Bird out of place


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Bird out of place

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Sighted a mostly black/very dark-brown bird with a white rump and square tail flying relatively quickly along local drainage lode close to the water's surface. Little smaller than a swift and with similarly sickle-shaped wing profile, but definitely no swifts around here now.

I thought  it might be a seabird of some sort, but we're just outside Cambridge. A migrant blown off course by ex-Ophelia perhaps.

Any ideas? Sorry no photos this time.


All Replies
  • Fits description of storm petrel.  

  • Thanks for confirming, that is what I thought it must have been, but didn't want to make my guess public. Nice.



  • I must admit that the last place I would expect to see a Storm Petrel would be flying along a drainage channel in deepest Cambridgeshire.

    Have you ruled out other possibilities like a Green Sandpiper (admittedly larger than a Swift) or a late House Martin which both have white rumps? Both are dark above if you can't see their underparts

  • If a Storm Petrel is the same as a Leach's Petrel we've had one near Rotherham

  • Alan
    If a Storm Petrel is the same as a Leach's Petrel we've had one near Rotherham

    Interesting. Never seen one myself but I think it's very similar to a Storm Petrel, just a bit bigger. I've only seen a Storm Petrel once and that was way out to sea south of Portugal. Who knows what storm Ophelia may have brought in. One can never say never.

  • I agree that petrel (storm or leach's....I wrote storm due to size and square tail comments) is very unlikely. Do get a small number in Gloucestershire after bad weather. Have a habit of getting predated while being watched. I certainly wouldn't want to be seen as "confirming" it!

  • Wheatear could also be another possibility.

  • A friend suggested green sandpiper...could've been a youngster. Definitely wasn't a house martin and now I know definitely not a storm petrel and most likely not a Leach's petrel. And, it's definitely not a wheatear!

  • Green Sandpipers are quite common at this time of year especially in the sort of habitat that you have described, David. When alarmed they will fly away fast in an erratic flight sometimes calling.

    I've got loads of photos of them but unfortunately none in flight so I've had to rely on this image from Google images.

    Only you can judge whether this is what you saw.

  • These I.d's from wording are always fraught with risk. Wood sandpiper although rarer than green sandpiper also ticks the white rump box. Neither can be confused as smaller than a swift. I would have thought legs or bill would have been mentioned if it was a wader.

  • Thanks for all the various answes. I suspect I will never know for sure what it was. It didn't have erratic flight though and it being smaller than a swift, it could've been a juvenile of whatever species...

    Probably best to move on. Today, saw kingfisher (definitely) in the same waterway and there was a flock redwings (definitely) in fields/edge of woodland close to it.

  • Didn't get a good shot of the kingfisher nor the redwings...just for the record:

  • Oh and lots of bullfinches around...and goldcrests...