Review of the Week: 15th-22nd January 2003


Another mild week and, for the first time in a while, relatively few new rarities were found, apart from a major rarity just across the North Sea.

A Black Kite in Hampshire was an excellent winter find. One was seen at Cheesefoot Head on 19th, 21st and 22nd. Although there is some debate as to the bird's origin, a winter record is not without precedent as one was seen in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in December 2001. However, given the unusual date an escape still needs to be fully eliminated. Two previous winter records were considered to be escapes. A bird in Norfolk in February 1975 was thought almost certainly to be an escape, as was one with a green colour ring in the same county in early 1981.

Black Duck on Shetland and if accepted it will be only the second for these famous islands. In East Sussex a 2nd-winter Franklin's Gull was reported from Rye harbour on the 19th, but not since. Away from their 'usual' areas, Surf Scoters in south Devon and Anglesey were good local finds and a Great White Egret was seen in Waterford.

Birding is so often about 'if only', so news of a MacQueen's Bustard in Belgium will have sent pulses racing. The bird was weak and was taken into care, but had been present since the 19th. There are just 5 British records, all in autumn and all on the east coast. The last was in 1962 when an immature frequented a mustard field near Walberswick, Suffolk from 21st November to 29th December. This bird is widely considered to have been one of the few ultimate 'blockers' on the British list, but the Belgian bird gives us hope that what was considered to be impossible is perhaps possible after all! One can only imagine the chaos that would have ensued had the bird crossed the North Sea. No doubt many of us would have suddenly felt quite ill and needed to go home!!

Waxwings are still present in a large number of places, but flocks appear to be more mobile, with a few birds picked up away from the east coast counties. A number of long-stayers continue to entertain, amongst which the Pallid Harrier in Norfolk and Richard's Pipit in South Yorkshire continue to prove popular. Yet another Lesser Scaup was identified during the week, this time a female in Derbyshire. This is yet another addition to the number of Lesser Scaups detected over the past few weeks - clearly any Scaup-type is worthy of close scrutiny at this point in time.

Written by: Russell Slack