Review of the Week: 29 November-5 December 2021


In a quintessential midwinter week, complete with a dusting of snow across much of Britain and Ireland, it was lingering rarities that provided the bulk of the week's birding interest. With the week's proceedings remaining rather quiet, it is perhaps unsurprising that news some 50 years old generated the biggest talking point, with the announcement that Ross's Goose has been added to the British list; an adult at Plex Moss, Lancashire, in December 1970 was considered of wild origin and thus admitted to Category A.

First noted at Montrose Basin, Angus, from 20-23 October and at Fail, Ayrshire, from 4-8 November, the adult Ross's was again relocated at nearby Hunterston Sands with Pink-footed Geese from 28th. All the more appealing now a genuine vagrancy pattern with Pink-feet has been safely established, it would remain here until the week's end – it is all but guaranteed to become a major attraction over the next few weeks. 

The Brünnich's Guillemot influx continued unabated in the early portion of the week, with individuals headed north past Cullercoats, Northumberland, and Collieston, Aberdeenshire, on 29th, while one was expertly photographed off Fife Ness, Fife, on 1st. Additional unconfirmed reports were received from Whitburn Coastal Park, Durham, Cley Marshes, Norfolk; Inverbervie, Aberdeenshire, and Torness, Lothian, on 29th, and Pettycur, Fife, and Alnmouth, Northumberland, on 3rd.

Brünnich's Guillemot, Fife Ness, Fife (Kris Gibb).

Lancashire's Belted Kingfisher became much more elusive as November drew to a close, with only a few brief sightings on 29-30th and nothing subsequently. In Ireland, the young Northern Harrier was back at Lough Boora Parklands, Co Offaly, on 5th; the Snowy Owl remained on St Kilda, Outer Hebrides.

Belted Kingfisher, Brockholes LWT, Lancashire (Robert Dowley).

In Pembrokeshire, the isabelline shrike lasted at Marloes Mere until 30th, with the Hume's Leaf Warbler lingering at Benacre, Suffolk, until the previous day. A likely Buff-bellied Pipit was on Lundy, Devon, late on 2nd.

A dapper male Desert Wheatear proved a draw to Berry Head, Devon, on 2-3rd and was perhaps the brief male seen at Start Point on 29th – Berry Head lies 23 km to the NNE as the wheatear flies. Elsewhere in the county, Thurlestone's female was noted again on 29th, the last date the Isabelline Wheatear at East Linton, Lothian, was recorded.

Desert Wheatear, Berry Head, Devon (Bill Coulson).

The White-tailed Lapwing remained at Blacktoft Sands RSPB, East Yorkshire, with the Spotted Sandpiper still on St Mary's, Scilly.

Lingering Lesser Scaup included five first-winters on Islay, Argyll, with others at Tresco, Scilly, Beesands Ley, Devon (two), Ardmore, South Uist, and Loch Stiapavat, Lewis. Up to three adult drakes were in Ireland – at Cloonacleigha Lough, Co Sligo, and Lough Sheelin and Round Lough, Co Cavan. Ferruginous Duck were at Blashford Lakes, Hampshire, and Thorpe Park, Surrey.

Lesser Scaup, Beesands Ley, Devon (Bill Coulson).

A bumper crop of King Eider in Shetland included two off Uyeasound, Unst, and singletons at Wester Quarff and Wadbister Voe, Mainland. In Lothian, the first-winter drake resurfaced off Portobello from 30th.

King Eider (centre), Uyeasound, Unst, Shetland (David Cooper).

The possible White-winged/Stejneger's Scoter lingered at Holkham Gap, Norfolk, from 29-3rd, with the adult drake White-winged Scoter still off Musselburgh, Lothian, throughout. The Black Scoter was back at Lossiemouth, Moray.

Black Scoter (front), Lossiemouth, Moray (Jay Hutchins).

Richardson's Cackling Geese were well represented this week. As many as three remained on the west side of North Uist, Outer Hebrides, with others at Loch Gruinart RSPB, Islay, and Ballintemple, Co Sligo.

Seafield, Co Clare, held a Bonaparte's Gull on 1-2nd and the regular Forster's Tern was again at Mutton Island, Co Galway, on 29th.


Scottish mainland

A Cetti's Warbler was arguably the highlight bird of Scotland's week, with this county first for Ayrshire at Ardeeer Quarry. Elsewhere, two Siberian Chiffchaffs were at Ardmair, Highland, from 1st, and a Grey Phalarope was at Dunnet Bay, Caithness, from 3rd and a Great Egret remained at Caerlaverock WWT, Dumfries & Galloway.

Clyde scored a number of Smew, including a drake and redhead at Lochwinnoch RSPB and a redhead at Hogganfield Loch. A drake American Wigeon was at Bowmore, Islay, Argyll, while a Ring-necked Duck was reported at Carbeth, Clyde, on 25th. At least two Surf Scoter were still off Musselburgh, Lothian. The Skinflats Lagoons, Forth, Snow Goose held on, as did the trio at Loch Spynie, Moray & Nairn, and a Todd's Canada Goose was at Mersehead RSPB, Dumfries & Galloway, on 3rd.

Two Humpback Whales graced the Firth of Forth off Kinghorn, Fife, from 2nd.


Northern Isles and the Hebrides

The Todd's Canada Goose was again at Burravoe, Yell, on 4-5th although enjoyed a game of cat and mouse with observers. Both Ring-necked Duck (drake and female) were still at Loch of Tingwall, Mainland, until at least 2nd. Glaucous Gulls were at five sites, with a peak count of three at Skaw, Whalsay, on 29th, while Iceland Gulls were at three sites. Little Auks had a fair showing, including 43 past Sumburgh Head in a two-hour watch on 1st, while passage was noted as 'one-a-minute' past Fair Isle on 29th. Fair Isle also hosted a Red-necked Grebe on 30-2nd. 

A late European Storm Petrel was videoed on Papa Westray on 3rd. The island also held a Siberian Chiffchaff on 3rd, when two Iceland Gulls were in Papa Sound (the only white-winged gulls reported on Orkney this week). A Little Auk was off St Mary's, Mainland, on 2nd.

Surf Scoter, Allasdale, Barra, Outer Hebrides (Bruce Taylor).

Two Surf Scoter remained off Outer Hebrides, with the female-type again off Rubha Ardvule, South Uist, on 5th, and the immature off Allasdale, Barra, throughout. The two Green-winged Teal were still at Aird Mhor, Barra, on 3rd and up to two Siberian Chiffchaffs remained at Castlebay, Barra. A Snow Goose was with Barnacle Geese at Malacleit, North Uist, on 5th and a Rosy Starling was reported from a garden at Carloway, Lewis, on 2nd.

Dan Owen


North-East England

The most significant record of the week, albeit belated, concerned news of a Melodious Warbler at Amble, Northumberland, on 23 November – just the second record for the county. A juvenile White-billed Diver flew north past Whitley Bay and Boulmer on 29th having gone past Whitburn, Durham, earlier in the day. Three Northumbrian localities scored Grey Phalaropes: Stag Rocks, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea and Seaton Sluice. The redhead Smew returned to Widdrington Moor Lake for another winter from 3rd.

White-billed Diver, Boulmer, Northumberland (Daniel Langston).

Always scarce in the region, a European Serin at Brusselton Wood, Durham, proved popular from 29th. As well as the aforementioned White-billed Diver, highlights at Whitburn included a Grey Phalarope on 2nd, a couple of Glaucous Gulls and an Iceland Gull. Another Glauc was at Hendon and Waxwings were reported from Washington and Chester-le-Street (four).

European Serin, Brusselton Wood, Durham (Bob Howe).

A White-billed Diver flew high east past Saltburn, Cleveland, on 29th. Both Iceland and Glaucous Gulls were around Hartlepool, with another of the former passing Redcar on 30th. Two Black-throated Divers were at Seal Sands on 4th and one passed Hartlepool Headland earlier in the week. Little Auks continued to pass offshore in small numbers.

Jonathan Farooqi


North-West England

A Great Grey Shrike at Killington Reservoir from 3rd headlined Cumbria's week. Elsewhere, four Greenland White-fronted Geese were with the Whooper Swan herd at Kirkbride on 1-4th. In Lancashire, the Todd's Canada Goose was again reported at Crossens Outer Marsh on 1st, moving back to Banks Marsh on 3rd. The adult Snow Goose had relocated to Banks Marsh the same morning before moving to inland fields at Crossens, Southport. The drake Green-winged Teal was still showing at Conder Green until 5th, when the first Bewick's Swan of the season was back at Upper Thurnham. An immature Pomarine Skua was on the sea off Marshside RSPB late morning on 4th.

Great Grey Shrike, Killington Reservoir, Cumbria (Craig Bell).

It was a quiet week in Cheshire. A redhead Smew spent the 30th at Marbury CP and the three Ruddy Shelduck continued on the Mersey off Widnes/Runcorn. A Blyth's Reed Warbler was at All Saints Park, Manchester, on 29th. An incredible inland discovery, not least for the location but also the time of year; although it is Greater Manchester's second winter record in the last three years. The Red-throated Diver continued at Watergrove Reservoir until 5th.

Dan Owen


Lincolnshire and Yorkshire

What is presumably the regular North Sea Great Shearwater passed Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire, on 2nd. The Grey Phalarope lasted at Covenham Reservoir all week, with Pale-bellied Brent Goose and Snow Bunting also there. Siberian Chiffchaffs were at two sites south-west of Lincoln and the Ring-necked Duck was again at Baston Pits. In a good year for the species, up to four Black-throated Divers were at the River Witham mouth. Belated news concerned a Little Auk picked up in Grantham on 27th.

Grey Phalarope, Covenham Reservoir, Lincolnshire (Simon Spavin).

An astonishing record from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, concerned a Common Swift photographed on 3rd. Otherwise, a Ruddy Shelduck over Silkstone with Pink-footed Geese on 29th broke up the monotony of Water Pipits. In West Yorkshire, the Caspian Gull was still at Eccup Reservoir and the first Iceland Gull of the winter was at Pugney's CP on 4-5th. A Twite at St Aidan's RSPB on 28th was welcome.

A Great Grey Shrike was near Wistow, North Yorkshire, on 5th. On the coast, the odd Little Auk continued to be seen and an Iceland Gull passed Filey on 29th. A Western Cattle Egret at Seamer Carr from 3rd was locally very significant.

Great Northern Diver, Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire (Lee Johnson).

Best at sea from Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire, was a Grey Phalarope on 1st. A Red-throated Diver joined the Greater Scaup and Long-tailed Duck at Hornsea Mere. Tophill Low's Great Northern Diver remained and another called in briefly at Southfield Reservoir on 1st. Both Glaucous and Iceland Gulls were seen at Paull Holme Strays, with another Glaucous at Kilnsea Wetlands. The aberrant Ring Ouzel hung on at Spurn and a Siberian Chiffchaff was noted at Easington.

Josh Jones


West Midlands

The Shore Lark at Blithfield Reservoir remained the best bird on offer in Staffordshire this week, where a Woodlark flew over on 5th. Belvide Reservoir boasted a juvenile Iceland Gull, plus Red-breasted Merganser and Garganey. We have to go back to the start of November for Shropshire's best 'find' of the week: a Red-flanked Bluetail was uncovered on camera trap footage at an undisclosed location, needless to say the first record for the county. Two Snow Buntings were at Titterstone Clee Hill on 2nd and an adult Ring-billed × Lesser Black-backed Gull hybrid was at Priorslee Lake on 3rd.

Shore Lark, Blithfield Reservoir, Staffordshire (Steven Seal).

The Red-throated Diver lingered at Brockhall GPs, Herefordshire, until 1st. A Woodlark was at Kempsey, Worcestershire, on 3rd and a Snow Bunting was up Worcestershire Beacon on 4-5th. An adult Glaucous Gull roosted at Draycote Water, Warwickshire, on two nights.

Dan Owen

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East Midlands

A drake American Wigeon was a smart find at Carr Vale NR on 30th – the first in Derbyshire since a probable female in 2010. The Great Grey Shrike continued to show at Bonsall Moor throughout. A juvenile Glaucous Gull was at Holme Pierrepont, Nottinghamshire, on 29th and a redhead Smew was at Attenborough NR from 30th, when two were also at Hoveringham GPs. The Great Northern Diver lingered at Langford Lowfields RSPB.

American Wigeon, Carr Vale NR, Derbyshire (Peter Garrity).

The young Dark-bellied Brent Goose remained at Clifford Hill GPs, Northants, and the Wood Sandpiper at Pitsford Reservoir made it into December. A redhead Smew was at Titchmarsh NR on 3rd only. Rutland Water, Leics & Rutland, had a good run this week with drake Smew, Slavonian Grebe, Black-necked Grebes and two Great Northern Divers throughout, although all were upstaged by a Black-throated Diver from 2nd – a rare commodity inland these days. Eyebrook Reservoir's female Ring-necked Duck was joined by up to five Smew and six Greater Scaup.

Dan Owen


East of England

A Barred Warbler at Wiveton from 3rd was arguably Norfolk's standout bird, although backup on the wintering warbler front included a Dusky at Holkham Pines on 29th and Siberian Chiffchaffs at eight sites. The Great Grey Shrike was still at Waxham and another was belatedly reported from Kirby Cane. Several Glaucous Gulls were reported from the north coast, as well as one or two Iceland Gulls. At least one White-tailed Eagle was touring the county. A locally significant record involved a Snow Bunting at RAF Coltishall on 1st.

Barred Warbler, Wiveton, Norfolk (Matthew Mellor).

A Grey Phalarope spent four days at Aldeburgh Marshes, Suffolk, to 2nd. Also in the county, five Shore Larks remained at Hollesley, a Little Auk floated around Oulton Broad on 5th and an adult Glaucous Gull was off Landguard NR on 3rd.

All five regular British grebes could be enjoyed at Abberton Reservoir, Essex, this week, along with up to six Greater Scaup, Long-tailed Duck and Bewick's Swans. An 'eastern' Lesser Whitethroat was on Foulness Island during the week, with a Siberian Chiffchaff at Colne Point. The Black-throated Diver remained at West Mersea and a Hawfinch was at Thorndon CP.

In Hertfordshire, late news on 5th concerned a Grey Phalarope at Amwell NR on 28 November; the Smew also remained there to 4th. Elsewhere in the county, two Hawfinches were at North Mymms Park on 2nd. Bedfordshire's American Wigeon was seen again at Marston Vale CP to 2nd at least, with a Siberian Chiffchaff was near Biggleswade that day, the Greater Scaup still at Grovebury Sand Pit and a couple of Western Cattle Egret sightings.

Grafham Water boasted all three regular British diver species on 5th, with a Black-throated joining two Red-throated and the long-staying Great Northern. A male Smew was at Paxton Pits, with two redheads at Fen Drayton Lakes RSPB. At least 73 Common Cranes remained on the Ouse Washes, with the Glossy Ibis flock still at Berry Fen. A Black Redstart lingered at Over from 1st.

Josh Jones


South-East England

Hampshire's first Green-winged Teal for three-and-a-half years was another decent record for Ripley Farm Reservoir when found on 30th. It lingered until 4th, with Kittiwake and Whooper Swan notable records at the site during the duck's stay. Two Snow Buntings were still on Hayling Island until 30th, while Siberian Chiffchaffs were at Gilkicker Point (two) and Titchfield Haven.

Sovereign Harbour was the place to be in Sussex this week, with an Iceland Gull on 29th joining all the three regular British diver species on site. The Worthing Snow Bunting lingered until 29th, the Siberian Chiffchaff was still at North Chailey on 2nd and the Polegate Hooded Crow was about all week.

Greater Scaup, New Hythe, Kent (Terry Laws).

It was quiet in Kent. Siberian Chiffchaffs were at Gillingham and Sevenoaks, a Glaucous Gull flew past Cliftonville on 5th and Chambers Wall hosted a Black Brant on 4th. Little Auks were reported past Foreness Point and North Foreland, while a Puffin up the Medway near Lower Upnor was notable. Hythe and Reculver held Snow Buntings, the Greater Scaup continued at New Hythe GPs and both Allhallows-on-Sea and Dungeness hosted lingering Glossy Ibis.

News on 29th of a moribund Puffin found at Victoria Park was perhaps not such a surprise given recent weather, but nevertheless a fine London record. Two Slavonian Grebes were at Staines Reservoirs and the Great Northern Diver was still at King George V Reservoir. In Surrey, the Reigate Ring-necked Duck stayed put.

Little Auk, Farmoor Reservoir, Oxfordshire (Nick Truby).

The second-winter Iceland Gull was content in Buckinghamshire all week, seen at Beaconsfield and Little Marlow GPs. Two Russian White-fronted Geese were at Marlow on 3rd. Perhaps a case of saving the best regional record until last takes us to Oxfordshire, where a Little Auk was a stunning discovery on the Thames by Farmoor Reservoir on 30th. Surprisingly it proved twitchable, present until the following day when it was taken into care, later being released successfully in Somerset. Elsewhere, the Radley GPs Ring-necked Duck was about until 30th.

Ed Stubbs


South-West England

Two Dusky Warblers were on Tresco, Scilly on 29th with as many as 15 Siberian Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler and an 'eastern' Lesser Whitethroat also frequenting the island. The island also hosted a Glossy Ibis on 3rd with at least three Siberian Chiffchaffs on St Mary's.

Black Redstart, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Kris Webb).

The Ring-necked Duck flock at Dozmary Pool, Cornwall, continued to grow with as many as 10 present from 4th. A Dusky Warbler was at Skewjack early doors and Siberian Chiffchaffs were at Polgigga (four), Carnon Downs and Porthgwarra. Botallack scored a late Wryneck on 5th, while Pendeen held onto the juvenile Rosy Starling throughout. Lizard Point produced a Richard's Pipit on 3rd and a Glossy Ibis frequented Newquay Zoo from 30th.

Six localities in Dorset produced Siberian Chiffchaffs, including no fewer than five at Abbotsbury Swannery on 1st. A Black Brant continued its stay at The Fleet and was seen at both Ferrybridge and Butterstreet Cove. The second-winter Iceland Gull continued to linger, appearing in Weymouth Bay on 4th and what was likely the same individual at Lodmoor RSPB three days previously. Red-necked Grebes were off Weymouth and Mudeford Quay, and West Bexington produced a pair of Cirl Buntings early in the week.

Black Redstart, Sharpness, Gloucestershire (Andrew Jordan).

The count of Bewick's Swans at Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire, peaked at 51 on 4th. The three Greenland White-fronted Geese remained in place there along with up to 60 Russian White-fronts. The Snow Bunting continued to be reliable at Cleeve Hill until at least 2nd and a Great Northern Diver was at Oldbury Power Station on 29th. 

The drake Ring-necked Duck remained at Ham Wall RSPB, Somerset, throughout the week with three Siberian Chiffchaffs also there on 4th. A Glossy Ibis flew over Shapwick Heath NNR on 30th and Chew Valley Lake held onto its Long-tailed Duck and five Bewick's Swans. A probable Iceland Gull was briefly at Portishead on 29th.

Snow Bunting, Mere, Wiltshire (David Betteridge).

A Snow Bunting was a notable find near Mere Down, Wiltshire, on 4th. A Great Northern Diver frequented Cotswold Water Park from 30th and the Dipper continued at Marlborough.  

Jonathan Farooqi



Increased observer awareness appears to be changing the status of Caspian Gull in Wales, with no fewer than three noted this week – a first-winter at Abercastle, Pembrokeshire, second-winter at Cardiff Bay, Glamorgan, and an adult at Gann Estuary, Pembrokeshire. Nearby Skokholm scored a juvenile Glaucous Gull on 2nd, with a young Kittiwake inland at Talley Lakes, Carmarthen, on 5th; a Little Auk flew west past Great Orme, Conwy, the same day.

A new drake Ring-necked Duck was a smart find in Pembrokeshire at Bicton, St Ishmael's, from 30th, with two lingering females still at Cardiff Bay, Glamorgan. Elsewere, a redhead Smew was at Conwy RSPB, Conwy, from 29th and the juvenile Surf Scoter continued off Broad Haven, Pembrokeshire. Four Avocets at Kidwelly was a rare Carmarthenshire record, where 12 Greater White-fronted Geese flew over on 5th.

Perhaps as many as four Great Grey Shrikes were reported in the Clocaenog Forest area this week, with two at Llyn Brenig reported simultaneously to two at Bryn Trillyn. At least one European Serin remained at Marloes Mere, Pembrokeshire, on 29th, with a new Yellow-browed Warbler at Dale. Hooded Crows were in Pembrokeshire and Anglesey and four Snow Buntings were reported, while Siberian Chiffchaffs were at Kenfig, Glamorgan (four), and Rhyl, Clwyd.



Five Ring-necked Duck at Lough Gara, Co Sligo, on 2nd was a notable count. Further singles were in Cos Kildare, Cavan and Donegal, with two still touring the Co Monaghan lakes. Drake Green-winged Teal remained in Co Kerry (Blennerville) and Co Cork (Courtmacsherry and Kinsale Marsh).

Green-winged Teal, Courtmacsherry, Cork (Richard Mills).

The Lesser Yellowlegs was again at Rahasane Turlough, Co Galway, with the Avocet remaining at Kinsale Marsh, Co Cork. The week's only Glossy Ibis was at White's Marsh, Co Cork, on 1st. Three Little Auks flew past Bridges of Ross, Co Clare, on 1st, with the Co Waterford bird still off Ballyvoyle all week.

White-winged gull numbers remain fairly low, but five Glaucous Gulls at Killybegs, Co Donegal, on 2nd was respectable and two were seen near Keady, Co Armagh. A handful of Iceland Gulls were noted and the Ring-billed Gull was still at Nimmo's Pier, Co Galway.

Snow Bunting, Ferry Point, Waterford (Andrew Malcolm).

Siberian Chiffchaffs are numerous this winter. Most this week were picked up in Co Cork, including birds trapped and ringed at Owenahincha and Enniskeane, but there were also two at Oxford Island NR, Co Armagh. Several Swallows were also seen, including two at East Coast NR, Co Wicklow.

Josh Jones


Western Palearctic

A Caspian Plover was a smashing find at Uithuizermeeden, The Netherlands, from 29th. Present among European Golden Plovers, plenty of Brits will be hoping that a potential winter cold snap will send it across the North Sea – the species has never been widely twitchable in Britain, with two-day examples in 1988, 1996 and 2008 the only real bites at the cherry. The Dutch have been spoilt with no fewer than four in recent years. A probable was also at Brusand, Norway, on 27-28th.

Caspian Plover, Uithuizermeeden, Groningen (Martijn Bot).

A Siberian Accentor was photographed at Oelsnitz, Germany, on 2nd, the same day a smart Dusky Thrush was at Helsinki, Finland. Meanwhile, the Siberian Rubythroat lingered at Vargön, Sweden, with a young male Black-throated Thrush at Rasbokil on 27th. The Ross's Goose lasted at Torup Holme, Denmark, into December, with the Pacific Diver still at Miedwie, Poland. An Iceland Gull at Odesa dump was just the first for Ukraine.

Belgium's first Ross's Gull – a first-winter – proved disappointingly brief at Westerstaketsel on 1st, reported passing Zeebrugge the next day. The Greater Spotted Eagle was still at Wachtebeke; two Pygmy Cormorants were at Chanaz in neighbouring France.

Belatedly reported, the Canary Island's first Dusky Warbler was at San Andrés, Tenerife, in late October, with the archipelago's second Common Crane was at Barranco de la Torre, Fuerteventura, on 2nd. A Sociable Lapwing remained at El Hondo, Spain. In the Azores, a new Great Blue Heron was at Horta, Faial, with lingering rarities including a Belted Kingfisher at Praia da Vitória, Terceira, and Snowy Egrets on São Miguel and Terceira.

Israel's first Baikal Teal – a drake – was at Kfar Baruch Reservoir on 4th, while the country's second Three-banded Plover proved well-behaved at Avney Eitan. The male Red-flanked Bluetail remained at Achna Reservoir, Cyprus.

Written by: Sam Viles & the BirdGuides team