A settled period of high pressure over the weekend for much of the country brought still days and grey skies. These conditions certainly stifled the seabird movement of the last week or two. A good number of rarities were found during the week and a few of the long-stayers remained.
A Paddyfield Warbler in Cot Valley, Cornwall, on the 15th was an excellent find, but sadly did not linger. An extremely late 1st-winter Gull-billed Tern was found at Titchwell on the 16th and is still present today; it tends to commute between the reserve and fields to the south of the A149. Providing a bit of an Arctic feel, a White-billed Diver frequented Staple Sound off the Farne Islands on 17th and a 1st-winter Ivory Gull was taken into care on Shetland, before being successfully released on the 20th. A Squacco Heron continued to be reported in Norfolk, whilst an American Golden Plover was in Cornwall on 21st. A juvenile Rose-coloured Starling in Aberdeenshire was yet another addition to the exceptional tally recorded this year – a fine way for this species to bow out of the British Birds Rarities Committee list! A Baikal Teal in Suffolk generated much excitement, but would it have been as exciting if it was on a small reserve in the Midlands?
The sub-rarities contained several ‘sibes’ as predicted last week. Several Richard’s Pipits were found along the east coast, whilst a Pallas’s Warbler was in Kent. The Hume’s Warbler remained at Portland until the 17th and the Dusky Warbler is still present in Cornwall. Other long-stayers included the Snowy Egret in Argyll and the ‘less than’ Snowy Owl in Suffolk (I don’t think he would have lasted long at the audition for the Harry Potter movie!). The Redhead is still present at Kenfig NNR, as is the Lesser Scaup in Dorset. Lingering Nearctic waders include a Pectoral Sandpiper in Dorset and a Lesser Yellowlegs at Tacumshin.
Several Great Grey Shrikes are still being seen on a regular basis, though these are typically elusive and success can never be guaranteed with such a difficult bird. Flocks of Waxwings have been reported at a number of sites across the east of country, with birds penetrating as far as the Midlands. The most reliable at present are a party of birds at Blaydon, Durham where up to 40 have been seen. Hopefully more will be seen at urban sites throughout the country – always worth checking those retail car parks packed full of berry-laden bushes...