Review of the Week: 2nd–8th March 2006


The week at a glance:

Sora: Gibraltar Point, Lincs (photo: Graham Catley).

Sora: Gibraltar Point, Lincs (photo: Graham Catley). Sora: Gibraltar Point, Lincs (photo: Graham Catley).
Sora: Gibraltar Point, Lincs (photo: Paul Sullivan). Sora: Gibraltar Point, Lincs (photo: Dean Eades).
Sora: Gibraltar Point, Lincs (photo: Steve Evans). Sora: Gibraltar Point, Lincs (photo: Dean Eades).

At last! The stagnation of the last few weeks was broken by the unexpected discovery of a Sora at Gibraltar Point (Lincs) on Sunday 5th. Not surprisingly this was a county first, and this, at times, obliging bird was still present on the 8th. Whether it has been present for all, or part, of the winter we will never know, but the east coast in March was perhaps the last place to have expected such a find! However, the county does have quite a pedigree for exceptionally rare Nearctic species, though the reason why is perhaps not immediately obvious. No doubt this bird would have been much more popular were it not for two recent obliging birds: Attenborough NR (Notts) from 12th December 2004–1st January 2005; St. Mary's (Scilly) from 23rd September–1st November 2005, plus a trio of well-watched birds in 1985 (West Sussex), 1991 (Scilly) and 2000 (Devon) (see Accepted Sora records). However, once detected Soras do tend to linger, and the stunning photographs of this individual are a fine taster for how well it has performed on occasion, so more will no doubt travel should it remain into the weekend.

Grey-bellied Brant: Kilnsea, East Yorks (photo: Adam Hutt).

News of an apparent Grey-bellied Brant at Kilnsea (East Yorks) from Sunday 5th was another surprise. Grey-bellied Brants are only known to breed on Melville and Prince Patrick Islands in the western Canadian High Arctic and winter almost exclusively in Puget Sound in the western USA. In world terms they are rare, with a total population of between 4,000 and 8,000 birds. The taxonomic status of these birds is still a matter of opinion. Apparently the Yorkshire individual has been present since the end of January, but has only been seen well recently, enabling the debate about its identification to flourish. The bird appears to be paired with a Pale-bellied Brent Goose. Although there have been records in the past few years in Ireland and Northern Ireland, this is the first to be claimed in England. See the Spurn website for more pictures of this bird.

Arctic Redpoll: Rendlesham, Suffolk (photo: Jonathan Theobald).

Black-throated Thrush: Swansea, Glamorgan (photo: Jonathan Clarke). Arctic Redpoll: Rendlesham, Suffolk (photo: Jonathan Theobald).

Garden rarities continue to prove popular! The superb male Black-throated Thrush continues to entertain visitors to the Townhill area of Swansea (Glamorgan), as do the Hume's Leaf Warbler in Whitley Bay (Northumberland), Common Rosefinch in Sheffield (S. Yorks) and the Northern Long-tailed Tit, which put in its first appearance for a month at Easington (East Yorks). Arctic Redpolls remain at Rendlesham (Suffolk) and Aberlady Bay (Lothian), a Penduline Tit was again at Stodmarsh (Kent) from 4th onwards, and three were still present at Rainham Marshes (Gtr London). A Serin was a typically early overshoot to North Foreland (Kent) on 7th, and presumed Siberian Chiffchaffs were at Copford (Essex) and Poole (Dorset). A paltry six Great Grey Shrikes were reported, with singles at: Wicken Fen (Cambs), Ashdown Forest (E. Sussex), Dalton Crags (Cumbria), Santon Warren (Norfolk), Walton-on-Trent (Derbys) and Pig Bush (Hants). On Jersey, two overwintering Zitting Cisticolas remained at Beauport. The only Shore Lark to be found was the long-staying individual at Minsmere (Suffolk), and just four Lapland Buntings comprised two in Norfolk and two in Angus & Dundee. Flocks of Waxwings remained in many areas, with peak counts of over 70 in Clyde and Lothian.

Long-billed Dowitcher: Hayle Estuary, Cornwall (photo: G Bullivant). Long-billed Dowitcher: Hayle Estuary, Cornwall (photo: G Bullivant).

New arrivals were thin on the ground in the freezing conditions in many regions. A Snowy Owl at Clonboggy Bog (Co. Westmeath) on Monday 6th had apparently been present for several weeks. An immature Night Heron was at Enniscorthy (Co. Wexford) on 3rd. Flocks of Cattle Egrets included 8 still at Piddinghoe (E. Sussex), 4 at St. Peter (Jersey) and 3 at Pagham (W. Sussex). The White Stork is still in the Sevington (Kent) area, 2 Common Cranes were reported at Cobham (Surrey) and 10 Spoonbills were to be found between Hampshire and Scilly. There was a belated report of a Corncrake at Crossapol (Argyll) on 1st March, presumably an injured bird that had overwintered, which recalled one feeding with hens on Barra (Outer Hebrides) during a winter in the late 1990s! The Great Bustard from the Salisbury Plain (Wilts) reintroduction scheme continues to favour the company of Mute Swans at Bleadon Level (Somerset), whilst the only scarce wader to be reported was the long-staying Long-billed Dowitcher on the Hayle Estuary (Cornwall). Long-staying Rough-legged Buzzards were seen at Massingham Heath (Norfolk), Haltham (Lincs) and Isle of Sheppey (Kent) during the week, with others at Thorpe (Norfolk) and Stratford St. Andrew (Suffolk).

Franklin's Gull: Whitehouse Lagoon, Co. Antrim (photo: Derek Charles). Laughing Gull: Reading, Berks (photo: Michael Hunt).
Laughing Gull: Ardrossan, Argyll (photo: Tristan Reid). Laughing Gull: Theale GPs, Berks (photo: Jerry O'Brien).
Ring-billed Gull: Nimmo's Pier, Co. Galway (photo: Eric Dempsey). Ring-billed Gull: Nimmo's Pier, Co. Galway (photo: Eric Dempsey).
Iceland Gull: North Shields, Northumbs (photo: Mark Newsome). Glaucous Gull: Troon, Ayrshire (photo: Keith Hoey).

March is a good time for gull enthusiasts, and it was a good start to the month. A Bonaparte's Gull was at Cuskinny Marsh (Co. Cork) on 5th and a 1st-winter Franklin's Gull at Whitehouse Lagoon (Co. Antrim) on 4th. Eight Laughing Gulls were reported: 1st-winter in Cork City (Co. Cork), adult at Ring (Co. Cork); 2nd-winter at Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway), adult at Ardrossan (Argyll), adult at Glaslyn Marshes (Gwynedd), adult in Brixham (Devon), adult in the Barnstaple area (Devon) and the adult in Reading (Berks). Doubtless 'Laridophiles' will be looking to pick up the expected return movement of the unprecedented influx which took place earlier in the winter over the next few weeks at roosts and gull gatherings. A total of 19 Ring-billed Gulls were reported, mostly, as expected, in Ireland, and the 2nd-winter Kumlien's Gull was still at Culmore Dump (L'derry). A disappointing 15 Glaucous Gulls were reported, though 45 Iceland Gulls included groups of five at Culmore Dump, and five in Dargan Bay (Co. Antrim). Caspian Gulls reached double figures, including three at Aldeby Landfill Site (Norfolk). The adult Forster's Tern remains at Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway). A total of 54 Little Auks were reported passing Anstruther (Fife) on 2nd and another was off Gibraltar Point on 6th.

Ring-necked Duck: Coatham Marsh, Cleveland (photo: David Brown). Ring-necked Duck: Grasmere, Cumbria (photo: Craig Shaw).
American Wigeon: Belvide Reservoir, Staffs (photo: Rob Russon). American Wigeon: Belvide Reservoir, Staffs (photo: Rob Russon).
American Wigeon: Hayle Estuary, Cornwall (photo: G. Bullivant). Green-winged Teal: Budle Bay, Northumbs (photo: Bryan Rains).

Lesser Scaup: Ballysaggart Lough, Co Tyrone (photo: Paul and Andrea Kelly).

A drake Black Duck was found at Kilcolman BWI NR (Co. Cork) from 4th onwards, whilst the drake Barrow's Goldeneye continued his residence at Quoile Pondage (Co. Down), as did the female Redhead on Tiree (Argyll) and drake Black Scoter off Llanfairfechan (Conwy). The drake King Eider remained off Peterhead (Aberdeenshire) and three Surf Scoters were off Fife. Six Lesser Scaup included a 'new' bird at Ballysaggart Lough (Co Tyrone), one again at Cotswold WP (Glos), plus 'familiar' birds still at College Reservoir (Cornwall), Ouse Washes (Cambs), Caerlaverock WWT (Dumfries and Galloway) and again at Westwood Pool (Worcs). Lingering Ferruginous Ducks included birds at New Hythe (Kent) and Carigavon (Co. Armagh), 15 Ring-necked Ducks included four drakes and 11 females, including three females at Knockalough (Co. Clare). American Wigeon remained in Cornwall, Staffordshire, Cambridgeshire and Highland and nine Green-winged Teal were at large. The white-morph Snow Goose remained in Fife, half-a-dozen Black Brants included singles in Co. Kerry and Co. Wexford, both Taverner's Canada Goose and Richardson's Canada Goose were still in Dumfries and Galloway and a Lesser Canada Goose was in Orkney.

Jack Snipe: Farmoor Reservoir, Oxon (photo: Terry Dabner). Snipe: Inner Marsh Farm, Cheshire (photo: Steve Round).
Black Grouse:undisclosed, Higland (photo: James Wood). Ptarmigan: Cairn Gorm, Higland (photo: Steve Round).
Wood Duck: Stirling, Forth (photo: Jim Duncan). Mandarin: Linlithgow Loch, Lothian (photo: Jim Duncan).
Brambling: Wyre Forest, Glos (photo: John Robinson). Crossbill: Tidenham Chase, Glos (photo: Kev Joynes).

Red-breasted Merganser: Fife Ness, Fife (photo: John Anderson).

Many of the images that appear in our weekly reviews can be purchased from the photographers, some of whom have their own websites:

Bill Aspin: http://www.eastlancashirebirding.net
Mike Atkinson: http://mikeatkinson.net
Ian Barnard: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/sussex.birder
Bill Baston: http://billbaston.com
Richard Bedford: http://www.richardbedford.co.uk
Steve Blain: http://www.steveblain.co.uk
Nigel Blake: http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/birdphotos/index.htm
Paul Boulden: http://southdevonbirds.mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/
Will Bowell: http://www.wanderingbirders.com
Paul Bowerman: http://mysite.freeserve.com/severnsidebirds
Paul Bowyer: http://www.ukbirds.net
Andy Brett: http://www.freewebs.com/andybrett/
Andy Bright: http://www.Digiscoped.com
Martin Cade: http://www.portlandbirdobs.btinternet.co.uk
Graham Catley: http://pewit.blogspot.com/
Mark Caunt: http://angusbirding.homestead.com/
Kit Day: http://www.kitday-uk.com/
Eric Dempsey: http://www.birdsireland.com/
Lee Dingain: http://www.leedingain.co.uk
Jon Dunn: http://www.surfbirds.com/blogs/Stercorarius/
Andrew Easton: http://home.clara.net/ammodytes/
Graham Eaton: http://www.eatonphotography.co.uk
Stuart Elsom: http://www.stuartelsom.co.uk
Steve Evans: http://www.powow.com/birds2004/
Katie Fuller: http://bogbumper.blogspot.com
Sean Gray: http://www.grayimages.co.uk
Peter Hadfield: http://www.manxbirdphotography.co.uk
David Hatton: http://www.kowapower.com
Josh Jones: http://www.wanderingbirders.com
John Judge: http://www.draycotebirding.co.uk
Paul and Andrea Kelly: http://www.irishbirdimages.com/
Matt Latham: http://www.pbase.com/latho
Jack Levene: http://www.birdingimages.com
John Malloy: http://mysite.freeserve.com/JohnMalloyBirdPhotos
Brian Mcgeough: http://www.pbase.com/bmcgeough/british_birds
Tony Mills: http://www.notjustbirds.com
Jerry O'Brien: http://www.BirdsofBerkshire.co.uk
Charlie Moores: http://www.charliesbirdblog.com
Mark Newsome: http://www.whitburnbirding.co.uk
James Packer: http://www.somersetbirder.co.uk
Mike Pennington: http://www.nature.shetland.co.uk
Ken Plows: http://www.kenswildlifepics.co.uk
Marc Read: http://www.marcread-pix.com
Tristan Reid: http://www.solwaybirder.org.uk
Steve Round: http://stevenround-birdphotography.com
Gerald Segelbacher: http://www.digiscoping.uk.md
Deryk Shaw/FIBO: http://www.fairislebirdobs.co.uk
Tom Shevlin: http://wildlifesnaps.com/
Peter Simpson: http://www.blueskybirds.co.uk
Matt Slaymaker: http://www.mattslaymaker.co.uk
Oliver Smart: http://www.smartimages.co.uk
George Spraggs: http://www.bird-watching.co.uk
Simon Stirrup: http://www.simonstirrup.co.uk/
Garry Taylor: http://www.spurnbirdobservatory.co.uk/
Glen Tepke: http://www.pbase.com/gtepke
Phillip Tomkinson: http://www.philliptomkinson.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk
Stephen Tomlinson: http://www.digitalbirds.co.uk
Sue Tranter: http://www.suesbirdphotos.co.uk/
Steve Williams: http://www.hilbrebirdobs.co.uk
Simon Wilson: http://www.bakewellbirder.co.uk/
Chris Wormwell: http://www.iombirding.co.uk
Dylan Wrathall: http://www.planetthanet.org
Written by: Russell Slack