Review of the Week: 19-25 February 2024


With the first shoots of spring being felt last week, autumn 2023 felt like a lifetime ago. But it always felt like there might be one or two surprises still to come after the record-breaking arrival of American landbirds, and so it proved this week. The lucky beneficiary was a birder in Kilwinning, Ayrshire, whose unassuming suburban garden hosted the county's first Myrtle Warbler from 20th – in fact, Ayrshire's first American warbler of any kind. This was already the second New World warbler of 2024 after the Essex Northern Waterthrush.

Myrtle is one of the most frequently sighted in Britain and Ireland, with 46 records to date. However, the last twitchable record for mainland Britain came nearly 10 years ago to the day at High Shincliffe, Durham, with this latest arrival prompting similar interest from birders as it lingered throughout the weekend.

Myrtle Warbler, Kilwinning, Ayrshire (Paul Coombes).

With such a high frequency of records it is unsurprising that it isn't the first the be located during the winter. In fact, Britain's first was found at Newton St Cyres, Devon on 4 January 1955, remaining until 10 February (when it was found dead). Durham's popular first-winter male of 2014 was also found in January – during the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch – lingering until 16 February. Keep abreast of all the latest updates on the Myrtle Warbler at www.birdguides.com/sightings or via the BirdGuides app.

Date comparison of winter Myrtle Warbler records (OrniStats).

Belated news emerged of a Northern Cardinal in a Sherwood, Nottinghamshire, garden on 13 January, though this resident of eastern North America is commonly kept in captivity in Europe. Elsewhere, an excellent find saw Cumbria's first twitchable Richard's Pipit since 2015 at Ulverston from 22nd, with a brief European Serin at Prawle Point, Devon, on 24th. Great Grey Shrikes clung on in Nottinghamshire and West Sussex, with a new bird at Weeting, Norfolk, over the weekend. Shore Larks were at six sites and a Northern Treecreeper was again at Finstown, Mainland Orkney. A House Martin taken into care in Somerset likely suffered the ill effects of a premature February arrival, with others in Devon, Kent and Essex. Six Sand Martins were spread across four sites.

Richard's Pipit, Ulverston, Cumbria (Roger Ridley).

Shore Lark, Holkham, Norfolk (Graham Joyce).

Three Pallid Harriers lingered and a possible Northern Harrier roosted at Ballyvergan, Co Cork, on 25th. Two Rough-legged Buzzards remained at Rosedale Moor, North Yorkshire, with Glossy Ibis at 11 sites.

In Co Cork, the unseasonal Gull-billed Tern lasted for another week and adult Ring-billed Gulls hung out at Clonakilty and Myross. Two more Ring-billed Gulls – an adult and first-winter – were along the Co Kerry coast, with the resident Double-crested Cormorant again in Co Leitrim.

Gull-billed Tern (right), Kilkeran Lake, Cork (Calvin Jones).

Double-crested Cormorant, Doon Lough, Leitrim (J Tynan).

Three Ring-billed Gulls in Britain included a new adult at Chew Valley Lake, Avon. Subscribers will be able to receive filters and alerts for Avon from 1 March 2024. It was a quiet week for Glaucous and Iceland Gulls, though four of eight Kumlien's Gulls were new – three on Scottish islands and one at Murvey, Co Galway.

Ring-billed Gull, Blackrock, Louth (Mark Carmody).

Kumlien's Gull (front bird), Widnes, Cheshire (John Tymon).

Somerset's adult drake Baikal Teal remained popular at Greylake RSPB, with other tallies comprising seven American Wigeon, 19 Green-winged Teal, 28 Ring-necked Ducks and 39 Smew. Both Nottinghamshire and Hampshire retained Ferruginous Ducks, while 11 Lesser Scaup included five still at Abberton Reservoir, Essex. The Black Scoter proved elusive off the Norfolk coast and Surf Scoter totalled six. A first-winter drake King Eider was at the reliable site of Bluemull Sound, Shetland, with a White-billed Diver at Sound Gruney.

Baikal Teal, Greylake RSPB, Somerset & Bristol (Tony Hovell).

Norfolk's first-winter Red-breasted Goose resurfaced near Wells-next-the-Sea on 24th, with a long-staying adult still on Islay, Argyll. Black Brant were split between Essex and Co Wexford, two Richardson's Cackling Geese were in north-west Ireland, and two Snow Geese remained in Scotland.

The lingering trio of Long-billed Dowitchers headlined shorebird action, alongside a Lesser Yellowlegs still at Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincolnshire, and the Somerset Kentish Plover.

Lesser Yellowlegs, Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincolnshire (Glyn Sellors).


Western Palearctic

Two drake Baikal Teal on opposing sides of the Øresund in Denmark and Sweden highlight the rapid status change of this species across Europe in recent years. Other Danish news saw the lingering Stejneger's Scoter and Pacific Diver reported, with the American Robin and two White-winged Scoter lingering in Iceland.

An adult drake Falcated Duck at Zoetermeer, Netherlands, since 11th is thought to be a returning bird accepted onto Category A of the Dutch list by the rarities committee (CDNA). Reports of a Sandhill Crane at Wulfersdorf, Germany, from 24th likely relate to one of Europe's two resident birds heading back north with Common Cranes. Two Ross's Geese and a Pygmy Cormorant continued in Belgium; a Great Knot at Evros Delta on 19th was the first record for Greece.

Another busy week on Cape Verde included reports of a Magnificent Frigatebird and White-faced Whistling Duck on Sal and a White-tailed Tropicbird on Raso. A female Wood Duck on Terceira and a Belted Kingfisher on Flores were fresh finds in the Azores, with two American Coots and a Pied-billed Grebe also on Terceira. Two Sudan Golden Sparrows were on Gran Canaria and a Moroccan Wagtail was in Gibraltar.


Written by: Sam Viles