Note that the average in the UK has apparently been 3 species per year
The feathered daredevils that made history
By Brian Unwin
Published: 08 August 2005
What fact links Hudsonian godwit, little whimbrel, ancient murrelet,
eastern phoebe, Moussier's redstart, varied thrush and Philadelphia
They are just a few of the 76 bird species - mostly from distant parts
of the world - that have made historic flights to Britain during the
past quarter of a century.
Unknown outside their normal haunts in the Americas, Asia, Africa, the
Pacific Ocean, Australia and New Zealand, these individuals broke their
traditional frontiers spectacularly, perhaps due to extreme weather or
maybe a quirk in the internal direction-finding mechanism.
Their aerial odysseys could have ended in obscurity but they landed in
the one country where they were guaranteed to attract attention -
Britain, with more birdwatchers to the square mile than any other
Even those arriving in remote locations, such as the Outer Hebrides or
Fair Isle, Shetland, could not elude the binocular brigade. Rarities in
more populated areas attracted crowds - up to 3,000 twitchers per day
watched the American golden-winged warbler at Larkfield, near
Maidstone, Kent, in 1989.
These arrivals are splashed across front pages, squeezed into national
television news slots and now each of the stories about their discovery
is told in the book Birds New to Britain 1980-2004, to be published
Its authors are Tim Cleeves, a Royal Society for the Protection of
Birds official who figured in three of these "firsts", and the BBC
environmental journalist Adrian Pitches, who turned some of the unique
finds into small-screen news.
Cleeves' "firsts" were the endangered slender-billed curlew from
central Asia, the short-toed eagle, usually found no nearer than
southern or eastern Europe, and Swinhoe's storm petrel, a species
thought only to nest on islands off Japan.
"Our book covers 76 species that have been added to the British wild
birds list since 1980, an average of three per year, so the fact there
were four newcomers last year shows the flow continues to be strong,"
"The British Isles are a major crossroads on world migration routes -
potentially a first landing for birds flying eastwards from America and
a final landing for those heading west from Europe or Asia or north
"However, what ensures they don't pass through unnoticed is the growing
number of very able British birdwatchers, whose knowledge has been
enhanced by the fact it's now possible to travel to most parts of the
Pitches said: "Birding has undergone major changes. Before 1980,
birders relied on a telephone grapevine to find out about rarities -
now, thanks to modern technology, pagers alert thousands within minutes
of something unusual being reported."
Birding-Aus is now on the Web at
To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the message 'unsubscribe
birding-aus' (no quotes, no Subject line)