Review of the Week: 1st-7th November 2007


The week at a glance

Despite the package of high-quality late October leftovers last week, many birders felt a distinct sense of anticlimax as the month finished with a rather timid flourish. But as Bonfire Night beckoned, November arrived with a mighty bang and rarities of the highest order cascaded into Britain and Ireland during the first week of the new month.

Mourning Dove: Carnach, N. Uist (Photo: Lee Fuller)

White's Thrush: Thorngumbald. E. Yorks (Photo: Andy Booth)

Brünnich's Guillemot: Girdle Ness, Aberdeenshire (Photo: Andrew Whitehouse)

Leading the way were not one but two Mourning Doves. The first bird was discovered at Carnach, on North Uist (Western Isles) on 1st (though crofters thought that the bird had been present since around 30th October) and was found just a short distance from where a Mourning Dove was seen, for three days, in November 1999. Even more remarkable was that the finder of the 1999 bird was responsible for this one too! The 2007 bird was still present to at least 7th. The second Mourning Dove in as many days was discovered on Inishbofin island, some seven miles off the coast of Co. Galway, on 2nd, and was the first record for Ireland of this rather slight, waif-like dove. Many keen Irish birders took the chance of making the most of a Friday discovery and the bird remained over the weekend to 7th at least. These two birds represented the fourth and fifth records for the Western Palearctic (the first was on Iceland in 1995, the second on Calf of Man in 1989). With just a handful of records of live birds, the finding of a healthy Brünnich's Guillemot is always cause for excitement and that was certainly the case with the bird found off Girdle Ness (Aberdeenshire) on 7th. Despite many people trekking to Shetland in 2005, many, many more must have contemplated a journey north for this rather enigmatic auk. A new arrival from the Nearctic was a Cliff Swallow found at Ballymacrown (Co. Cork) on 4th, while the incredible autumn tally of American Buff-bellied Pipits surged forward yet again. New arrivals were noted at Trevilley Farm, near Land's End (Cornwall) on 2nd-7th at least, Carnsore Point (Co. Wexford) on 2nd and on the beach near Ballycotton (Co. Cork) on 1st-6th (having been discovered on 31st October). Also on 31st October, came belated news of the American Buff-bellied Pipit back at Clahane beach, Liscannor (Co. Clare), coming some 17 days after it was last reported. The grand total for the autumn stands at a remarkable 13 birds so far (though some duplication is, of course, possible). Another species enjoying an impressive showing is Red-flanked Bluetail, and the sixth of the autumn was found in the sheltered, leafy confines of Cot Valley (Cornwall) on 3rd, but had gone by dawn the next day. An early morning Blyth's Pipit flew south over Nanjizal valley (Cornwall) on 1st, while the male Pine Bunting remained on Fair Isle (Shetland) to 7th at least. A Wilson's Snipe (or possibly two) could still be found lurking on Lower Moors, St Mary's (Scilly) to 2nd while, not to be forgotten, the Killdeer on Shetland made it into another month, remaining around the Pool of Virkie on 1st-4th at least. Some late, rather sad, news concerned a White's Thrush that was picked up dead, beneath a window, at Thorngumbald (E. Yorks) on 20th October.

Despite relatively calm conditions across much of Britain and Ireland at the start of the week, some exciting seabirds were noted. A White-billed Diver was reported past Sheringham (Norfolk) on 6th, while a Leach's Storm-petrel was seen from Cloch Point (Clyde) on 1st. A handful of Balearic Shearwaters were reported, including one off Cley (Norfolk) on 3rd. The lack of northerly gales along north and eastern coasts ensured that numbers of Little Auks were low, but at least 40 birds were seen offshore from Cley and Salthouse (Norfolk) on 4th, and 29 off Whitburn (Co. Durham) on 7th. Several hundred Pomarine Skuas were noted from many North Sea coastal locations between 3rd and 6th, with the highest counts being 83 birds flying by North Queensferry (Fife) and 97 passing Hound Point (Lothian) on 4th, with 103 from Sheringham (Norfolk) on 6th. Often these November movements consist entirely of rather mean- and moody-looking juveniles, but this year a number of resplendent pale-phase adults have been seen, including 33 (of the 97) past Hound Point. Grey Phalarope numbers managed to sneak into double figures, including one reported from the Uig to Lochmaddy ferry, doubtless seen by hardy souls heading towards the Mourning Dove on 3rd, while at least four were recorded off the north Norfolk coast on 6th.

Glossy Ibis: Chew Valley Lake, Somerset (Photo: Gary Thoburn)

Great White Egret: Leighton Moss, Lancs (Photo: Damian Waters)

Four Cattle Egrets arrived in Dorset, flying over Lytchett Bay on 3rd. Perhaps the same four birds then accounted for separate sightings of a single at Holes Bay; also on 3rd, and the following day when three were together at Bestwall RSPB near Wareham, and another was at Radipole Lake RSPB. Later in the week, on 7th, one was seen at Wareham Moors, and another flew over Hengistbury Head. Another Cattle Egret was seen at Kenfig Pool NNR (Glamorgan) on 5th-6th (when it was also seen at Eglwys Nunydd reservoir) while on Guernsey, another was seen at Rue des Bergers NR on 2nd. The small influx of Great White Egrets appeared to have abated somewhat as October turned to November, though there were still three or four new arrivals reported. After one was reported from Shropshire on 3rd, one was seen at Grove Ferry (Kent) on 4th, with another flying north-west past Spurn (E. Yorkshire) on 5th and over Wallasea Island (Essex) on 6th. Lingering birds were still to be seen on North Uist (Western Isles), in Lancashire (the long-stayer at Leighton Moss), Hampshire and Norfolk (including one over the outskirts of Norwich on 4th). The juvenile Purple Heron was reported again at the Ouse Washes RSPB (Cambridgeshire) on 4th. A new Glossy Ibis arrived at Chew Valley Lake (Somerset) on 2nd-3rd, before relocating (via Shapwick Heath) to Catcott Lows (Somerset) later on 3rd, and was still in place there to 5th at least. The near-resident individual remained at Marshside Marsh RSPB (Lancashire) to 7th. Around 22 Spoonbills were seen during the course of the week, with maxima of seven on Brownsea Island (Dorset) on 1st, and six still at Islay Marsh (Devon) to 3rd at least.

Ross's Goose: Holkham, Norfolk (Photo: Russell Hayes)

Lesser White-fronted Goose: Holkham, Norfolk (Photo: Russell Hayes)

A Ross's Goose was reported from Drem (Lothian) belatedly on 31st October, while one of two Ross's Geese in Norfolk remained in with the ever-increasing hordes of Pink-footed Geese at Holkham Freshmarsh to 3rd at least. The bird frequenting sites in east Norfolk was seen at Heigham Holmes on 6th. The white-morph Snow Goose was seen at Horsey (Norfolk) on 1st (with around 4,000 Pink-footed Geese). Last week's mystery as to how many blue-phase Snow Geese may be present in Scotland was conclusively resolved on 4th, with singles present at both Loch Connell (Dumfries and Galloway) and Kilconquhar Loch (Fife). The popular Lesser White-fronted Goose (of unknown, but now thought to be suspect, origin) was still to be found in the Holkham area to at least 2nd, and was still consorting with local Greylag Geese and visiting White-fronted Geese. The 4th proved to be a good day for goose-watchers searching for Black Brants - six being seen - with two together at The Naze (Essex). Singletons were present on Old Hall Marshes RSPB (Essex), Gosport (Hampshire), West Wittering (W. Sussex) and Newtownards (Co. Down). A Richardson's Canada Goose was seen amongst Barnacle Geese on North Uist (Western Isles) on 4th-6th, while a probable Richardson's Canada Goose (also with Barnacle Geese) was at Alvecote Pool (Warwickshire) for some 90 minutes on 2nd, before flying off. Following a rather belated report from Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) on 21st-28th October, a quartet of drake American Wigeons were found during the week, three of them in Scotland; at Wick (Highland) on 2nd, at the Loch of Spiggie (Shetland) on 3rd-5th, on Lewis (Western Isles) on 5th and at Yelland (Devon) on 2nd-3rd. A hybrid drake American X Eurasian Wigeon was again at Exmouth (Devon) on 3rd. Drake Green-winged Teals remained at Inner Marsh Farm RSPB (Cheshire) from 1st-7th and Marshside RSPB (Lancashire) to 7th. New arrivals were noted at Martin Mere RSPB (Lancashire) and Belfast Lough RSPB (Co. Antrim) on 4th, and at Woodhorn Flash (Northumberland) and Hayle Estuary RSPB (Cornwall) on 5th. A belated record, from the end of October, was of the female Blue-winged Teal at Bull Island (Dublin) still being present to 28th. The drake Lesser Scaup remained at Woolhampton gravel pits (Berks) on from 1st-7th, while other males remained at Blagdon Lake (Somerset) to 6th, and at Stourton (Wiltshire) to at least 4th. Six Ring-necked Ducks were reported during the week, and included a drake at Foxcote Reservoir (Buckinghamshire) on 4th, with a female was near Saltash (Cornwall) on 4th-7th. Others were noted on North Uist, in Somerset, Co. Fermanagh and Co. Donegal. The female Surf Scoter was still on Lough Swilly (Co. Donegal) on 1st, while a drake remained off Ruddon's Point (Fife) to 4th at least. Single juveniles were discovered off Dawlish Warren and the Exe Estuary (Devon) from 2nd-6th and at Polkerris, St. Austell (Cornwall) on 4th, with another seen off Raghly Point (Co. Sligo) on 30th October.

The Black Kite around the Nocton Heath area (Lincolnshire) made it in to November, the bird's seventh month of UK residence. A few Rough-legged Buzzards were still being recorded into the early days of November, with up to eight birds noted. These included one near Hayton (Notts) on 3rd, and two on the Harty Marshes (Kent) to 6th at least.

Spotted Sandpiper: Lisvane Reservoir, Glamorgan (Photo: Stephen Berry)

Lesser Yellowlegs: Minsmere, Suffolk (Photo: Chris Mayne)

White-rumped Sandpiper: Kenfig Pool, Glamorgan (Photo: Paul Leafe)

Nearctic shorebirds continued to attract the attention of many during the first days of November. Six American Golden Plovers included the showy juvenile at Aberlady Bay (Lothian) present to 3rd, and two juveniles discovered amongst large Fenland flock of Golden Plovers in Cambridgeshire; at Holt Fen on 3rd-4th, with what may have been a second bird discovered at Swaffham Prior Fen on 4th. The juvenile Spotted Sandpiper was still to be found around Lisvane Reservoir (Glamorgan) from 1st-7th and the juvenile Long-billed Dowitcher remained on the edge of the Exe Estuary, at Bowling Green RSPB, (Devon) to 6th, with another juvenile present at Lough Beg (Co. Londonderry) to 1st. A third Long-billed Dowitcher was at Ballycotton Lake (Co. Cork) on 6th (along with an American Golden Plover). The first winter White-rumped Sandpiper at Kenfig (Glamorgan) continued to show well from 1st-7th at least. There was a late record of A Semipalmated Sandpiper, present from 29th-31st October, at Ballycotton (Co. Cork) but seemingly no sign in November. A brief Pectoral Sandpiper was at Belvide Reservoir (Staffordshire) on 5th. In Suffolk, after what seemed to be just a one-day visit at the tail end of October, the juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs reappeared at Minsmere RSPB from 1st-7th. Another was found at Rosscarbery (Co. Cork) on 5th-6th. This particular species was the cause of much angst amongst Shetland birders this week, with the news that the one day "Lesser Yellowlegs" on Foula on 11th October was actually the first ever Shetland record of Greater Yellowlegs. With the problems caused by the bird seen earlier in 2007 in Lincolnshire, this tricky species pair has proven to be trickier still this year.

Ring-billed Gull: Gosport, Hants (Photo: Keith Simpson)

Old-stagers accounted for two of the week's three Ring-billed Gull records with the adult at Walpole (Hants) and, back again, the adult on the Isle of Dogs (London) on 4th, with perhaps this bird being seen at the London Wetland Centre WWT on 7th. Another adult, first seen last week, was at Kinneil Lagoon (Forth) on 4th. Two Sabine's Gulls heading north past Sandwich Bay (Kent) were the only records of the week, while the Forster's Tern remained at Cruisetown Strand (Co. Louth) to at least 7th.

Waxwing: Titchwell, Norfolk (Photo: Garth Peacock)

Numbers of Richard's Pipits took a decided upturn this week, with 15 noted (compared to just four last week). Of particular note were three on Bardsey Island (Gwynedd) on 4th, and at least three in the rank grassy meadows near Gramborough Hill, Salthouse (Norfolk) on the afternoon of 4th. One of these birds, a rather sickly looking individual, was the topic of much debate and comment, with observers musing over the pros and cons of Richard's or Blyth's Pipit for days afterwards. The count of at least 17 Woodlarks over the Dungeness Bird Observatory (Kent) on 3rd was certainly of note, and suggested the arrival of migrants from the continent rather than a quirky movement of British birds. Waxwing numbers this autumn have been small, with mainly singles reported so far, so flocks of 18, at Bridge of Don (Aberdeenshire), and 16, at Tain (Highland) on 6th were hopefully the heralds of a mass invasion to come. A Bluethroat was reported at Spurn (E. Yorkshire) on 4th.

Possible Desert Lesser Whitethroat: Porthcurno, Cornwall (Photo: Mike Barker)

A Radde's Warbler was seen at Mizen Head (Co. Cork) on 3rd, while a Dusky Warbler was found at Porthcurno (Cornwall) (Cornwall) on 1st and remained until last light of the 3rd. A Lesser Whitethroat discovered at the same site, from 2nd-6th, appeared to resemble one of the larger eastern races, but the in-field identification of sandy-grey forms is notoriously tough. With so much attention focused on the Porthcurno bushes, it wasn't a surprise when another rarity was discovered, in the shape of a Pallas's Warbler on 6th. So often an early November gem, numbers have been poor this year and the only other bird this week was found on St Mary's (Scilly) on 3rd-5th. Some 17 Yellow-browed Warblers were recorded, including a remarkable 10 around St Mary's (Scilly) on 1st. Elsewhere, the bird at the London Wetland Centre WWT was still present to 4th at least and one was found at Oban Turmisgarry, North Uist (Western Isles) on 3rd, doubtless due to increased observer coverage in that part of the country over the weekend. Two Barred Warblers were seen in the far south west, at Carland Cross (Cornwall) on 1st and near Land's End on 6th.

Great Grey Shrike: Bradnor Hill, Herefordshire (Photo: Kev Joynes)

The first week of November saw a sharp upturn in the number of Great Grey Shrikes present around the country, with up to 30 birds seen in 19 counties (double the number seen in the last week of October). Up to four birds were present in Norfolk, and three birds were seen in Somerset and there was a scattering of popular birds through inland counties including Staffordshire, Nottinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Surrey. A first-winter Red-backed Shrike was seen lurking behind the Turk's Head pub on St Agnes (Scilly) on 1st.

Lapland Bunting: Salthouse, Norfolk (Photo: Garth Peacock)

Two Red-breasted Flycatchers were found during the week, one in Stornoway, Lewis (Western Isles) on 4th, and an adult male on Lundy (Devon) on 5th. Calm conditions along the east coast enabled a Penduline Tit to make landfall in the vast reedbeds at Minsmere RSPB (Suffolk) on 4th, remaining (albeit elusive) to 6th. A Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll was reported in the company of two "North-western" Redpolls in the heather at Oban Turmisgarry, North Uist (Western Isles) on 3rd but, despite subsequent searches, wasn't seen again. A flyover Serin flew east along cliffs near Seaton (Devon) on 6th and two Little Buntings appeared, one in the steep-sided surroundings of Millcombe Valley, Lundy (Devon) on 1st, with another at Kilnsea (E. Yorkshire) on 4th. The news of a flock of over 50 Lapland Buntings at Walcott (Norfolk) on 3rd was exceptional, and represented the largest single flock in the county for two decades. Also in Norfolk, a further 30 birds were around the beach car park at Salthouse on 6th. Finally, out on the Gower Peninsula (Glamorgan) the Common Rosefinch was still to be found to 4th at least.

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Photo of the Week

Tawny Owl: Ogden Water, W. Yorks (Photo: Sean Gray)

Sean's portrait of a Tawny Owl at Ogden Water is certainly an unusual photograph. Unlike the typical shot of this species roosting in a tree, this bird is perched out in the open, in sunlight, on a lakeside rock. Sean must have been surprised by this sight but, as usual, captured it with great technique. This image is a good example of how side-lighting can bring out texture and shape.

Other notable photos

Red Kite, Gigrin Farm, Powys (Photo: Alan Saunders)

Slavonian Grebe, Balcomie, Fife (Photo: John Anderson)

Osprey, undisclosed site, Argyll (Photo: Alan Saunders)

Brambling, Silent Valley, Gwent (Photo: Mike Warburton)

Sparrowhawk, Summer Leys LNR, Northants (photo: Richard Bedford)

Red-legged Partridge, private site, Norfolk (Photo: Peter Simpson)

Marsh Harrier, Welney WWT, Norfolk (Photo: Garth Peacock)

Tree Sparrow, Carsington Water, Derbys (Photo: John Dickenson)

Common Buzzard, undisclosed site, Worcs (Photo: Mark Hancox)

Mark adds: Sharp-eyed staticians would have noted a couple of omissions in the number of Western Palearctic records of Mourning Dove. As well as the two birds in the Western Isles, the single birds on Calf of Man, Inishbofin and Iceland there are additional records from Sweden in June 2001 (its provenence was much debated at the time) and also from the Azores (in November 2005). An additional record, of a bird in the hold of a plane at London Heathrow in February 1998 is not included! The bird in Iceland was collected (illegally) in 1995.

Many of the images that appear in our weekly reviews can be purchased from the photographers, some of whom have their own websites:

John Anderson: http://www.pbase.com/crail_birder
Bill Aspin: http://billaspinsnatureblog.blogspot.com
Mike Atkinson: http://mikeatkinson.net
Richard Bedford: http://www.richardbedford.co.uk
Steve Blain: http://www.steveblain.co.uk
Will Bowell: http://www.wanderingbirders.com
Paul Bowerman: http://www.severnsidebirds.co.uk
Paul Bowyer: http://www.birdlist.co.uk
Graham Catley: http://pewit.blogspot.com/
Mark Caunt: http://www.AngusBirding.com
Dean Eades: http://www.deaneadeswildlifephotography.co.uk
Andrew Easton: http://home.clara.net/ammodytes/
Graham Eaton: http://www.eatonphotography.co.uk
Stuart Elsom: http://www.stuartelsom.co.uk
Steve Evans: http://www.isabelline.co.uk
Katie Fuller: http://bogbumper.blogspot.com
Ian Fulton: http://www.pbase.com/ianfulton
Sean Gray: http://www.grayimages.co.uk
David Hatton: http://www.kowapower.com
Josh Jones: http://www.wanderingbirders.com
Paul and Andrea Kelly: http://www.irishbirdimages.com/
Matt Latham: http://www.mattlathamphotography.com
Micky Maher: http://www.aardfoto.co.uk/
John Malloy: http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/johnmalloy
Brian Mcgeough: http://www.brianmcgeough.com/
Tony Mills: http://www.notjustbirds.com
Jerry O'Brien: http://www.BirdsofBerkshire.co.uk
Mark Newsome: http://www.durhambirdclub.org/
James Packer: http://www.somersetbirder.co.uk
Mike Pennington: http://www.nature.shetland.co.uk
Ken Plows: http://www.kenswildlifepics.co.uk
Ray Purser: http://www.pbase.com/02purser
Marc Read: http://www.marcread-pix.com
Tristan Reid: http://www.atricillaimages.co.uk/
Steve Round: http://stevenround-birdphotography.com
Craig Shaw: http://craigsukbirdpictures.bravehost.com/
Tom Shevlin: http://wildlifesnaps.com/
Peter Simpson: http://www.blueskybirds.co.uk
Matt Slaymaker: http://www.mattslaymaker.co.uk
Oliver Smart: http://www.smartimages.co.uk
George Spraggs: http://www.bird-watching.co.uk
Richard Steel: http://wildlifephotographic.bblogspot.com/
Richard Stonier: http://www.birdsonline.co.uk
Stephen Tomlinson: http://stevesbirding.blogspot.com
Sue Tranter: http://www.suesbirdphotos.co.uk/
Damian Waters: http://www.drumimages.co.uk
Steve Williams: http://www.hilbrebirdobs.co.uk
Simon Wilson: http://www.bakewellbirder.co.uk/
Chris Wormwell: http://www.iombirding.co.uk
Dylan Wrathall: http://www.planetthanet.org
Written by: Mark Golley