Review of the Week: 20-26 February 2023


Late February tends to be one of the quietest periods of the year, although a light scattering of early summer migrants and a trickle of new rare and scarce kept things going.

Nottinghamshire boasted one of the best finds, with a Pallas's Warbler at Attenborough from 23rd. Yet another winter Phylloscopus taking advantage of the plentiful insect supply that sewage works provide, it was accompanied by a Firecrest and Siberian Chiffchaff, with a Ring-necked Duck at the neighbouring nature reserve. Quite the star cast! The second for Nottinghamshire and third for the East Midlands, it follows one-day birds at Bolham Hall, Nottinghamshire, on 25 November 2002 and Bondhay Common, Derbyshire, on 30 October 1999. Another Pallas's remained at Newfield, Durham.

Pallas's Warbler, Attenborough (village), Nottinghamshire (Tom Hines).

A Red-rumped Swallow at Lough Leane, Co Kerry, on 23rd came as a surprise considering its inland location and lack of other early migrant action. It turned out to be a harbinger of a small arrival of early summer migrants in southern areas, however, including a couple of Swallows (in East Sussex and Isle of Wight). A Sand Martin was at Lodmoor RSPB, Dorset, on 24th, while House Martins were in Devon, Dorset and Co Wexford. Two incredibly keen Northern Wheatears were back in the Welsh Cambrian Mountains too, with a singing Willow Warbler in Warwickshire.

More in-keeping with the month of February was the discovery of two Little Buntings; a highly notable Hertfordshire record – trapped and ringed at Stanborough Reedmarsh on 21st – and one at Metherell, Cornwall. Two more continued at Cot Valley, Cornwall, as did Richard's Pipits at both Awre, Gloucestershire, and St Mary's, Scilly, and at least 13 Shore Larks still in north Norfolk.

Great Grey Shrikes are a rare commodity this winter, making a new find at Findron, Moray & Nairn, notable. Others lingered at Harwood Forest, Northumberland, and Shatterford, Hampshire. Both Ham Wall RSPB, Somerset, and West Rise Marsh, East Sussex, hosted two Eurasian Penduline Tits apiece. A Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll was at Hoswick, Mainland Shetland, while Waxwings were left at just 11 sites.

Kent's third Hume's Leaf Warbler of the winter was at Preston from 22nd, while others clung on at Sandgate, Kent, and Compton Dando, Somerset. Other lingering rarities comprised the Isabelline Wheatear at Holywell, Cornwall, and Eastern Yellow Wagtail at Carlton Marshes, Suffolk, though the male Black-throated Thrush was still at Wykeham Forest, North Yorkshire, on 20th but not thereafter.

Black-throated Thrush, Wykeham Forest, North Yorkshire (Ian Howard).

It was a strange week for Gyr Falcon reports, with a white morph at Snettisham RSPB, Norfolk, on 24th followed by one near Caistor, Lincolnshire, two days later. Ruling out a number of falconers' birds – both pure and hybrids – is a task fraught with frustration and, without excellent documentation, is likely to consign any birds in southern Britain to the "unknown origin" category for the foreseeable.

Equally as perplexing was another report of the Irish Egyptian Vulture near Athlone, Co Westmeath, on 23rd. Reported by an amateur naturalist, it adds to a number of reports of varying reliability from this area over recent months and begs the question that, if they do prove to be true, just what is it still doing here?

Otherwise, a Pallid Harrier was still at Warham Greens, Norfolk, and up to three Rough-legged Buzzards were reported, though only one in Orkney was confirmed. On 26th, a Black Kite was over freshly ploughed fields at Winterborne Kingston, Dorset.

A new first-winter American Herring Gull was in the Outer Hebrides at Stornoway, Lewis, from 24-26th, with Cornwall's first-winter last logged at Hayle Estuary on 20th. Additional interest at the Cornish site was added by the long-staying adult Ring-billed Gull, as well as a perplexing second-winter that looks a strong match for a Ring-billed × Common Gull hybrid.

American Herring Gull (right), Hayle Estuary, Cornwall (Graham Jepson).

Nine more Ring-billed Gulls were in Ireland, including a first-winter at Dingle, Co Kerry. A localised arrival of white-winged gulls at Killybegs, Co Donegal, produced a second-winter Kumlien's on 23rd, alongside 10 Iceland Gulls, an adult Glaucous Gull and a trio of Glaucous × Herring Gull hybrids. Other Kumlien's – all adults – were in Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Orkney, Co Galway, and Co Kerry.

Kumlien's Gull, Westray, Orkney (Sandra Otter).

A colour-ringed first-winter Baltic Gull found dead at Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, on 28 January is just the second confirmed Scottish record of this enigmatic Lesser Black-backed Gull subspecies. In Ireland, meanwhile, the Double-crested Cormorant remained at Doon Lough, Co Leitrim, and an adult Bonaparte's Gull was still at Ballygalley, Co Antrim, while the Forster's Tern visited three sites around Galway Bay, Co Galway

In Gwynedd, the drake Baikal Teal was back at Foryd Bay from 24th. Relocated on a small farm pond, it accompanied the more-expected Eurasian Teal this time around and afforded some excellent views before the week's end. Elsewhere, American Wigeon remained in Oxfordshire and Northumberland, and Green-winged Teal were at six sites.

Baikal Teal, Foryd Bay, Gwynedd (Jack Driver).

Slightly down on recent weeks, Ring-necked Duck sightings hailed from 26 locations. All three Lesser Scaup remained – at Staines Reservoirs, London, Ham Wall RSPB, Somerset, and West Loch Ollay, South Uist – with three Ferruginous Duck still at Filby Broad, Norfolk, throughout.

Ring-necked Duck, Glasgow, Clyde (Alex Penn).

White-winged Scoter were again off both Musselburgh Lagoons, Lothian, and Achill Island, Co Mayo, with a Black Scoter still of Bamburgh, Northumberland. Eight Surf Scoter were noted, including three at Brandon Bay, Co Kerry. The drake King Eider was still at Redcar, Cleveland, too, while White-billed Divers were off Shetland and Vatersay, Outer Hebrides.

Both Red-breasted and Richardson's Cackling Geese persisted with Barnacle Geese on Islay, Argyll, while two Todd's Canada Geese were with Greenland White-fronted Geese flocks on the island. Another Richardson's Cackling Goose remained on The Mullet, Co Mayo; a Lesser Canada Goose was at Port Logan, Dumfries & Galloway.

Red-breasted Goose (right of centre), Loch Gruinart RSPB, Islay, Argyll (Simon Knight).

Lesser Canada Goose (centre), Port Logan, Dumfries & Galloway (Lawrence Gray).

Most notable of the week's six Snow Geese was a white-morph youngster near Seaville, Cumbria. Also new was one at Killimster, Caithness. Unfortunately, the dozen Taiga Bean Geese in Norfolk were last noted mid-week. Two or three Black Brant were still in Kent and Suffolk.

Snow Goose, Calvo, Cumbria (Roger Ridley).

On 24th, the Cheshire Long-billed Dowitcher reappeared at Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB for the first time since mid-January, with one still along the north Norfolk coast too. Elsewhere, the Greater Yellowlegs at Tallow, Co Waterford, and White-rumped Sandpiper at Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire, both continued.

White-rumped Sandpiper, Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire (Geoff Dicker).

Long-billed Dowitcher, Cley Marshes NWT, Norfolk (Gillian Thompson).

A brief Glossy Ibis was at iPort Lakes, South Yorkshire, on 21st and two Common Cranes overflew Lytchett Fields RSPB, Dorset, the following day, with an unringed White Stork still at Worth Marsh, Kent.


Western Palearctic

On 23rd, an Alpine Accentor visited the 33rd floor of an office building in The Hague, the second bird this winter to be found on a tall urban structure in The Netherlands. Should we pay closer attention to our city skyscrapers for a chance at one of these lost altitudinal migrants? The Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit put in another week at Puttershoek too and a different Alpine Accentor remained in Belgium at Château Fort de Bouillon, with a Pine Bunting at Korbeek-Dijle and a Pygmy Cormorant at Mol.

Ma'ayan Tzv was treated to an illustrious Israeli double act, with the nation's second Black-faced Bunting followed by its fourth Masked Wagtail. Elsewhere, the Pied Bush Chat at Ma'or and Three-banded Plover at Hazore'a both lingered. Sewage works in Cyprus came into their own this week, with one at Paphos hosting the island's fourth Oriental Turtle Dove and one at Larnaca enjoying a Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit.

Oriental Turtle Dove, Paphos, Paphos (Matthew Smith).

Spain's own Black-faced Bunting lingered at Silla, as did an American Black Duck at Sada and Alaskan Yellow Wagtail at Marbella. A further Eastern Yellow Wagtail was at Aveiro, Portugal, with a Sociable Lapwing still at Evora. Flores, Azores, hosted a Hooded Merganser and Hudsonian Whimbrel, with a Great Blue Heron still at Praia da Vitória, Terceira. In Cape Verde, two Black-capped Petrels were again off Ribeira Grande, Santo Antão on 20th.

The Grey-tailed Tattler continued in France at Étang de Thau, as did a Forster's Tern at Guissény, two American Herring Gulls at Gueltas and a Sociable Lapwing at Lacassagne. Germany's second Stejneger's Scoter flew past Schwedeneck on 21st, with a Black Scoter off nearby Hohwacht. Another Black Scoter was again in Poland, while a Siberian Accentor caused a stir at Rokocin. The second Pallas's Warbler for Serbia was in Belgrade, while both of Sweden's mega-rare visitors – the Baltimore Oriole and Siberian Rubythroat – lasted for another week.

'Thor', the popular male Walrus last seen along the Northumberland coast in January, resurfaced at Breiðdalsvík on the east coast of Iceland on 24th.

Siberian Rubythroat, Trollhättan, Västra Götalands län (Andreas Gullberg).

Written by: Sam Viles