Review of the Week: 3rd-9th April 2008


The week at a glance

Slate-coloured Junco
Slate-coloured Junco, Dungeness, Kent (Photo: Mike Lawrence)

Little Crake
Little Crake, Exminster Marshes RSPB, Devon (Photo: Pat Mayer)

The fourth month of the year is so typically a period of contrasts, as the changeover of birds heading out of, and into, the country becomes ever more apparent. This week was certainly a classic early-April seven days in terms of new arrivals making their presence felt and, despite winter's last roll of a rather snowy dice over the weekend, the mild and rather warm weather preceding the chill opened the door to some exciting migrants. At the top of the list was a bird that may well have made entry from more southerly climes, though it was undoubtedly imprinted with stars'n'stripes to the core. Kent's second Slate-coloured Junco was found at Dungeness on 7th (remaining to 9th) and must have thrilled many county listers and, doubtless, others from further afield too. The only other Kentish record of this happy-go-lucky backyard bird was of a male, trapped and ringed, at Dengemarsh on May 26th 1960 (and was eventually accepted as Britain's first). With White-crowned Sparrow and Slate-coloured Junco already this year, it may be time to ponder on what other outstanding transatlantic garden birds we could be in store for us before spring is over. Another star turn this week, and a little more typical as far as April rarities are concerned, was the male Little Crake found at Exminster Marshes RSPB (Devon) on 9th. The drake Barrow's Goldeneye remained at Quoile Pondage (Co. Down) to 8th at least, but must surely be thinking about a departure date soon. The Pacific Diver was also reported as still being present still "recently" in St. Austell Bay (Cornwall).

A White-billed Diver was seen again off Port Skigersta, Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 4th, a site now familiar to those with a mind to search for the species as they (presumably) stop off for a while before heading on to the Arctic. A Sooty Shearwater past Cullernose Point (Northumberland) on 6th was rather unseasonable, but not unprecedented.

Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret, Eccleston, Lancashire (Photo: Stephen Tomlinson)

The slow decline in reports and/or numbers of Cattle Egrets continued this week, but in Cornwall there were 17 still to be seen around Treganhoe Farm near Sancreed on 8th. Single birds still enjoying the high life in Devon were at Exminster Marshes RSPB to 4th and at Newton Abbot and the Otter Estuary to 7th. Four birds were found at Tamerton Foliot near Plymouth on 5th, with five birds present on 6th-9th. In Dorset, two birds were seen at Lodmoor RSPB on the evening of 5th and the lone Cattle Egret remained at Abbotsbury to 9th. Next door, in Hampshire, the pair remained at St. Leonard's Grange to 3rd at least. In West Sussex, four birds were seen at the long-time winter haunt of East Lavant on 7th. Other birds that have become familiar over the past few weeks, in Gloucestershire and Cheshire, were still present this week, while Norfolk finally got in on the act with a bird seen at Stiffkey from 5th-8th. Lancashire was also graced by a Cattle Egret this week, one spending a day at St. Helens on 5th. In Ireland, a Cattle Egret remained around Cork City to 8th, while three were at Rossleague, at nearby Cobh, on 5th.

Glossy Ibis
Glossy Ibis, Warton Bank/Marsh, Lancashire (Photo: Nick Patel)

Night Heron
Night Heron, Fair Isle, Shetland (Photo: Mark Breaks)

Purple Heron
Purple Heron, Windmill Farm NR, Cornwall (Photo: Brian Mcgeough)

The Great White Egret in Somerset moved to Ham Walls RSPB this week and was still present to 7th at least. On 5th, singles were noted at North Warren RSPB (Suffolk) and at Humberston (Lincolnshire), while the tricky-to-find bird around Guist (Norfolk) was seen again on 5th and 7th. A Great White Egret was also seen at Sheep Parva Fishing Lakes (Leicestershire) on 9th. At least 11 Spoonbills were noted during the week, with five birds at Ashford (Devon) on 9th. Two were also seen flying east past Hengistbury Head (Dorset) on 5th. Two single Spoonbills were seen in Hampshire, with others in Norfolk and in County Cork, at Cobh. The Glossy Ibis remained at Warton Marsh (Lancashire) from 3rd-9th. There were several sightings of Common Cranes this week: a flock of five circled Saltwick Nab (North Yorkshire) on 3rd, when two birds were seen over Millbrook (Bedfordshire) and two more were seen at Pulborough Brooks RSPB (West Sussex), these remaining to 4th. Also on 4th, single birds were seen at Great Ryburgh (Norfolk) and Spurn (East Yorkshire). On 5th, two birds were over Paxton Pits NR and Grafham Water (Cambridgeshire) and another pair were seen in Kent, at Stodmarsh NNR and Worth Marsh. What may have been these two Cranes were then seen at Faversham on 7th. A single Common Crane was at St. Margaret's at Cliffe (Kent) on 8th, with others over Birchmoor (Warwickshire), Gibraltar Point NNR (Lincolnshire) and Upper Caldecote (Bedfordshire) on the same date. The final birds of the week were seen at Woolmer Pond (Hampshire) on 8th-9th and over the Nene Washes (Cambridgeshire) and King's Norton, Birmingham (West Midlands) on 9th. White Storks were seen in Norfolk (at Ormesby St. Michael), West and North Yorkshire (Leeds and York respectively) this week and none of them have much in their favour - origins are likely to be Thrigby Hall for the Norfolk bird and Harewood House for the Yorkshire bird(s). Three Night Herons were seen this week. An immature was seen at Far Ings NR (Lincolnshire) on 5th and a super adult was discovered in the northerly climes of Fair Isle (Shetland) on 5th, remaining to 9th. This handsome individual was an island first, adding one more to the already bulging list of species seen on one of our most famous birding sites. On the 9th a second adult was found on the island, but sadly this one was dead. The third Night Heron of the week was found at Darlton (Nottinghamshire) on 7th. In Somerset, an adult Purple Heron arrived at Ham Walls RSPB (Somerset) to keep the Great White Egret company, appearing on 6th and remaining to 9th. Two other Purple Herons arrived on 9th - one was seen at Windmill Farm NR, Ruan Pool (Cornwall), while the other appeared at Minsmere RSPB (Suffolk). A male Little Bittern was reported at Radipole Lake RSPB (Dorset) on 8th.

Ross's Goose
Ross's Goose, Snettisham RSPB, Norfolk (Photo: Pradera)

Richardson's Canada Goose
Richardson's Canada Goose, Loch Gorm, Islay, Argyll (Photo: anon)

The Ross's Goose remained at Aldcliffe Marshes (Lancashire) from 3rd-5th with, presumably, the same bird then being seen at Pilling Lane Ends on 7th-9th. Lone white and black geese, either Ross's or Snow, were reported at Collieston (Aberdeenshire) on 5th and Breydon Water (Norfolk) on 6th. Confirmed white Snow Geese were seen at Aberlady Bay (Lothian) and Loch of Harray, Mainland (Orkney) on 3rd, while the blue Snow Goose at Loch Connell (Dumfries & Galloway) was present to 5th, when an intermediate blue bird was at Slains Pool (Aberdeenshire). On Islay, a Richardson's Canada Goose was seen at Loch Gorm on 9th. Up to five Black Brants to report this week: two birds were at Wyberton (Lincolnshire) on 6th, while singles were at Shotley Marshes and Loompit Lake (Suffolk), and, in County Antrim one or two birds were seen at Kinnegar Pools and Belfast Lough.

King Eider
King Eider, Girvan, Ayrshire (Photo: Kris Gibb)

The female Black Duck remained at Marloes Mere (Pembrokeshire) to 8th, while the number of drake Green-winged Teal fell again this week to just six. At Eyebrook Reservoir (Leicestershire) the two drakes became one again on 5th, the singleton still present to 9th. On 3rd, the birds at Campfield Marsh RSPB (Cumbria) and Slimbridge WWT (Gloucestershire) were seen again (the Cumbrian bird noted once more on 9th) and on 5th-7th, the drake at Marshside RSPB (Lancashire) was noted once more. On 6th, a drake Green-winged Teal was seen at Loch Gruinart, Islay (Argyll). Two drake Lesser Scaup remained in Dumfries & Galloway during the early part of the week - at Auchenreoch Loch and Loch Magillie - the former present to 4th, the latter to 8th at least. The drake at Blair Drummond (Forth) was still being seen to 6th while the roving drake in Somerset moved from Barrow Gurney Reservoir to Chew Valley Lake. Only four Ring-necked Ducks made it into the new week: the females at Loch Morlich (Highland) and Stithians Reservoir (Cornwall) were present to 8th, the bird at Bassenthwaite Lake (Cumbria) remained to 9th, while the drake was again at Foxcote Reservoir (Buckinghamshire) on 6th. Two Ring-necked Ducks were seen at Lough Arrow (Co. Sligo) on 2nd. A first-winter drake King Eider was seen off North Ronaldsay (Orkney) on 3rd and the adult male was still off Girvan (Ayrshire) to 8th at least. Another first-winter drake was reported from Islay (Argyll) on 8th. The drake Surf Scoter was again off Dornoch (Highland) on 3rd (in the spectacular company of some 1,000 Long-tailed Ducks). Single first-winter females remained off Dawlish Warren (Devon) and Ovingdean (East Sussex) to 6th, while two females were off the coast of Galway city to 9th.

Any English record of Golden Eagle away from the Lake District will always raise an eyebrow or two, so the record of an adult seen drifting over Bexhill (East Sussex) on 3rd invited questions as to where on earth it could have come from. There are records of vagrants in western Europe, but they are pretty rare. Four Rough-legged Buzzards were seen over the past week, with the juvenile on Mainland Orkney still present to 9th. The same date saw a "Rough-leg" appear at Hazelgarth Rigg (Co. Durham), while on 5th singles were reported at Darsham (Suffolk) and North Foreland (Kent). Staying in Kent, and staying on 5th, a Black Kite was seen flying low over Capel Fleet, Isle of Sheppey. The 8th saw at least two Black Kites appear along the north Norfolk coast. The first bird was seen initially at Sidestrand and then flying over near Cromer. A Black Kite was then found between Salthouse and Cley, before drifting off towards Wiveton and, at the same time as the bird was over Cley, another was over nearby Blakeney Harbour (they'd actually been seen together, briefly, behind Salthouse village), and one of these birds was then seen along the coast to Burnham Overy. Another April 8th Black Kite was seen at Gedgrave Marshes (Suffolk), and remained to the following day. All of the East Anglian birds are viewed with suspicion though, following the "wire-hop" of four Black Kites from London Zoo recently...

Black-winged Stilt
Black-winged Stilt, Windmill Farm NR, Cornwall (Photo: Brian Mcgeough)

Spotted Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpiper, Lisvane Reservoir, Glamorgan (Photo: Paul Mahiques)

No doubting the pick of the bunch as far as the week's wading birds are concerned: the three Black-winged Stilts that arrived at Windmill Farm NR, Ruan Pool on the Lizard (Cornwall) on 7th, and were still present to 9th. More new arrivals came in the form of the ever-delightful Dotterel. Two birds were seen on the summit of Cairnsmore of Fleet (Dumfries & Galloway) on 3rd, while two more were noted on St. Martins (Scilly) on 4th. Also on 4th, a lone Dotterel was seen with Golden Plovers at Garreg Lwyd (Carmarthenshire). Both first-winter Spotted Sandpipers continued their lengthy stays this week. In Wales, the bird at Lisvane Reservoir (Glamorgan) remained until 8th, with the bird at Kinneil Lagoon (Forth) also seen to 8th. The lingering Lesser Yellowlegs at Rosscarbery (Co. Cork) was seen on 4th, while this winter's less typical semi-resident waders, the Kentish Plover on South Uist (Outer Hebrides) and the Temminck's Stint at Slimbridge WWT (Gloucestershire), were noted on 3rd and 7th respectively.

Bonaparte's Gull
Bonaparte's Gull, Peninerine, S.Uist, Outer Hebrides (Photo: Terry Fountain)

Ring-billed Gull
Ring-billed Gull, Gosport, Hampshire (Photo: Jim Almond)

American Herring Gull
American Herring Gull, Galway, Galway (Photo: Tom Cuffe)

Glaucous Gull
Glaucous Gull, Llanddulas, Conwy (Photo: Marc Hughes)

Iceland Gull
Iceland Gull, Llys-y-Fran Reservoir, Pembrokeshire (Photo: Richard Crossen)

Whiskered Tern
Whiskered Tern, Kilcolman BWI NR, Cork (Photo: Rónán Mclaughlin)

The Somerset Franklin's Gull appears to have become the Gloucestershire Franklin's Gull after one was seen on the Severn Estuary, at Newnham, on 7th (with some 40 miles or so between the two areas). An adult Bonaparte's Gull was at Peninerine, South Uist (Outer Hebrides), on 4th-7th, four years on from the last appearance of the species at the site. Nine Ring-billed Gulls were reported this week, with three birds in Wales (individuals still in Glamorgan, Pembrokeshire and Anglesey) and five birds in Ireland (Antrim, Derry, Louth, Sligo and Galway). The sole English bird was a first-winter reported flying over Hengistbury Head (Dorset) on 8th. The juvenile American Herring Gulls continued to be seen around Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway) between 4th and 9th. As may be expected at this time of year, numbers of large gulls are dropping off markedly, and nothing illustrated that more than just a single record of Caspian Gull, a first-winter at Dungeness (Kent) on 4th. Glaucous Gulls seem to be holding firm at around 40 birds again this week. Eight birds were seen around Lewis (Outer Hebrides) on 4th and four were at Cowpen Bewley (Cleveland) on 5th. Two birds at Baille an Truiseil, Lewis were busy snacking on a dead Cuvier's Beaked Whale on 3rd. Over 70 Iceland Gulls could still be found around Britain and Ireland this week, the total boosted by at least 13 birds at Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway). Once again, eight birds were still in Mallaig harbour (Highland) and five birds were plainly having a ball at Kirriemuir (Angus) on 6th. Up to eight birds were seen around Lewis (Outer Hebrides) during the week too. A second-winter Kumlien's Gull was at Cottenham Drive (Cambridgeshire) on 5th and an adult was at Grafham Water (Cambridgeshire) on 8th. Far more summery (compared to all these Arctic gulls) was the super Whiskered Tern found at Kilcolman BWI NR (Co. Cork) on 5th, and the record books suggest that this is the earliest ever record in Ireland (and there has never been an earlier one in the Britain either).

Waxwing, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire (Photo: Alan Sinclair)

Bluethroat, Dungeness RSPB, Kent (Photo: Marc Heath)

42 Waxwings were in Aberdeen on 4th, and a dozen remained at Longforgan (Perth & Kinross) to 8th at least. Two groups of four remained at Cutthorpe (Derbyshire) and Bingley (West Yorkshire) while three flew over Darwen (Lancashire) on 4th. The Dark-breasted Barn Owl was still on Wacton Common, Long Stratton (Norfolk) to 5th. A flush of six Hoopoes this week: on 4th, birds were seen at Raunds (Northamptonshire), Crowborough (East Sussex) and on Dursey Island (Co. Cork). On 6th, one was at Oare (Berkshire) and this bird was seen again on 8th. On 7th, one was at Crosswell (Pembrokeshire) and on 8th a Hoopoe was at the Poldice Valley (Cornwall). An Alpine Swift zoomed around the skies above Dungarvan (Co. Waterford) on 4th and a Red-rumped Swallow flew over Thorpeness (Suffolk) on 7th, re-appearing three-quarters of an hour later at nearby North Warren RSPB, then relocating to Minsmere RSPB until dusk. One was also reported over Kelling Quags (Norfolk) on 8th, and one then flew over Salthouse and Blakeney Point the following day. Two male White-spotted Bluethroats were found on 8th, one at Dungeness (Kent), the other one in the northwest, at Aldcliffe Marshes (Lancashire), bringing the total to five birds since March 26th. The Lancashire bird remained to 9th.

Siberian Chiffchaff
Siberian Chiffchaff, Filey Dams YWT, North Yorkshire (Photo: Dave Mansell)

The Great Reed Warbler at Porth Hellick, St. Mary's (Scilly) was seen until 4th. A Yellow-browed Warbler was still in Central Park, Plymouth (Devon) this week, present to 8th at least and in Dorset, the singing male Pallas's Warbler in Weymouth remained in Two Mile Coppice to 9th.

Two Penduline Tits were seen (and photographed) at Oulton Broad (Suffolk) on 4th, then were at nearby Carlton Marshes SWT on 8th. Another Penduline Tit was again at Minsmere RSPB on 4th (though it was heard only). A Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll was found on Fair Isle (Shetland) on 8th , while the first Serins of the spring were seen briefly in a garden on Beachy Head (East Sussex) on 3rd, along with fly-over birds at Portland (Dorset) and Nanjizal (Cornwall) on 9th. As the Serins were coming in, the week's dozen or so Great Grey Shrikes must have been thinking about heading out. Several wintering birds were still in place, but a new bird was noted at South Anston (South Yorkshire) on 3rd.

Photo of the Week

Black-winged Stilt
Black-winged Stilt, Windmill Farm NR, Cornwall (Photo: Mike Barker)

Having previously submitted photos of a wide range of rarities passing through Cornwall, Mike Barker has this week uploaded a delightful portrait of one of the three Black-winged Stilts present at Windmill Farm Nature Reserve on the Lizard peninsula. Mike has captured this elegant wader feeding in the shallows in lovely soft light. Best of all, the bird is perfectly reflected in the still water, with only a gentle ripple giving texture to the water. This is a good illustration of how to position reflected birds within the frame, treating the bird and reflection as a single unit and centring this vertically.

Other notable photos

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

Waxwing, Cutthorpe, Derbyshire (Photo: Jim Almond)

Great Northern Diver
Great Northern Diver, Chasewater, Staffordshire (Photo: Jim Almond)

Willow Warbler
Willow Warbler, Kelling Heath, Norfolk (Photo: Garth Peacock)

Common Crossbill
Common Crossbill, undisclosed site, Worcestershire (Photo: Mark Hancox)

McKay's Bunting
McKay's Bunting, United States (Photo: Jack Hill)

European Bee-eater
European Bee-eater, Saudi Arabia (Photo: Adrian Drummond-hill)

Smew, undisclosed site, Manchester, Greater (Photo: Sue Tranter)

Common Redstart
Common Redstart, undisclosed site, Dorset (Photo: Mark Hancox)

Kittiwake, Dunbar, Lothian (Photo: Dennis Morrison)

Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon, undisclosed site, North Yorkshire (Photo: Steve Race)

Little Ringed Plover
Little Ringed Plover, Grafham Water, Cambridgeshire (Photo: Garth Peacock)

Red-throated Diver
Red-throated Diver, Fife Ness, Fife (Photo: John Anderson)

Written by: Mark Golley