Whilst neither year was a classic, a good sprinkling of major rarities and a few firsts for Britain. Two birds especially, the Semi-palmated Plover and American Coot, were long-awaited records, the first having occurred on Scilly as long ago as 1975, whilst the Coot had turned up in Ireland. Both have probably been overlooked at times, but don't seem to be turning up with any regularity.


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Forster's Tern Ferrybridge January 1996
Far commoner then than now, except in Ireland, although many were undoubtedly returning birds. This one was more obliging than some, recent records in England are becoming few and far between.

Black-throated Thrush Peterborough February 1996
By no means a mega, and we missed the Red-throated variety that has since become split! This was in fact the second bird (of four) that year, but close to home and showed really well in a small front garden.

Cedar Waxwing Nottingham February 1996
Although we all thought "escape", this bird attracted a huge crowd on its first day, touring various areas of Nottingham suburbs. Unfortunatley it was also in a large crowd, of up to 800 Waxwings, and proved impossible to pick out. A further visit enabled me to get this record shot, by which time we'd all realised the significant size difference, and it was being picked up in flight.

White-billed Diver Tattershall Lincs February 1996
Not a mega, but difficult to twitch, and rarely met with even slightly inland. This bird was probably unwell, showing a small amount of oiling, but its early demise on a fishermans hook shows it was feeding, so it would probably have recovered to return to the sea, and thence its breeding grounds. Great shame.

Redhead Nottingham February 1996
Again we thought "escape", but this first for Britain was too tempting and resulted in a big twitch. On its acceptance we discovered that US poulations were greatly on the increase, and there have been a few more records, but it hasn't so far become annual like Lesser Scaup.

Purple Heron Pevensey April 1996
A regular species in Britain, particularly in spring, but they don't all show as well as this one! This bird landed in a small area of reeds and grass between two roads, and carried on hunting despite a group of birders just yards away.

Harlequin Ducks Girvan April 1996
Sadly not males, which in my opinion are one of the most attractive ducks, these two still caused a lot of birders to make the trek north. The previous records had been from the very north of Scotland and Scilly, most English birders thought this was the closest they were ever going to see one, and it's remained the same since.

American Coot Stodmarsh April 1996
A first for Britain isn't always that obvious, how many of these have passed unnoticed? With just one Irish record and only one further occurence in Scotland, hadn't we better start looking at Coots again?.

Buff-bellied Pipit Tresco October 1996
One of two on Scilly in October, this species is no longer the rarity it was. I suspect many have been overlooked in the past, the first one we saw, in 1988, was only the fifth record, the fourth being in 1967. There have now been over twenty.

Indigo Bunting Ramsey Island October 1996
Still the only accepted record in Britain, I consider this my luckiest photo to date. Having waited for half the day in atrocious weather for the boats to be able to land us, it was still drizzling when the bird, flying up and down the length of the crowd, landed on top of a gorse about ten feet in front of me, about two minutes after getting the camera out!

Black and White Warbler Norwich November 1996
Amazingly, the second of these to be recorded in Norfolk, eleven years after the first. Not a real mega in terms of American Warblers, but usually located on Scilly or in the Southwest. This bird probably made landfall there, but managed to cross the country without being seen.

Steppe Grey Shrike Holland-on-sea November 1996
Not the first record, but the recent elevation of this taxon to full species status ensured a large crowd along the seafront. The bird played its part very well, being very approachable (except on the top of yacht masts!). Strange how Steppe Greys always seem to be far more tolerant than Great Greys.

Canvasback Welney January 1997
The year started with a major twitch when this long-awaited North American duck finally appeared with excellent credentials, and no signs of hybridisation. Living close to Welney I managed one of the few photographs taken initially, however it became much less wary as time passed and sometimes came in to feed with the Pochards, where this shot was taken.

Little Crake Bough Beech Resevoir March 1997
A long wait for one of these personally, this bird turned up on the day I returned from three weeks abroad, so I slept in the car whilst Ann drove down to Kent the following day. Who should I bump into but someone who'd been on the same trip, coming from a different part of the country.

Spectacled Warbler Landguard April 1997
We were abroad when the first twitchable one arrived, so imagine my delight when this bird turned up near home. At first causing a major logistical problem resulting in long queues to view a narrow area, it moved slightly a day or so later and fed on the ground almost at your feet!

Calandra Lark Isle of Man May 1997
This still remains an extremely rare bird in the UK, and when they do turn up they're invariably flighty and difficult to pin down (quite apart from suppressed records!) For a short while this bird showed well, in walking distance from the airport, but was only seen by a few.

Spanish Sparrow Waterside May 1997
A long-awaited twitchable bird, this species has destroyed its mega status by virtue of staying for long periods. This bird was still in the same village over a year later, and another is currently wintering in Hampshire 24 years after this occurence.

Collared Flycatcher Ethie Mains June 1997
In common with most of its kind this immaculate male didn't stay long, but long enough for many to make the journey to Scotland (again). Unlike autumn birds there was no argument about the identification, it was a classic.

Semi-palmated Plover Dawlish Warren June 1997
Only Britain's second record, this bird was present for a few weeks in a Ringed Plover colony before its identification was clinched. However once seen it wasn't too difficult to pick out, as the photo shows. It returned the following year but not for long, and oddly was never seen in breeding dress.

Red-necked Grebe Wickstead Park Kettering July 1997
Not all birds worth travelling to see are rarities. Rarely seen in summer plumage in England, this absolutely superb bird spent the summer on a park lake. Perhaps the local breeding Great Creasted Grebes attracted it, but sadly it remained a batchelor.

Lanceolated Warbler Landguard September 1997
Although not a mega given the number of records, a very difficult bird to twitch, unless you happen to be on Shetland or Fair Isle. This however was my second, one in Norfolk which I got in my lunch-break, and this in Suffolk. Neither showed wonderfully well, most people were content with flight views(!) but as the crowd died down this bird appeared just the other side of the wall where we stood, so we were able to look over.

Select:- 1985-1989 1990-1992 1993-1995 1998-1999 2000-2009
List of
Rarities from 1985
Return to
Recent Rarities