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The Very Best of British and Irish Birding - 2004 Review

(roll your cursor over each image for a summary of the month's highlights -and click on
any image for a larger version. For non IE users click here for a full account of the year)

Grimsby birders must have been stunned to find an American Robin on the 1st. Further American waifs included another long-staying American Robin in Cornwall, Baltimore Oriole in Oxfordshire and American Coot in Shetland and the Outer Hebrides and a Forster's Tern in County Wexford. No less than 4 Hume's Warblers turned up including a popular London bird. A third American Coot was found in Dumfries and Galloway, whilst a Harlequin Duck found on the Outer Hebrides mid-month had actually arrived in January. The Rufous Turtle Dove from 2003 was relocated in Highland, whilst a Pine Bunting turned up in Norfolk at the end of the month. A party of Northern Long-tailed Tits continued to remain in Suffolk from January. The Lincolnshire American Robin finally fell victim to a sparrowhawk. But new birds arrived with a long-staying Franklin's Gull in Dorset and two long-staying Alpine Swifts in Hampshire and North Yorkshire. At the end of the month a drake White-headed Duck turned up in Cleveland. Early summer migrants included a record invasion of some 40 Red-rumped Swallows, whilst crowd-pullers included an Iberian Chiffchaff in Northumberland, a one-day Alpine Accentor in Norfolk and a smart drake Bufflehead in Greater Manchester before moving to West Yorkshire. A fly-by male Pallid Harrier in North Yorkshire and a Song Sparrow reported from Devon will have caused some nervous twitches.
January 2004
February 2004
March 2004
April 2004
A male Rock Thrush in Devon on the afternoon and evening of the 25th left many disappointed birders the next morning. More reliable, but no less controversial was a drake Cinnamon Teal on the Outer Hebrides. The islands had the best of the birds in May with a Bufflehead on the Outer Hebrides, Upland Sandpiper in Shetland and Greater Yellowlegs in Northern Ireland. Good numbers of Red-rumped Swallows continued to be reported as well as a number of small parties of Bee-eaters. One-day Collared Flycatchers and Paddyfield Warblers in Shetland were out of range for most birders. More popular were Red-footed Falcon and Icterine Warbler in Suffolk as were a couple of 'spotty' Spotted Sandpipers in Cheshire and the West Midlands. A Red-headed Bunting in Dumfries and Galloway attracted the usual critics. At the end of the month a Short-billed Dowitcher was identified in County Wexford, Ireland. As expected was dominated by rare waders with Britain's third Mongolian Plover in Lothian and a popular Greater Sandplover in Norfolk. A Great Knot in Lancashire on the last day of the month was to turn up again later in August. Nearctic waders started to appear in numbers including the first ever inland adult Semi-palmated Sandpiper in Lancashire. A typically brief Caspian Tern in Devon mirrored a one-day White-throated Sparrow in Shetland. Seawatching stole the limelight with reports of Fea's Petrels off the Isles of Scilly and County Clare and Britain's first proven Scopoli's Shearwater off Scilly. Thirty Wilson's Petrels were logged from Ireland and various pelagics off the Western Approaches, along with 3 Little Shearwaters. Away from the coast a Black Stork gave birders the run around in Essex for a fortnight. Passerines were on the move by the end of the month including some 30 Greenish Warblers and 15 Aquatic Warblers.
May 2004
June 2004
July 2004
August 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. October 2004 must have left a birder or two with a serious financial hangover. Highlights were two firsts for the Western Palearctic both on Fair Isle - a Chestnut-eared Bunting and a Rufous-tailed Robin. The north continued to lead with Britain's first Masked Shrike in Fife, a Yellow Warbler and two Common Yellowthroats on the outer isles. Scilly scored with an Ovenbird which later died in captivity. A Western Sandpiper in Dorset and a White's Thrush in East Yorkshire meant something new almost every day. Right on cue, a Little Crake arrived for a two-week stay in Cornwall, but better still was a Pine Grosbeak in East Yorkshire for 3 days. Sadly idenitfication followed only after it departed. A Grey-cheeked Thrush, netted in Norfolk, must have been a shock to local ringers whilst a Blyth's Pipit in Cornwall and an Ivory Gull in Highland arrived mid-month for extended stays. Wintering wildfowl included returning Redheads from 2003. The Waxwing invasion continued with birds pushing south. A Killdeer was a Christmas Day treat for birders on the Outer Hebrides. A white -phase Gyrfalcon touring the islands was more typical. In Nottinghamshire an adult Sora entertained birders. Early in the month a popular Arctic Redpoll arrived in Norfolk along with a King Eider at the same site a week later. Penduline Tits turned up in Kent and London whilst an immature White-tailed Eagle from Boxing Day kept Norfolk in the headlines.
September 2004
October 2004
November 2004
December 2004

Photos from top left: American Robin copyright Nigel Blake; Northern Long-tailed Tit copyright Adrian Webb; Franklin's Gull copyright Martin Cade; Bufflehead copyright Ian Barnard; Rock Thrush copyright Pat Meyer; Red-footed Falcon copyright Kit Day; Greater Sandplover copyright Alan Tate; Greenish Warbler copyright Tony Collinson; Cream-coloured Courser copyright Steve Arlow; Rufous-tailed Robin copyright Simon Mitchell; Little Crake copyright Marc Read; Killdeer copyright Michael McKee.

You can search thousands of photos from 2004 and earlier for other rare birds - simply go to any gallery and use the search feature on the left hand bar. Many thanks to all the photographers who have 'showcased' their work on surfbirds in 2004.