Review of the Week: 15th-21st November 2007


Please note that this week's Picture of the Week, reproduced below, is a graphic portrayal of a bird's death. If you feel this may upset you, please do not view it.

The week at a glance

Pechora Pipit: Goodwick, Pembrokeshire (Photo: Jeff Hazell)

A rather more settled week in terms of both birds and weather this week, as the northerly gales of the previous few days gave way to showery, grey conditions across much of the country, intermixed with bursts of late autumnal sunshine. After the finding of some enormous rarities found in the first couple of weeks on the month, the birds also settled down a little, to a nearly-into-winter mode. Quieter times yes, but still more than enough to keep birders happy, with more than a surprise or two to keep people on their toes, especially in Wales! The Inishbofin Mourning Dove made its way into another week, with the bird finding Co. Galway to its liking to the 15th. Its stay didn't appear to exceed the thirteen-day mark though, as a weekend search of the island yielded nothing. A Blyth's Pipit flew over Sennen (Cornwall) on 16th, but couldn't be relocated. This autumn has been an excellent one for a species that has seen a remarkable change of fortunes in the past two decades or so, with as many as six birds found between 16th October and 16th November. Three of these records have been from the Sennen area, so it's perhaps tempting to speculate that some duplication may be involved. Little doubt of what was many people's bird of the week for this week, the superb Pechora Pipit found at Goodwick Moor, near Haverfordwest (Pembrokeshire) on 19th, and still present to 21st. A wonderful performer, this bird (the fifth of the autumn) was very well received, being one of the very few twitchable mainland Pechora Pipits ever (the most popular prior to this was in North Yorkshire, at Filey, in October 1994). The Wilson's Snipe was again present around Lower Moors, St. Mary's (Scilly) on 21st. An adult Brown Booby flew south past St. Catherine's Breakwater (Jersey) on 15th, a first for the island. In British waters, the only recent claim was from Point Lynas (Anglesey) in Sept 2002. Along with the Masked Booby reported from English Channel earlier this year, the (in)famous Yellow-nosed Albatross, and both Red-billed Tropicbird and Magnificent Frigatebird all occurring in the first decade of the millennium, it seems as though almost anything is possible out to sea nowadays!

Grey Phalarope: Elmley Marshes RSPB, Kent (Photo: Mick Southcott)

After last week's glut of records of White-billed Diver, reports fell away dramatically this week. The long-staying bird off Selsey Bill (West Sussex) was still present to 17th, while in the Northern Isles, one was seen on Fetlar (Shetland) on 18th. A few Pomarine Skuas lingered around offshore locations, including 10 past South Queensferry (Lothian) on 19th, but few presented themselves like the two pale-phase adults in the Cley/Salthouse area (Norfolk). One bird remained to 19th and was seen busily feeding on an enormous Pike (doubtless a victim of the recent inundation along the north Norfolk coast). Grey Phalaropes saw a significant drop in numbers (as might be expected given the change in the weather) with just 11 seen, including two in Northumberland and two together off Clogher Head (Co. Louth) on 19th. After last week's astonishing figures of Little Auks it was, again, no surprise to discover fewer and fewer birds being reported, but a count of 5,986 reported past Elie Ness (Fife) (in just 90 minutes) on 15th was most certainly of note.

Cattle Egret: Skewjack, Cornwall (Photo: Mike Barker)

Great White Egret: Blashford Lakes HWT, Hants (Photo: Lee Fuller)

The influx of Cattle Egrets into the south west of England took off again this week, with birds noted in Cornwall and Scilly. Following on from the arrival of at least four birds in Dorset at the start of the month, at least four more appeared this week. One was found on St Agnes (Scilly) on 18th, before heading across the sound to St. Mary's later the same day, and was still present there to 21st at least. A lone bird was discovered near Sennen (Cornwall); also on 18th, while three birds were found in the same area on 19th, with one still present to 20th. On 21st, two were seen at Falmouth (Cornwall) flying along the Penryn River, with singles near Drift and at Carnon Downs (Cornwall) on the same date. Quite how many birds are involved may take a little while to resolve. A presumed returning Cattle Egret was found on the Otter Estuary (Devon) on 20th. New Great White Egrets were found at Heckington Fen (Lincolnshire) on 16th, at Hale (Cumbria) on 17th, and at Dingle Marshes (Suffolk) on 20th, while long-staying individuals remained in Hampshire, Lancashire and on the Western Isles throughout the week. The juvenile Glossy Ibis remained at Greylake RSPB to at least 16th, with perhaps the same bird then being found at West Alvington (Devon) on 18th, and remaining to 21st. In the north-west, the popular near-resident bird in Lancashire was still at Warton Marsh, near Lytham St. Anne's, to 20th at least. Around 25 Spoonbills were noted through the week, including a dozen remaining at Brownsea Island (Dorset) and seven at Wacker Quay (Cornwall) also on 15th. At least 27 Common Cranes were noted in the Norfolk Broads during the week, with rogue singletons seen over Ipswich (Suffolk) on 15th and at Welney WWT (Norfolk) on 16th.

Green-winged Teal: Hayle Estuary, Cornwall (Photo: Brian McGeough)

Long-tailed Duck: Filey, N Yorks (Photo: Steve Race)

Ross's Geese continued to be seen in various locations around Norfolk during the week. In the east of the county one remained in Norfolk at Heigham Holmes to 16th, while in north Norfolk one was seen near Burnham Overy Staithe on 17th, with presumably this bird then relocating to west Norfolk, roosting at Snettisham RSPB by night and being seen (on 21st) near Heacham. The white Snow Goose was seen near Great Yarmouth on 15th. A blue-phase Snow Goose was still in Fife, at Kilrenny, on 20th, while the Red-breasted Goose was still to be found with the Barnacle Geese at Caerlaverock WWT (Dumfries and Galloway) on 15th-16th, and again on 21st. A Richardson's Canada Goose was at nearby Mersehead RSP (Dumfries and Galloway) on 21st. Two more Richardson's Canada Geese were to be found in the picturesque surroundings of the coastal fields around Lissadell and Raghly (Co. Sligo) to 17th at least. Another "Small" Canada Goose was seen at Annagh, on the Mullet (Co. Mayo) on 18th while a "Lesser" Canada Goose was on Islay (Argyll) on 20th. Ten Black Brants were seen during the week, with at least three along the north Norfolk coastal strip including an adult, accompanied by two hybrids (with Dark-bellied Brent Goose the other parent) at Wells to 19th at least. Two Brants were again on the Fleet (Dorset) on 21st. A hybrid drake American Wigeon was again on the River Exe (Devon) on 17th, but no pure birds were reported this week. Eight drake Green-winged Teals were still to be found in Lancashire, Cornwall, Antrim, Cheshire and Dorset (the first-winter bird) during the week, while new arrivals appeared at Lissagriffin (Co. Cork), and at Cliffe Pools RSPB (Kent) and on the North Slob WWR (Co. Wexford), both on 18th. Lesser Scaups were still to be found in residence at Woolhampton gravel pits (Berks) to at least 16th and at Blagdon Lake (Somerset) to 21st (both drakes), while the female was still on Loch of Funzie, Fetlar (Shetland) to 17th. There was also a belated report of a drake Lesser Scaup from Stourbridge Basin (West Midlands) on 12th. A group of five Ring-necked Ducks, two drakes and three ducks, were on Lough Fern (Co. Donegal) on 18th, while other Irish birds were a female at Tachumsin (Co. Wexford) on 18th and at Keenan's Cross Pond (Co. Louth) on 21st. The drake Ring-necked Duck was still present at Foxcote Reservoir (Buckinghamshire) from 15th-17th at least, and two birds were on mainland Shetland during the week. A female Ferruginous Duck was found at Theale gravel pit (Berkshire) on 15th and was still present to 21st. A first-winter drake King Eider was found on Fetlar (Shetland) on 17th, while Surf Scoters included the juvenile off Dawlish Warren (Devon) to at least 21st, and drakes were seen again from Ruddon's Point (Fife) on 15th and at Tankerness (Orkney) on 16th. The drake Black Scoter was once again proving tricky to see off Llanfairfechan (Conwy), but was present to 15th at least.

Rough-legged Buzzard: Great Yarmouth, Norfolk (Photo: Bill Plumb)

Last week's report of a White-tailed Eagle near Braintree (Essex) was followed up with another report in the same general area on 15th – could it still be lurking? Two Rough-legged Buzzards continued to be seen near Capel Fleet, on the Isle of Sheppey (Kent) to 15th at least, while one around the rough grazing marshes near Great Yarmouth (Norfolk) on 18th-21st was another popular arrival. A fourth bird was noted south of Thurso (Highland) on 20th.

Kentish Plover: South Ford, S. Uist, Outer Hebrides (Photo: Terry Fountan)

The juvenile Spotted Sandpiper took a brief leave of absence from Lisvane Reservoir (Glamorgan) between 13th and 16th but was back in place again from 17th-21st. In Norfolk, the juvenile American Golden Plover was reported from the Waxham area on 15th-17th, but observers on the latter date noted the presence of "an abnormally grey Golden Plover" in the flock, and reports of the rarer species ceased from that point. No such problems for the juvenile American Golden Plover on the Ythan Estuary (Aberdeenshire), present to 18th. A late Pectoral Sandpiper was at Caerlaverock WWT (Dumfries and Galloway) on 20th-21st. The Lesser Yellowlegs at Montrose Basin (Angus) was still present to 16th, while the Kentish Plover was again at South Ford on South Uist (Western Isles) on 18th-21st.

Glaucous Gull: Lowestoft, Suffolk (Photo: Colin Manville)

The adult Bonaparte's Gull was still to be found at Fishtown of Usan (Angus) until at least 16th, while a second-winter Laughing Gull was seen at the Countess Wear sewage works (Devon) on 17th, almost a month since it was last seen, at the same site. After the invasion of Glaucous Gulls last week, numbers dropped a little, from some 40 or more to around 30 birds, but did include two together at Ditchford (Northamptonshire) on 17th, from St. Abb's Head NNR (Borders), on the same date, with two more double acts at Frankley Reservoirs (West Midlands) and on South Uist (Western Isles) on 21st. Iceland Gulls mustered some 15 birds this week, including two different birds (an adult and a juvenile) at Queen Mother Reservoir (Berkshire), where a Polish-ringed first-winter Caspian Gull was also noted, on 16th. This was one of at least 26 birds seen during the week, including four at Draycote Water (Warwickshire) on 17th. After a struggle of over a decade and a half to achieve specific status at BOURC level, this charismatic gull is enjoying a decent showing currently, at one of its peak arrival times of the year. Seven Ring-billed Gulls were noted through the week, and included the roosting adult at Carsington Water (Derbyshire) until 15th, and a first-winter at Ormsary (Argyll) on 16th. Across the Irish Sea, the Forster's Tern was again around Cruisetown Strand (Co. Louth) to 18th at least.

Desert Wheatear: Towyn, Conwy (Photo: Marc Hughes)

With the advance of winter, a few late autumn passerines could still be enjoyed and none more so than the obliging first-winter male Pied or Eastern Black-eared Wheatear that arrived at Northam Burrows (Devon) on 19th (having been first noted on 16th). A handsome, though rather perplexing bird, that, despite its obliging habits, left many scratching their heads a little as to what species was involved. The popular vote seems to favour a warmly marked first-winter male Pied Wheatear, and the late arrival date would perhaps support that. There are those though who favour Eastern Black-eared Wheatear and the debate seems set to continue for some while to come. No doubting the identification of the handsome male Desert Wheatear that was discovered at Towyn (Conwy) on 20th. A typically obliging bird, it completed an outstanding week for Welsh rarity finders, though it will have disappointed many with its premature departure.

Five Richard's Pipits were reported during the week: at Lough Foyle (Co. Londonderry) on 15th, over Portland (Dorset) on 16th, over Seasalter (Kent) and Spurn (East Yorkshire) on 19th, and the fifth of the week; also in East Yorkshire, at Flamborough, on 21st. Waxwing numbers nudged through to their first century of the autumn, and included 23 (in two flocks) over Sharpenhoe Clappers (Bedfordshire) on 15th, with 25 seen flying north over Dunfermeline (Fife) on 17th.

Hume's Leaf Warbler: Penrhyn Bay, Conwy (Photo: Matt Latham)

The Pallas's Warbler at Spurn (East Yorkshire) edged into a new week, present to 15th, when another was found, at Berry Head (Devon). Other Pallas's Warblers in the week were found at East Newton (East Yorkshire) on 20th, with another at Marsden Quarry (Co. Durham) on 21st. Four Yellow-browed Warblers were found at different sites in west Cornwall between 15th and 20th, while two were on Scilly and the bird at the London Wetlands Centre WWT seemed to be gearing up for a winter stay, being still present on 17th. One found near the M27 in Hampshire on 21st was also of note. The autumn's second Hume's Leaf Warbler spent a day around Penrhyn Bay (Conwy) on 18th, and showed well to those who journeyed over the Welsh border to see it. Hot on the heels of a potential Desert Lesser Whitethroat at Porthcurno, another possible was noted near the church at St. Leven (Cornwall) on 15th. At least 15 Great Grey Shrikes were still entertaining all comers across the country, including two in the Dyfnant Forest (Powys) on 16th and another double were on Budby Common (Nottinghamshire) on 17th.

Penduline Tit: Dingle Marshes SWT, Suffolk (Photo: Chris Mayne)

Lapland Bunting: Salthouse, Norfolk (Photo: Nigel Pye)

The group of two adult and two first-winter Penduline Tits were still to be found on the Dingle Marshes (Suffolk) on 15th-19th, with three still present on 21st. A lone Penduline Tit was present in Cornwall, at Marazion Marsh RSPB, on one day only, the 17th. A Little Bunting flew north over the Portland Bird Observatory (Dorset) on 17th, while on the rather salty grasslands at Salthouse (Norfolk) at least 20 showy Lapland Buntings returned after last week's flooding left their favoured feeding site under five feet of seawater.

Photo of the Week

Pomarine Skua: Salthouse, Norfolk (Photo: Nigel Pye)

This week has seen a number of photos of Pomarine Skuas eating other birds. The most spectacular sequence documented a Pom killing an injured Common Gull in Norfolk. From this series, our pick is Nigel Pye's head-to-head close-up as the skua bites a chunk out of the gull's head. Recording the last gasps of the blood-covered gull, Nigel has managed to hold his nerve to sum up this gruesome event. As with many a wildlife documentary, this image evokes mixed emotions, but you can't help admiring the person behind the camera for staying focused and capturing the action.

Other notable photos

Pomarine Skua: Salthouse, Norfolk (Photo: Nigel Pye)

Goshawk: Forest of Dean, Glos (Photo: Mark Hancox)

Great Grey Shrike: Kennard Moor, Somerset (Photo: Jeff Hazell)

Mute Swan: Summer Leys LNR, Northants (Photo: Richard Bedford)

Sparrowhawk: undisclosed site, Worcs (Photo: Mark Hancox)

Little Egret: Gosport, Hants (Photo: Lee Fuller)

Common Redshank: Belfast Lough RSPB, Antrim (Photo: Craig Nash)

Grey Heron: Radipole Lake RSPB, Dorset (Photo: Roger Boswell)

Glossy Ibis: West Alvington, Devon (Photo: John Lee)

Common Kingfisher: Leighton Moss RSPB, Lancs (Photo: Tom Gradwell)

Ring-billed Gull: Gosport, Hants (Photo: Lee Fuller)

Many of the images that appear in our weekly reviews can be purchased from the photographers, some of whom have their own websites:

John Anderson: http://www.pbase.com/crail_birder
Bill Aspin: http://billaspinsnatureblog.blogspot.com
Mike Atkinson: http://mikeatkinson.net
Richard Bedford: http://www.richardbedford.co.uk
Steve Blain: http://www.steveblain.co.uk
Will Bowell: http://www.wanderingbirders.com
Paul Bowerman: http://www.severnsidebirds.co.uk
Paul Bowyer: http://www.birdlist.co.uk
Graham Catley: http://pewit.blogspot.com/
Mark Caunt: http://www.AngusBirding.com
Dean Eades: http://www.birdmad.com
Andrew Easton: http://home.clara.net/ammodytes/
Graham Eaton: http://www.eatonphotography.co.uk
Stuart Elsom: http://www.stuartelsom.co.uk
Steve Evans: http://www.isabelline.co.uk
Katie Fuller: http://bogbumper.blogspot.com
Ian Fulton: http://www.pbase.com/ianfulton
Sean Gray: http://www.grayimages.co.uk
David Hatton: http://www.kowapower.com
Josh Jones: http://www.wanderingbirders.com
Paul and Andrea Kelly: http://www.irishbirdimages.com/
Matt Latham: http://www.mattlathamphotography.com
Micky Maher: http://www.aardfoto.co.uk/
John Malloy: http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/johnmalloy
Brian Mcgeough: http://www.brianmcgeough.com/
Tony Mills: http://www.notjustbirds.com
Jerry O'Brien: http://www.BirdsofBerkshire.co.uk
Mark Newsome: http://www.durhambirdclub.org/
James Packer: http://www.somersetbirder.co.uk
Mike Pennington: http://www.nature.shetland.co.uk
Ken Plows: http://www.kenswildlifepics.co.uk
Ray Purser: http://www.pbase.com/02purser
Marc Read: http://www.marcread-pix.com
Tristan Reid: http://www.atricillaimages.co.uk/
Steve Round: http://stevenround-birdphotography.com
Craig Shaw: http://craigsukbirdpictures.bravehost.com/
Tom Shevlin: http://wildlifesnaps.com/
Peter Simpson: http://www.blueskybirds.co.uk
Matt Slaymaker: http://www.mattslaymaker.co.uk
Oliver Smart: http://www.smartimages.co.uk
George Spraggs: http://www.bird-watching.co.uk
Richard Steel: http://wildlifephotographic.bblogspot.com/
Richard Stonier: http://www.birdsonline.co.uk
Stephen Tomlinson: http://stevesbirding.blogspot.com
Sue Tranter: http://www.suesbirdphotos.co.uk/
Damian Waters: http://www.drumimages.co.uk
Steve Williams: http://www.hilbrebirdobs.co.uk
Simon Wilson: http://www.bakewellbirder.co.uk/
Chris Wormwell: http://www.iombirding.co.uk
Dylan Wrathall: http://www.planetthanet.org
Written by: Mark Golley