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


The week at a glance

It was another decent, pretty mild week of weather: a reasonable amount of warm very early spring sunshine was tempered with a band of rain that passed over much of Britain during the first part of the weekend. Ideal weather for the gardeners then, but it didn't prove too sloppy for birders either. The new season may not have kicked down winter's door just yet, but spring was certainly announcing its arrival with a hefty whack this week.

All that said, it was winter fare that, once again, led the way. In Dorset, the drake Bufflehead remained around The Fleet, mainly at Langton Herring, to 24th. County Clare's US double whammy of Pacific Diver and Pied-billed Grebe was still to be had by birders visiting Finvarra Point and Lough Atedaun respectively.

Aside from a single Pomarine Skua, seabirds this week were, predictably, notable by their absence, so it's headlong into the world of herons.

The Irish Glossy Ibis was still at Tacumshin this week, seen again on 20th, while the three youngsters in Somerset were seen at a couple of sites (Shapwick Heath and Ham Wall) to 21st. At least 9 Great White Egrets were noted, including two or three singles in Somerset and Kent and two together at Sutton Gault (Cambridgeshire) on 24th. A new bird arrived at Great Island (Co. Cork) on 21st. Meanwhile, in Gloucestershire, the bird at Ashleworth Ham is known to be a French second-calendar-year bird that has already taken in numerous sites in Lancashire at the end of last year and also around Cardiff earlier in 2010.

Great White Egret
Great White Egret, Ashleworth Ham NR, Gloucestershire (Photo: Brian Davis)

Two Cattle Egrets lingered around the Sennen area of west Cornwall to 20th at least and a single bird was noted again on the Hayle Estuary on 21st. In Cork, a Cattle Egret was at Cuskinny Marsh on 20th, and one or two also remained at sites in Somerset.

Around 20 Spoonbills were noted during the week, comprising largely ones and twos in southwest England, along with one still in Cheshire, one in London and at least two remaining in Cork. Up to four Common Cranes had their first spring flight along the north Norfolk coast on the morning of 21st, while single birds were seen in East and North Yorkshire on 19th and Northumberland on 20th (perhaps the same bird accounting for all three sightings). Further sightings of singles on the Norfolk/Suffolk border and again in East Yorkshire followed later in the week, with a party of six drifting over north Norfolk on 23rd.

Spoonbill, Greylake RSPB, Somerset & Bristol (Photo: James Packer)

Common Crane
Common Crane, Bempton Cliffs RSPB, East Yorkshire (Photo: Stu Broughton)

The first Purple Heron of the spring appeared in Wales, near Narbarth (Pembrokeshire) on 22nd–24th and a White Stork over Whitegate (Co. Cork) the previous day was presumably of sound origins. One of the surprises of the week came on 20th when a male Little Bittern was reported in a field near Easebourne (West Sussex) — a very early record, yes, but a lingering male arrived on 28th March 2006 in East Sussex, a moribund female was in Devon in late March 2002, and in 2000 an adult male was in Northumberland on 18th March. A quick trawl through the record books also shows three accepted March records for the 1990s and two for the 1980s — so, not quite the "hens' teeth" that some internet birders would have you believe.

Purple Heron
Purple Heron, Llan-mill, Pembrokeshire (Photo: Richard Crossen)

The trio became a reformed quartet again this week as the Snow Geese at Leighton Moss (Lancashire) continued their stay towards April. In neighbouring Cumbria, a single white-morph bird was at Longtown on 18th. In Scotland, the regular wintering bird was still around Craobh Haven (Argyll) to 21st and one was at Loch of Strathbeg (Aberdeenshire) on 22nd–24th.

Two Richardson's Canada Geese were seen on Islay during the week, at Loch Gruinart and Ballygrant on 19th (although being less than 10 miles apart it may be one bird). One was still at Ballintemple (Co. Sligo) on 24th. A couple of Black Brants lingered in Norfolk, at Snettisham to 21st and Wells to 22nd, with another long-stayer at Spurn (East Yorkshire) on 23rd. On Jersey, the two wintering Red-breasted Geese were still present on 24th.

It was pretty much "as was" for Lesser Scaup: drakes were still to be seen at Dozmary Pool (Cornwall), Chew Valley Lake (Somerset), Cosmeston Lakes (Glamorgan) and Hogganfield Loch (Clyde) while lone females remained on Eglyws Nunydd Reservoir (Glamorgan) and at La Grande Mare (Guernsey). The adult drake Ferruginous Duck was also another Chew Valley Lake bird this week, and in Armagh another drake Ferruginous Duck was still in place at Lurgan Park Lake to 20th.

Lesser Scaup
Lesser Scaup, Cosmeston Lakes CP, Glamorgan (Photo: Mic Clark)

In Ireland, drake Ring-necked Ducks remained at Ballyshunnock Reservoir (Co. Waterford), Derrybrick Lough (Co. Cavan) and Inch Island Lake (Co. Donegal) and a new arrival was found in County Cavan, at Derrybrick Lough on 19th. English drakes were again in Buckinghamshire, West Yorkshire and Lancashire, while the long-staying female remained on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) until 18th at least.

On Tresco, the drake Black Duck was seen again on the Abbey Pool on 21st. The drake American Wigeon at Caerlaverock (Dumfries & Galloway) and Martin Mere (Lancashire) were both still present to 21st. Green-winged Teal included two in County Clare (at Finvarra and Ballyvelaghan Lough) and singles still at Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) and Kildrochat (Dumfries & Galloway). On 20th, a new bird appeared at Leighton Moss, with two together at Marshside on 23rd. Another Lancashire bird was at Martin Mere on 24th, and another new arrival was at Linford NR (Buckinghamshire) on the same date.

Green-winged Teal
Green-winged Teal, Leighton Moss RSPB, Lancashire (Photo: Jim Almond)

A drake Surf Scoter was again in Inganess Bay (Orkney) on 18th, with single drakes off Rerwick Head and Deer Sound on 23rd. The female was still off Dawlish Warren (Devon) all week. The drake King Eider in Burghead Bay (Moray) was joined by a second drake on 20th (is it the same younger male that was present earlier this year, or a third for the site?).

King Eider
King Eider, Burghead Bay, Moray & Nairn (Photo: Marcus Conway — ebirder)

A white Gyrfalcon was seen and photographed in north Devon on 18th (at Saunton Sands and Horsey Island) and was then seen the following day at Instow. A Black Kite was noted over Severn Beach (Gloucestershire) on 18th and another was reported with Red Kites in Northamptonshire on 21st (interestingly the youngster in Wales was last reported on 17th).

Gyr Falcon
Gyr Falcon, Braunton Marsh, Devon (Photo: Nigel Bastin)

In Norfolk, a single Rough-legged Buzzard remained on Thorpe and Chedgrave marshes (Norfolk) to 21st at least. Another was at Hoveton Hall on 22nd (having been present for a week and a half before that), followed by one at Guist on 24th. In neighbouring Suffolk a Rough-legged Buzzard was seen at Aldeburgh on 21st, and in Cambridgeshire the bird at Coveney was again present on 24th. The male Snowy Owl remained on Lewis (Outer Hebrides) to 21st at least, while the impressive female was still on Lihou (Guernsey) on 19th.

Snowy Owl
Snowy Owl, Lihou, Guernsey (Photo: Steve Levrier)

A Dotterel was found amongst a flock of Golden Plovers on Tiree (Argyll) on 19th — where had that been wintering? In Ireland, a Stone Curlew was a terrific find on Sherkin Island (Co. Cork) on 20th. The bird, still present the following day, is only the third reported in the country since 2001.

The second-winter gull thought by some to be a Mew Gull remained at Albert village (Leicestershire) to 24th, appearing again in the roost at Foremark Reservoir (Derbyshire) on 20th. There are still no definitive characteristics being quoted as spot on for Mew Gull, and some experts are sure that it is an eastern heinei type. As it stands this interesting bird is seems destined to hit the buffers.

In Wales, at Cefn Sidan Sands (Carmarthenshire), the possible American Herring Gull was seen again on 19th, but things seem no further forward with the identity: the photos so far show a swarthy-looking bird, but again it has struggled to impress some who have seen the pictures. That, of course, is no substitute for seeing the bird in life and the few who have seen it are sure the bird is smithsonianus.

The Bonaparte's Gull was again on the River Taff in Cardiff (Glamorgan) on 18th–24th. Ring-billed Gulls this week included 14 in Ireland, with four different birds at Sandymount Strand (Co. Dublin) on 23rd–24th, three at Cuskinny Marsh in Cork on 20th, two still in County Antrim and a first-winter in Dingle harbour (Co. Kerry) on 23rd. English singles were in Cornwall, Hampshire, Essex, Argyll and West Yorkshire (the near-adult bird still at Mirfield on 20th).

Ring-billed Gull
Ring-billed Gull, Lough Aderra, Cork (Photo: Rónán McLaughlin)

Around 12 Iceland Gulls were seen across Britain and Ireland this week. They were outscored by some 20 Glaucous Gulls which included two at Richmond Bank (Cheshire) on 20th and two in the Sound of Jura (Argyll) on 21st. One of only a handful of Kumlien's Gulls to appear this winter was seen at Loch Barvas, Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 21st.

There was a hefty fall in numbers of Caspian Gulls this week: seven or eight birds were noted, including three on the private tip at Pitsea (Essex) on 20th. The adult Forster's Tern remained at Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway) to 19th.

A Pallid Swift was an excellent discovery in Carmarthenshire during the late afternoon of 20th. Seen first over Cefn Sidan Sands, the bird was later noted at dusk between Burry Port and Llanelli. If accepted, it will be a county first and a third record for the Principality (Pembrokeshire has two to its name). The only other March record of Pallid Swift was the bird seen and photographed on Scilly on 25th–26th March 2002.

The weather was plainly well suited to other high-flying overshoots: a record-breaking influx of just under 30 Alpine Swifts appeared between 19th and 24th. First to arrive were singles over Foreness Point (Kent) and Exeter (Devon) on 19th, with five more following on 20th: two were seen over Moushole (Cornwall) with another county record appearing at Swanpool, and further singles were at Wargrave and Shiplake (on the border of Berkshire and Oxfordshire) and at Sandown (Isle of Wight). On 21st, birds were seen at Rodmell (East Sussex), Durlston CP (Dorset), Yelverton (Devon) and at three sites in west Cornwall (from Marazion to St. Ives). The 22nd saw singles make appearances over Exminster (Devon), Dunster (Somerset), Leyton (London), Walton-on-the-Naze (Essex), Winterton (Norfolk) and Drogheda (Co. Louth), while the bird seen over Penzance may just have drifted along from nearby Marazion. Another was reported from Stratford-upon-Avon (Warwickshire). The 24th saw another Alpine Swift appear at Lowestoft (Suffolk), with two birds at Alnmouth (Northumberland) later in the morning. One was again at The Naze on the same day, and during the afternoon one was noted at Lakenheath Fen (Suffolk). The Norfolk coast was peppered with birds from Hunstanton to Overstrand, with three or four birds involved (it's tough to work it out!). One or two birds lingered around the county from Hunstanton to Yarmouth on 24th, and new birds were at Upper Bedding (West Sussex) and at Cape Cornwall.

Alpine Swift
Alpine Swift, Hunstanton, Norfolk (Photo: Andy Thompson)

Alpine Swift
Alpine Swift, Lowestoft, Suffolk (Photo: Andrew Easton)

Back in Cornwall, a Red-rumped Swallow was seen near Gwithian on 20th, and then later that day it (or another) was seen at Marazion Marsh.

Red-rumped Swallow
Red-rumped Swallow, Gwithian, Cornwall (Photo: Samuel Williams)

Three Hoopoes were belatedly reported for 17th — in Cornwall, Devon and Pembrokeshire — with another Pembrokeshire bird appearing at St. David's Head on 18th. Other singles this week included two in Dorset (at Langton Herring and Portland) and singles on St. Mary's (Scilly), at Constantine (Cornwall), Noss Mayo (Devon) and Cannington (Somerset), all between 19th and 21st. The week concluded with one or two more on Portland, singles at Land's End and the Lizard (Cornwall) and another in County Waterford, at Fenor, on 24th.

Hoopoe, Langton Herring, Dorset (Photo: Sean Johnston)

Around 120 Waxwings were noted countrywide this week, including 25 at Wideopen (Northumberland) on 19th, 30 in flight over Cross Ness (London) on 21st and 20 over Ormskirk (Lancashire) on 23rd. A Yellow-browed Warbler was reported from at Garsington (Oxfordshire), also on 23rd.

Waxwing, Partick, Clyde (Photo: Jim Duncan)

New Great Grey Shrikes were at Perthcelyn (Glamorgan) and Rhynie (Aberdeenshire) from 18th with another newbie seen in Northumberland (at Harwood Forest) on 24th. Regular fixtures remained at Wilmersham Common (Somerset), Burley (Hampshire), Bircher Common (Herefordshire), Fenn's Moss (Clwyd), Waddington Fell (Lancashire) and Dalton Crags (Cumbria).

Great Grey Shrike
Great Grey Shrike, Rhynie, Aberdeenshire (Photo: Alan Sinclair)

In Suffolk, Minsmere became a record-breaker when last week's Bird of the Week hit a new UK height: a remarkable seven Penduline Tits were counted during the morning of 21st. Three more appeared at Dungeness (Kent) on 24th. The spring's first Serin flew over Seaford (East Sussex) on 22nd. The Little Bunting at Dunnet Bay (Highland) found his voice this week, serenading anything in earshot to 24th, while the bird at Sconner (Cornwall) was still present to 19th, In a private garden in the New Forest a female Rustic Bunting was photographed on 20th–21st, a county first no less.

Penduline Tit
Penduline Tit, Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk (Photo: Jon Evans)

Rustic Bunting
Rustic Bunting, New Forest, Hampshire (Photo: Russell Wynn)

Photo of the Week

Penduline Tit
Penduline Tit, Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk (Photo: Jon Evans)

With around 800 uploaded images, bird photographer Jon Evans is one of our most prolific photo contributors. His images are also very popular, with over 8000 'thumbs-ups' in total (this week, 5 out of 10 of our most thumbed-up images are Jon's!). Also, as a measure of the consistent quality of his submissions, Jon has had more photos (37) included in our weekly Notable Images round-up than any other photographer bar one. It's therefore our pleasure finally to award a Photo of the Week to Jon for his delightful portrait of a Penduline Tit taken at Minsmere RSPB in Suffolk this week. Soft morning sunshine has brought out the matching colours of the bird and its typical environment beautifully, whilst the defocussed setting imbues a painterly, watercolour-like feel to the image. The result is an aesthetically pleasing composition with lasting appeal.

Nuthatch, Hampton, Worcestershire (Photo: Mark Hancox)

Crested Tit
Crested Tit, undisclosed site, Highland (Photo: Marcus Conway - ebirder)

Bittern, Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk (Photo: Jon Evans)

Snowy Owl
Snowy Owl, Lihou, Guernsey (Photo: Steve Levrier)

Little Owl
Little Owl, Leire, Leicestershire and Rutland (Photo: Paul Riddle)

Sparrowhawk, Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire (Photo: John Robinson)

Starling, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion (Photo: Kev Joynes)

Long-tailed Duck
Long-tailed Duck, Unst, Shetland (Photo: Robbie Brookes)

Lapwing, Tomintoul, Highland (Photo: Ian Greenhalgh)

Black-necked Grebe
Black-necked Grebe, private site, West Yorkshire (Photo: Dean Eades)

Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush
Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Greece (Photo: Kit Day)

Indian Silverbill
Indian Silverbill, Egypt (Photo: David Whistlecraft)

Shore Lark
Shore Lark, Skateraw, Lothian (Photo: James Wood)

Common Treecreeper
Common Treecreeper, undisclosed site, Lancashire (Photo: Tom Charles)

Green Woodpecker
Green Woodpecker, Nantmel, Powys (Photo: Paul_Leafe)

Avocet, Cley Marshes NWT, Norfolk (Photo: John Betts)

Purple Sandpiper
Purple Sandpiper, Fife Ness, Fife (Photo: John Anderson)

Yellowhammer, Cannock Chase, Staffordshire (Photo: Derek Lees)

Mediterranean Gull
Mediterranean Gull, Scarborough, North Yorkshire (Photo: John Dickenson)

Rook, Baumber, Lincolnshire (Photo: Matt Latham)

There will not be a Photo of the Week next week due to staff holidays. There will be a double edition the week after.

Written by: Mark Golley