Review of the Week: 20-26 March 2023


The weather was rather nondescript for much of the week, though a modest arrival of spring migrants persisted. The first Common Redstart was back in Hampshire on 25th, while a male Pied Flycatcher was reported back in Derbyshire on 26th. Currently, the Garganey situation is a far cry from last spring's influx, though, on 26th, the first bird was reported back in Scotland and a pair was in Wales, with 30 sites in England also reporting birds.  

Common Redstart, New Forest, Hampshire (Tim Salkeld).

Garganey, Adwick Washlands RSPB (Dearne Valley), South Yorkshire (Tom Hines).

The Alpine Swift influx continued unabated, though it does feel the peak has now passed after the weekend. Some 561 reports came from 129 sites this week alone: 80 sites in England, 31 in Ireland, eight in Scotland, five in Northern Ireland, three in Wales, and one in the Isle of Man. With so many birds in the country, the true number can't be known and there is considerable overlap with the number of sites involved too. It is undoubtedly the largest influx of this species ever across both Britain and Ireland and has provided a fantastic opportunity for many to catch up with this species across the board. Several counties have experienced their first-ever twitchable records, or at least the first in many years. Particularly popular birds this week included three at Dunbar, Lothian, and twos at both Cromer, Norfolk, and Scarborough, North Yorkshire. Inland examples included one over Monkspath, West Midlands, on 24th, and Doxey Marshes, Staffordshire, on 26th, plus several reports from Hertfordshire, Essex and London.

Alpine Swift sightings during the week (BirdGuides.com data).

Typically with such numbers present, the question 'could any stay and breed?' has been posed. Well, Alpine Swifts typically don't breed until their third calendar year – though it can occur earlier – and they pair for life. Perhaps not surprisingly, most birds photographed in enough detail to tell have looked to be second-calendar-year birds, with some pair bonding noted in Devon mid-week. So, on the basis of breeding ecology and climate suitability, the answer is 'probably not', and the current influx is just a result of a 'perfect storm' of conditions. It's also worth mentioning that unidentified swift species were also reported from nine sites, and you'd think there was a good chance that most/all related to Alpine Swift. 

Alpine Swift, Chapel Six Marshes, Lincolnshire (Mark Johnson).

Alpine Swift, Dunbar, Lothian (Frank Golding).

Large swifts to one side, although sticking with a similar silhouette … attention was drawn to the Isles of Scilly on 23rd, when a brief kestrel species on St Mary's was soon confirmed as an adult male Lesser Kestrel. Typically the bird was mobile, ranging across the island, though a rough pattern became established with Peninnis Head at the heart. Unfortunately, weather conditions limited the opportunity for any would-be twitchers, though the bird was still present at the week's end. This is the fifth record for the archipelago, with the last as recently as spring 2020.

Lesser Kestrel, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Nick Watmough).

Lesser Kestrel, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Jonnie Fisk).

Another classic spring overshoot came in the form of a second-calendar-year Great Spotted Cuckoo on the cliffs at Easton Bavents, Suffolk, on 24th. The bird was in a field with no general access, though could be viewed distantly from public rights of way, albeit there was no sign the following day. Sticking in Suffolk, a Short-toed Snake Eagle was reported at Santon Downham on 21st, though there have been no further sightings, nor claims, since. The same day a non-birder reported a Nutcracker at Felixstowe … I'll leave that there.

Great Spotted Cuckoo, Easton Bavents, Suffolk (Jake Gearty).

New Year's Day saw the first record of Eurasian Penduline Tit for Ireland, with up to three frequenting the Typha at The Gearagh, Co Cork, until 27 January. Well, fast forward to 26 March and three were reported at Lough Beg, just south of Ringaskiddy. Without pictures of the current birds it is impossible to know if they're the same flock relocating or a different group altogether, though even with pictures it may be hard to say. What is more outrageous? A relocation of 45 km or going from zero to six birds in the space of a few months? Either way, it's a great record. Elsewhere, the pair reported infrequently at Elmley NNR, Kent, had been joined by another two on 24th and the birds were on show intermittently through the rest of the week. 

Eurasian Penduline Tit, Elmley NNR, Kent (Rik Addison).

Lingering quality quackers included the drake Baikal Teal – which was last reported at Foryd Bay, Gwynedd, on 22nd – and the drake American Black Duck again at Cross Lough, Co Mayo, on 19th. Both second-winter drake King Eider remained in place, off Redcar, Cleveland, and Musselburgh, Lothian. Northumberland's long-staying Black Scoter resurfaced off Cocklawburn Beach on 23rd, before relocating off Stag Rocks, Bamburgh, for the rest of the week. Hampshire's female Surf Scoter remained on The Solent off Oxey Marsh until 21st, while others lingered off Bowmore, Islay; two off Llanddulas, Conwy; and Rostellan, Co Cork.

Norfolk's Ferruginous Duck flock has seemingly whittled down to one, with a drake being reported between Filby and Ormesby Little Broads. It was another good week for Lesser Scaup, with birds reported from five sites including two new birds in Scotland with a drake at St Mary's Loch, Argyll, and female at Balgray Reservoir, Clyde. Additionally, a possible was also reported at Loch Heilen, Caithness. 

Ring-necked Duck had a healthy showing, with birds reported from 27 sites in Britain and four in Ireland. New birds included a drake at Old Moor RSPB, South Yorkshire, and females at Ringstead GP, Northants, and Bodenham Lake, Herefordshire. Four new Green-winged Teal supplemented the lingered seven birds. Drake American Wigeon were on offer at Grindon Lough and Hauxley NR, Northumberland, Loch Gorm, Islay, Otmoor RSPB, Oxfordshire, and Darnconner Quarry, Ayrshire.

Ring-necked Duck, Helston, Cornwall (Martin Webb).

The Richardson's Cackling Goose remained with Pink-footed Geese around Whitley Bay, Northumberland. Meanwhile, the adult Red-breasted Goose lasted at Loch Gruinart RSPB, Islay. A first-winter Taiga Bean Goose remained at Sandness, Shetland, having been reported as a Tundra Bean Goose for most of the winter, a handful of which remain in Shetland. Otherwise, a first-winter lingered Hollesley Marshes RSPB, Suffolk, and, more notably, two remained in Ireland: an adult at Inch Levels, Co Donegal, and first-winter on Tory Island. The adult Black Brant resurfaced at West Mersea, Essex, on 21st and a possible was a brief visitor to Holy Island, Northumberland, on 25th.

Unsurprisingly, the Double-crested Cormorant lingered at Doon Lough, Co Leitrim, for another week. Two new White-billed Divers were in Scotland. One was logged at Elie Ness, Fife, on 21st and another in Burghead Bay, Moray and Nairn, on 24th.

The Dutch-ringed White Stork continued its tour of East Anglia, being noted in Suffolk and Norfolk before ending up at the Cam Washes in Cambridgeshire on 25th. The birds origins are still unclear, as reintroduction schemes are also underway in The Netherlands, though there's still a chance it's a wild bird. A White Stork also overflew Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincolnshire, on 24th and is presumably the bird also noted at Halton Marshes the following day. Another flew south-east over Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, on 24th. The Isles of Scilly laid claim to the first Purple Heron of the season, with one watched dropping onto the Eastern Isles on 21st. A probable was reported near Neath, Glamorgan, on 24th.

Confirmed reports of the Dutch-ringed White Stork so far (BirdGuides.com data).

Three long-staying Long-billed Dowitchers were up for grabs at Cley Marshes NWT, Norfolk, Sanday, Orkney, and Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB, Cheshire.

The adult Ross's Gull proved more reliable off Kinnaird Head, Aberdeenshire, this week and was reported most days. Of the five Ring-billed Gulls on the news page, two different birds were reported in Cornwall: a second-winter at Gannel Estuary on 22nd and first-winter at Newquay on 25th. Two Kumlien's Gulls were reported on Shetland, with the long-staying adult still at Omey Island, Co Galway, and another at St Clement's Isle, Cornwall, otherwise, both Iceland and Glaucous Gull numbers remained similar. The adult Forster's Tern made another appearance at Nimmo's Pier, Co Galway, on 25th.

Ross's Gull, Kinnaird Head, Aberdeenshire (Tim Marshall).

The female Pallid Harrier continued to put in an evening appearance off Warham Greens, Norfolk, and a single Rough-legged Buzzard remained around Gulberwick, Shetland, until 23rd. 

The Eastern Yellow Wagtail was still at Carlton Marshes SWT, Suffolk, until 22nd at least, while the first-winter Richard's Pipit on St Mary's, Scilly, was the only one reported this week. The Norfolk Shore Lark flock topped out at 10 at Holkham Gap again this week, and at least two were at Beacon Ponds, East Yorkshire. Of the seven Great Grey Shrikes on the sightings page, three were new: single birds at Loch Ashie, Highland (on 23rd), Abergavenny, Gwent, and Loubcroy, Highland (on 25th).

Great Grey Shrike, Black Down NT, West Sussex (Mark Leitch).

All three Hume's Leaf Warblers were present and correct in Kent at Dover, Preston, and Sandgate respectively. The putative Siberian Lesser Whitethroat was noted again at Barking, London, on 24th.

Five Hoopoes were split between Cornwall (two), Devon, Pembrokeshire, and Co Cork. A report of an overflying European Turtle Dove at Glanmire, Co Cork, on 20th was a good record. As a reminder of winter, the Arctic Redpoll was last noted at Doagh, Co Antrim, on 23rd and Waxwings were reported at five localities. The sole European Serin record for the week came from an overflying bird at Foreness Point, Kent, on 23rd. The ringed Little Bunting was last noted at Stanborough Reedmarsh, Hertfordshire, on 25th while the Cornish individual remained at Metherell throughout. 


Western Palearctic

Big regional news concerned a male Diederik Cuckoo at Lake Paralimni, Cyprus, from 23rd. This constitutes the second record for Cyprus and just the fifth for the Western Palearctic. The bird continues to be reported until 26th at least. 

Diederik Cuckoo, Lake Paralimni, Famagusta (Peter Bromley).

'Second place' goes to the Black-throated Accentor in a garden near Odense, Denmark. This is the first Danish record, and a species anticipated in Britain … one day. Germany's Dusky Thrush remained at Berlin throughout.

The long-staying Baltimore Oriole and Siberian Rubythroat headlined Sweden's news, while Pine Bunting and Black-throated Thrush joined Oriental Turtle Dove in Norway's roll call. The drake Black Scoter remained off Akranes, Iceland.

The Moustached Warbler continued to prove popular in Belgium, where both Alpine Accentor and Baikal Teal stayed put. 

A male Moussier's Redstart was at Kuncizzjoni, Malta, on 20th. News from Israel concerned a Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark on 17th, while one of the long-staying Verreaux's Eagles was reported again on 24th and up to four Swinhoe's Storm Petrels remained off Eilat. Rather belated news of a single Swinhoe's Storm Petrel off Taba, Egypt, on 8 November 2022 is the country's first record. 

The Azores remained settled, with Least Sandpiper and Great Blue Heron lingering on Terceira, while a Hooded Merganser was on Flores. 

Moussier's Redstart, Kuncizzjoni, Malta (Natalino Fenech).

Written by: Dan Owen

Dan Owen is a Cheshire-based birder with a keen interest in ringing and wildfowl. He works for the BirdGuides news team. Follow him on Twitter: @_danielowen