As we approach the shortest day we have at last had a change in weather from the settled high pressure that had been stationary over the country for several weeks. Cold weather on the continent has failed to produce any noticeable influxes, though White-fronted Geese and Bean Geese have been seen at a number of unusual locations. For there to be a significant change we really need to incur a prolonged period of cold weather across into western Europe.
At least there have been a few new species this week. Pick of the bunch goes to an extremely approachable Bonaparte's Gull in Cornwall. A quick look at our newly published CD-ROM Guide to Rarer British Birds reveals the location to be spot on. Cornwall has accounted for a sizeable proportion of the British records, with around 40 sightings over the years in the county. Elsewhere, attention to detail has revealed the presence of up to 3 Arctic Redpolls with Common (Mealy) Redpolls by the visitor centre at Titchwell RSPB reserve. The winter of 1995/96 produced an exceptional influx of this species across the country, but it has been rather scarce in recent years, so the opportunity to watch several birds together is to be welcomed. An adult Black Kite in the Isles of Scilly and in Cornwall is extremely unseasonable; winter records in 1975 and 1981 were considered to have been of a captive origin, but there is nothing yet to support such an origin for this bird. Not a rarity, but equally unusual was a Stone Curlew in Conwy briefly. In East Sussex a Sociable Plover is presumably the same individual as seen earlier in the autumn, whilst a Yellow-browed Warbler was located in a private garden in Southend. Surf Scoters in Devon and Norfolk were noteworthy and the Black Scoter has returned to Llanfairfechan and a Lesser Yellowlegs is present in Pembroke.
A few of the long-stayers from past weeks seem to have moved on. Lingering ducks include the Redhead in Glamorgan and Baikal Teal in Suffolk, whilst the Pectoral Sandpiper is still present in Dorset and the Dusky Warbler in Cornwall. A number of drake Green-winged Teals are present around the country and a new article on the Bird News Extra page discusses the status, identification and sites for seeing this recent upgrade to the British list. See www.birdguides.com/birdnews/article.asp?a=18. Inland birders have been treated to a number of divers of all three species over the past week, enabling a full appreciation of these excellent beasts in perfect viewing conditions, rather than a brief fly-by on the coast. In addition, numbers of Iceland Gulls have been up, and the local tip or roost sites are always worth a visit just on the off-chance. Finally, as if we needed proof that the winter had been mild so far, a female Mallard was present with five young ducklings near the BirdGuides office here in Sheffield yesterday!
This will be the last Review of the Week for 2001 and I hope that regular readers have enjoyed the weekly summaries. A happy Christmas to everyone and more to come in 2002.