The week at a glance
- Pacific Diver in County Tyrone
- Forster's Tern in County Mayo
- Ross's Gull in County Dublin
- Laughing Gull in County Cork
- Ivory Gull still in County Wexford
- American Coot remains in Highland
- Buff-bellied Pipit still in Cheshire
The weather may have settled down after a turbulent end to 2013, but quality birds — quite possibly the legacy of the stormy weather — continued to show up around the British Isles. This week, though, it was Ireland's turn to soak up the plaudits as a whole series of fine vagrants were located around the island.
Leading the way was Northern Ireland's first Pacific Diver, well inland at Lough Fea in County Tyrone. Found and later identified from photographs on 19th, the bird — an adult — lingered there until the end of the review period, with locals claiming that it had been present at least ten days. And, as photos of the bird prove, there's no mistaking this one!
Earlier in the week, the second Irish Ross's Gull off the year pitched up at Bull Island (Dublin). Present on 15th and 16th, it routinely showed very well off the wall there but had unfortunately moved on by Friday, though not before Dublin-based Robert Vaughan had completed a series of wonderful sketches of the bird — plenty more can be found on his blog and Facebook page — well worth giving it a 'like'! That other High Arctic visitor, Tacumshin's Ivory Gull, continued to perform well towards the east end of the lake throughout the week and seems settled on site. Not too far away, what appears to be a very good candidate for an Azorean Gull was in Wexford Harbour from 17th onwards.
From the States came a smart first-winter Laughing Gull, which could be found performing at point-blank range in Ballycotton Harbour (Cork) from 18th onwards. Since the infamous influx of November 2005, Laughing Gull has reverted back to its status as a really rather rare visitor to our shores, and is only just about annual, so a confiding individual will always attract attention. Even rarer in recent times — aside from the returning adult(s) in Wexford, Louth and Galway — is Forster's Tern, so the discovery of a first-winter on the beach at Elly Bay (Mayo) from 16th was significant to say the least; coincidentally, Elly Bay also hosted County Mayo's last record of the species back in winter 2002/3. Also nearby was the female King Eider, still bobbing about off Blacksod and one of two seen in Ireland this week: the other, another female, was photographed near Cahermore (Cork) on 19th. Back up in Mayo, Achill Island hosted a Spotted Sandpiper at Sruhill Lough that day. News later emerged of a white-morph Gyr photographed at Fenit (Kerry) on 18th — presumably this is the same wandering individual that has been seen on both the Dingle and Iveragh peninsulas already this winter.
Ireland also enjoyed its fair share of a reasonable influx of white-winged gulls. Interestingly, for once, Glaucous Gulls seem to be more numerous than their daintier counterparts, with counts of at least eight around the Mullet peninsula (Mayo) and around Kildonan, South Uist as well as sevens at Ballycotton (Cork) and Achill Island (Mayo). Iceland Gulls, while not scarce, were less well represented, with peak counts generally involving threes and fours. Interesting, though, was the proportion of Kumlien's Gulls, with perhaps as many as 20 seen. County Kerry seemed to fare best, with several individuals (mainly juveniles) scattered between Dingle, Inch and Reenard Point, though adults still in South Yorkshire and on Guernsey were notable. Special mention must also go to the apparent Thayer's Gull (or quite possibly very dark Kumlien's Gull based on newer images!) still present at the west end of the Gower peninsula (Glamorgan): it was seen again on 18th and 19th.
The best Ring-billed Gull showing of the winter saw a respectable eight birds recorded in Britain: an adult at Little Marlow Gravel Pits (Bucks) on 20th was presumably that later seen at Queen Mother Reservoir (Berks), while another new adult was at Millbrook (Cornwall) on 18th. Second-winters were again at Newgale (Pembrokeshire) and in Walton (Lancs), while adults remained in Pembrokeshire, Lancashire, Highland and Hampshire. Around 20 Irish birds included a new first-winter on Achill Island (Mayo) on 18th–19th, with at least three still around Galway city, and twos in Cork city and Pilmore (Cork). Devon's Bonaparte's Gull also lasted through another week at Dawlish Warren.
Moving to waterbirds, Highland's American Coot rather predictably stayed put at Loch Flemington throughout the week, often showing extremely well on the grassy shores of the loch. An apparent Grey-bellied Brant was on the Rogerstown Estuary (Dublin) on 19th, while Black Brants comprised lingering birds in Devon, Hampshire, Norfolk, East Yorkshire, Cumbria and the Channel Islands. Two blue-morph Snow Geese were at Skinflats Lagoons (Forth) on 19th, with two white morphs — one of which is colour-ringed — still on South Uist, two still in Cumbria, at least one still in Aberdeenshire and the lone bird in County Kerry.
The only vagrant Canada Goose was the lingering bird at Termoncarragh Lough (Mayo), which enjoyed a fine week with a Black Duck also reported there on 19th in addition to the lingering Green-winged Teal. Achill Island's resident Black Duck was also seen again, a Blue-winged Teal was at Loch of Bosquoy (Orkney) on 18th, ten Green-winged Teal included two at Newgale Marsh (Pembrokeshire) on 19th, and American Wigeons remained in Aberdeenshire, Highland and County Leitrim. Two Lesser Scaup were found this week — drakes at Tittesworth Reservoir (Staffs) from 15th and on Lough Corrib (Galway) on 19th — in addition to lingering birds in Cornwall, Glamorgan, Highland and on South Uist. Seven Ring-necked Ducks were all old faces: in Devon, Somerset, Ayrshire, Aberdeenshire and Counties Waterford, Down and Mayo.
In addition to the Irish females, further King Eiders included a female off Ruddon's Point (Fife) on 16th–17th, which is quite feasibly one of the two seen in Lothian towards the end of last year. One was again off Fidra on 19th, and the drake was still off Nairn (Moray/Nairn) on 21st. A smart drake Northern Eider was not far away in Burghead Harbour from 17th, while the White-billed Diver was last seen off Berry Head (Devon) on 19th. At least three Surf Scoters, including a female, continued off Colwyn Bay (Conwy), a first-winter was found at Peninerine, South Uist, on 18th–20th, and further birds remained in Dorset, Lothian, Cork and Antrim.
Remaining Cattle Egrets were still at Bunmahon (Waterford), Steeple Claydon (Bucks) and Stoke Gabriel (Devon), with one reported at Burgh Marsh (Cumbria) on 16th and two on the Otter Estuary (Devon) on 19th. Another busy week for Glossy Ibis saw 134 reports released on Bird News Extra, and involving a similar number and spread of birds. Though there were no records from Shetland or the Outer Hebrides this week, plenty of popular individuals included two still in the Boldon (Durham) area as well as singles in Norfolk, Suffolk, Northumberland, Lancashire and the West Midlands while, in Ireland, birds reached as far north as Counties Down and Antrim. The usual scattering of Great White Egrets included up to half a dozen still in the Dungeness area of Kent.
Brief entertainment was provided by a Black-winged Stilt on floods near Blunham (Beds) on 18th until it was found to be wearing a colour ring; strangely, it was joined by a second on 19th as well as an Avocet! After last being seen in late November, the Long-billed Dowitcher popped up again at Pennington Marshes (Hants) from 20th, with the Lesser Yellowlegs also still in the county at Lepe. The Marsh Sandpiper was still near Kyles Paible, North Uist on 19th, and several Grey Phalaropes were still to be seen around our coasts — not the Hove bird, though, which had moved on.
A Hoopoe was reported from Snodland (Kent) on 18th, and passerines included the continuing Buff-bellied Pipit still at Burton Marsh (Cheshire) throughout and a Richard's Pipit again near Lizard village (Cornwall) on 18th. Both of Kent's Hume's Leaf Warblers continued, at Ramsgate and Dungeness respectively, while Yellow-browed Warblers in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall included three at Torpoint sewage works. Lesser Whitethroats were in Cornwall, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire and Northumberland, the Northern Treecreeper remained at Flamborough (E Yorks), the Rose-coloured Starling continued another week on St Mary's (Scilly) and a routine scattering of Great Grey Shrikes were seen around England and Wales.
Fifteen Two-barred Crossbills continued along Serridge Ridge in the Forest of Dean (Glos), though they were often very mobile. Seven also remained at Broomhead Reservoir (S Yorks) and three were in the Wyre Forest (Shropshire). Parrot Crossbills included two new individuals at Bolderwood (Hants) on 19th, with 14 still at Budby Common (Notts), ten still in Ashdown Forest (E Sussex), two at Mayday Farm (Suffolk) and the male still in Hemsted Forest (Kent); the female in Waveney Forest (Norfolk) was last seen on 16th.
Merlin, Malta (Photo: Natalino Fenech)
Over the last two years, bird photographer Natalino Fenech has uploaded over 300 images to BirdGuides, the majority of which have being taken on the island of Malta. Natalino's photographs are of a consistently high standard and, due to his base location, feature a good range of interesting species. Twenty of Natalino's images have featured in our weekly Notable Images selections and now he adds his first Photo of the Week to his collection. Recently, Natalino has sent us some great close-ups of Merlins, which are always popular subjects with our gallery viewers. This week, he managed to freeze one of these falcons in a dynamic pose — wings raised — as it grappled with its Starling prey. Isolated against a natural rocky setting in great light, this is an image that would make any bird photographer envious.
Other notable images
African Grey Hornbill, Kenya (Photo: John Fielding)