Review of the Week: 31st October–6th November


The week at a glance

There can be no doubt that last week will live long in the memory of many British listers: some managed one tick, others two and some a remarkable hat-trick that involved visiting Cornwall, Unst and Rum, no less! With further transatlantic weather systems forecast to tear across from the eastern seaboard of North America to Britain and Ireland over the weekend, hopes were high for more Nearctic passerines but, alas, it proved not to be the case. In fact, with a westerly airflow (and therefore no significant arrivals from the east), the advent of November was a generally quiet affair, enlivened primarily by late October's lingering superstars.

Of these, it was Rum's Mourning Dove that proved most co-operative, lingering in the garden of the ever-welcoming Sean Morris as it came to feed on seed laid down for local birds. That said, it was not exactly easy, for a Sparrowhawk flushed it early on Saturday 2nd, leading to a no-show for twitchers that day. It also proved a little tricky on the Sunday and, following a clear night, had moved on by the Monday morning. Becoming ever more mobile over its stay, the Cape May Warbler was also playing hard to get. A no-show on the Thursday until it returned to its favoured Hillside garden late in the afternoon, it proved a little more welcoming over the Friday and Saturday but, after a remarkable 11-day stay, had finally gone by the Sunday.

Mourning Dove
Mourning Dove, Rum, Highland (Photo: Andrew Kinghorn)

Cape May Warbler
Cape May Warbler, Baltasound, Unst, Shetland (Photo: Paul Rowe)

The South-West's hat-trick of rare thrushes also hung on into November. Though it became more elusive by the day, Porthgwarra's Hermit Thrush lingered until the morning of 1st, but was not seen again after late morning and left visitors on the Saturday empty-handed. Scilly's White's Thrush was last seen on St Agnes on 1st, though the American Robin on Tresco was a little more obliging, staying all week. A second American Robin was belatedly reported from a private garden on The Lizard (Cornwall) on 1st, but there was no sign of it the next day.

Hermit Thrush
Hermit Thrush, Porthgwarra, Cornwall (Photo: David Aitken)

American Robin
American Robin, Tresco, Isles of Scilly (Photo: Martin Goodey)

American Robin
American Robin, Tresco, Isles of Scilly (Photo: James Packer)

American Robin, Tresco, Isles of Scilly (Video: Ashley Fisher)

It was a good week for Snow Geese, with a new white morph found at Beauly (Highland) on 2nd. Two remained near Tayinloan (Argyll) on 31st, and further Scottish records involved a single blue morph still at Loch of Strathbeg (Aberdeenshire) on 1st and the white morph near Crail (Fife) the same day. County Kerry's white morph was also still at Barrow Harbour on 4th. In Hampshire, the Red-breasted Goose remained at Sturt Pond, while a yellow-ringed bird at Pilling Lane Ends (Lancs) was then seen with Barnacle Geese at Cardurnock (Cumbria) on 4th–5th. Just a handful of Black Brants were seen in Devon, Dorset (2) and East Yorkshire.

Snow Goose
Snow Goose, Crail, Fife (Photo: John Anderson)

Red-breasted Goose
Red-breasted Goose, Sturt Pond, Hampshire (Photo: Doug Kelson)

Red-breasted Goose
Red-breasted Goose, Pilling Lane Ends, Lancashire (Photo: Gavin Thomas)

Green-winged Teal numbers continued to rise, with six reported: at Caerlaverock (Dumfries), Loch Leven (Perth/Kinross), Loch Gruinart, Islay (Argyll), Hodbarrow (Cumbria), Slimbridge (Glos) and Ballycotton (Cork). Just one Blue-winged Teal remained at Boultham Mere (Lincs) throughout the week, while the drake American Wigeon returned to Tullaghan (Leitrim) from 31st in addition to Highland's bird still at Udale Bay. A probable Black Duck was reported briefly at Sennen Cove (Cornwall) on 2nd. What is perhaps Glamorgan's Lesser Scaup was located at Chew Valley Lake (Somerset) from 4th, while half a dozen Ring-necked Ducks included two drakes at Lough Gara (Sligo) and lingering birds in Ayrshire (to 3rd), Leicestershire, Hertfordshire (to 1st) and County Waterford.

A Surf Scoter was seen at three Cornish sites in a morning as it migrated first past Rumps Point and later St Ives then Pendeen on 3rd; another was off Courtmacsherry (Cork) on 3rd–5th. The White-billed Diver was still off Castlegregory (Kerry) over the weekend, while the highlight of the seawatching week was a Black-browed Albatross off Bass Point (Cornwall) on 2nd; another albatross species was later reported off Baggy Point (Devon) before flying south. Good numbers of Balearic Shearwaters in the far south-west included 75 past Pendeen on 5th and 67 past St Ives on 3rd, while a juvenile Sabine's Gull delighted photographers on the Dorset coast.

Sabine's Gull
Sabine's Gull, Cogden Beach, Dorset (Photo: Peter Moore)

Cattle Egrets remained in Kent and Essex, while as many as 30 Great White Egrets were found north to Cumbria. Notable concentrations included up to four still at Dungeness (Kent), with three roosting at Hornsea Mere (E Yorks) and another trio at Pitsford Reservoir (Northants). Glossy Ibis were again prominent, with 15 or so reported around the country. One reached as far north-east as Loch of Strathbeg (Aberdeenshire) on 1st, while inland birds at Lowdham (Notts) from 2nd and near Bakewell (Derbys) on 2nd–3rd proved popular — the latter was also seen at Ogston Reservoir on 6th. Another was at Tyttenhanger (Herts) on 3rd and relocated to Rye Meads on 5th, while two at Lower Moor (Worcs) on 2nd–4th were presumably those at Slimbridge on 5th.

Great White Egret
Great White Egret, Blashford Lakes HWT, Hampshire (Photo: Mark Wright)

The season's first white-morph Gyr Falcon was briefly at Evie (Orkney) on 2nd, and the presumed juvenile female Northern Harrier was still frequenting the Ouse Washes (Cambs). A reasonable showing of Rough-legged Buzzards hinted that there had been a decent arrival in the week, with a total of nine reported. New birds were in Norfolk (4) and Lincolnshire (2) in addition to last week's bird still around Orford Ness (Suffolk) throughout, while isolated reports also came from Hampshire and Staffordshire.

Northern Harrier
Northern Harrier, Ouse Washes RSPB, Cambridgeshire (Photo: Brendan Doe)

Rough-legged Buzzard
Rough-legged Buzzard, Orford Ness, Suffolk (Photo: John Richardson)

Three American Golden Plovers were seen during the week: a brief juvenile was at Kilnsea wetlands (E Yorks) on 4th, with others at Ballycotton (Cork) on 2nd and Kirkistown (Down) on 2nd–3rd. The unsettled weather was no doubt responsible for a mini-influx of White-rumped Sandpipers, the highlight of which was up to three on the Hayle Estuary (Cornwall) on 1st–6th. Two juveniles were at Ardivachar Point (Outer Hebrides) on 5th and a third at Balranald on 3rd. Lincolnshire boasted birds at Frampton Marsh on 1st–4th and Gibraltar Point on 2nd, and there were further records of singles from Devon, Cornwall and County Cork. Showy Grey Phalaropes remained at Gronant (Clwyd) and Roadford Reservoir (Devon), with new birds also performing well at Newhaven (E Sussex) and Salthouse (Norfolk).

White-rumped Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper, Balranald RSPB, N.Uist, Outer Hebrides (Photo: Steve Duffield)

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Grey Phalarope
Grey Phalarope, Roadford Reservoir, Devon (Photo: John Lee)

Grey Phalarope
Grey Phalarope, Newhaven, East Sussex (Photo: Dorian Mason)

Arguably the find of the week was an adult Ross's Gull in the Bay of Swartmill, Westray (Orkney) on 4th, though it failed to linger long. Northumberland's Bonaparte's Gull was still at Bamburgh on 31st before relocating to the Farne Islands on 1st–2nd; the usual adult was also still in Teignmouth to at least 5th. Hampshire's Ring-billed Gull returned to Gosport for its 11th winter — we first reported it, as an adult, in November 2003! Another bird was reported at Ibsley Water Meadows on 4th, while adults were at Mallaig (Highland) and Cruisetown Strand (Louth).

Bonaparte's Gull
Bonaparte's Gull, Teignmouth, Devon (Photo: Chris Cook)

Ring-billed Gull
Ring-billed Gull, Gosport, Hampshire (Photo: Mark Leitch)

Also returning for its 11th winter was the Galway Bay Forster's Tern, arriving back at Claddagh Beach on 4th. This is a very typical arrival date for the bird: for example, the past couple of years it has returned on 29th October and 6th November.

Forster's Tern
Forster's Tern, Nimmo's Pier, Galway (Photo: Tom Cuffe)

Forster's Tern
Forster's Tern, Nimmo's Pier, Galway (Photo: Tom Cuffe)

Eastern passerines were unsurprisingly thin on the ground, though an Olive-backed Pipit was still on Fair Isle to 2nd and a Red-throated Pipit flew over Apex Leisure Park (Somerset) on 2nd. The autumn's ninth Red-flanked Bluetail squeezed into North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 31st, while a Black-bellied Dipper was at Hermaness, Unst (Shetland) on 2nd–4th.

Black-bellied Dipper
Black-bellied Dipper, Hermaness NNR, Unst, Shetland (Photo: G Petrie)

Warblers included the long-staying Subalpine on St Mary's to at least 5th, with the Sardinian Warbler at Mire Loch (Borders) on 2nd. A Dusky Warbler inland at Marsh Lane Nature Reserve (W Mids) was a fantastic record, and proved twitchable there for four days from 1st. Another was elusive in Kenidjack valley (Cornwall) on 31st–1st and again on 4th. A Cetti's Warbler trapped at East Coast Nature Reserve was a fantastic record for County Wicklow on 3rd.

Subalpine Warbler
Subalpine Warbler, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Photo: James Packer)

Given the unfavourable weather conditions and late date, it was no great surprise that drift migrants were in short supply, though there were late Wrynecks on Dursey Island (Cork), St Agnes (Scilly) and at Prussia Cove (Cornwall), and a Hoopoe was reported at Harpsden (Oxon) on 5th. Five Rose-coloured Starlings lingered in Norfolk, Cornwall, Donegal and on Scilly and the Isle of Lewis. A Barred Warbler extended its stay at Spurn (E Yorks) all week, with new individuals in County Wexford and on Skomer (Pembrokeshire), while seven Red-breasted Flycatchers included one on Orkney on 5th; others were in more typical locations such as County Cork, Scilly and Cornwall. As many as 10 Richard's Pipits were reported, while late Red-backed Shrikes included lingering birds on St Mary's (Scilly) and at Pagham Harbour (W Sussex) on 1st–6th, with others on Yell (Shetland) on 2nd and Flamborough (E Yorks) on 3rd. A total of 54 reports of Great Grey Shrike were broadcast on Bird News Extra during the week, with most on traditional wintering territories. A confiding Common Rosefinch munching rowan berries in Carnaby (E Yorks) from 4th had many wondering why it wasn't something more impressive, such as a Pine Grosbeak. A male Rustic Bunting was a fantastic find at Cove Bay (Aberdeenshire) on 1st, being seen again on 3rd — this is the first county record since 1993, believe it or not! Little Buntings were new on Tresco (Scilly) on 31st and at Quendale (Shetland) on 2nd, with a third still on North Ronaldsay.

Richard's Pipit
Richard's Pipit, Hartlepool, Cleveland (Photo: D Johnson)

Great Grey Shrike
Great Grey Shrike, Thursley Common, Surrey (Photo: Gary Loader)

Great Grey Shrike
Great Grey Shrike, Beeley Moor, Derbyshire (Photo: Steve Whiteley)

Common Rosefinch
Common Rosefinch, Carnaby, East Yorkshire (Photo: Chris Downes)

Barred Warbler
Barred Warbler, Burravoe, Yell, Shetland (Photo: Dougie Preston)

Five Northern Long-tailed Tits at Halligarth (Shetland) on 3rd predictably melted hearts as soon as photographs appeared in our Iris galleries; three were still present the following day. These are apparently the first caudatus birds for Scotland!

Northern Long-tailed Tit
Northern Long-tailed Tit, Halligarth, Unst, Shetland (Photo: Mike Pennington)

Northern Long-tailed Tit
Northern Long-tailed Tit, Halligarth, Unst, Shetland (Photo: Brydon Thomason)

Just a single Parrot Crossbill was seen in Hemsted Forest (Kent) on 3rd, while a male Two-barred Crossbill at Broomhead Reservoir (S Yorks) on 2nd was the first seen there since late September. A male was also still at Lynford Arboretum (Norfolk) all week and the female was still at Leith Hill Wood (Surrey) to 4th.

Small numbers of Waxwings also arrived — almost all in the far north — and included 30 in Stromness (Orkney) on 4th, 21 on North Ronaldsay (Orkney) and c.20 in Castletown (Highland) and isolated records from Norfolk, Suffolk and Lincolnshire.

Photo of the Week

Crane, Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire (Photo: Pete Blanchard)

Five years ago this week, Pete Blanchard uploaded his first bird photo to BirdGuides. Since then, he has uploaded over 800 more images, mostly taken in the counties surrounding the Bristol area. 17 of Pete's images have been selected as Notable Images and he has a particular interest — and ability — in the tricky area of flight shots. Pete has flight shots of a wide range of different species and, this week, added a further species to his aerial portfolio with a great image of a pair of Cranes taken at Slimbridge WWT in Gloucestershire. Like all reintroduction schemes, the Great Crane Project has its fans and critics, but there can't be many people who wouldn't wish to see these magnificent birds making a widespread return to areas where they became extinct 400 years ago. Pete's delicately lit duo in mirrored dynamic poses, wings and legs outstretched, provide a taste of what will hopefully be a more common sight in future years. We're delighted to be able to finally award Pete his first Photo of the Week.

Kestrel, undisclosed site, Norfolk (Photo: Matt Crosby)

Cape May Warbler
Cape May Warbler, Baltasound, Unst, Shetland (Photo: Paul Rowe)

Red Grouse
Red Grouse, undisclosed site, North Yorkshire (Photo: Andy Shepherd)

Waxwing, Maywick, Mainland, Shetland (Photo: Hugh Harrop)

Red Kite
Red Kite, Castle Douglas, Dumfries & Galloway (Photo: Alan McFadyen)

Slavonian Grebe
Slavonian Grebe, Farmoor Reservoir, Oxfordshire (Photo: Dave Hutton)

Bullfinch, Redditch, Worcestershire (Photo: Mr Clive Daelman)

Crested Tit
Crested Tit, Abernethy Forest RSPB, Highland (Photo: Mark Ranner)

Ring Ouzel
Ring Ouzel, Elan Valley, Powys (Photo: Kev Joynes)

Crossbill, private site, Suffolk (Photo: Ian Clarke)

Cormorant, Lackford Lakes SWT, Suffolk (Photo: Neil Rolph)