Review of the Week: 13-19 March 2023


South-westerly winds extending across the Bay of Biscay from Iberia and North Africa at the start of the week produced perfect 'funnel' conditions for a large-scale migrant arrival, although even more noticeable still was an extraordinary Alpine Swift influx across Britain and Ireland. 

When glancing at the BirdGuides sightings pages it has been impossible to miss the scale of this record-shattering influx, with birds reported from more than 60 locations during the review period, including no fewer than 13 sites enjoying multiple birds. Ireland hosted the bulk of reports, with perhaps as many as 50 different birds including an astonishing nine over Bray, Co Wicklow, on 19th – the biggest flock ever recorded in Ireland. Six at Stanpit Marsh, Dorset, the previous day, meanwhile, is the largest modern-day flock recorded in Britain.

Alpine Swift, Oldbury Power Station, Gloucestershire (Jonathan Bull).

Alpine Swifts were reported from in excess of 60 sites during the week (BirdGuides.com data).

A Cornish Red-rumped Swallow – at Walmsley Sanctuary on 16-17th – accompanied the bumper Alpine incursion, alongside small arrivals of both Swallows and House Martins. More expected on the hirundine front was a broad arrival of Sand Martins, with many waterbodies recording sightings..

Red-rumped Swallow, Walmsley Sanctuary (MEMBERS ONLY), Cornwall (Adrian Lea).

The first Sedge Warbler of 2022 was at Cley Marshes, Norfolk, on 19th. A few Willow Warblers and White Wagtails appeared too, mainly in south-western areas, while Northern Wheatears arrived in numbers as far north as southern Scotland. Garganey also began to return in numbers across southern and central England and Wales as far north as Cheshire, with a small push of Little Gulls through south-east England.

In Cleveland, a frosty Coues's Arctic Redpoll at Dorman's Pool was one of the more popular birds of the week and a reminder of last week's icy blast. Another Arctic (probably a Coues's) visited a garden in Doagh, Co Antrim, with a probable reported from King's Lynn, Norfolk, too.

Coues's Arctic Redpoll, Dorman's Pool, Cleveland (Martyn Sidwell).

In Cornwall, the Isabelline Wheatear lingered at Holywell until the week's end, present for its 56th day – a record stay by the species in Britain. Other lingering rarities comprised an Eastern Yellow Wagtail at Carlton Marshes, Suffolk, and the White-throated Sparrow again in a private garden at Northwich, Cheshire, on 18th. Bird feeders at Stanborough Reedmarsh, Hertfordshire, continued to host a Little Bunting throughout, with three more still in Cornwall. At least 14 Shore Larks continued in eastern England, with Richard's Pipits still at Awre, Gloucestershire, and on St Mary's, Scilly.

Little Bunting, Stanborough Lakes, Hertfordshire (Scott Usher).

The Hume's Leaf Warbler at Preston, Kent, was the only one reported during the week, as were two Eurasian Penduline Tits again at Elmley NNR. Two European Serins were also in the county: at Harty Ferry, Sheppey, on 18th and South Foreland on 19th. 

A total of six Great Grey Shrikes was a decent tally by recent standards, with a bird at Dalkeith, Lothian, in particular providing some excellent views. A new bird was in Buckinghamshire too. Last month's Hoopoe lingered at Marloes, Pembrokeshire, while a European Turtle Dove at Pilmore, Co Cork, on 16th was a new arrival. Elsewhere, a Rosy Starling was again in Somerset and Waxwings hung on at eight locations.

Great Grey Shrike, Dalkeith, Lothian (Mark Begg).

One of the more intriguing records of the week concerned a White Stork from a Dutch reintroduction scheme. First noted in north Norfolk near Wiveton on 16th, it relocated to Kessingland, Suffolk, from 17th. It is not yet clear whether this bird was ringed as a wild bird or is a direct release, but it poses a rare opportunity to see a proven wanderer from Europe … Others were in Cambridgeshire and over Burton Hastings, Warwickshire, while the wintering unringed adult remained at Worth Marsh, Kent. Glossy Ibis were at just five sites in southern portions of Britain and Ireland, with the largest flock concerning six at Lough Aderra, Co Cork.

White Stork, Wiveton, Norfolk (DAVID Griffiths).

In Norfolk, the young female Pallid Harrier reappeared at Warham Greens after a three-week absence. Three Rough-legged Buzzards were in the Northern Isles – two in Shetland and one in Orkney.

Cornwall was the beneficiary of a new Lesser Scaup – a first-winter female – on 18th, with others still at Farmoor Reservoir, Oxfordshire, and Ham Wall RSPB, Somerset. Two Ferruginous Duck were still at Filby Broad, Norfolk and a small spread of Smew remained, with birds at 22 sites. Ring-necked Duck were more widespread still, with 31 birds across 26 sites.

Lesser Scaup, Farmoor Reservoir, Oxfordshire (Steve Daniels).

The Baikal Teal continued to provide some excellent views at Foryd Bay, Gwynedd, while new Green-winged Teal graced East Tilbury, Essex, and Castle Stuart, Highland. Five American Wigeon included two in Northumberland and a brief drake at Bowcombe Creek, Devon. A surprise female Surf Scoter was along The Solent off Pennington, Hampshire, from 18th. Elsewhere, four were off Musselburgh, Lothian, and two persisted off Llanddulas, Conwy. The King Eider remained off Redcar, Cleveland, and four White-billed Divers were in Shetland.

Baikal Teal, Foryd Bay, Gwynedd (Nigel Leeming).

King Eider, Redcar, Cleveland (Paul Coombes).

The Richardson's Cackling Goose on the outskirts of Whitley Bay, Northumberland, remained a popular draw, with another again on The Mullet, Co Mayo. Black Brant were in both Kent and Norfolk, with a lone Grey-bellied Brant at Seabank, Co Louth. A surprise Taiga Bean Goose was at Winless, Caithness, on 14th; Snow Geese, meanwhile, were in Orkney, Co Wexford and Co Mayo.

Richardson's Cackling Goose, Earsdon, Northumberland (Ian Bollen).

An adult Ross's Gull remained reliable off Kinnaird Head, Aberdeenshire, until 16th, with a brief first-winter reported at Lodmoor RSPB, Dorset, on 19th. A delightful first-winter American Herring Gull continued at Inverlochy, Highland, the Forster's Tern was again in Co Galway, and Ring-billed Gulls comprised six in Ireland alongside adults in both Devon and Cornwall. Kumlien's Gulls were in Shetland (two) and Cambridgeshire (the regular adult), while it was a better-than-average week for both Iceland and Glaucous Gulls.

Kumlien's Gull, Foxton, Cambridgeshire (Toby Austin).

A Eurasian Stone-curlew at Beddington Farmlands on 15th was warmly appreciated by Surrey and London listers alike. The White-rumped Sandpiper remained at Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire, until the previous day, while Long-billed Dowitchers were at Cley Marshes, Norfolk, and on Sanday, Orkney.


Western Palearctic

A simply delightful adult male Moussier's Redstart continued to light up the Spanish coastline near Pedro Valiente throughout. It was business as usual elsewhere too – an Eastern Yellow Wagtail remained at Marbella and a Lesser Flamingo was still at Laguna de Fuente de Piedra. A first-winter American Herring Gull was back at Arteixo and the American Black Duck lingered at Sada. Morocco's first Hudsonian Whimbrel was at Dakhla, Western Sahara, on 6th; in the Azores, a Pied-billed Grebe lingered on São Miguel and a Least Sandpiper was on Terceira.

Moussier's Redstart, Tarifa, Andalucia (Mick Richardson).

In France, a Killdeer lingered at Étang du Malsaucy near the German-Swiss border until 13th, while the first-winter American Herring Gull persisted at Gueltas and a Pygmy Cormorant was again near Carbonne. In the Channel Islands, meanwhile, a male Zitting Cisticola displayed on Alderney.

A Dusky Thrush in the German capital continued to prove a popular draw, with a Black Scoter on the Baltic coast at Hohwacht. Both a Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit and Alpine Accentor continued in The Netherlands, as did Belgium's Moustached Warbler.

Norwegian action included a couple of American Herring Gulls and a lingering Oriental Turtle Dove, while both the Baltimore Oriole and Siberian Rubythroat continued in Sweden. Iceland's second Black Scoter accompanied Common Eider at Akranes.

Written by: Sam Viles