Lesser Florican - August 2023

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Saturday 16 October 2021

Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll at Dale of Walls, Shetland – 15th October 2021

The past nine days, I've been leading a Naturetrek group on Shetland... undoubtedly my favourite place in the entire UK. It was generally a quiet week for scarcities turning up, but thankfully some had lingered from previous weeks and we managed a respectable list of decent birds, including the following:

Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll - 2 (one on Unst; one on Mainland)
King Eider - 1 
Woodchat Shrike - 1 juv
American Golden Plover - 1 juv
Bluethroat - 1
White-billed Diver - 1
Ring-necked Duck - 1 
Great White Egret - 1
Sooty Shearwater - 2
Yellow-browed Warbler - only 1 !!
Glaucous Gull - 1 juv
Shore Lark - 5
Snow Bunting - 3

The 'trip' for me was saved until our last day, and really, our last few hours when at Dale of Walls (where I saw a Lanceolated Warbler back in 2015) in West Mainland, I was walking the burn and trapesing through the iris beds and rank vegetation when I heard a Redpoll calling. I turned to notice a finch flying towards me, although above the horizon I couldn't make out any features... that was until it went below the horizon, then boom!!

Immediately obvious was the striking white rump, and combined with the rather chunky impression, this had to be a Hornemann's? It then landed on a stone wall parallel with the burn, which is when it became obvious, and I turned to my group and yelled out "Arctic Redpoll on the wall" and hoped they picked it out. I fired off a number of photos, both settled and in flight, whilst trying to direct my group onto the bird. Thankfully, some saw it, but in the process of turning and general panic, we all lost the bird and presumably it had flown off down the burn. Despite walking up and down the stone wall and adjacent areas, we frustratingly couldn't find it. Thankfully the images obtained look sufficient enough for me to claim this as a Hornemann's, and importantly, a self-found BB rarity.

Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll at Dale of Walls
Showing off a suite of characters, including the broad base to the bill,
buffy wash to upper breast and face, extensive white rump,
slight flank streaking and reminiscence of a small Bullfinch.

The beach from Dale of Walls, with Foula in the distance

The bottom of the burn

Saturday 2 October 2021

Cow Gap, Beachy Head - 2nd October 2021

An excellent seawatch was had at Cow Gap, Beachy Head today between 8am and 3pm. It was great to see Chris Ball who joined my for four hours.

Without doubt the highlight were two Leach's Petrels! This mega county rarity was of course in the back of my mind for today, but I didn't hold out too much hope of seeing one, yet alone two. The first was picked up briefly by Chris, before showing off for over five minutes as it slowly battled its way westwards. Then, once Chris had left and safely securing two county ticks in a morning, another Leach's flew through, this time much closer but also much quicker!

Other notable highlights included:

Sooty Shearwater - 4
Balearic Shearwater - 17
Manx Shearwater - 3
Arctic Skua - 5
Bonxie - 3
Razorbill - ca. 150
Sandwich Tern - ca. 50
Fulmar - 1

With the winds diminishing from today, I wonder how many more years it will be before the next opportunity for a Leach's presents itself?! Perhaps the last 'live' bird was back in 2012 which flew past Selsey... though I know some moribund individuals have been found since inland.

Me living the dream...

Cow Gap in the distance