Steve White and Chris Kehoe

Introduction

This report presents data on scarce passerine migrants recorded in Britain during 2018. For comments on how the data are presented, see the introduction to part 1 (p. 462). For the majority of species in this report, their number, distribution and occurrence pattern fell within the expected norms. But for a small number, 2018 stands out. For Rose-coloured Starling Pastor roseus this was an exceptional year, as an invasion of eye-catching spring adults from the east spread across continental Europe. By mid June birds had reached all parts of Britain, including many inland sites, and by the year’s end the final tally was 162, the second-highest annual total. Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus enjoyed its fifth-best year (25 records), but in contrast it was a blank year for its Siberian congener, Radde’s Warbler P. schwarzi, the first since 1983. For aficionados of the genus Acrocephalus, 2018 was a year to savour with 19 Blyth’s Reed A. dumetorum and 86 Marsh Warblers A. palustris, the third-best showing for both species. Although numbers of Bluethroats Luscinia svecica are declining – the current decade average is less than 40% that of the 1980s – 2018 was an unexpectedly good year for ‘White-spotted Bluethroats’ L. s. cyanecula with 16 reported compared with the 2008–18 average of less than two. 

312.jpg

Jim Almond

312. Greenish Warbler Phylloscopus trochiloides, St Agnes, Isles of Scilly, October 2018. 

For three species recently arrived in this report from the BBRC list, the year was disappointing. There were just six Penduline Tits Remiz pendulinus, four Red-flanked Bluetails Tarsiger cyanurus and eight Citrine Wagtails Motacilla citreola. The ten-year mean for each species now lies at or close to the trigger for re-entry to the BBRC sphere. Hopefully the next report will see their fortunes revive. With just 12 records, Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla had another poor year; since 1982 there have been only two years with fewer records. Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta also gives cause for concern as the annual total continues to decline; with just 17 this year, the downward trend shows no sign of levelling out. This is one species that should benefit from climate change, but the English Channel appears to be an insurmountable hurdle.

Looking to the future, two species groups make their final appearances in this report. The ‘Subalpine Warbler’ complex and the Arctic Redpolls Acanthis h. hornemanni and A. h. exilipes return to the BBRC fold from 1st January 2019. The decision announced by IOC to treat Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans as two species (Western Subalpine and Eastern Subalpine Warbler) will add to the identification headaches caused by the difficulties of separating these two taxa, from each other and from Moltoni’s Warbler S. subalpina. BBRC has already set out tough acceptance criteria (Brit. Birds 113: 364) and it seems that inevitably many records will fall into the either/or category.

 

Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio

Total 1986–2018

No. 2018

(rank/33)

Other annual maxima 1986–2018

(year/number/rank)

Trend

1990–2018

Annual variability

2000–2018

6,981

146 (24)

2013/440/1  1988/423/2

None

Moderate

Annual means

1986–2018

 

1986–89

 

256

 

1990–99

 

231

 

2000–09

 

202

 

2010–18

 

180

 

After one at Seaford (Sussex) on the fairly typical first date of 6th May, a further 76 appeared in May and 29 in June. The spring passage is always heavily concentrated in May and the first ten days or so of June – there have been only four in April since 2008 (fig. 1). This year, 38 were reported as males and 44 as females.

SM fig 1.png

Fig. 1. Arrival dates of Red-backed Shrikes Lanius collurio in Britain, 2008–2018.

Autumn passage is always more protracted. There were single females at Sandwick on 1st July and on Foula on 4th (both Shetland, and both arguably better treated as late spring migrants) with one other that month followed by 13 in August, 19 in September and four in October. There were two late records, at Crossness (Greater London) on 4th–13th November and Newbiggin (Northumberland) on 2nd–4th December – the first in Britain in December since at least 2001. Twenty-six autumn birds were reported as juveniles and none as adults after July; the earliest juvenile was on the Farne Islands (Northumberland) on 13th August.

Throughout the year Red-backed Shrikes were recorded in 27 recording areas, including six in Scotland and three in Wales. Shetland was the top county with 30, followed by 19 on Fair Isle, 15 in Yorkshire, 14 in Northumberland, 13 in Norfolk and ten in Orkney.

(Widespread breeder from N Spain E to Greece & N through Europe to C Fennoscandia, Russia E to Ob River in C Siberia, Turkey & Caucasus region S to NW Iran. Winters equatorial & S Africa.)

313.jpg

Brian Anderson

313. First-winter Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio, Wanstead, Greater London, September 2018. 

 

Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor

Total 1986–2018

No. 2018

(rank/33)

Other annual maxima 1986–2018

(year/number/rank)

Trend

1990–2018

Annual variability

2000–2018

5,161

103 (26)

2015/375/1  2011/327/2

Increase

Moderate

Annual means

1986–2018

 

1986–89

 

132

 

1990–99

 

128

 

2000–09

 

126

 

2010–18

 

233

 

Numbers were down compared with last year on all measures (2017 figures in parentheses): 138 (194) birds were reported, of which 103 (137) were thought to be new arrivals, but the upward trend over the past couple of decades remains significant.

At least 18 had overwintered from 2017, including three in the Clocaenog Forest (Denbighshire) but it is likely that most of the 15 first reported during January and February, and perhaps some of the four in March, had also done so. April produced eight records, the last at Musden Head Moor (Lancashire & N Merseyside) on 22nd, and these presumably included some immigrants. No more were seen until one at Blakeney Point (Norfolk) on 7th October, which was followed by a further 45 new birds that month, then 15 in both November and December.

Shetland, with 17 presumed new birds, was by far the best county, the only other significant county tallies being nine in both Norfolk and Yorkshire, a distribution which is not atypical. The Great Grey Shrike is the most widely distributed of Britain’s scarce migrants, having been recorded in all but four recording areas since 2008.

(Nominate race breeds Fennoscandia, C Europe & Russia E to NW Siberia. Other races breed Canary Islands, N Africa, SW Europe & Middle East to S Kazakhstan, Mongolia, N China, S to Pakistan & India. Northern breeders migratory, wintering to S of breeding range.)

 

Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator

Total 1958–2018

No. 2018

(rank/61)

Other annual maxima 1958–2018

(year/number/rank)

Trend

1990–2018

Annual variability

2000–2018

1,115

17 (31)

2011/55/1  1997/36/2 

None

Low

Annual means

1958–2018

 

1958–59

 

13

 

1960–69

 

12

 

1970–79

 

13

 

1980–89

 

16

 

1990–99

 

21

 

2000–09

 

22

 

2010–18

 

28

 

      

Although 17 is the lowest annual total since 2007, the impact on the table of annual means is limited. Woodchat Shrikes were recorded in 13 counties in 2018, including three in Scotland and two in Wales; Scilly was the top county, with three. 

Three birds appeared in April, the first on St Agnes (Scilly) on 9th–20th, and the spring passage was completed with four in May and three in early June, the last at Scaling Dam (Cleveland) on 12th–14th. After a midsummer record of one at Long Dale (Derbyshire) on 4th July, two juveniles appeared in the second half of August. No more were seen until another three in late September, followed by the last, a bird at Sumburgh and then Virkie (Shetland) on 11th and 16th October. Four autumn birds were reported as juveniles and just one as an adult. This relatively even split between spring and autumn was rather unusual as spring records on average outnumber those in autumn by more than three to one (fig. 2).

(Breeds NW Africa & Mediterranean Europe N to C France & S Germany, E through S Turkey to W Iran & S to Israel. Winters in N & C equatorial Africa.)

SM fig 2.png

Fig. 2. Arrival dates of Woodchat Shrikes Lanius senator in Britain, 2008–2018.

 

Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus

Total 1968–2018

No. 2018

(rank/51)

Other annual maxima 1968–2018

(year/number/rank)

Trend

1990–2018

Annual variability

2000–2018

4,281

53 (38)

1994/235/1  1992 & 2012/184/2=

Decline

Moderate

Annual means

1968–2018

 

1968–69

 

34

 

1970–79

 

51

 

1980–89

 

84

 

1990–99

 

132

 

2000–09

 

85

 

2010–18

 

77

 

Although these numbers represent a slight improvement over 2017, the overall decline continues. The first, at Walton Bay (Avon) on 19th April, was followed by another ten records that month, 26 in May and 11 in June, mostly in the first fortnight but with a late spring migrant at Speech House Lake (Gloucestershire) on 26th–29th. In autumn there were two in the third week of July, in Yorkshire and Scilly, and three in September, the last on Foula (Shetland) on 25th–26th. 

Nine of the 53 birds were in Scotland – in Shetland and Orkney and one in Clyde – but none occurred in Wales, the first blank year there since 2004. Since 2008 most records have been in southwest England, with a remarkable 30% of them on Scilly alone.

(Breeds NW Africa & widely throughout Europe from Mediterranean N to S Sweden & S Finland, Russia, Turkey & Caucasus to NW Iran. Winters equatorial & southern Africa.)

 

Penduline Tit Remiz pendulinus

Total 1958–2018

No. 2018

(rank/61)

Other annual maxima 1958–2018

(year/number/rank)

Trend

1990–2018

Annual variability

2000–2018

324

6 (23)

2014/23/1  1997/20/2

None

Moderate

Annual means

1958–2018

 

1958–59

 

0

 

1960–69

 

<1

 

1970–79

 

<1

 

1980–89

 

4

 

1990–99

 

11

 

2000–09

 

9

 

2010–18

 

9

 

      

 

Although the 2018 total is a marginal improvement on the four records last year, there was no sign of any genuine resurgence; indeed, the total of six new birds may actually have included one from 2017 (see below). The ten-year mean now stands at 10 and, although double-figure numbers have been recorded in four years in that period, the status of Penduline Tit as a scarce migrant rather than a national rarity hangs in the balance. All records are shown below.

Dorset Radipole Lake, 1CY+, 14th–27th December

Gloucestershire Longford, 1CY+ male, 16th December 2017 into 2018 (plate 314)

Greater London Crossness, 1CY+, 10th November into 2019

Hertfordshire Tyttenhanger Gravel-pits, 2CY+, 16th–17th April (possibly the same as Gloucestershire above, on the basis of a partially read ring number; the bird was ringed on Alderney in autumn 2017)

Suffolk Leathes Ham, Lowestoft, 2CY+ male, 2nd–3rd April; Southwold, 1CY+, 2nd November 

Surrey 24th–25th March, 2CY+ male, Walton Reservoir

(Widely but locally distributed throughout C & E Europe, from Denmark, Germany & Italy NE to C Sweden & Estonia. Absent from much of NW Europe but locally numerous Spain. To E, breeds Turkey, Caucasus region, N Iran, S Russia and W & N Kazakhstan. Largely resident or dispersive in Europe.) 

314.jpg

Brian Anderson

314. Male Penduline Tit Remiz pendulinus, Longford, Gloucestershire, February 2018. 

 

Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla

Total 1958–2018

No. 2018

(rank/61)

Other annual maxima 1958–2018

(year/number/rank)

Trend

1990–2018

Annual variability 2000–2018

924

12 (38)

1996/45/1  1994/39/2

None

Low

 

Annual means

1958–2018

 

1958–59

 

4

 

1960–69

 

5

 

1970–79

 

11

 

1980–89

 

13

 

1990–99

 

27

 

2000–09

 

17

 

2010–18

 

20

 

      

Since 1982, only two years, 2005 and 2015, have produced fewer than 12 records and a steady decline appears to be under way, although not yet significant statistically (fig. 3).

One at Blakeney Point (Norfolk) on 6th–7th May was the first of the year. It was followed by another six in May, then one in September and four in October, the latest at Rosketal (Cornwall) on 22nd–31st.

Occurrences were restricted to eight recording areas: Norfolk had three records, Scilly, Cornwall and Shetland each had two, and Devon, Somerset and the Isle of May one apiece. 

(Breeds NW Africa & European Mediterranean basin to Black Sea region of Turkey & S Russia, E through C Asia to Mongolia & NW China. Winters along S edge of Sahara from Senegal to Sudan, Arabian Peninsula & N Indian subcontinent.)

SM fig 3.png

Fig. 3. Annual totals of Short-toed Larks Calandrella brachydactyla in Britain, 1990–2018.

 

Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica

Total 1958–2018

No. 2018

(rank/61)

Other annual maxima 1958–2018

(year/number/rank)

Trend

1990–2018

Annual variability 2000–2018

1,014

39 (9)

2012/68/1  1987/61/2

Increase

Moderate

Annual means

1958–2018

 

1958–59

 

1

 

1960–69

 

2

 

1970–79

 

4

 

1980–89

 

12

 

1990–99

 

15

 

2000–09

 

31

 

2010–18

 

41

 

      

An average year began with two at Lizard Point (Cornwall) on 14th April; 13 more arrived later in the month including two at Gibraltar Point (Lincolnshire) on 23rd. May provided a further 16 records, including the only other multiple record of the year when two were at Kingsdown (Kent) on 24th. The spring passage of 33 birds concluded with two in the first week of June, the last one being at Posting (Kent) on 7th.

The autumn movement is almost always far less significant than that in spring (fig. 4) and this year was no different. The first, at Church Stretton (Shropshire) on 1st September, was followed by two in October and then a remarkable three records in December: at Cley (Norfolk) on 5th–9th with perhaps the same bird at Kessingland (Suffolk) on 10th, and another at Torpoint (Cornwall) on 9th–13th. There has been only one previous December sighting of a Red-rumped Swallow since 2008: a juvenile at various coastal sites in north Norfolk from 17th December 2015 to 1st January 2016.

Red-rumped Swallows were recorded in 17 areas, three in Scotland (Fair Isle, Shetland and at sea off Caithness) but none in Wales; Kent with ten records and Suffolk with five were the top English counties.

(Race rufula widespread breeder from NW Africa & Mediterranean Europe N to S France & E through Balkans & Greece to W & S Turkey, Middle East & C Asia. Other races breed Africa and S & E Asia. Winters to S of breeding range in N equatorial Africa, Indian subcontinent andSE Asia to N Australia.)

SM fig 4.png

Fig. 4. Arrival dates of Red-rumped Swallows Cecropis daurica in Britain, 2008–2018.

315.jpg

Richard Cope

315. Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica, with Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica, Fair Isle, May 2018. 

 

Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus

Total 1958–2018

No. 2018

(rank/61)

Other annual maxima 1958–2018

(year/number/rank)

Trend

1990–2018

Annual variability 2000–2018

2,767

34 (23)

2003/313/1  2004/197/2

None

Very high

Annual means

1958–2018

 

1958–59

 

1

 

1960–69

 

3

 

1970–79

 

9

 

1980–89

 

39

 

1990–99

 

83

 

2000–09

 

90

 

2010–18

 

58

 

      

For the first time since 2012 there were no records in the early part of the year; the modest total in 2018 occurred entirely during the traditional peak period of mid October to late November. The first of the year was at Holy Island (Northumberland) on 11th October. A further 18 were found that month and 15 more in November, the last at Wells (Norfolk) from 26th until 1st December (this being the only bird to linger for more than a couple of days; most were recorded on one day only). 

Norfolk, with eight records, was the top county, followed by Kent with five and Suffolk with four. All were singles apart from two at Walton-on-the-Naze (Essex) on 17th–18th November. Scotland had three records this year but none were found in Wales.

During October, all but one bird (in Devon) were on the east coast between Shetland and Kent but nine of the November birds were on the English south coast between Sussex and Cornwall. Whatever the factors were that led to the meteoric increase in records of Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus, the same factors clearly do not apply to Pallas’s Leaf Warbler, which shows no overall trend in sightings over the past 30 years.

(Breeds S Siberia from Baikal region E to Ussuriland, NE China & S to N Mongolia. Winters E China to S of Yangtze River & throughout Indochina S to C Thailand.)

316.jpg

Kit Day

316. Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus, The Naze, Essex, November 2018. 

 

Radde’s Warbler Phylloscopus schwarzi

Total 1958–2018

No. 2018

(rank/61)

Other annual maxima 1958–2018

(year/number/rank)

Trend

1990–2018

Annual variability 2000–2018

444

0 (50)

2000/31/1 and 1991 & 2016/25/2 

Increase

High

Annual means

1958–2018

 

1958–59

 

0

 

1960–69

 

1

 

1970–79

 

1

 

1980–89

 

6

 

1990–99

 

10 

 

2000–09

 

14

 

2010–18

 

12

 

      

A completely blank return is exceptional for any species in these reports! There was a report of one bird in Kent but at the time of writing it is unclear whether it has been submitted or assessed. The last blank year was as long ago as 1983.

(Breeds S Siberia from Ob River region E to Ussuriland & NE China. Migrates through E China to winter N Burma & Indochina S to C Thailand.)

 

Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus

Total 1958–2018

No. 2018

(rank/61)

Other annual maxima 1958–2018

(year/number/rank)

Trend

1990–2018

Annual variability 2000–2018

590

25 (5)

2016/70/1  2011/36/2

Increase

High

Annual means

1958–2018

 

1958–59

 

0

 

1960–69

 

1

 

1970–79

 

1

 

1980–89

 

5

 

1990–99

 

13

 

2000–09

 

14

 

2010–18

 

27

 

      

This year was just the third since 2008 that no birds were recorded in the early part of the year (in line with the situation for Pallas’s Warbler – see above) but a decent autumn arrival brought the annual total close to the decade average. 

One at Eccles (Norfolk) on 14th October was the first of 11 that month, seven of which were on the English east coast between Yorkshire and Essex, with the remaining four in Cornwall and Scilly. A further 11 appeared in November, including the only Scottish record, at South Nesting (Shetland) on 8th, but most were again on the English east and south coasts, the exception being one at Ainsdale (Lancashire & North Merseyside) on 16th–18th. Three more were found in December, the most notable being a wintering bird at Kingsbury Water Park, Warwickshire, from 26th to the year’s end, an excellent inland find and a county first. 

Norfolk was the most favoured county with seven, followed by Scilly with five and Dorset with three. None was recorded in Wales where this species remains a major rarity, only one having been seen there since 2008.

(Breeds Siberia from Ob River N to c. 60ºN, E to Sea of Okhotsk, S to Russian Altai, N Mongolia & Ussuriland through NE China. Winters Nepal to S China & SE Asia to Singapore.)

 

‘Siberian Chiffchaff’ Phylloscopus collybita tristis

Total 2008–2018

No. 2018

(rank/11)

Other annual maxima 2008–2018

(year/number/rank)

Trend

2008–2018

Annual variability 2008–2018

2,443

208 (6)

2016/434/1  2015/351/2

Increase

Moderate

Annual means

2008–2018

 

2008–09

 

106

 

2010–18

 

248

 

      

This year’s total was the lowest for five years but the pattern of occurrences was typical: a modest wintering population, evidence of a small spring passage and a substantial late autumn arrival.

During January and February 47 wintering birds were recorded in 16 English and Welsh counties, with the largest numbers in the southwest, where Dorset, Cornwall and Scilly accounted for half of all records. At least some of these birds had presumably lingered from 2017. March records are more difficult to categorise and probably involve a mix of wintering birds and passage migrants. Most of the seven new March birds remained for just one day, suggesting active migration. Note that two of those first recorded in January, in Worcestershire and Cornwall, remained until 6th March and 31st March respectively. April and May produced just five new birds, but this included Scotland’s first of the year, on Fair Isle on 14th May.

Autumn arrivals began on 7th October, on Skokholm (Pembrokeshire), with a further 70 that month, 60 of which arrived after mid month. All were in coastal counties, and were concentrated especially in the Northern Isles and southwest England. A further 54 arrived in November and 24 in December, by which time almost all were in England and Wales, including in seven inland counties. 

Scilly was the top county with 32 records, followed by Cornwall with 29, Shetland with 23 and Dorset with 20.

(Breeds Russia from Urals E to NE Siberia & S to N Mongolia. Winters Iran to N Indian subcontinent.)

 

Greenish Warbler Phylloscopus trochiloides

Total 1958–2018

No. 2018

(rank/61)

Other annual maxima 1958–2018

(year/number/rank)

Trend

1990–2018

Annual variability 2000–2018

754

13 (21)

2005/47/1  2007/42/2

Increase

Moderate

Annual means

1958–2018

 

1958–59

 

1

 

1960–69

 

2

 

1970–79

 

6

 

1980–89

 

9

 

1990–99

 

14

 

2000–09

 

22

 

2010–18

 

25

 

      

Although 2018 was a second consecutive poor year, the well-established occurrence pattern was maintained: almost all Greenish Warblers appear during two narrow windows, from late May to mid June, and mid August to mid September.

The five spring birds arrived in the last week of May. The first, and the only one in England, was at Titchwell (Norfolk) on 24th–25th. Three were in Scotland (two in Shetland and one on the Isle of May) and one in Wales, on Bardsey (Caernarfonshire).

After an early bird at Norwick, Unst (Shetland), on 1st–2nd August, there were six autumn birds between 21st August and 7th September: two in the Northern Isles (Fair Isle and Orkney), one in Northumberland and three in Norfolk. A late bird on St Agnes (Scilly) on 8th–14th October completed the year’s tally.

(In Europe breeds E Germany to S Finland, E through Russia to Yenisey River & S through NW Mongolia to N Afghanistan & NW Himalayas. Winters throughout Indian subcontinent, & E to N Thailand.)

 

Blyth’s Reed Warbler Acrocephalus dumetorum

Total 1958–2018

No. 2018

(rank/61)

Other annual maxima 1958–2018

(year/number/rank)

Trend

1990–2018

Annual variability 2000–2018

261

19 (3)

2014/28/1  2012/20/2

Increase

High

Annual means

1958–2018

 

1958–59

 

0

 

1960–69

 

0

 

1970–79

 

<1

 

1980–89

 

<1

 

1990–99

 

2

 

2000–09

 

7

 

2010–18

 

18

 

      

Spring produced five records, between 25th May and 6th June: the first and last of these five were on Bardsey (Caernarfonshire) with the others in Fair Isle, Norfolk and Northumberland – where one at Newton Pool on 27th May was the first spring record in that county. Late spring records of this former vagrant are now expected and numbers may soon approach autumn totals (fig. 5).

With the exception of singles in Norfolk and Suffolk, the 14 autumn records were on Scottish islands between 6th September and 18th October with Fair Isle and Shetland accounting for ten of the 14.

(Breeds S Finland, Baltic countries & European Russia E through C Siberia to Lake Baikal & upper Lena River, & S through W Mongolia & NW China, Kazakhstan & Tajikistan to N Pakistan. Winters throughout Indian subcontinent S to Sri Lanka & E to NW Burma.)

SM fig 5.png

Fig. 5. Arrival dates of Blyth’s Reed Warblers Acrocephalus dumetorum in Britain, 2008–2018.

 

Marsh Warbler Acrocephalus palustris

Total 1986–2018

No. 2018

(rank/33)

Other annual maxima 1986–2018

(year/number/rank)

Trend

1990–2018

Annual variability 2000–2018

1,547

86 (3)

1992/106/1  2008/105/2

None

Moderate

Annual means

1986–2018

 

1986–89

 

30

 

1990–99

 

53

 

2000–09

 

46

 

2010–18

 

49

 

After likely breeding birds had been excluded from the totals, 2018 was still an outstanding year for Marsh Warblers in Britain, due mainly to a large spring arrival of 73 birds between 12th May and 24th June; 53 of these were found in the last week of May and first week of June. More than half of the spring records (42) were on Shetland and Fair Isle, the latter recording its highest ever day total with seven on 31st May. Others were noted in 14 recording areas including two in Wales and nine in England – where Norfolk was the top county with six, followed by Suffolk with five, and Northumberland and Yorkshire on four each. 

The first of the autumn appeared at Skaw, Unst (Shetland), on 27th–30th July. Seven arrived in August, with four on Fair Isle and three in southern England, including the year’s most westerly record, at Nanjizal (Cornwall) on 29th. Four in September were all in the Northern Isles, including the last of the year, at Sumburgh (Shetland) on 1st–6th October.

(Breeds temperate Europe from France to C Fennoscandia, E to Caucasus & NE Turkey, & Russia & Siberia E to Ob River. Winters equatorial E and SE Africa.)

 

Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta

Total 1968–2018

No. 2018

(rank/51)

Other annual maxima 1968–2018

(year/number/rank)

Trend

1990–2018

Annual variability 2000–2018

1,452

17 (43)

1981/60/1  1996/59/2

Decline

Low

Annual means

1968–2018

 

1968–69

 

15

 

1970–79

 

32

 

1980–89

 

39

 

1990–99

 

30

 

2000–09

 

23

 

2010–18

 

20

 

      

Another mediocre year for this species did nothing to buck the downward trend, the causes of which are unknown. There was a single spring record, on St Mary’s (Scilly) on 6th June. The remaining 16 arrived between 18th August and 22nd October with ten of these in September. As usual, coastal counties in southern England accounted for the lion’s share of the year’s total, with 12 (70%) between Sussex and Scilly. There were two Welsh records, including the last of the year, at Port Meudwy (Caernarfonshire) on 22nd–28th October. Three were in Scotland, a relatively good showing; all were in September with two in Shetland and one in Borders.

(Breeds NW Africa & SW Europe from S Spain to SE Netherlands & E to Italy. Winters W Africa N of equator.)

317.jpg

Rory Tallack

317. Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta, Sandness, Shetland, September 2018. 

 

Icterine Warbler Hippolais icterina

Total 1968–2018

No. 2018

(rank/51)

Other annual maxima 1968–2018

(year/number/rank)

Trend

1990–2018

Annual variability 2000–2018

5,039

57 (39)

1997/286/1  1992/281/2

None

Moderate

Annual means

1968–2018

 

1968–69

 

35

 

1970–79

 

81

 

1980–89

 

104

 

1990–99

 

139

 

2000–09

 

88

 

2010–18

 

78

 

      

A below-average year produced 33 in spring (May to early June) and 24 in autumn (late July to late October) with sightings in 11 recording areas. All but four appeared either in the Northern Isles (including 28 in Shetland and Fair Isle combined) or along the east coast south to Norfolk; none was found in Wales. The top English counties were Yorkshire with seven and Norfolk with six.

The first was on Fair Isle on 17th May and was followed by another 23 that month and nine in early June, the last at Scatness (Shetland) on 6th. Autumn passage began with one on Fair Isle on 27th–29th July, followed by two more in the Northern Isles before the month’s end. August produced 11 and September nine, including singles in the west on Tiree (Argyll), Barra (Outer Hebrides) and St Mary’s (Scilly). The last of the year was on Bryher (Scilly), on 25th October, one of only nine October records since 2008.

(Breeds W & C Europe N to C Fennoscandia & E to Black Sea, European Russia & Siberia E to region of Ob River, & N Kazakhstan. Winters throughout Africa S of equator.)

 

Barred Warbler Sylvia nisoria

Total 1968–2018

No. 2018

(rank/51)

Other annual maxima 1968–2018

(year/number/rank)

Trend

1990–2018

Annual variability 2000–2018

8,173 

204 (10)

2010/394/1  2014/340/2

Increase

Moderate

Annual means

1968–2018

 

1968–69

 

145

 

1970–79

 

143

 

1980–89

 

108

 

1990–99

 

158

 

2000–09

 

172

 

2010–18

 

230

 

      

After two poor years, there was something of a resurgence in 2018, even if the decade average was not reached. Typically, all records were in autumn, the first being an early bird on Out Skerries (Shetland) from 31st July to 5th August. Most of the 42 arrivals in August were also in the Northern Isles, with just seven scattered along the English east coast between Northumberland and Suffolk. The 73 birds in September were similarly spread, apart from one in Argyll and two in the Outer Hebrides. October was the most productive month, however, with 80 reported: the Northern Isles and North Sea coastal counties south to Suffolk were once again to the fore but exceptions were the Outer Hebrides with four, Devon with three and singles in Scilly, Caernarfonshire and Dorset. Just eight were seen in November, which included one in Sussex and the last of the year, at Sandscale (Cumbria) from 21st. 

Barred Warblers were seen in 21 recording areas in 2018 but the Northern Isles accounted for a whopping 163 (80% of the total).

(Breeds C & E Europe N to S Finland & S to S Black Sea, Russia E to Yenisey River region of Siberia, & N Kazakhstan. Winters NE & E equatorial Africa.)

 

‘Subalpine Warbler’ Sylvia cantillans/subalpina

Total 1958–2018

No. 2018

(rank/61)

Other annual maxima 1958–2018

(year/number/rank)

Trend

1990–2018

Annual variability 2000–2018

824

17 (22)

1995/37/1  2008/33/2

None

Low

Annual means

1958–2018

 

1958–59

 

2

 

1960–69

 

2

 

1970–79

 

5

 

1980–89

 

16

 

1990–99

 

19

 

2000–09

 

21

 

2010–18

 

22

 

      

Of the 17 recorded this year, BBRC accepted six as ‘Eastern Subalpine Warbler’ S. c. cantillans/albistriata and two as Moltoni’s Warbler S. subalpina. There were no confirmed records of ‘Western Subalpine Warbler’ S. c. iberiae/inornataduring the year (Holt et al. 2019), and all remaining 2018 records of non-specific ‘Subalpine Warblers’ are listed below, though some remain under review by BBRC.

Argyll Tiree, 2CY+ male, 8th June.

Cornwall Caerthillian, Lizard, 2CY+ male, 16th–18th April; Porthgwarra, 2CY+ male, 18th April.

Fair Isle Lower Leogh, 2CY+ female, 22nd May.

Lancashire & N Merseyside Middleton NR, 2CY+ female, 1st June.

Pembrokeshire Skomer, 2CY+ female, 20th May.

Shetland Burrafirth, Unst, 1CY+ female, 19th–21st September; 1CY+ female, Isbister, Whalsay, 6th October.

Yorkshire Flamborough Head, 2CY+, 16th–17th May.

From 2019 all claims of ‘Subalpine Warbler’ will be assessed by BBRC, making this the final year that this species group will appear in these reports. The annual totals of all Subalpine Warbler taxa (including Moltoni’s Warbler) since 1990 appear in fig. 6.

(Breeds NW Africa & Mediterranean basin from Portugal E to W Turkey, N to S France. Winters along S edge of Sahara from Senegal to Sudan.)

SM fig 6.png

Fig. 6. Annual totals of all ‘Subalpine Warblers’ Sylvia cantillans/subalpina in Britain, 1990–2018.

 

Rose-coloured Starling Pastor roseus

Total 1958–2018

No. 2018

(rank/61)

Other annual maxima 1958–2018

(year/number/rank)

Trend

1990–2018

Annual variability 2000–2018

1,377

162 (2)

2002/195/1  2001 & 2003/67/3=

None

Very high

Annual means

1958–2018

 

1958–59

 

6

 

1960–69

 

3

 

1970–79

 

6

 

1980–89

 

8

 

1990–99

 

18

 

2000–09

 

56

 

2010–18

 

51

 

      

Following a run of rather mediocre years, 2018 produced the second-highest annual total (fig. 7). Although falling short of the 2002 invasion, the 162 records represent more than three times the decade average. As in 2002, the majority were found during the late spring and early summer, reaching Britain after moving westwards across continental Europe, presumably as a result of food shortages and reduced breeding opportunities (Craig & Feare 2020). We can only speculate what numbers might have occurred if weather conditions during the peak period had been more favourable; flocks of hundreds were reported in southern France (Jones 2018) and large numbers reached Spain (Gutiérrez 2018).

An adult at Roch (Glamorgan) on 8th February was the only record in the early months of the year. One at Porlock (Somerset) on 8th May was the first of 27 in that month, mostly in the last few days as the invasion began in earnest. May birds were noted in 18 widespread recording areas, including in nine east- and south-coast counties between Shetland and Sussex (and with two at Portland, Dorset, from 26th and at Trearddur, Anglesey, on 27th). 

June was the peak month, with 70 birds in 29 recording areas, 14 of which were in the west or inland. Most records were of singles but there were two at Colne Point (Essex) and Lundy (Devon) on 3rd, Ynyslas (Ceredigion) on 6th and Spey Bay (Moray & Nairn) on 7th. Only 16 of the June birds appeared after mid month and just 16 arrived in July, including three on Tiree (Argyll) from 23rd.

The invasion was all but over by August, which accounted for seven new arrivals, including the first juveniles of the year on 27th, at Beesands and Slapton Ley (Devon) and Unst (Shetland). Fifteen in September were all juveniles, as were the 14 in October and ten in November. The last of the year were young birds at Scarborough (Yorkshire) on 14th December and Seaford (Sussex) on 28th December, both of which remained to the end of the year.

(Breeds locally from Black Sea coasts of Romania and S Ukraine, E through Turkey to steppe region of C Asia. Winters Indian subcontinent S to Sri Lanka, and SE Arabian Peninsula.)

SM fig 7.png

Fig. 7. Annual totals of Rose-coloured Starlings Pastor roseus in Britain, 1990–2018.

318.jpg

Stef McElwee

318. Rose-coloured Starling Pastor roseus, Ashington, Northumberland, May 2018. 

 

Bluethroat Luscinia svecica

Total 1968–2018

No. 2018

(rank/51)

Other annual maxima 1968–2018

(year/number/rank)

Trend

1990–2018

Annual variability 2000–2018

5,655

75 (29)

1985/622/1  1981/333/2

Decline

Low

Annual means

1968–2018

 

1968–69

 

128

 

1970–79

 

92

 

1980–89

 

186

 

1990–99

 

116

 

2000–09

 

84

 

2010–18

 

69

 

      

Although Bluethroats were slightly more plentiful than in 2017, the 2018 totals did nothing to reverse the recent decline – the current decade average is less than 40% of that in the 1980s. However, it was a good year for ‘White-spotted Bluethroats’ L. s. cyanecula with 16 reported (including one territorial bird), compared with an average of less than two since 2008. These included only the sixth and seventh winter records of white-spotted birds since 1965: one on South Ronaldsay (Orkney) from 19th January to 4th March, and a first-winter at Eastbourne (Sussex) on 4th–26th February. Eight arrived during March, three in April then two late males, on Bardsey (Caernarfonshire) on 26th May and at Kelling (Norfolk) from 30th May to 4th June. The last white-spotted bird was a territorial male at the Great Fen (Cambridgeshire) on 9th–20th June. All were singles except for an adult male and a first-summer at Dungeness (Kent) on 18th–23rd March.

As usual, the majority of spring birds were ‘Red-spotted Bluethroats’ L. s. svecica (or birds not identified to subspecies); the first was reported from Clacton-on-Sea (Essex) on the exceptionally early date of 19th March and that was followed by one at Flamborough (Yorkshire) on 3rd April. The next bird was at Holme (Norfolk) on 6th May, the first of 44 recorded that month, followed by just one in June. The first of a decidedly poor autumn were singles at Farlington Marshes (Hampshire) and Out Skerries (Shetland) on 17th September, the only records that month. Another ten followed in October, the last on Fair Isle on 28th.

Occurrences were fairly widespread from 17 largely coastal counties, exceptions being Cambridgeshire (above) and a white-spotted male at Walthamstow Wetlands (Greater London) on 23rd March. However, the highest totals came from familiar areas: 21 in Shetland, 17 on Fair Isle and nine in Orkney; five in Suffolk and four in Norfolk were the highest totals in England and the Bardsey bird (above) was the only record in Wales.

(Red-spotted races breed from mountains of S Norway, E through Fennoscandia & Russia to extreme W Alaska, & S to C Asia. White-spotted races breed C & S Europe E to Caucasus and N Iran. Winters Mediterranean basin, Sahel region of Africa, Arabian Peninsula, Indian subcontinent, S China & SE Asia.)

319.jpg

Kit Day

319. Male ‘White-spotted Bluethroat’ Luscinia svecica cyanecula, Dungeness, Kent, March 2018. 

 

Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus

Total 1958–2018

No. 2018

(rank/61)

Other annual maxima 1958–2018

(year/number/rank)

Trend

1990–2018

Annual variability 2000–2018

191

4 (12)

2010/31/1  2016/29/2

Large increase

Very high

Annual means

1958–2018

 

1958–59

 

0

 

1960–69

 

0

 

1970–79

 

0

 

1980–89

 

0

 

1990–99

 

1

 

2000–09

 

4

 

2010–18

 

14

 

This was another wretched year, with three in Norfolk and one in Yorkshire. Just ten have been recorded since the species was removed from the BBRC list in 2017 and its future status as a scarce migrant seems uncertain. All records are shown below. 

Norfolk Holkham, 1CY+, 15th–17th October; Burnham Market, 1CY+, 28th October; Titchwell, 1CY+, 29th October.

Yorkshire Spurn, 1CY+, 7th–9th October.

(Breeds NE Finland E through boreal forests of N Russia & Siberia to Kamchatka, N Japan & NE China. Winters S China, Taiwan & S Japan through SE Asia to N peninsular Thailand.)

 

Red-breasted Flycatcher Ficedula parva

Total 1968–2018

No. 2018

(rank/51)

Other annual maxima 1968–2018

(year/number/rank)

Trend

1990–2018

Annual variability 2000–2018

5,011

51 (45)

2014/271/1  1984/196/2

None

Moderate

Annual means

1968–2018

 

1968–69

 

59

 

1970–79

 

79

 

1980–89

 

115

 

1990–99

 

88

 

2000–09

 

94

 

2010–18

 

126

 

      

Records increased fairly steadily from around 2000 to 2016 but have declined in the last two years, to the extent that there is now no discernible trend.

The spring total of 21 birds was an unusually high proportion of the 2018 total; the passage began and ended in Orkney, at Firth, Mainland, on 8th May and North Ronaldsay on 16th June. After two in September, Fair Isle on 1st and Gibraltar Point (Lincolnshire) on 7th–11th, 28 more followed in October until the last, at Southwold (Suffolk) on 28th–31st. Eight autumn birds were reported as first-winters and two as adults.

Red-breasted Flycatchers were recorded in 21 counties, seven of them in Scotland and two in Wales. Shetland (11) was the top county, followed by Norfolk (eight) and Scilly (five); all records came from coastal counties with the exception of one at Rammey Marsh (Greater London) on 4th October. 

(Breeds C Europe from Germany N to S Sweden, C Finland & Russia E to Urals & perhaps beyond, & S to Black Sea & Caucasus. Winters W Indian subcontinent.)

320.jpg

John Richardson

320. First-winter Red-breasted Flycatcher Ficedula parva, Southwold, Suffolk, October 2018. 

 

‘Grey-headed Wagtail’ Motacilla flava thunbergi

Total 2008–2018

No. 2018

(rank/11)

Other annual maxima 2008–2018

(year/number/rank)

Trend

2008–2018

Annual variability 2008–2018

388

15 (11)

2008/103/1  2010/52/2

None

High

Annual means

2008–2018

 

2008–09

 

77

 

2010–18

 

26

 

      

‘Grey-headed Wagtails’ were recorded in eight counties this year. In Scotland, Fair Isle, Lothian, Orkney and Shetland accounted for six birds, while seven records on the east coast of England were divided almost equally between Yorkshire and Norfolk; less predictable were singles in the west at Cemlyn Bay (Anglesey) on 18th May and Hoylake (Cheshire & Wirral) on 23rd May. All were in spring, the first on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 26th–28th April and the last on Fair Isle on 1st June.

(‘Grey-headed Wagtail’ breeds from C Fennoscandia E across N Russia to NW Siberia. The subspecies winters NW Africa & throughout sub-Saharan Africa, to Arabian Peninsula & NW Indian subcontinent.)

 

Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola

Total 1958–2018

No. 2018

(rank/61)

Other annual maxima 1958–2018

(year/number/rank)

Trend

1990–2018

Annual variability 2000–2018

349

8 (14)

2013/22/1  2008/21/2

Increase

Moderate

Annual means

1958–2018

 

1958–59

 

0

 

1960–69

 

1

 

1970–79

 

2

 

1980–89

 

2

 

1990–99

 

7

 

2000–09

 

11

 

2010–18

 

14

 

For the fourth consecutive year, records of Citrine Wagtails were hard to come by and the mean annual total since 2015, when the species first appeared in this report, is just eight. None was seen in spring and all the autumn records, all first-winter birds on islands, are listed below.

Isles of Scilly St Mary’s, 1CY, 19th–25th August; Tresco and St Mary’s, 1CY, 2nd–4th September; St Mary’s, 1CY, 14th–23rd September; St Mary’s, 1CY, 15th–19th November.

Shetland Culsetter, Mainland, 1CY, 31st August; Norwick and Haroldswick, Unst, 1CY, 21st September to 4th October; Gardie, Bressay, 1CY, 2nd–13th October.

Outer Hebrides St Kilda, 1CY, 30th September.

(Nominate race breeds Baltic countries, S Finland, Belarus, Ukraine & S Russia, E across N Siberia to Taimyr Peninsula & S to C Siberia; also C & E Turkey E to Kazakhstan, Mongolia & N China. Black-backed race calcarata breeds C Asia to Tibetan Plateau. Winters throughout Indian subcontinent, S China & SE Asia to peninsular Thailand.)

321.jpg

Jim Almond

321. First-winter Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola, St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly, August 2018. 

 

Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi

Total 1958–2018

No. 2018

(rank/61)

Other annual maxima 1958–2018

(year/number/rank)

Trend

1990–2018

Annual variability 2000–2018

5,025

74 (33)

1994/353/1  2005/200/2

None

Low

Annual means

1958–2018

 

1958–59

 

6

 

1960–69

 

40

 

1970–79

 

51

 

1980–89

 

65

 

1990–99

 

130

 

2000–09

 

119