Review of the Week: 30 January-5 February 2023


The steady period across Britain and Ireland continued, but the first few days of February nevertheless saw several of the winter's most popular rare and scarce avian visitors linger on. It was a mild but largely settled week, with the calm and dry spell looking set to continue further into February.

Britain's third Baikal Teal of the year resided in the company of Northern Pintail at Foryd Bay, Gwynedd, on 5th. The drake was the only rarity reported in Wales during the week and possibly relates to the bird present at Llangorse Lake, Powys, during January – although would have had to have swapped its favoured Eurasian Teal for Northern Pintail in the interim.

Baikal Teal (left), Foryd Bay, Gwynedd (Robin Sandham).

The impressive run of birds in Co Mayo has snuck under the radar somewhat this winter, but the sheer variety of birds on offer will be the envy of birders across Britain and Ireland, with the continuing young female White-winged Scoter on Achill Island and Arctic Redpoll at Tarmon most notable. Other action on The Mullet included a Richardson's Cackling Goose at Tirraun, two Snow Geese at Leam Lough and the American Black Duck and Ruddy Duck at Cross Lough. Other nearby highlights included the Hooded Merganser at Rosduane, an adult drake Surf Scoter at Barnagh and a Ring-necked Duck at Carrowmore Lake, while a second-winter Ring-billed Gull was noted at Keem, Achill Island, on 5th.

A couple of unconfirmed megas reported along Ireland's west coast comprised a Glaucous-winged Gull at Killybegs, Co Donegal, and an American Herring Gull in Co Cork. The continued presence of the Double-crested Cormorant at Doon Lough, Co Leitrim, was undeniable, with the semi-resident Forster's Tern also seen again at Kinvarra, Co Galway.

The Langstone Harbour Sabine's Gull didn't show any signs of moving on anytime soon. Continuing adult Ring-billed Gulls at Hayle Estuary, Cornwall, and Strathclyde Loch, Clyde, were the only birds recording in Britain during the week. Numbers in Ireland fared slightly better, with seven seen. Both Glaucous and Iceland Gulls remained thin on the ground, while the usual adult Kumlien's Gull was at Blennerville, Co Kerry.

Sabine's Gull, Budds Farm SW, Hampshire (Nigel Voaden).

Glaucous Gull, Eyemouth, Borders (Patrick Safford).

In the Outer Hebrides, the female-type Harlequin Duck was back off Traigh Mhor, Barra, on 1st, with a Lesser Scaup continuing at West Loch Ollay, South Uist. Other Lesser Scaup remained at both Ham Wall RSPB, Somerset, and Staines Reservoirs, London. Sporadic reports of the Pacific Diver off Leven, Fife, were received throughout.

Lesser Scaup (right), Staines Reservoirs, London (Ian Curran).

Pacific Diver (centre), Leven, Fife (Lukasz Pulawski).

Three Ferruginous Duck again favoured Filby Broad, Norfolk, with another still at Ballysaggart Lough, Co Tyrone. Smew were at 34 sites, faring only marginally better than Ring-necked Duck, which were spread across 26 sites. How the status of both species has changed in recent years.

Ring-necked Duck, Helston, Cornwall (Andrew Jordan).

North-west Scotland held half of the week's Green-winged Teal, with four along the coast between Tain, Highland, and Loch of Strathbeg, Aberdeenshire. Two more were in south-west Ireland (in Co Kerry and Co Cork), with others in Northumberland and on Barra, Outer Hebrides. Three American Wigeon saw birds in Lincolnshire, Perth and Kinross, and Somerset; at least one Garganey continued to reside at Ham Wall RSPB, Somerset, into February.

American Wigeon (right), Ham Wall RSPB, Somerset & Bristol (Ian Curran).

It appears that two King Eider might well be present along the North Sea coast, with birds reported concurrently at Redcar, Cleveland, and Musselburgh, Lothian, on 5th. Apparent borealis Common Eider concerned two off Coul Links, Highland, and one again at Campbeltown, Argyll, and the Black Scoter was reported again off Stag Rocks, Northumberland. Surf Scoter in Britain included at least three in North Wales and two off Embo, Highland.

King Eider (centre), Redcar, Cleveland (Brian Martin).

Northern Eider (centre), Campbeltown Loch, Argyll (Jim Dickson).

Richardson's Cackling Geese are always hot property whenever they venture onto English soil, with the Norfolk bird looking settled in its favoured sugar beet field at Brancaster for much of the week. Another flock of Pink-feet near Weybourne held a gaggle of Tundra Bean Geese and at least one Taiga Bean Goose – providing a unique comparison of this closely-related species trio at close quarters.

Richardson's Cackling Goose (left of centre), Brancaster, Norfolk (Mark Dowie).

Tundra Bean Goose (left), Pink-footed Goose (centre) and Taiga Bean Goose (right), Weybourne, Norfolk (Lee Dutton).

A returning Snow Goose of unknown – but presumably suspect – origin was with Greylag Geese near Thruscross Reservoir, North Yorkshire, on 1-2nd. The week's sole Todd's Canada Goose was in fields near Higher Ballam, Lancashire, on 30th and a probable Grey-bellied Brant was at Cabinteely, Co Dublin, with four Black Brant split between Hampshire, Essex and East Yorkshire. A rare Scottish visitor constituted an Egyptian Goose at Loch of the Lowes, Perth and Kinross, on 5th.

Late January provided a welcome surprise for Durham birders, with a Pallas's Warbler discovered at Newfield sewage works from 31st. Another held on at Swalecliffe, Kent, while Yellow-browed Warblers were at just two locations. Hume's Leaf Warblers remained at both Compton Dando, Somerset, and Dover, Kent; a probable Siberian Lesser Whitethroat was in a Barking, London, garden from 31st.

Hume's Leaf Warbler, Compton Dando, Somerset & Bristol (Nigel Voaden).

The White-throated Sparrow was still visiting a private garden in Northwich, Cheshire, into February, undoubtedly leading to some gnashing of teeth. A Richard's Pipit continued to find horse paddocks at Wyke Regis, Dorset, to its liking too, with the Isabelline Wheatear at Holywell, Cornwall, also reported on a daily basis. The New Forest, Hampshire, Great Grey Shrike remained, as did the two Little Buntings at Cot Valley, Cornwall.

Richard's Pipit, Chickerell, Dorset (Peter Moore).

An excellent midwinter find saw a European Turtle Dove photographed at Ardfield, Co Cork, on 31st, while St Buryan, Cornwall, held a European Serin the previous day. Hampshire's Shore Lark remained along Hurst Beach, with a handful still along the coasts of Norfolk and East Yorkshire. Waxwing reports continued to tail off, although Cornwall's first of the winter reached Canon's Town on 2nd. Belated news concerned a Hoopoe at Alconbury, Cambridgeshire, on 25 January.

Shore Lark, Holkham, Norfolk (Glyn Sellors).

Waxwing, Reydon, Suffolk (Les Cater).

The White Stork spent another week at Worth Marsh, Kent, and 11 Glossy Ibises were split between just five sites in southern England, with three more at Tacumshin, Co Wexford. Norfolk's Pallid Harrier continued to roam the saltmarshes off Warham Greens and a Rough-legged Buzzard was at Tingwall, Mainland Shetland.

Glossy Ibis, Titchfield, Hampshire (Rik Addison).

A quiet week on the shorebird front concerned a trio of lingering rarities: a Greater Yellowlegs at Tallow, Co Waterford, Kentish Plover at Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, and a Long-billed Dowitcher at Cley Marshes, Norfolk.

Long-billed Dowitcher, Cley Marshes NWT, Norfolk (Chris Mayne).


Western Palearctic

Surprising news out of Sweden saw an adult male Siberian Rubythroat located in a garden at Trollhättan from 30th. It is just 10 km away from last winter's popular male and the possibility of it being a returning bird has to be considered. Elsewhere, the Baltimore Oriole at Förslöv and Blue-winged Teal at Lund both remained into February. A drake Baikal Teal was again near Klepp, Norway, on 5th, with an Oriental Turtle Dove still at Stavanger.

Siberian Rubythroat, Trollhättan, Västra Götalands län (Kent Kristenson).

The area around Guissény remained the epicentre of French action, with a trio of lingering Nearctic vagrants comprising the Killdeer, Forster's Tern and a Lesser Scaup – one of at least four in Brittany. Two American Herring Gulls remained near Gueltas, as did the Least Sandpiper at La Guittière and Long-legged Buzzard at Thibie.

A Greater Spotted Eagle overflew Nieuwehorne, The Netherlands, on 5th. Neighbouring Belgium's trio of wintering rarities remained – Moustached Warbler at Harelbeke, Pygmy Cormorant at Mol and Alpine Accentor at Bouillon. At least one Stejneger's Scoter persisted at Krynica Morska, Poland, and a Pine Bunting was still at Agnellengo, Italy.

Two more African Crakes rounded off a remarkable January for the taxon – one at Tías, Lanzarote, on 29-30th and one found dead at Laâyoune, Western Sahara, on 29th. In Spain, the American Black Duck lingered at Sada and Lesser Flamingos were at both Fuente de Piedra and Alcázar de San Juan – the latter accompanied by a young drake Lesser Scaup. A Semipalmated Plover lingered at La Mareta, Tenerife.

In the Azores, a female Hooded Merganser was new-in at Lagoa do Capitão, Pico, on 31st and a Semipalmated Plover was again at Cais do Pico. Remaining on Terceira were a Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, Least Sandpiper and Semipalmated Plover, with a Pied-billed Grebe still on São Miguel. A Greater-Lesser Yellowlegs double act remained on Sal, Cape Verde.

A Brown Booby off Tel Shikmona, Israel, on 4-5th became the first record for the eastern portion of the Mediterranean Sea, with Israel's sixth Sabine's Gull recorded during the same productive seawatch. The Pied Bush Chat wasn't noted at Ma'or after 30th.

Written by: Sam Viles