with Steve Rogers, South West Optics, Truro...

SPRING has finally arrived. The first two weeks of April have delivered some impressive rarities in the UK.

The West Country has fared reasonably well, the most popular sighting being a ‘flock’ of three Alpine Swifts on the Lizard. One appeared on April 5, building up to three on the 9th. While three have been observed in the UK in the past, this is an unprecedented Cornwall record.

Alpine Swift occurs from southern Europe east to Asia and winters in South Africa. Birders will be familiar with the species in the Mediterranean, where it is fairly common.

Another spring overshoot from the continent is the Hoopoe. Three have now been recorded in Cornwall and no less than 14 across the UK.

A Woodchat Shrike is currently on St Agnes, Scilly since April 9; a Wryneck was found on St Martins on the same day. The first Red-rumped Swallow of the year was sighted at St Ouen’s Pond, Jersey, also on the 9th.

A Common Redstart is anything but common in Cornwall, so a male found at Kenidjack along with a Pied Flycatcher was a great find on the 11th. A pair of Garganey were resting on Great Hogus Rocks, Marazion on the same day.

This delightful little duck is interesting in that the species breeds across Europe and Asia and the entire population spends the winter in South Africa. It doesn’t breed in Cornwall, though.

The biggest star of the show was a second-year Audouin’s Gull seen from the Mermaid tripper boat on Sunday 8th. Seen by one competent birder, sadly no photos were taken of this potentially first record for Cornwall.

This species has been spreading its range from the Mediterranean and it will only be time before one is ‘nailed down’.

Away from the West Country, the most unexpected record came from Suffolk, where an American Bittern was found at Carlton Marshes.

Photos initially posted on Twitter as a European Bittern were quickly reidentified as the much rarer American species. As more birders carry powerful cameras, misidentification of rarities seems tobe on the increase. It pays to post your images online!

The next two weeks should see a major increase in common migrants across the region, hopefully including some unusual rarities.

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.