Ian Lewington certainly proved his worth on Friday afternoon (28 August) by impressively pulling out of the bag Britain's third-ever AMERICAN BLACK TERN. Tasked with twitching Dave John's juvenile WHITE-WINGED BLACK TERN, Ian utilised his years of experience and remarkable insight gleaned from studying museum specimens and realised the importance of a dark-sided juvenile Black Tern that arrived at Farmoor Reservoir late afternoon. Armed with his video camera, he obtained some excellent footage of the bird and later, in the luxury of his study, was able to confirm his suspicions and record all of the salient features required to separate juvenile surinamensis from niger. Following the remnants of the Tropical Storm that crossed southern Britain, Oxfordshire had taken landfall of this highly migratory North American waif.
The only previous British record had been a well-twitched juvenile at Wessex Water Treatment Works, Weston-super-Mare (Avon), from 2-11 October 1999 (fully documented by Rick Andrews, Rupert Higgins and John Martin in Birding World 12: 416-418). October 1999 was perhaps the last of the real vintage years on Scilly and with 'cripplers' turning up almost each and every day, I was loathe to leave the archipelago for fear of dipping out on what else may have been on offer. As it was, I never saw the Avon ABT and nor did I see, despite trying, successive juveniles that graced southern Ireland with their presence.
So it was with great delight to finally connect with this charmer, even though it involved an overnight drive up from West Cornwall. I was greeted by an equally delighted Martin Garner early morning Friday on the Farmoor causeway, who was revelling in the species' finer detail. We had been extremely lucky as the first real cold night of the autumn had been starlit and calm and the light NW breeze had seen the onward migration of all 8 European Black Terns that had been present the evening before.
In fact, what was to follow was truly unique - a trio of American Black Tern, White-winged Black Tern and European Black Tern all feeding together in a tight-knit flock over Farmoor 2. Even more remarkable was the fact that all three birds remained for a further three days - all still showing well today.
The second British record related to a juvenile which was seen for about an hour at midday on 17 November 2008 in North Bay, South Uist (Outer Hebrides) before flying off east (Steve Duffield, John Kemp - photographed - see http://www.western-isles-wildlife.co.uk/November%2008%20latest%20bird%20sightings.htm).
By dusk this evening, well over 1,000 observers had passed through the gates of the reservoir in the past four days and enjoyed this rarity.
A further juvenile WHITE-WINGED BLACK TERN is present for a third day at Loch of Strathbeg RSPB (Aberdeenshire).
An adult drake BLUE-WINGED TEAL of unknown origin was with Mallard on the IBM Lake at Cosham, Portsmouth (Hampshire) all day Sunday (the first occurrence in the county of this species since May 1992), with an adult female Hooded Merganser (also of unknown provenance) on the Calor Gas Pool at Port Clarence (Cleveland).
The first juvenile ROSE-COLOURED STARLING of the autumn appeared in front of Duncan Walbridge's window in Weston Road, Portland (Dorset) this morning, and continued to show well for several hours (see images on the Portland Bill website). It was favouring the rooftops of Pound Place. Meanwhile in West Cornwall, a juvenile CITRINE WAGTAIL is present for its 7th day at Marazion Marsh RSPB.
A first-winter ORTOLAN BUNTING was present in the Bay Brambles below the lighthouse at Flamborough Head (East Yorks) this afternoon, with the first ARCTIC WARBLER of 2009 trapped and ringed at Landguard NR (Suffolk) at 1900 hours this evening (see Paul Oldfield's excellent photographs above. A scattering of WRYNECK occurrences include singles at Warton Crag LWT (Lancs) and at Beer Head (South Devon) whilst RED-BACKED SHRIKES include a long-staying juvenile at Dungeness RSPB (Kent) and a COMMON ROSEFINCH ion North Ronaldsay (Orkney). A long-staying BARRED WARBLER remains in a Scatness garden (Shetland), with an ICTERINE WARBLER at Prawle Point (South Devon) on 31 August.
The near-adult SABINE'S GULL continues to increase its daily visits to Upton Warren NR Flashes Pool (Worcs) (permit access only to hide, available £3 to non Wildlife Trust members) whilst the slightly oiled, rather disoriented and perhaps terminally ill juvenile GREY PHALAROPE continues to survive on the Deeps pools at Farlington Marshes HWT (Hants).
It has been an excellent early autumn period for GREAT WHITE EGRETS with two still remaining in the Ouse Fen area (Cambs) and singles at Chard Reservoir (Somerset), Brandon Marsh NR (Warks) and Denge Marsh, Dungeness RSPB (Kent). An adult EURASIAN SPOONBILL was showing well all day today from the Moreton Hide at Chew Valley Lake (Avon).
Arriving on the same front that brought in the ABT was a juvenile PECTORAL SANDPIPER - showing well for a second day at Maer Lake NR, Bude (Cornwall), whilst other rare waders include the long-staying adult LESSER YELLOWLEGS at Aberlady bay (Lothian) and an adult PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVER again at Loch a'Phuill, Tiree (Argyll), this morning.
A confiding juvenile DOTTEREL is present for a second day at Sandwich Bay Estate (Kent) favouring the beach area between the toilet blocks, with another on Shipman Head Down, Bryher (Scilly).
A fairly showy SPOTTED CRAKE is still present in the NW corner of the main pool at Greylake RSPB (Somerset), with another trapped and ringed in the Lower Derwent Valley today at Bank Island (North Yorks).
A juvenile MONTAGU'S HARRIER was an excellent local find for birders in Derbyshire - hunting for prey over Harewood Moor early morning before flying south towards Holy Moor at 0715. It was then picked up at nearby Beeley Moor mid-morning, where it was hunting around the edge of Harland Edge from at least 1246-1315. An immature male also flew through Draycote Water (Warks) today.
The eclipse drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK and Ring-necked Duck both remain at Loch Gelly (Fife) today, best viewed from the steps at the north end, with the drake Ring-necked Duck also still present on Westport Lake (Staffs).
A good scattering of PIED FLYCATCHERS, Whinchats and Common Redstarts have appeared at inland localities over recent days, with many OSPREYS now on their way south
The Tropical Storm certainly deposited several Nearctic waders in IRELAND with two BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS at Black Rock Strand (County Kerry), a juvenile BAIRD'S SANDPIPER at Carrahane Strand (Co. Kerry), a juvenile SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER at the western end of Inchydoney Beach (Co. Cork) and another near Baille an Reannaigh on the beach at Smerwick Harbour (Co. Kerry).
Perhaps more intriguing was the arrival of 12 GLOSSY IBISES at Killag (Co. Wexford), at least two of which were colour-ringed
Bridges of Ross (County Clare) seawatching today produced 3 CORY'S SHEARWATERS, 251 GREAT SHEARWATERS, 25 SABINE'S GULLS and over 1,200 SOOTY SHEARWATERS, 7 LEACH'S PETRELS, 12 GREY PHALAROPES and a juvenile LONG-TAILED SKUA.