Review of the Week: 4th-10th February 2010


The week at a glance

A wintery chill started to see its way back across the North Sea from continental Europe after the weekend, with flurries of snow coupled with leaden skies and a lazy wind (its goes through you, not around you). There was little change in what was on offer birdwise but there was still a pretty tasty roll-call of rares.

First this week comes belated news of a two-day Short-toed Treecreeper reported from a "sensitive site" near Dover (Kent) on 1st–2nd (the bird was last noted on the morning of 2nd and not subsequently). The relationship between this particular species and the Garden of England is well documented: a remarkable 19 accepted records are on the books for Kent and this, if accepted, will be the first February record (only June and August lack accepted records). The most recent record for Kent (and the UK) was one at Dungeness on 2nd and 8th May 2005, which followed hot on the heels of a widely twitched bird in Essex (at Bradwell-on-Sea) a month beforehand. Dorset and East Yorkshire are the only other counties with records of this hard-to-come-by vagrant.

Over on the coast of Connemara, the juvenile Thayer's Gull remained around the area of Ross Beach, Cleggan (Co. Galway) (albeit sometimes rather elusively) across another weekend and on to 10th. Further up the coast (and around the top corner a little) the Western Palearctic's first American Eider was again off Fanad Head (Co. Donegal) on 5th–9th.

Thayer's Gull
Thayer's Gull, Ross Beach, Galway (Photo: anon)

The female Black-throated Thrush at Newholm near Whitby (North Yorkshire) was still behaving impeccably to all interested parties to 8th at least, while over in Wales the juvenile Black Kite remained at Gigrin Farm feeding station (Powys) for another week, still present to 9th.

Black Kite
Black Kite, Gigrin Farm, Powys (Photo: Gary Thoburn)

A Little Auk seen in Aberdeenshire at Peterhead on 6th and a Balearic Shearwater off Newlyn (Cornwall) on 9th were the only seabirds of note this week.

It being February and still very much wintertime, there was little change in terms of our wintering herons, egrets and allies. The lone Glossy Ibis was again at Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) on 6th–9th, while the trio at Catcott Lows (Somerset) were still present to 10th. Just like Groundhog Day (almost), the inevitable Great White Egret remained at nearby Shapwick Heath, while the other seven or eight were all regulars from the past month or two, including two still at Pitsford Reservoir (Northamptonshire), a couple in Hampshire and one still roosting around Hendre Lake (Glamorgan) for much of the week. In Cornwall, five Cattle Egrets were still in a three-two split between Tresillian and Sennen. One was reported from a train near Southease (East Sussex) on 6th, while in Ireland at least one was around Cobh (Co. Cork).

Great White Egret
Great White Egret, Hendre Lake, Glamorgan (Photo: Keith Roylance)

Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret, Cobh, Cork (Photo: R McLaughlin)

It was also "as you were" with the main groups of Spoonbills this week: half a dozen in Devon, at least eight in Dorset, and Cornwall still held a group of seven on the snaky rivers in the southeast of the county, as well as four in the north of the county at Walmsley Sanctuary. In Wales, two were seen in Carmarthenshire (at the National Wetlands Centre) and an absolute minimum of two were in County Cork (more like four or five in actual fact). A Common Crane was seen flying north over Piddinghoe (East Sussex) on 5th, and a first-winter was seen again at Penhill Marsh (Devon) on 6th and near Braunton Burrows on 9th–10th. A flock of 10 were seen in the Norfolk Broads over the weekend and two were still at Eldernell (Cambridgeshire).

The inevitable quartet of Snow Geese were still in situ at Leighton Moss (Lancashire) this week, while the settled (for the moment) white adult was still on Holkham Freshmarsh (Norfolk) to 7th at least. In Forth, another white Snow Goose remained at Skinflats Lagoons from 5th–8th (a Snow Goose with feral Canada Geese in Highland may be of less promising origins). Across in Donegal, the "intermediate" Snow Goose (looking like the bird in Norfolk a couple of winters ago) was seen at Inch Island Lake on 5th (having moved from the Big Isle). At Loch Gruinart on Islay on 6th both a Richardson's Canada Goose and a Lesser Canada Goose were seen, while in Sligo the Richardson's Canada Goose (and its Todd's — or bigger — buddy) lingered at Ballintemple until 7th at least. Another medium-sized Canada Goose was in the north of Ireland this week, at Lisburn (Co. Down) associating with Whooper Swans, perhaps the bird seen in County Tyrone towards the end of January.

Snow Goose
Snow Goose, Inch Levels, Donegal (Photo: Derek Charles)

The adult Red-breasted Goose was still on the Exe Estuary (Devon) from 4th–6th at least, while the adult seen in Essex in the third week of January (on Wallasea Island) reappeared at Wakering Stairs on 7th.

Norfolk hosted a couple of Black Brants this week (one still at Wells, another at Snettisham) and on the other side of the Wash one was still on the Lincolnshire coast (at Frampton Marsh). Further up the coast, a Black Brant was at Spurn (East Yorkshire) on 10th. Singles were noted again in Dorset and West Sussex, with another at Aghada (along with a potential Gray-bellied Brant — Branta sp.?). Two birds were at Shellness (Kent) on 10th and, more interesting still, in the same flock, was the first-winter hybrid Red-breasted Goose × Dark-bellied Brent Goose.

A trio of "new" Green-winged Teal appeared this week: at Belvide Reservoir (Staffordshire) on 5th and Marshside (Lancashire) on 6th, at the National Wetlands Centre (Carmarthenshire) on 6th–7th (that apparently left but a hybrid was there afterwards — what's that about then?) and a pure drake was at Holme (Norfolk) on 8th. Singles were left in Hampshire, Leicestershire, Anglesey, Orkney, Clare and Donegal. The female Blue-winged Teal remained at Bull Island (Co. Dublin), while the drake American Wigeon in Lancashire moved to the Lune Estuary near Glasson from 7th. In Ireland the wintering drake was still on The Gearagh (Co. Cork).

Green-winged Teal
Green-winged Teal, Langstone Harbour, Hampshire (Photo: Richard Ford)

A distant drake Lesser Scaup was on Strathclyde Loch (Clyde) on 6th–7th, with other drakes remaining in Cornwall and Glamorgan, while the first-winter female lingered on La Grande Mare (Guernsey). Two of the week's three female Ring-necked Ducks were hangers-on from recent weeks, still at Whitlingham Lane, Norwich (Norfolk) and on North Ronaldsay (Outer Hebrides). Bird three, at Pencarreg Lake (Carmarthenshire), may have spent some of last week in Gloucestershire. Equally, of course, she could be a new arrival. In Cleveland, the drake Ring-necked Duck was again at Cowpen Bewley from 6th (after two weeks way), with a drake still in West Yorkshire (at Anglers CP and then Wintersett Reservoir). In Cork, a new drake was at Lee Reservoirs on 7th.

Wales seems to be the new Scotland in terms of attracting Surf Scoters: three drakes were found amongst an estimated 10,000 Common Scoters off Old Colwyn on 6th (with two still there the following day, moving back to Pensarn, some five miles away, on 9th–10th). The old favourite, the drake off Ruddon's Point (Fife), was seen on 5th and two drakes were again in the Sound of Taransay (Outer Hebrides) on 9th. The wintering female "Surfie" remained off Dawlish Warren (Devon) to 10th. In Moray, the drake King Eider was still all at sea off Burghead from 4th–9th at least. The two single Hooded Mergansers (in Dorset and Cleveland) were present and correct for another week.

The white Gyrfalcon was still in Argyll this week, seemingly enjoying its winter break on Islay, seen at Mull of Oa on 8th. In Norfolk, two Rough-legged Buzzards were still out on Chedgrave Marshes on 5th–7th, with singles noted nearby on Haddiscoe and Thorpe Marshes throughout the week. In Cambridgeshire the adult male was at Coveney to 8th, while one was reported in Suffolk, at Hen Reedbed, on 6th.

Rough-legged Buzzard
Rough-legged Buzzard, Chedgrave Marshes, Norfolk (Photo: Andrew Easton)

The first-winter Spotted Sandpiper was seen again on the Exe Estuary at Topsham (Devon) on 4th, while a probable Long-billed Dowitcher was reported from South Gare (Cleveland) on 7th.

In County Cork, the adult Bonaparte's Gull was still at Baltimore on 4th–5th. The rather average winter for white-winged gulls showed little sign of improving: only 17 Iceland Gulls and 22 Glaucous Gulls were recorded this week, with a couple of each (at least) for Staffordshire.

Iceland Gull
Iceland Gull, Ayr, Ayrshire (Photo: Chris Baines)

Three Caspian Gulls were at Albert village lake (Leicestershire) on 6th, with two each for London and Oxfordshire (out of a figure for the week of 17). A first-winter was again noted at Richmond Bank (Cheshire).

In Pembrokeshire, an adult Ring-billed Gull was back for its fourth February in a row at Llys-y-Fran Reservoir on 6th (it has actually been visiting for five years, but was only seen in the January of 2006). Elsewhere, Scotland scored two (at Oban and Strathclyde Loch) and England two (in Hampshire and Essex) while Ireland clocked up at least 14, with four or five in Cork, three together in Galway (at Nimmo's Pier — with another alongside the Thayer's Gull at Cleggan), and singles in Antrim, Wicklow, Kerry, Sligo, Mayo (a second-winter near Crossmolina) and Donegal. Back at Nimmo's, the adult Forster's Tern remained from 4th–8th at least.

Ring-billed Gull
Ring-billed Gull, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex (Photo: John Murray)

For the first time this winter, there were more than just a handful of Waxwings around (the weekly tally of just under 100 birds is certainly still slim pickings, but beggars can't be choosers and all that). Flocks of 15 in Shipley (West Yorkshire) on 4th and 20 in Brentwood (Essex) on 6th were perhaps hints of a late winter rush (big numbers have recently arrived in Sweden, and another spell of cold weather may just shove a few more our way).

Waxwing, Edinburgh, Lothian (Photo: Mike Thrower)

Wintering Great Grey Shrikes were still on offer at Bellever Tor (Devon), Alderman's Barrow (Somerset), Holmsley Inclosure (Hampshire), Ashdown Forest (East Sussex) and Chiselhampton (Oxfordshire), while a returning bird popped up at Clocaenog Forest (Clwyd) from 5th–7th. What was presumed to have been a second New Forest Great Grey Shrike was seen at Backley Bottom on 6th. On Shetland, the Black-bellied Dipper was still near Scalloway to 6th.

Great Grey Shrike
Great Grey Shrike, Chiselhampton, Oxfordshire (Photo: Stephen Burch)

A Penduline Tit at Grove Ferry was seen three times on 9th–10th, while in Cumbria the first-winter Rose-coloured Starling was still in Kendal this week (to 10th) and the Little Bunting at Dunnet Bay (Highland) remained to 10th.

Penduline Tit
Penduline Tit, Grove Ferry NNR, Kent (Photo: Marc Heath)

Rose-coloured Starling
Rose-coloured Starling, Kendal, Cumbria (Photo: Tristan Reid)

Photo of the Week

Rough-legged Buzzard
Rough-legged Buzzard, Germany (Photo: Thomas Krumenacker)

Using a dead deer as bait, German bird photographer Thomas Krumenacker managed to attract a selection of raptors and corvids to a snowy setting, enabling him to capture a strong collection of images. The most interesting of these images show buzzards fighting over food and our pick of these freezes the action as a Common Buzzard and a Rough-legged Buzzard clash in mid-air. With outstretched wings and talons, the two birds are caught only inches apart in crisp winter sunlight. The composition is strengthened by a strong line running from one bird's eye to to the other bird's eye and back to the first bird's talons, providing a dynamic link between the two subjects.

Goosander, undisclosed site, Gwynedd (Photo: Matt Latham)

Sparrowhawk, Wroxham Broad, Norfolk (Photo: Kevin Du Rose)

Starling, Ham Wall RSPB, Somerset & Bristol (Photo: Sean Browne)

Steppe Eagle
Steppe Eagle, India (Photo: Mital Patel)

Wood Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper, India (Photo: Mital Patel)

Purple Sandpiper
Purple Sandpiper, Sandbanks, Dorset (Photo: Nigel Forrow)

Ringed Plover
Ringed Plover, Westport, Argyll (Photo: Jimmy MacDonald.)

Great Crested Grebe
Great Crested Grebe, Pitsford Reservoir, Northamptonshire (Photo: Douglas McFarlane)

Water Pipit
Water Pipit, Staines Moor, Surrey (Photo: anon)

Fieldfare, undisclosed site, Warwickshire (Photo: Tom Melton)

Carrion Crow
Carrion Crow, West Kirby, Cheshire (Photo: Steve Round)

Lesser Redpoll
Lesser Redpoll, Roslin, Lothian (Photo: Mike Thrower)

Red-legged Partridge
Red-legged Partridge, Fressingfield, Suffolk (Photo: Jon Evans)

Black Redstart
Black Redstart, Fort le Crocq, Guernsey (Photo: Steve Levrier)

Long-tailed Tit
Long-tailed Tit, Warrington, Cheshire (Photo: Neill Carden)

Squacco Heron
Squacco Heron, Turkey (Asian) (Photo: Mustafa Sozen)

Plum-headed Parakeet
Plum-headed Parakeet, India (Photo: Dileep Kumar)

Sri Lanka Frogmouth
Sri Lanka Frogmouth, India (Photo: Tony Mills)

Written by: Mark Golley