firth of Forth at Musselburgh Lagoons, Lothian on 18th-20th and Ring-necked Ducks were logged in Bedfordshire at Marston Vale and in County Galway at Cahermore on 17th, two again in Essex at Abberton Reservoir on 18th and single juveniles throughout the period at Longham Lakes, Dorset and on Barra, Western Isles. The Ferruginous Duck present in Powys since 6th October was still at Llynheilyn on 17th but its colour-rings showed it to be the released bird previously present in the same county on 7th March-28th April 2018 and 4th December 2018-25th Jan 2019. This bird emanates from a German reintroduction scheme where between 2012 and 2016 473 juvenile Ferruginous Ducks were released at Lake Steinhude, Lower Saxony, where the species last bred in the wild in 1980. All the released birds in this scheme bear metal rings and most have an additional coded yellow plastic ring with other ringed Ferruginous Ducks in Britain that are known, or likely, to be from this scheme recorded in Berkshire (where three birds were together in 2017 and two in 2018) and in Surrey and then Sussex in 2018–19.



Up to two Spotted Crakes continued to perform on the Isles of Scilly at Lower Moors, St Mary's throughout and a Corncrake was at Pawlett Hams, Somerset on 18th.

Spotted Crake, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly, (© Richard Tyler)



In addition to the Short-billed Dowitcher, Nearctic waders comprised a Buff-breasted Sandpiper on Berneray, Western Isles on 16th, Spotted Sandpiper on St Agnes, Isles of Scilly on 18th-21st, Pectoral Sandpiper on South Uist, Western Isles on 19th, Baird's Sandpiper at Loch Gruinart, Islay, Argyll on 22nd, Lesser Yellowlegs in County Cork at Lissagriffin until 22nd and at Killongford, County Waterford again on 20th, Long-billed Dowitchers at Loch Stiapabhat, Lewis, Western Isles on 16th, Willington and High Bridge, Derbyshire 18th-19th, St Aidan's, West Yorkshire until 19th, Bowling Green Marsh, Devon and Tiree, Argyll until 21st, American Golden Plovers at Tacumshin, County Wexford on 16th, Baleshare, Western Isles on 17th, Banks Marsh, Lancashire on 19th-20th, Saltholme, Cleveland on 21st-22nd and Inch Island, County Donegal on 22nd, and Semipalmated Sandpipers at Rossbeigh, County Kerry on 17th, Rosslare, County Wexford on 19th and in Aberdeenshire the suspected individual still on the Ythan Estuary 19th although photographs of this last bird suggested it was actually a Little Stint. However, it was White-rumped Sandpipers that predominated with a record 45 recorded; two in Aberdeenshire on the Ythan Estuary, two in Ayrshire at Fail, four in County Cork, two in Cornwall, one in Dorset at Lodmoor, five in County Kerry, seven in County Londonderry at Myroe, three in County Mayo, one on the Isles of Scilly on St Mary's, one in County Wexford at Tacumshin and sixteen on the Western Isles including 11 together at Ardivachar, South Uist on 19th-21st.

White-rumped Sandpiper, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly, (© Richard Tyler)
White-rumped Sandpiper, South Uist, Western Isles, (© Stephen Duffield)
Spotted Sandpiper, St.Agnes, Isles of Scilly, (© Steve Williams )
Long-billed Dowitcher, Willington, Derbyshire, (© Tony Davison)

Other notable shorebirds were a Kentish Plover at South Gare, Cleveland on 18th, a Dotterel on Tresco, Isles of Scilly on 16th and single Red-necked Phalaropes off the Western Rocks, Isles of Scilly and at St Aidan's, West Yorkshire on 22nd. A total of 29 Grey Phalarope was recorded but only one of these was found inland: a confiding first-winter at Cuckmere Haven, East Sussex on 19th-22nd.

Grey Phalarope and Red Phalarope, Isles of Scilly, (© Joe Pender)



Associated with the northerly winds were 184 Little Auks including 42 passing Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire on 21st and 34 passing Spurn on 21st with, notably, one inland at Covenham Reservoir, Lincolnshire on 22nd and another at Coverack, Cornwall on the same day.

Little Auk, Titchwell RSPB, Norfolk (© Bill Richmond)


Gulls and Terns

Fourteen Sabine's Gulls including a showy juvenile at Dungeness, Kent on 19th-21st. The juvenile American Black Tern remained throughout at Longham Lakes, Dorset with a Roseate Tern passing nearby Hengistbury Head on 17th and a White-winged Black Tern at Lurgangreen, County Louth on 16th-18th.

Sabine's Gull, Dungeness, Kent, (© Martin Casemore)
American Black Tern, Longham, Bournemouth, Dorset, (© Gary Thoburn)


Passerines & their ilk

Six Hoopoes comprised singles at Plymstock, Devon on 16th-17th, Warkworth, Northumberland on 17th, South Ronaldsay, Orkney Isles on 17th, Pegwell Bay and Ramsgate on 19th and at Comber, County Down on 20th whilst eight Wrynecks consisted of singles in Hampshire at Titchfield Haven throughout and reported at Sturt Pond on 16th, Prawle Point, Devon on 16th-19th, Portland Bill, Dorset on 17th, Pagham Harbour, West Sussex on 19th, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly until 19th, Dover, Kent on 20th and on Achill Island, County Mayo on 21st-22nd.

The Short-toed Lark was still on St Mary's, Isles of Scilly on 16th whilst incoming Shorelarks were on Fair Isle, Shetland Isles on 16th (2), Rossall Point, Lancashire on 16th, Cley, Norfolk on Cley 18th-20th with perhaps the same at Titchwell 21st-22nd, Spurn, East Yorkshire 19th-22nd (2), Boulmer, Northumberland 19th-21st and South Foreland, Kent on 21st. A Red-rumped Swallow flew over Hunstanton, Norfolk on 18th.

The Pechora Pipit remained on Fair Isle until 17th and Olive-backed Pipits were at Nanjizal, Cornwall on 16th, at least two on Fair Isle, Shetland Isles on 16th-17th with one until 18th, and one on Unst at Baltasound on 19th. On the Isles of Scilly a Red-throated Pipit on St Mary's at Peninnis Head on 22nd was certainly not same individual as the actual red-throated adult present at the same site on 7th October but seems likely to have been the same bird as that seen earlier on 22nd on St Agnes, as it was last seen heading back in that direction. A total of 27 Richard's Pipits included seven in Cornwall, four on the Shetland Isles and three in Norfolk whilst most notable amongst the rest were singles at Alaw Estuary, Anglesey, on Oronsay, Argyll and passing over Moffat, Dumfries and Galloway all on the 18th and at Alkborough Flats, Lincolnshire on 20th. A first-winter Citrine Wagtail proved popular at Salakee, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly on 21st-22nd.

Waxwing, Kinlochbervie, Highland, (© Andy Williams)

At least 70 Waxwings were logged including up to 17 together at Finstown, Mainland, Orkney Isles on 21st, 10 at Olrig, Highland on 22nd, and at least one mobile bird on the Isles of Scilly from 20th-22nd. The Siberian Rubythroat on Fetlar, Shetland Isles was still present on 16th albeit frustratingly briefly, Bluethroats were on St Kilda, Western Isles on 16th and Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire on 22nd and Red-flanked Bluetails were at Filey, North Yorkshire until 16th, Burn of Sound, Lerwick, Shetland Isles on 21st, East Hills, Norfolk on 21st-22nd and on St Agnes, Isles of Scilly on 22nd. The fifth and sixth Isabelline Wheatears of the autumn were located on Lundy, Devon on 18th and Tresco, Isles of Scilly on 22nd, and Eastern Stonechats were on Burray, Orkney Isles until 17th, Hillwell, Shetland Isles on 16th, Leebitten, Shetland Isles on 17th and Whitburn, County Durham on 22nd. On the Isles of Scilly the first-winter Blue Rock Thrush remained throughout on St Mary's between The Garrison and Peninnis Head.

Siberian Rubythroat, Tresta, Fetlar, (© Jason Atkinson)

A Radde's Warbler on Fair Isle, Shetland Isles was proposed as a candidate Yellow-streaked Warbler although it remained silent throughout its stay, with another Radde's on Inishmore, County Galway on 18th, Pallas's Warblers were at Sand Point, Somerset on 19th and St Abb's Head, Borders on 21st, with Blyth's Reed Warblers at Sumburgh Head, Shetland Isles on 16th, Isle of May, Fife on 18th and at Nanjizal, Cornwall on 20th: the fourth caught at that site this autumn and the ninth netted there since 2015. An Icterine Warbler at Sennen Cove, Cornwall on 17th was followed by a Melodious Warbler at Portland, Dorset the following day. Notable Sylvia warblers were the probable Turkestan Lesser Whitethroat still at Kilnsea, East Yorkshire on 16th, fifteen Barred Warblers included eight on the Shetland Isles and singles at Lundy, Devon and Southwold, Suffolk on 17th and Brotton, Cleveland on 19th-21st, with Subalpine Warblers at Cot Valley, Cornwall on 17th-18th, St Agnes, Isles of Scilly on 17th-20th, Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire on 22nd with the adult female at Hillwell, Shetland Isles until 19th confirmed from sound recordings as a Western Subalpine Warbler.

Western Subalpine Warbler, Loch of Hillwell, Shetland, (© Hugh Harrop / Shetland Wildlife)

Twelve Red-breasted Flycatchers included four on the Isles of Scilly, three on the Shetland Isles and singles at Skokholm, Pembrokeshire and East Hills, Norfolk on 22nd, whilst candidate Collared Flycatchers were photographed at Seaford Head, East Sussex on 20th and Langdon Hole, Kent on 21st.

Great Grey Shrike, Loch of Hillwell, Shetland, (© Hugh Harrop / Shetland Wildlife)

A Lesser Grey Shrike on Unst at Northdale on 18th was a first-winter and so different to the adult male present at nearby Baltasound on 11th-12th which itself was relocated on South Mainland, Shetland at Channerwick on 19th. Great Grey Shrikes were on Out Skerries and Hillwell, Shetland Isles on 17th, South Ronaldsay, Orkney Isles on 18th, Isle of May, Fife on 19th-20th, Dawdon, County Durham on 19th, Rainton Meadows, County Durham on 21st, Kessingland, Suffolk and Reculver, Kent on 22nd. Five Red-backed Shrikes comprised two each on both the Isles of Scilly and the Shetland Isles and one still at Kynance Cove, Cornwall on 16th. Rose-coloured Starlings were on Lundy, Devon on 16th-21st, in Northumberland at Bedlington on 18th-22nd and Alnwick on 21st-22nd, and passing over Spurn, East Yorkshire on 22nd.

Lesser Grey Shrike, Channerwick, South Mainland, Shetland (© Roger Riddington)
Rose-coloured Starling, Alnwick, Northumberland (© Mark Eaton)

Single Hornemann's Arctic Redpolls remained on North Ronaldsay, Orkney Isles until 18th, and on the Shetland Isles were on Unst at Skaw on 17th and Fair Isle on 20th-22nd. Common Rosefinches were on the Isles of Scilly (2) and Fair Isle, Shetland Isles on 17th-19th. Serins were seen briefly in Dorset at St Aldhelm's Head on 19th and in Kent at St Margaret's at Cliffe on 20th. Little Buntings were at St Mary's Island, Northumberland and Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire on 16th, at Spurn, East Yorshire on 16th-22nd, at Dale of Walls, Shetland Isles and over-flying Holmfirth, East Yorkshire on 17th, on Bryher, Isles of Scilly on 19th, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly on 20th, trapped and ringed at Woolston Eyes, Cheshire on 21st and on The Lizard, Cornwall on 22nd, and a total of 53 Lapland Buntings was logged.

Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, Fair Isle, Shetland, (© Rebecca Nason)

In addition to the Bobolink in Lincolnshire, Nearctic landbirds this week were the lingering Yellow-billed Cuckoo on the Isles of Scilly that showed further staying power by just making it into another week on St Mary's on 16th whilst the Rose-breasted Grosbeak on nearby St Martin's was also last seen on the same date, the Myrtle Warblers remained on both North Uist, Western Isles until 16th and on Inishmore, County Galway until 20th, and Red-eyed Vireos were in East Yorkshire at Easington until 16th then at Spurn Point on 17th-20th, on St Mary's, Isles of Scilly at Old Town on 16th and Porthloo on 19th, and in Ireland on Cape Clear, County Cork on 16th-21st, and accompanying the Myrtle Warbler on Inishmore, County Galway on 16th-20th.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak, St Martin's, Isles of Scilly, (© Richard Tyler)
Red-eyed Vireo, Easington, Yorkshire, (© Robert Dowley)
Red-flanked Bluetail, Lerwick, Shetland, (© Hugh Harrop / Shetland Wildlife)
Myrtle Warbler, North Uist, Western Isles, (© Stephen Duffield)


Further afield

The Azores dominated the news with on Corvo Dickcissel, Hooded Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Northern Parula, Blackpoll Warbler, Philadelphia Vireo, Indigo Bunting, Scarlet Tanager, Hermit Thrush, American Buff-bellied Pipit, two Red-eyed Vireos and Northern Harrier all logged, on Flores Scarlet Tanager, American Buff-bellied Pipit and Laughing Gull, and on Sao Miguel Northern Harrier and Pied-billed Grebe. Meanwhile, French birders enjoyed a bumper week with, in Finistere a Black-and-white Warbler on Ile-de-Sein on 16th-18th accompanied by a Red-eyed Vireo on the first date, on Ouessant a Rose-breasted Grosbeak on 16th, Red-eyed Vireo on 17th, Brown Shrike on 17th-19th, Eyebrowed Thrush on 19th with Upland Sandpiper present until 22nd, a Brown Booby passing Plogoff on 17th, with another Rose-breasted Grosbeak in Morbihan at Saint-Pierre-Quiberon on 22nd. On Iceland a Rose-breasted Grosbeak at Seltjorn on 16th and an American Buff-bellied Pipit at Hafnir on 19th, in Norway a Black-faced Bunting at Rost, Nordland on 16th, in the Netherlands the elusive Myrtle Warbler was still on Schiermonnikoog on 22nd and in Spain a Dwarf Bittern was picked up dead at Zaragoza, Aragon on 17th; the first of that species on the Spanish mainland.

The coming week

The coming week brings yet more promise with the autumn far from over; the 23rd-29th October period has history for producing some of our most wanted mega rarities and any from the hall of fame would be appreciated: Siberian Blue Robin 23rd October 2000 Minsmere, Suffolk; Rufous-tailed Robin 23rd October 2004 Fair Isle, Shetland Isles; Chestnut-eared Bunting 23rd October 2012 Virkie, Shetland Isles; Cape May Warbler 23rd October 2013 Unst, Shetland Isles; Ovenbird 23rd October 2011 Barra, Western Isles; Macqueen's Bustard 24th October 1898 St Fergus, Aberdeenshire; Bimaculated Lark 24th October 1975 St Mary's, Isles of Scilly; Ruby-crowned Kinglet 27th October 2013 Cape Clear, County Cork.

Cape May Warbler, Unst, Shetland, October 2013 (© Chris Bromley)


Chris Batty
23 October 2019


Many thanks to all contributors for their photos and videos this week.

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