Review of the Week: 11-16 April 2023


As another relatively dynamic April period came to an end, it seems that nothing will curtail the continued advance of Black-crowned Night Herons to these shores. In total, 33 birds were split between 14 counties: eight counties in England, two in Scotland and four in Ireland. This included a remarkable seven at Drinagh, Co Wexford, with other multiples comprising three at Mizen Head, Co Cork, and twos at Iford Dorset, Ossett, West Yorkshire, Tresco, Scilly, and Sigginstown, Co Wexford. Their appearance might not all be good news, however, as severe droughts across Spain and southern France are perhaps partially responsible for their appearance. Owing to their elusive, crepuscular nature, it is all but certain there are more out there to be found …

Black-crowned Night Heron, Ossett, West Yorkshire (Glyn Sellors).

Five of seven Black-crowned Night Herons, Drinagh, Wexford (Richard Mills).

It was a bumper week for White Stork reports too, with birds reports from approximately 30 sites. Many of these related to unringed birds, suggestive of a few continental arrivals. Most notable of all was one at Saltholme RSPB, Cleveland, on 12th which later relocated even further north to Vane Farm RSPB, Perth & Kinross, on 14-15th, and then Guardbridge, Fife, on 15th. Purple Herons didn't quite hit the heady heights of last week, although no fewer than seven were noted. Two of these were in Cornwall, with singles in Scilly, Wiltshire, Norfolk, Co Wexford and Co Cork.

White Stork (right), Summer Leys LNR, Northamptonshire (Nick Truby).

Purple Heron, Ruan Lanihorne, Cornwall (Andrew Jordan).

A fantastic inland find comprised a delightful male Kentish Plover at Summer Leys, Northamptonshire, from 11-14th. This was Northamptonshire's first since 1994 and headlined an excellent few days for the wetland site: a White Stork overflew surprised plover watchers on 11-12th followed by a duo of Common Cranes on 12th!

Kentish Plover, Summer Leys LNR, Northamptonshire (Alan Shaw).

It was another lively week as far as Black-winged Stilts were concerned, with at least 15 deposited across southern areas of Ireland between Co Kerry and Co Wexford. In Britain, meanwhile, new arrivals were at Seaton Marshes, Devon, Blashford Lakes, Hampshire, and Brading Marshes RSPB, Isle of Wight. Four more continued in Cornwall. Elsewhere, an adult Pectoral Sandpiper was at Steart WWT, Somerset, throughout, a Lesser Yellowlegs remained in Devon, and all three Long-billed Dowitchers lingered. A couple of Eurasian Dotterels were trapped and ringed during an overnight ringing session on Bardsey Island, Gwynedd, on 16th, with a Eurasian Stone-curlew at Dale Airfield, Pembrokeshire, on 10th.

Black-winged Stilt, Brading Marshes RSPB, Isle of Wight (Matthew Barfield).

The Isles of Scilly have been simply spoilt for choice with Woodchat Shrikes in recent days, with as many as eight spread across the islands. Four more were on the Penwith Peninsula in extreme south-west Cornwall, with others at Filey, North Yorkshire, and Cape Clear, Co Cork.

Woodchat Shrike, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Ashley Fisher).

A Hoopoe reached as far north as Colonsay, Argyll, with six more in England, four in Ireland and one in Wales. In Cheshire, a singing male Savi's Warbler continued at Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB until 14th at least. Four European Serins were along the south coast, comprising birds in Cornwall, Dorset (two) and West Sussex. On 16th, the first Corncrake of 2023 was on Tory Island, Co Donegal. The most surprising find of the week saw a Dark-eyed Junco in a garden at Walls, Mainland Shetland, from 7-11th.

Tawny Pipit, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Kris Webb).

A brief Richard's Pipit was at Patrington Haven, East Yorkshire, on 14th, while a Tawny Pipit remained on St Mary's, Scilly. The Eastern Yellow Wagtail continued to hang on in Suffolk too, although perhaps even more notable from a Motacilla persuasion was an Iberian × Ashy-headed Wagtail intergrade at Waungron, Glamorgan, on 16th. Although superficially similar to Iberian Wagtail, the supercilium is restricted to a small white patch behind the eye and the head appears too dark for iberiae. Iberian and Ashy-headed Wagtails regularly interbreed in north-east Spain and southern France, where they are known as 'Mediterranean Wagtail'. More 'typical' Blue-headed Wagtails were logged from five sites.

Iberian × Ashy-headed Wagtail, Waungron, Glamorgan (Sam Viles).

It was a week of changeover as a number of wintering passerines departed, although a late Waxwing hung on in Aviemore, Highland, and Great Grey Shrikes were in Kent and Shetland. Up to 10 Shore Larks included a new arrival on Fair Isle.

An Alpine Swift over Strathdearn, Highland, on 15th is the most northerly report so far this influx. It was another excellent week for the taxon, with England's east coast in particular treated to several individuals. Indeed, one at Saltholme RSPB, Cleveland/Durham, on 13th means that every single English east- and south-coast county has hosted at least one bird so far this year. Away from the east coast, two were in Devon, with singles in Conwy, Pembrokeshire, Co Kerry and Isle of Man.

Alpine Swift, Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire (Phillip Jones).

A popular Red-rumped Swallow over Conwy RSPB on 11-12th was just the second county record, with another paying a brief visit to Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire, on 12th. A ringtail Montagu's Harrier was at Lizard, Cornwall, on 14th and Rough-legged Buzzards continued in both Orkney and Shetland.

Red-rumped Swallow, Conwy RSPB, Conwy (James Shrimpton).

The above-average winter for Lesser Scaup has continued in earnest into spring, as Aytha flocks start their pre-breeding movements. A round half of the week's six reports concerned new finds – birds at Audenshaw Reservoirs, Greater Manchester, Loch Gelly, Fife, and Lochwinnoch RSPB, Clyde. Others remained in Oxfordshire, Somerset and Outer Hebrides. Otherwise, Ring-necked Ducks were at 24 sites and Green-winged Teal were at four – in Suffolk, Cheshire, North Yorkshire and Cumbria. A female Red-crested Pochard at Lahinch Marsh on 12th was the first record for Co Clare.

Lesser Scaup (lower bird), Ham Wall RSPB, Somerset & Bristol (Ian Chivers).

Ring-necked Duck, Loch Vaa, Highland (Mark Dawson).

Four Surf Scoter – two off Conwy and singles off both Lothian and Fife – persisted, with the White-winged Scoter again off Musselburgh, Lothian. At least 14 White-billed Divers were in the Outer Moray Firth, with 11 of those off Cullen, Moray, alone. Others were off Brora, Highland, and Port Skigersta, Lewis. A Black Brant lingered at Kilnsea, East Yorkshire, 

The adult Ross's Gull provided some excellent views on the rocks at Cairnbulg, Aberdeenshire, while Bonaparte's Gulls were at Hayle Estuary, Cornwall, and Ballydehob, Co Cork. Hampshire, Pembrokeshire and Co Galway boasted adult Kumlien's Gulls and the Double-crested Cormorant was again at Doon Lough, Co Leitrim. In Devon, the Gull-billed Tern again put in sporadic appearances at South Huish Marsh.

Ross's Gull, Cairnbulg, Aberdeenshire (David Capon).


Western Palearctic

Not many species carry quite the allure in the Western Palearctic as Pallas's Sandgrouse. The discovery of two, at Saarijärvi, Finland, on 15th, therefore, generated lots of excited chatter across Europe about the potential of further records to follow. The species has been to periodic irruptions westward in the past – with bumper movements noted in 1863, 1887/88, 1908 and 1969 – although these have become rarer as the species has declined. It is the first record anywhere in Europe since another in Finland in 2010.

Bumper influxes of both Purple and Black-crowned Night Herons across Britain and Ireland filtered through to Iceland this week, including the nation's first Purple Heron since 2007. Another Black-crowned Night Heron was in the Faroe Islands. A pair of White-winged Scoter were at Njarðvík, Iceland, on 10th, with a female joining the regular adult drake. Another welcome visitor was the male Walrus nicknamed 'Thor' at Þórshöfn on 8th, the same individual which toured the English coast during the winter.

An unringed drake Falcated Duck with Gadwall at the Port of Rotterdam on 16th looks likely to become The Netherlands's first acceptable bird in some 10 years. It proved to be a noteworthy week for European dabbling duck action: a Baikal Teal lingered at Skien, Norway, and Poland's fifth Blue-winged Teal was at G┼éowaczewo, with another still at Lund, Sweden. Also lingering in Sweden were the Baltimore Oriole at Förslöv, Siberian Rubythroat at Trollhättan and Stejneger's Scoter at Mellbystrand, with a Black-throated Thrush at Tidö-Lindö.

Santiago, Cape Verde, enjoyed an enviable double-act with an Intermediate Egret and African Crake at Flamengos on 14th – the latter just the archipelago's fourth. In the Azores, meanwhile, a Hooded Merganser was at Lagoa Branca, Flores, and a Wood Duck continued at Lagoa Azul, São Miguel. Two Elegant Terns were in Spain at Santa Pola, Valencia.

Two Common Goldeneyes at Larnaca became just the eighth Cypriot record, with the Diederik Cuckoo last noted at Oroklini on 12th. A male Mourning Wheatear at Dalaman, Turkey, is just the country's second identified to species level. In Israel, the Yellow-billed Stork remained at Tirat Zvi.

Common Goldeneye, Akrotiri, Akrotiri (Peter Bromley).

Written by: Sam Viles