Review of the Week: 20th December-2nd January 2008


The fortnight at a glance

As was perhaps to be expected, the holiday period over Christmas and into the New Year enabled many people to get out and about and in amongst it all as a wealth of quality birds were on offer to close out the old year and welcome the new. Top of the list, as far as new arrivals, was the brief Sociable Plover seen at Grove Ferry NNR (Kent) early on the morning of 20th, before heading off to the southeast. Subsequent searches proved fruitless, but there's still plenty of time for the bird to be relocated amongst the hordes of Lapwings in that part of the country. Rather rarer, in terms of occurrence in the UK (though rather different in world terms), was the Blyth's Pipit seen (and heard) flying over Polgigga (Cornwall) on Christmas Eve (doubtless a leftover from the autumn). On the Isles of Scilly, a Wilson's Snipe was again at Lower Moors on St. Mary's on December 21st-January 2nd, with two birds present on Christmas Day, and one still showing on New Year's Day. Christmas Day also saw another report of an adult Pacific Diver at Porthpean, in St. Austell Bay (Cornwall) again in the company of Black-throated Divers. Then; also in Cornwall, a Pacific Diver was reported offshore from Porthscatho on 30th. The question remains - is it the Mount's Bay bird moved around and along the coast, or another bird entirely? In Ireland, the drake Barrow's Goldeneye continued its winter stay at Quoile Pondage (Co. Down) to 30th at least and further to the southwest, the American Buff-bellied Pipit was still to be found around Red Barn Strand, near Youghal (Co. Cork) on 30th. In Oxfordshire, the teasing possible Thayer's Gull was again around the Dix Pit area, near Stanton Harcourt on 28th and 31st December-1st January. As 2008 approached the jury was still out as far as making a firm decision, though the thought that the bird was genuinely unidentifiable was perhaps one of the more sensible options!

Single European Storm-petrels and Leach's Storm-petrels were seen off Severn Beach (Gloucestershire) on 29th. Some 40 or more Pomarine Skuas were reported over the course of the holiday period, including at least five birds off Landguard NR (Suffolk) on 27th, and seven off Dungeness (Kent) on 2nd. Grey Phalaropes included one at Portavogie (Co. Down) on 23rd, off Holme (Norfolk) on 24th, in Stinky Bay, Benbecula (Outer Hebrides) on 29th-1st, and on mainland Orkney from around 24th December-2nd January. Eight Little Auks were seen on 19th passing through Holm Sound (Orkney), while singles were seen off Falmouth (Cornwall) on 20th and 25th, while the popular bird at Southwick (West Sussex) was still present to 26th. Others were seen in Devon and Ayrshire.

Cattle Egret, Cartron, Galway (Photo: Tom Cuffe)

Cattle Egret, Sancreed, Cornwall (Photo: Lee Fuller)

The remarkable influx of Cattle Egrets became ever more remarkable as Christmas approached. Birds had been arriving across the southwest of England since the first days of November, and seemed to have been reaching a peak, but just when it was thought that the peak had been reached, any existing records were shattered when perhaps as many as 40 birds were seen in Cornwall alone on 23rd! On that date, the largest flocks were 15+ at Halsetown, near St. Ives and at least 13 in the area around Drift and Sancreed. Other groups around Cornwall that day included a five and a four, which in any other week of the year would have been headline news. Other birds were noted in south and north Cornwall as New Year came (some groups almost nudging double figures), but it was Drift that claimed a new record on 31st, with 18 birds seen, and they were still in place on January 2nd. Two or three birds remained on Scilly (on Tresco and St. Mary's) until 24th at least and moving across the country others were noted as follows: in Devon, one remained at Teigngrace until 23rd, with perhaps the same bird then moving to Powderham, by the Exe Estuary, on 24th-30th. Further singles in Devon were noted at Bideford on 29th-31st (rising to five on New Year's Day) and Otterton on 30th-1st. In Somerset, one was found at Muchelney on 29th and was still present to 1st. Another Somerset record came from Stoke St. Michael, a bird present there on January 1st-2nd. Into Dorset, where a single bird at Langton Herring on 22nd was followed by five at Buckland Ripers on 26th, rising to six on 27th. "Next door" in neighbouring Wiltshire, one was at Britford Water Meadows until 1st January, with two more reported (at a site with no public access) near Downton on 21st. The bird at Fretherne (Gloucestershire) was still present to 1st January at least. In West Sussex, one was still at East Lavant to 1st, with another appearing in neighbouring East Sussex, near Lewes on 29th-2nd, with another near Bexhill on 31st. Cambridgeshire joined the party on 26th, when a Cattle Egret appeared near St. Neots, the bird still present on 29th. On 27th, another new arrival was noted near Fordingbridge (Hampshire) and was still present to 2nd January. In Scotland, a Cattle Egret made it to Cardoness (Dumfries and Galloway) on 24th-2nd, while in Ireland, singles were in County Cork on 22nd and 24th. Also on 24th, four birds were seen at Cartron (Co. Galway). This latter quartet were the first records for the county. Then, County Cork weighed in with nine birds near Clonakilty on 27th and two were seen near Dungarvan (Co. Waterford) on 29th onwards.

Great White Egret, Staines Moor, Surrey (Photo: Andrew Moon)

Long-staying Great White Egrets remained in Co. Derry to 23rd, on the Outer Hebrides to 27th and in Hampshire to January 2nd. Roving birds were seen at Staines Moor (Surrey) from 22nd-24th, then at Stanwell Moor on 26th, and in Cambridgeshire, at Wicken Fen on 22nd, and then at Paxton Pits NR from 24th-29th, with the same bird roosting on the Ouse Washes on 1st. On 30th, singles were seen at Cossington Meadows NR (Leicestershire) and at Newtown (Powys), this bird still present to 2nd. Another was at Thorpeness (Suffolk) on 31st and 2nd, with presumably the same bird visiting North Warren RSPB (Suffolk) on 1st-2nd. The final Great White Egret of the holidays was seen at Peacehaven (E. Sussex) on 1st January. Some 35 Spoonbills were recorded over the holiday period, with five at Lodmoor RSPB (Dorset) on 24th and seven at Isley Marsh RSPB (Devon) on 30th and 1st. Two birds at Glaslyn Marshes (Gwynedd) on 24th were also of note. The Glossy Ibis remained in and around the area at Warton Marsh (Lancashire) into the first week of 2008. Numbers of roosting Common Cranes coming into the wetland area at Stubb Mill, Hickling NWT (Norfolk) remained at some 27 birds on 23rd-24th, and again on 2nd January.

Red-breasted Goose at Caerlaverock WWT, Dumfries & Galloway (Photo: Graeme Stephen)

Red-breasted Goose and Black Brant, West Wittering, W Sussex (Photo: Bob Johnson)

Lesser Scaup, Draycote Water, Warks (Photo: Dave Hutton)

Ring-necked Duck, Loch of Tingwall, Mainland, Shetland (Photo: Brydon Thomason)

Green-winged Teal, Hayle Estuary, Cornwall (Photo: Adam Boynes)

A Ross's Goose was again noted on Holkham Freshmarsh (Norfolk) on 21st, with, still in Norfolk, two birds seen together at Holme on 30th, and near Docking on January 2nd (with another reported near Anmer on the same day). Single blue Snow Geese were noted at West Freugh airfield (Dumfries and Galloway) on 23rd and again on 2nd, in Fife, at Colinsburgh on 27th and St. Monans on 31st, and also at Loch of Strathbeg RSPB (Aberdeenshire) on 29th. At Winless (Highland) a white adult was seen on 2nd January. Into Norfolk, where a white adult Snow Goose was again around Halvergate and Berney Marshes on 25th and 30th, with the county's other white Snow Goose reappearing near Docking on 31st-1st. The adult Red-breasted Goose remained at West Wittering (West Sussex) from 20th December-2nd January (often along with a Black Brant) and popped in to Hayling Island (Hampshire) on 1st. The adult Red-breasted Goose was in Dumfries and Galloway, at Cummertrees, to 23rd and then at Caerlaverock WWT, sporadically from 26th-2nd. Some dozen or so Black Brants were reported - with familiar birds still to be found in Hampshire and Norfolk (mainly in the Wells/Holkham area, along with up to three adult hybrids). The adult on the Kingsbridge Estuary (Devon) was seen again from 22nd-2nd, while in Essex, singles were seen at Holland Haven, Old Hall Marshes RSPB and Heybridge Basin, all on 30th. One was also noted at the North Slob WWR (Co. Wexford) on 26th and 29th. Two Richardson's Canada Geese were still present at various sites in County Sligo from 26th-31st, while a Lesser Canada Goose was on Islay (Argyll) around the 23rd. Three drake American Wigeons were recorded: again at Angle Bay (Pembrokeshire) on 22nd-2nd, in Smerwick Harbour (Co. Kerry) on 30th and still at Lissagriffin (Co. Cork) on 23rd, again in the company of a drake Green-winged Teal. This species saw a significant upturn in birds recorded - at least 22 birds being seen between 20th and 31st. Three birds (two adult and one first-winter drake) were at Belfast Lough RSPB on 22nd (with another in County Donegal on the same date) while two drakes were in Lancashire (between 21st and 23rd) and two more were at Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) at the year's end. A further Irish drake was at Kilcoole (Co. Wicklow) on New Year's Day. Six drakes were seen across Scotland (in Clyde, Forth, Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway, Fife and on Orkney), while other English records included the long-staying drake on the Hayle Estuary (Cornwall), along with singles in Somerset, Wiltshire, Cheshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Suffolk (with a hybrid at Minsmere RSPB for good measure!). A female Garganey was a rather unseasonable find at Buckenham Marshes RSPB (Norfolk) on 22nd, followed by a second bird at the London Wetlands Centre WWT on 27th, with another joining it on 28th. A drake Black Duck was present near Kerrykeel (Co. Donegal) from 22nd-27th, with it (or another) then seen in the same county, on Lough Swilly, on 29th-31st. The first-winter drake Lesser Scaup remained at Draycote Water (Warwickshire) until 2nd January, with adult drakes on Benbecula (Outer Hebrides) from 22nd-2nd and (once again) at Stourhead NT (Wiltshire) on 23rd-26th, and again on 1st. Another Lesser Scaup that hadn't been reported for a while was the female at Clea Lakes (Co. Down) which was seen again on 25th-27th, while another female was on the Pail Water, Fetlar (Shetland) on New Year's Day. Up to 14 Ring-necked Ducks were recorded over the festive period; the resident drake was at Portbury Wharf (Somerset), and the drake remained at Keenan's Cross Pond (Co. Louth). A new drake was found at Loch Borralie (Highland) on 28th, while the bird at Foxcote Reservoir (Buckinghamshire) was present again on 29th December and 2nd January. A female seen at Bassenthwaite Lake (Cumbria) on 30th was still present to 2nd. Also on 30th, two drakes were together on Loch of Tingwall (Shetland), with another male in Co. Fermanagh, at Cornabrass Lough. The same county hosted a female Ring-necked Duck, at Enniskillen, from 24th-27th, with other ducks at Loch Eaval, Balranald RSPB (Outer Hebrides) to 2nd and Porth Reservoir (Cornwall) on 25th. Another bird (unsexed) was at Doogan's Pond (Co. Mayo) on 24th, while a drake was on Lough Atedaun (Co. Clare) on 30th. A bird in Ceredigion was present at an undisclosed site on 30th. The drake Ferruginous Duck was still at Corbet Lough (Co. Down) to 27th, while the female at Theale GP (Berkshire) was present again on 28th. The first-winter drake and female King Eiders remained off Girdle Ness (Aberdeenshire) from 21st-30th, with another first-winter drake seen off Leven (Fife) on 29th. An adult drake King Eider was seen at Mousa (Shetland) on 20th. In Devon, the first-winter Surf Scoter was ever-present to 1st January at least, while another familiar "Surfie", the drake off Ruddon's Point (Fife), was present to 2nd January. Another drake was noted in Orkney over the holiday, while in Ireland a first-winter/female Surf Scoter was seen near Galway, at Silver Strand, on 31st-1st January.

Unusual raptors appeared to be in rather short supply, but the Finnish-ringed White-tailed Eagle continued to be seen around Quarley (Hampshire) from 20th-28th at least (with a report on 2nd January too) and continued to draw the crowds over Christmas. Two Rough-legged Buzzards were again at Capel Fleet, Sheppey (Kent) on 31st.

Grey Phalarope, Stinky Bay, Benbecula, Outer Hebrides (Photo: Terry Fountain)

Lesser Yellowlegs, Southwold, Suffolk (Photo: Andrew Easton)

The wintering Spotted Sandpiper was still to be found at Lisvane Reservoir (Glamorgan) on 23rd-2nd, while in Forth, at Kinneil Lagoon, a new Spotted Sandpiper was discovered on 24th, and was still present on 2nd January. The first-winter Long-billed Dowitcher was seen again at Bowling Green Marsh RSPB (Devon) on 20th-2nd, with another at Lough Beg (Co. Antrim) on 30th. A new arrival from the Americas was the first-winter Lesser Yellowlegs at Southwold (Suffolk) on 21st-2nd January, while at the Montrose Basin (Angus), the wintering Lesser Yellowlegs was still present to 2nd as well. Another lingering Lesser Yellowlegs was again at Rosscarbery (Co. Cork) on 28th.

Ring-billed Gull, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex (Photo: Steve Arlow)

Forster's Tern, Nimmo's Pier, Galway (Photo: Tom Cuffe)

In Aberdeenshire, the adult Bonaparte's Gull was again on the Ugie Estuary on 25th and 30th. Another adult Bonaparte's Gull was at Cobh (Co. Cork) on 28th-29th at least. The first-winter Laughing Gull remained around Firths Voe, Mainland (Shetland) to 22nd at least. Prior to Christmas, 23 Glaucous Gulls had been noted, only three of which were not juveniles (an adult in Moray, and second-winters in Suffolk and the West Midlands). A further 15 or so were noted to the New Year. Over 40 Iceland Gulls were noted around the country, including two birds at Troon (Ayrshire) on 23rd, three at Killybegs (Co. Donegal) on 27th and three in Lerwick (Shetland) on the same date. Adults were noted in County Durham, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and Clyde. A third-winter Kumlien's Gull was at Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway) on 20th and 25th, with a second-winter reported there on 30th. Other second-winter Kumlien's Gulls were at West Burra (Shetland) on 30th and at Belfast Lough (Co. Antrim) on 31st. An adult Kumlien's Gull roosted at Cotswold Water Park (Wiltshire) on 1st January. Caspian Gulls continued to attract the attention of birders as the "new" addition to the British List enjoyed its first Christmas as a bona fide species. Well over 40 birds were noted prior to the New Year, mainly in inland counties, including at least three birds at Long Drove, Cottenham (Cambridgeshire) on 22nd and three at Ditchford (Northamptonshire) on 31st. An adult Ring-billed Gull remained at Sandbach Flashes (Cheshire) to 20th, with what was probably the same bird at Hurlestone Reservoir (Cheshire) on 22nd. It is even feasible that this may have then been the adult seen at Ellesmere (Shropshire) on 28th. A new adult was discovered in East Anglia, at Lackford Lakes SWT (Suffolk) on 21st-22nd, while in neighbouring Essex adults were noted at Abberton Reservoir on 23rd and 26th, and, as usual, at Westcliff-on-Sea on 24th and 27th. Other adults noted over the holidays were at Torr Reservoir (Somerset) on 29th-30th and at Chew Valley Lake on 31st, at Stromness (Orkney) on 30th, and, again on 30th, at current rarity hotspot Kinneil Lagoon (Forth) (to go with the Green-winged Teal and Spotted Sandpiper!) Regular wintering adult Ring-billed Gulls were still in Hampshire and London, with several adults in Ireland (in counties Antrim, Dublin, Galway, Sligo, Waterford and Cork), along with single first-winter birds in Galway and Clare on 27th, and a second-winter (with an adult) in Dublin on 28th. Three birds were at Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway) on 29th-30th. A probable American Herring Gull (a juvenile) flew over the Abbey Pool on Tresco (Scilly) on 20th, then over the dump there on 31st, while the adult American Herring Gull was still at Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway) to 29th. A potential fourth-winter American Herring Gull was photographed at Chew Valley Lake (Somerset) at the year's end. The wintering Sabine's Gull remained at Cobh (Co. Cork) to the 20th at least, while in County Galway, an adult Forster's Tern returned to the Nimmo's Pier area on 22nd and was still present to 30th, when a second Forster's Tern, another adult, was in the harbour at Wexford (Co. Wexford).

Hoopoe, Kingsley, Hants (Photo: Doug Kelson)

Desert Wheatear, Cromer Point, Burniston, N Yorks (Photo: Steve Seal)

A decidedly unseasonable Hoopoe was found at Kingsley (Hampshire) on 24th and was still present to 29th, before reappearing on 2nd. The rather atypical feel was continued by the Short-toed Lark remaining at Long Nanny (Northumberland) to January 2nd and the first-winter male Desert Wheatear still to be found at Burniston (North Yorkshire), often alongside a Northern Wheatear, and into 2008. Four Richard's Pipits were also seen, at Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) to 30th, at Meikle Loch (Aberdeenshire) on 22nd-30th, in Somerset, at Clapton-in-Gordano on New Year's Day and, in the far west of Norfolk, at Terrington Marsh, from 28th-2nd January.

Waxwing, Longforgan, Perth/Kinross (Photo: J McCormick)

Hume's Leaf Warbler, Cot Valley, Cornwall (Photo: Lee Fuller)

Numbers of Waxwings dropped somewhat during the first week of the period, with just some 200 or so reported. Once again it was Aberdeen that claimed the largest flock, with 60 present on 22nd, while around 50 were noted in Edinburgh (Lothian) on 24th. A flock of around 33 birds was noted at South Shields (Co. Durham) on 2nd January, while one was seen at Holland Haven (Essex) on 26th. The wintering Pallas's Warbler continued to be seen around Warrenhouse Wood, Gunton (Suffolk) from 20th-29th, while its rather rarer and rather less stripy Phylloscopus cousin, Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler, was represented by two birds, the first in Cot Valley (Cornwall) from December 22nd-January 2nd (though this bird was identified on 25th) and at Beachy Head (East Sussex) on 29th-2nd (this too being identified after its discovery). It has been something of a lean autumn for this distinctive species, with only two birds noted (in Wales and Norfolk) prior to these. Siberian Chiffchaffs were reported in Devon and North Yorkshire, while three Lesser Whitethroats were seen: in Suffolk (at Benacre), Greater Manchester (at Pennington Flash) and Ayrshire (in Ayr).

Great Grey Shrike, Farnborough, Hants (Photo: Richard Bond)

At least 14 Great Grey Shrikes were noted, with "doubles" in Norfolk and Hampshire, while the popular bird at Siblyback Reservoir (Cornwall) remained to 30th at least. In Highland, one was found at Aultnamain on 22nd, while three were seen in Wales, at Perthcelyn (Glamorgan) on 30th-2nd January, the Glasfynydd Forest (Powys) and near Criccieth (Gwynedd), both on 31st.

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Photo of the Fortnight

Black-tailed Godwits, Marshside, Lancs (Photo: Sue Tranter)

Black-tailed Godwits are among the most impressive of wader species: their long bills, necks and legs make for an elegant form, whilst their plumage is stunning in all its seasonal stages. Sue Tranter's photo of two beak-locked godwits at Marshside is a great example of an action shot. Diagonal lines give a dynamic feel to images and, in this case, an almost perfect 45-degree line is maintained along the birds' bills, eye-line and wings. Beautiful lighting and the use of a high shutter speed to freeze the wings and water-splashes round off this excellent image.

Other notable photos

Salvin's Albatross, New Zealand (Photo: Paul Pearson)

Woodcock, Belgium (Photo: Rudi Debruyne)

Meadow Pipit, Sturt Pond, Hants (Photo: Lee Fuller)

Crested Tit, Belgium (Photo: Rudi Debruyne)

Tree Sparrow, Martin Mere, Lancs (photo: Sue Tranter)

Lapland Bunting, Salthouse, Norfolk (Photo: Ian Butler)

Mute Swan, Fleetwood, Lancs (Photo: Sue Tranter)

Short-eared Owl, Burton Marsh, Cheshire (Photo: Richard Steel)

Sanderling, New Brighton, Cheshire (Photo: Richard Steel)

Barn Owl, Manea, Cambs (Photo: Neil Triggs)

Jack Snipe, Chelmarsh Reservoir, Shropshire (Photo: Jim Almond)

Grey Partridge, Belgium (Photo: Rudi Debruyne)

Blue Tit, Whitacre Heath, Warks (Photo: Tom Melton)

Yellowhammer, Cannock, Staffs (Photo: Tom Melton)

Great Spotted Woodpecker, Cannock Chase, Staffs (Photo: Tom Melton)

Fieldfare, Wyre Forest, Worcs (Photo: John Robinson)

Bullfinch, Hampton, Worcs (Photo: Mark Hancox)

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.birdmad.com
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