Review of the Week: 12th-18th December 2002


A dull and wet week for most of us, which, combined with the short days and pre-Christmas apathy, combined to create one of the quietest weeks during recent times.

As would be expected new rarities have been few and far between, but ducks dominated. A drake Lesser Scaup in Dorset was presumably the returning bird of last winter, but nicely illustrates the site-fidelity of many Nearctic wildfowl once they turn up in Europe. A King Eider was relocated in Dumfries and Galloway on Loch Ryan and a White-headed Duck was a personal 'list-tester' in London. Rare wildfowl are always contentious, but this bird is unlikely to trouble the British list at this point in time. In Kent a large raptor was seen on the 16th and 17th, and was considered to have perhaps been an adult Booted Eagle. As with the previous species, if accepted, this individual is likely to stimulate debate, but unlikely to affect the British list.

Attention traditionally turns to gulls at this time of year, but there were few distractions to be had, except for a 1st-winter American Herring Gull in Cornwall and a 3rd-winter in County Cork. White-winged gulls are still extremely scarce, with just a scattering of birds, but these included a Kumlien's Gull in County Wexford. Diligent observers picked out just over half a dozen Caspian Gulls during the week, so there's plenty to go at if you have a handy landfill site nearby - there's no better place to learn about gull identification! In Norfolk a Yellow-browed Warbler was a late find at Stiffkey, whilst another lingered on St. Mary's, and Surf Scoters could be found in both Norfolk and Scilly. In Cornwall the White Gyr Falcon was again seen early in the week, but proved elusive, and the Forster's Tern was again in Co. Kerry, as was the White-billed Diver in Shetland and Great White Egret in Lincolnshire. In Lancashire a 1st-winter Night Heron was a popular and confiding bird.

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Siberian Chiffchaffs are a scarce winter visitor, though their identification requires care and attention to detail, but at least three were present during the week. Birds in Notts, Warwickshire and Glamorgan attracted a fair amount of interest. Less expected were a Lesser Whitethroat in North Yorkshire and Willow Warbler in London, plus the Whinchat remained in Bucks, and an Osprey in Argyll was extremely late.

The Oriental (Rufous) Turtle Dove has remained at Stromness (Orkney) all week, attracting a steady trickle of admirers. In addition, a familiar list of semi-resident rarities included the Glossy Ibis in Devon, Redhead in Glamorgan, Little Bunting in the Forest of Dean and Rose-coloured Starlings lingered in Lincolnshire and Cornwall.

Written by: Russell Slack