The year will long be remembered for the quality and quantity of autumn migration and it is thus somewhat surprising that all three additions to the Irish list in 2010 were in the first half of the year. First to be added was Pacific Diver Gavia pacifica (Galway) in late January.
This was quickly followed by Baikal Teal Anas formosa (Wexford) in February. The last addition during the year was Iberian Chiffchaff Phylloscopus ibericus (Waterford) in June. Ireland's second Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus (Cork), less than a year after the first, was enjoyed by a select group of observers in October. American Coot Fulica americana (Mayo) in November likewise arrived for the second time, although in this case, the gap of 29 years between first and second records was somewhat longer! A Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti (Wexford) in November was only the third occurrence in Ireland. Midsummer saw the arrival of the fourth and fifth Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus (Dublin and Kerry). The fifth Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica (Wexford) was seen in May and the fifth Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata (Dublin) and Paddyfield Warbler Acrocephalus agricola (Clare) were both found in October. Rare subspecies seen included the first Dresser's Eider Somateria mollissima dresseri (Donegal) in January and the first and second Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus hudsonius (Wexford and Wicklow) in October and November respectively.
Unusually, the first unexpected rarity of the year was White Stork Ciconia ciconia in Galway during mid January, a time and location more normally associated with gulls. Rare gulls were in short supply throughout the year, with only one new American Herring Gull Larus smithsonianus in Kerry in addition to the regular returning individual in Galway. The only other rare gulls were a single Kumlien's Gull Larus glaucoides kumlieni in Donegal and two Bonaparte's Gull Larus philadelphia in the south-west. Two Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps were excellent late winter finds in February (Limerick) and early March (Clare).
Spring arrived with a bang during three days in late March. A Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus for two days in Cork was unexpected but an Alpine Swift Apus melba (Wicklow) on the third day was more in keeping with the norm. Later, a record spring influx of Hobby Falco subbuteo also contained smaller numbers of Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus. In addition to the Iberian Chiffchaff and Black-eared Wheatear already mentioned, other spring rarities included a Broad-billed Sandpiper Limicola falcinellus (Wexford), two Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla (Cork) and a record spring arrival of Wryneck Jynx torquilla, albeit involving only three birds.
Summer was remarkably quiet, with only Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica (Kerry) to add to the already mentioned Terek Sandpipers. Apart from good numbers of Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus and Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia during the late summer and early autumn, seawatching provided most of the rarities during that time. There were good numbers of Wilson's Petrel Oceanites oceanicus and Long-tailed Skua Stercorarius longicaudus although Fea's / Zino's Petrel Pterodroma feae / madeira were at their lowest since 2003.
Nearctic vagrants arrived in good numbers. There were record arrivals of Blue-winged Teal Anas discors, American Golden Plover Pluvialis dominica and Buff-breasted Sandpiper Tryngites subruficollis. White-rumped Sandpiper Calidris fuscicollis arrived in near-record numbers and the autumn was further enlivened by a wandering Wilson's Phalarope Phalaropus tricolor and the third Pied-billed Grebe of the year. Nearctic passerines were also well represented, with nine individuals of three species recorded.
Not to be outdone, vagrants from Europe and farther east also arrived in record numbers. Three different influxes during September and October brought record numbers of Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus, Barred Warbler Sylvia nisoria and Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus. These arrivals also included record autumn numbers of Hobby, Wryneck and Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos and a welcome return to form for both Icterine Warbler Hippolais icterina and Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta. Other notable arrivals included the second White Stork of the year, an Eastern Stonechat Saxicola torquatus maurus / stejnegeri and a small group of Bearded Tit Panurus biarmicus accompanying the aforementioned Cetti's Warbler. Two further Short-toed Lark brought the annual total of that species to a record equalling high.
The year ended with a late autumn arrival of Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes and the largest influx of Bittern Botaurus stellaris in many years, the latter a consequence of very low temperatures and snow across much of Europe.
Since January 2005, the backbone of the IRBC's system for recording occurrences of rare birds in the Republic of Ireland has been the Provisional List, published online and updated on a monthly basis. Most of the data in this report were taken directly from the 2010 Provisional List. The IRBC expresses its sincere gratitude to all those who provided information during 2010, either directly or indirectly. Although there are no records from Northern Ireland in this report due to publication deadlines, we thank the members of the Northern Ireland Birdwatchers Association Rarities Committee (NIBARC) for the continued close working relationship between that body and the IRBC.
K.Fahy (on behalf of the Irish Rare Birds Committee)
BirdWatch Ireland, Unit 20, Block D, Bullford Business Campus, Kilcoole, Wicklow.