Review of the Week: 18-24 April


Once again the American Bittern at Carlton Marshes, Suffolk, proved to be the week’s headline bird for most, particularly as it seems to have given itself up, offering point-blank views on a few afternoons and allowing for superb images to be taken, including the BirdGuides Photo of the Week.

American Bittern, Carlton Marshes, Suffolk (Jaz Hughes).

However, there was a male Belted Kingfisher on St Mary's, Scilly, on 18th, which clearly eclipsed the bittern for the shockwaves it caused, although it lingered for just a single afternoon and in no way proved twitchable to anyone but island residents. All three of this century's Belted Kingfishers in Britain and Ireland have been males, and it'd be nice to see a rusty-bellied female pop up next time … that is unless the Scilly bird is relocated somewhere more accessible in the coming weeks which, given the escapades of the famous 2005 individual, which was seen in Staffordshire, East Yorkshire and Aberdeenshire, is still feasible. North Wales somewhere, perhaps?

Belted Kingfisher, St Mary's, Scilly (Joe Pender).

The Pacific Diver lingered on at Crookhaven, Co Cork, to at least 18th, while the two Pied-billed Grebes remained in Argyll and Shetland respectively. The American White-winged Scoter continued off Musselburgh, Lothian, as did a Surf Scoter, with further examples of the latter including several still off the coastlines of Counties Meath and Dublin and the trio still off Porthpean, Cornwall. An old favourite, the drake King Eider, returned to Aberdeenshire's Ythan Estuary on 23rd. Meanwhile, in the north of the county, multiple White-billed Divers remained, with a peak count of 14 off Sandend on 19th and birds also seen as far west as Lossiemouth, Moray. Another was reported off Bryher, Scilly, on 20th.

Ten Ring-necked Duck included one-day drakes at Saltholme, Cleveland, on 19th and Conwy RSPB on 22nd. Meanwhile, a Lesser Scaup reported at Alturlie Point, Highland, looks more like a hybrid from photos. The Ferruginous Duck remained faithful to Llan Bwch-llyn Lake, Powys. Blue-winged Teal are always notable discoveries and a drake at Loch Stiapavat, Lewis, on 18-19th must have been a pleasing sighting for the finder. A drake Green-winged Teal was located at Heswall, Cheshire, on 19th and lingered to 23rd; another remained in Co Derry. A drake American Wigeon was at Loch Watten, Highland, on 19th, with the Rutland Water bird also around that day. A white-morph Snow Goose was at Little Neston, Cheshire, from 23rd.

Ring-necked Duck, Saltholme RSPB, Cleveland (Brian Martin).

Bizarre record of the week was the Little Bittern observed sitting motionless on a windowsill in Tenby, Pembs, on 18th, although a fly-by Squacco Heron at Rosslare Europort, Co Wexford, on 20th was also unusual. Just a single Purple Heron was seen, the lingering bird at Marazion, Cornwall, to 23rd. A Black-crowned Night Heron reached the traditional location of St Mary's, Scilly, on 18th, while another flew over Burton Mere Wetlands, Cheshire, on 19th. At least eight Glossy Ibises were seen as far north as Tiree, Argyll.

A male Black-winged Stilt arrived back at Potter Heigham, Norfolk, on 23rd, this being one of the sites where the species successfully raised young in 2017. Another was at Pulborough Brooks, West Sussex, on 23-24th. Last week's Long-billed Dowitcher remained at Grindon Lough, Northumberland, to 22nd. The first Kentish Plover of the year, a female, was at Ynyslas, Ceredigion, on 18th, having been trapped and ringed there overnight, while an American Golden Plover flew over Tacumshin, Co Wexford, on 21st.

The rather worn first-winter Laughing Gull continued to frequent St Martin's, Scilly, throughout the week. A Bonaparte's Gull drifted past Durlston Head, Dorset, on 19th and an adult was seen at Hayle Estuary, Cornwall, intermittently from 19-22nd, with the fine summer-plumaged bird still visiting Longham Lakes, Dorset, regularly all week. An adult Ring-billed Gull showed up at Kinnegar Shore, Co Down, on 21st. Arctic Tern passage began to pick up, with a peak count of at least 100 at Deeping Lakes, Lincs, on 23rd, although this big total was quite isolated and the bulk of migrants should pass through in the coming couple of weeks.

Laughing Gull, St Martin's, Scilly (Joe Pender).

Bonaparte's Gull, Longham Lakes, Dorset (Paul Ward).

The week's warm weather encouraged an arrival of Black Kites from the Continent, with a good series of records from south-east England and East Anglia. The harbinger was a bird over Oare Marshes, Kent, on 18th, with others in Suffolk on 19th, Dorset on 20th and Beachy Head, East Sussex, on 21st. What was presumably the same bird flew over several sites in London on 24th, having first been seen over Walthamstow Wetlands. A female or immature Pallid Harrier toured the Winterton/Horsey area of Norfolk from 23rd. There have been reports of Snowy Owls in western Co Galway for many years now and the latest in this series of records was a female north-east of Spiddal on 20th. Elsewhere, the long-staying female on Orkney made its first trip to Sanday on the morning of 23rd.

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Black Kite, Walthamstow Wetlands, London, Greater (Jamie Partridge).

Around 20 Hoopoes included nine in south-coast English counties, a further two in Ireland, one in Wales and one as far north as Boyndlie, Aberdeenshire, on 19th. Half-a-dozen Wrynecks included a lingering bird at Dungeness, Kent, on 22-23rd. A couple of Golden Orioles were seen on Scilly, following the first of the year at Blaxton Meadow, Devon, on 19th. Single Woodchat Shrikes reached St Agnes, Scilly, and Skomer, Pembs. A cluster of European Serin records came from south-east Kent, with four sites claiming birds; another was at Whitesands Bay, Pembs, on 21st.

Other classic spring overshoots included Red-rumped Swallows at six sites, although it's possible the same two might be responsible for sightings at Flamborough Head, East Yorks, on 22nd and Gibraltar Point, Lincs, on 23-24th. Another lingered at Kilnsea, East Yorks, and there were further records from Suffolk and Kent. An Alpine Swift was over Beachy Head, East Sussex, on 22nd, with further records from Cornwall (two), Cromer, Norfolk, and Anglers Country Park, West Yorks, on 23rd, as well as a southbound bird at Gibraltar Point, Lincs, on 24th.

An Iberian Chiffchaff sang at Brevig, Barra, Outer Hebrides, on 19th, although last week's bird in Oxfordshire was apparently reidentified as an atypically singing Common Chiffchaff. Another possible sang at Delamere Forest, Cheshire, from 20th. Male Western Subalpine Warblers were in Cornwall, at Porthgwarra and Kynance Cove, on 18th. A new male Savi's Warbler ‘buzzed' at Brockholes LWT, Lancs, from 22nd, while another sang at Farlington Marshes, Hants, from 18th onwards in addition to the continuing male at Minsmere, Suffolk.

Other bits and bobs included a continuing Black-bellied Dipper on Fair Isle, a Little Bunting at Beachy Head, East Sussex, on 22nd and a probable Spanish Wagtail on St Agnes, Scilly, on 21-22nd, while the candidate Italian Sparrow lingered on in East Budleigh, Devon.

Little Bunting, Shooters Bottom, Beachy Head, East Sussex (Laurence Pitcher).


Western Palearctic

Denmark's first White-winged Snowfinch arrived on the island of Møn on 21st, having presumably crossed the Baltic Sea from northern Germany – this must be a likely first for Britain in the coming years.

What is potentially the Western Palearctic's first Eastern Cattle Egret, in full breeding regalia, was at Jahra Pools, Kuwait, on 24th.

A Pied Crow was found near Dakhla, Western Sahara, on 17th, at the site of last year's White-throated Bee-eater. Meanwhile, in Mauritania, at least 13 Blue-naped Mousebirds were seen south of Choum, African Grey Woodpeckers were noted north-east of Ouadane and Golden Nightjars were observed at two sites, including what is potentially the first confirmed breeding record for the region, with a female found at an active nest.

Golden Nightjar, El Beyed, Adrar, Mauritania (Peter Stronach).

Other records included the Black-browed Albatross seen daily at Sylt, Schleswig-Holstein, the continuing Semipalmated Plover at Los Abrigos, Tenerife, and both the American Royal Tern and an Iberian Chiffchaff on Guernsey.

Written by: Josh Jones

Josh Jones manages BirdGuides.com and is Editor of Birdwatch magazine. He is an avid birder and keen all-round naturalist. Follow him on Twitter: @jrmjones