Review of the Week: 27 February-5 March 2023


March may have arrived, but it was another week in the late winter doldrums. Classic early spring migrants included only a handful of Sand Martin, Swallow and Northern Wheatear, plus three House Martins in Cornwall on 5th. Perhaps for the best, given the cold forecast for the coming week …

Four different American Herring Gulls were reported through the week, including one new bird in Scotland and two probables in Cornwall. The latter report concerned a third-winter and a second-winter at St Clement's Isle, Cornwall, on 1st. Neither age is as readily identifiable in an extralimital context as a swarthy first-winter, and so they remained unconfirmed. Last week's first-winter was reported again at Stornoway Harbour, Lewis, on 27th, but it was a particularly smart first-winter at Fort William, Highland, from 3rd that stole the show. The bird is a classic smithsonianus: velvet-smooth, rich cocoa-hued underparts contrasting with a paling head, strong bicoloured bill, loosely marked coverts, and so on. Smart! The bird remained in the general vicinity throughout the week. 

American Herring Gull, Caol, Highland (Peter Stronach).

American Herring Gull (right), Caol, Highland (Peter Stronach).

Another gull in the limelight this week was a Ross's Gull at the classic spot of Kinnaird Head, Aberdeenshire, from 4th. This site holds monopoly on this Arctic gull and is the second year running one has been recorded at the site – no age has been given yet so it could be a returning bird? 

Lesser Scaup lingered at both Ham Wall RSPB, Somerset, and Loch Bee, South Uist. A new drake cropped up at Farmoor Reservoir, Oxfordshire, from 2nd – although could conceivably be the same bird as at Staines Reservoir, London, seen there up until late February. The bird gave great views during the latter half of the week, sometimes alongside the long-staying female Greater Scaup, providing a nice comparison. The drake Baikal Teal continued at Foryd Bay, Gwynedd, swapping between the Northern Pintail and Eurasian Teal flocks. Up to three Ferruginous Duck lingered at Filby Broad, Norfolk, although became less reliable again as the week wore on. 

Lesser Scaup, Farmoor Reservoir, Oxfordshire (Tim Salkeld).

Four American Wigeon were on offer, with just one new bird: a drake at Darnconner Quarry near Auchinleck, Ayrshire. Other drakes remained settled at Blagdon Estate, Northumberland; Otmoor RSPB, Oxfordshire; and Loch Gorm, Islay. Ring-necked Duck remained steady, with 24 sites hosting birds meanwhile 10 Green-winged Teal were reported. 

Interestingly, there was no further sign of the female White-winged Scoter off Achill Island, Co Mayo, after 28th. The adult drake was reported again off Musselburgh Lagoons, Lothian, on 4th but was by no means reliable. Surf Scoter were logged at five sites, including two drakes at Sound of Taransay, Outer Hebrides, and three drakes off Llanddulas, Conwy, on 5th. The second-winter drake King Eider remained steadfast off Redcar, Cleveland, during the week while survey boats off Shetland found drakes off Hascosay on 27th and the regular drake at Bluemull Sound on 2nd. 

King Eider (centre), Bluemull Sound, Shetland (David Cooper).

A Richardson's Cackling Goose was consorting with Pink-footed Geese in Northumberland. The flock proved mobile at times but remained centrally between Earsdon, Old Hartley and St Mary's Island. Some great views were had and the bird proved popular – rightfully so, as 'cacklers' are a rare commodity in England. It seems sensible to suggest that this is the Norfolk bird moving back north, which itself is probably one of two present in Northumberland on Christmas Day last year. Four more sites also hosted birds: Balranald RSPB, North Uist, two sites on Islay and Campbeltown, Argyll. A possible, unassigned Cackling Goose was reported with Pink-feet at Halvergate, Norfolk, on 27th.

Richardson's Cackling Goose, Earsdon, Northumberland (Ian Bollen).

Otherwise, the adult Red-breasted Goose remained at Loch Gruinart RSPB, Islay. The two apparent adult Grey-bellied Brant remained on the shore at Nairn, with others at Lurgan Green, Co Louth, and Cainteely, Co Dublin. The smart first-winter Black Brant remained around Stow Marsh, Essex, and the regular adult remained between Skeffling and Kilnsea, East Yorkshire. Birds were also reported from Margate and North Foreland, Kent.  

Snow Geese had a decent showing at four sites, with the white-morph first-winter still mingling with Barnacle Geese in Cumbria. The known escape adult Lesser White-fronted Goose remained between Cockersand Abbey and Pilling Lane Ends, Lancashire. Norfolk's dozen Taiga Bean Geese were reported from Ludham Bridge again from 27th. Tundra Bean Geese were at 15 sites.

The Double-crested Cormorant lengthened its stay at Doon Lough, Co Leitrim. Shetland offered the only White-billed Diver of the week, with at least one in Bluemull Sound. 

Lingering waders included the Greater Yellowlegs at Tallow, Co Waterford; the Long-billed Dowitcher at Cley Marshes NWT, Norfolk; and White-rumped Sandpiper at Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire.

White-rumped Sandpiper, Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire (Jonathan Bull).

Interestingly, three Black Kite reports were received, two unconfirmed reports from Dorset: a possible over Tarrant Rushton on 27th and a possible over Sowley Pond on 28th. Another report came from Henfield, West Sussex, on 27th.

Four Kumlien's Gulls headlined the white-winged gull action, with the regular adult in Cambridgeshire, the intermittent adult at St Clement's Isle, Cornwall, and a juvenile and second-winter on Shetland. Otherwise, Iceland Gulls hailed from 45 sites and Glaucous Gulls from just 22. It was another poor showing for Ring-billed Gulls, with the long-staying adult at Hayle Estuary, Cornwall, being the only bird reported outside of Ireland, where six were present. The adult Forster's Tern proved reliable around Nimmo's Pier, Co Galway. 

Forster's Tern, Galway, Galway (Tom Cuffe).

Of the four Great Grey Shrikes reported this week, just one was new: a bird just south of Eyeworth, Bedfordshire, from 5th – a great county find given the complete lack of the species again this winter. Waxwings also remained scant, with 12 localities reporting birds. Maintaining some seasonal contrast, the Hoopoe was reported again at Marloes, Pembrokeshire, on 4th.

Waxwing, Cranfield, Bedfordshire (Mark Rayment).

Wintering Hume's Leaf Warblers lasted at Compton Dando, Somerset, and Sandagte, Kent, although it was arguably Pallas's Warbler that stole the Phylloscopus show for another week. The Durham individual was last reported from Newfield sewage works on 1st, while the singing male continued to attract a stream of admirers to Attenborough NR, Nottinghamshire, throughout. Somerset's Dusky Warbler was last seen at Bradford-on-Avon on 27th.

Hume's Leaf Warbler, Compton Dando, Somerset & Bristol (Matthew Barfield).

Pallas's Warbler, Attenborough (village), Nottinghamshire (Paul Coombes).

Over in Suffolk the Eastern Yellow Wagtail (likely nominate tschutschensis) persisted at Carlton Marshes SWT. All three Richard's Pipits remained in-situ, with singles in Gloucestershire, Dorset and the Isles of Scilly. As did the first-winter Isabelline Wheatear at Kelsey Head, Cornwall, until 2nd at least. Up to 10 Shore Larks lasted at Holkham Gap, Norfolk, with a trio on the beach further west at Gore Point, plus a singleton back at Beacon Ponds, East Yorkshire. The duo of Little Buntings were still at Cot Valley, Cornwall, while the ringed individual made a reappearance at Stanborough Reedmarsh, Hertfordshire, on 5th.

In other news, a Walrus was photographed on rocks at Cairn na Burgh Mòr at Lunga, Argyll, on 27th. 

Western Palearctic

Arguably the biggest news for the Western Palearctic actually came from outside the region, with news of ‘Omid' the last Siberian Crane of the Western population leaving Iran on 5th. It typically takes 3-4 days until he arrives to stage for a short period in Azerbaijan. This time however he's set off with a released female bird from a Belgian breeding program.

Back in the region and an adult female Steller's Eider was off Stekkjarnes, Iceland on 4th. In Norway, an adult Ross's Gull was at Ålesund harbour on 2nd while the Oriental Turtle Dove remained at Stavanger. The Swedish Baltimore Oriole remained at Förslöv as did the drake Blue-winged Teal at Lund. 

Poland's Siberian Accentor remained at Rokocin until at least 27th and two drake Stejneger's Scoter were on offer: the lingering bird off Krynica Morska and one past Wladyslawowo on 1st. The adult drake Black Scoter continued off Hohwacht, Germany, and a drake Baikal Teal was at Hutweidsee. 

It was a steady week in the Low Countries. The Dutch Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit was still between ‘s-Gravendeel and Puttershoek and the Alpine Accentor remained at The Hague. The adult drake Baikal Teal continued to mingle with Eurasian Wigeon at Zevenhoven. In Belgium, the Moustached Warbler made a reappearance at De Gavers and the male Pine Bunting lingered at Korbeek-Dijle.

France's long-staying Long-legged Buzzard at Thibie. Otherwise, the first-winter Forster's Tern remained in Finistère and up to two American Herring Gulls were still being reported from Gueltas waste treatment centre. The Least Sandpiper continued at La Guittière.

The Black-faced Bunting continued to show well at Silla, Spain, meanwhile the drake American Black Duck was still at Sada and the male Alaskan Yellow Wagtail lingered just outside of Marbella. The almost-certainly ship-assisted male Great-tailed Grackle continued to call Mazagón home. A smart first-winter American Herring Gull was at Arteixo on 28th.

An apparent near-adult Armenian Gull was photographed at Salina NR on 3rd – the first record for Malta if accepted. An exhausted Cream-coloured Courser was picked up near Chania, Crete, on 2nd and was sent to Athens for rehabilitation. Both the ringed Black-faced Bunting and Masked Wagtail remained at Ma'ayan Tzv, Israel, until at least 28th.

Written by: Dan Owen

Dan Owen is a Cheshire-based birder with a keen interest in ringing and wildfowl. He works for the BirdGuides news team. Follow him on Twitter: @_danielowen