Review of the Week: 11-17 April


Carlton Marshes, Suffolk, retained its headline status, as hundreds of birders continued to call in and patiently wait for the American Bittern to break cover. Each day this week it did just that sooner or later, often in the company of its Eurasian Bittern companion, a relationship which produced much entertaining behaviour as a bonus for observers.


American Bittern, Carlton Marshes, Suffolk (Shaun Ferguson).


Present for its 25th day by the end of the review period, the adult drake American White-winged Scoter was a steady attraction off Musselburgh, Lothian, although it often kept its distance from the viewing positions along the seawall. More confiding was the adult drake Black Scoter which continued its stay off Holy Island, Northumbs, and at times drifted within photographic range. Co Cork’s adult Pacific Diver reappeared and performed at close range off Crookhaven on 17th.

Interest in the resident Italian-type Sparrow of East Budleigh, Devon, was heightened by news that the bird had been trapped and ringed, allowing material to be taken under licence for DNA analysis. Still present on 17th, hopefully the results will shed some further light on the bird’s heritage while it continues to show on its favourite feeders. It seems that the American Horned Lark at Staines Res, Surrey, may have finally seized the moment to move on, with no positive reports since 14th, although it could just as easily have returned to wherever it hung out last December and most of January. Checked on 13th in Argyll, Loch Feorlin’s Pied-billed Grebe seemed as settled as ever, but the drake Hooded Merganser on St Kilda, Outer Hebrides, was tracked as it flew out to sea on 11th and hasn’t returned.


American Horned Lark, Staines Reservoirs, Surrey (Ian Bollen).


Kent turned up the cream of an admittedly stunted crop of early spring overshoots, firstly with a Short-toed Treecreeper in the Old Lighthouse garden at Dungeness on 11th and later a Great Spotted Cuckoo in flight between Ringwould and Kingsdown, Kent, early evening on 17th. In Cornwall, The Lizard turned up a male subalpine warbler at Caerthillian on 16th, but it didn’t show for long enough to allow it to be allocated to a species.

A Black-headed Wagtail proved most confiding at Leighton Moss RSPB, Lancs, from 14-17th; there have been few opportunities to appreciate this form in recent years, so it attracted a healthy crowd. The same is true of Ashy-headed Wagtail, a male of which was identified at Northwick Warth, Glos, on 15th and stayed a night. Oxfordshire was treated to an excellent county record with a singing male Iberian Chiffchaff by the car park at Hinksey Heights Golf Club on 16-17th.


Black-headed Wagtail, Leighton Moss RSPB, Lancashire (Craig Bell).

Iberian Chiffchaff, New Hinksey, Oxfordshire (Jim Hutchins).


Tyttenhanger GP produced a first for Hertfordshire and a fine London area record, with a Eurasian Penduline Tit showing nicely from late morning on 16th till its purposeful departure early the following day. The powerful reeling of Savi's Warbler could still be heard at Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk, to 16th, while another was reported at Strumpshaw Fen RSPB, Norfolk, the same day, but the East Sussex bird fell silent at West Rise Marsh after 11th.

The dynamic Alpine Swift duo on The Lizard were seen again on 14th as they tracked north-east over the Caerthillian Valley, Cornwall. Incredibly two Red-rumped Swallows hawked together over fields towards nearby Housel Bay on the same day! Another Alpine Swift performed over Porthleven that evening. On Scilly, St Agnes’s Woodchat Shrike remained in the Wingletang Down area all week, but a male on a driveway in Baltasound, Unst, Shetland, on 17th was more significant, though it had succumbed by the evening. Unfortunately, an individual at Roydon Common, Norfolk, on 11th didn’t stay long at all. Fly-over European Serins were called for Durlston CP and Lodmoor RSPB, both Dorset, on 12th and 15th respectively. A singing male was found on Chesterfield Road in Eastbourne, East Sussex, on 12th. Wrynecks were found on St Mary’s, Scilly, and at Sand Point, Somerset, on 13th, as well as in a garden at Middleton, Suffolk, on 12th.


Woodchat Shrike, St. Agnes, Isles of Scilly (David Ball).


Great Grey Shrike movement was evident this week. An individual at Moore NR, Cheshire, attracted local interest on 12-14th and others visited South Ronaldsay, Orkney, on 17th, St Abb’s Head, Borders, from 14-15th, Cairn Hill, Dumfries and Galloway, and Holy Island, Northumbs, both on 11th. Regular birds continued to patrol their winter territories at Hawling, Glos, to 16th and Morden Bog, Dorset, to 14th. Two were reported by Carterton FC grounds, Oxon, on 14th.

The three Coues's Arctic Redpoll stayed glued to the field east of Brand’s Lane in Felthorpe, Norfolk, to 15th, but the well-established bird at Hazlewood Common, Suffolk, was last reported on 11th. In London, the Siberian Lesser Whitethroat – now confirmed through DNA analysis – continued touring local gardens to 17th.


Great Grey Shrike, Holy Island, Northumberland (Jonathan Farooqi).

Spring White-billed Diver passage was well underway this week. A count of 32 made for a mighty haul off the Aberdeenshire coast from the Gemini Explorer on 16th. Four were off the traditional site of Skigersta on Lewis, Outer Hebrides, on 14th, with one there the following day. Another four were off Cullen, Moray and Nairn, on 15th and in the same county another was seen from Burghead on 16th. Irish birds are always significant, so it was interesting to hear of one passing Melmore Head, Co Donegal, on 15th.


White-billed Diver, Portsoy, Aberdeenshire (Tim Marshall).

White-billed Diver, Portsoy, Aberdeenshire (Tim Marshall).


Two Black-bellied Dippers were confirmed on Fair Isle on 15th, one of which was still in the Gully there to 17th; a singleton found on 12th on the Isle of May, Northumbs, remained to 14th. In a decent week for Hoopoes, two turned up at Portland, Dorset, from 14-16th, with one still there on 17th. Also in Dorset, one was near Bridport on 15th. Another was mobile around Braunton, Devon, from 15-16th and Burmarsh, Kent, had a single on 11th. One was at Bannow Bay, Co Wexford, for its second day on 11th and another was found at Ballymacart Lower, Co Waterford, on 16th. Other reports included birds at Poundstock, Cornwall, on 12th, Pelcombe Cross, Pembs, on 14th, and Beddington Farmlands, Greater London, and Kingsgate Park, Glos, both on 15th.


Hoopoe, Poundstock, Cornwall (Mark Worden).


One of the best new rarities of the week was a first-winter Laughing Gull which pitched up on the beach at Lower Town on St Martin’s, Scilly, on 17th. Grindon Lough, Northumberland, pulled in a Long-billed Dowitcher the same day. In Norfolk, a Black-winged Stilt refuelled at Welney WWT on 14th, when another was at Stodmarsh, Kent, but Rye Harbour only held onto one of its birds on 11th. A Ring-billed Gull was reported at Titchfield Haven, Hants, on 17th, making a fantastic local record. More routine was one at Camden Quay, Cork city, on 15th. Loitering Kumlien's Gull remained on South Uist, Outer Hebrides, on 13th and on North Ronaldsay, Orkney, on 14th.


Black-winged Stilt, Stodmarsh NNR, Kent (Steve Ashton).


Dunmanus Bay, Co Cork, continued to play host to the long-staying female King Eider to 17th. Surf Scoters included two off Balbriggan, Co Dublin, and four off Gormanstown, Co Meath, on 17th, as well as the singleton off Musselburgh. In Cornwall, Porthpean’s trio were present and correct as of 14th and other known single drakes were still off Coolsiva Pier, Co Clare, and Unst, Shetland, on 13th, as well as in Largo Bay, Fife, on 11th.

A female Ring-necked Duck turned up on the pool at Par Sands, Cornwall, on 17th. The Berkshire female paid a visit to Woolhampton GPs on 12th before returning to Lower Farm GP for the rest of the week. Drakes included the Lothian bird on Blackford Pond to 17th, when Ballyalla Lake had a report of what was presumably the same individual last reported there on 2 January. In Devon, the Beesands Ley drake lingered to 14th and another previously reported bird resurfaced at Quoile Ponadge, Co Down, on 15-16th. Finally, two were at Keose, Lewis, Outer Hebrides, on 12th and a drake at Lough Yganavan was still on site on 12th.

An American Wigeon was found at Setter Marsh, Shetland, on 17th. Rutland Water held onto its faithful adult drake all week. A Green-winged Teal discovered at Aberlady Bay, Lothian, on 14th remained to 17th; others were on Islay at Loch Gruinart, Argyll, from 11-16th and at Lough Beg, Co Londonderry, on 16th. Another drake made a nice Suffolk record on 14th when it stopped on a flash at Southwold. Johnson’s Marsh, East Yorks, also drew in a drake Green-winged Teal on 12-13th and further long-stayers were on North Uist on 13th and at Keyhaven Marshes, Hants, to 13th. In Antrim, the Ballycarry bird remained to 11th. A potential Grey-bellied Brant haunted Banks Marsh, Lancs, from 15-17th.


Ring-necked Duck, undisclosed site, Lothian (Joe Graham).

Green-winged Teal, Aberlady Bay, Lothian (Joe Graham).


Frequent visits to Longham Lakes, Dorset, remained a habit of our favourite Bonaparte's Gull all week, with the bird now in fully hooded attire. An adult picked out at Witcham Gravel on the evening of 11th then relocated at Fen Drayton Lakes RSPB on 14th, kicking Cambridgeshire birders into action for this major county rarity. Typically elusive Purple Herons were found at Marazion RSPB, Cornwall, on 14th and Burwell Fen, Cambs, from 11-13th. An adult Black-crowned Night Heron was seen as it flew north over Shapwick Heath, Somerset, on 14th.


Bonaparte's Gull, Longham Lakes, Dorset (Ian Ballam).

Purple Heron (right), Burwell, Cambridgeshire (Brendan Doe).


Western Palearctic

Incredibly, a Black-throated Accentor was photographed by a camera trap at Koikkala, Juva, Eastern Finland, on 13th. This represents the 12th national record. Guerney’s American Royal Tern reappeared on 14th at Fort le Crocq; there is hope yet that it will venture north.

The adult Abyssinian Roller was still at Nouadhibou, Mauritania, on Saturday, when a Little Bunting was on site. At least one Golden Nightjar was noted at Awsard, Western Sahara, on 14th. The Pied Crow on Gran Canaria was busy nest-building at Puerto de la Luz on 13th. A male Eastern Black-eared Wheatear graced Texel, North Holland, from 12-15th. The fifth Cypriot record of Namaqua Dove came from Mandria, Paphos, on 12th. In Brussels, the Pygmy Cormorant stayed put at Parc Domaine du Val Duchesse on 12th.

Written by: David V Campbell