The week at a glance
- Thayer's Gull still in County Galway
- Pacific Diver in County Galway
- Black-throated Thrush still in North Yorkshire
- Probable American Robin in Cleveland
- Wintering Black Kite still in Powys
The first month of the year was roundly cast aside this week as February eased its way in with a whole ragbag of weather dotted around the place — snow in the east and south, then frosty, clear days and nights across much of the country. This, in turn, was in stark contrast to what was on offer in Ireland as the week drew to a close: a succession of Atlantic fronts were queuing up to make it a miserable conclusion to the week. Still, no need to be glum: there were plenty of birds on offer this week, not least on the Irish west coast.
The dark juvenile Thayer's Gull remained in the general area of Ross Beach, Cleggan (Co. Galway) until 3rd. By that time it had started to garner more and more interest from those on the British side of the Irish Sea, as well as their Irish counterparts, of course. But Celtic birders of a listing persuasion had rather bigger fish to fry with the discovery of the country's first confirmed Pacific Diver on 30th. Also in County Galway, the bird found the waters off Oranmore to its liking and also performed well enough for the finder's camera too — a series of decent record shots will surely see it home and dry with the IRBC. That particular committee may well have another Pacific Diver on the go, though: a bird seen in January last year in, funnily enough, Galway Bay. That bird was also photographed and you can't help but wonder whether it is the same bird, back again (just like Cornwall and Wales).
In North Yorkshire, the female Black-throated Thrush at Newholm near Whitby continued to draw admirers across another weekend and into the new month. Meanwhile, up the road at Skelton in Cleveland a brief sighting (under a minute) of what was thought to be an American Robin on 30th, and the subsequent searches, bore no red-breasted US fruit.
The wintering juvenile Black Kite remained at Gigrin Farm feeding station (Powys) throughout the week. Rumour has it that Finland's raptor guru Dick Forsman has been working on new identification criteria with regard to the increasingly tricky migrans/lineatus pairing — have "mistakes" been made in the past here? It will be fascinating to see what Dick comes up with, but maybe those with little pencil marks by the words "Black-eared Kite" may need to have a rubber close to a hand...
The lonely standard-bearers for anything of a pelagic nature this week were a Grey Phalarope was offshore from Sennen (Cornwall) on 29th and single Balearic Shearwaters off Porthgwarra on 1st and St. Ives on 3rd.
The Glossy Ibis was at Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) on 2nd–3rd (having been last reported on January 6th) and the three wintering birds at Catcott Lows NR (Somerset) remained to 3rd. The wintering Great White Egret was still nearby at Shapwick Heath too. This was one of around 12 birds noted this week, almost all regulars from recent days and weeks, including one or two in Hampshire, two birds still in Kent and two again at Pitsford Reservoir (Northamptonshire) on 30th and 3rd. A new bird flew over Isleworth (London) on 1st. In Cornwall, the two Cattle Egrets remained near Sennen and three were at Tresillian for much of the week. Next door in Devon, at Powderham, a single bird remained to 29th. Two White Storks flew over the London Wetland Centre on 3rd.
Spoonbills this week included a count of six for both Devon and Dorset (at the regular sites in the north of the former and the southeast of the latter), and along the River Tamar seven birds were seen on 30th. Two birds were at Baltimore (Co. Cork) on 2nd and singles were seen in Kent, Essex, Cheshire and County Kerry through the week. Half a dozen Common Cranes roosted at Stubb Mill (Norfolk) on 30th, while there were two for Eldernell (Cambridgeshire) and three for Lakenheath Fen (Suffolk).
The white Snow Goose remained around Holkham Freshmarsh (Norfolk) until 29th (and was reported again on 1st) with further single white birds seen in Argyll (two sites), Fife and Forth. The long-staying quartet were still at Leighton Moss and Aldcliffe Marshes (Lancashire) throughout the week. Single Richardson's Canada Geese lingered around the grazing hinterlands of Sligo (along with its chunky Canada Goose sp. buddy) and at Loch Gruinart on Islay. In Devon, the adult Red-breasted Goose was still on the Exe Estuary near Powderham on 1st, while Black Brants were noted in Dorset (at least one there), Hampshire, West Sussex, Kent (two there), Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Wexford.
Eight of the week's ten Green-winged Teal have been noted before: singles in Somerset, Hampshire, Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Suffolk (back again at Minsmere), Lancashire, the Outer Hebrides and County Clare. The newbies were at Carrowmore Lake (Co. Mayo) and Graemeshall Loch (Orkney). The female Blue-winged Teal remained around Bull Island (Co. Dublin) to 30th. In Dumfries & Galloway the drake American Wigeon flip-flopped between Castle Loch NR and Kirk Loch during the week and another drake was found at Cockerham Sands CP (Lancashire) on 29th.
The single drake Lesser Scaup at Cosmeston Lakes CP and Cardiff Bay (Glamorgan) and Dozmary Pool and Colliford Lake (Cornwall) remained to the weekend at least, while the female on Guernsey, at La Grande Mare, was still present on 1st. Seven Ring-necked Ducks included a new female at Slimbridge (Gloucestershire) on 31st–2nd. The female that has been roaming various east-Norfolk hidey-holes appeared again at Whitlingham Lane, Norwich on 29th, and sat tight for the rest of the week. Drakes continued to be seen at Thornton (Lancashire), Inch Island Lake (Co. Donegal), Foxcote Reservoir (Buckinghamshire) and Pugney's CP (West Yorkshire), while a bird at Carrowmore Lake in County Mayo may be the bird seen there at the start of October last year.
Two drake Surf Scoters were seen from Pensarn (Conwy) on 29th to 1st at least. The third drake of the week was seen near Kirkwall (Orkney) on 3rd and the regular female remained off Dawlish Warren (Devon) all week. In Moray, the drake King Eider was still off Burghead to 3rd.
The white Gyrfalcon was still at Portnahaven on Islay (Argyll) on 30th and again on 1st (a stay of over a fortnight now), while on Orkney the ultra-elusive grey Gyr was reported again, heading from the Mainland towards Hoy, on 3rd. In Norfolk, the Rough-legged Buzzard at Chedgrave Marshes was joined by a second bird during the afternoon of 31st and, by close of play, a third had joined the party (presumably one of the newcomers was the bird originally seen coming in over Breydon Water earlier the same day). After one was seen around Thorpe Marshes to the end of the week (a fourth one?), the trio were again at Chedgrave on 3rd. In Cambridgeshire, the adult male Rough-legged Buzzard was again at Coveney on 29th, and one was again on Mainland Orkney on 30th.
Once again the week's only shorebird of note was the Spotted Sandpiper at Topsham (Devon), seen on 28th–29th, reappearing on 2nd–3rd.
One of the finds of the week was most certainly the adult Bonaparte's Gull that spent 90 minutes or so off the breakwater at South Gare (Cleveland), only the third record for the county (following accepted records in 1977 and 2006). Another new Bonaparte's Gull was at Baltimore (Co. Cork) on 1st–3rd, while on Anglesey the adult Bonaparte's Gull was still coming into Lligwy Bay until 30th. In Ireland, the adult American Herring Gull was seen again at Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway) on 28th.
Some 25 Iceland Gulls were recorded this week, including three birds at Peterhead (Aberdeenshire) on 31st and three or four birds around Orkney. Glaucous Gulls nudged past their white-winged counterparts with at least 28 birds, including three different birds in Staffordshire and two each for Kent, Cleveland and Aberdeenshire (both birds at Loch of Strathbeg on 29th).
Caspian Gulls mustered some 25 birds, including up to five in the West Midlands (three at Highfield South tip near Walsall on 30th), another five or six birds around London (including three at Rainham Marshes on 3rd) and two first-winters together at Aldeby tip (Norfolk) on 1st. Further first-winters were found at Richmond Bank (Cheshire) on 29th and Sutton Bridge (Lincolnshire) on 2nd, with Cheshire's second of the week, an adult, also taking a bow at Richmond Bank, this one on 3rd.
Ireland triumphed handsomely this week with Ring-billed Gull numbers, an 18–4 win over Britain, helped hugely by nine in County Cork on 31st (four at Great Island, four more at Rosscarbery and one at Ballydehob — all bar one an adult). Three adults were around Nimmo's Pier, two were around Limerick City and further adults were in Antrim, Kerry and Sligo. A second-winter Ring-billed Gull was found at Killybegs (Co. Donegal) on 30th (perhaps the same bird that has spent time in the county town?). Back in Galway (the week's birding hotspot), the adult Forster's Tern was present from 28th–1st at least.
The week's haul of Waxwings was a mightily meagre four (three in Lancashire, one in Cleveland). A decent show of wintering Great Grey Shrikes hit 11 birds, including a new bird at Chiselhampton (Oxfordshire) from 28th–3rd and the individual at Ash Ranges (Surrey) seen for the first time in nearly a month on 31st. The rest of the roll-call saw wintering birds still at Bellever Tor (Devon), Alderman's Barrow (Somerset), Holmsley Inclosure (Hampshire), Pannell Valley (East Sussex), Grandborough (Warwickshire), Whixall Moss (Shropshire) — hopping across to Fenn's Moss (Clwyd) — Thorne Moors (South Yorkshire), and the Teifi (Pembrokeshire) and Insh Marshes (Highland) on 1st. On Shetland, the Black-bellied Dipper was still at Scalloway to 3rd.
A first-winter Rose-coloured Starling was seen in Kendal (Cumbria) on 31st–3rd and must surely have been the same bird that was present some three miles away, at New Hutton, in early December 2009. At Rainham Marshes (London) two Serins were still present on 31st, and in Highland the wintering Little Bunting was at Dunnet Bay all week. An adult male Ring Ouzel was an unseasonable find in Cornwall on 31st.
Photo of the Week
With their brilliant colours and sleek features, bee-eaters are regarded by many as being among the most beautiful and exotic birds in the world. Indian bird photographer Mital Patel certainly reinforced that view when he photographed the stunning Blue-cheeked variety in his home country. Mital made the most of the low morning sunshine front-lighting the bird on a simple perch against a diffuse background to show off the bird's colours at their best. His real achievement, though, was to combine action with beauty by freezing the bird as it tossed a bug into the air before swallowing it. The result is an image with worldwide appeal.
Black Kite, India (Photo: Dileep Kumar)