Review of the Week: 10-16th April 2008


The week at a glance

Little Crake
Little Crake, Exminster Marshes RSPB, Devon (Photo: Gary Thoburn)

Little Crake
Little Crake, Exminster Marshes RSPB, Devon (Photo: Gary Thoburn)

The euphoria provided by the appearance of a couple of cracking rarities last week ebbed away a little this week, but those who were disappointed in the lack of new arrivals will surely be heartened by the fact that May has edged a little closer, and the weather appears to be improving - those migration doors will surely be flung wide open soon.... Still, the stunning male Little Crake at Exminster Marshes RSPB (Devon) was easily enough to keep many people happy, often performing wonderfully well for those who headed to the southwest to see this always popular, always very rare, European wanderer. The bird, found on 9th, was still present to 15th. At the opposite end of the country, the Killdeer was seen once more on Shetland, this time at North Croo on Noss on 11th. On the Isles of Scilly, a Wilson's Snipe was noted again on the pools at Lower Moors on St. Mary's, the first report for over a month. Out at sea, following quickly on from a belated report of a probable Black-browed Albatross between Dunkerque and Dover on 10th (news surfacing on 12th), a probable was seen off Dungeness (Kent) on 12th.

White-billed Diver
White-billed Diver, Port Nis, Lewis, Outer Hebrides (Photo: Paul R Massey)

It has been a good week for those who admire the world's largest diver. Two White-billed Divers were seen off Port Nis, Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 10th, with one there the following day. On Shetland, White-billed Divers were noted from West Burra on 9th, off Wester Quarff, Mainland on 10th and Mousa on 16th. Around Orkney, singles were noted off Rerwick Head, Mainland and the north end of North Ronaldsay on 15th, while on the Scottish mainland, two adults were seen north of Poolewe (Highland) on 16th. In Devon, 24 Balearic Shearwaters flew past Berry Head (Devon) on 11th, with two past Rame Head (Cornwall) on the same date, with a single bird seen from Seaton (Devon) on 12th. Two Pomarine Skuas flew past Saltcoats (Ayrshire) on 13th.

Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret, Abberton Reservoir, Essex (Photo: Sean Nixon)

At least 16 Cattle Egrets remained around the Treganhoe Farm area in West Cornwall to 15th at least, and this remained the largest group to be found across the country. Two groups of five were in Devon this week: at Tamerton Foliot, near Plymouth, from 10th-16th and, in the north of the county, at Penhill on 13th-14th (with presumably the same birds being seen at nearby Fremington on 16th). The single bird remained at Newton Abbot to 16th. Moving to the east, single Cattle Egrets remained at Abbotsbury (Dorset) to 15th and at St. Leonard's Grange (Hampshire) to 15th. In West Sussex, three birds were seen near Shoreham-on-Sea on 14th. Long-staying birds remained, for another week in Gloucestershire, Ceredigion and Cheshire, while the striking summer adult at Stiffkey (Norfolk) was still present to 13th at least. Birders in and around the London recording area doubtless enjoyed the bird found at William Girling Reservoir on 12th, which stayed in the area until 15th. Another loner was found at Abberton Reservoir (Essex) on 12th, staying to 13th. In Ireland, a dozen Cattle Egret were seen at Great Island, near Rossleague (Co. Cork) on 10th, while five were seen on the border of Cork and Waterford, at the Tourig Estuary, on 12th.

Great White Egret
Great White Egret, Haroldswick, Unst, Shetland (Photo: Kevin Jones)

Spoonbill, Keyhaven Marshes, Hampshire (Photo: Chris Cook)

Great Bustard
Great Bustard, Great Wishford, Wiltshire (Photo: Keith Simpson)

Five Great White Egrets were reported this week, with last week's bird at Sheepy Parva (Leicestershire) remaining in place to 10th. One was seen at Wilstone Reservoir (Hertfordshire) on 11th, and was presumably the bird seen 30 minutes later at College Lake (Bedfordshire). A certain new arrival on 11th was the bird at Haroldswick, Unst (Shetland), which remained to 15th at least. Also on 11th, the bird on Loch Grogarry, South Uist (Outer Hebrides), was noted again. On 12th and 15th, a Great White Egret was again seen at North Warren RSPB (Suffolk). At least 25 Spoonbills were seen this week, mainly singles, from Cleveland to Cheshire and Cambridgeshire to Cork, with four again at Fremington (Devon) on 14th and four at Middlebere (Dorset) on 16th the highest totals reported. The Glossy Ibis was still to be seen at Warton Marsh (Lancashire) to 16th, while Common Cranes included two birds over Tophill Low NR (East Yorkshire) on 10th, one at Eldernell (Cambridgeshire) from 11th-15th, one over Kilnsea (East Yorkshire) on 12th and other singles at Outertown, Mainland (Orkney) on 13th-16th and Emneth (Norfolk) on 14th. Also on 14th, three Cranes appeared at Toft Newton Reservoir (Lincolnshire), these birds departing the following morning. On 15th, two were seen at North Warren RSPB (Suffolk). Aside from a presumed escape White Stork stooging around West Yorkshire, origins of the week's other birds are a little harder to judge. A White Stork at Fairmilehead (Lothian) on 10th was surely the individual that was then seen, some fifty miles to the north-northwest, at Crieff (Perth & Kinross) on 11th. On 12th, a White Stork was seen around Gapton Marshes and Breydon Water (Norfolk). The cynic would again suggest Thrigby Hall as the place that this bird originated from, but who knows! On 15th, a White Stork (with perhaps rather better credentials) was seen to fly in off the sea at Southwell, Portland (Dorset), while on 16th one was seen near Durham (Co. Durham).The surviving adult Night Heron on Fair Isle (Shetland) was still present to 13th at least, with another adult seen at Cuskinny Marsh (Co. Cork) on 12th. The adult Purple Heron at Ham Wall RSPB (Somerset) remained to 10th and in Suffolk, the bird at Minsmere RSPB was seen again on the same date. The adult at Windmill Farm NR (Cornwall) almost managed to steal the Black-winged Stilts' thunder, still present from 11th-16th. A male Great Bustard from the Salisbury Plain reintroduction scheme was seen displaying to Mute Swans near Great Wishford (Wilts) on 15th and 16th.

Richardson's Canada Goose
Richardson's Canada Goose, Loch Gorm, Islay, Argyll (Photo: Steve Percival)

Red-breasted Goose
Red-breasted Goose, East Chevington NWT, Northumberland (Photo: Frank Golding)

The adult Ross's Goose continued to delay its passage northwards, enjoying life at Pilling Lane Ends (Lancashire) to 13th at least. Another (?) Ross's Goose was seen at Vane Farm RSPB (Perth & Kinross) on 15th-16th. In Norfolk, the white Snow Goose was seen a couple of times this week, the last report coming from Breydon Water RSPB on 13th, when it was still alongside some 30 Pink-footed Geese. In Cumbria, the first-winter Snow Goose was seen again at Skinburness on 16th. In Aberdeenshire, a Ross's or Snow Goose was seen at Whiteford on 15th. The only county to record any Black Brants this week was Norfolk: singles were seen at Titchwell RSPB on 10th and at Burnham Overy on 12th, while two adults were at Cley Marshes NWT on 14th, and three birds there on 15th. In Ireland a Grey-bellied Brant was seen at Killough (Co. Down) 13th alongside 500 Pale-bellied Brent Geese. 2008 is the fourth year that Killough has recorded this fascinating taxon, the first time being in May 2001. Grey-bellied Brant is one of four "Brent Goose" populations that breeds in Arctic Canada. This "almost-a-form" breeds only on Melville and Prince Patrick Islands in the western Canadian High Arctic, with Black Brants to the north and Pale-bellied Brents to the west (these birds winter largely in Ireland). Grey-bellied Brant is a rare bird in world terms (a 2004 population estimate suggested between 4,000 to 8,000 birds) but its taxonomic status remains a mystery.

Green-winged Teal
Green-winged Teal, Kilnsea, East Yorkshire (Photo: Martin Standley)

Surf Scoter
Surf Scoter, Galway, Galway (Photo: Tom Cuffe)

In Pembrokeshire, the female Black Duck was still at Marloes Mere from 10th-12th. There were seven Green-winged Teal to report this week: at Eyebrook Reservoir (Leicestershire) one bird reappeared on 10th, remaining to 14th at least. Also on 10th, a Green-winged Teal arrived at Hauxley NR (Northumberland) and was still present to 15th (moving to Druridge Bay on 14th). In County Tipperary another new arrival was found at Ashton Callows NR on 12th, remaining to 15th at least, with other "new" birds this week appearing at Kilnsea and Spurn (East Yorkshire) on 12th-16th, around Martham (Norfolk) on 14th-15th and at Loch Sandray, North Uist (Outer Hebrides) on 16th. The drake remained at Marshside RSPB (Lancashire) to 12th. Three Lesser Scaup (all drakes) were noted this week: at Chew Valley Lake (Somerset) from 10th-15th, at Blair Drummond (Forth) to 16th, and a new bird noted at Dozmary Pool, on Bodmin Moor (Cornwall) on 13th-15th. Just four Ring-necked Ducks remained into a new week, as the species continues to become almost rarer than Lesser Scaup! Drakes were again at Foxcote Reservoir (Buckinghamshire) on 10th and at Loch of Tingwall, Mainland, (Shetland) on 15th, while the females at Loch Morlich (Highland) and Stithians Reservoir (Cornwall) were both present to 13th. After no reports at all last week, the first-winter drake King Eider was still present at Northam Burrows CP (Devon) from 10th-15th, while the first-winter drake at Girdle Ness (Aberdeenshire) remained to 10th and the third bird of the same age for the week was seen again off North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 16th. The adult drake was still at Girvan (Ayrshire) to 13th. A drake Surf Scoter remained off Ruddon's Point (Fife) to 11th, with another drake seen off Rerwick Head, Mainland (Orkney) on 16th, while first-winter females remained in East Sussex (off Brighton) and Devon (off Dawlish Warren) to 13th and 14th respectively. In Ireland, the two females off Galway were still present to 13th. Finally, a drake Baikal Teal was seen near Connah's Quay (Clwyd) on 14th-16th, and joined the (still present) Devonian Falcated Duck on the list of "of unknown origin" eastern wildfowl (potential!) vagrants present this week.

The adult White-tailed Eagle seen for five minutes at Slimbridge WWT (Gloucestershire) on 11th must have been a glorious spectacle, but where did it go after Slimbridge? Well, it seems as though it avoided detection again until it drifted over Seaforth LWT (Lancashire) on 15th! Three Rough-legged Buzzards were recorded this week. One was over Boyton Marshes (Suffolk) on 12th, while on 13th singles were seen in Leicestershire, at Higham on the Hill, and in Norfolk, over Holkham Freshmarsh. This bird was still present in the general area (via Stiffkey and Burnham Overy) to 16th. And so we get on to Black Kite...after last week's mini influx (or mass London Zoo "wire-hop", depending on how generous you may, or may not, be feeling) reports continued apace through this week too. On 10th, singles were seen at Sandwich Bay (Kent) and over Hornsea Mere (East Yorkshire) while the bird at Boyton Marshes (Suffolk) was still present to early morning on the same date. On 12th, a Black Kite was tracked around the east coast of Norfolk, from Horsey through to Caister-on-Sea, with timings perhaps suggesting a second bird was around the Breydon Water too. Also on 12th, one was seen at Elveden (Suffolk) and a county first was over Padanaram and then Montrose Basin (Angus). Could that bird be heading back towards its Highland Red Kite mate to nest for another year? In Northamptonshire, a Black Kite was seen at Ecton Brook on 12th-13th, with perhaps the same one then near Thrapston on 16th (and this bird was reported as missing two or three primaries on one wing - a London bird presumably?). On 14th, a Black Kite was seen at Ramsgate (Kent), on 15th one was seen at Hickling NWT (Norfolk) and on 16th, birds were noted at Keyhaven Marshes (Hampshire) and Stiffkey (Norfolk). So, despite the evidence, can all this week's birds be escapes?

Black-winged Stilt
Black-winged Stilt, Windmill Farm NR, Cornwall (Photo: Mike Barker)

Dotterel, Tacumshin, Wexford (Photo: Tom Shevlin)

Spotted Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpiper, Lisvane Reservoir, Glamorgan (Photo: Rhod Llewellyn)

The three Black-winged Stilts were still to be seen gracing Windmill Farm NR (Cornwall) from 10th-14th. A Dotterel was seen at Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) on 13th, and was the only record of the species this week. The gradually-getting-spottier first-winter Spotted Sandpipers remained at Kinneil Lagoon (Forth) to 14th and Lisvane Reservoir (Glamorgan) to 16th.

Iceland Gull
Iceland Gull, Tarbert, Argyll (Photo: Graeme Stephen)

Warwickshire's second Franklin's Gull (an adult) was found at Brandon Marsh NR on 16th and relocated to Draycote Water later the same day. The only other record on the books for the county is from Draycote, in November 2002. The adult Bonaparte's Gull was still at Peninerine, South Uist (Outer Hebrides) to 11th, while the only Caspian Gull this week was a first-winter seen at Farmoor Reservoir (Oxfordshire) on 15th-16th. At least seven Ring-billed Gulls included two first-winters still in Wales, at Dale (Pembrokeshire) and Lamby (Glamorgan), while adults were seen in Essex and, in Ireland, in counties Galway, Down and Antrim. A "near-adult" was seen at Bowling Green Marsh RSPB on 16th. The juvenile American Herring Gull at Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway) was still present to 13th. Bearing in mind that is April, there's no real surprise in the sharp decline in the number of Glaucous Gulls this week - fewer than 20 birds were reported. Iceland Gulls have also dropped in numbers this week too, down to around 50 birds. Six were seen at Portree, Isle of Skye (Highland) on 11th, while at least five different birds were seen at Leys of Crossan (Angus) this week. Four juveniles also remained on St. Mary's (Scilly) to 14th and five birds were still at Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway) through the week.

Waxwing, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire (Photo: Alan Sinclair)

Waxwing, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire (Photo: Alan Sinclair)

Yellow Wagtail
Possible lutea Yellow Wagtail, Covenham Reservoir, Lincolnshire (Photo: Nick Clayton)

Over 40 Waxwings remained in Aberdeen to 14th, while the only others noted were four still at Bingley (West Yorkshire) to 16th and two that flew over Darwen (Lancashire) on 14th. On Fair Isle (Shetland) the wintering Black-bellied Dipper was again at the Wirvie Burn on 12th-13th. Up to seven Hoopoes were reported over the past seven days: on 11th singles were seen at Sherington (Buckinghamshire) and Wych Cross (East Sussex). On 12th, a Hoopoe was found at Dyrham (Gloucestershire) and remained to the following day. The 13th saw one found at Lodmoor RSPB (Dorset) and another was reported in Milton Keynes (Buckinghamshire) the same day. On 16th, a Hoopoe arrived on Cape Clear Island (Co. Cork), with another re-appearing in Pembrokeshire, at Crosswell (it was seen here on April 7th too). A male White-spotted Bluethroat was an excellent find out on Skomer (Pembrokeshire) on 10th and was still present there to 11th. In Lincolnshire, the Richard's Pipit at Howden's Pullover was still present to 12th. A striking yellow-headed wagtail, possibly a Yellow Wagtail of the southwest Siberian race lutea, or maybe a hybrid Yellow x Citrine Wagtail, was at Covenham Reservoir (Lincs) on 13th-14th.

Pallas's Warbler
Pallas's Warbler, Swallow Pond, Northumberland (Photo: Brian Bullough)
Pallas's Warbler
Pallas's Warbler, Swallow Pond, Northumberland (Photo: anon)

A Yellow-browed Warbler continued to linger in Central Park, Plymouth (Devon), present to 10th. A singing male was at Loe Pool, Helston (Cornwall) on 12th. There were two singing male Pallas's Warblers to report this week, separated by some 400 miles or so. The long-staying bird at Two Mile Coppice, Weymouth (Dorset), was still present to 16th, while in Northumberland, at Swallow Pond, a singing bird was present from 12th-16th (a Yellow-browed Warbler was seen here on April 1st).

A female Penduline Tit trapped and ringed at Cotswold Water Park (Wiltshire) on 13th was, perhaps unsurprisingly, a first for this land-locked county. At least 10 Great Grey Shrikes were on offer again this week, with several birds seen in new locations too. In Cheshire, one was seen at Moore NR on 10th, with it (or another) at Red Rocks the following day. In Norfolk, one was inland, at Great Walsingham on 12th, when another bird was seen at Montreathmont Forest (Angus). On 15th, Great Grey Shrikes were seen at Scarborough (North Yorkshire) and north of Kinloss (Moray).

Photo of the Week

Hawfinch, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire (Photo: Chris Grady)

Since Lewis Thomson's Hawfinch Photo of the Week a few weeks ago, Lewis and Chris Grady have wowed BirdGuides members with an ever-improving standard of images of these stunning birds. Both should be congratulated for achieving such incredible images. This week's winning image is by Chris, and makes for an interesting comparison with Lewis's previous winner. The bright sunlight, plain background and diagonal pose with head-turn give the image a completely different feel: less environmental and more formal. Both styles are equally valid, but evoke different responses. We're left wondering whether Hawfinch photos can get any better!

Other notable photos

Barn Owl
Barn Owl, Swaffham, Norfolk (Photo: Peter Simpson)

Bullfinch, Spital, Cheshire (Photo: Steve Round)

Black-necked Grebe
Black-necked Grebe, undisclosed site, Lincolnshire (Photo: Dean Eades)

Great Crested Grebe
Great Crested Grebe, Brandon Marsh NR, Warwickshire (Photo: Tom Melton)

Robin, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire (Photo: Ian Johnston)

Lesser Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull, Summer Leys LNR, Northamptonshire (Photo: Phil Manning)

Sparrowhawk, undisclosed site, Manchester, Greater (Photo: David Cookson)

Avocet, Titchfield Haven NNR, Hampshire (Photo: Steve Copsey)

Spoonbill, Seaforth LWT (Permit only), Lancashire (Photo: Gavin Thomas)

Cormorant, Keyhaven Marshes, Hampshire (Photo: Chris Cook)

Wren, Pennington Flash CP, Manchester, Greater (Photo: Philip Price)

Lesser Redpoll
Lesser Redpoll, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire (Photo: Ian Johnston)

Yellow Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail, Grafham Water, Cambridgeshire (Photo: Garth Peacock)

Tawny Owl
Tawny Owl, New Forest, Hampshire (Photo: Ian Williamson)

Common Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper, Spain (Photo: Steve Fletcher)

Eider, Stinky Bay, Benbecula, Outer Hebrides (Photo: Terry Fountain)

Wood Warbler
Wood Warbler, Fleet Pond, Hampshire (Photo: Richard Bond)

Fulmar, Fife Ness, Fife (Photo: John Anderson)

Tundra Bean Goose
Tundra Bean Goose, Scaling Dam Reservoir, Cleveland (Photo: Steve Race)

Written by: Mark Golley