The week at a glance
- White-crowned Sparrow in Norfolk
- Wilson's Snipe again on Scilly
- Barrow's Goldeneye still in County Down
- American Buff-bellied Pipit still in County Cork
- Pacific Diver in Pembrokeshire
After the initial panic stations and "red-alert" sensation surrounding the discovery of the adult White-crowned Sparrow in a small garden in Cley last week, the past seven days has seen a constant stream of admiring visitors heading towards a muddy little patch of north Norfolk. Thousands of birders have now stood along the edge of the busy road at the Newgate end of the village, as the increasingly confident American visitor performed, off-and-on, throughout each day, to 16th. Given the tiny viewing area, it's amazing that so many have gone home happy, and the generosity of many has seen some £2000 raised for the local church. A job well done and another exemplary lesson in just how to organise a twitch in what could have been impossible circumstances. One place that is a little more used to Nearctic "megas" than north Norfolk is the Isles of Scilly, and although not as glamorous as the humbug-headed sparrow, Wilson's Snipe remains a huge rarity in the UK, and this bird, on 13th, is one of (a remarkable) four or more different birds discovered lurking on Lower Moors, St. Mary's since last October. This seems to suggest that perhaps this species-elect is a little more common than many imagined (though the wonderful viewing conditions that the site offers are plainly a massive help in the keen-eyed quest). Across the choppy waters, to the north of Ireland, where the Barrow's Goldeneye once again earned its headline status, the handsome drake remaining at Quoile Pondage (Co. Down) to the afternoon of 12th. Down in the south of the island, the American Buff-bellied Pipit was again at Red Barn Strand, near Youghal (Co. Cork) on 14th. The week concluded with a potential Pacific Diver, seen towards dusk at Llys-y-Fran Reservoir (Pembrokeshire) on 16th, clearly suggesting that last year's juvenile had come back, as the adult in Mount's Bay (Cornwall) had done at the tail-end of 2007.
Two White-billed Divers remained in Shetland waters during the week; one was off Uyeasound, Unst, with another seen offshore from Kirkabister, Mainland, both on 12th. The strong, rather warm, southwesterly airflow produced some remarkable numbers of Balearic Shearwaters off the Dorset coast over the past seven days. Following ones and twos last week, at least 35 (perhaps as many as 50) birds were seen from Portland Bill on 13th, with 15 or more off there the following day, and a dozen remaining to 16th. Seven were seen off Prawle Point (Devon), again on 13th, when five were also seen off Dawlish Warren NR (Devon). The 13th also saw at least 20,000 Razorbills move past Portland Bill. Some 20 Pomarine Skuas were seen over the course of the week, including four seen from Minsmere RSPB (Suffolk) on 13th. Single Great Skuas were reported from Devon and Essex, while an Arctic Skua was noted off Tarbet Ness (Highland) on 10th. The only Grey Phalaropes noted were in Newark Bay, Mainland (Orkney) on 12th-13th and on Anglesey, at Lleiniog, on 14th-15th, while single Little Auks were seen in Norfolk, Highland and Cornwall.
Numbers of Cattle Egrets around the country were still on the high side this week, with 25 or more still in Cornwall alone, and some 15 or more were still to be seen in Ireland. The largest group of the week was 13 near Drift (Cornwall) on 14th (with birds reported from at least three other sites). In Devon, seven birds were seen at four sites, with a quartet near Bideford on 15th, with "new" singles seen at Otterton and Lympstone, both on 12th, with another seen on 16th at Exmouth. Four (or perhaps five) birds were still to be found in Somerset - remaining at Stoke St. Michael to 13th, near Muchelney to 15th, and at Old Cleeve; also to 15th. New individuals were at Steart from 10th-14th and one was seen, in flight, at Kings Sedgemoor on 14th. To Dorset, where there were still five birds at Buckland Ripers, and Upwey, to 12th (with presumably the same birds then roosting at Radipole Lake RSPB on 10th-11th). Singles were also seen at Bere Regis (from 12th-16th) and around Arne RSPB and Poole Harbour (12th-13th). The bird at Fretherne (Gloucestershire) was still present to 16th, with other singles still being seen in Hampshire, at Harbridge to 15th, in East Sussex, at Rodmell to 14th and in Cheshire, at Neston to 10th. In Scotland, the lonesome bird at Cardoness (Dumfries and Galloway) was still present to 11th. Four Irish counties were hosts to Cattle Egrets this week - Cork was still the mainstay of the invasion into the Republic, with eight birds still at Clonakilty on 10th, and others noted at Rostellan Lake (two birds), Red Barn Strand, near Youghal (a singleton), and at Clogheen (five birds). Two birds were reported from Limerick, at Foynes Loughill, on 13th and up to three birds were in Kerry, at Ballintaggart on 9th-10th, at Ballygamboon on 10th and Ardfert on 13th (with two birds there on 15th). The final Irish report of the week was from County Clare, one reported near Kilshanny on 16th.
Up to nine Great White Egrets were reported this week; the bird in Hampshire, around Blashford Lakes HWT and the Avon Valley, was present to 13th at least, while others remained at Lough Beg (Co. Derry) to 14th, Thorpeness and North Warren RSPB (Suffolk) from 10th-14th, again at Cotswold Water Park (Wiltshire) on 10th, in Cambridgeshire at Pymore on 13th and 16th, as well as a bird in flight over Fen Drayton GP on 14th and another on South Uist (Outer Hebrides) to 14th. Others were reported from Blakeney harbour (Norfolk) on 10th, Harty Ferry, Sheppey (Kent) on 12th, and Marshside RSPB (Lancashire) on 12th and 16th. Around 19 Spoonbills made their presence known, with seven on the Taw Estuary (Devon) on 12th and 16th the highest count of the week, followed closely by five at another traditional wintering site, Wacker Quay on the River Lynher (Cornwall); also on 12th. Warton Marsh (Lancashire) was still the location of choice this week for the second-winter Glossy Ibis, while in Ireland, a Glossy Ibis flew over Youghal (Co. Cork) on 16th. After last week's Scottish invasion, Common Cranes could muster only three birds, with two at last year's breeding site, Lakenheath RSPB (Suffolk), on 13th and one still seen at Welney WWT (Norfolk) also still present to 13th, with perhaps this bird accounting for the sighting at Brandon Creek on 15th.
In a gesture of neighbourly goodwill, east Norfolk's Ross's Goose headed across the border into Suffolk this week, spending time at Herringfleet in the company of Pink-footed Geese on 13th-14th at least. This bird then appeared back in Norfolk, near Happisburgh on 16th. Across to the north, and northwest, of Norfolk it was hard to tell how just how many Ross's Geese were being seen, given there are three to choose from, but birds were sighted at Holkham Freshmarsh, Burnham Thorpe, Docking and between Anmer and Flitcham. A white adult Snow Goose was cavorting around the beet fields south of Wells (Norfolk) between 10th and 13th while, back in the east of the county, the white adult Snow Goose was at Berney Marshes RSPB with the Ross's Goose, on 13th, before the latter's Suffolk sojourn. The Snow Goose, not wanting to be left out, then popped across to Somerleyton (Suffolk) on 14th. The only other Snow Geese of the week were in Scotland: a white adult was at Ardfern (Argyll) on 11th-12th, with a blue adult again near Kilconquhar (Fife) on 13th. A Red-breasted Goose at Martin Mere WWT (Lancashire) on 10th and 12th was a tricky bird to assess, present alongside a flock of feral Barnacle Geese and 2000 wild Pink-footed Geese. No such listing headaches for the bird still at West Wittering (West Sussex) to 16th (with another trip to Hayling Island in Hampshire on 12th). At least 13 Black Brants made the news this week, with Norfolk claiming at least five different birds, with two still around the Wells and Holkham area throughout the week, and two at Cley Marshes NWT on 14th. Other singles were in West Sussex (still in the same flock as the Red-breasted Goose), Lincolnshire, Devon, Hampshire, Essex and Suffolk, while two birds were in Ireland - on the North Slob WWR (Co. Wexford) and on the Mullet (Co. Mayo), both on 13th. Also on the Mullet on 13th, at Termoncarragh Lough, was a small Canada Goose, the only one of the week. Swinging briefly back to Norfolk, where an adult Lesser White-fronted Goose (of unknown origin) was reported from Holkham Freshmarsh on 12th (an adult was at the same site from 24th October-1st November 2007). The drake American Wigeon at Langness (Isle of Man) was last reported on 9th, while the Welsh drake at Angle Bay (Pembrokeshire) was seen again on 15th. The 15th also saw a drake arrive on Loch Bee, South Uist (Outer Hebrides), and the 16th saw another new drake appear, this one in North Yorkshire, at Thorganby Ings. A first-winter drake American Wigeon (or hybrid) was at Martin Mere WWT (Lancashire) on 12th-14th. After numbers of drake Green-winged Teal exceeded well over 20 birds during the Christmas holidays, it was a little surprising to see so few reported this week. The long-staying bird remained on the Hayle Estuary (Cornwall) to 11th, with the drake at Kinneil Lagoon (Forth) still showing to 12th. A new arrival was found at Wigan Flashes LNR (Greater Manchester) on 13th-16th, with another new bird at Woodwalton Fen NNR (Cambridgeshire) on the same dates. In Ireland, singles were at Bell Harbour (Co. Clare) and on Carrowmore Lake (Co. Mayo), both on 13th. A new find in Ireland was the drake Blue-winged Teal at Mohill Coolfinnan (Co. Leitrim) on 12th. This little-birded county (nestling next to Sligo) isn't known for its rarities but surely there's been something between the Teal and the American Robin in 1894? The drake Black Duck remained at Blanket Nook, Lough Swilly (Co. Donegal) to 12th. There were four Lesser Scaups seen this week, with two first-winter drakes still up for grabs, on Draycote Water (Warwickshire) and at Appleford Gravel Pits (Oxfordshire), both to 16th. Adult drakes were at Cheddar Reservoir (Somerset) to 10th and on Coot Loch, Benbecula (Outer Hebrides) to 16th. The ever-fluctuating winter numbers of Ring-necked Ducks totalled ten this week. Drakes were seen in Highland (at Loch Calder on 9th), on Shetland and in Buckinghamshire. New females were at Moore NR (Cheshire) on 12th and at New Lake (Co. Donegal) on 13th, while the duck at Bassenthwaite Lake (Cumbria) was still present to 13th. In Shropshire, the female Ring-necked Duck reappeared at Monkmoor Pool SWT on 12th-15th (last seen there on December 2nd), and another female was seen again on Racecourse Lough, Enniskillen (Co. Fermanagh) on 10th and 16th. In Scotland, females were again at Loch Eaval, South Uist (Outer Hebrides) on 15th, and at Loch Morlich (Highland) on 16th (with a female Wood Duck nearby for good measure...). The drake King Eider in Mousa Sound (Shetland) was still present from 11th-15th, and the first-winter drake remained off Girdle Ness (Aberdeenshire) to 15th. Half a dozen Surf Scoters included two new birds together (one drake), off Strandhill (Co. Sligo) on 13th-15th. A first-winter female remained off Silver Strand (Co. Galway) to 15th, and another first-winter was still off Tiree (Argyll) on 11th-16th. A drake Surf Scoter was still in the bay off Ruddon's Point (Fife) on 12th, while the long-staying first-winter female remained off Dawlish Warren (Devon) to 15th.
The juvenile/first-winter White-tailed Eagle was still being seen around Shipton Bellinger (Hampshire) on 12th-13th. Four Rough-legged Buzzards were noted this week: at Capel Fleet, Sheppey (Kent) to 12th, at Sleedale (Cleveland) to 11th, around Wooler (Northumberland) to 14th at least, and the juvenile at Rendall (Orkney), seen again on 15th.
The two wintering Spotted Sandpipers were still very much on offer this week, at Lisvane Reservoir (Glamorgan) to 13th, and again at Kinneil Lagoon (Forth) from 11th-13th. The over-wintering first-winter Long-billed Dowitchers could still be found at Bowling Green Marsh RSPB (Devon) from 11th-16th and at Lough Beg (Co. Antrim) on 14th. The two Lesser Yellowlegs that have chosen Britain for their wintering grounds remained at Southwold (Suffolk) to 14th and Montrose Basin (Angus) to 15th. The Hebridean Kentish Plover remained at South Ford, South Uist, to 13th and the wintering Temminck's Stint was still on the edge of the Severn, at Slimbridge WWT (Gloucestershire) from 10th-14th.
In Scotland, the adult Bonaparte's Gull was still to be found around the mouth of the Ugie Estuary (Aberdeenshire) on 12th, with a new arrival, another adult, seen on the Ogmore estuary (Glamorgan) on 15th-16th. An adult Franklin's Gull paid a brief visit to Torr Reservoir (Somerset) on 13th, while an adult Laughing Gull dropped in briefly near Bideford (Devon) on 15th. This week saw around 60 Glaucous Gulls reported, with birds seen from Scilly to Shetland. Three juveniles were at Moore Landfill (Cheshire) on 12th, three birds were seen at Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway) on 13th, with another trio of youngsters on South Uist (Outer Hebrides) on 14th. Iceland Gulls sneaked ahead in terms of numbers seen, with over 70 birds recorded, a tally boosted by seven birds being seen at Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway) and nine birds (an adult, two second-winters and six juveniles) being seen at Killybegs (Co. Donegal), both on 13th (rising to 10 on 15th). The juvenile Kumlien's Gull remained in Mallaig harbour (Highland) on 10th-15th (alongside three Iceland Gulls) with another Kumlien's remaining at Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway) to 13th. There was a little bit of a drop in the number of Caspian Gulls recorded this week, with around 25-30 birds noted, including two first-winters at Grafham Water (Cambridgeshire) on 12th, two at the London Wetland Centre WWT (a first- and second-winter) and two (a second- and third-winter) at Arpley Landfill site (Cheshire) on 14th. Ring-billed Gull numbers edged into double figures, with a first-winter bird at Stithians Reservoir (Cornwall) 10th-11th, an adult at The Mere (Shropshire) on 10th-11th, an adult in the car park at Radipole Lake RSPB (Dorset) on 13th (just like the old days!), a second-winter bird at Wivelsfield (East Sussex) on 13th and two adults at Blackrock Castle (Co. Cork); also on 13th, being the notable birds in the pack. The adult American Herring Gull was again seen at Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway) during the week, with another bird, a first-winter, being seen out at Dingle (Co. Kerry) on 1oth. Two Forster's Terns remained in Ireland during the week: in Wexford, off Rosslare, to 13th and in Galway, off Nimmo's Pier, to 15th.
The wintering Hoopoe at Kingsley (Hampshire) was still present to 13th, while a trio of Richard's Pipits resided along the English east coast with birds at Saltfleet (Lincolnshire) on 13th, along with the first-winter at Terrington Marsh (Norfolk) which was still present on 14th, and the bird at Shingle Street (Suffolk) which was still in place to 13th at least.
This week proved to be the worst of the winter so far for Waxwings, with just 35 birds reported! A flock of 12 were still at Longforgan (Perth & Kinross) to 12th, ten were in Gateshead (Co. Durham) on 16th, while the first-winter at Cromer (Norfolk) was particularly well watched, bearing in mind the massive rarity that lurked a few miles along the coast.
The two wintering Hume's Yellow-browed Warblers could still be found by birders heading to Beachy Head (East Sussex) to 14th and Cot Valley (Cornwall) to 16th. Also in Cornwall, the Yellow-browed Warbler at Tehidy Country Park was still present to 16th. Siberian Chiffchaffs included one still at Fulford Ings (North Yorkshire) from 10th-14th, at Broadsands (Devon) on 13th, with two birds there on 15th-16th and at Helston (Cornwall) on 16th. A Lesser Whitethroat in Ayr (Ayrshire) from 11th-15th must have felt rather out of place in its northerly climes.
The much-debated, much-photographed and still unresolved Arctic or Mealy Redpoll was still showing well at Marsh Lane NR (West Midlands) from 12th-16th. Eleven Great Grey Shrikes this week included the popular bird at Padiham (Lancashire) to 14th, the bird on Roydon Common (Norfolk) to 15th (one of two in Norfolk) and two birds in Buckinghamshire.
Photo of the Week
Belgium-based bird photographer Rudi Debruyne has built up one of the best bird image collections to be found anywhere in the world. His image of a White-tailed Eagle fishing was taken on a trip to Poland made specifically to photograph this species. Freezing this magnificent bird just centimetres above the water as it swooped in across the frame and directly into the light, Rudi has captured a truly stunning action image. The pin-sharp focus on the menacing eye and fearsome bill and talons emphasises the power of this majestic species.