Review of the Week: 13th-19th April 2006


The week at a glance:

Hooded Merganser: Unst, Shetland (photo: Mike Pennington).

Hooded Merganser: Unst, Shetland (photo: Jon Dunn).

Possibly the rarest bird of the week was the drake Hooded Merganser on Unst (Shetland) from 15th onwards: the first record for Shetland. Potentially in the right place at the right time, but perhaps not in the right plumage, this bird will pose a bit of a conundrum for the BOURC. The last record considered to have 'credentials' by the mainstream birding community at Oban Trumisgarry Loch, North Uist from 23rd October to 1st November 2000 failed to make it onto Category A of the British list and, with such a precedent, it would be difficult to believe that a pristine male in spring would fare much better. This is a popular bird in captivity, and numbers on the east coast of North America are small compared with some of the other Nearctic ducks that pass unquestioned onto our records archive. Whatever the outcome, it is a fine bird in a fine place, but a prompt departure would do it no harm!

Laughing Gull: Marton Mere, Lancs (photo: Andy Pryce). Laughing Gull: Marton Mere, Lancs (photo: Craig Shaw).

Elsewhere, spring still seems to be slow in arriving, in terms of both commoner summer visitors and scarcities. An orange-billed tern past Mudeford Quay (Dorset) on 18th and 19th comes nearly a year after an Elegant Tern was seen there – possibly the same returning individual? An adult Bonaparte's Gull was at Cardiff Bay Wetlands (Glamorgan) from 14th-15th and a 1st-winter Bonaparte's Gull at Farmoor Reservoir was the 2nd for Oxfordshire (the first was at the same site in 2000); this delightful gull remains a quality find for inland watchers. The 1st-winter Franklin's Gull remained at Northam Burrows (Devon), and four Laughing Gulls included the bird at Marton Mere (Lancs), which was presumably the same bird seen at Southport (Lancs) on 15th, plus the 1st-winter was still in Cork City (Co. Cork). Brief adult Laughing Gulls were seen at Chew Valley Lake (Somerset) on 17th and passing Birling Gap (E. Sussex) on 19th. Just three Ring-billed Gulls were noted, with birds at Sennen Cove (Cornwall), Oban (Argyll) and Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway), where the 3rd-winter American Herring Gull remained in residence. A Sabine's Gull was reported at sea 2.5km south of Rame Head (Cornwall) on 17th. Small numbers of Pomarine Skuas were noted from the usual watchpoints, but 17 passing Balranald (Outer Hebrides) was the only double-figure count. A Balearic Shearwater passed Galley Head (Co. Cork) on 15th with two likewise off Land's End (Cornwall) on 18th. Gatherings of up to four White-billed Divers were off Lewis (Outer Hebrides) and others were at Gairloch (Highland) and Bluemull Sound (Shetland).

Hoopoe: Ratcliffe on Soar, Notts (photo: Stuart Oliver).

Hoopoe: Ratcliffe on Soar, Notts (photo: Rob Hoar). Hoopoe: Ratcliffe on Soar, Notts (photo: Rob Hoar).
Hoopoe: Fowlmere, Cambs (photo: Garth Peacock). Hoopoe: Fowlmere, Cambs (photo: David H Hatton).

A 1st-summer Woodchat Shrike was at Rodden (Dorset) from 16th onwards and a male Golden Oriole was at Coldwaltham (W. Sussex) from 17th-19th. Eleven Hoopoes included four well inland at Fowlmere (Cambs), Ratcliffe-on-Soar (Notts), Burghclere (Hants) and Foxwood (Shrops). Five Serins were either typically brief, or fly-overs, along the English Channel between Kent and Devon. Wrynecks were at Luccombe Down (Isle of Wight) on 17th and Pyecombe (W. Sussex) on 17th. Male Ashy-headed Wagtails were at Thurlestone (Devon) from 17th and Christchurch (Dorset) on 17th, with the Covenham Reservoir (Lincs) bird last seen on 13th. A Richard's Pipit at Witcham (Cambs) from 18th had been in the area for two weeks and represents a good inland find; another was at Pleinmont (Guernsey) on 15th. The Northern Long-tailed Tit in a private garden in Southend (Essex) was noted nest-building, and others were at Horsey and Winterton (Norfolk). A Subalpine Warbler was at Samphire Hoe CP (Kent) on 19th and the obliging individual at Stanpit Marsh (Dorset) was last seen on 18th. A Penduline Tit was at Pegwell Bay (Kent) on 15th, and Arctic Redpolls were reported from Port Skigersta, Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 14th and Drinkfield Marsh (Durham) from 15th-17th. A Common Rosefinch in song was an early report from Craster (Northumbs) on 19th. Winter visitors lingered on, with several Great Grey Shrikes, over 140 Waxwings in seven flocks, a Shore Lark at Old Hunstanton (Norfolk) on 17th with one at Pegwell Bay (Kent) on 19th and one still at Minsmere (Suffolk), plus a Lapland Bunting at West Runton (Norfolk) from 16th-17th and two at Hengistbury Head (Dorset) on 19th.

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Subalpine Warbler: Stanpit Marsh, Dorset (photo: Aidan Brown).

Subalpine Warbler: Stanpit Marsh, Dorset (photo: Steve Burch). Great Grey Shrike: Aviemore, Highland (photo: Sandy Morrison).

An American Golden Plover was at Cemlyn (Anglesey) from 17th. The Black-winged Stilt remained at Thurlestone (Devon) to 14th, with it, or another, at Windmill Farm NR (Cornwall) from 16th, and one at La Claire More (Guernsey) on 14th. The Long-billed Dowitcher was still on the Hayle Estuary (Cornwall) and another was again at Old Hall Marshes (Essex). A Kentish Plover was at Reculver, then Minnis Bay briefly, on 17th and a male and female were at Marazion (Cornwall) on 19th. Two Dotterel were at Garreg Lwyd (Carmarthen) on 15th. Spotted Crakes were heard at Strumpshaw Fen (Norfolk) and Malltraeth (Anglesey). A Little Bittern at Cork City (Co. Cork) on 17th had apparently been present for ten days. Purple Herons were noted at Pleinmont (Guernsey) on 15th, Hern (Guernsey) on 16th and Dawlish Warren (Devon) on 19th, with Night Herons at Stockbridge (Hampshire) on 17th and Ardfert (Co. Kerry) from 16th-17th. A Cattle Egret was at Pett Levels (E. Sussex) on 18th and Barton Stacey (Hampshire) on 19th, and two, or more, mobile White Storks were observed in East Anglia and the southeast.

Alpine Swift: Barnston, Cheshire (photo: Ian Butler).

Alpine Swifts were still at large, with some uncharacteristically long-staying birds still present; records were as follows:

  • Co. Cork: one at Ballycotton to at least 19th.
  • Co. Wicklow: one at Kilcoole to 13th, 3 at Bray from 15th.
  • London: one at Hampstead Heath to 16th, one over Crossness LNR on 14th.
  • Devon: still two present in the Colyford/Seaton area to 19th.
  • Cheshire: one at Barnston from 13th to 19th.
  • Berkshire: one at Maidenhead from 15th-18th; also seen in Buckinghamshire at Little Marlow GPs on 16th.
  • Cornwall: one at Porthmellow on 16th.
  • Kent: one at St. Margaret's at Cliffe on 17th, Walmer on 18th and Foreness Point on 19th.

Alpine Swift: Barnston, Cheshire (photo: Steve Round).

Blue-winged Teal: St. Mary's Wetland, Northumbs (photo: Tristan Reid).

Blue-winged Teal: St. Mary's Wetland, Northumbs (photo: Alan Gilbertson). Blue-winged Teal: St. Mary's Wetland, Northumbs (photo: Stewart Sexton).
King Eider: Irvine, Ayrshire (photo: unknown). King Eider: Irvine, Ayrshire (photo: Tristan Reid).

There was still plenty of wildfowl interest on offer. The drake Blue-winged Teal at Filey Dams (N. Yorks) remained to 14th, and was then relocated at St. Mary's Wetland (Northumbs). The Black Scoter remains off Conwy and the female Black Duck was still on Tresco (Scilly), a drake American Wigeon was at Loch Bee, South Uist (Outer Hebrides) and seven Green-winged Teal were reported. The drake King Eider remained at Irvine (Ayrshire), a drake was again at Portnockie (Moray/Nairn) and two (including a drake) were at Dales Voe (Shetland). Lesser Scaup remained at College Reservoir (Cornwall) and Swithland Reservoir (Leics), ten Ring-necked Ducks were reported and two Surf Scoters were off Co. Kerry with the drake still in Fife. A Black Brant was still at Cley (Norfolk) and both Taverner's Canada Goose and Richardson's Canada Goose were at Kelton (Dumfries and Galloway).

Yellow Wagtail: Easington, E. Yorks Such variant birds create a perennial problem with their superficial resemblance to Citrine Wagtails, but there do appear to be more than usual this year. More of them, or more people looking for them and reporting them? The Yellow Wagtail is a truly variable beast! (photo: Garry Taylor).

Yellow Wagtail: Pugney's CP, W. Yorks Just to prove how 'common' they are this spring, here's another one! Would-be claimants of Citrine Wagtails should be sure to eliminate these birds from the identification equation by careful attention to detail and hearing the birds call (photo: Martin Garner).

'Blue-headed Wagtail': Gibraltar Point, Lincs (photo: Russell Hayes). Yellow Wagtail: Whittle Dene Reservoir, Northumbs (photo: Alan Gilbertson).

Black Grouse: Aberdeenshire (photo: Chris Jones).

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

Bill Aspin: http://www.eastlancashirebirding.net
Mike Atkinson: http://mikeatkinson.net
Ian Barnard: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/sussex.birder
Bill Baston: http://billbaston.com
Richard Bedford: http://www.richardbedford.co.uk
Steve Blain: http://www.steveblain.co.uk
Nigel Blake: http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/birdphotos/index.htm
Paul Boulden: http://southdevonbirds.mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/
Will Bowell: http://www.wanderingbirders.com
Paul Bowerman: http://mysite.freeserve.com/severnsidebirds
Paul Bowyer: http://www.ukbirds.net
Andy Brett: http://www.freewebs.com/andybrett/
Andy Bright: http://www.Digiscoped.com
Martin Cade: http://www.portlandbirdobs.btinternet.co.uk
Graham Catley: http://pewit.blogspot.com/
Mark Caunt: http://angusbirding.homestead.com/
Kit Day: http://www.kitday-uk.com/
Eric Dempsey: http://www.birdsireland.com/
Lee Dingain: http://www.leedingain.co.uk
Jon Dunn: http://www.surfbirds.com/blogs/Stercorarius/
Dean Eades: http://www.pbase.com/dean_eades/root
Andrew Easton: http://home.clara.net/ammodytes/
Graham Eaton: http://www.eatonphotography.co.uk
Stuart Elsom: http://www.stuartelsom.co.uk
Steve Evans: http://www.powow.com/birds2004/
Katie Fuller: http://bogbumper.blogspot.com
Sean Gray: http://www.grayimages.co.uk
Peter Hadfield: http://www.manxbirdphotography.co.uk
David Hatton: http://www.kowapower.com
Josh Jones: http://www.wanderingbirders.com
John Judge: http://www.draycotebirding.co.uk
Paul and Andrea Kelly: http://www.irishbirdimages.com/
Matt Latham: www.pbase.com/latho/root
Jack Levene: http://www.birdingimages.com
Micky Maher: http://www.aardfoto.co.uk/
John Malloy: http://mysite.freeserve.com/JohnMalloyBirdPhotos
Brian Mcgeough: http://www.pbase.com/bmcgeough/british_birds
Tony Mills: http://www.notjustbirds.com
Jerry O'Brien: http://www.BirdsofBerkshire.co.uk
Charlie Moores: http://www.charliesbirdblog.com
Mark Newsome: http://www.whitburnbirding.co.uk
James Packer: http://www.somersetbirder.co.uk
Mike Pennington: http://www.nature.shetland.co.uk
Ken Plows: http://www.kenswildlifepics.co.uk
Ray Purser: http://www.pbase.com/02purser/images
Marc Read: http://www.marcread-pix.com
Tristan Reid: http://www.solwaybirder.org.uk
Steve Round: http://stevenround-birdphotography.com
Gerald Segelbacher: http://www.digiscoping.uk.md
Deryk Shaw/FIBO: http://www.fairislebirdobs.co.uk
Tom Shevlin: http://wildlifesnaps.com/
Peter Simpson: http://www.blueskybirds.co.uk
Matt Slaymaker: http://www.mattslaymaker.co.uk
Oliver Smart: http://www.smartimages.co.uk
George Spraggs: http://www.bird-watching.co.uk
Simon Stirrup: http://www.simonstirrup.co.uk/
Garry Taylor: http://www.spurnbirdobservatory.co.uk/
Glen Tepke: http://www.pbase.com/gtepke
Phillip Tomkinson: http://www.philliptomkinson.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk
Stephen Tomlinson: http://www.digitalbirds.co.uk
Sue Tranter: http://www.suesbirdphotos.co.uk/
Steve Williams: http://www.hilbrebirdobs.co.uk
Simon Wilson: http://www.bakewellbirder.co.uk/
Chris Wormwell: http://www.iombirding.co.uk
Dylan Wrathall: http://www.planetthanet.org
Written by: Russell Slack