Early November is a time symbolised by the sudden dark nights that follow changing of the clocks, made particularly stark by the shortening days and dropping temperatures. This week, the birding helped to reflect the seasonal switch, with a major arrival of thrushes, particularly Fieldfares, as well as a modest influx of Snow Buntings, especially to southern areas. Of the former, a staggering 18,080 passed over Wintersett Reservoir, West Yorkshire, on 4th, with other five-figure counts reported from Bedfordshire, Berkshire and Surrey that day.
Shetland's latest mega – a first-winter White-crowned Sparrow – gave outrageous views at Easting, Unst, from 5th. It's a species that has had a good run of records in recent years, with six since 2016 out of a total of just 13 overall. This has included no fewer than two in Shetland – on Foula in 2017 and 2018 – with the archipelago's only other record coming from Fair Isle in 1977. The large-looking, orange bill and pale lores suggest it may well be of the western subspecies, gambelii.
Miraculously, the one-day Taiga Flycatcher from Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire, on 16 October reappeared on the headland at South Landing from 4th, a 19-day gap showing just how easily birds can go missing even at east-coast hot-spots such as this. The headland has hosted two of the seven British records, which is impressive going.
Last week's Eyebrowed Thrush at Kincraig, Highland, resurfaced for a handful of lucky observers on 1st, although would again was all too brief to be seen by more. The simply stunning Varied Thrush bode Papa Westray, Orkney, adieu after 1st.
A likely Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll at Lough Gill, Co Kerry, on 5th would have proved a notable Irish record if confirmed, with just 12 accepted records of Arctic Redpoll. Others were in Shetland at Brae, Mainland, and Halligarth, Unst. Elsewhere in Shetland, a male Siberian Stonechat was a smart find a Camb, Yell, on 1-2nd.
Kent scored a Hume's Leaf Warbler at South Foreland on 3-4th, with the apparent Western Subalpine Warbler still on St Mary's, Isles of Scilly, until 3rd. A possible Pallid Swift flew west over Rudry Common, Glamorgan, on 7th, with a swift species over Carrickfergus, Co Antrim, on 2nd. In Cornwall, a juvenile Pallid Harrier headed north over Lizard on 4th.
A large pipit on North Ronaldsay on 1st transpired to be Orkney's first Blyth's Pipit thanks to some sterling detective work by the island's wardens and a couple of sound recordings. The American Buff-bellied Pipit remained at Lizard Point, Cornwall, until 3rd.
With the added input on the bird we were left fairly happy the bird is Orkney’s first Blyth’s Pipit. A blog post tomorrow will give a few more details on the bird. 2/2 pic.twitter.com/bJdHk87oqn— North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory (@NRonBirdObs) November 2, 2021
Northumberland's first Wilson's Phalarope since 2008 enjoyed the environs of an unassuming roadside flash at Newstead, Northumberland, from 1st.
Meanwhile, three long-staying shorebirds all lingered – the White-tailed Lapwing at Blacktoft Sands RSPB, East Yorkshire, Semipalmated Plover at Crookhaven, Co Cork, and Spotted Sandpiper on St Mary's, Isles of Scilly.
The adult Ross's Goose resurfaced with Pink-footed Geese at Fail Loch, Ayrshire, from 4th, with a returning male Grey-bellied Brant accompanying Pale-bellied Brent Geese at Lurgan Green, Co Louth, on 7th. Another Brant was back at Wester Dalziel, Highland, on 3rd, with two probables at Strangford Lough, Co Down, the previous day.
Islay, Argyll, enjoyed another good run of rarities this week, including a young Lesser Scaup at Loch Skerrols from 3-5th and a candidate juvenile Northern Harrier noted at Loch Gruinart RSPB late on 4th. The Red-breasted Goose lingered at Loch Gruinart RSPB, too, alongside at least a couple of Richardson's Cackling Geese, with the Long-billed Dowitcher last noted on 1st.
Another Lesser Scaup lingered on Tresco, Isles of Scilly, as did the Ferruginous Duck at Belvide Reservoir, Staffordshire. King Eider remained in Shetland at Wadbister Voe, Mainland, and Gutcher, Yell, with the adult drake still off Hopeman, Moray and Nairn. In Lothian, the drake White-winged Scoter was still off Musselburgh and Fisherrow.
An adult Bonaparte's Gull resided near Stag Rocks, Northumberland, from 1st, with another a brief visitor to Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire, on 3rd.
The Fife coastline posted some excellent counts of Little Auk, including 1,182 off Isle of May on 5th and 1,311 past Fife Ness on 7th. The latter site also hosted an impressive 28 Grey Phalaropes on 4th, while a White-billed Diver flew past on 5th. Dunnet Bay, Caithness, produced Leach's Storm Petrel and Grey Phalarope on 7th, while a Sabine's Gull flew past Strathy Point, Highland, on the same date. Another Grey Phalarope delighted at Prestonpans, Lothian.
A drake American Wigeon was at Udale Bay, Highland, from 3rd, with a Green-winged Teal reported there on 1st. Another Green-winged Teal resided at Skinflats Lagoons, Forth, on 4th. A drake Ring-necked Duck at Loch na Bo, Moray & Nairn, and a Ruddy Shelduck at Martnaham Loch, Ayrshire, were other new arrivals. Elsewhere, Surf Scoter were off Musselburgh, Lothian (three), Tentsmuir, Fife, and Nairn and Hopeman, Moray & Nairn, while three adult Snow Geese continued at Loch Spynie, Moray & Nairn.
In Highland, Siberian Chiffchaffs visited Rhigolter, Fort William and Uig, Skye. A Continental Coal Tit was at Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire, on 5th, with a possible Richard's Pipit at Portsoy the previous day. The Radde's Warbler at Isle of May, Fife, lingered until 1st, while the Great Grey Shrike at Backwater Reservoir, Angus & Dundee, from 2nd is presumably a returning bird.
The popular Glossy Ibis at Middleton Moor, Lothian, was last noted on 5th, with a Common Quail at Carrbridge, Highland, the same day. A Western Cattle Egret at Kingussie, Highland, from 5th looked somewhat out of place. Iceland Gulls appeared at Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, and Mallaig, Highland, with Glaucous Gulls at St Abbs Head, Borders, and Spey Bay, Moray & Nairn. Meanwhile, the Pectoral Sandpiper remained at Balmore Pool, Clyde, until 2nd.
No fewer than 17 Taiga Bean Geese briefly visited Skinflats Lagoons, Forth, on 5th, with another four over Ferry Hills, Fife, on 2nd. A lone Tundra Bean Goose was with Greylag Geese at Loch Feochan, Argyll, on 1st.
In Argyll, a probable White-rumped Sandpiper at Loch Gruinart RSPB, Islay, on 4th headlined another decent week for the island, with other notable additions including an American Wigeon at Loch Skerrols, two Ring-necked Duck and a Glaucous Gull. On neighbouring Mull, a Red-backed Shrike remained at Salen until 4th.
Northern Isles and the Hebrides
There was still a bit of life left in Shetland's autumn, with a Melodious Warbler at Sumburgh, Mainland, on 2nd, plus a Pallas's Warbler there the same day, with another still at Norwick, Unst, until 4th. A Red-flanked Bluetail was at Sound, Mainland, on 7th. One of last week's Western Cattle Egrets remained at Gremista until 1st and possibly the same was on Bressay later that day. Two Ring-necked Duck remained on offer this week (on Yell and Mainland). The two Tundra Bean Geese were still at North Sandwick, Yell. A juvenile American Golden Plover was discovered among a plover flock at Uyeasound, Unst, on 6th and remained until the next day. Glaucous Gulls were reported from five localities, while just a sole Iceland Gull made the airwaves.
Papa Westray, Orkney, had a fine week. Putting mega thrushes to one side, the island's roll-call included Blyth's Reed Warbler, a showy Grey Phalarope, Hawfinch, Siberian Chiffchaff and two Greater White-fronted Geese. Single Glaucous Gulls were at Isbister and Marwick, Mainland, while two more flew past Point of Buckquoy on 3rd with an Iceland Gull. At least one of the Richard's Pipits lingered on North Ronaldsay until 3rd. Other island scarcities included the long-staying Green-winged Teal, a Grey Phalarope and two Snow Buntings on 6th.
The juvenile Surf Scoter held out off Craigston, Barra, for the week, while two drake Green-winged Teal were at Aird Mhor from 3rd. The Snow Goose made a reappearance at Eochar, South Uist, on 1st. Seawatching was productive from Griminish Point, North Uist, on 7th, with two White-billed Divers, three Little Auks and two Sooty Shearwaters past. Back on Barra, a juvenile Glaucous Gull was off Traigh Sgurabhal on 3rd and an Iceland Gull flew past Northbay on 6th.
Stag Rocks was the place to be in Northumberland this week with the lingering Great Shearwater reappearing there on 1st, being joined by as many as four Grey Phalaropes, a Black Guillemot and a good selection of regular winter seabirds. Six other localities also scored Grey Phalaropes. A White-billed Diver headed south past Low Hauxley on 6th, with candidates also seen there and at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea. A Richard's Pipit was found at Long Nanny mid-week and a juvenile Glaucous Gull put in a brief appearance at Budle Bay. Thirty-six Snow Buntings at East Chevington NWT on 5th was a good count.
In Durham, Grey Phalaropes passed Whitburn Coastal Park and Ryhope. Whitburn also produced Siberian Chiffchaff, Black Guillemot and a Bewick's Swan, with another Sibe Chiff seen at Trow Quarry, South Shields.
A possible drake Northern Eider was seen off Redcar, Cleveland on 5th. Two Greater White-fronted Geese flew over Hartlepool on 3rd with twos of Eurasian Spoonbill, Great Egret and Ruddy Shelduck seen on the North Tees Marshes. Small of numbers of Little Auks were seen on seawatches across the North-East and it was a good week for Snow Buntings.
A Leach's Storm Petrel briefly pitched down at Tindale Tarn, Cumbria, on 5th before continuing west. A Little Auk flew past South Walney NR on 6th, and three Long-tailed Duck were at Soddy Gap on 3rd, with two lingering until 7th. Last week's Todd's Canada Goose was again showing well at Crawford, Lancashire, on 2nd. A Dusky Warbler was trapped and ringed at Middleton NR on 3rd, although there was no further sign after release. Two smart Greenland White-fronted Geese were near Martin Mere WWT on 4th and a redhead Smew was at Calf Hey Reservoir on 3rd.
A showy Snow Bunting was at Meols, Cheshire, from 2nd, although it began a game of cat and mouse with observers later in the week. The flock of 20 Twite at West Kirby was a great county record. Western Cattle Egrets at Ince Marshes increased to 13 on 5th, and a Ring Ouzel touched down at Woolston Eyes NR the previous day. A Purple Sandpiper was at Mere Farm Quarry on 6th. Two Black-necked Grebes were at Pennington Flash CP, Greater Manchester, on 2nd.
Lincolnshire and Yorkshire
Despite good numbers further north, just a single Little Auk was noted off the Lincolnshire coast (past Chapel Point on 4th). A Grey Phalarope flew past Gibraltar Point NNR on 4th, where there was a rare(!) Yellow-browed Warbler on 5th. Saltfleetby NNR produced a couple of Siberian Chiffchaffs and a Lapland Bunting. The juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper lingered at Frampton Marsh RSPB to 2nd, where the American Wigeon also remained. Neighbouring Freiston Shore RSPB had a flock of flyover Tundra Bean Geese. A drake Ring-necked Duck visited Tallington Lakes on 5th, where there was also a Greater Scaup.
In East Yorkshire, the Ring-necked Duck lasted at Southfield Reservoir only to 1st, but the North Cave Green-winged Teal hung around all week. A brief Grey Phalarope was on the Humber off Paull Holme Strays on 6th. Highlights from the Spurn area included Dusky Warbler on 5th and Red-breasted Flycatcher on 6th. Seawatching off Flamborough Head produced an array of scarcities including a Sabine's Gull south on 6th, while Red-flanked Bluetail and Richard's Pipit were noted on the land. Several coastal watchpoints produced Little Auks, with a Glaucous Gull past Scarborough, North Yorkshire, on 4th and a Great Shearwater past Long Nab on 6th.
Moving inland, two Snow Buntings were at Bransdale on 2nd. West Yorkshire highlights were few and far between, but Caspian Gulls were at five sites. At least two Spotted Redshanks remained in South Yorkshire's Dearne Valley, where Water Pipits were seen at Wilthorpe Marsh and Wombwell Ings. A Northern Gannet flew over Potteric Carr YWT on 2nd.
Up to two Curlew Sandpipers and a possible (but brief) White-rumped Sandpiper were at Blithfield Reservoir this week. Belvide Reservoir had two Greater Scaup and the adult Ring-billed × Lesser Black-backed Gull returned to roost for another winter. Two Greater Scaup remained at Aqualate Mere until 7th and the adult Black-necked Grebe stuck around at Ford Green NR until 2nd. A Red-throated Diver at Brockhall GPs on 7th was a fine Herefordshire record.
A Snow Bunting proved mobile at the summit of North Hill, Worcestershire, on 2nd, while three were at Worcestershire Beacon on 4th. Two Bearded Tits at Tapenhall Pool, Hawford, on 5-6th made for a great local find. The Hoopoe continued to prove popular in Warwick until 2nd. The redhead Red-breasted Merganser stuck around at Draycote Water and a Ruddy Shelduck was at Ladywalk NR on 7th.
In Derbyshire, a Snow Bunting lingered at Palterton between 2nd and 4th, and another moved through at Alport on 7th. Two juvenile Northern Gannets were tracked over Glossop and Charlesworth on 7th and a scattering of Ring Ouzels was noted among the movement of winter thrushes. It was a quiet week in Nottinghamshire. A Ruddy Shelduck was at Netherfield Lagoons on 3rd and a drake Red-breasted Merganser was at Hoveringham GPs on 4th. The drake Garganey made a reappearance at Holme Pierrepont.
A late Wood Sandpiper decorated the shoreline of Pitsford Reservoir, Northamptonshire, from 4th, where Garganey and Greater Scaup were present for company. Further Greater Scaup reports came from two other sites. The Black-necked Grebe stuck at Thrapston GPs until 5th. Leicestershire's Glossy Ibis remained at Swithland Reservoir until 1st, where up to four Greater Scaup lingered. The Wood Sandpiper was again at Eyebrook Reservoir on 2nd – potentially it's moving to Pitsford when absent from here? A Water Pipit was at Rutland Water on 2nd and the Ruddy Shelduck stayed put.
East of England
An American Wigeon at Welney WWT, Norfolk, on 2-3rd was presumably the recent Cambridgeshire bird. Almost non-existent so far this autumn, a Rough-legged Buzzard near Swaffham on 4th was notable. Titchwell RSPB produced three Glossy Ibises on 3rd (seen earlier over Beeston Bump and Cley) and a Red-breasted Flycatcher from 5-7th. Another flycatcher was at Burnham Overy Dunes on 5th, with Dusky Warblers at Wells Woods and Sea Palling. Blakeney Point held a Pallas's Warbler on 4th, with another at Weybourne on 6th. The West Runton Greater Short-toed Lark also hung around all week.
In Suffolk, records of Glossy Ibis from Minsmere RSPB and Dingle Marshes presumably relate to the same bird. Ten sites produced Snow Bunting and Yellow-browed Warblers were at two; the Eurasian Dotterel was also still at Falkenham to 2nd and a Glaucous Gull visited Southwold on 6th. The Rough-legged Buzzard was reported again from Pitsea Landfill, Essex, on 4th, while two White Storks remained at large and a Red-necked Grebe was at Abberton Reservoir.
Wilstone Reservoir again proved itself as possibly Hertfordshire's premier birding site, with two Red-breasted Mergansers on 4th. The American Wigeon was still at Marston Vale CP, Bedfordshire, to 6th, with vis-migging at The Pinnacle, Sandy, producing 12,000 Fieldfares and 20,000 Redwings on 4th, plus Hawfinches on 5th and 6th. A Rough-legged Buzzard was reported from Woodwalton Fen, Cambridgeshire, on 4th, with up to six Glossy Ibises still at Berry Fen.
A Richard's Pipit at Pulborough Brooks, Sussex, was an excellent – albeit brief – inland record on 3rd. A possible was also reported at East Head on 7th, with two Snow Buntings lingering at the same site all week, although often proving elusive. A Shore Lark at Eastbourne on 7th was a decent record; the Sussex side of Scotney GPs hosted a Black Brant on the same date. A Siberian Chiffchaff was at North Chailey, while Glossy Ibises were at Medmerry and West Wittering (the same three birds) and Combe Valley CP.
Within the context of this autumn things were relatively lively in Kent, where a Radde's Warbler was at South Foreland from 3-5th and a Rough-legged Buzzard at Brookland on 4th. A productive day at Dungeness on 2nd saw a Pallas's Warbler trapped and ringed and two Siberian Chiffchaffs logged; Dunge also continued to host the Glossy Ibis and, along with Shellness, was one of two Kent sites to score Sabine's Gull. Other good seawatching bits included a Black Guillemot off Swalecliffe on 4th and Little Auks from Allhallows-on-Sea, Ramsgate and Swalecliffe. Two Shore Larks at Leysdown-on-Sea, Sheppey, from 6th offered hope the species may winter in the area, a Lapland Bunting was at Lydd on 3rd and 11 sites hosted Snow Bunting. Other bits included a Yellow-browed Warbler at Langdon Cliffs and a Hooded Crow in-off at North Foreland.
Standing out from the typical autumn fayre in the capital was a Hoopoe, which was photographed at Surbiton on 1st. In Surrey, the Ring-necked Duck lingered at Reigate throughout. Berkshire enjoyed two decent wildfowl records: a drake Ring-necked Duck at Theale GPs on 5th and an early Smew at Moatlands GPs on 6th.
Evidence of the wildfowl pack shuffling was also noted in Oxfordshire, where Dix Pit enjoyed a drake Ring-necked Duck on 7th and a female Greater Scaup on 6th. A couple of visitors from the north grabbed the headlines in Buckinghamshire on 5th – an early Iceland Gull at Newton Leys, which lingered until 6th, and a Lapland Bunting that flew over Steps Hill.
Things were rather steady in Hampshire, where the Great Grey Shrike – one of only three in the country this week – continued at Backley Bottom and Bratley Inclosure. Snow Buntings were at Hook-with-Warsash (one) and Sinah (four), with another on the Isle of Wight at Luccombe Down.
An Arctic Warbler on St Mary's from 1st was the best of the new arrivals on Scilly this week. Olive-backed Pipit, Rosy Starling, Glossy Ibis, several Siberian Chiffchaffs and at least one Hoopoe all remained on the islands.
A Radde's Warbler was trapped and ringed at Nanjizal Valley, Cornwall on 3rd with the locality also producing a Little Bunting, Olive-backed Pipit and at least five Siberian Chiffchaffs. A European Serin flew over St Levan on 4th with a Richard's Pipit at Lizard and a Wryneck at Kenidjack Valley the following day. Pendeen scored Red-breasted Flycatcher and Rosy Starling on 2nd and 5th respectively.
The American Golden Plover at Crows-an-Wra, Green-winged Teal at Nanpean and two Glossy Ibises at Walmsley Sanctuary all lingered. An excellent count of six Ring-necked Duck came from Dozmary Pool, with two still at Siblyback Reservoir and a new drake found at Stithians Reservoir.
In Devon, a Bluethroat was unearthed at Plym Estuary, Devon on 5th, although was only seen briefly. A Pectoral Sandpiper was at South Huish Marsh that afternoon and the Rosy Starling at Paignton and Glossy Ibis at Fremington Pill both remained in place.
A Red-breasted Flycatcher and Siberian Chiffchaff were the best of the week at Portland, Dorset. A Common Rosefinch was at Durlston Country Park on 2nd with the Greenland Redpoll still at Cogden Beach the day before. A Rough-legged Buzzard was reported from Weymouth on 3rd.
A probable American Wigeon was seen at Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire on 5th, although there were no further reports. Other highlights on the reserve included a Siberian Chiffchaff, five Bewick's Swans, three Greenland White-fronted Geese and 10 Russian White-fronted Geese. Water Pipits were there and at Berkeley.
A Barred Warbler at Berrow, Somerset from 3rd was an excellent local bird. Other new scarcities in the county comprised of a Black Brant at Axe Estuary, a couple of Ring-necked Duck at Ham Wall RSPB and a Siberian Chiffchaff trapped and ringed at Chew Valley Lake. The juvenile American Golden Plover was still at Steart WWT until 3rd. In Wiltshire, the Dipper was still at Marlborough along with the female Ruddy Shelduck at Langford Lakes.
A rare Pembrokeshire Caspian Gull report came from Lower Town on 5th, with a Yellow-browed Warbler at nearby Little Haven on the same date. Another was at Bridgend, Glamorgan, on 4th. Elsewhere, a Richard's Pipit flew over Bardsey Island, Gwynedd, on 3rd, a Hooded Crow remained at Gann Estuary, Pembrokeshire, and Skokholm, Pembrokeshire, scored a Siberian Chiffchaff.
Eight Water Pipits at Newport Wetlands, Gwent, on 7th was an impressive tally, while nine sites hosted Snow Buntings – most notably birds well inland at Llandegfedd Reservoir, Gwent, and Llyn Gwyddior and Hafren Forest, Powys. New Quay, Ceredigion, held an Iceland Gull on 7th.
Three Ruddy Shelduck heading strongly out to sea over Sker Point, Glamorgan, on 5th was an intriguing record. Otherwise it was much of the same – the young Ring-necked Duck held on at Dolymynach Reservoir, Powys, until 3rd, with the Cardiff Bay, Glamorgan, female last noted on 1st. Meanwhile, the drake from Teifi Marshes, Ceredigion, wandered across the border to St Dogmaels, Pembrokeshire, on 7th. The Garganey lingered at Llanelli Wetland Centre WWT, Carmarthen, too.
A productive seawatch off Strumble Head, Pembrokeshire, on 1st included White-billed Diver, Roseate Tern, three Grey Phalaropes, seven Pomarine Skuas and a Balearic Shearwater. Another three Grey Phals passed on 4th.
A winter theme is becoming ever-more prominent in the Irish birding headlines. Among the plentiful wildfowl reported, a juvenile Surf Scoter was at Lough Gill, Co Kerry, while eight Ring-necked Duck were logged at seven sites. Green-winged Teal included a returning bird at Blennerville, Co Kerry, plus another at Kinsale Marsh, Co Cork, and the Wicklow bird still at East Coast NR.
Glossy Ibises were at Tacumshin, Co Wexford, and Ballycotton, Co Cork, with the latter site also producing an American Golden Plover on 7th. Another AGP was on Strangford Lough at Nendrum, Co Down. Nearby, a Black Brant was at Reagh Island on 1st.
Ring-billed Gulls were solely represented by regular adults at Nimmo's Pier, Co Galway, and Blackrock, Co Down. Just one each of Glaucous and Iceland Gull were were noted across the isle.
A Savannah Sparrow was at Farsund, Norway, on 2nd, while other outstanding regional records included Israel's first Chestnut Bunting, trapped and ringed at Eilat on 3rd and still there two days later, plus Romania's first Siberian Accentor at Constanta.
The Yellow-billed Cuckoo discovered exhausted at Khniffis Lagoon, southern Morocco, on 31st must've have stunned the finders. How many American cuckoos have reached the Sahara? Denmark's first Hermit Thrush was a welcome find on Christiansø on 3rd when it was trapped and ringed; it was still there the following day. Meanwhile, a significant influx of American herons appears to be taking place in the Azores, where at least nine Great Blue Herons included four on Terceira and three on Corvo, two Snowy Egrets were on Terceira and American Great Egrets were on Corvo and Terceira. Corvo also produced Myrtle Warbler and Killdeer.