Review of the Week: 13-19 December 2021


The penultimate review of the year saw a moderate arrival of Russian White-fronted Geese into southern England and a small, but surprising, winter Glossy Ibis influx. The latter species reached the far north and included a stunning count of 10 on Westray, Orkney, two on Unst, Shetland, and even one resting on a vessel off the coast of Iceland!

Glossy Ibis, Westray, Orkney (Steven J Charlton).

In terms of rarity value, the biggest news of the week came rather on the late side and concerned a White-chinned Petrel photographed c 240km west of Co Galway on 15 September. The Western Palearctic's second record – following one over Scapa Beach, Mainland Orkney, in May 2020 (more on that astounding record here) – it is just the third for the North Atlantic as a whole.

On 14th, a video emerged of a White-throated Sparrow in a private area of Southampton Docks, Hampshire, having apparently been present since August. The species is one of the more regular Nearctic vagrants to Britain, with 56 records to date – including another three in 2021 alone – with a fair percentage of these likely making at least part of the journey by boat. Indeed, the docks have seen a number of sightings before, including one on 12-13 May 2007 and another on MV Arcadia on 10 October 2019. A short distance away, a popular male resided at Old Winchester Hill between 2008 and 2011; the only other county record concerns one at Needs Ore Point in May 1961.

White-throated Sparrow, Southampton, Hampshire (anon).

In Lancashire, the male Belted Kingfisher relocated to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at Withnell Fold from 14-17th, although there would be no further sign over the weekend. If it becomes more reliable, it may make for a sterling Lancashire double act over the coming weeks – the Richardson's Cackling Goose was still to be found with Pink-footed Geese on the Ribble Marshes.

Richardson's Cackling Goose, Crossens Outer Marsh, Lancashire (Stephen Tomlinson).

All three of the winter's rare waders remained – the White-tailed Lapwing at Blacktoft Sands RSPB, East Yorkshire, Semipalmated Plover at Crookhaven, Co Cork, and Spotted Sandpiper at St Mary's, Scilly.

Spotted Sandpiper, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Kris Webb).

A Snowy Owl was in West Connemara, Co Galway, on 17th, the same day a possible Asian Desert Warbler was reported at Druridge Bay CP, Northumberland. Over the weekend, a Catharus thrush species was reported on Great Blasket Island, Co Kerry.

In Glamorgan, the young Pacific Diver lingered at Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir throughout.

Pacific Diver, Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir (no general access), Glamorgan (Tom Wright).

Two drake Black Scoter remained in the North Sea – at Stag Rocks, Northumberland, and Lossiemouth, Moray & Nairn – with the White-winged Scoter still at Musselburgh, Lothian. In Surrey, the drake Ferruginous Duck managed to dodge the thrill-seekers at Thorpe Park for another week.

Ferruginous Duck, Thorpe Park, Surrey (Mark Leitch).

A number of Lesser Scaup remained in-situ – three in Ireland (in Cos Cavan, Armagh and Cork), two in Outer Hebrides, two in Devon and one in Scilly. A possible drake was a brief visitor to Blagdon Lake, Somerset & Bristol, on 13th.

Lesser Scaup (right), St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Kris Webb).

In Ayrshire, the Ross's Goose remained with Pink-feet at Hunterston Sands, while a Grey-bellied Brant was with Pale-bellied Brents at Blackrock, Co Dublin, on 17th. A new Richardson's Cackling Goose was at Cross Lough, Mullet, Co Mayo, while others continued at Ballygilgan, Co Sligo, and Islay, Argyll.

Ross's Goose, Hunterston Sands, Ayrshire (Ian Bollen).


Scottish mainland

Ayrshire's impressive warbler double-act remained in place: the Cetti's Warbler was at Stevenston throughout, with the Auchinleck Pallas's Warbler last reported on 13th. Another Cetti's was at Kilconquhar Loch, Fife, on 11th – Scotland's sixth record in recent weeks.

Pallas's Warbler, Ochiltree, Ayrshire (Dave Grant).

A rather lost Glossy Ibis made it as far north as Reay, Caithness, on 17th, while a juvenile Rosy Starling was at Prestonpans, Lothian, on 19th. Moray & Nairn scored a Eurasian Bittern at Brodie Castle from 16th, with a Great Egret still at Montrose Basin, Angus & Dundee. A lone Waxwing was at Glasgow, Clyde, on 17th. Six Scottish Iceland Gulls included three at Portree, Skye, with five Glaucous Gulls also noted.

Cetti's Warbler, Stevenston, Ayrshire (Andrew Russell).

Two drake Green-winged Teal remained at Tain Links, Highland, Surf Scoter were still off Lossiemouth, Moray & Nairn, and Musselburgh, Lothian (three), and Leven, Fife, scored a Black-necked Grebe. In Clyde, Smew held on at Lochwinnoch RSPB (two) and Hogganfield Loch; Snow Geese continued near Loch Spynie, Moray & Nairn (three), and Airth, Forth.

In the Inner Hebrides, Argyll, a Ring-billed Gull was reported at Lochdon, Mull, on 17th, while Tiree continued to play host to a Todd's Canada Goose and four Ring-necked Duck. A mini-wreck of Little Auk on 13th saw birds inland on Skye, Mull and Iona – including one sat on netting over a garden pond!

A Humpback Whale continued to be seen daily in the Firth of Forth.


Northern Isles and the Hebrides

As mentioned in the main summary, there was an arrival of Glossy Ibis into the Northern Isles this week. Shetland hosted at least three individuals, with one on Fair Isle on 15-18th, one over Haroldswick, Unst, on 18th, and two together at Ungirsta, Unst, on 19th. A confiding Eurasian Bittern was at Skaw, Whalsay, from 15th, although the bird was clearly unwell and later died in care.

Glossy Ibis, Ungirsta, Unst, Shetland (Robbie Brookes).

The drake Ring-necked Duck remained at Loch of Tingwall, Mainland, the Todd's Canada Goose was still at Vatsetter, Yell, on 17th and three Russian White-fronted Geese were at Kirkbister, Mainland, on 15-16th. Three sites recorded Glaucous Gull with Iceland Gulls at six. Fair Isle continued to host both the Red-necked Grebe and Little Gull until 13th.

Eurasian Bittern, Skaw, Whalsay, Shetland (John Irvine).

The arrival of Glossy Ibis was underway on Westray, Orkney, too. Six were first reported on 15th but by the end of the week 10 were on the island. On 19th, a brief Lesser Yellowlegs was at North Loch, Sanday, and a likely returning drake Surf Scoter was off Kirkwall, Mainland, on 19th.  An adult white-morph Snow Goose mingled with Greylag Geese at Loch of Clumly, Mainland, although its origin is probably best left unknown. One each of Glaucous and Iceland Gulls were reported this week, plus an unassigned white-winged gull overflew Finstown, Mainland.

Snow Goose (centre), Loch of Clumly, Mainland, Orkney (Steven J Charlton).

Bruernish scored Barra's second record of Glossy Ibis on 18-19th. Elsewhere on the island, the three Siberian Chiffchaffs remained in place, the drake Green-winged Teal was still at Aird Mhor and the first-winter drake Surf Scoter continued off Allasdale. A drake Green-winged Teal was also at Carnach, North Uist, on 17th. Single Glaucous and Iceland Gulls were reported.

Dan Owen


North-East England

A Todd's Canada Goose between Elwick and Fenham-le-Moor, Northumberland, on 19th was likely the same bird as seen at Budle Bay earlier in the winter. Widdrington Moor Lake continued to host the redhead Smew, Red-necked Grebe and two Great Northern Divers. The Water Pipit at Druridge Pools also lingered, and the second-winter Iceland Gull put in a couple of appearances at North Shields. 

Great Northern Diver, Widdrington Moor Lake, Northumberland (Mark Newsome).

Budle Bay held onto its two juvenile Glaucous Gulls throughout the week and Ruddy Shelduck were at Fenham Flats and Big Waters NR. An unseasonal Swallow was noted at Hauxley NR on 19th with at least one candidate for an eastern-race Lesser Whitethroat in the nearby dunes. A Lapland Bunting headed south over Howick on 16th. 

In Durham, the European Serin at Brusselton Wood remained in place until at least 17th. A Lapland Bunting spent a couple of days at The Leas, South Shields, alongside no fewer than 20+ Snow Buntings. A redhead Smew was unearthed at Escomb Lake on 19th, although flew off after an hour, and two Ruddy Shelduck were near Ludworth on 14th. 

European Serin, Brusselton Wood, Durham (Bob Howe).

Last week's Black-throated Diver at Hartlepool, Cleveland, was joined by a second bird on 16th. The two Velvet Scoter also remained and a possible White-billed Diver was seen from a fishing boat 6km offshore on 16th. Six Greater White-fronted Geese were reported from Sleddale on 15th and a few Snow Buntings were at South Gare. A Eurasian Spoonbill at Dorman's Pool and Spotted Redshank at Greatham Creek were the highlights on the North Tees Marshes.

Jonathan Farooqi


North-West England

A Lapland Bunting was at Askam-in-Furness, Cumbria, on 19th, where the Eurasian Spoonbill remained until 18th. The four Greenland White-fronted Geese were at Kirkbridge until 16th. In Lancashire, the drake Green-winged Teal remained at Conder Green until 14th; the white-morph Snow Goose was still near Burscough the previous day. Up to five Snow Buntings were at Southport with another three at Cockersand Abbey. A Yellow-browed Warbler was in a garden in Sefton on 15th, with an adult Ring-billed Gull reported at Preston Marina on 18-19th.

Snow Goose (centre left), Burscough, Lancashire (Nick Brooks).

Cheshire had a quiet week; two Snow Buntings at Wallasey on 14th became five at Leasowe by the week's end. The Red-throated Diver lasted another week at Watergove Reservoir, Greater Manchester, and a Great Skua was at Pennington Flash CP on 16th. An Iceland Gull joined the suite of Caspian Gulls at Audenshaw Reservoirs on 17th.

Dan Owen


Lincolnshire and Yorkshire

A Lesser Yellowlegs on the Humber at East Halton Skitter on 16th was Lincolnshire's bird of the week. Siberian Chiffchaffs were at North Hykeham and Deeping St James, with a Smew along Deeping High Bank on 19th. A Black Redstart was in central Grantham on 16th. Covenham Reservoir held the Grey Phalarope to 13th only, but two Great Northern Divers remained. Eight Russian White-fronted Geese were at Trent Port on 19th, part of a wider arrival of the species in south-eastern areas.

Lesser Yellowlegs (right), East Halton Skitter, Lincolnshire (Will Scott).

Russian White-fronts (three) were also at Bubwith Ings, East Yorkshire, with the white-faced Ring Ouzel still at Spurn and Siberian Chiffchaffs at Easington (three) and Grimston (one). A Glaucous Gull flew past Paull Holme Strays on 18th, with a male Smew at Tophill Low NR.

Hawfinches were at two North Yorkshire sites, with the Western Cattle Egret still at Seamer Carr and a Smew in the Lower Derwent Valley. A second-winter Iceland Gull at Redcar Tarn, West Yorkshire, was also seen at Mixenden and Eccup Reservoirs on 14th. Six Waxwings were reported from Cudworth, South Yorkshire, on 17th, while Water Pipits were at Wombwell Ings and Wilthorpe Marsh.

Josh Jones


West Midlands

Staffordshire's Shore Lark held out for another week at Blithfield Reservoir and a Snow Bunting was at Morridge on 16th. The adult Ring-billed × Lesser Black-backed Gull hybrid continued to roost at Belvide Reservoir, where the Garganey re-appeared on 18th. A single Hawfinch was at Aymestrey on 16th, and Caspian Gulls roosted at various water bodies in West Midlands.

Shore Lark, Blithfield Reservoir, Staffordshire (Alan Shaw).

In Worcestershire, a Snow Bunting overflew Worcestershire Beacon on 16th and the Siberian Chiffchaff was seen again at Kempsey sewage works on 18th. The Great Northern Diver lingered at Draycote Water, Warwickshire, but there was little else of note in the county.

Dan Owen


East Midlands

The drake American Wigeon remained on show at Carr Vale NR, Derbyshire, and three Caspian Gulls were in the county. In Nottinghamshire, the redhead Smew at Attenborough NR and drake at Holme Pierrepont both lasted, where the Siberian Chiffchaff lingered. Two female Ring-necked Duck continued at Langford Lowfields RSPB, where the Great Northern Diver was again seen on 17th. A smart drake Red-breasted Merganser was at Hoveringham GPs on 19th and a redhead flew past Barton-in-Fabis on 18th.

American Wigeon, Carr Vale NR, Derbyshire (Alan Shaw).

Two drake Smew remained at Pitsford Reservoir until 14th and the Wood Sandpiper was still in situ. New additions to the site's roll call included two juvenile European Shags and a Black-necked Grebe. The young Dark-bellied Brent Goose continued to find Clifford Hill GPs to its liking. A juvenile Glaucous Gull flew over Groby Pool, Leicestershire, on 13th. The Slavonian Grebe lingered at Rutland Water where Great Northern Diver and Smew tallies both increased to three. The Ring-necked Duck remained present and correct at Eyebrook Reservoir, with seven Greater Scaup and two Smew for company.

Smew, Pitsford Reservoir, Northamptonshire (Bethan Clyne).

Dan Owen


East of England

In Norfolk, the five Taiga Bean Geese at Buckenham Marshes RSPB proved popular, as did the lingering Great Grey Shrike at Waxham and Iceland Gull in the Cley area. A Siberian Chiffchaff continued at Titchwell RSPB and up to five Shore Larks remained at Holkham Gap, where up to five Red-necked Grebes were offshore. A Great Northern Diver was on the Ouse Relief Channel at Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalen.

Taiga Bean Geese (rear flock), Buckenham Marshes RSPB, Norfolk (Stuart White).

At least one Iceland Gull was in Lowestoft, Suffolk, on 18th, with a bean goose flying over nearby Carlton Marshes SWT on 19th and a small influx of Russian White-fronted Geese noted (five sites). The five Shore Larks were still at Hollesley; Red-necked Grebe and Black-throated Diver were among the highlights on the Orwell Estuary.

Shore Lark, Shingle Street, Suffolk (John Richardson).

The Black Brant at West Mersea and Siberian Chiffchaff at Colne Point were among Essex's highlights, as were at least 25 Hawfinches at Hatfield Forest. The Black Guillemot lingered off Gunners Park to 18th. Abberton Reservoir had a plethora of good birds: Smew, Red-necked Grebe, Long-tailed Duck, seven Bewick's Swans and several Greater Scaup were all among the roll-call.

Smew, Abberton Reservoir, Essex (Paul Chamberlain).

Fog produced Russian White-fronted Geese at two sites in Hertfordshire: Wilstone Reservoir (eight) and Stanborough Lakes (one). Three Whooper Swans flew over Berkhamsted on 19th. The Smew was still at Amwell NR. Hawfinches were at five sites, with a peak count of five at Whitwell.

A male Ring-necked Duck was at Priory CP, Bedfordshire, from 16th, with the American Wigeon still at Marston Vale CP. The Kumlien's Gull was again at Heydon, Cambridgeshire, with a bizarre record of a House Martin in Fordham on 18th. Seven Glossy Ibises continued at Bluntisham, as did Red-throated and Great Northern Divers at Grafham Water. A Siberian Chiffchaff was at Fen Drayton Lakes RSPB, with up to six Smew there.

Josh Jones


South-East England

A duo of excellent Sibe finds marked a surprising end to the year in London, with a Dusky Warbler at Walthamstow Marsh and a Little Bunting at Bexley Wood. Both found on 14th and lingering throughout, the warbler was even joined by a Siberian Chiffchaff on its first day. North-easterlies over the weekend produced a few capital goodies – five Russian White-fronted Geese at Brent Reservoir and two Greater Scaup at Walthamstow Wetlands on 18th followed by an incongruous Avocet in Alexandra Park and Iceland Gull at Beckton on 19th. The lingering Red-necked Grebe and Great Northern Diver at King George V Reservoir were joined by a Greater Scaup and the two Slavonian Grebes at Staines Reservoirs continued throughout.

Little Bunting, Bexley Woods, London (Robert Todd).

Kent also scored Dusky Warbler, with a bird at Fordwich from 14th, accompanied the following day by a Siberian Chiffchaff. Both birds lingered all week. Black Brant were recorded at Funton Creek, Reculver and Seasalter, two Glossy Ibises stayed put at Dungeness and a Siberian Lesser Whitethroat was at Sandwich Bay. Tundra Bean Geese were at Worth Marsh on 18th (one) and Pegwell Bay on 19th (two) amid a light Russian White-fronted Goose arrival in the county. The Oare Marshes Smew was present on 13th and 18th, the New Hythe GPs Greater Scaup continued and Conyer, Grain and Sandwich Bay hosted Snow Buntings.

Dusky Warbler, Walthamstow Marsh NR, London (Matthew Mellor).

An unexpected influx of Barnacle Geese occurred in Sussex on 14th and included 324 at Pagham Harbour and 333 past Elmer. Presumably, these were arrivals from The Netherlands. The Pevensey Shore Lark was present again from 17th, the Iping Common Little Bunting was reported until 16th and Siberian Chiffchaffs were at Lidsey and North Chailey. Iford Brooks and Pett Level hosted Russian White-fronts, the Arun Valley and Scotney Bewick's Swans continued and the Polegate Hooded Crow was still about.

Shore Lark, Pevensey, East Sussex (John Lauper).

Hampshire enjoyed an arrival of Russian White-fronted Geese on 18th, including an impressive 34 at Farlington Marshes; three were recorded at Barton-on-Sea, Oxey Marsh and Taddiford Gap as well. A Snow Bunting was at Sinah on 19th. Reports of up to nine Glossy Ibises at Alverstone Mead and Newchurch came from the Isle of Wight, with a singleton noted over Sandown on 19th.

Slavonian Grebe, Pennington Marshes, Hampshire (Stephen Laycock).

Caldecotte Lake, Buckinghamshire, hosted a Great Northern Diver from 14th and the Padworth Lane GPs Pink-footed Goose continued in Berkshire. The Great Northern Diver and Greater Scaup at Farmoor, Oxfordshire, were about all week. In Surrey, two Russian White-fronted Geese were at Papercourt Water Meadows on 18th and a Siberian Chiffchaff was at Cranleigh SF on 17th, while the Island Barn Reservoir Great Northern Diver and Reigate Ring-necked Duck remained.

Ed Stubbs


South-West England

A first-winter Surf Scoter off Tresco from 15th was the highlight of Scilly's week. Seven Siberian Chiffchaffs and a Glossy Ibis were also on Tresco with at least four of the former on St Mary's. Two Western Cattle Egrets were on St Mary's too and a Common Pochard flew past on 16th. 

In Cornwall, a Dusky Warbler was located at Tregillowe Pool, Goldsithney. Lingering scarcities included the Ring-billed Gull at Hayle Estuary, up to eight Ring-necked Duck at Dozmary Pool and Rosy Starling at Pendeen. A further Rosy Starling was reported from St Buryan on 14th and Glossy Ibises were at Carlyon Bay and Burniere Point. Three localities hosted Siberian Chiffchaffs

Eurasian Spoonbill, Poole Harbour, Dorset (Mark Wright).

The adult Black Brant continued its stay on The Fleet, Dorset, and a presumed reintroduced Great Bustard was at Abbotsbury on 17th. The Iceland Gull put in a couple more appearances at Lodmoor RSPB. Black-necked Grebes were well-reported, including eight at Studland Bay and seven in Portland Harbour. A Siberian Chiffchaff was still at Abbotsbury Swannery and Red-necked Grebes were at four localities. 

The drake Ring-necked Duck at Beesands Ley, Devon, and Glossy Ibis at Fremington Pill both remained in place. Another of the latter arrived at Clennon Valley Lakes on 18th. Siberian Chiffchaffs were at South Milton Ley and Dawlish Warren NNR, with a probable reported at Velator NR.

Snow Bunting, Mere, Wiltshire (Mike Trew).

A Glossy Ibis at Slimbridge WWT was the highlight of Gloucestershire's week, where the Bewick's Swan count peaked at 62. Three Greenland and 60 Russian White-fronted Geese also remained. A pair of Greater Scaup were at Cotswold Water Park on 18th; the Great Northern Diver remained on the Wiltshire side of the boundary, with the Snow Bunting still at Mere.

Jonathan Farooqi



In Glamorgan, a Ruddy Shelduck was at Cheriton, Gower, on 11th and a Ring-necked Duck remained at Cardiff Bay. A Grey Phalarope and Slavonian Grebe kept the Pacific Diver at Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir, Glamorgan, company, with the Grey Phal at Tanybwlch, Ceredigion, last seen on 13th.

Grey Phalarope, Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir (no general access), Glamorgan (Tate Lloyd).

Two sites hosted juvenile Iceland Gulls – Llys-y-Fran Reservoir, Pembrokeshire, and Little Orme, Conwy. An adult Caspian Gull and Hooded Crow both lingered at Gann Estuary, Pembrokeshire. Two Glossy Ibises flew over Gowerton, Glamorgan, on 14th, with another at Peterstone Wentlooge, Gwent, on 18th.

Up to 16 Hawfinches at Llanrwst, Conwy, proved popular, with others at Dyffryn, Glamorgan (six), and Dingestow, Gwent (12). One of the Great Grey Shrikes patrolled near Llyn Brenig, Conwy, and Siberian Chiffchaffs were at three sites – Dale, Pembrokeshire, Cardiff Bay, Glamorgan, and Pontllyfni, Gwynedd (three).



The first Bewick's Swans of the Irish winter returned to Tacumshin, Co Wexford, on 17th. A Todd's Canada Goose was on the Mullet, Co Mayo, with the white-morph Snow Goose still among the wintering Barnacle Geese near Lissadell, Co Sligo.

Snow Goose, Ballygilgan NR, Sligo (Seamus Feeney).

Two drake Green-winged Teal were also at Lissadell, with singles on the Mullet and at East Coast NR, Co Wicklow, Blennerville, Co Kerry, and Courtmacsherry, Co Cork. Lough Beg, Co Derry, and Moylan Lough, Co Monaghan, held two Ring-necked Duck apiece, with singles on the Mullet and at Round Lough, Co Cavan. Two Surf Scoter were off the Co Louth coastline at Termonfeckin.

Co Galway got in on the Glossy Ibis influx, with up to seven at Mweenish Island, while three flew over Ballyquin, Co Waterford, on 17th and the long stayer was still at Tacumshin. An adult Ring-billed Gull was at Annagh Beach, Co Mayo, this week, with another adult returning to Tralee, Co Kerry.

Snow Bunting, Dublin, Dublin (Grzegorz Burkowski).

An American Golden Plover was still at Ballycotton, Co Cork, during the week, as was Tacumshin's Lesser Yellowlegs. Tacumshin also held up to four Water Pipits. Five sites held Siberian Chiffchaffs: minima of three were at Tolka Valley Park, Co Dublin, and Tacumshin, with singles at sites in Cos Cork, Kilkenny and Limerick.

Josh Jones


Western Palearctic

Italy scored a brilliant national first this week, with an adult Vega Gull photographed among Yellow-legged Gulls at Porto San Giorgio on 14th. There have been just two previous Western Palearctic records of this mega East Siberian Larus – in Ireland and France in 2016.

The Netherlands' first Western Swamphen at Alblasserdam from 16th followed hot on the heels of Belgium's first at the end of October. At Uithuizermeeden, the Caspian Plover hasn't been reported since 15th … has it moved onto warmer pastures, perhaps? Meanwhile, the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler and Pygmy Cormorant both lingered, as did Belgium's two young Ross's Gulls – at Nieuwpoort and Zeebrugge.

A juvenile Pacific Diver at Kvernevik, Norway, from 11th is just the country's third. In Sweden, the male Siberian Rubythroat held on in a snowy Vargön, while a returning Oriental Turtle Dove was at Sulgen, Switzerland. A new first-winter drake White-winged Scoter graced Eyrarbakki, Iceland, on 16th, with the reliable adult drake still at Keflavík.

In the Balkans, two countries scored national firsts – two Long-billed Dowitchers at Lake Atanasovsko, Bulgaria, and a Little Bunting at Livno, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Elsewhere, a drake Black Scoter was again off Schönberger Strand, Germany, and a Sociable Lapwing continued at El Hondo, Spain. On Terceira, Azores, a Snowy Egret and three Great Blue Herons remained.

Written by: Sam Viles & the BirdGuides team