Review of the Week: 29th March-4th April 2002


Fine sunny weather was the norm for the start and end of the week, with temperatures hitting 20 degrees on the 4th. A murky interlude over the latter part of the Easter weekend did little to improve the detection of migrants, which remain thin on the ground in many areas.

In keeping with recent weeks some quality birds were found and pride of place goes to the Red-billed Tropicbird seen following the 'Scillonian' four miles to the north of St. Mary's on the 29th, before it veered off north. With two reports last year, this species is now firmly added to the mouthwatering array of possibilities open to seawatchers and those on pelagics. If listing is your aim then seawatching and pelagics should be your game, as the mass unblocking of Fea's Petrel illustrated last year!

The excitement was not all at sea: a Great Spotted Cuckoo was at Carnsore Point (Wexford) from 3rd, plus there was a late report of another from Cornwall on 25th. A Ross's Gull was an unexpected addition to the already lengthy list of species seen at Blacktoft Sands (East Yorkshire) on 31st. It remained for several hours and was later seen distantly off Brough Haven. Elsewhere, a Spotted Crake performed very well at Belvide Reservoir (Staffordshire) from 30th, a Lesser Scaup was at Loch Insh (Highland) on 29th and 30th and Alpine Swifts were seen in Dorset, Isles of Scilly and Dublin during the week. The winter theme remained, with Gyr Falcons seen in Donegal and on St. Kilda, but spring colours were provided by a Red-rumped Swallow in North and then East Yorkshire, Purple Heron in Hampshire, an early Dotterel in Cheshire and an exceptionally early Ortolan Bunting at the Calf of Man. Spring Richard's Pipits are not that unusual nowadays so one in Norfolk on the 3rd was almost 'expected'. A male Sardinian Warbler was found on St. Agnes (Scilly) on 29th and remained to 1st.

Inland birders were treated to excellent numbers of Common Scoters on the 2nd, with a large number of sightings from northern Derbyshire to Northamptonshire and across to the Severn Estuary. The murky conditions had deposited good numbers of overland birds on gravel pits and reservoirs. The spread of summer migrants continued during the week to supplement increasing numbers of earlier migrants, though numbers and diversity decrease as you progress further north.

The Snowy Egret seems to have completed its winter break and was relocated on Loch Fyne during the week and then rather amazingly was seen back where it all started, Balvicar, this morning! Several of the Cornish rarities lingered for several days, such as the Black-eared Wheatear, Night Heron and Woodchat Shrike, allowing all interested parties the opportunity to travel for a splash of the exotic, but the Little Bittern in Devon unfortunately died. The Ross's Gull continues to entertain observers in Scarborough, as does the Lesser Yellowlegs at Frodsham. Other 'permanent fixtures' include the King Eider in Norfolk, and Hume's Warbler in Northumberland, whilst the Long-billed Dowitcher was seen again in Belfast.

Written by: Russell Slack, BirdGuides