Review of the Week: 14th–20th April 2011


The week at a glance

As the early spring continued apace, very few new big new rarities arrived, although there were some interesting 'near misses'. With no sign of the drake Black Scoter in Conwy, quite bizarrely another was found, at Bamburgh (Northumbs), present from 14th–20th. The scoter flock here can be rather distant, so this was very well picked out. At the weekend the bird showed slightly better, confirming it as just the second record for England, following the bird mentioned last week that was found exhausted at Leighton Moss (Lancs) in 2007. Interestingly there was also at least one rather mottled female in the flock, showing some features of Black Scoter...

Black Scoter
Black Scoter, Bamburgh, Northumberland (Photo: John Nadin)

Black Scoter
Black Scoter, Bamburgh, Northumberland (Photo: Kris Gibb)

The only other confirmed megas were not one, but two Oriental Turtle Doves. The 'orientalis' remained in Chipping Norton (Oxon) all week, and there was also a late report of another, possibly also an 'orientalis', in a private garden in Barsham (Suffolk) on 13th–15th. Photos were sent to RSPB slightly after the fact, but despite searching the bird couldn't be relocated. Some initial doubts were raised, though, as the bird did appear to show some tail and primary damage.

Oriental (Rufous) Turtle Dove
Oriental (Rufous) Turtle Dove, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire (Photo: P J Underwood)

The come-to-nothing probables and possibles included a dark-morph Booted Eagle reported independently by two sets of birders looking for the White-tailed Eagle at Burwell (Lincs) on 17th. There was also a report of a Cretzschmar's Bunting at Kimmeridge (Dorset) on 15th, though this was never confirmed and soon dropped off the radar.

The only remaining Snow Goose was one at Laxfirth (Shetland) on 16th, as one at Golspie (Highland) on 19th was later reidentified as a Ross's Goose. Other Ross's were at Loch Fleet (Highland) on 20th and one remaining at Dowlaw (Borders) to 16th. With no reports of Black Brant, the only other goose of note was the remaining Red-breasted Goose at Vane Farm (Perth & Kinross) to 16th. Also notable, though, was an excellent spring count of 214 Pale-bellied Brent Geese at Weymouth (Dorset) on 16th.

Spring is often a bit quiet on the duck front, and the only Ferruginous Duck was the drake at Strumpshaw Fen (Norfolk) all week. Four Ring-necked Ducks remained, though, at Stithians Reservoir (Cornwall), Lough Aderra (Co Cork), Loch of Asta (Shetland) and Ballyherly Lough (Co Down), and there was just one new bird, a drake at Bowesfield Marsh (Cleveland) on 19th.

Ferruginous Duck
Ferruginous Duck, Strumpshaw Fen RSPB, Norfolk (Photo: James Grundy)

Just four Green-winged Teal were seen this week, birds remaining at Guardbridge (Fife), Sandbach Flashes (Cheshire) and Tacumshin (Co Wexford), all to 17th, and a new bird at Kilvington (Notts) on 15th–19th.

Green-winged Teal
Green-winged Teal, Guardbridge, Fife (Photo: Barry Farquharson)

Bucking the trend slightly were Blue-winged Teal, with birds remaining at the National Wetland Centre (Carmarthenshire) to 18th and on the Ouse Washes (Cambs) all week. There was also a new drake, at Wheldrake Ings (North Yorks) on the evening of 18th, staying just long enough to be seen by local birders. This is the first in the county since 2006 when a metal-ringed bird was at Filey; before this, the last was in 1988. The week also saw two new American Wigeon in Scotland, a drake at St John's Loch (Highland) on 15th and one at Loch Bee, South Uist (Outer Hebrides) on 17th. The female Lesser Scaup was at Slimbridge (Glos) to at least 18th.

Blue-winged Teal
Blue-winged Teal, Ouse Washes, Cambridgeshire (Photo: Josh Jones)

Various Surf Scoters were still being reported, including the long-staying bird around Largo Bay and Ruddon's Point (Fife) and the pair in the bay between Liscannor and Lahinch (Co Clare). There were also two birds off Rerwick Head (Orkney) on 14th and one on 17th. The King Eider remained on the Ythan estuary (Aberdeenshire) all week and there was a single report of Northern Eider, off Golspie (Highland) on 20th, with 10 Slavonian Grebes and 5 Black-throated Divers. Also on the sea, there were continued reports of White-billed Divers, all in Scotland, with birds remaining at Mellon Udrigle and Naast (Highland) and Port Skigersta (Outer Hebrides) and a new moulting adult at Bay of Skaill (Shetland) on 20th. In the east, there was also one off Burghead (Moray & Nairn) on 19th–20th.

There were just three Smew remaining this week: redheads at Lindores Loch (Fife) to 16th and Quoile Pondage (Co Down) to 17th, and the first-winter drake at Lochwinnoch (Clyde) to 17th.

The run of Purple Heron arrivals continued with five new birds this week: an elusive bird at Marazion (Cornwall) on 15th–20th, one at Southease (East Sussex) on 15th–16th, one at Huttoft Bank (Lincs) on 20th and fly-over birds at Stanford Reservoir (Leics) on 16th and over Skipsea (East Yorks) on 18th. Those remaining included birds at Tophill Low (East Yorks) to 15th (and possibly to 17th), on St Mary's (Scilly) to 18th and at College Reservoir (Cornwall) all week. The first for Fife, at Mountcastle Quarry, was refound on 18th after a week-long absence, though again it didn't stay long. It was still popular, though, being the first mainland Scottish record for 12 years. There was another Scottish record of a bird sadly found dead on Fetlar (Shetland) on 20th.

Purple Heron
Purple Heron, Mountcastle Quarry, Fife (Photo: John Nadin)

Purple Heron, College Reservoir, Cornwall (Film: chippler01).

The immature Night Heron remained at Two Tree Island (Essex) to 17th, seen again on 20th. There were further reports of adults in Dorset, with one at Stour NR, Bournemouth on 17th–20th and another at a private site in West Bexington on 17th–18th, one of which may also account for the bird in a garden at Abbotsbury on 15th. There was also a possible over Shoreham Bridge, Shoreham-by-Sea (West Sussex) on 19th.

Night Heron
Night Heron, Bournemouth, Dorset (Photo: J Dexter)

Apart from a wandering bird along the north Norfolk coast over the week, the only vaguely accessible Great White Egrets were at Belvelly (Co Cork) on 15th and Seaton Marshes (Devon) on 19th. Other fly-overs were then at Lavell's Lake (Berks), the Ouse Washes (Cambs), Portland (Dorset), Exminster Marshes (Dorset) and Collister Pill (Gwent).

Great White Egret
Great White Egret, Seaton Marshes, Devon (Photo: Gavin Haig)

Most of the week's Spoonbills were spread along (or over) the coast from Gibraltar Point (Lincs) to Hengistbury Head (Dorset). The exceptions were birds at Killongford (Co Waterford) on 17th–19th, Kidwelly (Carmarthen) on 19th and one remaining on Samson (Scilly). Also of note were five probable Glossy Ibis over Sheringham (Norfolk) on 16th.

The Hampshire Black Stork continued to elude many, wandering over numerous sites all week, although it did become slightly more predictable over time. There was also a further report from East Anglia, one over Oulton Broad (Suffolk) on 18th. As for White Storks, the escapee continued to roam Lancashire, and escapes possibly also accounted for birds at Elton Reservoir (Manchester) and over Halifax and Birstall (West Yorks). There were also fly-overs reported from Hardwick Hall (Durham) on 16th, Basingstoke (Hants) on 18th, Bishopstone Glen (Kent) on 19th and Pride Park, Derby on 18th — obviously not realising the Rams were playing away that day. One was typically on a lamppost at Findern (Derbys) on 20th and there were two over Llanrwst (Conwy) on 17th.

White Stork
White Stork, Findern, Derbyshire (Photo: Ian Hedge)

Black Stork
Black Stork, New Forest, Hampshire (Photo: Richard Ford)

Rough-legged Buzzards were again still present at most of the expected sites in East Anglia — including two at Warham Greens (Norfolk) on 19th — Cleveland, Yorkshire and Shetland. New birds were also reported from Abberton Reservoir (Essex), Rookhope (Durham), Geltsdale (Cumbria) and Stronsay (Orkney).

There was a degree of confusion in the world of White-tailed Eagles, with the bird remaining at Louth and Manby (Lincs) to 17th and a wing-tagged bird drifting south past East Chevington (Northumbs) on 14th. There was then one over Sammy's Point, Easington (East Yorks) on 18th which could be either bird. It didn't seem to show obvious wing tags, but also didn't appear to show the same characteristic pattern of feather damage as the Lincolnshire (and Sussex/Hants/Norfolk/Suffolk) bird. Other wintering raptors of note were the Northern Harrier at Tacumshin (Co Wexford) on 16th–17th, the white-morph Gyr Falcon again on North Uist (Outer Hebrides) on 15th–16th and the possible Tundra Peregrine at Walmsley Sanctuary (Cornwall) all week. On the migrant front, the first Montagu's Harriers also arrived from 16th, with the first a very good-looking male at Croft Pascoe Pool (Cornwall).

Montagu's Harrier, Croft Pascoe Pool, Cornwall (Film: chippler01).

The weather, and supporting cast, looked good for a few Black Kites but, with the wind a bit too northerly, it was perhaps not surprising to see just two reported: at Marloes Mere (Pembrokeshire) on 17th and over Dungeness (Kent) on 20th.

You have to wonder whether the two Black-winged Stilts at Martin Mere (Lancs) on 15th were the same as on Guernsey last week, but they didn't stay long at all. They may not have found the north to their liking at all though, as two were then seen over Widemouth Bay (Cornwall) on 17th. We occasionally see reidentifications of Wood Sandpipers, but this is normally to juvenile Green Sandpipers, so it was a pleasant surprise to find one at Meare Heath (Somerset) on 19th–20th reidentified as a Lesser Yellowlegs. This is just the third for the county, following birds in 1996 and 2006. Also of note was a Kentish Plover at Tyninghame Bay (Lothian) on 18th–19th.

Black-winged Stilt
Black-winged Stilt, Martin Mere WWT, Lancashire (Photo: Gordon Heeley)

Kentish Plover
Kentish Plover, Tyninghame Bay, Lothian (Photo: Mike Thrower.)

All the Dotterel reported had skipped the south coast, with the furthest south being eight over Great Orme (Conwy) on 18th, with possibly three the next day. Others were at Ravenscar (North Yorks), Fair Snape Fell (Lancs), Horseshoe Point (Lincs), Hightown (Lancs) and 14 on Tiree (Argyll) on 19th. Apart from the Long-billed Dowitcher that remained at Lodmoor (Dorset) all week, the only other wader of note was a Stone Curlew on private MoD land at North Luffenham (Leics) on 20th (escorted access was arranged in the evening).

Away from Ireland and Scotland, which recorded birds at four and five sites respectively, the only Glaucous Gulls in England were at Budleigh Salterton (Devon) on 18th, Spurn (East Yorks) on 19th and the remaining long-staying juvenile at Dungeness (Kent). All reports concerned singletons apart from two juveniles on Tiree (Argyll) on 17th. There were more Iceland Gulls, all singletons, with birds at six English sites, six in Scotland and a juvenile near the Giant's Causeway (Co Antrim) on 17th. Bizarrely there were no records at all of Ring-billed Gull during the week. The good run of Bonaparte's Gulls continued this week. The first-winters remained on the Ythan Estuary (Aberdeenshire) to 16th, the Otter Estuary and Dawlish Warren (Devon) to 18th and the Hayle Estuary (Cornwall) all week, and there was a new first-winter at Siadar, Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 20th.

After a short absence, the Cornish Gull-billed Tern was reported from the Hayle Estuary on 19th, though a rather more unexpected record came from Shapwick Heath (Somerset), where there was one on 20th, only the third county record. The Mediterranean weather brought with it a flood of Black Terns from 18th, with birds at sites across the Midlands as far north as Heslington (North Yorks). The most notable movement was past Spurn (East Yorks) on 19th, along with an impressive 83 Arctic Terns.

Away from Scilly, where up to five were reported on various islands, Bee-eaters kept birders on the move in four counties. Four were over Sutton Heath (Suffolk) on 17th, two were over Kennack Sands (Cornwall) on 17th, and singletons were over Hartland Point (Devon) on 19th, Warmingham (Cheshire) on 15th and Marazion Marsh (Cornwall) on 18th.

European Bee-eater
European Bee-eater, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Photo: Martin Goodey)

In contrast, there were actually very few Wrynecks, with birds at Cannock Chase (Staffs) on 15th–17th, Winterton Dunes (Norfolk) on 19th and one caught and released from a house in Aberdaron (Gwynedd) on 19th. Similarly spring-like was an Alpine Swift over Rainham Marshes (London) on 16th.

Wryneck, Winterton Dunes NNR, Norfolk (Photo: James Grundy)

Remaining Shore Larks were spaced out along the coast from Landguard (Suffolk) to Bempton Cliffs (East Yorks), with double-figure counts from Norfolk of 13 at Cley and 12 at Happisburgh. Hoopoes were again well spread in more southerly areas, with birds at 11 sites in England and Wales. More unexpected, however, was one at Wester Quarff (Shetland) on 19th.

Hoopoe, Llansadwrn, Anglesey (Photo: Terry Piggott)

A late report of a Tawny Pipit at Sheringham (Norfolk) on 13th was the first of the year, followed by one, and possibly two, on St Martin's (Scilly) on 19th. There were again plenty of Blue-headed Wagtails reported, mostly nice obvious males, with the only Scottish bird one at Girdle Ness (Aberdeenshire) on 16th. There was also another Channel Wagtail, at Venus Pool (Somerset) on 17th. The north and west also saw good numbers of White Wagtails, including counts of 300 at Dornoch (Highland), 90 at Inch Island Lake (Co Donegal) and 49 at Knott-End-on-Sea (Lancs), whilst Yellow Wagtail gatherings included up to 57 at Gringley Carr (Notts) on 16th. The singing male white-spotted Bluethroat continued to entertain at Welney (Norfolk) all week, with the only other record being one caught and ringed on Fair Isle on 17th.

Bluethroat, Welney WWT, Norfolk (Photo: John Turner)

East Yorkshire Bird Observatories were the place to be for Red-rumped Swallows this week, with birds south at Spurn on 15th and 16th (presumably the same bird) and another at Flamborough on 19th. Birds also flew past West Bexington and Stanpit Marsh (Dorset) on 20th and rather more twitchable was one at Arlington Reservoir (East Sussex) on 17th–18th.

Red-rumped Swallow
Red-rumped Swallow, Arlington Reservoir, East Sussex (Photo: Mickd)

Waxwings were just about hanging on across the country, with birds at just five sites in Scotland, including 45 at Leith (Lothian) on 18th, and four in Belfast (Co Antrim) on 14th. In England, the peak counts included 100 at Chafford Hundred (Essex), 72 at Colney (Norfolk), 60 in Surbiton (London), 60 at Banstead (Surrey) and 60 at Brampton (Cambs).

There were two one-day records of singing Savi's Warblers this week. One at Farlington Marshes (Hants) was the first in the county since 2004, and one at Sammy's Point (East Yorks) on 17th was the first in that county since 1992. The week also saw the main arrival of Grasshopper Warblers, with a record nine at Spurn (East Yorks) on 18th. The site also saw a notable 73 Wheatears the next day.

Savi's Warbler
Savi's Warbler, Sammy's Point, East Yorkshire (Photo: Martin Standley)

Following last week's Western Subalpine Warblers, this week saw two Eastern Subalpine Warblers, a male found dead at Burrafirth, Unst (Shetland) on 17th and one on Bardsey Island (Gwynedd) on 20th. There was also one caught and ringed, but not assigned to race, at Loch of Swannay (Orkney) on 19th.

Eastern Subalpine Warbler
Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Bardsey Island, Gwynedd (Photo: Richard Brown)

Other warbler interest included another Sardinian Warbler, again only briefly at Orcombe Point (Devon) on 20th, and the returning Iberian Chiffchaff that continued to sing at Titchwell (Norfolk) to 14th.

Iberian Chiffchaff
Iberian Chiffchaff, Titchwell RSPB, Norfolk (Photo: Mick Colquhoun)

Woodchat Shrikes were very well spread in the southwest, with birds at 11 sites. There were three in Co Cork, two in Co Waterford and one at Great Blasket Island (Co Kerry) on 19th. In Wales, one remained at Llangennith (Glamorgan) and another was at Borth (Ceredigion) on 16th–17th. There was a bit of a mass arrival in the southwest, though, with up to five on St Mary's (Scilly) on 16th, including two males at Salakee Down. In Cornwall, one was again at Porth Joke on 16th–17th and a male at Treen on 17th was joined by a second bird on 18th–19th. We can find very few recent records of two birds at a site: in the last 10 years this has happened at Portland (Dorset) on 27th May 2006 and at Achill Island (Co Mayo) on 25th April 2001. As Woodchats flooded in, Great Greys poured out, with just a single record this week, of a bird at Alwen Reservoir (Conwy) on 15th.

Woodchat Shrike
Woodchat Shrike, Inch Strand, Cork (Photo: Ronan McLaughlin)

Further passerine interest came in the form of a heard-only Penduline Tit at Strumpshaw Fen (Norfolk) on 18th and a Golden Oriole on St Mary's (Scilly) on 16th and 20th. Just two Serins were reported, a possible over Holme NOA (Norfolk) on 19th and a singing male at Landguard (Suffolk) on 20th. Apart from three Lapland Buntings on Bardsey (Gwynedd), another at Cemlyn Bay (Anglesey) and two at both Cley Marshes and Burnham Overy (Norfolk), all other records were in Scotland. Peak counts included 54 at Balranald, South Uist (Outer Hebrides) on 19th and 27 on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 15th. There was also a very fine male Ortolan Bunting at Longham Lakes (Dorset) on 17th–18th, the first of the year, with another briefly at Portland on 20th.

Ortolan Bunting
Ortolan Bunting, Longham Lakes, Dorset (Photo: Darren Evans)

Photo of the Week: 14th–20th April 2011

White-throated Mountain-gem
White-throated Mountain-gem, Costa Rica (Photo: Jamie MacArthur)

As we noted when he last won Photo of the Week, bird photographer Jamie MacArthur travels the world in search of his avian subjects. Returning from his latest trip to Costa Rica, Jamie has uploaded some great photos of hummingbirds. Making use of the high-ISO capabilities of modern camera equipment, Jamie has been able to capture close-up images of these tiny birds without using flash, despite achieving wing-freezing shutter speeds of up to 1/4000 second. In one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments, though, whilst set up to photograph these tiny birds feeding, he managed to capture a mid-air tussle between a Green Violet-ear and a White-throated Mountain-gem, the latter even having its foot wrapped around the Violet-ear's bill. Superb action and lighting make this a unique and unrepeatable image.

Other notable photos

Common Kingfisher
Common Kingfisher, Hampton, Worcestershire (Photo: Mark Hancox)

Marsh Harrier
Marsh Harrier, Cley Marshes NWT, Norfolk (Photo: Mick Colquhoun)

Great Spotted Cuckoo
Great Spotted Cuckoo, Cyprus (Photo: Dave Barnes)

Common Redshank
Common Redshank, Salthouse, Norfolk (Photo: Daniel Trim)

Common Redstart
Common Redstart, Malvern Hills, Worcestershire (Photo: Carl Day)

Grasshopper Warbler
Grasshopper Warbler, Attenborough NR, Nottinghamshire (Photo: Steve Whiteley)

Bearded Tit
Bearded Tit, Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk (Photo: Jon Evans)

Long-tailed Tit
Long-tailed Tit, Rye Harbour NR, East Sussex (Photo: Will Rawles)

Common Whitethroat
Common Whitethroat, undisclosed site, Devon (Photo: Rob Cross)

Great White Egret
Great White Egret, India (Photo: Tejas Soni)

Ptarmigan, Cairn Gorm, Highland (Photo: Marcus Conway - ebirder)

Bittern, Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk (Photo: Ian Clarke)

Audouin's Gull
Audouin's Gull, Mallorca (Photo: Steve Round)

Black-headed Gull
Black-headed Gull, Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk (Photo: Carl Wright)

European Bee-eater
European Bee-eater, Portugal (Photo: Peter Dedicoat)

Bluethroat, Turkey (Asian) (Photo: Mustafa Sozen)

Lapland Bunting
Lapland Bunting, Scarborough, North Yorkshire (Photo: Steve Race)

Grey Plover
Grey Plover, Belgium (Photo: Rudi Debruyne)

Greenfinch, Greenan, Ayrshire (Photo: Chas Moonie)

Corn Bunting
Corn Bunting, Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincolnshire (Photo: Trevor Gunby)

Written by: Mark Grantham