Review of the Week: 4-10 December 2023


After a short hiatus from an extraordinary year of seabird action in the South-West Approaches, it was back with a vengeance when late news broke of an intermediate-morph Trindade Petrel filmed passing Pendeen, Cornwall, mid-morning on 8th. This gadfly petrel is principally found in the South Atlantic Ocean, ranging north to waters off the eastern United States. Conclusively recorded on only 16 previous occasions in the Western Palearctic – three times from Cape Verde and 13 times around the Azores – it leads a controversial history in British waters, with at least three previous claims – Dungeness, Kent, on 4 January 1998 and Porthgwarra, Cornwall, on both 19 July 2005 and 12 July 2018 (see here) – not yet passing muster with the records committees.

Cornwall has proved the place to be in December so far, with the lingering adult White-crowned Sparrow at Rosudgeon the most popular fixture. Despite there being no sign in wet conditions over the weekend, it attracted a crowd throughout the week and enthused local residents have even set up a feeding area complete with a donation bucket. Disappointingly, the south-west's other Nearctic visitor, the first-winter female Cape May Warbler, bid adieu to Bryher, Scilly, after 4th.

White-crowned Sparrow, Rosudgeon, Cornwall (Adrian Lea).

Cape May Warbler, Bryher, Isles of Scilly (Jon Mercer).

Clennon Valley Lakes, Devon, has been a hot-spot for wintering Yellow-browed Warblers for several years, which made the finding of a Hume's Leaf Warbler from 6th arguably somewhat overdue – if no less deserved. Yellow-browed Warblers at a mere three sites included one at nearby Broadsands, while a Pallas's Warbler was at Elmley NNR, Kent.

Hume's Leaf Warbler, Clennon Valley Lakes, Devon (Bill Coulson).

A bumper flock of more than 450 Lesser Redpolls at Fontburn Reservoir, Northumberland, contained no fewer than 50 Mealy Redpolls and at least two Coues's Arctic Redpolls, with 'Mealies' at 18 further sites across Britain. A congregation of approximately 100 Waxwings at Larne, Co Antrim, is Ireland's largest flock to date during the current influx, with 158 at Jesmond, Northumberland, the highest count elsewhere.

Mealy Redpoll, Luffenham Airfield, Leicestershire and Rutland (Tim Collins).

Waxwing, Holmfirth, West Yorkshire (Tim Melling).

Elsewhere, a first-winter Eastern Yellow Wagtail was new-in to St Mary's, Scilly, from 5th, a brief European Serin was at Orcombe Point, Devon, and a Hoopoe was reported in Suffolk. Shore Lark numbered 22 across three counties and a Richard's Pipit was again at Huntspill, Somerset, on 7th. A paltry four Great Grey Shrikes did include a new bird at Doddington, Lincolnshire.

Great Grey Shrike, Pentre-llyn-cymmer, Conwy (John Gilbody).

The Glamorgan Pallid Harrier paid a visit to Llanelli Wetland Centre WWT, Carmarthen, on 10th, becoming a welcome – if brief – county first. Another continued at Warham Greens, Norfolk. The juvenile Northern Harrier was back at Wexford Wildfowl Reserve, Co Wexford, on 9th, the same date a Rough-legged Buzzard overflew Featherstone, West Yorkshire.

Northern Harrier, Wexford Wildfowl Reserve, Wexford (Conor Lynam).

Incredibly, Cory's Shearwater was recorded again this week, with one heading south past Spurn, East Yorkshire, on 5th. A Great Shearwater was off Pendeen, Cornwall, on 7th, and a couple of White-billed Divers were off Yell, Shetland. Iceland Gulls at six sites included the juvenile Kumlien's Gull still at Dundalk, Co Louth, while five Glaucous Gulls were reported. Long-staying adult Ring-billed Gulls remained at Hayle Estuary, Cornwall, and Blackrock, Co Louth.

Kumlien's Gull, Dundalk, Louth (Fergal Stanley).

The popular adult drake Canvasback remained settled at Abberton Reservoir, Essex, throughout, while the identity of last week's possible Ferruginous Duck at Cotswold Water Park, Gloucestershire, firmed up on 8th. Elsewhere, a drake continued in Nottinghamshire and two were again at Filby Broad, Norfolk. Lesser Scaup just reached double figures with the finding of a new drake at Knockaderry Lake, Co Waterford, on 8-9th.

Canvasback (left) with Common Pochard, Abberton Reservoir, Essex (Chris Darby).

Ferruginous Duck (right) with Tufted Duck, Idle Washlands, Nottinghamshire (Tom Hines).

A stunning-looking 'Storm Wigeon' – drake American Wigeon that have white cheeks and throat instead of the typical brownish-grey – was at Malltraeth, Anglesey, from 8th. It was initially found at nearby Cors Ddyga RSPB in early November before promptly disappearing (more here). More typical drakes were lingered at Banks Marsh, Lancashire, and Big Waters, Northumberland. Six Green-winged Teal included two in Cornwall; other totals included 13 Ring-necked Ducks and six Surf Scoter.

Green-winged Teal (centre), Lunt Meadows NR, Lancashire (Steve Young).

The juvenile Red-breasted Goose was again near Bradwell-on-Sea, Essex, on 10th, with the Northumberland adult also reported. Surprisingly, the Lancashire adult dropped its Pink-feet carriers for the local Greylag Geese at Martin Mere WWT, Lancashire, on 9th. Three Black Brant lingered.

Red-breasted Goose (centre) with Greylag Geese, Martin Mere WWT, Lancashire (Janice Sutton).

Both the Lincolnshire Lesser Yellowlegs and Somerset Kentish Plover continued throughout, while four Grey Phalaropes were logged offshore.


Western Palearctic

It was a quieter week across the region with much of central and eastern Europe covered in snow. Amid the icy embrace, Belarus boasted its first-ever Hume's Leaf Warbler in Minsk, a Blue-winged Teal was at Tovańćov, Czech Republic, and Pruszewiec, Poland, retained a Blyth's Pipit. The juvenile Pacific Diver lasted at Hanstholm, Denmark, for another week and the drake White-winged Scoter continued off Heligoland, Germany, in early December.

Lingering rarities in France included a Cream-coloured Courser at Hyères and Forster's Tern at Plouguerneau, with both Ross's Geese still in Belgium and Black Scoter again at Ameland, Netherlands. Greece recorded its first Eastern Yellow Wagtail, too.

Blyth's Pipit, Pruszewiec, Greater Poland (Zbigniew Kajzer).

The European Lesser Scaup influx reached Mallorca this week, with one at S'Albufera becoming the first for the Balearic Islands. Two more lingered in mainland Spain, where an American Black Duck continued at Sada and Lesser Flamingos numbered three. The male Sudan Golden Sparrow at Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, was joined by a female on 7th and a Blue-winged Teal was on Fuerteventura. Action on Terceira, Azores, comprised two American Coots, Pied-billed Grebe and two Lesser Scaup.

At least four Purple Sunbirds stole the headlines in Kuwait City, Kuwait, with the returning Lesser Flamingo back at Sulaibikhat Bay. Two Lesser Scaup kept close company at Temara, Morocco.


Written by: Sam Viles