Review of the Week: 18th-24th February 2010


The week at a glance

Winter continued unabated these past seven days with a distinct north–south divide in the weather: seemingly endless rain in the south and yet more snow in the north, on occasion with a vengeance. New finds were made, though one in particular was something less than it initially appeared.

An odd series of events at Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) finally led to the discovery of a fine adult drake Baikal Teal at the Forgotten Corner to the 23rd at least (not to be confused with the recent hybrid Baikal Teal lookalike), while the drake American Eider (dresseri) remained at Glassagh Bay (Co. Donegal) to the 23rd at least. The gorgeous juvenile Black Kite stayed faithful to Gigrin Farm (Powys) to the 24th. Also staying faithful to where it was first seen was a reported male Black Woodpecker at Wythop Mill (Cumbria); this most startling record originally emerged on the 12th when the bird was seen perched on a telegraph pole on the lower slopes of Ling Fell near the gate to Burthwaite Farm and, apparently, showed well for five minutes. It wasn't looked for subsequently, then on the 18th it was relocated on the very same telegraph pole; but, alas, it quickly became pretty obvious that the bird was in fact a model, placed there to deter Great Spotted Woodpeckers. The views on the 12th may have been good, just not good enough! North Yorkshire's photogenic female Black-throated Thrush at Newholm (near Whitby) once again shared top honours this week. This desirable species was reported on four dates over the last seven days up to the 22nd at least (there are still quite a few counties awaiting their first example of this usually user-friendly Sibe). London birders have had a fine time of it over the last few months what with the Staines Moor Brown Shrike and now the capital's first ever Dusky Warbler at the Walthamstow Reservoirs complex; found on the 14th, the bird remained in situ up to the 21st at least (though it's thought likely that it may still be in the area) and though sometimes elusive it just as often showed very well (and was vocal to boot).

Black Kite
Black Kite, Gigrin Farm, Powys (Photo: Colin Crowdey)

Dusky Warbler
Dusky Warbler, Walthamstow, Greater London (Photo: Phil Wallace)

Unfortunately (and by way of a catch up), last week's report of Middendorf's Bean Geese at Sandwick (Shetland) appears to have come to nothing. One worker familiar with this taxon has stated that the biometrics of these birds, at least in the field, appear to be less than safe for a firm claim. One to watch for in the future though? Snow Goose reports emerged from seven sites this week with the best counts being of the well-known four white-morph adults at Leighton Moss (Lancashire) on the 19th and 20th, and also at Carnforth (Lancashire) on the 21st.

Richardson's Canada Geese reports surfaced again from Loch Gruinart (Islay) on the 19th and 21st, Eorrabus (Islay) on the 23rd and Raghly (Co. Sligo) on the 20th and 21st. A parvipes 'Lesser' Canada Goose was also at Raghly, Sligo (one on 21st). A maximum of 13 Black Brants were logged from a respectable ten sites (most on the east coast) with the most notable being three adults at Wells-next-the-Sea (Norfolk) on the 19th. Red-breasted Geese are always pulse-racing finds and no doubt that was the case for individuals in Devon, at Dawlish Warren on the 18th, Exminster on the 22nd and 23rd and Powderham, also on the 23rd. Were all three birds separate individuals?

Richardson's Canada Goose
Richardson's Canada Goose, Loch Gruinart RSPB, Islay, Argyll (Photo: Steve Percival)

Ruddy Shelduck, as handsome as they are, are always open to question regarding provenance, though still worth a look. This week saw reports of two at Coate Water CP (Wiltshire) on the 19th and Carlton Colville (Suffolk) on the 20th. The drake American Wigeon remained at Caerlaverock (Dumfries and Galloway) to the 24th while sites reporting Green-winged Teal numbered nine, all single drakes (unsurprisingly). The adult drake Black Duck continued to reside on Bodmin Moor at Colliford Lake (Cornwall) to the 24th but there were no reports this week of the Scilly individual. Aythya interest was provided by Ring-necked Ducks at seven locations while the drake Ferruginous Duck continued to enliven Chew Valley Lake (Somerset) on the 20th. Perhaps a little more desirable were Lesser Scaup at five sites including the drake still at Dozmary Pool (Cornwall) to the 19th, a first-winter female at Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir (Glamorgan) on four dates to the 23rd and the drakes at Colliford Lake (Cornwall) to the 24th, Cosmeston Lakes CP (Glamorgan) on the 21st and Hogganfield Loch (Clyde) on the 22nd and 23rd. Two King Eiders (first and second-winter drakes) graced Burghead (Moray/Nairn) on three dates to the 21st at least and there was a possible Black Scoter in the same area on the 23rd. Four Surf Scoters were located at three sites in England, Scotland and Wales: two drakes off Ruddon's Point (Fife) on 18th (with one still present on the 22nd and 23rd), one at Pensarn (Conwy) on the 19th and a female offshore at Dawlish Warren (Devon) between the 20th and 23rd.

American Wigeon
American Wigeon, Caerlaverock WWT, Dumfries & Galloway (Photo: Alister Lynn)

Ring-necked Duck
Ring-necked Duck, Cowpen Bewley, Cleveland (Photo: Robert Hammond)

Lesser Scaup
Lesser Scaup, Hogganfield Loch, Clyde (Photo: Gavin Chambers)

The only Balearic Shearwater report of the week came from Slapton Sands (Devon) when a singleton flew past on the 23rd.

Five locations hosted Rough-legged Buzzards, three of which were in Norfolk and the others in North Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, while a white Gyr Falcon flying south at Maer Lake NR (Cornwall) on the 18th must have made for an impressive sight. Could it have been the Scilly bird of the 13th?

Three Cattle Egrets were at Tresemple Pool (Cornwall) on the 18th and 19th and two mobile birds were at Brew Pool (Cornwall) on the 19th and 20th; others were a single which flew over Wadebridge (Cornwall) and toward the Camel Estuary on the 19th and two still at Sennen (Cornwall) to the 24th (almost certainly the same birds as those at Brew Pool). Hardly the rarity they once were, single Great White Egrets put in a showing at no fewer than 12 locales (though likely with some duplication as birds moved about).

Great White Egret
Great White Egret, Bretton CP, West Yorkshire (Photo: Mick Hemingway)

Similarly, Spoonbills were at 13 widespread spots, the best counts being of six at Isley Marsh (Devon) throughout the week and six at Wacker Quay (Cornwall) on the 21st. A first-winter Glossy Ibis was at Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) on five dates to the 22nd and three of the same age flew over Shapwick Heath (Somerset) at dusk on the 19th. Single Common Cranes were at three sites though Lakenheath (Hockwold) Fen (Suffolk) boasted three of these majestic birds on the 24th.

Glossy Ibis
Glossy Ibis, Tacumshin, Wexford (Photo: Paul Kelly)

Common Crane
Common Crane, Kilcolman BWI NR, Cork (Photo: Graham Clarke)

The most notable wader of the week were Long-billed Dowitchers at Burton Marsh (Cheshire) on the 18th, Maer Lake NR (Cornwall) on the 19th, Sigginstown (Co. Wexford) on the 20th and Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) on the 21st.

Long-billed Dowitcher
Long-billed Dowitcher, Tacumshin, Wexford (Photo: Paul Kelly)

An elusive second-winter, or adult, Laughing Gull was seen between Bexhill and Cooden (East Sussex) briefly on the 20th, apparently its seventh day in the general area. Sixteen sites held Ring-billed Gulls over this past week, with Ireland scoring the vast majority. Birds on the east side of the Irish Sea included adults at Prescot Reservoirs (Lancashire) on the 18th and 21st, Gosport (Hampshire) on three dates to the 21st, Torpoint (Cornwall) on the 20th and 24th, Oban (Argyll) on the 21st and St. John's Lake (Cornwall) on the 22nd. Meanwhile, Caspian Gulls were at 12 sites in nine counties, all singletons with the exception of two birds at Milton Tip (Cambridgeshire) on the 18th, Shawell (Leicestershire) on the 19th and 23rd, Beddington SF (London) on the 19th, Wat Tyler CP (Essex) on the 20th and Albert Village (Leicestershire), also on the 20th. White-wingers were pretty well represented and Iceland Gulls were at a respectable 23 locations; all reports involved singles except two at Richmond Bank (Cheshire) on the 18th (a juvenile and second-winter), Sunderland (Durham) on 20th and 21st (adult and third-winter) and Arpley Landfill (Cheshire) on the 20th (juvenile and second-winter). Glaucous Gulls fared just as well with reports coming from 22 sites during the period, though the only report of anything other than a singleton was of a juvenile and second-winter at Stubber's Green (West Midlands) on the 19th.

Ring-billed Gull
Ring-billed Gull, Donegal, Donegal (Photo: Derek Charles)

Iceland Gull
Iceland Gull, Ayr, Ayrshire (Photo: Brian Henderson)

Glaucous Gull
Glaucous Gull, Mont Cluet, Guernsey (Photo: Mark Guppy)

The adult Forster's Tern once again gave a frisson of excitement to Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway) when it was found at Claddagh Beach on both the 20th and 21st.

Not particularly what one would expect at this time of year, two Hoopoes were logged: one flew toward Kenidjack Valley from Cape Cornwall (Cornwall) on the 21st and was promptly followed by another over Telegraph Road and toward the golf course on St. Mary's (Scilly) at 09:00 on 23rd. Here's hoping they find the current British weather to their liking.

A Richard's Pipit was a nice winter find at Colne Point (Essex) on the 20th.

Waxwings certainly made their presence felt over the last week and 46 sites held this gorgeous northerner. The most significant counts weren't very large, however: 21 in Aberdeen on the 22nd, 31 at Ashington (Northumberland) on the 18th, 21 at Sandwich (Kent) on the 20th and 15 at Stoneferry, Hull (East Yorkshire) on the 19th. A Penduline Tit was certainly a special guest star at Grove Ferry (Kent) on the 19th. Great Grey Shrikes cut a formidable dash at 12 locales and included a bird at the summit of Grindleton Fell (Lancashire) on the 22nd. The Kendal (Cumbria) Rose-coloured Starling continued to entertain throughout the week and Little Buntings remained at Sconner (Cornwall) and in a private garden at Dunnet Bay (Highland) right through the last seven days.

Waxwing, Ashington, Northumberland (Photo: Jack Bucknall (aged 14))

Great Grey Shrike
Great Grey Shrike, Morton Bagot, Warwickshire (Photo: Peter Heather)

Rose-coloured Starling
Rose-coloured Starling, Kendal, Cumbria (Photo: rezMole)

Photo of the Week

Bittern, Potteric Carr YWT, South Yorkshire (Photo: Rob Mokryj)

To many birders, there is a particular appeal to seeing birds that play hard to get, such as camouflaged birds that skulk within vegetation. Most such birds are, however, somewhat 'Little Brown Job'-ish. Bitterns are certainly an exception to this, and the sight of one emerging from a reedbed never ceases to raise the pulse. Close, unimpeded views of these birds tend only to be had in freezing weather, so the recent cold snap in the UK has been a great opportunity for birders and photographers alike. Rob Mokryj's superb close-up of a Bittern with a fish (Tench) clasped in its bill shows what can be achieved when everything comes together: perfectly-posed subjects with great eye contact in a natural setting. With excellent timing and execution, Rob has bagged a stunning image.

Snow Bunting
Snow Bunting, Kinmel Bay, Conwy (Photo: Steve Round)

Dartford Warbler
Dartford Warbler, Westleton Heath, Suffolk (Photo: Jon Evans)

Bullfinch, Chasewater, Staffordshire (Photo: Mike Lane)

White Wagtail
White Wagtail, Qatar (Photo: John A Thompson)

Golden Plover
Golden Plover, Balcomie, Fife (Photo: John Anderson)

Barn Owl
Barn Owl, undisclosed site, Norfolk (Photo: John Betts)

Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon, undisclosed site, Powys (Photo: Mike Warburton)

Black-winged Stilt
Black-winged Stilt, India (Photo: Mital Patel)

Grey Heron
Grey Heron, Les Grand Pre, Guernsey (Photo: Paul Hillion)

Red Kite
Red Kite, Gigrin Farm, Powys (Photo: Colin Crowdey)

Common Buzzard
Common Buzzard, Echt, Aberdeenshire (Photo: Alan Sinclair)

Hoopoe, Qatar (Photo: Dileep Kumar)

Red-legged Partridge
Red-legged Partridge, Nocton Fen, Lincolnshire (Photo: Matt Latham)

Teal, Salthouse, Norfolk (Photo: Kevin Du Rose)

Waxwing, Ashington, Northumberland (Photo: Jack Bucknall (aged 14))

Purple Sandpiper
Purple Sandpiper, Grandes Rocques, Guernsey (Photo: Chris Bale)

Pochard, North Cave Wetlands, East Yorkshire (Photo: Harry Bursell)

Brent Goose
Brent Goose, Brancaster Staithe, Norfolk (Photo: Steve Seal)

Blue Tit
Blue Tit, undisclosed site, North Yorkshire (Photo: Andrew Holmes)

Wallcreeper, France (Photo: Graham Catley)

Written by: Des McKenzie