Review of the Week: 13th-19th December 2007


The week at a glance

Desert Wheatear, Cromer Point, Burniston, N Yorks (Photo: Tony Dixon)

Pallas's Warbler, Ramsey, IOM (Photo: Peter Hadfield)

After all the excitement (and disappointment) of the finding (and departure) of last week's Great Blue Heron on Scilly, finally many birders actually got a chance to take a deep breath and relax a little in what has proved to be a rather quiet (and rather more typical) week in mid-December. Still a fascinating topic for discussion was the putative Thayer's Gull or dark-winged Kumlien's Gull that continued to be seen in and around the area of Dix Pit, Stanton Harcourt (Oxfordshire) from 16th-19th. Opinions still remain rather varied and divided as to the parentage of this super-looking bird and, truth be told, it may well be never resolved to everyone's complete satisfaction. The obliging first-winter male Desert Wheatear remained at Burniston (North Yorkshire) to 19th, while in Cheshire, another male Desert Wheatear (a county first) was present near Crewe from 12th-14th, but was present at a site with no public access. In Hampshire, the colour-ringed White-tailed Eagle was still to be found around its favoured spots near Quarley and Shipton Bellinger. Another bird was seen this week, on the Isle of May (Fife) on 15th-16th - that must have been some sight to behold! Pallas's Warbler is a species not often associated with the "headline bird" territory, but two December birds are certainly of note. The first of the week was found at Warrenhouse Wood, Gunton (Suffolk) on 13th and was still present to 18th. The second bird was discovered at around the harbour mouth at Ramsey (Isle of Man) on 16th.

Calmer conditions (along with the time of year) meant that fewer and fewer seabirds of note were seen, though it didn't mean that all was entirely quiet out at sea. Some 15 Pomarine Skuas continued to make their presence felt around the coast, with one or two lingering around Landguard NR (Suffolk) between 13th and 15th. Others were seen from Dorset to the Outer Hebrides. Four Grey Phalaropes were noted during the week: one remained at Lissadell (Co. Sligo) until 13th, while others were seen at Cemlyn Bay (Anglesey) on 15th-16th, in Mount's Bay (Cornwall) on 16th and also from Morning Point, St. Mary's (Scilly) on 17th. Just five Little Auks were seen over the course of the week, including three from Filey Brigg (North Yorkshire) on 16th. Another was on the Southwick Canal (West Sussex) from 13th-19th.

And still the records keep coming and coming and coming! Those Cattle Egrets just don't seem to want to give up! Up to 21 birds were recorded this week with, once again, the southwest of England dominating in terms of numbers of birds but, as with last week, birds have either moved further afield or it is yet another new mini-arrival. On the Isles of Scilly up to six birds arrived on 18th across the islands - one was seen at several spots around St. Mary's, two were at The Plains on St. Martin's, while three were seen at Old Grimsby on Tresco. Three birds were noted at Longstones, St. Mary's on 19th. In Cornwall, at least three birds continued to be seen around the area between Drift and Sancreed until 18th at least, while a single bird remained at Cross Lanes until 13th. The county's highest single group were the four birds at Siblyback Reservoir on 13th-14th (with at least one present there to the week's end). "Next door" in Devon, the single bird remained at Teigngrace from 13th-16th, with further singles in Somerset (at Holywell Lake) on 13th-14th and in Dorset (at Abbotsbury) on 13th. Into Gloucestershire, where the bird at Fretherne remained until 17th at least, while in Wiltshire, one was at Britford Water Meadows on 17th-19th. Cattle Egrets found away from the southwest and the West Country this week were at Martin Mere WWT on 14th (perhaps the bird seen recently in Greater Manchester?), at Great Bentley (Essex) on 18th and at Claghane (Co. Clare) on 15th-17th. A Great White Egret spent 90 minutes or so at Ladywalk NR (Warwickshire) on 13th, before flying off northwards. Elsewhere, the "Great White" remained at Mockbeggar Lake (Hampshire) to 16th, with another reported at Marshside RSPB (Lancashire) on 19th. In Lancashire, the resident second-winter Glossy Ibis was again at Warton Bank on 16th and 19th. At least 20 Spoonbills were reported over the week, with the highest counts being eight in Poole Harbour (Dorset) on 14th and 16th, and six at Isley Marsh RSPB (Devon) on 15th. One at Beddington Sewage Farm (London) on 14th was also of note. At least 28 Common Cranes roosted at Stubb Mill, Hickling (Norfolk) on 15th, while away from the Norfolk Broads, notable records included one near Ely (Cambridgeshire) on 15th and four flying over South Pickenham, near Watton (Norfolk) on 16th. The lingering Common Crane remained at Welney WWT (Norfolk) until 18th at least.

Lesser Scaup, Draycote Water, Warks (Photo: Steve Seal)

Red-breasted Goose, Newton Marsh, Cumbria (Photo: Craig)

Green-winged Teal, Siddick Ponds NR, Cumbria (Photo: Craig)

A Ross's Goose was again around Docking (Norfolk) on 18th alongside some of the tens of thousands of Pink-footed Geese spending the winter feeding on beet tops in the county. In east Norfolk, a white adult Snow Goose was seen at three Broadland sites between 15th-17th, while in Scotland, the attractive intermediate adult was at Loch of Skene (Aberdeenshire) on 14th and 19th. The handsome adult Red-breasted Goose remained at West Wittering (West Sussex) from 13th-18th at least (and was again in the company of a Black Brant, as well as Dark-bellied Brents). A second Red-breasted Goose, this one with Barnacle Geese, was at Newton Marsh (Cumbria) from 13th-16th, and was probably the bird seen earlier this winter, over the Solway, at Caerlaverock. It was a much better this week in terms of numbers of Black Brants reported - at least eight were noted this week, compared to just three last week. Alongside the already-mentioned bird at West Wittering, other "regulars" were seen in Hampshire and Norfolk (including two at Wells), while one or two birds were seen in Suffolk. One was reported from Ireland, at the North Slob WWR (Co. Wexford) on 18th, but perhaps most notable of all was the Black Brant seen on the Kingsbridge Estuary (Devon) on 16th, a county were birds of this potential species-in-waiting are still really rather hard to come by. The drake Black Duck was seen again in the harbour at Ventry (Co. Kerry) on 15th, while the only American Wigeon of the week remained at Maywick, Mainland (Shetland) to 13th. The haul of drake Green-winged Teals was a little on the low side (compared to some recent weeks) with birds noted at Inner Marsh Farm RSPB (Cheshire) on 14th, at Siddick Ponds NR (Cumbria) on 16th, on Loch of Tankerness (Orkney) on 18th, on the Hayle Estuary (Cornwall) from 13th-19th and at Marshside RSPB (Lancashire), again on 19th. The female Blue-winged Teal managed its weekly mention when it was seen again at its wintering site on North Bull Island (Co. Dublin) on 17th. Just one Lesser Scaup to report this week, the first-winter drake remaining at Draycote Water (Warwickshire) from 13th-19th, and still proving to be rather obliging on occasion. This week's tally of Ring-necked Ducks nudged just into double figures, thanks mainly to the four birds (a drake and three females) seen on Lough Fern (Co. Donegal) on 15th. Lingering drakes were at Foxcote Reservoir (Buckinghamshire) on 16th, at Portbury Wharf (Somerset) from 13th-16th, on the Loch of Tingwall, Mainland (Shetland), on 18th and at Keenan's Cross Pond (Co.Louth) to the same date. A lingering duck was again on Loch Eaval, Balranald RSPB (Outer Hebrides) on 14th with the final Ring-necked Duck of the week, another female, at Venus Pool (Shropshire) on 16th. In County Down, the fine drake Ferruginous Duck remained on Corbet Lough (Co. Down) to 13th. In Scotland, the two King Eiders continued their winter break off the foghorn at Girdle Ness (Aberdeenshire) from 13th-18th at least In Devon, the first-winter Surf Scoter continued to be seen off Dawlish Warren between 14th and 18th with what may well have been a different bird seen off Broadsands on 15th, this bird flying off south (the Dawlish bird was present on the same date, but whether there was any overlap in times is unclear). A drake Surf Scoter was seen again from Ruddon's Point (Fife) on 17th, while three birds (two drakes and a female) were in the Sound of Taransay (Outer Hebrides) on 19th.

Five Rough-legged Buzzards were reported this week. One remained the Isle of Sheppey (Kent) to 15th at least, while the roaming bird on Orkney was seen at Rendall on 16th-17th. An adult was on Cavenham Heath NNR (Suffolk) on 16th, with another East Anglian record, from Blakeney Freshmarsh (Norfolk), on the same date. The final bird of the quintet was seen at Acha Mor, Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 16th.

Spotted Sandpiper, Lisvane Reservoir, Glamorgan (Photo: David Astins)

Long-billed Dowitcher, Bowling Green Marsh RSPB, Devon (Photo: Paul Bowyer)

The wintering Spotted Sandpiper remained around the reservoir at Lisvane (Glamorgan) until 19th, while the first-winter Long-billed Dowitcher continued its residency at Bowling Green Marsh (Devon) from 13th-18th at least. A new Long-billed Dowitcher was found at Timoleague (Co. Cork) on 18th. In Scotland, the Lesser Yellowlegs at Montrose Basin (Angus) was still welcoming all-comers until 19th. The only other wader of note this week was the continuing stay of the Kentish Plover at South Ford, South Uist (Outer Hebrides), seen on 14th, 18th and 19th.

Kumlien's Gull, Blaydon, Durham (Photo: Mark Newsome)

Glaucous Gull, Shoreham-by-Sea, W Sussex (Photo: Dorian Mason)

The adult Bonaparte's Gull continued to be seen in Angus, at Fishtown of Usan, until at least 18th, before paying a visit to Lunan Bay on 19th. The first-winter Laughing Gull continued to be seen around Firths Voe, Mainland (Shetland) from 13th-17th at least, while the second-winter bird at Countess Wear (Devon) popped in for one of its sporadic appearances on 15th. Around 30 Glaucous Gulls were noted during the week, continuing a remarkably consistent number of birds being reported countrywide in the early part of the winter. Three birds were seen in the roost at Ogston Reservoir (Derbyshire) on 17th, and two in fields near Carlton Colville (Suffolk) on 15th, were also noteworthy. Another Suffolk Glaucous Gull, the popular youngster in Lowestoft, was, sadly, picked up dead on 15th. Iceland Gull numbers edged up a little on last week, with some 30 birds reported over the course of the week. Three birds were seen in County Durham on 13th, with an adult in Sunderland and two juveniles (one of which was thought to be a Kumlien's Gull) still at Blaydon. The juvenile remained at Edgefield (Norfolk) through to at least 16th. A near-adult Kumlien's Gull was at Reenard Point (Co. Kerry) on 15th-17th (along with Iceland and Glaucous Gull). As with Iceland Gull, Caspian Gulls saw a slight upturn in the number of individuals recorded this week, with up to 30 birds seen. Of these, singles at Gainsborough (Lincolnshire) on 13th, and at Newburn (Northumberland) on 17th were of particular note, while two sets of threes were reported: at Chasewater (Staffordshire) on 15th and at Hollowell Reservoir (Northamptonshire) on 17th. The only truly long-staying Ring-billed Gulls were seen at Gosport (Hampshire) throughout the week, at Stromness (Orkney) on 18th and at Belfast Lough (Co. Antrim) on 19th. Staying in Ireland, the adult remained at Portrush (Co. Antrim) to 18th, while other adults were seen at Blennerville (Co. Kerry) on 15th, in Limerick City (Co. Limerick) on 17th and, back in England, an adult was a good find at Sandbach Flashes (Cheshire) on 19th. A second-winter Ring-billed Gull was at Weir Wood Reservoir on 13th, before flying off to the south. In County Galway, the adult American Herring Gull was again at Nimmo's Pier on 13th, while the wintering Sabine's Gull remained at Cobh (Co. Cork) until 18th at least.

Short-toed Lark, Long Nanny, Northumbs (Photo: Chris Barlow)

The Short-toed Lark was still to be found amongst the Twite out on the saltings at Long Nanny (Northumberland) to the 17th at least, while a Richard's Pipit was seen and photographed at an undisclosed site in Wales on 18th. Just as last week, just over 200 Waxwings were recorded, and it was a flock of 158 in Aberdeen on 13th that was, easily, the biggest flock noted this week. Several groups were noted elsewhere around the Granite City, but it's never easy to know whether they are "splinter groups" from the main flock. Seven birds made it across the Scottish border, with two birds in Kendal (Cumbria on 15th) and a flock of five flew over Bournemouth (Dorset) on 13th - a significant sighting so far south given that it is such a poor autumn for the species.

Great Grey Shrike, Farnborough, Hants (Photo: Richard Bond)

Cornwall continued to host at least two Yellow-browed Warblers during the week, with singles at Boscathnoe Reservoir, near Penzance 13th-15th at least and at Tehidy on 15th. The bird at the Countess Wear sludge beds (Devon) was still present to the 14th while a new individual was found at Kenfig Pool NNR on 13th-14th. Other wintering warblers included reports of four Siberian Chiffchaffs (in Somerset, Dorset, Pembrokeshire and Scilly) and a Lesser Whitethroat at Benacre (Suffolk) from 15th-19th. Up to twelve Great Grey Shrikes were reported during the week, with perhaps as many as three individuals in Hampshire. Regular wintering birds that still attracted interest were at Roydon Common (Norfolk) and Thursley Common (Surrey), while a bird found at Siblyback Reservoir (Cornwall) on 16th-19th was a nice find in a county where the species has always been on the scarce side.

Lapland Bunting, Salthouse, Norfolk (Photo: Chris Mayne)

Smew, Draycote Water, Warks (Photo: Max Silverman)

Photo of the Week

Goldfinch, Downpatrick, Co. Down (Photo: Craig Nash)

Better known as the author of Peregrine's Bird Blog and for his photos of the rarities passing through Northern Ireland, Craig Nash has this week submitted a delightful seasonable image of a Goldfinch perched on a holly sprig. Despite their stunning appearance, Goldfinches are often overlooked by bird photographers and have never before been the subject of a BirdGuides Photo of the Week. Craig's portrait perfectly captures the warm tones of the weak winter sunlight, the red on the bird's face and single berry standing out against the complementary green background and holly leaves. The side lighting provides such strong modelling that you feel you could touch the holly, whilst the bird's pose and the catch-light in the eye bring the shot to life.

Other notable photos

Brambling, Silent Valley, Gwent (Photo: Mike Warburton)

Blue Tit, undisclosed site, Lancs (Photo: Sue Tranter)

Northern Cardinal, Canada (Photo: Mircea Costina)

Common Kingfisher, Leighton Moss, Lancs (Photo: Cliff)

Common Redpoll, Germany (photo: Chris)

Brent Goose, Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk (Photo: Peter Simpson)

Cormorant, Summer Leys, Northants (Photo: Neil Khandke)

Red-breasted Merganser, Hove, East Sussex (Photo: Johnny Carr)

Dipper, Cleddau Estuary, Pembrokeshire (Photo: Mark Hancox)

Great Spotted Woodpecker, Forest of Dean, Glos (Photo: Mark Hancox)

Yellowhammer, Cannock, Staffs (Photo: Tom Melton)

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

John Anderson: http://www.pbase.com/crail_birder
Bill Aspin: http://billaspinsnatureblog.blogspot.com
Mike Atkinson: http://mikeatkinson.net
Richard Bedford: http://www.richardbedford.co.uk
Steve Blain: http://www.steveblain.co.uk
Will Bowell: http://www.wanderingbirders.com
Paul Bowerman: http://www.severnsidebirds.co.uk
Paul Bowyer: http://www.birdlist.co.uk
Graham Catley: http://pewit.blogspot.com/
Mark Caunt: http://www.AngusBirding.com
Dean Eades: http://www.birdmad.com
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.isabelline.co.uk
Katie Fuller: http://bogbumper.blogspot.com
Ian Fulton: http://www.pbase.com/ianfulton
Sean Gray: http://www.grayimages.co.uk
David Hatton: http://www.kowapower.com
Josh Jones: http://www.wanderingbirders.com
Paul and Andrea Kelly: http://www.irishbirdimages.com/
Matt Latham: http://www.mattlathamphotography.com
Micky Maher: http://www.aardfoto.co.uk/
John Malloy: http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/johnmalloy
Brian Mcgeough: http://www.brianmcgeough.com/
Tony Mills: http://www.notjustbirds.com
Jerry O'Brien: http://www.BirdsofBerkshire.co.uk
Mark Newsome: http://www.durhambirdclub.org/
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
Marc Read: http://www.marcread-pix.com
Tristan Reid: http://www.atricillaimages.co.uk/
Steve Round: http://stevenround-birdphotography.com
Craig Shaw: http://craigsukbirdpictures.bravehost.com/
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
Richard Steel: http://wildlifephotographic.bblogspot.com/
Richard Stonier: http://www.birdsonline.co.uk
Stephen Tomlinson: http://stevesbirding.blogspot.com
Sue Tranter: http://www.suesbirdphotos.co.uk/
Damian Waters: http://www.drumimages.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: Mark Golley