For once the weather has been relatively unremarkable during the week. A ridge of high pressure brought frosty nights and clear days to most parts over the weekend. Rather predictably, the lull did not last, and northern and western parts of the country have received a drenching and battering over the last day or so. A look back into February revealed what we all knew; that it was a very wet and generally mild month. Temperatures were over 3°C up on the norm and Folkestone sweltered under a sultry 15.1°C on the 22nd. Many areas in the north and west received two to three times the normal amount of rainfall, resulting in flooding more than once for some areas.
The week has been relatively quiet; a lack of mild south or south-westerly winds has meant that relatively few migrants have reached our shores as yet and there have been very few 'new' arrivals during the week. The highlight was a White-billed Diver at Gairloch (Highland) on 3rd. Two new dashing white Gyr Falcons were added to the two elusive birds present on Islay (Argyll) and Killybegs (Donegal), with one on Stronsey (Orkney) from 1st-2nd and another at Fanad Head (Donegal) on 2nd. To learn more about the frustrations and final elation at catching up with the Islay individual read the account by Carl Reavey of his eventual success at www.birdguides.com/birdnews/article.asp?a=20. A Great Shearwater reported past Flamborough Head (East Yorkshire) on 1st was an unusual, but not unprecedented, occurrence and tied in with last week's Cory's Shearwater off Lothian.
Many of our familiar long-staying rarities from earlier in the winter can still be seen. The Snowy Egret is still on the Isle of Arran and the Great White Egret continues its stay in Cheshire. On the subject of big and white, a double-figure tally of Spoonbills are present in England, though nearly all are in the southwest. Rarer ducks are still represented by the King Eider in Norfolk, Lesser Scaup in Dorset and Black Duck in Devon. Nine American Wigeons are scattered around and about, 8 Green-winged Teals, 5 Ferruginous Ducks and 5 Ring-necked Ducks, though of the latter, mainland birders only have access to one in northeast England and another in southern Wales. A Long-billed Dowitcher was seen once again in Antrim and was the only rare wader seen during the week. Adult Ross's Gulls can still be seen with patience in Devon and Galway, while the adult Bonaparte's Gull is still in Cornwall and up to 18 Ring-billed Gulls are at large in Britain and Ireland, as well as a small number of American Herring Gulls. In Derbyshire the Shorelark can still be found in the unlikely surrounds of Pleasley Colliery. Two long-staying 'Sibes' remain - the Hume's Warbler in Northumberland and the Yellow-browed Warbler in Essex, while from closer to home the male Serin continues to sing in less-than-aesthetic surrounds in Greater London.
As alluded to earlier, migrants have not been pouring into the country. However, the list includes a scatter of Sandwich Terns and Sand Martins, several Northern Wheatears, including one in Nottinghamshire, drake Garganey, several presumed migrant Chiffchaffs, White Wagtails and a Little Ringed Plover in East Yorkshire. In addition a number of Firecrests have been reported, with up to a dozen seen during the week. It is not all about incoming summer migrants though, as a good number of Great Grey Shrikes have been seen during the week with up to 11 birds reported. Some are birds that have been present during the winter, though some are clearly new birds working their way through the country. It has not been a classic winter for Waxwings, but up to 75 have been seen during the week from just over half a dozen locations, though few have lingered.
For those wishing to plan a weekend trip, it is clear that Norfolk has much to offer the visiting birder and a review of the birds seen in the county during February by Moss Taylor can be seen at www.birdguides.com/birdnews/article.asp?a=2. The county must offer some of the best year-round birdwatching anywhere in Britain and Ireland and the roll call of rarities seen during the month makes for a mouth-watering read.