A run of highly unsettled weather shook up the action as we head into the latter half of February, with three 'named' storms – Dudley, Eunice and Francis – barrelling into Britain and Ireland in quick succession. Alongside fallen trees, fences, power cuts, and some of the strongest gusts ever recorded on British shores, they left goodies in their wake for those birders brave enough to venture outdoors, with numbers of Kittiwakes and Little Gulls both inland and in coastal areas.
Pick of the spoils was a first-winter Ross's Gull at Mutton Island, Co Galway, on 19th, the county's 11th record and the first since 2014. At least three new Kumlien's Gulls were also found – adults at Newlyn, Cornwall, and Westray and Papa Westray, Orkney.
The very start of the week saw Co Leitrim score an exceptional mega, with a second-winter Double-crested Cormorant discovered at the unassuming Doon Lough from 14th. It feels likely to be a remnant of last winter's notable influx of the species into the Western Palearctic, which saw at least two make it to Ireland – one on a shipping vessel off Co Kerry in September 2020 and a popular individual near Ballylongford, Co Kerry, between November 2020 and May 2021. Another would be widely appreciated in Britain, which has just one record dating back as far as 1989 …
A first for East Sussex, the county's popular American Robin performed admirably at Eastbourne until the week's end. Amazingly Sussex has hosted no fewer than five Nearctic landbirds in recent years – last year alone delivered a one-day Northern Mockingbird to Pulborough, back in April and a wintering White-throated Sparrow at Barcombe. 2020, meanwhile, produced a Common Nighthawk at Church Norton, West Sussex, with a Yellow-billed Cuckoo found dead at Seaford, East Sussex, in 2019.
Keeping the Nearctic theme alive, belated news was received of a Dark-eyed Junco in a Cullompton, Devon, garden between 28 November and 1 December 2021. In Lancashire, the Belted Kingfisher was last noted at Samlesbury on 16th before inclement weather took hold and river levels rose.
A new Rosy Starling was at Grangemouth, Forth, on 17-18th, with another hanging on at Pendeen, Cornwall. On 17th, calling Dusky Warblers were reported at Coventry, West Midlands, and Hartshill, Warwickshire. Great Grey Shrike reports were received from Little Atherfield, Isle of Wight, and Bryn Trillyn, Conwy.
Shore Larks were again thin on the ground, with birds at Leysdown-on-Sea, Kent (seven), Holkham Gap, Norfolk (four), Holy Island, Northumberland (two), and Buckton, East Yorkshire (three), with no fewer than 40 Lapland Buntings still at the latter site. Three sites in North-East Scotland hosted Waxwings, with a peak of seven at Aviemore, Highland. In Co Offaly, the young Northern Harrier held on at Lough Boora Parklands.
All four wintering Red-breasted Geese were noted this week – at South Fambridge, Essex, Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire, Cley Marshes, Norfolk, and Blackrock, Islay, Argyll. Richardson's Cackling Geese were split between Portnahaven, Islay, and two in Co Sligo.
Two Lesser Canada Geese were again at Doonbeg, Co Sligo, with Todd's Canada Geese again at Mersehead RSPB, Dumfries & Galloway, and Loch Stiapavat, Lewis, Outer Hebrides. A possible flew north past Tarbat Ness, Highland, with Pink-footed Geese on 20th, with a probable still at Lesbury, Northumberland.
At least three Grey-bellied Brant continued in Ireland – two at Kilbarrack, Co Dublin, and another at Kilcoole, Co Wicklow – with a possible at Annagassan, Co Louth, on 19th. Black Brant, meanwhile, included two at South Fambridge, Essex, and singles at Reculver, Kent, and Skeffling, East Yorkshire.
In Clyde, the adult Ross's Goose was still with Pink-footed Geese at Baldernock, Clyde, until 15th at least. Snow Geese included five in Scotland – at Loch Spynie, Moray (three), North Uist, Outer Hebrides, and Marwick, Mainland Orkney – and singletons at Marshside RSPB, Lanashire, and Lissadell, Co Sligo, while three remaining at Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire, are perhaps of a more suspect origin.
No fewer than three drake King Eider (two adults and a second-winter) made for an impressive sight in Bluemull Sound, Shetland, on 19th – and is thought to be the first time three have been present together in Britain. Lothian's young drake was off Seafield, Edinburgh, on 20th, with another still off Nairn, Moray & Nairn, throughout.
Northumberland's Black Scoter was off Cocklawburn Beach on 15th, with the White-winged Scoter still off Musselburgh, Lothian. Surf Scoter were recorded off the coastlines of Lothian, Scilly, Cornwall, and Co Donegal.
The drake American Black Duck at Cross Lough, Co Mayo, was seen displaying on 19th. Both Baikal Teal would again prove well-behaved, with drakes at Greylake RSPB, Somerset, and Swine Moor, East Yorkshire, performing near-daily.
Green-winged Teal were at 11 sites – including new drakes at Ythan Estuary, Aberdeenshire, and Loch of Hillwell, Mainland Shetland – with American Wigeon still at Idle Valley, Nottinghamshire, Crook of Baldoon, Dumfries & Galloway, and Ballyallia Lake, Co Clare.
The Lesser Scaup count at West Loch Ollay, South Uist, Outer Hebrides, increased to three on 19th, with an unconfirmed female at Chew Valley Lake, Somerset & Bristol, the same day. Elsewhere, it was much the same as last week, with notable counts of four at Loch Skerrols, Islay, and three at Coatbridge, Clyde.
A one-day Ferruginous Duck at Ballysaggart Lough on 17th is the first for Co Tyrone and the first twitchable anywhere on the island of Ireland in several years; one also remained at Dorchester-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, until 14th. A number of new Ring-necked Duck were logged: Woodmanton, Devon (two), Siblyback Reservoir, Cornwall (three), Little Murston NR, Kent, Oxford Island, Co Armagh, and Lough Gowna, Co Longford.
Despite a number of lorries overturning on the adjacent section of the M4 during Storm Eunice, the Pacific Diver lasted at a blustery Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir, Glamorgan, throughout. After a 10-day absence, the possible Spotted Sandpiper was again present on 17th.
A quality quadruple of wintering waders persisted: a White-tailed Lapwing at Halton Marshes, Lincolnshire, Semipalmated Plover at Crookhaven, Co Cork, Kentish Plover at Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, Lesser Yellowlegs at Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk.
In Glamorgan, Cardiff Bay's second-winter Bonaparte's Gull remained, with a possible adult at Longham Lakes, Dorset, on 18th.
The third-winter Azores Gull delighted at Annagh Marsh, Co Mayo, on 19th, although the adult Ross's Gull at Kinnaird Head, Aberdeenshire, wasn't noted after 16th.
In Lothian, Edinburgh's Ring-billed Gull remained popular, with four still at Tralee, Co Kerry, and others still at Hayle Estuary, Cornwall, and Blashford Lakes, Hampshire. A probable first-winter proved a brief visitor to Chew Valley Lake, Somerset & Bristol, on 14th. Glaucous and Iceland Gulls were both widespread. Lingering Kumlien's Gulls were in Cambridgeshire, Outer Hebrides, Co Galway, and Co Kerry.
The week's undoubted highlight saw a popular Song Sparrow discovered at Prosperdorp, along The Netherlands-Belgium border, from 14th. The second record for both countries, birders on both sides of the divide resorted to nefarious means in an attempt to get it on their respective national lists, including the use of strategically placed feeding stations …
New finds across the region included a first-winter meena Oriental Turtle Dove at Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, a young drake White-winged Scoter at Grindavík, Iceland, and a Black Scoter at Kuźnica, Poland. Bulgaria's second Hume's Leaf Warbler was at Varna.
Denmark's White-headed Duck-Ruddy Duck pairing persisted at Selsø Sø, with a Stejneger's Scoter still off Høve. The smart male Siberian Rubythroat lingered at Vargön, Sweden, while Norway's third-winter Glaucous-winged Gull resurfaced at Verdalsora from 14th.
Spain's first White-tailed Lapwing accompanied the long-staying Sociable Lapwing at Ebro Delta from 18th. A Semipalmated Plover continued at Costa Adeje, Tenerife, Canary Islands, with the second-winter American Herring Gull still at Soorts-Hossegor, France.