Review of the Week: 22nd-28th November 2007


The week at a glance

Buff-bellied Pipit, Noirmont Point, Jersey (Photo: Mick Dryden)

Buff-bellied Pipit, Noirmont Point, Jersey (Photo: Mick Dryden)

Pechora Pipit, Goodwick, Pembrokeshire (Photo: Pete Morris)

As we head towards the end of the month with just December to come, the late-autumn flurry of rarities of the highest order continued almost unabated this week. Admittedly two of these birds were returning individuals, but the roll-call this week is nothing to be sniffed at. Arguably the pick of the bunch was the (presumed) returning adult Pacific Diver in Mount's Bay, near Penzance (Cornwall) from 23rd-28th. This was the third bird discovered in a remarkable sequence of events for this two-decade-old species earlier this year, and it seems highly likely that this is the same bird that was seen in the coastal waters around Penzance last winter. Another presumed returning rarity was the still-moulting drake Barrow's Goldeneye at Quoile Pondage (Co. Down) on 24th. This species was first seen here in November 2005, and now seems set to spend a third winter at the site. Interestingly, the bird appears to be in less-than-full regalia currently, and there are mutterings as to whether it could possibly be a first-winter bird and therefore a new arrival...but from where? Last week's wonderfully obliging Pechora Pipit became rather more elusive as the new week began, often being seen only briefly, and was only present to 23rd, disappointing many who had fingers crossed for a Saturday showing. The amazing set of Buff-bellied Pipit records for this autumn was enhanced yet further with two new discoveries this week, at Noirmont Point (Jersey) on 24th-27th and near Youghal (Co. Cork) on 25th-28th. The Wilson's Snipe was again seen around the Lower Moors area of St. Mary's (Scilly) from 22nd-28th, seeming set to mirror the pattern set by the bird at the same site in 1998 that lingered well in to the winter of that year. Finally, a belated report from last week of an American Robin seen briefly in a garden at Tralee (Co. Kerry) on 20th, but not seen subsequently.

Two White-billed Divers were together off Harmars Ness, Fetlar (Shetland) on 28th. Some 50 Pomarine Skuas were reported during the week, and two Leach's Storm-petrels were noted, from Sheringham (Norfolk) and Filey (North Yorkshire), both on 23rd. Grey Phalaropes managed to notch up a total of nine birds this week, including three past Walcott (Norfolk) on 25th. Little Auks were still noted in some number along North Sea coasts throughout the week, with a count of 6,170 from the Farne Islands (Northumberland) the highest of the week, on 25th, and 1,100 past Collieston (Aberdeenshire), in just 35 minutes, on the same date. The Farnes total would have been one of the highest counts ever in Britain until a couple of weeks ago....

Showing no signs of tailing off, the influx of Cattle Egrets continued throughout the week. Most birds were seen in southwestern counties, but the odd single was noted further afield. At least seven birds were lurking in west Cornwall, mainly around the Drift and Sancreed areas, with others again near Falmouth and St. Buryan. A further Cornish bird was on the Lizard on 26th, while one on St. Mary's (Scilly) remained to 22nd. Along the coast to Dorset, where five Cattle Egrets were seen at Upwey, near Weymouth on 24th, with six birds present there on 25th-26th. Staying in Dorset, a single Cattle Egret was at Poole on 28th, while a further single bird was seen near Kilnsea (East Yorkshire) on 25th. New Great White Egrets were seen at Drakelow Wildfowl reserve (Derbyshire) on 22nd and flying over Sandwich Bay (Kent) on 27th and at Felixstowe Ferry (Suffolk) on 28th, while three "old stagers" remained in Hampshire, Lancashire and Co. Derry throughout the week. The juvenile Glossy Ibis continued to roam around southwest England this week, moving to Bowling Green Marsh RSPB (Devon) from 23rd-24th, while the second-winter bird was commuting between Marshside RSPB and Warton Marsh (Lancashire) from 24th-27th at least. Some 25 Spoonbills included the regular flock of a dozen at Brownsea Island NT (Dorset) on 24th, and one at Inverlochy (Highland) on 25th was particular noteworthy. The Norfolk Broads flock of Common Cranes hit a peak of 18 during the week, with a single bird being seen again at Welney WWT (Norfolk) on the evening of 23rd, heading off to roost.

Ross's Goose, Snettisham RSPB, Norfolk (Photo: Mick Garnier)

Lesser Scaup, Draycote Water, Warks (Photo: Steve Valentine)

Green-winged Teal, Marshside RSPB, Lancs (Photo: Sue Tranter)

Ferruginous Duck, Corbet Lough, Down (Photo: Derek Charles)

The two Ross's Geese remained in Norfolk during the week, with a roaming bird still in the east of the county, mainly around Horsey (but heading as far away as Bacton), while the second bird remained around the Docking area (with tens of thousands of Pink-footed Geese) until 25th at least. The distinctive Ross's Goose × Pink-footed Goose hybrid was also in the Docking area, as was one of two Snow Geese seen in Norfolk this week. This new bird was seen on three dates during the week (and was seen in the same field as the Ross's on 24th). Norfolk's other Snow Goose remained very hard to find, but was seen on the expansive flat fields near Halvergate on 24th. The autumn's second adult Red-breasted Goose was found at Black Point (Hampshire) on 24th, in the company of Dark-bellied Brent Geese, and was then seen flying past Hayling Island (Hampshire) on 28th. The sometimes elusive Red-breasted Goose at Caerlaverock WWT (Dumfries and Galloway) was seen again on 24th-25th. Staying around the glorious surroundings of the Solway, a Richardson's Canada Goose was still to be found at Mersehead RSPB on 22nd-23rd, with the returning Taverner's Canada Goose present and correct at the same site on 25th. At least eleven Black Brants were seen this week, with records from Dorset, Hampshire, West Sussex, Kent, Lincolnshire and Norfolk, where three adults were seen in winter wheat fields around Cockthorpe and Binham on 26th. A drake American Wigeon was seen around Angle Bay (Pembrokeshire) on 24th-26th, with two other drakes in Ireland: at Cahore (Co. Wexford) to 26th, and at Lissagriffin (Co. Cork) on 27th. Also on 26th, a drake Black Duck was in the harbour at Ventry (Co. Kerry). This week's tally of drake Green-winged Teals reached six, with regular birds in Lancashire (at Marshside RSPB), Cornwall (on the Hayle Estuary), and Northumberland (at Woodhorn Flash) while new arrivals were noted at Abberton Reservoir (Essex) on 22nd-23rd, Mersehead RSPB (Dumfries and Galloway) on 23rd and Bull Island (Co. Dublin) also on 23rd. Also at Bull Island on 23rd, the female Blue-winged Teal was again present. A drake Falcated Duck bearing a yellow ring was at Cop Mere (Staffordshire) on 26th-28th, and may well be the same bird that was seen in Norfolk in May. With known escapes appearing all too readily, the chances of the species ever securing a place on the British List appear as precarious as ever. The week has been a poor one for Lesser Scaup with just three birds seen, with a new bird, a first-winter drake, found at Draycote Water (Warwickshire) on 27th, and still present on 28th. Two females were also noted, at Clea Lakes (Co. Down) on 25th and on Fetlar (Shetland) on 27th-28th. After last week's group of five birds in Donegal, Ring-necked Ducks were in slightly shorter supply. The drake at Foxcote Reservoir (Buckinghamshire) was present until 22nd, while the long-staying drake remained around Avonmouth (Somerset). A third drake was still on Loch of Tingwall (Shetland) on 24th-25th, with the masculine sextet was rounded off by males on the Gearagh, in Cork (Co. Cork) on 25th, Keenan's Cross Pond (Co. Louth) on 26th, and at Glencar Lake (Co. Sligo) on 28th. The week's only female was still at Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) to 26th. The female Ferruginous Duck at Theale gravel pit (Berkshire) was still present to 24th. New males were found at Abberton Reservoir on 24th, and on Corbet Lough (Co. Down) on the same date, and still present to 27th. The fine run of Arctic-based form continued at Girdle Ness (Aberdeenshire) this week with the discovery of a female King Eider off the foghorn there from 23rd-27th. Hot on the heels of the BrĂ¼nnich's Guillemot and White-billed Diver, this makes for an impressive hat-trick, but could a fourth northern goodie be waiting in the wings? Three Surf Scoters were reported this week, including the lingering juvenile off Dawlish Warren (Devon) to 25th. Another was seen in St. Austell Bay (Cornwall) on 25th, while a drake was in the Bay of Kirkwall (Orkney) on 26th.

White-tailed Eagle, Quarley, Hants (Photo: Keith Simpson)

Predictions that the Essex White-tailed Eagle could still be lurking proved well founded this week, even if the geography was slightly askew! What may have been the same juvenile was found near Quarley (Hampshire) from 25th-28th (and had been apparently present for several days prior to this). The bird also flirted with the Wiltshire border and its presence in southern England was guaranteed to bring a crowd, and was reminiscent of the events around Brill and Kingsley, on the Oxfordshire/Buckinghamshire border, back in the winter of 1983-84. Observers on 28th felt sure that the bird was ringed on both legs, so it will be fascinating to see where its origins lie. Not to be ignored was a second White-tailed Eagle this week, seen at Loch Lomond (Clyde) on 23rd. One or two Rough-legged Buzzards remained on the Isle of Sheppey (Kent) in the early part of the week, while the crowd-pleaser over Gapton Marshes, near Great Yarmouth (Norfolk) remained from 22nd-28th at least. A second bird drifted around east Norfolk on 28th, while others were seen at Orwell (Cambridgeshire) on 27th and Gairloch (Highland); also on 27th.

Lesser Yellowlegs, Montrose Basin, Angus/Dundee (Photo: Kris Gibb)

The juvenile Spotted Sandpiper continued its stay in south Wales, and took in Llanishen Reservoir again this week, as well as spending much of its time at nearby Lisvane Reservoir (Glamorgan) between 22nd and 25th. The first-winter Long-billed Dowitcher made return visits to Bowling Green Marsh RSPB (Devon) on 25th and 27th-28th, while the first-winter at Lough Beg (Co. Derry) was reported on 27th-28th, the first sighting since 1st November. Two Lesser Yellowlegs remained through the week, at Montrose Basin (Angus) and Rosscarbery (Co. Cork). Another Nearctic visitor, an American Golden Plover, was at Slimbridge WWT (Glos) on 28th. The first-winter Kentish Plover at South Ford, South Uist (Western Isles) was present to 22nd at least. Another rather unseasonable wader record came from the North Slob (Co. Wexford) where a Dotterel was seen on 26th.

Iceland Gull, Eyemouth, Borders (Photo: Kris Gibb)

Glaucous Gull, Bartley Reservoir, West Midlands (Photo: Oliver Wadsworth)

Two adult Bonaparte's Gulls this week on the Scottish east coast included the "regular" bird at Fishtown of Usan (Angus) from 24th-26th at least, with a second adult found at Peterhead (Aberdeenshire) on 25th-28th: an excellent find for the local birders there, who are rather more used to looking out for small wedge-tailed gulls than small ones with pale underwings! An adult Sabine's Gull remained around Cobh (Co. Cork) to 28th, while the second-winter Laughing Gull was again at the Countess Wear sewage works (Devon) on 26th. White-winged gulls were again well represented during the week. At least 35 Glaucous Gulls were reported, including "twos" from five counties in the middle of the country, and on the Outer Hebrides and Shetland, but three juveniles at Ditchford (Northamptonshire) on 27th was impressive. Some 14 Iceland Gulls were found over the week, including six adults dotted around the country, from Bedfordshire to Orkney. A juvenile American Herring Gull has been seen recently at Cobh (Co. Cork) (though no exact dates are known). Along with Caspian Gull, American Herring Gull was recently elevated to full species status by the BOURC taxonomic sub-committee, although their Irish counterparts recognised the species some while ago. After four at Draycote last week, this week's highest tally of Caspian Gulls was five at Hole Haven, Canvey Island (Essex) on 25th, and these bolstered the total to at least 24 birds. Seven Ring-billed Gulls were noted through the week and, once again, included the roosting adult at Carsington Water (Derbyshire) until at least 26th. An adult at Abbotsbury (Dorset) on 27th was also of note.

Desert Wheatear, Horsey, Norfolk (Photo: R. L. Brown)

Short-toed Lark, Long Nanny, Northumbs (Photo: Alan Gilbertson)

A Short-toed Lark on the saltings at Long Nanny (Northumberland) was a surprise find on 24th, and was still present to 28th. However, November records in Northumberland are not unprecedented: one was on the Farne Islands from 21st-28th November 1987. A rather more typical late-November vagrant is Desert Wheatear, and following on from last week's bird in Wales, two more arrived this week. The first was a very obliging first-winter male in and around the coastal dunes at Horsey (Norfolk) from 24th-28th. The second bird; also a first-winter male, was found at Burniston (North Yorkshire) on 26th and was still present to 28th. Two Richard's Pipits were in Norfolk on 26th, one in the far west of the county, at Terrington, with the second in the far east, close to the Desert Wheatear, at Horsey, and this individual lingered to 27th. The third Richard's Pipit of the week was seen at Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) on 27th.

At least 200 Waxwings arrived during the week, with the first modest flocks being reported from Aberdeen (Aberdeenshire), 35 on 22nd, and 70 in Dundee (Angus) on 26th. An unseasonable Hoopoe was at Les Landes (Jersey) on 25th, having been present for much of the month.

Pallas's Warbler, Filey, N Yorks (Photo: Terry Hobson)

Three Pallas's Warblers were seen during the week. The bird at Filey (North Yorkshire) was present from 22nd-24th, while others were at St. Abb's Head (Borders) on 23rd-25th and at Ethie Mains (Angus) on 24th. Two Yellow-browed Warblers were at different ends of the country, with one at Countess Wear (Devon) on 25th-26th and the other at Howick (Northumberland) on 25th. A Hume's Leaf Warbler was heard at Holkham late in the day on 25th, but was not located subsequently.

Great Grey Shrike, Newton Fells, Lancs (Photo: Nick Patel)

Around a dozen Great Grey Shrikes were notched up around the country, many on familiar wintering territories. A Rose-coloured Starling was reported at Sleaford (Lincolnshire) on 24th, but further searches yielded nothing.

In Suffolk, the Penduline Tits at Dingle were still present, although rather sporadic in the appearances and their number. Three birds (two adults and a first-winter) were present on 22nd, with two there on 25th. On Jersey, a Penduline Tit trapped at Rue des Pres earlier in November was re-trapped at the same site on 25th. A Serin was seen sporadically around Portland Bill between 22nd and 24th, and this was likely to be the bird trapped and ringed there on 27th. A belated Arctic Redpoll record came from Berwick-upon-Tweed (Northumberland) on 15th, with a nice photograph to accompany the report. Lapland Bunting numbers at Salthouse (Norfolk) continued to hold steady, with at least 16 there on 24th. Another 15 birds were also at Holme NOA (Norfolk) on 25th, in what is an excellent autumn for the species in the east-coast county.

Photo of the Week

Peregrine Falcon, undisclosed site, Somerset (Photo: Mark Hancox)

As a way to get closer to their subjects, bird photographers often lay in wait at a location the bird returns to repeatedly. Most early bird photography was done at nest sites for this reason, but this is now recognised as unethical. Mark Hancox's photos of a Peregrine Falcon bathing are a perfect example of a modern approach to this technique. Responding to a tip that the young falcon was using this spot to bathe, Mark spent a week using a temporary hide to capture the rarely seen spectacle of a bird of prey drinking and bathing. This shot captures the behaviour in full flow, with the sun highlighting the water droplets against the dark background. The defocused vegetation in the foreground and background add a sense of depth and intimacy to the scene.

Other notable photos

Pied Wagtail, Pennington Flash CP, Manc'r (Photo: Sue Tranter)

Short-eared Owl, undisclosed site, Lancs (Photo: Richard Steel)

Houbara Bustard, Fuerteventura, Spain (Photo: John Anderson)

Jay, Kensington Gardens, London (Photo: Fraser Simpson)

Nuthatch, Wyre Forest, Worcs (photo: John Robinson)

Desert Wheatear, Horsey, Norfolk (Photo: John Miller)

Lapland Bunting, Salthouse, Norfolk (Photo: Nigel Pye)

Common Crossbill at Wyre Forest, Worcs (Photo: Mark Hancox)

Great Spotted Woodpecker, undisclosed site, Worcs (Photo: Mark Hancox)

Magpie, Grove Ferry NNR, Kent (Photo: Martyn Wilson)

Starling, Otmoor RSPB, Oxon (Photo: Nigel Forrow)

Purple Gallinule, Extremadura, Spain (Photo: Steve Fletcher)

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