Review of the Week: 5-11 February 2024


It was a quieter week for much of the country, though spring doesn't feel too far away … a male Northern Wheatear in Shropshire on 6th was on the early side, though coincided with strong southerly winds and an arrival of Saharan dust. In Kent, a Sand Martin was reported on 10th.

Cornwall's Sociable Lapwing seemingly did a Friday night bunk after putting in regular appearances throughout the week. That said, you'd think there's a fair chance the bird will reappear, potentially at a different site – the last bird moved to Somerset, so it's well worth double checking your Northern Lapwing flocks.

Sociable Lapwing (left) with Northern Lapwings, Ruan Lanihorne, Cornwall (Ian Bollen).

Staying in the South-West and the drake Baikal Teal continued to perform at Greylake RSPB, Somerset, throughout the week and was showing very well at times.

Baikal Teal, Greylake RSPB, Somerset & Bristol (Ian Curran).

A potential new addition to the cast of Nearctic vagrants came in the form of an apparent Holboell's Red-necked Grebe in Shetland. The bird has been offering some decent views in Quendale Bay, since its discovery on 5th. Unfortunately, the record won't be accepted unless measurements are taken, though the bird's appearance is certainly suggestive of this larger subspecies. The bird's larger, thickset bill, which is reminiscent of a Great Crested Grebe in some postures, is the main tell-tale sign, and the solid, dusky cheek patch is also interesting. Perhaps more promising for submission, however, is the relative length of tarsus to bill, which also appear to be similar in length and therefore a better fit for holboellii, although taking conclusive footage of this isn't easy …

Apparent Holboell's Red-necked Grebe, Quendale, Mainland, Shetland (Rebecca Nason).

Apparent Holboell's Red-necked Grebe, Quendale, Mainland, Shetland (Hugh Harrop).

In Essex, Abberton Reservoir's flock of Lesser Scaup was confirmed at five. It's feasible that the drake consorting with three Greater Scaup on the Exe Estuary, Devon, this week is the Pembrokeshire flock relocating. Four other sites reported Lesser Scaup. Norfolk's pair of Ferruginous Duck remained at Filby Broad, and the long-staying female in Cambridgeshire was reported from Fen Drayton RSPB again.

Two White-winged Scoter continued to be reported in Ireland. The adult drake was still off Inch, Co Kerry, on 5th and the showy first-winter female remained at Inishmore, Co Galway. Norfolk's Black Scoter was reported again on 10th after a short absence, although sea state and distance hamper search efforts here. Eight Surf Scoter were reported across Britain and Ireland. A fine drake King Eider off Joppa, Lothian, from 5th is presumably the third-winter drake off Port Seton earlier this year.

It was a decent showing for Green-winged Teal, with birds reported from 30 sites this week – 12 of which were new. This species offers a good excuse to sift through any local Eurasian Teal flocks, especially given the numbers about at the moment. Also worth mentioning, Green-winged × Eurasian Teal hybrids were reported in Co Cork and Cornwall.

Green-winged Teal (front bird) with Eurasian Teal, Grafham Water, Cambridgeshire (Neil Woodford).

A minimum of 30 Ring-necked Duck continue to be reported, most from westerly localities. Pick of the bunch was a tame first-winter drake in St Helen's, Lancashire. Five American Wigeon were recorded, including a new drake at Wet Moor, Somerset, on 10th only. Smew were reported from 33 sites.

Ring-necked Duck, St Helens, Lancashire (Craig Bell).

It continues to be a good winter for Red-breasted Geese, with another new adult unearthed among Dark-bellied Brent Geese in Hampshire. Two birds remained in Norfolk, as did adults in both Argyll and Northumberland. Two Snow Geese remained in Scotland. Only three Black Brant were on offer, with lingering birds in East Yorkshire and Essex, plus a new bird in Co Wexford. 

Red-breasted Goose, Keyhaven Marshes, Hampshire (Lee Fuller).

The unringed White Stork remained in environs of Smithy Fen, Cambridgeshire, and Glossy Ibis were noted at no fewer than 15 sites. 

White Stork, Smithy Fen, Cambridgeshire (Neil Woodford).

The long-staying adult Double-crested Cormorant remained at Doon Lough, Co Leitrim. Five White-billed Divers included the juvenile again off Southend-on-Sea, Essex, from 7-10th and an adult off Ruddons Point, Fife, on 11th.

A new Long-billed Dowitcher at Breydon Water RSPB, Norfolk, presumably relates to the Suffolk bird on the move, while the first-winter remained in East Sussex. Somerset's Kentish Plover was reported on all but one day again this week. Both overwintering Lesser Yellowlegs were reported again this week, with the Frampton Marsh RSPB bird continuing to draw in plenty of admirers. Scotland hosted two Grey Phalaropes.

The first-winter Azores Gull was noted at St Clement's Island, Cornwall, on two dates. It's been an incredibly slow winter for Ring-billed Gulls, so two new first-winters, in Glamorgan and Co Kerry, were most welcome. Otherwise, lingering adults at Hayle Estuary, Cornwall, and Strathclyde Loch, Clyde, proved most popular. It's also been a particularly lean season for white-winged gulls. Only 23 sites reported Glaucous Gulls, with no count higher than two. Iceland Gulls faired a little better, but 32 sites is still poor in the grand scheme of things. Six sites logged Kumlien's Gulls.

Kumlien's Gull, Tralee, Kerry (Brian Power).

The three overwintering Pallid Harriers were all reported from their usual haunts, with another new juvenile at Kilnsea, East Yorkshire, on 11th. Both Rough-legged Buzzards remained around Rosedale Moor, North Yorkshire, and another was reported near Halkirk, Caithness, on 7th.

Pallid Harrier, Castlemartin, Pembrokeshire (David Ord).

Just three Great Grey Shrikes made the newspage this week, with lingering birds in Derbyshire, Moray and Nairn, and Nottinghamshire. 

An apparent first-winter Black-bellied Dipper was photographed in a housing estate in Cramlington, Northumberland, on 11th. Shetland's wintering bird was still present on 8th.

The overwintering adult Richard's Pipit remained at Awre, Gloucestershire. Waxwings may be on their way out, but 304 reports for the week is still a respectable total. 

Nine sites hosted Shore Larks, including a surprise inland find near High Bradfield, South Yorkshire, on 10th. One at Fowlsheugh RSPB, Aberdeenshire, from 11th was another decent record. A single Little Bunting remained just outside of Godmersham, Kent. 

Little Bunting (right) with Reed Bunting, Godmersham, Kent (Jonathan Dodds).

Western Palearctic 

A dead Allen's Gallinule found in Groningen on 5th represents the first record for the Netherlands. Another was taken into care on Gran Canaria during the week.

In France, the second-winter Forster's Tern was reported again. A new drake Baikal Teal was found in Denmark, and the country's juvenile female Northern Harrier was relocated. The pair of Ross's Geese remained in Belgium and Iceland's eighth American Robin continued at Keflavík throughout the week.

In Cape Verde, Black-capped Petrels continued to prove reliable, with daily sightings past Santo Antão from 5-7th.

Written by: Dan Owen

Dan Owen is a Cheshire-based birder with a keen interest in ringing and wildfowl. He works for the BirdGuides news team. Follow him on Twitter: @_danielowen