Review of the Week: 2nd-8th April 2009


The week at a glance

Despite March barely being a calendar page-turn away, April came in with not quite all guns blazing (far from it): some agreeable early spring weather (particularly at the start of the week) at least opened the door a little wider for a few overshooting migrants. With a reasonable number of long-time wintering rarities, there was plenty to go at in the first full week of the new month.

Great Spotted Cuckoo
Great Spotted Cuckoo, Bartinney Downs, Cornwall (Photo: Tony Mills)

At long last, the first-summer Great Spotted Cuckoo in west Cornwall gave itself up this week, showing reasonably well on both 2nd and 4th–6th around Bartinney Downs. Neither of this year's other two Great Spotted Cuckoos (in Ireland and Wales) were available to the listing fraternity, and the most recent bird before the class of 2009 was a one-day bird in Kent in March 2007, which also proved slightly tricky to catch up with. You have to head back to April 2005, to the adult at Worthing in West Sussex, for a truly twitchable bird, hence the interest in Kernow's bird. On the Outer Hebrides, the second Killdeer of 2009 appeared at Loch Stiapavat on South Uist on 6th. It is so tempting to suggest that the bird seen in Norfolk in the early spring of 2005 and 2006, Shetland in April 2007 and March and April 2008 (then the Hebrides in May of the same year) could all be the very same bird, though ages of accepted birds says otherwise. Same bird or not, Killdeer will always be a tremendous find for anyone! The two Zitting Cisticolas were still on Guernsey, at Port Soif, until at least 6th. An eighteen-day stay so far: could something be afoot?

Once again, there were pretty slim pickings for seabird enthusiasts this week. In Highland, the adult White-billed Diver was still present at Little Loch Broom, Camusnagaul on 3rd–6th and another was off North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 6th. A Pomarine Skua was a late report for April 1st, seen off Coll (Argyll),while three were seen from Bowness-on-Solway (Cumbria) on 8th. In Ireland, a single Pomarine Skua was seen from Galley Head (Co. Cork) on 7th, with a Sooty Shearwater off there the same day. Another "Pom" was off Galley Head on 8th as well.

There was little change in the week's showing of Cattle Egrets. One was still being tame as you like on St. Mary's (Scilly), while over on the mainland nine were still around the Hayle Estuary to 7th and half a dozen roamed around the Sennen area, appearing at Brew Pool and Skewjack during the week. Three (more?) were near Drift on 8th. Four birds remained around the Kingsbridge Estuary (Devon) to 8th, while English singles remained at Swineham GPs (Dorset), Seend End (Wiltshire), Fisher's Mill and Middleton Hall (Warwickshire) and Bradley (Cheshire). In Wales, one was still around the Nevern Estuary (Pembrokeshire). A Cattle Egret was still on the Isle of Man this week, while in County Cork nine birds were present around Timoleague on 2nd, two were at Clonakilty on 6th and one was at Cahermore on 5th.

New Great White Egrets were seen this week in Kent (flying over both Sandwich Bay and Pegwell Bay on 3rd), Lincolnshire (at Gibraltar Point) on 4th, London (flying over Ilford) and West Sussex (flying over Littlehampton) on 5th and in Lincolnshire (at Gedney Drove) on 8th. The bird at Gilmourton (Clyde) was still present to 6th at least. Two Spoonbills were at Rye Harbour (East Sussex) on 4th, with two the following day over Hengistbury Head (Dorset) and three birds over here on 8th. The 3rd saw one appear inland at Attenborough Pits (Nottinghamshire) and on the same day a Spoonbill was seen at Boston (Lincolnshire). Further single birds lingered at Farlington Marshes (Hampshire), Old Hall Marshes (Essex) and Minsmere (Suffolk), while a fresh single was seen at Warnham (West Sussex) on 8th. The largest group of Spoonbills this week was seen over Stiffkey Fen (Norfolk) on 6th. Four Common Cranes went on a little roam around Suffolk on 5th, flying over Ashby and Easton Bavents — Broadland strays presumably, but could they be bona fide continental drifters? There were no such questions for the two strays that headed along the north Norfolk coast on the same date — Broadland birds always do this on nice spring days! Also on 5th and still in Norfolk, four Common Cranes were seen at Potter Heigham. White Storks with potential genuine status this week were seen over Dunstable (Bedfordshire) on 3rd, Spurn (East Yorkshire) on 4th and near Glamis (Angus) on 6th. Two were still mooching around West Yorkshire and another was still in the Northeast, circling over Gateshead (Co. Durham) on 2nd — this bird could, quite easily, find a way to loaf further down the east coast and head out over a headland like Spurn. Suffolk's second Purple Heron of the spring was seen at Hollesley Marsh on 8th and a probable Night Heron was reported in Nottinghamshire on the same day. Also on 8th, we received a report of a Glossy Ibis near the train station at Chester (Cheshire). In London, a Spotted Crake was reported at Fairlop Waters on 2nd.

Great White Egret
Great White Egret, Gilmourton, Clyde (Photo: John Linskey)

Spoonbill, Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk (Photo: Jon Evans)

Goodness knows what to make of the flyover Snow Goose in Northumberland (with seven Greylag Geese and a Canada Goose), but the indications are not wholly in the bird's favour. No problems with the vagrant Canada Geese that remained at the North Slob (Co. Wexford) to 5th. Late news from last week concerned a Richardson's Canada Goose still out on Islay (Argyll) with a possible Cackling Canada Goose also noted there in the smouldering embers of March. The sole Black Brant of the week was seen at Snettisham and Heacham (Norfolk) on 5th.

The adult drake Lesser Scaup was still at Holme Pierrepont (Nottinghamshire) for much of the week, and the first-winter drake was still in Cardiff Bay (Glamorgan) to 5th. The week's tally of Ring-necked Ducks was nine: two birds (a male and female) were at Lydacan Turlough (Co. Galway) from 5th and two drakes were together on Loch an Eilien, Tiree (Argyll) from 6th. Single drakes remained at Frensham Great Pond (Surrey) and Oxford Island (Co. Armagh), with single ducks still at Swineham GPs and on North Ronaldsay (Orkney). A new drake Ring-necked Duck was on Otmoor (Oxfordshire) on 8th. Last week's two drake Ferruginous Ducks were this week's two Ferruginous Ducks, still at Chew Valley Lake (Somerset) and Trimley Marshes (Suffolk).

Ring-necked Duck
Ring-necked Duck, Lydacan Turlough, Galway (Photo: Tom Cuffe)

The drake Blue-winged Teal was still on Lough Atedaun (Co. Clare) on 2nd, while Green-winged Teal remained at Draycote Water (Warwickshire), Eyebrook Reservoir (Leicestershire), Greenabella Marsh (Cleveland), Letham Pools (Fife), Loch Gruinart (Islay) and Kilcoole (Co. Wicklow). New birds were found at North Duffield Carrs (North Yorkshire) on 7th and Shannon Airport Lagoons (Co. Clare) on 8th. A hybrid drake Green-winged Teal × Common Teal was at Lough Atedaun on 4th and was presumably the bird reported as a pure Green-winged Teal last week. The first-winter drake American Wigeon was still around Slimbridge (Gloucestershire) on 2nd and an adult drake was still on the Outer Hebrides, present on Loch Sandray, North Uist on 3rd–5th at least. Also on 5th, the drake American Wigeon was seen again on the Ythan Estuary (Aberdeenshire).

Green-winged Teal
Green-winged Teal, Draycote Water, Warwickshire (Photo: Dave Hutton)

It seems that the female Surf Scoter may have left the south Devon coast; there was no sign of her this week, and no news on the regular Ruddon's Point drake. The sub-adult male King Eider was still off Kincraig Point (Fife) to 6th, and an adult drake was seen at Laxfirth (Shetland) on 5th. Still on Shetland, at Wadbister Voe, a drake King Eider was seen on 3rd, where up to three birds have been seen there from 30th March. In Dorset, yes, he is still there: the drake Hooded Merganser hasn't migrated north after all, and was still present throughout the week.

The adult Gyrfalcon on Tiree (Argyll) was seen again around Loch Gorm on 2nd (having last been reported there in the third week of March) with one at Caolas on 7th. In Cornwall, the adult Gyr was seen around Newquay on 3rd–4th (after several recent north-coast reports). A released juvenile White-tailed Eagle was at Loch of Strathbeg (Aberdeenshire) on 3rd. A Rough-legged Buzzard was seen at St. Margaret's at Cliffe on 5th, with a possible seen flying over Liverpool city centre on 7th. Kent's second Black Kite of the spring was noted over Pegwell Bay on 7th.

A probable Pacific Golden Plover was reported from Breydon Water (Norfolk) from 6th–8th, but views always seemed inconclusive. The first Kentish Plover of the spring was seen on Mersea Island (Essex) on 6th.

With a seemingly blank week in terms of shorebirds, it's a move straight in to the Laridae. The adult Bonaparte's Gull was still at Peninerine (South Uist) until 3rd, while Caspian Gulls included three birds at the private site at Pitsea (Essex) on 4th, two at Minsmere (Suffolk) on 2nd, and singles at Holland Haven (Essex) on 2nd, Farmoor Reservoir (Oxfordshire) on 3rd, Orford Ness (Suffolk) on 4th and Rainham Marshes (London) on 7th.

Bonaparte's Gull
Bonaparte's Gull, Peninerine, S.Uist, Outer Hebrides (Photo: Steve Duffield)

Caspian Gull
Caspian Gull, undisclosed site, Essex (Photo: anon)

Iceland Gulls continued to drift away, but over 85 birds were still on offer, around 55 in Britain and at least 30 in Ireland. Ten were seen at Ullapool (Highland) on 5th, with five seen at Richmond Bank (Cheshire) and at the Shetland Catch factory, near Lerwick, all on 2nd. Four birds were at Elgin (Moray) on 3rd. In Ireland, there were six each for Castletown Bearhaven (Co. Cork), Rossaveal (Co. Galway) and Killybegs (Co. Donegal), with three in Dingle harbour (Co. Kerry). The second-winter Kumlien's Gull remained around the Stewartby Lake (Bedfordshire) area from 2nd–4th and a juvenile was still at Rossaveal on 4th. Glaucous Gulls struggled to make it into double figures this week, with just 30 or so reported across Britain and Ireland.

Iceland Gull
Iceland Gull, Ogmore-by-Sea, Glamorgan (Photo: Peter Morgan)

Kumlien's Gull
Kumlien's Gull, Rossaveal, Galway (Photo: Tom Cuffe)

Ring-billed Gull numbers fell away fairly sharply this week, with just nine birds reported. The adult at Seaforth (Lancashire) was seen again from 2nd–5th while the second-summer was again at Lamby Lakes (Glamorgan) on 7th. New birds included an adult at Helston (Cornwall) on 5th and a first year in Cardiff on 8th. In Ireland, adults were noted in counties Cork, Dublin, Galway, Sligo and Wicklow. Also in Ireland, a first-winter Ring-billed Gull was seen in Donegal on 3rd.

A Snowy Owl was at Galson, Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 2nd, with another on North Uist on 8th. The long-staying bird in Cornwall seems, finally, to have left the county, but the Channel Island birds on Lihou and Alderney remain. A Hoopoe was flushed near Saltash (Cornwall) on 4th and another was at Gorleston (Norfolk) on 5th. Another was reported belatedly from Worcestershire at the end of last month. Departing (at some point!) Great Grey Shrikes once again made it to double figures this week: 15 birds were reported, including two for Cumbria, Derbyshire, Shropshire and Suffolk. A flock of 180 Waxwings was seen in Glasgow (Clyde) on 8th while a passage of some 820 Waxwings over a site in Lancashire early in the week seemed extraordinary and raised a few local eyebrows by all accounts. A male Citrine Wagtail was reported briefly from Draycote Water (Warwickshire) on 7th and a Richard's Pipit was seen at Osmington (Dorset) on 8th.

Snowy Owl
Snowy Owl, Lihou, Guernsey (Photo: Chris Bale)

Great Grey Shrike
Great Grey Shrike, Bircher Common, Herefordshire (Photo: George Ewart)

Waxwing, Messingham Sand Quarry, Lincolnshire (Photo: Steve Smith)

A male Western Subalpine Warbler (cantillans) was found in the famous bushes of the 60 Foot Cover at Porthgwarra (Cornwall) on 2nd. The bird was present for much of the day and was singing for good measure during the afternoon. Six singing Siberian Chiffchaffs were seen (and heard) during the week. Two were still at Sandown (Isle of Wight), while singles were still at Endon and Westport Lake (Staffordshire) and Portland (Dorset), with new birds found in Plymouth (Devon) on 3rd and Keswick (Cumbria) on 7th.

Siberian Chiffchaff
Siberian Chiffchaff, Plymouth, Devon (Photo: Steve Votier)

A male Serin was seen in the early morning of 5th at Durlston CP (Dorset) before flying west. Another Serin was reported flying over Caister-on-Sea (Norfolk) on the same date. The review concludes with news of an early Common Rosefinch seen on the Isle of May (Fife) on 2nd, followed by another, a female in Birdham (West Sussex) on 8th.

Photo of the Week

Pheasant, Cley Marshes NWT, Norfolk (Photo: Richard Bedford)

At this time of year, male Pheasants often engage in territorial battles and these can become quite vicious. The fast and furious action can be quite a challenge for bird photographers to follow, but we have recently received a number of great images recording this behaviour. This week, Richard Bedford has submitted a superb shot that captures the ferocity of these fights and makes you feel you're in the midst of one. As well as being pin sharp and well lit, the image contains a whole range of elements that convey a sense of the action: the extreme poses of the birds, one of which is upside down in the air; the outstretched feet and claws; the closed nictitating membrane over the lower bird's eye; the strong line of eye contact and the predominance of diagonal lines.

Tawny Owl
Tawny Owl, Spital, Cheshire (Photo: Steve Round)

Black-necked Grebe
Black-necked Grebe, undisclosed site, East Yorkshire (Photo: Dean Eades)

Bluethroat, Belgium (Photo: Rudi Debruyne)

Intermediate Egret
Intermediate Egret, India (Photo: Jaysukh Parekh Suman)

Ring Ouzel
Ring Ouzel, Faseny Bridge, Lothian (Photo: James Wood)

Marsh Harrier
Marsh Harrier, Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk (Photo: Chris Upson)

Hawfinch, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire (Photo: Lewis Thomson)

Gannet, Bempton Cliffs RSPB, East Yorkshire (Photo: Robert Askew)

Red Grouse
Red Grouse, Lammermuir Hills, Lothian (Photo: Ron McCombe)

Teal, Far Ings NR, Lincolnshire (Photo: Mark Ranner)

Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon, undisclosed site, Lancashire (Photo: David Moreton)

Written by: Mark Golley