Sunday 1 October 2023


I had a very long drive the Saturday before last. To keep myself amused I tried to think of all the American birds I'd seen in the UK, a game which lasted, oooh, all of about five minutes as I kept on losing count. Long after this had ceased to be interesting things like "Baird's Sandpiper" would pop into my head but then I couldn't remember what number I had got to. I resolved to instead work it out when I got home, and concentrated on the road ahead.

Turns out it is quite difficult as a lot of species have a broad distribution at the top of the Northern Hemisphere, and could as easily have come from Iceland or Svalbard as from Alaska or Canada so I decided to include them but separately. Then there are subspecies which I've also put to one side, and some taxonomies then also lump birds like Green-winged Teal with their Eurasian counterparts....I was keen not to lose them so I've added them on the basis that the BOU at least still counts them even if others don't.

So how many have I seen? 56, of which 16 are passerines and the rest are (broadly) Ducks, Waders and Gulls. Yank waders and Ducks are two a penny, I think I ticked Pectoral Sandpiper before Purple Sandpiper (which can also be found in America but I am not so desperate as to include them). It is clearly passerines that are the big prize with the colourful Wood Warblers taking pole position. On my first count in the car I think I managed to get to six songbirds. A little bit later I remembered that Flycatchers also existed, and that I'd somehow seen two of them. Then I realised I'd missed off American excuse is that it is all a long time ago, my twitching glory days peaked in about 2012 and by 2015 I was mostly out. And I don't think I ever got to to Swainson's Thrush until I phoned a friend and I'm still convinced I've forgotten something - I was sure that I had got to 15 in the car and that was before I arrived in Wales and had clapped eyes on either of the Warblers. Somebody will let me know I'm sure, but it doesn't really matter. What I was quite surprised by is that I had seen as many as I have, I didn't think I was that keen, or at least not in the sense than some people are. I was always very cautious, I never just dropped everything and went on the offchance. Clearly I've made some long journeys over the years but my life and existence has never been dominated by the singularity of the chase. But look, Northern Waterthrush! How good is that!? That is one I actually do remember quite clearly. A weekend on Scilly, I think based around this bird, and culminating in having it almost to myself one evening in near darkness. I can still hear it calling, a kind of short metallic zing.

Anyway, after last weekend I find my appetite for American songbirds rekindled. Not enough to take time off I don't have and head up to Shetland for Veery or across to Scilly for Bobolink, but enough to keep an eye on what is happening which for most of the last few years I have not. After all, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that instead of continuing their migration that some of these birds decide to winter here. It has happened before and it could happen again - the Common Yellowthroat and Yellow-rumped Warbler in the table above were both found in February. And it's the first of October today and it's due to get to 23 degrees celcius in London...  So fingers crossed, though even if I see nothing else that Magnolia Warbler in Wales the other day is indelibly etched in my mind and I can just relive that over and over.


  1. Ha! I haven't seen all of these, and I live here! (I mean there).

    1. Obviously the species that arrive in the UK have an Eastern bias, so if you live in, say, California then that is perhaps to be expected. If you live in New York or elsewhere on the east coast, what have you been doing?!

    2. I'm in Wisconsin. I'm definitely a more casual birder than you, in fact I'm not sure I'd confidently call myself a birder if I were among real birders. I do love to photograph the little guys though, and of course I enjoy reading about them. Most of my deficiency, with respect to your list, is with the waders.

    3. I can understand taht actually - my USA list is gradually approaching 600 and my latest "tick" was American Golden Plover last month, and Baird's Sandpiper I only got last year. In contrast I've several of each in the UK.