A southerly airflow throughout much of the week deposited Saharan dust across southern England, Wales and Ireland, turning skies orange at times and bringing with it the warmest temperatures of the year so far. It brought with it one of the most notable spring influxes of Garganey for some years, with no fewer than 88 sites hosting the species, with some impressively sized flocks noted. A remarkable 31 flew east past Dungeness NNR, Kent, on 16, with 26 offshore at Thurlestone, Devon, on 19th, with multiple groups of up to seven or eight birds widely noted across England and Wales. Inland birders were also treated to a noticeable arrival of Avocet along the central spine of England, with others reaching southern parts of Scotland and Ireland.
No fewer than 88 sites hosted Garganey during the week (BirdGuides).
A one-day Desert Wheatear at Goring-by-Sea, West Sussex, on 20th was another likely deposit of the week's weather. Prevailing weather conditions and richly ginger-crowned upperparts indicate that it is almost certainly a male of the North African homochroa subspecies, a taxon with just four proven records to date.
Less expected for mid-March was a male Pine Grosbeak photographed in a private garden near Woolacombe, Devon, on 15th. While the possibility of an escape must be considered in this instance, Pine Grosbeak is a true mega: of the 12 accepted British records, just four have occurred in the last 20 years (in 1992, 2000, 2004, and 2012) and it is the first-ever for south-west England. It is unfortunate, therefore, that it would prove a one-day customer – one accessible anywhere in Britain would prove an undoubted hit with twitchers.
Yesterday (15.3) this male PINE GROSBEAK was briefly in a private garden nr. Woolacombe, North Devon. Access was not possible and it has not been seen today. Only the finder & his neighbour saw it. If it is seen again I will try again to arrange access. pic.twitter.com/35bWqKsRCv— Wildlife In Devon (@wildlife_devon) March 16, 2022
After a few days off the Belted Kingfisher was back along the River Darwen east of Roach Bridge, Lancashire, throughout the week. Ireland's Double-crested Cormorant was reported at Doon Lough, Co Leitrim, on three dates.
Elsewhere on the rarity front, the apparent female Stejneger's Stonechat was still up for grabs at Holme Dunes, Norfolk, until 16th, with the Hume's Leaf Warbler at Eastbourne, East Sussex, and three Eurasian Penduline Tits at Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, all lingering until the week's end.
On 18th, a Rosy Starling attended bird feeders at St Just, Cornwall. Another remained at nearby Pendeen, although a possible reported at Surbiton, London, remained unconfirmed. Amid dwindling numbers of Common Linnet, the European Serin at Maple Cross, Hertfordshire, was last noted on 18th.
An unconfirmed report of a Hoopoe was received from East Molesey, Surrey, on 17th, with belated news of one in flight at Belhaven Bay, Lothian, on 2nd. Great Grey Shrikes remained at Bratley Inclosure, Hampshire, Comberton, Cambridgeshire, Cropton Forest, North Yorkshire, and Bryn Trillyn, Conwy.
In Norfolk, a Greater Short-toed Lark remained in winter barley fields near West Runton until 17th at least, with a new Richard's Pipit at Welwick Saltmarsh, East Yorkshire, from 15th. Shore Lark were at four sites in eastern England: Kessingland, Suffolk, Holkham Gap, Norfolk (four), Skinningrove, Cleveland (five) and Holy Island, Northumberland (two).
A mobile dark-morph juvenile Gyr Falcon powered over Power Head, Co Cork, on 14th. Co Offaly's Northern Harrier at Lough Boora Parklands was again popular, while early Black Kites were reported over Galmpton, Devon, on 19th and Brighstone, Isle of Wight, on 20th. Also on 20th, the adult female Snowy Owl was reported on St Kilda, Outer Hebrides, for the first time in 2022.
Norfolk's Red-breasted Goose seen to fly purposefully westwards alone over Blakeney on 18th, with no sign subsequently. Would that be the end of this popular visitor's stay on the North Norfolk coast? Essex's long stayer was last recorded at Blue House Farm on 14th, with the Ross's Goose at Old Portlethen, Aberdeenshire, until 15th.
All of this week's reports of Richardson's Cackling Goose came from Ireland, with two still at Ballintemple, Co Sligo, and one again at Cross Lough, Mullet, Co Mayo, the latter accompanied by a Todd's Canada Goose. Grey-bellied Brant accompanied Pale-bellied Brent Geese at Kilbarrack, Co Dublin, and Lurgan Green, Co Louth, with Black Brant lingering in Kent, West Sussex, Essex, Norfolk and East Yorkshire. Snow Geese, meanwhile, lingered at six sites.
Somerset's wintering Baikal Teal appeared to actively depart Greylake RSPB on 14th, seen to fly strongly north on its own – the very moment captured by local photographer Carl Bovis below – and with no sign on subsequent dates. East Yorkshire's male remained at Swine Moor throughout. The American Black Duck remained at Cross Lough, Mullet, Co Mayo, with Green-winged Teal split between 10 sites. Just three American Wigeon were recorded – at Ballyallia Lake, Co Clare, Grindon Lough, Northumberland, and Alkborough Flats, Lincolnshire.
Lesser Scaup remained at Creoch Loch, Ayrshire, and Coatbridge, Clyde (two), with at least four split between Loch Skerrols on Islay and Loch Stiapavat on Lewis. Ring-necked Duck tallies included a new trio at Cromwell Quarry, Nottinghamshire, from 18th, with birds at 31 sites in total.
Lingering King Eider – all drakes – were off Musselburgh, Lothian, Nairn, Moray & Nairn, and Bluemull Sound, Shetland. An adult drake Northern Eider was at Loch Fleet, Highland, on 18th. It was largely settled on the scoter front: Surf Scoter were at four locations, with the White-winged Scoter continuing off Musselburgh, Lothian, and the Black Scoter still off Cocklawburn Beach, Northumberland.
Irish American Coot were again at Tacumshin, Co Wexford and Lough Yganavan, Co Kerry, with the country's Pacific Diver still off Crookhaven, Co Cork. White-billed Diver sightings included three off Cullen, Moray, and singletons off Papa Westray, Orkney, and Burghead, Moray.
Co Galway's long-staying Forster's Tern was reported from Traught on three occasions, with the nearby Ross's Gull still at Mutton Island until 16th; the same date a possible Bonaparte's Gull flew north past Newcastle, Co Wicklow. Elsewhere in Ireland, the third-winter Azores Gull remained at Annagh Strand, Co Mayo, throughout.
Nine lingering Ring-billed Gulls included five in Ireland, three in England and one in Scotland. Kumlien's Gulls were at four sites, including a new adult at Tralee, Co Kerry, while numbers of Glaucous and Iceland Gulls began to dwindle.
In Lincolnshire, the White-tailed Lapwing at Frampton Marsh RSPB remained a popular fixture, as did the Kentish Plover at Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset. Further afield, the Semipalmated Plover remained at Crookhaven, Co Cork, with the Long-billed Dowitcher still at Fluke Hall, Lancashire, until 16th. Lesser Yellowlegs held on at Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk, Tacumshin, Co Wexford, and Rahasane Turlough, Co Galway.
Presumed reintroduced White Stork graced a number of counties, from Berkshire in the west to Norfolk and Kent in the east, with a high count of 12 over Bough Beech Reservoir, Kent. The potentially wild, unringed bird remained at Worth Marsh in the same county. A number of new Glossy Ibis were recorded, perhaps fresh arrivals on recent southerly winds, with 11 sites boasting fresh arrivals.
A Camberwell Beauty butterfly was photographed near Thongsbridge, West Yorkshire, early on 14th.
Last year's record-breaking influx of Pygmy Cormorants into south-east Germany saw a number linger throughout the winter, with at least 27 still at Ochsenanger and another 10 at Vogelschutzgebiet Garstadt. The meena Oriental Turtle Dove was still at Freiburg im Breisgau.
In Denmark, the Stejneger's Scoter at Sandflugtplantage and White-headed Duck at Selsø Sø both remained, as did a Siberian Rubythroat at Vargön, Sweden. Belated news of Estonia's first Black-throated Accentor on Muhu Island was received, with the bird still present on 1 March.
A first-winter male Black-faced Bunting was trapped and ringed at Malpica, Spain, on 19th, with two Sociable Lapwings still at Laguna de Gallocanta. In the Canary Islands, a remarkably tame Red-billed Tropicbird continued to dazzle at Caleta de Fuste, Fuerteventura, throughout the week.
A juvenile Bonelli's Eagle flew north over Heerjansdam on 18th. The Netherlands' sixth, it followed hot on the heels of a second-winter in Belgium last week. After a seven-week absence, the second-winter Greater Spotted Eagle resurfaced at Fochteloo from 14th. Elsewhere, the Baikal Teal at Castricum continued, as did the country's Western Swamphen and Pygmy Cormorant.
In Israel, at least four Crested Honey Buzzards lingered around Eilat.