04/04/2003
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Review of the Week: 27th March–2nd April 2003

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The high pressure which has dominated our weather for the past few weeks was finally dislodged late in the week, giving way to cool northwesterlies.

For certain rare species, birding can be a bit like waiting for buses. This is well illustrated by British records for the superb Pallid Harrier. For many years this dainty raptor was high on many a birders most wanted list. Following a 40 year gap, a surge of records off an easterly airflow from an autumn low in 1993 whetted the appetite with a brief juvenile on Shetland available for the dedicated. This was followed by a long-staying September juvenile on Shetland in 2001 which tempted many north. Then, in August 2002, mainland birders were at last presented with a long staying bird in Kent. The spell had been broken and birders were able to savour views of this species without making the pilgrimage north. Then, just like buses, this bird was followed by an obliging winter juvenile in Norfolk. During the last week further birds were recorded with immature males showing briefly, but well, at Sennen (Cornwall) and Spurn/Easington (East Yorkshire), both of which will be deservedly popular should they be relocated and linger through the weekend. Perhaps these birds travelled across to the country last autumn and have remained undetected over the winter,only being detected now that they have started to move? With our expectations heightened we eagerly await more birds in the coming years.

In Norfolk a Sardinian Warbler was found at Sheringham on 29th and was initially thought to be the Holme bird, but it would appear that it is actually a different bird – who’d have though it! Elsewhere, a Woodchat Shrike on Tresco was typically early, and the number of Hoopoes again approached double-figures, though most were typically in the south and southwest. Two fly-over Serins in Dorset were typically brief appearances for this spring overshoot and a Bluethroat was on the Isle of Man. The run of exceptionally early spring migrants continued with reports of Turtle Dove and Common Whitethroat during the week and an early arrival of Sedge Warblers. Many counties have broken earliest arrival dates for a number of species.

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Two Forster's Terns together in Sligo was a notable 'gathering'. Despite an increasing number of records for this beautiful tern, it still remains an attractive diversion for most birders. The number of Great White Egrets appear to be continually on the increase, but birds in East Yorkshire and Lincs and Powys continue to prove locally popular in spite of the change in status. The exceptional number of Lesser Scaup continues to increase with a drake in South Yorkshire and a probable female in Durham – never has there been a better opportunity to try and find your own! A Spotted Crake in Buckinghamshire was notable as was a report of a Cory’s Shearwater in Ceredigion.

Written by: Russell Slack