A sprightly male Cirl Bunting at Marcross, Glamorgan, from 12th stands out as one of the week's rarest finds. With a small breeding population in the South-West, vagrants elsewhere are few and far between, with the last record for Wales on Bardsey Island, Gwynedd, in April 2004. Glamorgan's last record dates as far back as January 1982 (five males at Burry Green, Gower), while it is the first for East Glamorgan since May 1934.
A short distance away, a probable adult Grey-headed Gull was briefly noted in the Black-headed Gull roost at Llandegfedd Reservoir, Gwent, on 11th. A resident of much of sub-Saharan Africa and parts of eastern South America, it is a dispersive species outside the breeding season and can be prone to wandering – including no fewer than three records from peninsula Spain, one from Gibraltar and one in Italy (see here). Despite that, occurrences in Britain have been dismissed as not involving genuine vagrants and, despite a few records, the species finds itself firmly embedded within Category E of the British list – for now.
East Yorkshire's Baikal Teal relocated to Tophill Low NR on 12th and 14th, with a brief visit 8 km south to Swine Moor on 13th. The drake at Greylake RSPB, Somerset & Bristol, proved more settled and was an ever-present fixture.
On 16th, the first-winter drake King Eider was again at Musselburgh, Lothian, where the White-winged Scoter and two Surf Scoter also remained. New Surf Scoter were at Old Colwyn, Conwy (two), and Pendine, Carmarthen (two), with others lingering off Tresco, Scilly, Lossiemouth, Moray & Nairn, Gullane Point, Lothian (three), Termonfeckin, Co Louth, Barra, Outer Hebrides, and Quanterness, Mainland Orkney. Northumberland's Black Scoter continued off Stag Rocks, too.
A new drake Ferruginous Duck was a treat for Worcestershire birders at Ripple GPs on 16th. Staffordshire's wandering female returned to Belvide Reservoir on 15th, while the drake remained at Thorpe Park, Surrey. Ring-necked Duck were again widespread, with 85 reports from 32 sites gracing the BirdGuides news pages throughout the week. This included new individuals in Borders, Cornwall and Co Fermanagh (two).
New Lesser Scaup visited Knockanemore, Co Cork (first-winter), Grennagh Lough, Co Leitrim (drake on 12th), and Lough Ennell, Co Westmeath (female on 16th). Continuing birds were noted at Creoch Loch, Ayrshire, Tresco, Scilly, Islay, Argyll (at least two), and in the Outer Hebrides at Ardmore, South Uist, and Loch Stiapavat, Lewis. Females at West Bexington (on 14th) and Abbotsbury Swannery, Dorset, are likely the two birds from Slapton Ley, Devon (where a singleton was last noted on 10th).
American Wigeon were better represented this week, with no fewer than three new arrivals – at Crook of Baldoon, Dumfries & Galloway, from 10th, Big Waters NR, Northumberland, from 15th, and Idle Valley NR, Nottinghamshire, on 16th. Green-winged Teal were at 10 sites, including new birds at Port Logan, Dumfries & Galloway, Ballygilgan NR, Co Sligo, and Belvide Reservoir, Staffordshire.
The American Coot continued to be sporadically noted at Tacumshin, Co Wexford, with the Lough Yganavan, Co Kerry, bird reported again on 15th. In Glamorgan, the Pacific Diver continued to delight at Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir and a White-billed Diver was again at South Nesting Bay, Mainland Shetland.
In Lincolnshire, the Red-breasted Goose commuted between Butterwick Low and Frampton Marsh RSPB, while the Essex birds became more mobile, noted at Holliwell Point, Blue House Farm and South Fambridge during the week.
No fewer than three adult Grey-bellied Brant were with Pale-bellied Brent Geese at Kilbarrack, Co Dublin, on 14th. Black Brant, meanwhile, were split between Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Essex, Kent, and Dorset.
Richardson's Cackling Geese were again well represented – birds were at Ballygilgan NR, Co Sligo (two), Ribble Marshes, Lancashire, and Loch Gruinart RSPB, Islay, Argyll. Four Todd's Canada Geese remained (at Banks Marsh, Lancashire, Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire, Stanhoe, Norfolk, and Tiree, Argyll) with Snow Geese reported from Lissadell, Co Sligo, Plex Moss, Lancashire, Gilston, Moray & Nairn (three), and Birsay, Mainland Orkney.
An unconfirmed, possible Belted Kingfisher report by a non-birder was received from the River Calder at Great Harwood, Lancashire, on 9th, although there was no further sign. The three Eurasian Penduline Tits would prove altogether better behaved at Weston Airfield, Somerset & Bristol, throughout, as would the American Buff-bellied Pipit at East Prawle, Devon.
A new Hume's Leaf Warbler was at Eastbourne, East Sussex, from 14th, with another still at St Margaret's at Cliffe, Kent.
A Hoopoe cut a popular figure at Heathfield, Cambridgeshire, from 12th, while the Red-flanked Bluetail at Middleton-in-Teesdale, Durham, and Rosy Starling at Pendeen, Cornwall, both continued. An Arctic Redpoll at Moveen, Co Clare, on 15th was a rare Irish record of the species.
In Norfolk, West Runton's Greater Short-toed Lark surprisingly resurfaced on 15th. Shore Larks were more ubiquitous, comprising birds at Buckton, East Yorkshire, Leysdown-on-Sea, Kent (seven), Pevensey, East Sussex, Kessingland and Pakefield, Suffolk, Holkham Gap, Norfolk (four), and Holy Island, Northumberland (two).
Elsewhere, the Pallas's Warbler at Abingdon, Oxfordshire, Richard's Pipit at Filey, North Yorkshire, and Little Buntings at Iping Common, West Sussex, and Bexley, London, all lingered. A probable Dusky Warbler on Tresco, Scilly, on 11th was the only new example of the week, with others still at Walthamstow Marsh, London, Fordwich, Kent, and Wheldrake Ings, North Yorkshire.
It was another meagre week for Great Grey Shrikes, with just six recorded – at Wistow, North Yorkshire, Bryn Trillyn, Conwy, Glen Feshie, Highland, Killington Reservoir, Cumbria, Bratley Inclosure, Hampshire, and Backwater Reservoir, Angus.
Glossy Ibis remained widely distributed across much of Ireland and southern England and Wales, with a scattering of new arrivals including 18 at Amble Marshes, Cornwall, 11 at Sandwich Bay, Kent, nine at Lower Otter Valley, Devon, and six at Clarinbridge, Co Galway. Meanwhile, the unringed White Stork at Worth Marsh, Kent, was again reliable.
Westray, Orkney, hosted a smart Snowy Owl on 15th. Could this be the bird seen on Papa Westray last May? Either way, it's approaching two years now since the long-staying male that frequented both islands was last seen.
Northamptonshire's wintering Wood Sandpiper remained at a chilly Pitsford Reservoir; the White-tailed Lapwing held on at East Halton Skitter, Lincolnshire, throughout. Grey Phalaropes included two still at Filey, North Yorkshire, with singletons at Quilty, Co Clare, and Ireland, Mainland Shetland.
A smart first-winter Ring-billed Gull in Cork City, Co Cork, on 14-15th proved different to another youngster in the city a couple of weeks ago, with others – all adults – hanging on at Eastfield, Lothian, Strathclyde Loch, Clyde, Hayle Estuary, Cornwall, Tralee, Co Kerry (two), Clonakilty, Co Cork, and Blackrock, Co Louth. Three Kumlien's Gulls were recorded, a juvenile at Kenmare, Co Kerry, an adult at Omey Strand, Co Galway, and a third-winter at Heydon, Cambridgeshire, while there was a very slight increase in the number of Glaucous and Iceland Gulls noted in what has been a poor winter for both species.
In Argyll, a Brünnich's Guillemot was reported in the harbour at Tobermory, Mull, on 11th, although there would be no further sign subsequently. The Co Galway Forster's Tern was again at Kinvarra on 16th.
It was the turn of the Azores to deliver an Allen's Gallinule this week, with a juvenile found on Terceira on 13th. It was safely released on the island at Paul da Praia the following morning. The island also retained its young female Belted Kingfisher, two American Great Egrets, Lesser Scaup and five Ring-necked Duck. Elsewhere, a first-winter Green Heron at Santa Cruz da Graciosa and a Greater Yellowlegs on São Miguel were both new arrivals.
A drake Falcated Duck at Schulen, Belgium, on 15-16th is a potential national first if accepted as wild. The Ross's Gull remained at Nieuwpoort, too. A Greater Spotted Eagle – The Netherlands' fifth – spent several days near Kwade Hoek, while the Western Swamphen at Alblasserdam and Pygmy Cormorant at Utrecht both continued. In France, two Pygmy Cormorants were at Palière, Lavours, on 11th.
In Spain, a Lesser Flamingo visited the Ebro Delta and Sociable Lapwings were recorded at Embalse de Morantes on 1st and Evora on 12th, with another at Castro Verde, Portugal, on 2nd. Italy hosted a Lesser Flamingo of its own at Valli di Comacchio on 5th and the Oriental Turtle Dove lingered at Sulgen, Switzerland.
Turkey's first Sooty Shearwater was photographed from boat trip off Milleyha on 13th, continuing this site's enviable run of national firsts in recent years. The Three-banded Plover lingered at Avney Eitan, Israel.
A first-winter Pallas's Gull flew over Rust, Austria, on 12th and an adult Ring-billed Gull was at Bucharest, Romania, on 2nd. Black Scoter were recorded off Władysławowo, Poland, on 14th and Bønnerup, Denmark, on 15th, with the Stejneger's Scoter still off Høve, Denmark.