"Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and couldron bubble.
Eye of Smew; toe of Rook;
Wool of Reeve, and tongue of Knot
By the twitching of my thumbs;
A British first this way comes !"
Fair or foul, September brings wind, rain and great birds to this Sceptred Isle. Cast a "vanishing" spell on friends and family and head for Macbeth's Northern Isles - or miss out !
Fair Isle tops everyone's list for September, but you can just as easily tread your own furrow on another windswept isle - The big five of Pechora Pipit, Lanceolated Warbler, Pallas' Grasshopper Warbler, Paddyfield Warbler and Yellow-breasted Bunting should all put in an appearance during September in these Northern Isles. Well, perhaps not the bunting that is now fast becoming a mega!
But the Northern Isles don't have it all their own way. Cape Clear is a good bet for a Little Shearwater this month, whilst the West Country has a fair chance of producing early American vagrants such as Bobolink or Red-eyed Vireo or...if it's a good year... something even rarer.
September has a great record for producing the "mega" - the UK's three records of Tennessee Warbler are all from September as are our only records of Yellow-throated Vireo, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Magnolia Warblers and Hooded Warblers - time to book that Cornish cottage if you haven't done so already!
Elsewhere, Citrine Wagtail, Red-throated Pipit, Rustic Bunting and a cast of warblers including Arctic Warbler, Greenish Warbler and Western Bonelli's Warbler are all virtually guaranteed to make landfall.
Yankee waders are guaranteed throughout the country with American Golden Plover, numerous records of Baird's Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs and Semipalmated Sandpipers joining the more common "pecs" and "white-rumps". Unlikely but why not - another Least Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher or a repeat of the one we have all been waiting for, an English county Grey-tailed Tattler.....
September 2013: Autumn 2013 rained down rarities with the highlights being some quality Nearctic passerines. Fast off the mark twitchers will have caught up with the Wilson's Warbler in County Cork; unlike the Eastern Kingbird in County Galway. Irish birders also found Blackpoll Warbler and Red-eyed Vireo in the same counties. Back in Britain, Shetland turned up Baltimore Oriole, Black-and-white Warbler, Upland Sandpiper and Hudsonian Whimbrel. Other big birds included an Elegant Tern in County Kerry and an increasingly rare Yellow-breasted Bunting in Northumberland. By the end of the month a mini influx of Hornemann's Arctic Redpolls arrived in Shetland. But perhaps the month's most popular bird was the confiding Great Snipe in East Yorkshire.
September 2012: A magnificent Magnolia Warbler on Fair Isle for just one evening set pulses beating. A juvenile Baillon's Crake in London played hide and seek but eventually showed to most who waited. Britain's second Short-billed Dowitcher in Dorset was equally popular although a subsequent second bird on Scillies and a Semipalmated Plover in the Outer Hebrides caused less of a stir. Two White's Thrushes and three Pallas' Grasshopper Warblers made east coast landfalls whilst a Red-eyed Vireo on Fair Isle signalled nearctic passerines were on the move.
September 2011: Highlight of the month was a Sandhill Crane in Scotland, whilst at the other end of the country the Isles of Scilly delivered Nearctic vagrants in the form of a delightful Northern Waterthrush and Black-and-white Warbler. A Semipalmated Plover in Ireland, a Greater Yellowlegs in Cornwall, a late-identified Long-toed Stint in Sussex, a more obliging American Black Tern in Lincolnshire and a record invasion of Pallid Harriers were just a taste of things to come. Record numbers of Nearctic shorebirds arrived on the back of the Atlantic storms.
September 2010: Britain's second Alder Flycatcher was undoubtedly the highlight of the month arriving during very unsettled weather in Norfolk. Other nearctic delights included Northern Parula in Argyll and Swainson's Thrush in Shetland. Shetland also produced a string of Siberian vagrants including White's Thrush and Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler. East Yorkshire was not to be outdone with a Brown Flycatcher and Eastern Olivaceous Warbler. A House Crow in Ireland unblocked many a top list. Birders also witnessed an influx of Buff-breasted Sandpipers and good numbers of Long-tailed Skuas moving south.
September 2009: Britain's first Tufted Puffin lingered for just 20 minutes in Kent in what was surely to be the bird of the decade that is until a fregatta petrel turned up two months later in Gloucestershire. Other untwitchable vagrants included a Blackburnian Warbler on St.Kilda and a Red-billed Tropicbird off Ireland. More obliging were a Sandhill Crane in Orkney and a Taiga Flycatcher on Shetland. Close encounters with a Black-browed Albatross off Scilly were the envy of many a birder.
September 2008: the month's highlight was undoubtedly the twitchable male Cretzschmar's Bunting on Orkney, although other top-notch rarities included a Brown Shrike in East Yorkshire and a Brown Flycatcher on Fair Isle. All too brief rarities included a Fan-tailed Warbler in Kent, an Eleonara's Falcon in Essex (identified only from photographs) A stowaway Common Yellowthroat in Hampshire was a foretaste of the nearctic invasion around the corner. A Red-footed Falcon in East Yokshire was to turn into Britain's first Amur Falcon when photos were studied in more detail. Other quality rarities included an American Redstart in Ireland, Bobolink in Shetland, Sykes and Eastern Olivaceous Warblers and a Siberian Thrush in Shetland.
September 2007: After a pelagic Madeiran Petrel in July it was perhaps no surprise that land-based Cornish birders would turn one up and just long enough for some of the locals to twitch it. Equally tantalising were reports of a Booted Eagle in Kent. More typical September fare were Swainson’s, Siberian and Grey-cheeked Thrushes, all on Shetland and in the space of three bird-packed final days of the month. At the opposite end of the country an obliging Paddyfield Warbler in Kent was popular. Several nearctic Buff-bellied Pipits arrived complimenting more typical rarities in the form of two Red-flanked Bluetails in East Anglia and an Isabelline Shrike in Yorkshire. But perhaps more newsworthy were the records of Great Shearwaters with a record count of 7,114 from the Outer Hebrides.
September 2006: sporadic sightings of an Eleonora's Falcon on the Isles of Scilly caused more than a few twitches amongst mainland birders. More obliging were a Pallid Harrier in Norfolk for most of the month and an Isabelline Wheatear on Anglesey. But neither could match those confiding Marbled Ducks in Dorset and East Sussex. Early 'sibes' started to arrive, with Shetland hosting the majority. Nearctic waders arrived en masse with hordes of Semipalmated, Baird's and Buff-breasted Sandpipers. Best of the wader bunch was a Least Sandpiper in Cornwall.
September 2005: nearctic passerines arrived right on cue with Yellow Warbler, Veery and Bobolink all on Shetland, Buff-bellied Pipit on the Outer Hebrides and a Blackpoll Warbler on Scilly. A long-staying Sora also on Scilly proved popular. An Upland Sandpiper in Cornwall would have been were it not atypically elusive. But it was not all nearctic news with a showy Little Crake filling the hides at Slimbridge and good numbers of lesser rarities including invasion style proportions of Greenish Warblers and Wrynecks.
September 2004: the autumn got off to a great start with the Western Palearctic's much predicted first record of Purple Martin on the Outer Hebrides. The first Cream-coloured Courser for 21 years on the Isles of Scilly, and a long-awaited Western Sandpiper in Dorset also kept listers happy. A Brown Shrike in Shetland, a lingering Pallid Harrier on the Isles of Scilly, two Red-eyed Vireos in Ireland and a Red-flanked Bluetail on Fair Isle at the month's end augured well for a busy October.
September 2003: were you there ? Shetland delivered a fistful of classic 'sibes' at the month's end with White's Thrush, Red-flanked Bluetail, Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, Lanceolated Warbler and Olive-backed Pipit as well as nearctic Swainson's and Gray-cheeked Thrush! But perhaps the best bird of the month was Britain's third Two-barred Greenish Warbler on Scilly. Accompanying these major rarities were multiple Yellow-breasted Buntings, Booted Warblers, Paddyfield Warblers and Blyth's Reed Warblers, not forgetting the record invasion of 150+ Pectoral Sandpipers.
September 2002 lived up to its billing with bird of the month being a Solitary Sandpiper in Hertfordshire. As expected the Northern Isles dominated the scene with two White's Thrushes, Britain's sixth Veery, three Pechora Pipits, Pallid Harrier, Daurian Shrike plus a cast of great warblers including River, Lanceolated, Booted and Blyth's Reed, to name but a few. For mainland birders things were hardly dull with an influx of perhaps a dozen Glossy Ibises, a Cornish Little Swift, and east coast Sardinian Warbler and Black-headed Bunting. On the other side of the country last winter's Redhead returned to Glamorgan.
September 2001 certainly lived up to most birders expectations with a flurry of birding activity in the last third of the month. Bird of the month was surely the well-watched American Green Heron in Lincolnshire, but birders could be forgiven for arriving "punch-drunk" from the excesses of an inland Red-necked Stint in Cambridgeshire, an Isabelline Wheatear in Suffolk and a Pallas' Grasshopper Warbler in Norfolk. All this inevitably overshadowed such greats as Thick-billed Warbler and Pallid Harrier both in Shetland along with the almost annual Pechora Pipit and Lanceolated Warbler, a Red-flanked Bluetail in Teesside and that belatedly identifed Brown Shrike on Scilly.
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