|The Lincolnshire Bird Club
|Looking Back - November firsts
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|Author:||Matthew Harrison [ Mon Nov 04, 2013 6:24 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Looking Back - November firsts|
As autumn migration begins to stall, the list of firsts for November is much reduced compared to the previous two months. However, this is a month of quality rather than quantity. Some of the rarest species to grace the Lincolnshire list have been found in November, and include two British firsts (although one was then soon relegated to a British second), three fourth's for Britain, some rather confiding exciting southern and eastern species which drew large crowds to the Lincolnshire coast and one of Europe's most majestic raptors which has not now graced the Counties skies for 85 years. It is, however, a certain American Sprite which is the star turn of November - and arguably the most famous rarity to have made landfall in the County. So, on with the review…………………
2006 – BLACK-EARED KITE
Whilst conducting a seawatch at Freiston Shore RSPB reserve during the afternoon of 2nd November, looking north-east, four raptors were located over the saltmarsh, one of which was identified as a Black Kite. The kite circled low over the saltmarsh, mobbed by a male and female Hen Harrier and a juvenile Marsh Harrier, and then glided out of sight behind a bend in the seawall. News of the bird's presence was released and the next hour spent searching for it. Fortunately, the bird reappeared in the same area. Now mid-afternoon, the bird was watched until dusk when it flew to roost in a tree belt to the north of Butterwick pullover car park. Next morning, it was seen leaving its roost and, thereafter, it lingered in the Wash-side area between Butterwick and Holbeach Marsh (to the southeast), with Holbeach St. Matthew later becoming the main access point for viewing. It later transpired that a Black Kite had been reported just to the north, flying over Gibraltar Point on 16th October, so it is possible that the bird could have been in the area since that date. Initially, the bird was taken to be a fine juvenile Black Kite without consideration to race or form. After the bird had been present for several days, some observers began to speculate that this individual could be of the eastern form, known as Black-eared Kite. Consultation with leading raptor experts on 14th November concluded that the bird was indeed an excellent candidate for the eastern form. After the bird information services updated the news during the afternoon of 15th November that the bird was in fact a Black-eared Kite, interest in the bird increased significantly – this was a British first after all. By the weekend of 18th-19th November the area became very busy with visiting birdwatchers as many came to see this bird for the 'insurance list'. The Black-eared Kite remained faithful to its chosen area until 21st November. It was largely solitary, hunting over open agricultural farmland, seawalls and saltmarsh, and it roosted in mature deciduous trees within farmland areas. It was frequently mobbed by other raptors (Marsh Harriers, Hen Harriers, Kestrels and Merlins), Carrion Crows, Magpies and gulls. It was seen feeding on mammal corpses (largely Rabbits and Rats), as well as on earthworms. The bird was very wary and did not allow approach closer than 150 to 200 yards. Taking into account the Gibraltar Point report on 16th October, it is possible that the bird arrived in Britain sometime during the 10th to 19th October when a period of high pressure and south-easterly winds may have assisted its passage across the north sea and onto the east coast. Following the appearance of this bird in Lincolnshire in November, it was then discovered in north-west Norfolk in early December, frequenting Snettisham RSPB reserve daily between 6th and 16th. It then subsequently visited the Broads for a few days, before then frequenting the marshes between Cley and Morston from 26th December until 1st January 2007. It then returned to the Snettisham and Dersingham Bog area from 3rd to 15th January and reappeared there from 19th January (after visiting Holkham, Wareham and Cley in between). It remained here until last seen on 13th April, but did make one more brief appearance in Lincolnshire (just!) when seen at Terrington Marsh on 12th April 2007. At the time there were no other documented records of Black-eared Kite in Western Europe, (a bird was later identified from photographs from June/July 2006 in Finland) although as this is such a common species on the continent they could be easily overlooked. As Black Kite is still a rare bird in Britain they will no doubt receive much closer scrutiny. Up to a dozen races of Black Kite are sometimes recognised worldwide, but most authorities normally recognise about seven. The familiar Black Kite in Europe breeds in northwest Africa, Europe and Western Asia and is highly migratory. Black-eared Kite is also highly migratory. It breeds in central and eastern Asia south to the Himalayas and northern Indochina, but winters in southern Asia (as opposed to Africa for the European breeders). The elevation of Black-eared Kite to species status by several authorities – some as long as 20 years ago – again focussed racial variations in species to 'splitting' them with the arrival of this bird. This remains the only British record.
2005 – STEPPE GREY SHRIKE
The first county record of this 'pale grey shrike' was a first-winter bird present at Sutton Bridge on 16th November 2005. However, it was not until the acceptance of the sighting by the BBRC three years after the bird's occurrence that this record widely came to light. As a consequence, a bird that arrived in 2008, was, at the time, believed to be the first county record. On the morning of 7th November 2008, following the report of a Great Grey Shrike at Grainthorpe Haven, a subsequent search of the fields and scattered sparse hedgerows located the bird in the far distance after around 40 minutes. There was initially no sigh of the bird on making a closer approach, but crossing a stubble field to walk back along the side of the hawthorn bushes where it had been seen, the bird appeared at only about 30 yards range. On scoping the bird it became very apparent that this was no Great Grey Shrike due to its extensive paleness of plumage. At this point Steppe Grey Shrike was considered, and after going through some key identification points it looked increasingly likely that this was the bird in question. Pending further clarity, news was released as a 'probable' Steppe Grey Shrike. A few local birders made it to the site by 3.50pm, and although it was thought the bird had initially gone to roost in the hawthorns, it fortunately re-appeared after two minutes and the identity was confirmed by those present. This first-winter bird then went on to become one of the most popular UK rarities of the year, thanks to its remarkably confiding nature. It often flew towards the gathered crowd and so fearless was it that it even perched on the head of more than one lucky observer. This bird seemed to find plenty of food, frequently taking worms often running about on the ground in a ploughed field to catch them, but it also caught plenty of insects. It regularly regurgitated pellets and two-coughed up on 12th November were analysed and found to contain the remains of at least 16 beetles. Birders visiting the shrike donated several hundred pounds in a collection taken for the upkeep of the local 15th century St. Mary's Church, Marshchapel, and thanks were made from the local landowner of the generosity of visiting birders. This extremely popular and delightfully confiding individual remained until 26th November. This was at the time considered the first for Lincolnshire, the 19th for Britain, all but three of which had occurred in the previous 20 years. The most popular and twitchable birds prior to this one were birds in Essex in 1996, Northamptonshire in 1997 and the Isle of Man in June/July 2003, so on the British mainland at least this was the first widely twitchable bird for 11 years. There are 17 recognised forms of Great Grey Shrike in the Palearctic area, all formerly lumped under one species, Lanius excubitor. However, this complex is now generally split into at least two species: the northern group, Great Grey Shrike L. excubitor, and the southern group, Southern Grey Shrike L. meridionalis. Steppe Grey Shrike is generally regarded as an eastern form of Southern Grey Shrike L. meridionalis pallidirostris, but it differs considerably from meridionalis, the dark south-western European form and may better be treated as a full species in its own right (as some authorities have done so now for nearly two decades!). Steppe Grey Shrike breeds in the Kazakhstan region of central Asia, where it is a common bird of the semi-desert and true desert areas. It is a long distance migrant, and winters southwest to Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia. There are records of vagrants in most north-west European countries, as well as in northwest India and the Kenya/Sudan border. A noted trait of Steppe Grey Shrike is that they are typically much more confiding and this certainly was true of this Lincolnshire individual. There are still only 24 British records up to the end of 2011.
2000 – PIED WHEATEAR
On 18th November a first-winter female Pied Wheatear was identified at Gibraltar Point becoming the first county record of this long predicted addition to the counties avifauna. This individual, a rather confiding bird, was very well watched and photographed during its stay until 26th November, mainly frequenting the area around Rock Ridge and the Storm Ridge to the south of the visitor centre. The arrival of this Pied Wheatear was slightly later than most previous British records and arrived during an exceptional period of eastern rarities in the UK, which included nine Hume's Warblers and two Isabelline Shrikes. This Gibraltar Point bird was only the 46th British record. This species breeds from the Black Sea eastwards across mid-latitude Asia to Mongolia and China. The whole population winters in East Africa and the south-western part of the Arabian Peninsula. It has occurred widely across the UK in its appearances, however the east coast fairs particularly well and October and November are the peak arrival periods. There are however, records for May, June and July. A better understanding of the species distinction from the Black-eared Wheatear (in female and immature plumages) is the most likely cause for an increase in British sightings. This was formerly an extremely rare vagrant with just four British records between 1909 and 1968. However, there had been 64 British records up to the end of 2011 with peaks of 5 in 1991 and 1993 and there have been only 7 blank years in the 35 year period between 1976 and 2011. Despite this increase, this dapper Wheatear remains a big draw when one does arrive on these shores.
1994 – ALPINE ACCENTOR
On 14th November a visit was made to Rimac to follow up on a report of a possible Dusky Warbler from the previous day. Arriving at the pillbox where the warbler had been reported at 13:30 a bird flew across the track and settled out of view on the edge of the saltmarsh. Intrigued, the observers edged forward in anticipation of a decent view. Fortunately it soon hopped out onto the short-turf track, and after close scrutiny through both binoculars and scope, it was obvious the bird was a large Accentor. It was soon realised that the bird was a pristine Alpine Accentor. The bird appeared to be very settled; intent on actively feeding and news of its presence was released that afternoon. At dawn the next day a small crown had gathered at Rimac. Fortunately the bird was still present and it performed obligingly for about 250 watchers that day. A collection onsite raised around £127 towards the reserve and the Lincolnshire Trust for Nature Conservation. A steady flow of twitchers continued over subsequent days but despite appearing very settled and looking like it may make an extended stay, on the afternoon of 17th November the bird was flushed by some passing horse riders and apart from a brief report on 18th it was not seen again despite some extensive searching. Throughout its stay the bird remained loyal to the long strip of short grass along the track separating the saltmarsh from the dense belt of sea buckthorn scrub. On the day of discovery at least, this dense scrub belt provided shelter from the moderate south-westerly winds, perhaps the reason for the bird settling there. Birders had crossed this area that morning and the previous day so it may have been a fresh arrival; although alternatively it could have been pushed by the winds from a more exposed area. However it got there, it was much appreciated by all those who saw it, and it was very well photographed, helped by its confiding and approachable nature and even made it on to a regional TV news slot and a small mention in the national press. Although a species of high Alpine scree slopes and meadows, it descends to lower altitudes in winter. The Rimac bird had taken things to the extreme and found a strip of micro-habitat suitable for its needs barely above sea level. The narrow close grazed path seemed to provide it with a rich supply of food (apparently small grass seeds). This bird was only the 39th British record, and only the eleventh since 1950, although there had been 26 records up to 1949. A bird was seen on Lundy, Devon on 8th May 1993, but the last twitchable Alpine Accentor prior to the Rimac individual was at the Needles, Isle of Wight from 27th May to 6th June 1990. Since this Lincolnshire sighting in 1994 there have been only a further five British records of this species up to the end of 2011 and it remains a great rarity. As one of the most remarkable sightings in 1994, this bird was one of the main highlights of a superb autumn for rarities in Britain. Bearing in mind the easterly origin of so many of these rarities, it is possible to speculate that it may have arrived from a more eastern population than those in southern Europe, which is generally assumed to be the source of most of the British records. Alternatively it may have arrived with the very mild southerly weather which dominated the late autumn and brought a late influx of Red-rumped Swallows to the UK. Spring records in Western Europe predominate, mainly between April and June, with just a small number occurring during the late autumn and winter.
1984 – GREEN-WINGED TEAL
On the morning of 11th November, a visit to Gibraltar Point, included observations from the Mere hide. Foggy conditions persisted and visibility was around 200m, approximately two-thirds of the length of the mere. On scanning through a group of Teal near to the bank a bird immediately stood out from the rest, a male Green-winged Teal. The bird was watched for a while before the group of Teal it was accompanying started to swim towards the end of the mere being lost to sight in the fog. A short while later a mixed flock of Teal and Wigeon flew off in the fog and later when the fog had lifted the Green-winged Teal could not be refound. Despite several return visits to the mere during the rest of the day it was not seen again. The second county record also came from Gibraltar Point, just a few months after the first when a bird was seen on 28th March 1985, although it is conceivable that this record relates to the same individual as that seen the previous autumn. There have now been a minimum of 17 records for the County (allowing for some duplication of returning birds). In line with the majority of British records, all of those seen in Lincolnshire have occurred between late autumn and spring. Eight birds have been found between the end of March and the third week in May, and it is likely that these spring birds are re-orientating from wintering elsewhere in Britain or Western Europe. A bird discovered at Alkborough Flats on 25th December 2007, remained in the area until 2nd March 2008 and then returned for the next two winters being seen from 15th November 2008 to 4th March 2009 and then intermittently between 10th November 2009 and 14th March 2010 (absent for a long periods due to severe weather conditions). The majority of records involve birds which have only made short stays of between one and three days with just three records of birds remaining for around a fortnight (in addition to the above Alkborough individual). Records have been widely scattered across the County with most at inland localities or from sites around the Humber or the Wash. The exceptions to this are five coastal records, four of which have come from Gibraltar Point and the other from Wolla Bank Pit in January 1996. All sightings involve single birds, however there were two records of the species in 1996, 2000, 2007 and 2011 with three noted in 2008. The North American counterpart of Eurasian Teal, this species (formally considered sub-specific to Teal) is an annual visitor to the UK in winter and spring, but its occurrence patterns are masked by the fact that eclipse males, females and juveniles are extremely difficult to separate from Teal. It is only in recent years that some of the key distinguishing points have been unlocked, but it would still be a brave birder to claim a bird in one of these plumages. Occurring at the rate of around 25-30 birds per year; the species was removed from the BBRC Rarities list at the end of 1990, although as with other Nearctic wildfowl the actual numbers may be inflated by wandering and returning individuals.
1982 – AMERICAN REDSTART
The morning of 7th November at Gibraltar Point was mild, although a moderate to fresh south-westerly wind was blowing as a trough of low pressure moved north-east across Britain. Another trough of low pressure which had been crossing the Atlantic was due to move into the south-west later that day, so due to the unsettled weather observations had been resorted to the cover of the west dunes and plantation area. By 08:00, rewarded with a small flight of Swallows, a Hen Harrier and Whooper Swans, continuation through the sea buckthorn bushes which bristled with feeding Blackbirds, the result of the previous days fall, arrival was made at the southern edge of the plantation in the grounds of the farm. On searching the hawthorns and sallows of the plantation, at 09.00, attention was drawn to a small, brightly marked 'warbler' in a leafless hawthorn bush. Only tantalizingly brief views were obtained before it disappeared into the thick cover of the hawthorns and cherries, but after 5 minutes it reappeared and slowly worked its way through the centres of the bushes towards the observers. Most of the time it busily flitted from branch to branch within the bushes but after a short period of preening it fanned its tail to reveal bright yellow basal tail feathers with dark centres. For twenty-five minutes intermittent views were obtained of the bird in good light conditions. It behaved in a manner more typical of a flycatcher as it then fed from the outer branches of a group of hawthorns. Since the observers were not familiar with the species, field notes were made, a description pieced together and assistance sought. With the aid of field-guide illustrations it was suggested that the bird might be of North American origin, and it was agreed that it was almost certainly an American Redstart. It was quickly relocated in the same area and its identity confirmed. Although it was very active and frequently disappeared from view, often for long periods, it remained in a very restricted area of scrub, young trees and ivy-covered mature trees, both on this first morning and throughout its stay. Its flight was very buoyant, and flycatcher-like sorties made its presence very obvious; at other times, it fed with an action reminiscent of Sylvia warblers as it picked and probed its way along inner branches. The call was distinct from any similar calls known and proved an easy means of locating the redstart in dense cover. The following day the bird was located at 07:00, in exactly the same site and seen by some 200 observers through the day, remaining in the same general area all day. A single mist net was put up at 10:00 and the bird was caught within two minutes. It weighted 10g (spring weight c.6gms) so had evidently been in Europe for some time and was in excellent condition. It was considered to be a first-winter male and then went on to make an exceptional stay of 28 days being last seen on 5th December, having allowed an estimated 1,500 (some estimates suggested nearer 2,600) to watch it at close range and thus becoming one of the most twitched birds of all time and putting the coastal migration hotspot of Gibraltar Point firmly on the birding map! It will always be remembered and read about as one of the most amazing birds to have visited the County. This was the fourth record of the species in Britain and Ireland, and was narrowly preceded by a female or immature at Portnahaven, Islay on 1st November 1982. The first records came from the remote western localities of Porthgwarra, Cornwall, on 21st October 1967 and on Cape Clear Island, Co. Cork, on 13th to 14th October 1968. With the prompt disappearance of the Islay individual American Redstart seemed destined to remain one of the most sought-after passerines on the British list. The events at Gibraltar Point, however, changed all that, and many hundreds were able to witness this hyperactive, eye-catching bird as it darted and flitted around its favourite patch of pines and willows. East coast records of American passerines are always suspected of being ship-assisted, but it seems far more likely that this particular individual had moved to Lincolnshire after making an earlier landfall somewhere to the north or west. There have still only been a total of 6 American Redstarts seen in Britain and Ireland with the two since the Gib individual being a first-winter male at St. Just, Cornwall from 13th to 24th October 1983 and at Galley Head, Co. Cork, during 13th-15th October 1985. It is now 28 years since this species has made landfall in the UK and 31 years since the widely twitchable Lincolnshire individual. This dapper yank remains one of the most sought after North American passerines this side of the Atlantic.
1970 – SPOTTED SANDPIPER
The first record of this striking Nearctic wader was a bird which made an extended stay at Wisbech Sewage Farm and the adjacent River Nene from 9th November to 19th December. This bird is the third unseasonal Nearctic wader first for this site during the month of November. Still an extreme rarity in the County there have only been a further four records: Three widely spaced sightings at Wisbech Sewage Farm in 1971 on 13th June, 29th July and 30th August were all presumed to relate to the same individual. An adult was present at Holbeach Marsh, on the mudflats around Shep Whites from 15th to 28th August 1999 and although it could often be quite distant it was well twitched. An adult bird was seen inland at Messingham Sand Quarry on 31st May 2007 and the most recent record was another stunning summer adult found on Thorpe Lake, Whisby Nature Park on 17th June 2011. It showed well during the afternoon and into the evening although it became more flighty into the late evening and unfortunately could not be found the following day. The Spotted Sandpiper was formerly considered to be conspecific with the Common Sandpiper. It wasn't until the publication in 1970 of a paper on its identification in non-breeding plumage that it began to be identified in the UK more regularly. It is now an annual visitor with most in the autumn period during September-October with a small spring peak in May-June. There has also been an increase in sightings of wintering birds. Exceptionally, in 1975 a pair attempted to breed in Scotland, but the eggs were abandoned, whilst in 1991 an individual in Yorkshire was associating with a Common Sandpiper and three full grown young, but it is not known whether hybridization took place.
1966 – SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER
On 12th November a Semipalmated Sandpiper (considered to be a first-winter bird) was trapped at Wisbech Sewage Farm on the County boundary with Norfolk. This rather unseasonal individual then went on to make an extended stay until 26th December and during this time was witnessed by several observers. Although mainly observed feeding on the muddy sludge beds, it was also witnessed feeding actively in a large ploughed field nearby, along the deep furrows. This was only the fourth British record at the time. There has been one further record of the Nearctic 'peep'. Some 44 years later, on the evening of 18th August 2010 a check of the waders and wildfowl at the managed realignment site at Alkborough Flats a stint sized wader was located amongst a group of Ringed Plovers and Dunlin. On plumage colouration it was suspected the bird was an adult Semipalmated Sandpiper. After a while the birds flew closer and some photos obtained revealed the bird showed semi-palmations on its feet, clinching the identification. A few local observers made it to the site that evening before the flock moved much further away and the light faded. However, over the next six days the bird remained on site but was generally difficult to observe as it fed in various parts of the Alkborough Flats site, often being between 100m and 700m from the nearest footpaths. It was however witnessed by numerous observers and some good photographs and video footage were obtained of the bird. It was last seen on 24th August. It had previously been seen just across the border in Yorkshire at Blacktoft Sands RSPB reserve. Semipalmated Sandpiper is one of the rarer Nearctic waders to reach UK shores and is a prize find. After the first record in Norfolk, at Cley in July 1953 there were only a further 5 records up to 1978, but since then there have been only four blank years for the species (1979, 1981, 1987 and 1991) with the record 7 in 1996 smashed three years later when an exceptional 17 birds were recorded including an exceptional September influx to western Scotland which brought no less than 8 to the Outer Hebrides. Twelve years later another record was set in autumn 2011 when 16 birds were recorded during the autumn, and by the end of that year the British total had moved on to 115.
1964 – DUSKY WARBLER
The first county record of this Siberian waif was a bird trapped at Huttoft Bank on 1st November 1964. After several circulations of the rarities committee this bird was finally accepted four years later as only the fourth British record. Up to the end of 2012 there had still only been a further 5 birds recorded in the County. The second record was a bird seen and then trapped and photographed at Donna Nook on 3rd November 1980. It was then seen by several other observers during its stay until 9th November. A bird was then seen at Pye's Hall, Donna Nook on 12th and 13th October 1988 which was then followed two years later by a further two birds which arrived during exceptional falls of migrants and rarities along the east coast in autumn 1990. Both arrived on 19th October with one at North Cotes and the other at Saltfleet Village which was seen again on 20th October. Another 11 years passed before the next, a very early individual which was present at Donna Nook from 25th to 26th September 2001. Continuing with the remarkable pattern of occurring approximately every 10-12 years or so in the County the next birds arrived during autumn 2013, when in October birds were trapped at Mablethorpe and seen at Theddlethorpe. First described by Blyth from Calcutta, in 1842, this skulking Phylloscopus with the hard call of a Sylvia was first obtained in Britain on Auskerry, Orkney, on 1st October 1913, three days after the arrival of a Yellow-browed Warbler it was eventually secured and after a comparison with other specimens of leaf warblers, it was confirmed to be a female Dusky and also the first for Europe. Apart from one in Sussex in 1916, which went the way of all Hastings rarities, there was no further sign of Dusky until 1961, when a bird was trapped on Fair Isle, Shetland, on 14th October. From 1964, observatory and other watchpoint enthusiasts began to find others and in 1968, there was the first-ever multiple fall (four birds), on the Norfolk coast. This upsurge of records spoke of truly increased and extended vagrancy, further indicated by the close-dated association in 1968 of 17 Pallas’s and three Radde’s Warblers . Birders of the day had never seen anything like it in just one autumn! From 1973, the bird became virtually annual, with irregular but mounting peaks in 1976 (5), 1980 (4), 1982 (7), 1987 (16), 1990 (18), 1994 (21), 1997 (18), 2001 (26), 2003 (25) and 2004 (22). Its overall increase is clearly above the trend of any human factor and has been associated closely with the surges of Pallas’s Warblers and, latterly, Hume’s Warblers . Far-flung multiple vagrancies are likely to be driven by the combination of above-average breeding success, hence greater numbers of potentially ‘reversed migrants’, and exceptionally sustained tailwinds. This engine should drive simultaneous westwards surges in all sympatric migratory species. It does not, but it is difficult to rule it out in the case of the above trio of leaf warblers. Although often closely compared to Radde’s Warbler, the Dusky has maintained a rather different occurrence pattern with a more northerly bias. From Shetland south to southeast England, birds appear on average ten days later and outnumber Radde’s by 20% but the birds that go on to Scilly and Ireland make up time, being on average only three days later there but being outnumbered by Radde’s by 120%. In 1970, a bird trapped on the Calf of Man on 14th May was found dying in Co. Limerick on about 5th December the same year and represented the first presumed instance of attempted wintering by Dusky Warbler in Britain & Ireland. No further wintering birds were discovered until 1994/95, when two wintered in the southwest, one in Cornwall and one in Devon. Since then the trend for occasional overwintering has continued with several records from south-western counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Avon and elsewhere most notably two in Suffolk. Some of these birds have been very long stayers and the coincidence of late April and early May departure dates is remarkable, and is further supported by records from other sites during the spring (particularly in early May) which have presumably related to overwintering birds on the move. Note also the date of the 1970 Calf of Man record, itself presumably a migrating bird which had successfully overwintered somewhere in western Europe. A June record from Cornwall is unprecedented but, as the bird appeared to have a wing injury; it might actually represent yet another wintering bird that was located belatedly, having been unable to migrate in the spring. It is interesting to speculate that this increased wintering (both in Britain and western Europe) may indicate a shift in migratory patterns similar to that experienced by Blackcaps, albeit on a much smaller scale, although it could of course be simply that milder winters enable these, and other warblers, to survive the winter months in Britain more successfully. This habit has yet to be recorded by Radde's Warbler. Dusky Warbler was removed from the list of species considered by the BBRC at the end of 2005.
1955 – WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER
On 13th November 1955, when trapping waders at Wisbech Sewage Farm (on the Lincolnshire/Norfolk boundary) a bird was caught together with four Dunlin which was smaller than them and different in several features. This bird was examined in the hand and compared with the Dunlin by the five observers present and was photographed. A combination of features obtained from a detailed description revealed all characteristics of a White-rumped Sandpiper. It was an adult bird and still had a few stint-like summer-plumage feathers on the back and scapulars. When released, and later when it was observed in the field down to ranges of two yards, it was also heard to call repeated up to six times, on rising. It was present during the next four days, being seen on the 17th, but it had gone by the 19th. During this time it was watched by a number of people. Feeding habits were much more like those of a Little Stint (though less active) than those of a Dunlin, and food was picked up, not probed for. It generally fed at the edge of the water and did not wade so deep as the Dunlin. On most days it called frequently in flight, It was usually seen in company with a few Dunlin—it was with eighty when caught—though when flushed it often broke away from the pack and was always the first to land again. It is interesting to note that a Pectoral Sandpiper had been present at the same place for ten days and was last seen the day before the White-rumped Sandpiper was caught. The next four county records also came from Wisbech Sewage Farm, with the second involving another late record with a bird present from 24th October to 7th November 1964. Up to the end of 2012 there have now been a rather impressive total of 18 White-rumped Sandpipers recorded in Lincolnshire with 7 of these between 2006 and 2012. As to be expected for a vagrant Nearctic wader, the majority of records come the late summer and autumn period with 4 in July (with a very early autumn arrival of a bird at Gibraltar Point on 3rd July 2007), 6 in August, 2 in September, 2 in October and 2 in November (with the latest ever a bird seen at Alkborough Flats on 23rd and 30th November 2008). The only birds outside of this period are two unusual spring/early summer birds with individuals at Holbeach Marsh on 16th May 1999 and one at Freiston Shore on 25th June 2007. Aside from the first five county records from Wisbech Sewage Farm, elsewhere there are 6 records from the Wash (two each from Holbeach Marsh, Freiston Shore and Frampton Marsh), two from Gibraltar Point and 5 from the Humber area (two from the Read's Island area, two from Alkborough Flats and a single at North Killingholme Haven Pits). Eight out of the 17 birds seen have only been recorded on a single date, but some have made extended stays of between 10 days and a fortnight, with the longest stay being that of the 1964 Wisbech individual mentioned above. The most recent county record (and extending to an impressive 7 year annual run of records) is a juvenile bird which showed very well on the Mere at Gibraltar Point on 14th October 2013. Initially described by Vieillot in 1819 from a winter bird in Paraguay, what we used to call 'Bonaparte’s Sandpiper’ was first found near Stoke Heath, Shropshire, sometime in the subsequent 20 years. It was shot and identified eventually by John Gould. No doubt alerted by its ‘backlight’, early observers found five more between 1846 and 1857 and astonishingly seven more along the south coast between 28th October and 12th November 1870. Four of the latter were shot at Instow, Devon, and the influx matched the first-ever multiple arrival of Pectoral Sandpipers bird for bird. Then, although the ‘Pecs’ continued to appear, the ‘Boneys’ went incognito for 75 years. With the redeployment of birdwatchers after the war, the easiest-to-identify Nearctic ‘peep’ was smartly rediscovered. Records became annual from 1957 and mounted steadily. By 1972, it was the third-commonest Nearctic wader and its occurrence pattern combined both direct arrivals (particularly in Ireland and the southwest) in late autumn and indirect recurrences (particularly on the east coast) in summer and early autumn. White-rumped Sandpiper remains the third-commonest Nearctic wader to cross the Atlantic, after Pectoral and Buff-breasted Sandpipers, and up to 1996 had reached 11 other European countries east of Britain. The annual average of only 13.4 records since 2001 is well below par for the species and birds have become much less frequent in the southwest, even in 2003 when there were many in Ireland. General opinion has it that all Yanks are now tending to hit our more northerly coasts. It would be good to see this idea tested in a general review that included a map of recent stormtrack changes. Excellent years for this species in Britain include 1984 (24), 2000 (23) and 1999 (21) but the record breaker was 2005, with a staggering 39 birds making landfall and by the end of that year the species had been dropped from the list of species considered by the BBRC.
1909 – LANCEOLATED WARBLER
The first County record of this species occurred on 18th November 1909, when a bird was shot along the sea bank at North Cotes. The bird was first observed in the long grass on the side of one of the marsh drains, where it then ran onto the short grass of an adjoining field. It was watched for a short time as it ran about the ground, mouse-like. At one point it flew up to a barbed wire post close by in which it climbed in the manner of a Treecreeper. It soon flew back to the ground and it was then shot just as it reached the long grass again. Unfortunately the bird was much shattered by the shot, and making a skin of the bird proved difficult, although it was determined to be a male, possibly an adult and was excessively fat. At the time autumn migration was practically over, and the only birds moving were a few Fieldfares, Redwings and Blackbirds. The weather at the time was very cold, with heavy showers and a strong ENE wind. There had been sharp frosts every night for a week, as much as -9 degrees on 15th and 16th, but only -3 degrees on the night of 17th. The whole of the autumn had been characterised by the prevalence of north-west winds, and the consequent almost complete lack of visible migration. At the time the bird was believed to be the first for Britain and only the third for Europe, however, a previous record from Fair Isle came to light which had been obtained a year before the North Cotes individual when an immature was shot 9 September 1908. The Lincolnshire bird remained the only mainland British record until 23rd September 1979 (when a bird was trapped and ringed at Damerham, Hampshire) for what is very much a Fair Isle and Northern Isles speciality. There has been one further bird seen in the County at Rimac, Saltfleetby on 22nd September 1996. The bird was flushed from an area of saltmarsh at 4.30pm, and after being flushed a further four times the bird began to show in a very confiding manner, eventually to within a few feet as it fed in the short vegetation. By dusk about 30 birders had made it to Rimac to see the bird creeping mouse like on the marsh and some superb photographs were obtained. The bird could not be found the following day. Although singing males are now regular in eastern Finland in summer, the species mainly breeds eastwards discontinuously from the Central Urals, east across much of Siberia, with the status of Lanceolated Warbler in a British context being remarkable. Of the 131 records up the end of 2011, two-thirds of these have come from Fair Isle; such a predominance of one species in one (tiny) recording area is unparalleled for a regular vagrant such as Lanceolated Warbler. That percentage is slowly declining, however, as records elsewhere in Shetland have increased; there had been just four up to 1990, but there were eight in the 1990s, and so far eleven since 2000. These records have come principally from Mainland (six, all bar one from around Sumburgh), Out Skerries (six) and Foula (five), but there have also been three on Unst and singles on Whalsay and Bressay. Together, the recording areas of Fair Isle and Shetland account for 84% of all records. It is remarkable that so few have been found in Orkney (one in 1910 and two in 2003) and in the rest of Scotland (one on the Isle of May in 1987 and another on an oil rig in the Forties oilfield in 1978). In this context, it is perhaps surprising that as many as 11 have been seen in England – scattered between Scilly and Northumberland – with three more in Wales, all on Bardsey (Caernarfonshire).September is the month for finding a ‘Lancy’, and 64% of records have been in this month, with the earliest on 1st September, on Out Skerries in 2000. Most of the October records have been early in the month and just three have been found in November: on Fair Isle on 1st November 1960, and, significantly perhaps, two of the English records – in Prior’s Park, Tynemouth, Northumberland, on 13th November 1984 and the second British record in Lincolnshire in 1909.
1901 – FIRECREST
The first county record relates to a bird shot along the sea bank at North Cotes on 9th November 1901 – this being noted as the only reliable record in early 20th century literature. Two further records occurred at the same locality during the early part of that century with singles obtained in September 1925 and October 1931. A further 21 years elapsed before the next record – an adult male trapped on 9th April 1952 at Gibraltar Point. Being only the fourth county record, a detailed description and measurements were taken and sketches made. It was noted that the white superciliary stripe and dark band through the eye distinguished the bird in the field, but that it was alone and very skulking in behaviour. Another eight years elapsed until the next, again at Gibraltar Point on 2nd October 1960. This was then the first of what became more regular sightings in the County with 30 records during the 1960s. Blank years were 1961, 1962 and 1965 and there were just single birds in 1960, 1963, 1964 and 1969 but influxes of 9 in 1966 (exceeding the combined County total at the time), 6 in 1967 and 11 in 1968. The species has been annual in the County since 1966, and into a new decade the 1970s continued with an increase in county sightings, no doubt linked to better observer coverage of coastal localities during peak migration times. A minimum of 95 birds were recorded during the decade including a remarkable 36 in 1979. The closest annual tally to this during the period was the 15 recorded in 1975, therefore putting the influx of 1979 into some perspective. The 1980s proved to be very productive for this species with a total of 236 birds ranging from lows of 12 in 1989 and 13 in 1986 to a maximum of 50 in 1980 (with 32 in 1982 the next highest total). A slight drop off in records was noted in the 1990s with a total of 207 birds which ranged from lows of 8 in 1992 and 9 in 1991 to a maximum of 40 in 1999 (with 36 in 1994 the next highest annual total). Numbers have remained fairly stable since then, although in more recent years, when peaks occur during main migration times, it has been easier to record number of bird days that sites have recorded the species and it is therefore sometimes difficult to ascertain the exact number of individuals involved. In Lincolnshire, this is very much a spring and autumn migrant with a strong coastal bias. The total number of records are fairly evenly split between spring and autumn, although weather patterns influence the numbers arriving in each season, and some years are therefore dominated by spring influxes and others by mainly autumn arrivals. Spring birds mainly occur from mid-March to April with stragglers occurring into May with just a few exceptionally late birds into the first week of June. There have been a handful of mid-summer records in the County or of birds holding territory. The first was an unusual record of a bird at Skegness on 16th July 1975. A singing male held territory at Bourne Woods from 19th April until 17th May 1980 and then a male took up territory in the plantation at Gibraltar Point from the end of May intermittently until 21st July 1987. Most recently a juvenile was reported near Stamford on 29th June 2010 which raised hopes the species may have bred in the area but unfortunately there was no other evidence. Autumn arrivals are most often concentrated in the period early October to mid-November and are most frequently associated with spells of easterly winds and falls of other continental migrants on the coast. For example, just 2 birds were recorded in 1995 but 40 were recorded in 2003 during a very concentrated period in mid-October to early November which coincided with some excellent arrivals of eastern species on the coast. Early arrivals can occur from the second week in September with the earliest autumn bird recorded on 4th September 2011. Autumn stragglers can continue to be found towards the end of November with fewer records into the first two weeks of December. There have now been several instances of either winter records (late December to February) or of birds wintering in the county. The first of these was a bird which was present at Lincoln from 17th December 1966 to 4th February 1967 and which was incidentally also the first inland record for Lincolnshire. A bird ringed at Gibraltar Point in October 1972 was retrapped there on 6th January 1973 so was presumably wintering and then in the winter of 1980/81, 5 birds were recorded including one at North Somercotes Warren on 11th December 1980 and again 17th to 18th January 1981 and Donna Nook from 27th December 1980 to 25th February 1981. A late bird was seen at Donna Nook from 20th to 22nd December 1983, and a bird at Gibraltar Point on 30th December 1987 was presumably same bird seen on 16th January 1988 (whilst another winter bird was seen inland at Laughton Forest on 14th February 1988). Since then there have been sporadic occurrences of winter sightings, often involving between one and 3 birds, with most only seen for short periods, perhaps partly due to the elusive nature of the species. By far the best period was the winter of 1993/94 when an exceptional 8 birds were noted. This included 2 at Normanby Park from 20th November 1993 to 16th January 1994, a bird in a Grimsby garden on 10th January 1994, and up to 5 in Hartsholme Park from 22nd January to 6th March 1994 (an unprecedented number for one site at this time of year). This is very much a coastal migrant, with rather unsurprisingly the majority of records coming from the coastal strip between Tetney and Gibraltar Point (with Donna Nook and Gib being particularly favoured locations). There are a few records from areas around the Wash and into the Humber but it is rare inland. The first was the above wintering bird in Lincoln as detailed above (with the only other birds in the 1960s being 2 birds at Normanby Park on 24th November 1967 and a bird trapped at Deeping St James on 16th November 1969) and there were also just three records in the 1970s (at Burton Gravel Pits on 17th November 1972 and Covenham Reservoir on 7th and 30th April 1975). Inland records were recorded in 6 years during the 1980s (with between 1 and 5 in any one year), and in 8 years during the 1990s (with between 1 and 7 in any one year, a good proportion of which were made up of wintering individuals). This pattern has continued with no more than 8 inland sightings in any one year, with a general split between winter records and the occasional spring and autumn migrant. There are two 'at sea' records, on the Inner Dowsing Tower Lighthouse, 12 miles offshore from Mablethorpe (at 53° 20" N, 0°, 34" E) on 5th May 1985 and 5th October 1986.
1888 – NIGHT HERON
A bird was flushed from the foreshore at Tetney on 20th November, but only flew a short distance before settling again. It was shot by one of the wildfowlers who was engaged in plover-netting and proved to be a bird in immature plumage. From the description given it would appear that this was a 2nd cal year bird. A further 85 years passed before the next bird was found – an immature which was present along a drain near Boston from 13th to 19th November 1973. There have been a further 12 records (of 13 birds) of this stout southern heron. Nine of these records come from the spring period, the earliest of which was an adult seen at Frampton from 25th March to 5th April 1990. This early arrival was associated with an unprecedented influx into southern and western England. There are two April records; a rather popular adult which frequented the Pike Drain at North Hykeham, Lincoln each evening between 18th and 30th April 2006 and a very elusive immature seen at Far Ings on 5th and 19th April 2008. Three May records involve an adult at Saltfleetby on 14th May 1983, two first-summer birds flew in off the sea at 0630hrs landing in hawthorn bushes in west dunes and then in the plantation at Gib Point on 3rd May 1987 and were still present on the 4th when seen flying out to Wainfleet Marsh (the only multiple county record), and another was at Gibraltar Point from 19th to 22nd May 2007. Matching the previous month, three short staying June birds start with an adult at Goxhill from 2nd to 3rd June 1983, an adult at Barrow Haven on 3rd June 1987 and another adult observed at close range in bushes on the sea bank at Wainfleet on 1st June 1988. In addition to the above two November records, there are two further autumn occurrences with a second-winter present in the East Halton/Goxhill area from 8th to 12th October 1986 and a first-summer present at Gibraltar Point from 22nd September to 14th October 2007 (the third reserve record). A rather interesting sighting concerned a juvenile that was present at Boston Golf Course from 1st November until 30th December 1988. This bird was wearing colour rings identifying it as having originated from a nest in April in Edinburgh Zoological Park. This escaped bird is not included in the county totals. However, any thoughts that Night Herons reaching the County (and indeed other parts of the UK) related to escapes or wanderings from feral colonies such as the above, had been dispelled nine years previously with a remarkable record (and the only winter sighting for the county). An immature bird was discovered at Skegness Brick Pit on 30th December 1979 and was watched until 1st January 1980 but was then unfortunately found shot on 4thJanuary 1980 This bird was sporting a ring revealing it had been ringed as a nestling near Belyayevka in the Black Sea Region of Russia (Ukraine) on 8th June 1979. This individual, the first ever British recovery of a foreign ringed bird of this species was found 2263km WNW from its birth place. Black-crowned Night Heron has a huge world range, from southern Europe through the Middle East into southern and south-east Asia, as well as in Africa and North and South America. Western Palearctic migrants winter in Africa. In Britain this is mainly an overshooting spring migrant from late March to June, with fewer in autumn and occasional winter records. Numbers vary from year to year but included exceptional influxes of 53 in 1987 and 61 in 1990. There were 609 British records up to end of 2001 when the species was dropped by BBRC.
1881 – GOLDEN EAGLE
There is a record of a bird trapped at Appleby in the north-west of the County in 1834 but dates are lacking. Therefore, one shot at Normanby Park near Scunthorpe in north-west Lincs on 1st November 1881 was the first fully documented county record. It was an immature male and had been present nearby at Crosby Warren during the last week of October. There have been just 3 further records of this majestic raptor in the county but none for 85 years. The third record was an immature seen at Langton, near Spilsby during the first week of November 1920 and eventually picked up in a dazed condition. It was sent to London Zoo where its identity was confirmed. Lincolnshire's fourth Golden Eagle was seen at Maltby Wood, near Louth on 4th December 1920, whilst the fifth and final bird was an immature which frequented Brocklesby Woods from mid-December 1927 to mid- January 1928 when it was eventually shot nearby at Beelsby. In the 19th century, the Golden Eagle was intensely persecuted by sheep farmers, game preservers and collectors in Britain and Ireland, and became extinct in England, Wales and Ireland. In Scotland, the population was much reduced and confined largely to the more remote mountain areas, although sometimes sympathetic local people protected eyries. The Golden Eagle did not, however, follow the White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla into extinction. During the wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45, fewer game preservers and shepherds were on the land; this probably resulted in an increase in the Golden Eagle population, which recolonised parts of Scotland and also spread into areas vacated by the White-tailed Eagle. From 1953 to 1960, a pair nested in Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland; and, in 1969, the species returned to breed in northern England. Golden Eagle has been recorded as a vagrant to several English counties (mainly during the 19th century when the species was more widespread) but records in Britain away from Scottish localities or the Lake District in more recent times have been extremely few and far between. In North Yorkshire a bird was seen in the Gouthwaite, Masham and Ransgill area in the 1970s whilst more recently (and famously) a bird was present in a similar area around Gouthwaite in the early to mid-1990s. In addition, birds wandered south into Lancashire in both 1987 and 1997 and it would be presumed that all of these birds related to wanderers from the very small English population in the Lake District at the time. More recently, in 2011, a sighting was made in Ceredigion, Wales when a bird was photographed in Pontrhydygroes, near Aberystwyth, but it is not known how it ended up there. This bird could have escaped from captivity or might be a genuine wanderer from the Scottish population or perhaps the fledgling Irish population where re-introductions commenced at the turn of the new century. Misidentifications or falconers escapes could account for other records from around the UK although in respect of the latter one would suspect a Golden Eagle would be a prize possession and as a result escapes do seem genuinely rare. There are currently estimated to be around 450 breeding Golden Eagle pairs in the UK, according to the RSPB. Golden Eagle has a fragmented breeding range across Europe, with at least five distinct ecological groupings. The British population is part of the NW European montane group, which includes the populations in Norway and much of Sweden and comprises around 2000 pairs. Other groupings are centred on the East Baltic lowlands (around 800 pairs), the Alpine Mountains (around 850 pairs), the western Mediterranean mountains (between 1,400 and 1,500 pairs) and the Balkans (around 600 pairs). It is a well-known fact that that raptors seem reluctant to cross large bodies of water which no doubt accounts for a lack of records for certain species in the UK, unlike the more widespread reports in other western European nations. However, it is interesting to note that just across the north sea in the Netherlands for example, there have only been 14 records of Golden Eagle (since the first in 1900) and none since a series of annual records between 1978 and 1981 indicating that even on mainland Europe this is very much a sedentary species within its distinct geographical populations.
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