Review of the Week: 26 February-3 March 2024


As often can be the case in late February and early March, British and Irish birding appears to be in a 'holding pattern' phase right now as we await the first significant arrival of spring migrants and further signs of winter visitors starting to shift around. As a result, the sightings page had an air of familiarity about it throughout the week, although there were nonetheless one or two quality finds made.

Only two birds deserving of mega status were reported this week, with the continuing Myrtle Warbler offering great views all week in its favoured garden at Kilwinning, Ayrshire, while the adult male White-winged Scoter was again noted off Inch, Co Kerry, on 26th.

Myrtle Warbler, Kilwinning, Ayrshire (David Carr).

As might be expected for the time of year, wildfowl featured prominently among the week's other highlights, with a splendid adult male Bufflehead at Lough Sheelin, Co Westmeath, from 27-29th. Although Bufflehead has become a more regular fixture in recent years, there's a decent chance that this must be the same bird which first arrived on Inishmore, Co Galway, back in January.

Bufflehead, Lough Sheelin, Westmeath (Emily Marsh).

The good winter for Lesser Scaup continued, with a male and female found together at a golf course near Blackpool, Lancashire, on 2nd before relocating north to Leighton Moss RSPB on 3rd. Up to five continued at Abberton Reservoir, Essex, with females still in Pembrokeshire, Clyde and the Outer Hebrides. In Ireland, a new male was on Lough Corrib off Angliham, Co Galway, on 3rd, with other males lingering in Co Waterford and Co Armagh. Ring-necked Duck numbered 26 across Britain and Ireland, including at least four in Somerset and three together in Co Tipperary. This week's only Ferruginous Duck was the male at Titchfield, Hampshire.

Lesser Scaup, Blackpool, Lancashire (Jonathan Scragg).

Smew were at 25 British sites, while four individuals were seen in Ireland. Recent weeks have been excellent for Green-winged Teal and no fewer than 23 were reported during this seven days alone, which included several new birds. Seven American Wigeon included a new drake at Long Preston Deeps, North Yorkshire, on 3rd. The King Eider was reported from Lothian, while Surf Scoter were in Denbighshire (two) and Cornwall.

Smew, Broadwood Loch, Clyde (Sam Northwood).

Two of the week's three Red-breasted Geese were in Norfolk, with the long-staying adult on Islay, Argyll, also still on offer. Islay also hosted a couple of Richardson's Cackling Geese. A white-morph Snow Goose was near Alness, Highland, on 1st. Continuing what has been a poor winter for the taxon, a grand total of zero Black Brant were noted this week.

Wader-wise, it was a familiar story this week. Long-billed Dowitchers lingered in Co Wexford, Suffolk and East Sussex, with Lesser Yellowlegs in East Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Co Louth and the Somerset Kentish Plover doing the same. A Little Ringed Plover on the dam at Grafham Water, Cambridgeshire, on 2nd probably deserves the title of being the first true migrant of this species in 2024, given that the recent Cheshire bird probably wintered in the country.

Lesser Yellowlegs, Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincolnshire (David Shallcross).

In Co Cork, the Gull-billed Tern showed daily at Kilkeran Lake. At least two Ring-billed Gulls were in the Tralee area of Co Kerry, with further adults at Ballyronan, Co Derry, Blackrock, Co Louth, and Cuskinny Marsh, Co Cork. In Britain, regular adults were in Cornwall and Clyde. A Bonaparte's Gull reported from Kenneggy Cove, Cornwall, on 2nd was the only one of its kind this week. The poor winter for white-winged gulls showed no signs of sparking into life, with Iceland and Glaucous Gulls numbering barely 30 and 20 respectively.

Gull-billed Tern, Kilkeran Lake, Cork (Richard Mills).

Ring-billed Gull, Blackrock, Louth (Holly Grogan).

Raptors included three Pallid Harriers (Norfolk, Glamorgan and Pembrokeshire) and four Rough-legged Buzzards, the latter including new birds over Minnis Bay, Kent, on 28th and Brimham Rocks, North Yorkshire, on 1st.

The male Black-throated Thrush reappeared at Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire, on 3rd, having last been reported there in late January. Only three Great Grey Shrikes were on offer (in Dorset, West Sussex and Norfolk), while the sole Yellow-browed Warbler was that at Dorchester, Dorset, and the only Little Bunting was in Kent. The Richard's Pipit was seen daily at Ulverston, Cumbria. An impressive inland Shore Lark record concerned one near Kirkconnel, Dumfries and Galloway, with the South Yorkshire bird still at High Bradfield and five coastal sites also claiming birds.

Shore Lark, High Bradfield, South Yorkshire (Roy Twigg).


Western Palearctic

Perhaps the most significant find of the week, at least from a British birder's perspective, was a singing Moustached Warbler at Wageningen, the Netherlands. Discovered on 29th, it represents the third national record and continues the recent run of records of this species in Northern Europe. It surely won't be too long before a British bird is found. 

Records of Stejneger's Scoter and Baikal Teal came from both Denmark and Sweden. The Sandhill Crane continued in northern Germany at Wulfersdorf.

Late news from the Canary Islands concerned a Lesser Moorhen photographed being predated by a Raven on Fuerteventura on 13 January. A male Sudan Golden Sparrow continued at Maspalomas, Gran Canaria. In the Azores, both a Double-crested Cormorant and a Green Heron were on Faial and a Great Blue Heron was on São Miguel.


Written by: Josh Jones

Josh Jones manages BirdGuides.com and is Editor of Birdwatch magazine. He is an avid birder and keen all-round naturalist. Follow him on Twitter: @jrmjones