Review of the Week: 17th-23rd January 2008


The week at a glance

White-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow, Cley next the Sea, Norfolk (Photo: Gary Thoburn)

Pacific Diver
Pacific Diver, Llys-y-Fran Reservoir, Pembrokeshire (Photo: Steve Evans)

Following a hectic beginning to 2008, the first month of the year actually managed to pause for breath this week, but that's not to say that the quality of the birds present around the country was any less glorious than it had been - far from it in fact. Still drawing the crowds was the adult male White-crowned Sparrow at Cley (Norfolk), which continued to pop out on to the gravel driveway of its little garden hideaway (or onto nearby brambles) every quarter of an hour or so throughout each day to 23rd, occasionally giving little bursts of its rather Crested-Lark-like song. The amazing total of money raised for the beautiful St. Margaret's Church just a couple of hundred yards away has now exceeded £3000, a truly fantastic sum. The suspected Pacific Diver mentioned last week, seen late in the day on 16th at Llys-y-Fran Reservoir (Pembrokeshire), had its identity confirmed in the daylight hours of 17th, and remained until 23rd. The remarkable return of this now second-winter bird give many another chance to study this fascinating species at relatively close quarters. With the adult in Cornwall reappearing late last year, and this bird's repeat performance, will someone in Europe bump in to a summer adult later this year? The drake Barrow's Goldeneye was still in place on its wintering grounds at Quoile Pondage (Co. Down) to 23rd, while a Wilson's Snipe was again seen on the pools at Lower Moors, St. Mary's (Scilly) on 19th and 21st-23rd.

An adult White-billed Diver was again off Kirkabister, Mainland (Shetland) on 22nd. Decent numbers (given it's January!) of Balearic Shearwaters were again seen in the southwest of England this week - half a dozen were seen from west Cornwall, and at least 14 were seen off the south Devon coast (including nine from Hope's Nose on 19th), when 11 birds were seen off Portland Bill (Dorset). One bird managed to make it to the North Sea this week, seen off Sizewell (Suffolk) on 20th. A Manx Shearwater was seen from Sennen Cove (Cornwall) on 17th. Just four Pomarine Skuas were noted this week, in Suffolk, Norfolk, Hampshire and Lancashire. January is hardly the month that birders would expect a double header of phalarope species together (it barely happens in the autumn, let alone midwinter!) but at Hurst Beach (Hampshire) on 21st, that's exactly what happened, when a Red-necked Phalarope and two Grey Phalaropes were seen together, a quite extraordinary, and unprecedented, winter occurrence. Two Little Auks off North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 19th were the only records for the species this week.

Cattle Egrets continued to be noted across the south of England as well as five counties in Ireland. Cornwall was again dominant, with up to 31 birds still found across the county, with nine around Sancreed and Drift on 20th, and seven near Crantock on 21st, the largest groups noted. New reports included birds at the Walmsley Sanctuary on 18th, two at Dinham Flats on 19th and at Stithians Reservoir on 22nd. At least eight birds were reported in Devon, with five birds near Bideford from 17th-21st (up one from last week) while two birds were seen at nearby Northam on 23rd. Two birds were together at Exmouth from 17th (with a report of eight there on 22nd), while the bird at Otterton was still present to 20th. Two birds were still to be found in Somerset: still near Muchelney to 19th, and at Stoke St. Michael to 20th. Into Dorset, where at Buckland Ripers, five birds remained until at least 19th. Two or three birds were also still being noted at Radipole Lake RSPB. The single bird at Bere Regis was still in place to 20th and a new bird was near Dorchester on 21st. In Hampshire, the bird at Harbridge remained to at least 20th, while at Chichester GP (West Sussex) two birds arrived on 19th, and were still present the following day (with one in place to 23rd). Next door in East Sussex, the bird at Rodmell was still present for much of the week, and three birds were seen just west of Hastings on 23rd. The bird at Fretherne (Gloucestershire) lingered until 23rd. In Ireland it was County Wexford's turn to join the Cattle Egret party when one was found at Oilgate on 20th. Two birds were seen at Ballyharrahan (Co. Waterford) on 17th, while in Cork, three birds were at Minane Bridge on 19th, 10 birds were at Clonakilty from 20th-22nd, and 12 were seen at Carrigaline on 22nd, the largest group reported anywhere this week. One drifter also managed to reach Cape Clear Island on 22nd. In Galway, three birds were at Cartron Corrandulla on 21st (with two still present the following day). In County Kerry, a new arrival was noted near Smerwick Harbour on 18th, while two remained at Ardfert until 22nd.

In contrast to recent weeks, numbers of Great White Egrets reported this week were a little on the low side - just four confirmed sightings: individuals at Thorpeness and North Warren RSPB (Suffolk) from 17th-23rd, at Pymore (Cambridgeshire) on 19th-20th, again at Lough Beg (Co. Derry) on 20th and on South Uist (Outer Hebrides) on 23rd. Spoonbills saw a slight drop in numbers too this week, with some 15 birds recorded. Seven remained on the Taw Estuary (Devon), while six were seen around Poole Harbour (Dorset) off and on through the week. A young Spoonbill was seen on Green Island, Samson (Scilly) on 19th. At least one Glossy Ibis was still to be found around the North Slob WWR (Co. Wexford) on 18th, while the resident bird at Warton Marsh (Lancashire) was present to 20th at least. The group of Common Cranes seen a couple of weeks ago in Scotland resurfaced this week, with 11 birds frequenting stubble fields near Elgin (Moray) from 17th-22nd at least, while three more were at Hastigrow (Highland) on 18th. It would be nice to speculate that the birds were genuine continental vagrants, but it's interesting to note that Norfolk's traditional roost site, Stubb Mill, appears to be missing a few birds: 20 was the highest total this week, recorded on 17th. In the far west of Norfolk, one remained at Brandon Creek to 17th at least.

Red-breasted Goose
Red-breasted Goose, West Wittering, West Sussex (Photo: Michael Hunt)

American Wigeon
American Wigeon (rear), Langness, Isle of Man (Photo: Chris Wormwell)

Ring-necked Duck
Ring-necked Duck, Mell Quarry, Louth (Photo: Paul & Andrea Kelly)

Three Ross's Geese were still to be found around Norfolk during the week. Along the northeast coast, one was again at Happisburgh on 17th (and was then noted roosting at Stubb Mill later the same day). On the north coast, two Ross's Goose were at Holkham Freshmarsh on 23rd, while one on 21st joined the white Snow Goose on the grazing marsh. The Snow Goose had spent several days (18th-21st) feeding near Saxlingham and proved rather popular with weekend Zonotrichia watchers. The adult Red-breasted Goose was at West Wittering (West Sussex) until 22nd and the same host flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese also had one of the week's eleven Black Brants amongst their number. As usual Norfolk claimed the lion's share, with at least at four individuals, including a new individual at Cley NWT on 17th (following two there on 14th). Elsewhere singles were at Chelmondiston (Suffolk) on 17th, on the Kingsbridge Estuary (Devon) on 17th-20th, at Keyhaven Marshes (Hampshire) and at Ballyharrahan (Co. Waterford) on 17th (the same date as the two Cattle Egrets there) and on The Fleet (Dorset) on 23rd (along with at least 90 Mediterranean Gulls). Back to Ireland, where two Richardson's Canada Geese were seen at Lissadell (Co. Sligo) on 19th. An adult Lesser White-fronted Goose was seen with some 50 Eurasian White-fronted Geese (and 36 Taiga Bean Geese) at Cantley Marshes RSPB (Norfolk) on 19th, but as is so often the case with this species, the caveat of "unknown origin" looms large. Last week's new drake American Wigeon at Loch Bee, South Uist (Outer Hebrides) remained until 23rd, with the only other birds noted being two more drakes, one long staying, though infrequently reported, bird at Maywick, Mainland (Shetland) on 17th (last noted in mid-December) and one at Westwood Pool (Worcestershire) on 22nd. Six drake Green-winged Teal made the news this week, with three for Ireland, two for Scotland, and Norfolk chipping in with the other. Irish birds were on Lough Swilly (Co. Donegal) and at Belfast Lough RSPB (Co. Antrim) on 20th and still in Bell Harbour (Co. Clare) to 21st. Scottish birds were at Loch Leven (Perth & Kinross) from 17th-20th, with another at Loch Spynie (Moray) on 20th. The Norfolk bird was seen at Horsey Mere on 21st, while in Suffolk, the drake Green-winged Teal x Common Teal hybrid was again at Minsmere RSPB on 17th. The drake Blue-winged Teal at Mohill Coolfinnan (Co. Leitrim) was still present to 19th, while the long-staying female at North Bull Island (Co. Dublin) was seen again on 20th. As with last week, there were four Lesser Scaup on offer, but this quartet included a new arrival at Lough Arrow (Co. Sligo) on 18th-19th. The two first-winter drakes remained at Appleford Gravel Pits (Oxfordshire) and Draycote Water (Warwickshire), both to 23rd, while the adult drake was still on Coot Loch, Benbecula (Outer Hebrides) also to 23rd. Nine Ring-necked Ducks included two new arrivals, a young drake at Mell Quarry (Co. Louth) on 19th-22nd and a female at Stithians Reservoir (Cornwall) on 22nd. Adult drakes lingered in Somerset and Buckinghamshire, while females included the birds at Moore NR (Cheshire) to 17th, at Bassenthwaite Lake (Cumbria) to 20th and at Loch Morlich (Highland) to 21st (with the female Wood Duck still in tow...). Two female or immatures were again noted on Inch Island Lake (Co. Donegal) on 19th. No change with regard to the King Eiders on offer - the adult drake was still in Mousa Sound (Shetland) to 22nd, while the first-winter drake remained off Girdle Ness (Aberdeenshire) to 20th at least. And, much like the previous species, there was little or no change in regard to this week's tally of Surf Scoters. A drake remained off Strandhill (Co. Sligo) to 17th, while the first-winter female remained off Silver Strand (Co. Galway) to 22nd. In Scotland, the first-winter was still off Tiree (Argyll) to 21st and the first-winter female remained off Dawlish Warren (Devon) to 23rd.

With no reports this week of the Hampshire White-tailed Eagle, it was down to Rough-legged Buzzard to fly the raptor flag this week, and it was something of a struggle too, with just one, at Capel Fleet, Sheppey (Kent) on 17th-19th, to report.

Spotted Sandpipers continued their winter vigils at Lisvane Reservoir (Glamorgan) to 20th and Kinneil Lagoon (Forth) to 22nd. The first-winter Long-billed Dowitcher at Lough Beg (Co. Antrim) was still to be found on 17th-20th. Both of the winter's Lesser Yellowlegs remained, present and correct, at Montrose Basin (Angus) and Southwold (Suffolk) throughout the week. Two Kentish Plovers were seen on 20th, the now-familiar bird still at South Ford, South Uist (Outer Hebrides) with another seen, alongside around 140 Ringed Plovers, on the beach at Landguard NR (Suffolk). With Kentish Plovers, Red-necked Phalarope and the recent Temminck's Stint it's hard to remember that it's January and not May...! A slightly more familiar winter vagrant is American Golden Plover, and one was discovered late on the 21st near Welney WWT (Norfolk).

Bonaparte's Gull
Bonaparte's Gull, Ardivachar Point, S.Uist, Outer Hebrides (Photo: Terry Fountain)

Ring-billed Gull
Ring-billed Gull, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex (Photo: anon)

Iceland Gull
Iceland Gull, Glasgow, Clyde (Photo: John Molloy)

Iceland Gull
Iceland Gull, Killybegs, Donegal (Photo: Derek Charles)

An upturn in the fortunes of Bonaparte's Gull saw numbers doubling up from two to four this week, all adults, with three of them in Scotland. The bird around the Ugie Estuary and Peterhead (Aberdeenshire) was still present to 20th, with one seen at Montrose (Angus) on 19th. A new adult was located on South Uist (Outer Hebrides) on 18th-19th while in Wales, the bird on the Ogmore estuary (Glamorgan) remained until 19th. One or two adult Franklin's Gulls were seen in Dorset and Somerset this week: one was at Wareham (Dorset) on 17th, and an adult was then at Chew Valley Lake (Somerset) on 20th (a week after an adult Franklin's was at Torr Reservoir; also in Somerset). Around 70 Glaucous Gulls were reported over the course of the week, including a highly impressive five juveniles in the roost at Ogston Reservoir (Derbyshire) on 22nd, while three birds were noted together on South Uist (Outer Hebrides) on 19th and at Swillington Ings (West Yorkshire) on 20th. Iceland Gull numbers rose again too, with as many as 90 birds reported (at least 31 of which were in Ireland). Killybegs in County Donegal scored nine on 19th, with Youghal Dump (Co. Cork) adding seven to the total the previous day. Four juveniles were at Cruisetown (Co. Louth) on 19th, with four at West Ferry (Clyde) on 20th, and four were at Mallaig (Highland) on 21st (with at least 10 birds seen in Highland alone this week). The latter site also hosted the juvenile Kumlien's Gull to 22nd, with two birds (a juvenile and a third-winter) at Killybegs on 19th. A second-winter bird, thought most likely to be a Kumlien's Gull, was at Ogston Reservoir (Derbyshire) on 19th and 21st, then at Pools Brook CP on 22nd. Around 20 Caspian Gulls were reported during the past few days, but included three second-winters at the London Wetland Centre WWT on 19th and another second-winter at Barns Ness (Lothian) on 20th, and then at nearby Skateraw later in the week. Caspian Gull remains a desperately rare bird in Scotland and this bird could even be the individual seen, this time last year, in Lothian at Dunbar. Long-staying adult Ring-billed Gulls remained in Essex, Hampshire, County Galway and County Antrim during the week. Four birds were seen in the southwest on 20th: what was presumed to be last week's adult at Radipole Lake RSPB (Dorset), with an oiled second-winter nearby at Lodmoor RSPB (Dorset). Another adult was seen at Axmouth and Seaton Hole (Devon) later the same day, while a first-winter bird was at the boating lake at Helston (Cornwall). A second-winter at Blithfield Reservoir (Staffordshire) was a good inland roost find on 22nd. A first-winter American Herring Gull was seen (and photographed) on Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 18th, while the adult was again at Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway) on 22nd. Still in Galway, an adult Forster's Tern was at Loughnahulla Bay on 20th.

Waxwing, Cromer, Norfolk (Photo: Dave Perrett)

A presumed Richard's Pipit was at Auchmithie (Angus) from 18th-23rd, while the number of Waxwings almost doubled on last week's lowly tally of 35. Eleven were at Coulby Newham (Cleveland) on 22nd, and nine were still at Longforgan (Perth & Kinross) to 22nd. On Fair Isle (Shetland), the Black-bellied Dipper last reported in early December was seen again at the start of the week.

Hume's Leaf Warbler
Hume's Leaf Warbler, Tehidy CP, Cornwall (Photo: Matthew Sallis)

Yellow-browed Warbler
Yellow-browed Warbler, Jarrow, Durham (Photo: Mark Newsome)

Siberian Chiffchaff
Siberian Chiffchaff, Holkham Park, Norfolk (Photo: Ben Lewis)

This week saw the third instance this winter of an inornatus becoming a humei! The bird at Tehidy Country Park (Cornwall), present since December 15th and thought to be a Yellow-browed Warbler, was re-identified on 21st as west Cornwall's second Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler of the winter. This bird was still present to 23rd, while the bird at Cot Valley remained to 22nd at least. The same date saw a Yellow-browed Warbler arrive in Jarrow (Co. Durham), which was still present on 23rd. Siberian Chiffchaffs included three in Devon, with two still at Broadsands to 20th and one again at Dawlish Warren NNR on the same date. A dowdy-looking bird in Holkham Park (Norfolk) on 17th-22nd was an excellent candidate (photographed and heard as well).

Great Grey Shrike
Great Grey Shrike, Farnborough, Hampshire (Photo: Richard Bond)

Great Grey Shrike
Great Grey Shrike, Llys-y-Fran Reservoir, Pembrokeshire (Photo: Richard Smith)

The West Midlands Arctic or Mealy Redpoll remained at Marsh Lane NR (West Midlands) to 19th. At least fourteen Great Grey Shrikes included two or three birds in Hampshire, two birds in Norfolk and new singles at Kershope Forest (Cumbria) on 20th, Clumber Park (Nottinghamshire) and Morville (Shropshire) on 21st, and one at Llys-y-Fran Reservoir (Pembrokeshire) on 22nd, a nice double header for some, along with the Pacific Diver!

Snow Bunting
Snow Bunting, Salthouse, Norfolk (Photo: Dave Perrett)

Photo of the Week

Little Bee-eater
Little Bee-eater, Gambia (Photo: Ashley Grove)

As featured in our current Webzine article, BirdGuides' World Photos section contains an amazing collection of over 5000 images covering over 1800 species. Not surprisingly, many of these images have been captured by photographers who have travelled to some of the world's great birdlife locations. Taken in one such destination, the Gambia, Ashley Grove's beautiful portrait of a Little Bee-eater is an excellent example of the exotic delicacies on offer. Capturing every detail on this tiny bird - only half the size of the European Bee-eater - Ashley's image has a quality of composition and foreground/background lighting that couldn't have been bettered in a studio-shot still-life.

Other notable photos

White-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow, Cley next the Sea, Norfolk (Photo: Paul Hill)

Mallard, London Wetland Centre WWT, London, Greater (Photo: Fraser Simpson)

Coal Tit
Coal Tit, Hampton, Worcestershire (Photo: Mark Hancox)

Barn Owl
Barn Owl, undisclosed site, Norfolk (Photo: Nigel Pye)

Hooded Crow
Hooded Crow, Poland (Photo: Rudi Debruyne)

Great Spotted Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker, Huntly, Aberdeenshire (Photo: Euan Ferguson)

Common Waxbill
Common Waxbill, Spain (Photo: Steve Fletcher)

Greater Flamingo
Greater Flamingo, Greece (Photo: Rudi Debruyne)

Montagu's Harrier
Montagu's Harrier, Netherlands (Photo: Karel Mauer)

Greenfinch, Venus Pool NR, Shropshire (Photo: Jim Almond)

Written by: Mark Golley