Our brief insight into spring did not last very long as many of us were once again battered by gale force winds and deluged with vast amounts of rainfall, leaving several parts of the country on flood alerts whilst others dealt with snowfall or fallen trees. The end of the week has been calmer, but colder with snow showers for many northern parts. However, respite is on the horizon as an approaching high-pressure is forecast to bring a period of calm over the next few days.
Highlight of the week has been two dashing white-morph Gyr Falcons, with birds near Killybegs (Donegal) and on Islay (Argyll), though only the Islay bird has been seen in the last few days. In Cheshire the Great White Egret has reappeared at Great Budworth after an absence of several weeks. It is amazing how a large white bird can go missing for extended periods, but amply illustrates how many rarities must be missed across the length and breadth of our islands! In London an early Serin was reported singing on the 28th but the only other new arrivals were parties of Common Cranes in Essex and Kent on 27th. Another surprise was a Yellow-browed Warbler on the 28th near Prestatyn. Unlike other occasions during the winter, the storms were relatively unproductive, with a Grey Phalarope at Porthmadog, and good numbers of Little Gulls off several watchpoints in the northwest, but an unseasonal Cory's Shearwater was reported passing south past Lothian on the 28th. Inland observers had to make do with a Gannet in Derbyshire and a very small number of Kittiwakes.
Many of our long-staying rarities remain. The Ivory Gull in Gwynedd was still present yesterday, a fitting residence for a truly superb bird. Off Oban (Argyll) there were tantalising views of another adult for its observer as it followed the ferry. The adult Ross's Gull remains in Devon for its 32nd day and the adult remains in Galway. In addition an adult was seen at Killybegs (Donegal) on 28th. To complete the list of long-staying rare gulls, the adult Bonaparte's Gull in Cornwall has also been seen for most of the week. During the week there have been 20 Ring-billed Gulls and numerous Iceland Gulls with lesser numbers of Glaucous Gulls. The Snowy Egret is still on the Isle of Arran, whilst long-staying ducks are represented by the Black Duck in Devon, Lesser Scaup in Dorset, and the King Eider in Norfolk. Elsewhere, 5 Ferruginous Ducks have been seen during the week, 7 Ring-necked Ducks, 8 Green-winged Teals and 5 American Wigeons. The only scarce wader during the week was the Long-billed Dowitcher at Belfast Harbour Estate, whilst the Hume's Warbler remains in Nortumberland.
Wintering Shorelarks and Lapland Buntings have been thin on the ground this winter. The only reliable spots for Shorelarks remain to be Gibraltar Point (Lincolnshire) and Holkham Gap (Norfolk) which share about 20 birds between them, whilst the bird at Pleasley Colliery (Derbyshire) extends its stay to the delight of many observers. Even rarer, two Lapland Buntings in East Yorkshire and up to 8 in Norfolk appear to be their only representatives seen during the last few weeks. At least 7 Great Grey Shrikes have been seen during the last week, several of which have been present for most of the winter. As always to check the latest whereabouts of any of these scarce winter visitors check the Bird News Extra pages to minimise your chances of missing out.
On the early migrant front, two Ospreys were reported over East Sussex on the 21st, a Sandwich Tern was seen in Kent on 23rd and the first Wheatear was reported from Devon on the 26th. Early migrants such as Ring Ouzels, Chiffchaffs and Sand Martins could all be seen before the first week of March is out and our latest article:
looks back at events during March 1987 and 1992. The article details some of the dates of the earliest returning migrants and also the rarities which occurred during this interesting month in these two years. The spread of migrants pouring in can be seen on Bird News Extra and also on the BTO/BirdWatch Ireland Migration Watch which starts on the 1st March - see http://www.bto.org/migwatch.