As of 10 November 2015, a total of 430 species have been recorded this year

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Monday, 29 March 2010

Sixth LESSER KESTREL since 1950 overshoots on southerly winds

Essex bird photographer Andy Cook could hardly believe his eyes when he came face-to-face with a stonking adult male LESSER KESTREL at Minsmere RSPB reserve (Suffolk) yesterday afternoon. The bird was hopping from fence post to fence post in fields along the access road and was showing unbelievably well. Andy raced back to the RSPB shop and centre and got hold of Birdline Wales operative Alan Davies, who just happened to be by the centre at this time, and showed him pictures of the bird he had just found.

Minutes later and Alan and others were watching it - still showing to 65 yards in the field. News was then quickly relayed to RBA, sparking a major invasion of twitchers from all around. First on the scene were many daytrippers at the reserve, including a 52-strong coach party from the Midlands, and then, shortly later, many of those that were already in the county, due to the continued presence of both Alpine and Pallid Swifts.

Sadly, the commotion caused by incoming twitchers inadvertently frightened the Kestrel and it took flight. LGRE and others intercepted it as it flew north along the access road and made its way slowly west towards Westleton and as a female Common Kestrel set off in hot pursuit after it, it slank away to the north and went out towards Westleton Heath. Fortunately, one intrepid soul later relocated it, where it had taken refuge at the edge of Scottshall Covert at cTM 463 685, and here it was to remain until dusk, roosting in a dense Holm Oak at 1845 hours. By this time, 350 or so observers had connected.

It was a beautiful adult male and represented the first record in Britain since the immature male on the Isles of Scilly in 2002 (on St Mary's from 13-21 May - British Birds 95: plates 226 & 227 and 96: plates 342-343).

The bird roosted overnight and was present again today in exactly the same area, delighting a further 300 or so observers, often perching on gorse clumps, dead Elders and the Holm Oaks. Andy Cook obtained some absolutely stunning images when first found, whilst Jan Hein Steenis and others also managed to get good shots before it flew.

The population of Lesser Kestrel in Europe has undergone some recent dramatic increases following a very successful nestbox campaign in both southern France and in Spain. Previous to this, the species had been in serious decline. The bulk of this population migrates north from wintering grounds in Senegal and The Gambia from late February, with mid to late March being the peak arrival of this species (the Minsmere bird therefore fitting very neatly into this arrival pattern).

Lesser Kestrel is a mega-rare vagrant to Britain with perhaps only six authenticated records since 1950, including a first-summer male at St Ives Island, Cornwall, on 30 May 1968, a male on Fair Isle on 23 June 1987, a male found dead in an outbuilding at Dover, Kent, on 20 April 1989 and a male over Hampstead Heath, London, on 31 May 1992.

Suffolk certainly has been the centre of attention in the past few days with a long-staying PALLID SWIFT attracting large crowds at Kessingland, often flying in the company of an ALPINE SWIFT over the caravan park, sewage works and allotments since Thursday morning. A record gathering of ALPINE SWIFTS in the county has also seen two long-staying birds lingering over the promenade between the Claremont Pier and the CEFAS Laboratories complex, often showing down to just a few yards overhead and frequently roosting on the buildings.

The first TWO-BARRED CROSSBILL in Bedfordshire since January 1890 involves a female consorting with up to 43 Common Crossbills at The Lodge RSPB, Sandy. Initially found and photographed by Alan Crofts and Mike Lawrence on Saturday as it came in with the flock to drink at the main pond, it has been ranging the main heath north of the shop and gatehouse and showing intermittently in the tall conifer trees and isolated stands of deciduous trees. Again, a presumed migrant reorienting from an unknown wintering area, perhaps in Britain.

So, with such mouthwatering birds to enjoy, what else has Britain currently to offer -:

A FAN-TAILED WARBLER put in another repeat brief performance at St Margaret's-at-Cliffe (East Kent), pausing briefly on the clifftop near Bockhill Monument before bounding off north, whilst the three overwintering PENDULINE TITS are now performing daily, frequently visiting the bumper crop of Bulrush 75 yards west of the Hanson Hide along the boardwalk Willow Trail on the ARC Pit Reserve at Dungeness.

It really has been ALPINE SWIFTS which have been breaking all of the records and making headlines, with twitchable individuals in addition to the 3 of 7 recorded this past week in Suffolk being at Marazion Marsh RSPB (West Cornwall), in the Seaton area (South Devon), at Radipole Lake and Lodmoor (Dorset), at Crossness LNR (London) and in North Norfolk at both Cromer and Hunstanton. Over 25 birds in all were considered to have been involved in the influx.

A GREAT WHITE EGRET is today at Blacktoft Sands RSPB (East Yorks) (showing from the gate at Ousefleet Hide), whilst the CATTLE EGRET continues for a third day by the River Frome at Wareham (Dorset)

A migrant drake RING-NECKED DUCK remains for a second day at Kenfig Pool NNR (Glamorgan) (from South Pool Hide), the drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK is at Chew Valley Lake (Avon) (along with the first-winter drake LESSER SCAUP), the very confiding adult drake on the Whooper Pond at Caerlaverock WWT (Dumfries & Galloway) and several GREEN-WINGED TEALS including the regular bird at Eyebrook Reservoir (Leics). The dapper drake BUFFLEHEAD was still present on The Fleet at Abbotsbury Swannery (Dorset) on 28th.

At Dunnet Bay in uppermost Northern Mainland Scotland, the male LITTLE BUNTING (now in song) continues to visit the feeding station in a birder's garden, whilst nearby a first-year drake KING EIDER was off Castlehill, with two other drakes still consorting with Common Eiders off of the Roseisle Beach car park west of Burghead (Moray)

The adult BONAPARTE'S GULL was still visiting the north end of the River Taff by the Sailing Club Activity Centre in Cardiff Bay (Glamorgan) as recently as yesterday, with the LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER widely ranging Lancashire and the Northwest visiting Marshside Marsh RSPB on 28th, a cracking white morph male GYRFALCON on Rhossili Down, on the Gower Peninsula (West Glamorgan) on 27th, a lingering PURPLE HERON at Dyfftyn Mill (Pembs) until at least 27th, an early BLACK KITE over Unthank Road, Norwich (Norfolk), on 26th (Clive Byers) and a RED-RUMPED SWALLOW at Sennen Cove (Cornwall) on 25th.

Migrant activity has been in full swing with an excellent number of northbound OSPREYS, several EURASIAN HOOPOES including well-watched birds at Portland and Langton Herring (Dorset), many FIRECRESTS and BLACK REDSTARTS, with an exceptionally early singing male COMMON NIGHTINGALE for its second day at Searles Farm Lane GP (Berkshire), the odd early COMMON REDSTART and a number of early SEDGE WARBLERS.

The wintering SHORE LARKS remain in Holkham Bay (North Norfolk) (13-18 birds), with two more migrants at Skateraw (Lothian).

The adult winter PACIFIC DIVER continues to be the greatest attraction in IRELAND, where it continues to show well off Finavarra Point (Co. Galway), with the adult FORSTER'S TERN still lingering on Claddagh Beach, Galway Harbour, and the PIED-BILLED GREBE occasionally showing at Lough Atedaub (Co. Clare). A HOOPOE was west of Ballycotton at Churchtown South on 27th.


  1. I'm glad you mention that it was twitchers who scared the lesser kestrel off. One such skidded to a halt 20 yards from it in a hail of gravel, scaring it off towards Westleton. Luckily me and my bro picked it up again along the road. Bro had his hand up when you arrived, Lee. I realise it must be exciting and very stressful charging down the road, hoping you're not going to miss such a fine bird, but having seen how twitchers carry on, and having watched that lesser for 30 peaceful minutes before they turned up, I know what sort of birding I prefer. Can you really enjoy birds with all those cars and people elbowing each other out of the way?

  2. As a family leaving Minsmere reserve and being lucky to see the Lesser Kestrel on the way out, we were met by a stream of cars acting as if they were on a fire shout! Abandoned cars, people running, I'm surprised the kestrel stayed as long as it did!

  3. I saw a lesser Kestrel in Manchester city town centre today 28th May 2017 taking food off the floor. I first thought it was a brown pigeon, then realised by it's beak it was a hawk.

  4. I can't belive it still that today whilst me and my girlfriend were preparing our sunday dinner I saw this bird land in our garden and I new that it was a bird of prey but I didn't recognise it until I looked it up it was a lesser kestrel 14th April 2019 in stoke on trent I also took pictures of it im glad I did after realising how rare it was especially knowing that there has only been six spotted in England wow contact me if you want to see this beautiful bird thanks