The week at a glance
- Two-day Rock Thrush at Spurn
- Wales' first Pallid Harrier in Pembrokeshire, closely followed by a second on Anglesey
- Delightfully showy Eastern Subalpine Warbler in Suffolk
- Another double-figure White-billed Diver count from the Moray Firth
- Harlequin still in the Outer Hebrides and Pied-billed Grebe still in Somerset
Another week of typical spring weather saw changeable conditions across the British Isles — warm and sunny weather started the week off in the south, although the north was much cooler and susceptible to bouts of precipitation as a weak front slowly descended southwards across the country. The weak finished on the cool side, but with plenty of spring sunshine in many areas.
Taking the headlines this week was a female Rock Thrush at Kilnsea (E Yorks) on 25th–26th. Quite remarkably, this was the first of its kind to be twitchable in Britain since September 1996, when one spent a few days on Bryher, and consequently a surprising number of Britain's big listers hot-footed it to the Yorkshire coast on Thursday afternoon. Indeed, it is the first anywhere in Britain and Ireland since a beautiful male spent an evening in Devon in May 2004. Unfortunately for the weekend brigade, the bird, like plenty of recent mega-rarities, did a Friday night bunk.
It appears that North Uist's Harlequin may have finally moved off — it was still there on 25th, but there was no sign over 26th–27th, although it will doubtless be looked for again over the Bank Holiday weekend. Contrastingly, Somerset's singing male Pied-billed Grebe continued to frequent Ham Wall throughout, though a female Little Grebe (or indeed Pied-billed!) are yet to succumb to his dulcet tones.
Another big week for White-billed Divers in the Moray Firth saw an impressive 13 — many in summer plumage — seen from MV Gemini Explorer off Portsoy (Aberdeenshire) on 27th, with up to five visible from land throughout the week. Elsewhere, one flew past Aird an Runair, North Uist on 28th, one was off Papa Westray (Orkney) on 26th and the long-staying South Ronaldsay individual was still off Herston on 28th. King Eiders remained on the Ythan Estuary (Aberdeenshire) and off Symbister, Whalsay (Shetland), while a drake Surf Scoter spent the week off Musselburgh (Lothian) in addition to last week's immature still off Rossbeigh (Kerry).
The Black Brant continued in the Spurn area throughout the week, while Richardson's Canada Geese were seen on Islay (Argyll) on 26th and at Caerlaverock (Dumf & Gall) on 29th. The late spring is no doubt to blame for plenty of rare Aythyas still being around: it was another strong week for Lesser Scaup, with up to seven located. Following the Notts bird last seen at Holme Pierrepont on 27th, a new bird (or perhaps the same?) was at Pugney's Country Park (W Yorks) on 30th. A probable was reported from Lough Shark (Down) on 1st, while lingering birds were still in Lancashire, Cleveland, Clyde and County Armagh. Eight Ring-necked Ducks comprised new drakes at Meikle Loch (Aberdeenshire) on 25th–29th and Lade Gravel Pits (Kent) on 25th, and females at Chigborough Lakes (Essex) on 25th–30th and at Ardnave, Islay on 1st, plus remaining birds in Somerset, Pembrokeshire, East Yorkshire and on North Uist. Suffolk's female Ferruginous Duck continued at Minsmere throughout, the American Wigeon was still at Twechar Marsh (Clyde) on 30th and four Green-winged Teal included new birds in Lancashire and County Donegal.
The first real flush of Purple Heron records saw seven reported. Brief or flyover birds were seen in Hampshire and Norfolk on 26th and County Dublin, Gloucestershire and Dorset on 28th, while adults at Kenfig Nature Reserve (Glamorgan) on 25th–27th and Ormesby Broad (Norfolk) on 26th did linger long enough to be twitched. At least one elusive Night Heron remained on the River Dart near Dartington (Devon) to 28th, the Glossy Ibis remained in Pembrokeshire and the Grove Ferry (Kent) Cattle Egret was presumably that later seen at Oare Marshes on 28th. Two White Storks remained around Breydon Water (Norfolk) throughout, while flyovers were seen in Cambridgeshire, Cheshire and Somerset, although the latter was probably the ringed bird seen near Trowbridge (Wilts) on 28th.
Wales' first Pallid Harrier continued on Skomer (Pembrokeshire), where it was often seen alongside a female Montagu's Harrier; both flew off north early during the morning of 1st but constituted a fine double for the island. Like the proverbial London bus, Wales's second-ever Pallid Harrier was seen later the same day. It flew through Penrhos Coastal Park (Anglesey) in the late morning, but the timing of sightings confirmed that this couldn't have been the Skomer bird (unless it had been fitted with a jet engine). A Rough-legged Buzzard was seen near Stornoway, Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 27th, while Orkney Gyr Falcon sightings came from Orphir Bay on 25th and Marwick on 30th. A female Red-footed Falcon performed beautifully on St. Martin's (Scilly) on 25th–26th. Ten Black Kites were reported but, as is so often the case, none lingered long enough to be collectable.
Waders included new Lesser Yellowlegs at Tacumshin (Wexford) from 27th and in Dundalk Docks (Louth) from 29th, and northbound Long-billed Dowitchers fresh in at Port Nis then Loch Stiapavat, Lewis on 29th and at Ardnave, Islay on 1st. Completing the Nearctic feel was a first-summer American Golden Plover at Kilcoole (Wicklow) from 28th and Pectoral Sandpipers at Rainham Marshes (London) on 25th and Holland Haven (Essex) on 26th. Kerry's Dotterel trip remained at Reenroe until at least 29th, while more typical records came from sites in Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, Nottinghamshire, Ceredigion, Glamorgan and Berkshire. A pair of Black-winged Stilts at Newport Wetlands (Gwent) on 26th relocated to Ham Wall (Somerset) the following day.
A flush of northbound Bonaparte's Gulls were found during the week: fine adults were at Hosehill Lake (Berks) on 26th and at Chew Valley Lake (Somerset) the following day, with a first-summer lingering at Elmley Marshes (Kent) from 28th. Leicestershire's Ring-billed Gull continued to visit Melton Country Park during the day and was seen sporadically in the Rutland Water roost. A first-summer was again briefly at Stanwick Gravel Pits (Northants) on 26th and the Shetland bird was still near Quendale; adults were seen at three Irish sites.
Following last week's series of sightings, Whiskered Terns were again a feature this time out: a bird at Chew Valley Lake (Somerset) on 25th was apparently different to the bird there on 23rd, then presumably the same bird was at Frampton-on-Severn (Glos) on 26th and again at Durleigh Reservoir on 27th. As if finding a Rock Thrush wasn't enough, Spurn birder Adam Hutt found the year's first Caspian Tern as it flew north past the seawatching hut there during the evening of 25th, before flying north over the assembled Rock Thrush crowd shortly afterwards and then heading off out to sea!
Scarce migrants included six Hoopoes (Cornwall, Devon, Carmarthenshire, East Yorkshire, Lancashire and Ayrshire), a couple of Wrynecks in Devon and Kent and a few Golden Orioles, including a lingering male at Pennington Marshes (Hants) on 27th–29th. A Bee-eater was heard over Ventnor (IoW) on 27th–28th, with a brief bird on Walney Island (Cumbria) on 1st and an excellent record of a lingering bird in Shropshire, at Wheathall on 29th–30th.
On Scilly, the Pallid Swift extended its stay on the islands into a third week, and was still present on St. Mary's on 1st. Brief Citrine Wagtails consisted of a female at Kelling then Cley (Norfolk) on 25th and a male at Spurn on 30th. A possible male Spanish Wagtail was at Lytchett Bay (Dorset) on 27th and there was another good scattering of Blue-headed and Channel Wagtails. A Richard's Pipit flew over Spurn on 26th, with another briefly at Portland (Dorset) on 30th, while five Red-rumped Swallows were in Dorset, Kent, Nottinghamshire, East Yorkshire and County Dublin, only the first two (at Lodmoor and Dungeness on 27th) lingering long enough to be twitched.
A stunning male Eastern Subalpine Warbler at Landguard (Suffolk) bucked the recent Western trend on 26th–27th, regularly showing to just a couple of metres and proving a huge hit with photographers and birders alike. A singing male Western Subalpine was new in on St. Mary's (Scilly) on 25th–26th, while Welsh birds lingered at St. David's Head (Pembrokeshire) to 27th and Uwchmynydd (Gwynedd) to 30th. An Iberian Chiffchaff was expertly identified on call at Flamborough Head (E Yorks) on 25th and lingered there to 30th; elsewhere, birds remained at Boldon Flats (Durham) on 25th and on Scilly to 26th.
Woodchat Shrike numbers just about crept into double figures, with new individuals at Barton Bendish (Norfolk) on 25th–30th, Courtmacsherry (Cork) on 27th, Land's End (Cornwall) from 28th and Lizard village on 30th. Two remained on St. Mary's (Scilly), with further birds from last week still in Cornwall, Somerset, Pembrokeshire and Gwynedd.
In Suffolk, the Rose-coloured Starling remained at Orford to 29th, and a Black-bellied Dipper was found on the River Stour at Liston Mill (Essex) on 27th. The Little Bunting at Rawcliffe Moss (Lancs) was re-trapped there on 30th after last being noted on 13th March, while none of the half-dozen Serins proved twitchable, although one was trapped at Gibraltar Point (Lincs) on 27th.
With one our predictions for April (Rock Thrush) coming true this week, we eagerly anticipate the coming weeks of May, often one of the most exciting periods in the British birding calendar for rare vagrants. Many would appreciate a gettable Caspian Plover but, with Turkey claiming its first Allen's Gallinule near Ankara during the week, it could well be time to think 'outside the box'...
Over the past three years, Worcestershire-based bird photographer Carl Day has uploaded more than 300 images to BirdGuides, almost 30 of which have featured in our weekly Notable Images selections. This week, we are delighted to choose a sumptuous portrait of a male Hawfinch taken in Gloucestershire as Carl's first Photo of the Week. In contrast to the close-up action shot of a pair of Hawfinches we chose a few weeks ago, Carl's photo is a classic bird portrait, featuring a perfectly-posed bird on a simple perch against a complimentary backdrop. Add in diffuse lighting and warm colours and the overall effect is reminiscent of the professional studio 'look' used for human portraiture. Budding photographers aiming for this type of aesthetic bird photography would do well to look through Carl's uploads for inspiration. It's impressive that Carl manages to apply this high-quality style to a wide range of bird species, even when he's chasing rarities.
Other Notable Photos
Roller, Spain (Photo: Morten Scheller Jensen)