Another fine week with mostly clear skies, but a cool northerly breeze affecting many parts. Weather forecasters were able to say with a smile on their face that some parts of eastern Britain had not received a drop of rain for nearly a month and many of us started to take it for granted that we could go without waterproofs and wellies as they were surplus to requirements!
On the bird front there has been quite a bit of activity. A Whiskered Tern lingered in Wiltshire/Gloucestershire for a couple of days and a look at the CD-ROM Guide to Rarer British Birds revealed that it was the second earliest to ever reach Britain and Ireland, preceded only by one in Devon which arrived on the 12th April 1987. The Mediterranean theme was supplemented by a pair of Black-winged Stilts at Titchfield Haven on 17th, whilst the same county hosted a Purple Heron at Farlington Marshes early in the week. Further overshoots were provided by a Kentish Plover in Kent, and on the 18th, as part of an hirundine movement, a Red-rumped Swallow was seen in Durham and an Alpine Swift was found in North Yorkshire. In Hull (East Yorkshire) the Red-rumped Swallow lingers to add a splash of colour to a suburban park.
Nearly all of the summer migrants have now been accounted for. All of the commoner tern species have been seen with the first Black Tern and Roseate Tern during the week, and Grasshopper Warblers are starting to arrive in numbers along with a dribble of Turtle Doves. The first Quail was reported on the 17th in Nottinghamshire, the same day that the first Corncrake was seen on Coll. Several Black Kites have been reported during the week, with several sightings in Kent, whilst a couple of Honey Buzzards have also been reported. Several trips of Dotterel were seen last weekend, with birds in East Yorkshire, Somerset and Gloucestershire, but only the first group have remained. For many it will be a relief to be able to go out looking for this fantastic wader following the F&M restrictions of last year.
A number of good 'winter' birds have also been seen during the week, with 3 Gyr Falcons, including two on Orkney, plus a White-billed Diver off North Ronaldsay on 17th. In the Abernethy Forest a male Two-barred Crossbill was reported on the 12th, but not subsequently. In a bumper winter for Ross's Gulls there was, not surprisingly, another to add to the tally. This time a 1st-year bird was seen in Gloucestershire on the 16th, but unfortunately it did not stay for a wider audience. Two Lapland Buntings were reported during the week, whilst the gathering of 3 Ring-necked Ducks together in Durham was a surprise after a long-staying female had been there some time. The Snowy Egret continues to boost tourism in Argyll, whilst a nearby drake King Eider is a good 'padder' for those heading 'north'. The Lesser Scaup is still in Dorset, as is the Black Duck in Devon and rare waders are represented by the Pacific Golden Plover on South Uist and the Long Billed Dowitcher in Down. Pectoral Sandpipers are now expected in spring, so two this week in Norfolk and Lancashire will have raised few eyebrows, but the report of a 1st-year Swainson's Hawk will have raised speculation. Had it arrived here some weeks ago and has just been found in Nottinghamshire, could it have been ship-assisted, how common are birds in captivity? - all these questions will be raised again should this bird present itself to the masses. Nottinghamshire does after all have good pedigree when it comes to exceptionally rare Nearctic vagrants!!