Review of the Week: 23-29 January 2023


It was mostly down to the lingering rarities to maintain interest this week, though a drake Falcated Duck at Covenham Reservoir, Lincolnshire, on 25-26th may have been more pulse-raising if it hadn't convened with the local Mallard flock. Last week's two duck headliners, the Baikal Teal with Eurasian Wigeon at Finningley, Nottinghamshire, and the Harlequin Duck on Barra, Outer Hebrides, stayed put into this week but vanished after 25th and 27th respectively.

Falcated Duck, Covenham Reservoir, Lincolnshire (Graham Catley).

Harlequin Duck, Traigh Mhor, Barra, Outer Hebrides (Amy Schwartz).

The young White-winged Scoter off Achill Island, Co Mayo, remained throughout the week, while the county also held onto its drake Hooded Merganser at Rosduane till 28th and the resident American Black Duck on The Mullet. The drake King Eider stayed put off Redcar, Cleveland, too.

A new Lesser Scaup was at Rostaff Turlough, Co Galway, on 26th, while birds in Co Armagh, London, Somerset and the Outer Hebrides remained. The Ferruginous Duck count at Filby Broad, Norfolk, dropped to two, but this pair saw out the week. Meanwhile, the adult drake on Ballysaggart Lough remained to 26th and the female returned to Aqualate Mere, Staffordshire, on 29th.

King Eider (centre), Redcar, Cleveland (Brian Martin).

A total of 31 Ring-necked Duck were scattered across 23 counties, though only in ones and twos. Green-winged Teal were available in fair numbers too, with 10 counties each sporting a lone bird. Popular American Wigeon were on offer at Big Waters, Northumberland, and Shapwick Heath, Somerset, while Co Galway, Lincolnshire and Orkney also hosted the species.

American Wigeon (right), Big Waters NR, Northumberland (Jack Bucknall).

Argyll had three Surf Scoter, while two drakes were off Embo, Highland, and others rode the waves off Benllech, Anglesey, and Banna, Co Kerry. The wintering drake Garganey was still on Aqualate Mere, Staffordshire, on 29th, with a female at Otterford, Somerset, on 24th and another drake at Floodplain Forest, Buckinghamshire, on 26th.

A Richardson's Cackling Goose in fields at Brancaster, Norfolk, with Pink-footed Geese was a quite a draw. Updates on two known Richardson's in Argyll, and others on North Uist, Outer Hebrides, and in Co Mayo were considerably more routine. The Norfolk bird was found on 26th and was still enjoying the sugar beet there three days later. Originally at Salt Coates in December, the Red-breasted Goose in Cumbria resurfaced at Rockcliffe Marsh on 27th with 6,000 Barnacle Geese, and a Todd's Canada Goose in tow.

The adult Lesser White-fronted Goose of uncertain origin cavorted with Greylag Geese around Big Waters, Northumberland, till 25th, while the familiar escaped bird returned to Lancashire on 23rd, joining the Pink-footed Goose flocks at Staynall.

Wintering Black Brant could be picked out among Dark-bellied Brent Geese at Farlington Marshes, Hampshire, and between Beacon Ponds and Skeffling, East Yorkshire, while others were found at Goldhanger, Essex, and Thorness Bay, Isle of Wight, over the course of the week. An impressive count of five Grey-bellied Brant (all adults) was made among Pale-bellied Brent Geese at Kilbarrack, Co Dublin, on 25th.

Two Snow Geese, one of each morph, were at Clogher, Co Mayo, to 29th, while the bird at Loch Lomond, Clyde, was seen on 28th and two appeared on Stronsay, Orkney, on 24th. Todd's Canada Geese were identified in Argyll, Cumbria and Lancashire.

On the Fife coast, a possible Pacific Diver off Leven on 23rd eventually gave clinching views of this second-for-Scotland on 26th. The juvenile bird then showed from the local skate park until the week's end. Still at Doon Lough on 26th, Co Leitrim's Double-crested Cormorant doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

Pacific Diver (bird third from left), Leven, Fife (Lukasz Pulawski).

Rare wintering waders included the German-ringed female Kentish Plover at Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, and the first-winter Long-billed Dowitcher at Cley, Norfolk, both staying all week. A Grey Phalarope was found on the Penryn River, Cornwall, on 29th.

Also in Cornwall, Newlyn harbour continued to host a first-winter American Herring Gull until late morning on 25th. There was a report of a Laughing Gull at South Huish Marsh, Devon, on 29th — could it be the Slapton bird rearing its head again? The popular and very showy adult Sabine's Gull continued to thrill the crowds on the north side of Langstone Harbour, Hampshire, to the end of the week.

Sabine's Gull, Budds Farm SW, Hampshire (Jonathan Bull).

Regular adult Ring-billed Gulls were on the Hayle Estuary, Cornwall, on 28th and at Strathclyde Loch, Clyde, on 29th. Other adults visited Tramore Backstrand, Co Waterford, on 25th, and Ballylongford, Co Kerry, on 27th, when one of unspecified age was reported at Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire. Kumlien's Gulls were seen in Cambridgeshire (the faithful adult), Cornwall, Co Donegal and Co Galway.

Still a star attraction in Norfolk, the juvenile female Pallid Harrier was quite at home on the saltmarsh at Warham Greens on 29th, when the elusive Islay bird showed up again at Kilchoman. On Unst, Shetland, the juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard was still at Lund on 27th, with another sighting on the archipelago at Kirkabister, Mainland, on 28th.

The week opened with late news of the discovery of a brief Isabelline Wheatear on the cliffs above Holywell Bay, Cornwall, on 22nd. Thankfully, that wasn't the end of it and this county mega, the third on record for Cornwall, was relocated at lunchtime on 23rd and remained on offer all week.

Isabelline Wheatear, Holywell, Cornwall (Robin Netherton).

Top-tier passerines still on offer included the Hume's Leaf Warblers in Dover, Kent, and Compton Dando, Somerset, till 29th, as well as the Arctic Redpoll at Tarmon, Co Mayo, which was last reported on 28th. The trio of Eurasian Penduline Tits remained fixed to the bulrushes of The Gearagh, Co Cork, till 25th. The female at Stockmoor, Somerset, was last seen on 27th, when two remained on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent.

Hume's Leaf Warbler, Compton Dando, Somerset & Bristol (Mark Rayment).

Eurasian Penduline Tit, Bridgwater, Somerset & Bristol (Holly Tudball ).

A popular diversion was the Pallas's Warbler at Swalecliffe, Kent, which fed along the brook near the sewage works entrance all week. The only Great Grey Shrikes were the New Forest bird, still favouring the line of birches west of the railway at Shatterford, and one reported near Torphins, Aberdeenshire, on 27th.

The Shore Lark flock at Holkham peaked at 12 on 25th, while three lingered further west on the Norfolk coast at Holme on 25th and another was at Salthouse till 27th. Hampshire birders will have been delighted that the Hurst Spit individual stayed all week. Two remained at Easington, East Yorkshire, to 29th. Between the eight counties lucky enough to see Waxwings this week, the peak count was a flock of 30 at Sighthill, Lothian.

Shore Lark, Hurst Beach/Castle, Hampshire (Steve Laycock).

Barley stubble at Cornwall's Cot Valley continued to support the two Little Buntings to 29th. A Richard's Pipit was found at Wyke Regis, Dorset, on 26th, remaining at Pirate's Cove to the week's end. The first-winter Rosy Starling in Wiveliscombe, Somerset, stayed put all week, while there was a report of an adult in Glastonbury 'recently' and the bird at Sennen, Cornwall, reappeared. The latter also continued to host the European Serin behind the school, reported again on 27th.


Western Palearctic

In Poland, the adult drake Stejneger's Scoter was still on the sea at Krynica Morska, Pomerania, on 29th, when it was remarkably joined by a second drake. Also in the region, the Black Scoter lingered at Wladyslawowo to 28th.

France boasted a Killdeer at Guissény, Finistère, on 28-29th. Spanish news involved the immature Brown Booby again in Málaga, Andalucia, on 26th, while a Semipalmated Plover was in Tenerife on 28th.

The first-winter Baltimore Oriole in Sweden continued to visit the garden in Förslöv, Skåne län, all week. Belgium hung onto its Alpine Accentor at Bouillon, Luxembourg, and Pygmy Cormorant at Mol, Antwerp, till 28th. An Eastern Black Redstart was discovered in the Netherlands at Hilversum, North Holland, on the same date.

In Cape Verde, the Greater Yellowlegs and Least Sandpiper remained at Santa Maria, Sal, on 26th. The Canary Islands had an African Crake on Lanzarote and a Bar-tailed Lark on La Palma, both on 29th, when another African Crake was found dead at Laâyoune, Morocco.

The first-winter male Pied Bush Chat extended its stay at Ma'or, Haifa, Israel, to the end of the week.

Pied Bush Chat, Ma'or, Haifa (Amir Ben Dov).

Written by: David Campbell

David Campbell works for BirdGuides and co-runs Wildstarts Nature Ltd, a Sussex-based guiding company: www.wildstarts.com