Review of the Week: 11th–17th December 2003

Baltimore Oriole: Headington, Oxfordshire. (Photo: Nic Hallam)

Baltimore Oriole: Headington, Oxfordshire. (Photo: Mike Lawrence) Baltimore Oriole: Headington, Oxfordshire. (Photo: Andy Warr)

Baltimore Oriole: Headington, Oxfordshire. (Photo: John Dickenson) Baltimore Oriole: Headington, Oxfordshire. (Photo: Michael McKee)

A few weeks ago I suggested that there might be a few surprises in store for the early winter period, but I didn't really think that it would turn up in the Midlands! A Baltimore Oriole was identified on feeders in a garden in Headington, Oxford last weekend, and has continued to show well on occasions up to the time of writing. With only about 20 records and this the first to be accessible to the masses since 1989 it has, not surprisingly, generated a lot of interest amongst the birding community. The kindness of the local residents has ensured that many have been able to watch the bird in relative comfort but if you decide to visit the site, do please show courtesy and if possible use the regular Park and Ride bus service as parking is very limited in the immediate area. A winter bird on garden feeders is not without precedent. A popular individual did likewise in Pembrokeshire between January and April 1989 and another was present in Essex from December 1991-March 1992. In addition, one was found dead in Coventry (Warks) in December 1968. As numerous events over the years have shown, anything really is possible, anywhere!

American Robin: Godrevy Point, Cornwall. (Photo: Dave Stone) American Robin: Godrevy Point, Cornwall. (Photo: Dave Stone)

American Robin: Godrevy Point, Cornwall. (Photo: Dave Stone) American Robin: Godrevy Point, Cornwall. (Photo: John Malloy)

Who would have thought that a female American Robin at Godrevy Point (Cornwall) from the 15th onwards would be the runner-up 'bird of the week' in mid-December! This bird is the first for the county (if accepted), surprising perhaps given several records in neighbouring Devon and Scilly. Although initially on a private area, this was another situation where the landowner once again kindly agreed to let birders access the site. As with the Oriole, it is still present at the time of writing and is another Christmas bonus to those who could not make it across to Bardsey (Gwynedd) earlier in the autumn.

Penduline Tit: Lodmoor RSPB, Dorset. (Photo: Martin Cade) Penduline Tit: Lodmoor RSPB, Dorset. (Photo: Martin Cade)

There was an interesting supporting cast of rarities. Yet another Hume's Warbler was found, this time in Caernarfon (Gwynedd) from 14th onwards, there were also 9 Yellow-browed Warblers reported and a Pallas's Warbler was at Helston Loe Pool (Cornwall) on 14th. Finding sprites on your local patch is still very much a possibility despite the time of year and no doubt several birds will go on to winter if conditions continue to be favourable. Elsewhere, there were 2 Penduline Tits at Lodmoor RSPB (Dorset) on 15th and 17th and up to 5 Siberian Chiffchaffs were reported. Long-stayers included the Dusky Warbler at Paignton (Devon), Richard's Pipit at Llanilid (Glamorgan) and the Red-throated Pipit at Tacumshin (Co. Wexford). There was a Rose-coloured Starling at Ely (Cambs) on 15th, with others still on St. Agnes (Scilly) and at Lisburn (Co. Antrim).

American Wigeon: Hayle Estuary, Cornwall. (Photo: Matt Slaymaker) Tundra Bean Goose: North Warren RSPB, Suffolk. (Photo: Sean Nixon)

Snow Goose: North Uist, Outer Hebrides. (Photo: Martin Scott) Snow Goose: North Uist, Outer Hebrides. (Photo: Martin Scott)

An American Herring Gull was found on Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 15th, and there were around 17 Iceland Gulls and 7 Glaucous Gulls reported, plus Caspian Gulls into double figures. There were 11 Ring-billed Gulls, all adults apart from a 2nd-winter and a 1st-winter, plus a report of a Bonaparte's Gull in E. Yorks. The American Coot remains at Lerwick (Shetland), as does the Forster's Tern in Galway (Co. Galway). A second Great White Egret was found in Hampshire and the Snowy Owl was again present on North Uist (Outer Hebrides). The King Eider was again off Methil (Fife), and other rare ducks included the Black Scoter off Llanfairfechan (Conwy), two Surf Scoters, 12 Green-winged Teals, 6 American Wigeon, plus 4 Ferruginous Ducks and just 3 Ring-necked Ducks, two of which were in Ireland. There were 2 Grey Phalaropes at Cley (Norfolk) on 15th and one at Belvide Reservoir (Staffs) from 12th onwards. In Cornwall the 1st-winter Lesser Yellowlegs continued to entertain visitors, as did the Glossy Ibis in Devon. Waxwings continue to be found, particularly in the northern half of Britain – including an obliging party that appeared briefly and unexpectedly just before a BirdGuides staff meeting on Wednesday!

Smew: Fairburn Ings, W. Yorks. There have been anumber of records in the past few weeks, a male takes some beating in looks though. (Photo: Dave Winnard) Shore Lark: Long Nanny, Northumbs. Always popular, several small groups are lingering along the east coast. (Photo: David Morris)

Waxwing: Chester, Cheshire. Still good numbers at several locations with birds spreading further inland – always a welcome sight! (Photo: Steve Round)

Many of the images that appear in our weekly reviews can be purchased from the photographers, some of whom have their own websites:

Steve Blain: http://www.steveblain.co.uk
Nigel Blake: http://www.nigelblake.co.uk
Andy Brett: http://www.freewebs.com/andybrett/
Martin Cade: http://www.portlandbirdobs.btinternet.co.uk
Jack Levene: http://www.birdingimages.com
John Malloy: http://mysite.freeserve.com/JohnMalloyBirdPhotos
Steve Round: http://stevenround-birdphotography.com
Matt Slaymaker: http://www.freewebs.com/slaymaker
Phillip Tomkinson: http://www.philliptomkinson.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk
Stephen Tomlinson: http://www.digitalbirds.co.uk
Sue and Andy Tranter: http://www.birdphotos.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/
Dylan Wrathall: http://www.planetthanet.org

Written by: Russell Slack