Review of the Week: 28 March-3 April 2022


Last week's soaring temperatures and often clear conditions were replaced by a bitterly cold northerly wind and snow showers, which put migration on halt somewhat. In weather more suited to an arrival of white-winged gulls or perhaps a Gyr Falcon or Ross's Gull, the reappearance of the much-loved Black-browed Albatross to Bempton Cliffs RSPB, East Yorkshire, from 30th proved a pleasing surprise.

Appearing three months earlier than in 2021, last year's Birdwatch magazine 'Birders' Choice Awards' bird of the year started right where it left off with outstanding views in and around the Staple Newk Northern Gannet colony. Amazingly, there are now two adults in the North Sea, with news of one filmed off the Danish coast on 2nd while the Yorkshire bird was still present. Might they happen to meet at Bempton in the weeks and months ahead, perhaps?

Black-browed Albatross, Bempton Cliffs RSPB, East Yorkshire (Lee Johnson).

No fewer than three Blue-winged Teal were very welcome – 1997 is the only other time so many have been present simultaneously in March. Two on 28th included Buckinghamshire's first record, a female at Little Marlow. Another female at Berry Fen, Cambridgeshire, from 30th was seemingly paired with a male Garganey, a hybrid combination rarely recorded in the wild.

On 28th, a red-letter day at Tacumshin, Co Wexford, saw an adult drake Blue-winged Teal unearthed alongside an adult Bonaparte's Gull, with the long-staying Lesser Yellowlegs also present. The site's American Coot was reported again on 3rd.

Blue-winged Teal (far left) with Garganey, Berry Fen, Cambridgeshire (Jim P).

In Shetland, a drake American Black Duck at Ordale, Unst, on 2nd proved an unfortunately brief visitor. A rare bird anywhere in Britain, it is the seventh for Shetland and the archipelago's first since June 2013 (when one was at Loch of Hillwell).

American Black Duck (left), Baltasound, Unst, Shetland (David Cooper).

Further south, spring migrants continued to trickle in despite the week's weather, peaking with a male White-spotted Bluethroat trapped and ringed at Charleston Reedbed on 31st. Elsewhere, an Alpine Swift flew west over Brownwich and Chilling, Hampshire, on 29th, and six Hoopoes were logged (four in south-west England between Dorset and Scilly, one at Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire, and a notable record in the far north at Tongue, Highland).

White-spotted Bluethroat, Litlington, East Sussex (Terry Hallahan).

Alpine Swift, Titchfield, Hampshire (Mark Francis).

Two European Serins were last reported from Coverack, Cornwall, on 28th. Four Shore Larks held on at Holkham Gap, Norfolk, with one still at Kessingland, Suffolk until 28th. Dusky Warblers remained at Walthamstow Marsh, London, and Stiffkey, Norfolk; the spring's first Grasshopper Warbler was reported at Red Rocks, Cheshire, on 1st

No fewer than four new Great Grey Shrikes were reported on 29th – at Sparham, Norfolk, Betws-y-Coed, Conwy, and both Ten Acre Reservoir and Cropton Forest, North Yorkshire. Two others lingered at Comberton. Cambridgeshire, and Backwater Reservoir, Angus.

Great Grey Shrike, Cropton Forest, North Yorkshire (Ian Howard).

Two Eurasian Penduline Tits lasted at Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, until 29th, the same day a possible Siberian/Stejneger's Stonechat was noted at Wicklow Head, Co Wicklow. The Belted Kingfisher continued along the River Darwen near Roach Bridge, Lancashire, throughout, as did the Hume's Leaf Warbler at Eastbourne, East Sussex.

Belted Kingfisher, Samlesbury, Lancashire (John Nadin).

A possible first-winter female Pallid Harrier photographed at Pen Anglas Point, Pembrokeshire, on 3rd would be the second county record if confirmed.

Always popular spring visitors, Spotted Crakes at Exminster Marshes RSPB, Devon, from 28th and Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincolnshire, from 1st were well-received, No fewer than seven were noted singing at Wheldrake Ings, North Yorkshire, from 26th, with another vocalising at Gibraltar Point NNR, Lincolnshire, overnight on 2nd.

Spotted Crake, Exminster Marshes RSPB, Devon (Charlie Fleming).

Three new American Wigeon were found – at Derbyhaven, Isle of Man, Kirton in Lindsey, Lincolnshire, and Bay of Ireland, Mainland Orkney. East Yorkshire's Baikal Teal lingered at Swine Moor until the week's end and Green-winged Teal were at 12 sites, including new birds at three – Sutton Gault, Cambridgeshire, Threipmuir Reservoir, Lothian, and Lissagriffin, Co Cork. An impressive 338 Garganey reports graced the BirdGuides sightings pages during the week.

Green-winged Teal, Venus Pool NR, Shropshire (Antony J Ross).

Essex was treated to a drake Lesser Scaup at Abberton Reservoir from 28th, the site's first since 2005. Another new bird – a female – was at Lough Clubir, Co Cork, from 31st, while, elsewhere, birds remained at Castle Loch NR, Dumfries & Galloway, Coatbridge, Clyde (two), and in the Outer Hebrides at Loch Stiapavat, Lewis, and West Loch Ollay and Loch Bee, South Uist.

Lesser Scaup, Coatbridge, Clyde (Joe Graham).

Last seen in Staffordshire on 6 February, the female Ferruginous Duck was back at Belvide Reservoir on 30th and appeared to be paying particularly intimate attention to a drake Common PochardRing-necked Duck were at four new locales – Acre Nook Sand Quarry, Cheshire, Ringstead GPs, Northamptonshire, Edgbaston, West Midlands, and Lough Corrib, Co Galway (two) – with examples of this popular Aythya at 23 sites in total.

Ring-necked Duck, Kenfig Hill, Glamorgan (Sam Viles).

The White-winged Scoter, King Eider and three Surf Scoter were again off Musselburgh, Lothian, with another King Eider still at Loch Fleet, Highland. A Black Scoter was reported off Rossbeigh, Co Kerry, on 1st; Surf Scoter were off Pentewan, Cornwall, and Pendine, Carmarthen (two).

Norfolk's Red-breasted Goose at Blakeney Harbour made it into April, present until 1st at least. Snow Geese were still at four sites: Banks Marsh, Lancashire, Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire (three), Drumlemble, Argyll, and North Uist, Outer Hebrides. Shetland's Egyptian Goose was still at Sandwick, Mainland, until 29th.

In the Outer Hebrides, two mobile Richardson's Cackling Geese remained around Balemore, North Uist, with another still at Gartnatra, Islay, Argyll. Todd's Canada Geese, meanwhile, were at Banks Marsh, Lancashire, and Cornaigmore, Tiree, Argyll. A Grey-bellied Brant was again at Lurgan Green, Co Louth.

The now expected early-spring build-up of White-billed Diver off north-west Scotland continued, with five Aberdeenshire and Moray & Nairn locations reporting sightings. Peak count was a hefty 17 at Portsoy on 2nd. Three more were off Shetland, with others off Embo, Highland, Lewis, Outer Hebrides, and Papa Westray, Orkney. Significantly less expected was a Great Shearwater taken into care near Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, on 1st.

Great Shearwater in care at East Winch RSPCA (RSPCA via Twitter).

The second-winter Bonaparte's Gull remained at Chichester GPs, West Sussex, although a drop-off in Ring-billed Gull numbers saw just three recorded: an adult at Bann Estuary, Co Londonderry, and first-winters at Cork City, Co Cork, and on Tiree, Argyll. Kumlien's Gulls at Smithy Fen, Cambridgeshire, and Allasdale, Barra, Outer Hebrides, both made it into April.

Bonaparte's Gull, Chichester GPs, West Sussex (Andy Wilkes).

On 3rd, a Pacific Golden Plover was a smart find among European Golden Plovers at Carlton Marshes, Suffolk and a Pectoral Sandpiper was at Ballycotton, Co Cork. The White-tailed Lapwing continued to perform delightfully at Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincolnshire, a Lesser Yellowlegs was still at Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk, and a Temminck's Stint remained at Cliffe Pools RSPB, Kent. A Eurasian Stone-curlew was at Cooper's Green GPs, Hertfordshire, on 29th, with the Semipalmated Plover again at Crookhaven, Co Cork, on 3rd.

Pacific Golden Plover (front bird), Carlton Marshes SWT, Suffolk (Andrew Easton).

White-tailed Lapwing, Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincolnshire (Tony Davison).

An adult Black-crowned Night Heron was at Nanjizal Valley, Cornwall, on 31st, with Glossy Ibis at 35 sites during the week, including birds lingering in the far north at Reay, Caithness, and Westray, Orkney. A Common Crane hung around Durham and Northumberland from 28-3rd, while three headed south over Staveley, North Yorkshire, on 2nd.

Glossy Ibis, East Ruston, Norfolk (Jamie Shailes).

Two Black Storks were belatedly reported from Fingringhoe, Essex, on 2nd, having been present on a nearby workings on 27th. White Storks – most presumably relating to wandering birds from Knepp – overflew 11 counties, with the unringed individual still at Worth Marsh, Kent.

White Stork, Settle, North Yorkshire (Geoffrey Pain).

Thankfully, a rescue attempt for the male Sperm Whale seemingly 'stuck' in South Whiteness Voe, Shetland, was successful on 30th and the mammal was last seen past Hildasay that afternoon.


Western Palearctic

Denmark enjoyed an action-packed few days: an adult Black-browed Albatross was filmed at close quarters off a fishing boat 60 km WNW of Hantsholm on 2nd, with the Stejneger's Scoter still off Mellbystrand the following day. Arguably best of the bunch was last week's Sandhill Crane making an appearance at Tranekær on 31st. A Pied Crow of unknown origin was at Rügen, Germany, on 21st before crossing over the border to Bornholm, Denmark, on 27th.

Spain's third Atlas Wheatear was at Guadalhorce, Málaga, on 30th. Elsewhere, the Black-and-white Warbler at Sant Joan de Mediona, Brown Booby at Irún, Moussier's Redstart at L'Albufera de València and Cream-coloured Courser at Cabo de Gata all continued.

On Terceira, Azores, the Belted Kingfisher, Great Blue Heron and American Great Egret all remained around Praia da Vitória.

A male Eastern Black-eared Wheatear was in the centre of Nice, France, on 30th, while the satellite-tagged Eastern Imperial Eagle continued to wander. Belgium's drake Falcated Duck was at Snellegem on 2nd, with a Baikal Teal and Western Swamphen still in The Netherlands.

White-winged Scoter were still at Keflavík and Reykjavík, Iceland, with the Siberian Rubythroat still at Vargön, Sweden. Ukraine's first Black-throated Accentor was still at Kuchurhan on 23rd.

A summer-plumaged Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit was at Petoúnta, Cyprus, with two Pied Crows at Ras Gharib, Egypt.

Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit, Paphos, Paphos (Matthew Smith).

Written by: Sam Viles