A brief spell of easterlies broke up an otherwise steady run of mild westerly systems – the result was displacement of Little Gulls, particularly in the south. Waxwings became more prevalent too, with the number of reports on the BirdGuides sightings page nearly doubling again in the weekly period. With the forecast set to turn colder and more easterly with the arrival of December, another push of these charming birds seems likely.
Waxwing, Bolden, South Tyneside, Britain (Mike Barth).
In terms of rarities, pick of the bunch was the fourth Myrtle Warbler of the autumn, this time on St Mary's, Scilly. First reported on 24th, the bird (likely a first-winter male) continued to give great views until the week's close and represents the sixth for the archipelago. Following birds in Shetland (two) and Co Clare, could there be another lurking undetected? This species has form for midwinter appearances with two previous January records, the most recent being one in a Durham garden in 2014.
A report of a White-throated Sparrow came from a garden in Northwich, Cheshire, on 26th for its second day. Unfortunately, the bird in question hasn't been photographed but the description matches up and it is hoped the bird will overwinter, allowing county listers to connect. An American Buff-bellied Pipit was a nice find on Lundy, Devon, on 25th although proved brief with no news thereafter.
The week began with news of a drake Hooded Merganser on a coastal pool south of Newport, Co Mayo, for its second day. Fortunately, it hung around all week although became increasingly mobile. The bird has strong credentials, not least because it's on the west coast of Ireland but arriving at a decent time of year along with two Bufflehead and numerous Ring-necked Duck and Green-winged Teal.
In Norfolk, the juvenile female Pallid Harrier continued to linger on the saltmarsh between Wells-next-the-Sea and Warham Greens. Two reports of Black Kite in late November may raise a few eyebrows, but more birds are starting to overwinter in mainland Europe. The first was reported over Istead Rise, Kent, on 23rd and another was over Eastington, Gloucestershire, on 24th. Four Rough-legged Buzzards were seen this week, in what feels like a slight upturn in records in comparison to recent years. A smart juvenile was reported from two sites on Unst between 24th and 26th and a probable was at Pundershaw Forest, Northumberland, on 25th. Borders received its first record since 2015, with one at St Abbs Head NNR on 26th, and an adult female was on Papa Westray, Orkney, on 27th.
A single Richardson's Cackling Goose remained at Lissadell, Co Sligo. An unassigned Cackling Goose was on The Mullet, Co Mayo, on 22nd, where both Snow Geese remained present and correct. Snow Geese of unknown origin were on South Ronaldsay, Orkney, on 21st and Soulseat Loch, Dumfries and Galloway, on 23rd. Two Todd's Canada Geese remained on Tiree until 21st, a possible was near Stiffkey, Norfolk, on 26th, the same day another was with Barnacle Geese at Rockcliffe Marsh, Cumbria. Just two Black Brant were reported, both in Essex, with singles at West Mersea on 23rd and Kirby-le-Soken on 25th.
At least 187 Taiga Bean Geese are back in the Slamannan area and were reported in varying numbers throughout the week. The Shetland duo remained at Loch of Spiggie during the week. The steady arrival of grey geese continued, with nine sites logging Tundra Bean Geese and 36 sites hosting Russian White-fronted Geese.
At least three Ferruginous Duck remained in the Norfolk Broads. Most reports came from Filby Broad, although the birds were also seen at Ormesby and Ormesby Little Broads. Another possible was reported at UEA Broad on the morning of 23rd but couldn't be relocated. Elsewhere, the presumed returning female was back at Aqualate Mere, Staffordshire, on 27th. The adult drake American Black Duck remained at Cross Lough, Co Mayo. Just one Lesser Scaup was reported during the week (the lingering drake at Dunfanaghy New Lake, Co Donegal), while the female Blue-winged Teal made another appearance at Halton Marshes, Lincolnshire, on 21st.
The drake American Wigeon continued at Shapwick Heath NNR, Somerset, and another was at Bishop Middleham, Durham, on 26th. A report came from Balmore Pool, Clyde, on 24th. Ring-necked Duck were located at 17 sites, including a flock of nine at Lough Gara, Co Sligo, and Green-winged Teal had a good showing at 10 sites. The drake King Eider was reported again from Gutcher, Yell, on 23rd and another was tracked north along the Cleveland coast on the afternoon of 27th, before settling off South Gare. Just three Surf Scoter were noted: the lingering female-type off East Ferry, Co Cork, and two drakes off Llysfaen, Conwy. Inland Velvet Scoter are always widely appreciated, and four were around this week. The smart adult drake was still at Widdrington Moor Lake, Northumberland, until 21st, and another was reported at Rising Sun CP on 27th. One of the juveniles lingered at Covenham Reservoir, Lincolnshire, throughout and a female-type was in southern Powys at Llangorse Lake.
A White-billed Diver flew south past St Abbs Head NNR, Borders, on 21st followed by a probable past Whitburn, Durham, on 22nd. Further north, adults were off Bressay, Shetland, and Sanday, Orkney, on 26th.
Four Bonaparte's Gulls were on offer this week. New birds involved an adult at Tralee, Co Kerry, on 22nd and a first-winter at Llys-y-Fran Reservoir, Pembrokeshire, on 25th. Elsewhere, adults remained at Ballgally, Co Antrim, and Stag Rocks, Northumberland. A second-winter Ring-billed Gull was at Hillsborough, Co Down, on 24th, and the regular adult was back at Blackrock, Co Louth, on 27th. What is presumably one of the regular wintering adults had also returned to Hayle Estuary, Cornwall, the same day. A juvenile Kumlien's Gull was at Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire, on 21st, and another dark juvenile was at Uyeasound, Unst, on 26th and 27th. The returning adult was back at Tralee, Co Kerry, on 24th. Otherwise, Iceland Gulls were reported from 10 sites and Glaucous Gulls at 12. A handful of Sabine's Gulls made it into the recording week: the juvenile was last noted at Amwell NR, Herts, on 24th; otherwise, an adult coming to bread at Dungeness NR, Kent, on 27th was most notable.
Bonaparte's Gull, Ballygally, Antrim (Geoff Campbell).
A number of late Great Shearwaters were again logged. No fewer than 25 flew past Lizard Point, Cornwall, on 26th. A reduced number of Long-tailed Skuas was reported, while 17 occurrences of Leach's Storm Petrel were largely centred around the English Channel.
A juvenile Spotted Sandpiper was retrospectively identified from photographs after having been observed at Hanningfield Reservoir, Essex, since 8 November as a Common Sandpiper. It was still present on 27th. Lingering Nearctic waders included the Wilson's Snipe on St Mary's, Scilly; Long-billed Dowitcher at Cley Marshes NWT, Norfolk; and American Golden Plover on North Ronaldsay, Orkney. The only Lesser Yellowlegs noted was the sporadic individual on Papa Westray, Orkney. Grey Phalaropes were at 19 sites.
Lingering aerial feeders were a testament to the mild conditions, with Swallows still widespread. Three swifts were again noted this week, although none were confirmed to species level. A probable Pallid Swift flew over North Queensferry, Fife, on 27th. Others were overflew Hollesley Marshes RSPB, Suffolk, on 24th and Bury, Greater Manchester, on 25th. A Red-rumped Swallow flew over Cliftonville, Kent, on 22nd and one flew over Hopton-on-Sea, Norfolk, on 25th.
Nine Great Grey Shrikes were observed at eight sites, including two at Langdale Forest, North Yorkshire, on 27th. In addition to four Hoopoes, including one in Ireland, how times have changed for November! Meanwhile, the Red-flanked Bluetail lengthened its stay on St Mary's, Scilly.
Eurasian Penduline Tits were well represented during the week. The ringed first-winter at Woolston Eyes NR, Cheshire, reappeared after a 10-day absence – another great bird for the newly created wetland there. The permit-only reserve opened up to the public on three days, although the bird proved elusive. Another brief record came from How Hill NR, Norfolk, on 24th, although wasn't seen again after the initial sighting. However, the trio at West Rise Marsh, East Sussex, became five by 26th, although were also elusive.
Hume's Leaf Warbler records were restricted to the North-East: one in Durham, two in Northumberland and one in Borders, the last being a first county record. Pallas's Warblers were at The Naze, Essex, on 22nd and Dungeness NNR, Kent, on 27th. A report of a possible Greenish Warbler at Hauxley NR, Northumberland, on 25th was an interesting late record. A Dusky Warbler was at Nanjizal Valley, Cornwall, on 27th and several were scattered on St Mary's.
Both Isabelline Wheatears lingered. The showy individual at Uwchmynydd was still present on 27th, but the Toe Head bird wasn't reported after 21st. A first-winter Eastern Yellow Wagtail was sound-recorded near Loch of Wester, Caithness, on 22nd although proved a one-day bird. A Red-throated Pipit stayed just as long at Nanjizal Valley on 25th, although the Greater Short-toed Lark hung around for another week. Three Richard's Pipits lingered: one at St Mary's and two in Gloucestershire (Awre and Hempsted). Shore Larks continued to increase on the North Norfolk coast, up to 12 were in the regular spot at Holkham Gap, with smaller groups at Gore Point to the west and Salthouse to the east. Up to three were at Beacon Ponds, East Yorkshire, and singles at Holy Island and Ross Back Sands, Northumberland.
A Little Bunting was on North Ronaldsay between 22nd and 24th and the Common Rosefinch remained at Bornish, South Uist, until 21st. A male European Serin was frequenting garden feeders at Eigg, Highland, all week, and at least two were found on St Mary's, Scilly, on 27th.
Iceland's second Slaty-backed Gull, an adult, was at Þvottárskriður on 22nd, and represented just the tenth regional record. The country's tenth Wood Duck was photographed at Heimaey on 20th and the fourth Black-throated Thrush was at Stöðvarfjörður on 21st and 22nd.
A juvenile Glaucous Gull photographed at Volma, Belarus, on 21st was just the second national record. Hungary's Sandhill Crane lingered at Balmazújváros, with an adult Pallas's Gull at Balatonfenyves. The adult drake Black Scoter was still off Tisvilde Hegn, Denmark, and the female Hooded Merganser continued at Hornbæk Enge.
In Germany, the Red-breasted Nuthatch looks set to winter at Tönsheider Wald and was reported again on 23rd. Belated news of a Eurasian Crag Martin came from Genk, Belgium, from 12 November. Otherwise, an adult male Pine Bunting was at Assent and the female-type White-headed Duck remained at Marais d'Harchies until 26th.
What was potentially Italy's first Chinese Pond Heron was photographed near Genoa on 26th, although curiously it was still largely in breeding plumage. A Sandhill Crane was photographed with Common Cranes near Givry-en-Argonne on 25th, just the second occurrence for France. The Walrus was last noted at Île-de-Bréhat on 25th. A Waxwing was at Balsa de Zolina on 20th – a good record for Spain. Elsewhere, the juvenile Short-billed Dowitcher could still be found at Ría de Foz and the adult drake American Black Duck was still at Sada.
A Bufflehead was photographed at Cabrito Reservoir, Terceira, on 27th – the sixth record for the Azores. Elsewhere on the island, the American Coot remained at Lagoa do Junco and was joined by a drake Wood Duck and Great Blue Heron. The Common Yellowthroat was still at Paul da Praia on 26th, and Least Sandpiper, two Semipalmated Plovers, Blue-winged Teal and two American Wigeon were still at Cabo da Praia. A Double-crested Cormorant was on Faial on 24th and a Pied-billed Grebe was on São Miguel on 19th.