Spring is here! At last the weather ceased its regular drenchings and the wind relented. As a consequence much of the country was treated to still, spring-like days under powder-blue skies. Hibernating butterflies immediately responded to the pleasant conditions and we received several reports of insects on the wing. An Adder ventured out in Norfolk and Blackbirds were feeding young at The Lodge today. For those doubting such fanciful notions, there was even a Swallow seen in Gwynedd during the week, so it must be official. Okay, so excuse my little burst of enthusiasm, but wasn't it nice while the respite lasted? Those fearing change will be relieved that we are now back into gale force-winds, rain and just for good measure a good dose of snow for many northern parts today!
The last week has definitely been one for the gull enthusiasts and Arctic gulls continue to occupy a fair percentage of the Bird News Extra page. The top prizes still went to the adult Ivory Gulls. The Gwynedd bird has remained throughout the week, but the Lancashire bird left the weekend admirers feeling rather short-changed as it was last seen on the 15th. Perhaps it has not gone far, with ample food around the area. Not to be outdone, another Ross's Gull was seen in Cornwall, with an adult at Sennen on the 19th but not since. Adults remain in Galway, and the Plym Estuary bird continues to be seen intermittently. It is not always about rarities though, and THE gull hot-spot of the last few years at Killybegs (Donegal) must have presented a fine sight yesterday as no fewer than 85 Iceland Gulls were seen, including 75 which came in off, and dispersed rapidly down, the coast. Just for good measure, 2 Kumlien's Gull and 6 Glaucous Gulls were also there, and one of 2 Yellow-legged Gulls was thought possibly to have been an 'Atlantis' Yellow-legged Gull. However, to see Iceland and Glaucous Gull you do not have to travel too far around the country at present as a number of birds are frequenting tips, gull roosts and coastal harbours. As always, full details of the most likely sites can be found on Bird News Extra.
Apart from gulls it has been one of the quieter weeks for a while. A Great White Egret frequented several sites in Norfolk during the week, whilst the Snowy Egret is still on the Isle of Arran. In Essex the Yellow-browed Warbler first seen before Christmas in a private garden still remains, and the Hume's Warbler is still present in Northumberland. In Norfolk, the Olive-backed Pipit has been rather elusive during the week, but that could reflect observer coverage, whilst on the coast the 1st-winter drake King Eider is still at Wells. In Cornwall, the Bonaparte's Gull remains and the 1st-winter American Golden Plover has been seen again at Bude, whilst in Devon the Black Duck remains at Slapton Ley and the Lesser Scaup is still in Dorset. Inland, the long-staying Shore Lark still resides on the top of Pleasley Colliery in Derbyshire, providing a nice opportunity to see this beautiful lark during a poor winter with relatively few birds elsewhere.
A stormy forecast for the next few days suggests that gull watching could be one of the more comfortable pastimes, whilst for inland watchers there is always the chance of a party of Kittiwakes supplementing your local gull roost as the peak time for overland movement draws near.