Review of the Week: 29th November–5th December


The week at a glance

Although there was a brief respite for some areas on Monday, the cold and crisp conditions continued to dominate throughout the week. Many eastern areas of England experienced their first snowfall of the winter, and hard frosts were widespread as temperatures in the Scottish Highlands plunged towards –10°C. Despite this first taste of winter for many, there were no significant cold-weather movements to report, although there were further Nearctic arrivals and several long-staying passerines continued to linger.

Down in Cornwall, the discovery of an adult Pacific Diver off Marazion on 5th was arguably the find of the week. This is presumably the same oft-elusive individual that has been seen erratically each winter since 17th February 2007, and it will be interesting to see how long it persists in Mount's Bay before disappearing once more.

Meanwhile, over in southeast Ireland, a drake Wood Duck was found at Tacumshin (Wexford) on 2nd. Although recent likely candidates have so far failed to make the grade (the drake on Arranmore Island that turned out to be pinioned, for example, or the drake on Shetland in spring 2009 that shows no imminent signs of acceptance), we should perhaps be paying a little more attention to these colourful Nearctic ducks. Wood Duck is a reasonably regular vagrant to the Azores, so the chances of this drake being wild — assuming it is fully winged, unringed and wary — are surely just as good as the recent Sussex Hooded Merganser.

Last week's Connemara American Coot continued its stay at Murloch, just south of Ballyconneely (Galway) throughout the week, although it did disappear temporarily on 3rd. Unless 'frozen out', it seems a fair bet that it will be around for some time to come. The Hebridean Pied-billed Grebe was still on Loch Smerclate, South Uist on 5th, while other wildfowl highlights on the Uists included Ring-necked Duck, a couple of Green-winged Teal, a juvenile Surf Scoter on Loch na Reivil from 29th and the two white-morph Snow Geese still at Balemore on 2nd.

A new Snow Goose, a blue morph, was found at Skinnet (Highland) on 29th and remained there to 2nd. The white morph was also still at Sheskinmore Lough (Donegal) on 29th. Both Red-breasted Geese remained at Cardurnock (Cumbria) and Portsmouth (Hants) to 2nd at least, and the family party of up to six Todd's Canada Geese remained with naturalized Canadas at Bothal Pond (Northumberland) on 4th. At least two Richardson's Canada Geese were seen around Islay (Argyll) during the week and another popped up at Cley Marshes (Norfolk) from 2nd. English Black Brants were seen in Kent, Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight, while Irish birds were still in Counties Kerry and Mayo.

Drake American Wigeon remained at Loch of Strathbeg (Aberdeenshire) and Angler's Country Park (W Yorks) to 3rd and 5th respectively, and a new Blue-winged Teal was at Ballyallia Lake (Clare) on 1st–2nd in addition to the drake again at Threave (Dumf & Gall) and the female/immature still at Ballylongford (Kerry), both on 29th. Several new drake Green-winged Teal were seen — at Vane Farm (Perth/Kinross) and on the Comber Estuary (Devon) on 30th, at Ardnave, Islay, and Conwy RSPB on 1st, and at Portworthy Dam (Devon) on 3rd — in addition to remaining birds in Cumbria and Lancashire.

Blue-winged Teal
Blue-winged Teal, Ballylongford, Kerry (Photo: Davey)

Green-winged Teal
Green-winged Teal, Conwy RSPB, Conwy (Photo: Stephen Menzie)

The returning drake Lesser Scaup was again noted at Siblyback Lake (Cornwall) on 5th, and drakes were also still in residence at Lough Gash (Clare) and Lough Gill (Kerry). The drake Ring-necked Duck was also confirmed at the latter site, and was one of ten noted during the week. Other returning birds were the female at Lough Baun (Mayo) on 1st and drakes at Loughrea (Galway) on 1st and Lough Money (Down) on 4th. The Donegal drake remained at Lough Shivnagh while English birds remained at Siblyback Lake (Cornwall), Slapton Ley (Devon), Chew Valley Lake (Somerset) and Eyebrook Reservoir (Leics). A drake Ferruginous Duck was found on floods at Hay Moor (Somerset) from 2nd, but another at Dosthill Lake (Warks) on 1st and 4th may have been a hybrid.

Three Surf Scoters remained off Llanddulas (Conwy) throughout the week; the drake was also still in Largo Bay (Fife). The juvenile was again off Weybourne (Norfolk) briefly on 2nd and, in Waterford, the first-winter drake continued to perform well off the seafront at Dungarvan throughout.

Around 15 Great White Egrets were still present at a series of familiar sites: four remained at Dungeness (Kent) throughout with twos still on the Somerset Levels and in Carmarthenshire. The Herefordshire individual moved to Wellington Gravel Pits from 2nd, and other notable records included a bird at Llowes (Powys) on 29th. Another remained on floodwater near Ringwood (Hants), where a Glossy Ibis also pitched up from 2nd after flying east over Longham Lakes (Dorset) earlier in the day. Other Ibises remained at Ham Wall (Somerset) to 30th and Marloes Mere (Pembrokeshire) throughout, but the only Cattle Egret of the week was that still at Grouville Marsh (Jersey).

Great White Egret
Great White Egret, Ham Wall RSPB, Somerset & Bristol (Photo: James Gibbs)

Glossy Ibis
Glossy Ibis, Ham Wall RSPB, Somerset & Bristol (Photo: Jeff Hazell)

The Outer Hebrides' run of Gyr Falcon records continued with white morphs seen at Balranald, North Uist on 1st and Ardivachar. South Uist on 3rd in addition to further white morph tragically picked up dead at Eoligarry, Barra on 1st. Rough-legged Buzzards were noted at Ellough (Suffolk) on 2nd and Langham (Norfolk) on 5th.

New shorebirds concerned a juvenile Baird's Sandpiper at Black Rock Strand (Kerry) from 30th and a lingering White-rumped Sandpiper found the same day at Longham Lakes (Dorset. A first-winter Temminck's Stint found at Steart (Somerset) on 3rd may pick up on last year's trend for wintering records as it lingered to 5th.

Baird's Sandpiper
Baird's Sandpiper, Black Rock Strand, Kerry (Photo: Davey)

Temminck's Stint
Temminck's Stint, Steart, Somerset & Bristol (Photo: Allan Chard)

The Wood Sandpiper was also still at Aldcliffe Marshes (Lancs) on 3rd, with the Lesser Yellowlegs also still there that day in addition to the usual Ernesettle (Devon) bird and the Alkborough Flats (Lincs) individual reappearing on 29th–30th. The Long-billed Dowitcher was also seen again at Alkborough on 2nd; the adult at Slimbridge (Glos) was in residence all week. The impressive group of four juvenile American Golden Plovers reappeared on the Myroe Levels (L'derry) on 4th. A showy Grey Phalarope at Great Livermere Lake (Suffolk) on 2nd–3rd proved popular, while another touched down briefly at Bothal Pond (Northumberland) on 4th and further birds flew past Spurn (E Yorks) and Hilbre Island (Cheshire) on 30th and 1st respectively.

Grey Phalarope
Grey Phalarope, Livermere Lake (Ampton Water), Suffolk (Photo: Chris Baines)

A new first-winter Ring-billed Gull was found at Rosslare Backstrand (Wexford) on 1st, while adults returned to Bray (Wicklow) and Ballydehob (Cork) in addition to more familiar individuals at Gosport (Hants), Groomsport (Down), Portrush (Antrim) and Sandymount (Dublin). Three Glaucous Gulls at Loch Stiapavat, Lewis (Outer Hebrides) constituted the largest group among the 15 or so birds seen during the week; other notable records included a near-adult in Worcestershire and a juvenile in Cambridgeshire. Just five or so Iceland Gulls were seen, including the usual adult roosting at Chasewater (Staffs) throughout.

Ring-billed Gull
Ring-billed Gull, Groomsport, Down (Photo: Stephen Maxwell)

Highlight of the passerine week was a brief Black-throated Thrush at Loch of Benston (Shetland) on 1st, although the female Desert Wheatear found at Rattray Head (Aberdeenshire) from 2nd proved more confiding. The Rhyl (Clwyd) female was last seen on 30th and a third individual — at Vazon Bay (Guernsey) — had apparently been present several days before the first report on 5th. Although there were no reports of the Thetford bird, a possible Black-bellied Dipper was seen at Holywell Dene (Northumberland) on 5th.

Desert Wheatear
Desert Wheatear, Rattray Head, Aberdeenshire (Photo: John Watt)

Desert Wheatear
Desert Wheatear, Rhyl, Clwyd (Photo: Bob Garrett)

Waxwings continued to spread south and southwest such that, by the end of the week, they were present in numbers pretty much everywhere aside the far southwest. A remarkable 1,111 reports from across Britain & Ireland were reported on Bird News Extra, making the species responsible for just over 50% of the week's news output!

Waxwing, Falmouth, Cornwall (Photo: Bobbster)

Waxwing, Cardiff, Glamorgan (Photo: Cliff Woodhead)

Somewhat surprisingly, the Subalpine Warbler lingered in St. Just (Cornwall) throughout despite the encroaching cold weather. A new Dusky Warbler was at West Bexington (Dorset) for the day on 30th, while the elusive Cornish individual remained at Swanpool, where it was seen on 30th and 4th–5th. The only Yellow-browed Warbler report of the week was the continuing bird at Oldbury Power Station (Glos), still there on 29th.

Two Penduline Tits were found at Ouse Fen (Cambs) on 2nd and lingered to the week's end when they were joined by a third individual. In Cornwall, the juvenile Rose-coloured Starling remained at Port Isaac throughout, while one of last week's Little Buntings was seen again at Rosenannon Downs on 30th and 1st. Finally, there was a slight shuffle in the Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll pack in Shetland as a new bird was found at Norwick, Unst on 29th–2nd, while 'just' three remained at Baltasound to 1st and two were at Uyeasound to 2nd. A report of two Arctic Redpolls in Stopsley (Beds) on 5th would certainly be significant if confirmed, given the lean winter for exilipes so far.

Penduline Tit
Penduline Tit, Ouse Fen RSPB, Cambridgeshire (Photo: Bob Pacey)

Little Bunting
Little Bunting, Rosenannon Downs, Cornwall (Photo: Colin Selway)

Photo of the Week

Red Kite
Red Kite, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion (Photo: Paul Burgess)

With the number of photos in our Iris galleries passing the quarter of a million mark this week, it's a good time to reflect on what that means for bird photographers. The advent of digital photography has opened up a field that was previously dominated by a small number of individuals who had the copious amounts of time and money needed to get decent results. For most well-known species, there are now huge numbers of high-quality images posted to online libraries and collections. For a bird photograph to be noticed, it's now important to be different, and not just good. Take the Red Kite as an example: we now have over 1,500 images of this species, but the majority of these were taken at one location, meaning they will inevitably become 'samey'. By visiting an alternative location only a short distance away, Paul Burgess managed a different take on this species as it tried to grab food from a lake. The combination of pose, lighting and foreground/background/wingtip blur creates an ethereal feel, while the water droplets tell the story of this unusual spectacle. The Kite may have missed its target, but Paul didn't miss bagging his first Photo of the Week.

Other notable images

Waxwing, Upton Warren NR (Permit Only), Worcestershire (Photo: Chris & Sharon Cook)

Goldfinch, Wigan, Greater Manchester (Photo: Roy)

Kestrel, Craig Goch Reservoir, Powys (Photo: Kev Joynes)

Jay, Laurieston, Dumfries & Galloway (Photo: Alan McFadyen)

Pied Kingfisher
Pied Kingfisher, Sri Lanka (Photo: Charlie Fleming)

Willow Tit
Willow Tit, Rainford, Lancashire (Photo: Austin Thomas)

Barn Owl
Barn Owl, undisclosed site, Lancashire (Photo: Jackie Moreton)

Desert Wheatear
Desert Wheatear, Rhyl, Clwyd (Photo: Richard Steel)

Great Spotted Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker, Laurieston, Dumfries & Galloway (Photo: Chas Moonie)

Brambling, Ebbw Vale, Gwent (Photo: Mike Warburton)

Western Reef Heron
Western Reef Heron, Gambia (Photo: Dave J)

Little Grebe
Little Grebe, Salthouse, Norfolk (Photo: Andy Thompson)

Cirl Bunting
Cirl Bunting, undisclosed site, Devon (Photo: Rob Cross)

Black-headed Gull
Black-headed Gull, Hull, East Yorkshire (Photo: Harry Bursell)