Review of the Week: 5th-11th February 2004

House Martin: Over 40 were noted during an exceptional arrival. (Photo: Marcus Ward)

The event of the week was an exceptional arrival of House Martins and other migrants to south-coast counties. The first House Martin was on the Isle of Wight on Monday 2nd, then no more until Saturday 7th when 5 more were on the Isle okellf Wight, 4 in Kent and singles in Dorset and West Sussex. Throughout the rest of the week just over 40 birds were noted in counties bordering the Channel, the majority between the Isle of Wight and Kent. These included 9 over Sheffield Forest (E. Sussex) on Saturday 8th and up to 6 at Bembridge (Isle of Wight), some of which were noted to visit an old nest site. A Red-rumped Swallow at Kennock Sands and Church Cove (Cornwall) on Sunday 8th was relocated at Coverack (Cornwall) from Tuesday 10th and still present on 11th, easily becoming the earliest ever British record (previously a bird on St. Mary's (Scilly) from 15th-16th February 1998, one of 5 birds that year between 15th February and 1st March). Other very early migrants included a Yellow Wagtail at Minster (Kent) and a Sand Martin at Rye (E. Sussex) on Saturday 7th and Wheatears at Ferring (W. Sussex) on Monday 9th and Exminster Marshes (Devon) on Tuesday 10th. At least 4 Swallows were reported and a Serin was in Southampton (Hants) on Tuesday 10th. In addition, a Cattle Egret at La Ramee (Guernsey) from Friday 6th onwards was presumably associated with this arrival as were good numbers of Painted Lady butterflies along the south coast.

It seems likely that these birds got caught up in the warm airflow coming from western North Africa, and were then carried through high pressure systems stretching from North Africa to northwest Europe before being impeded by a front located over the southern counties of England at the time. Western populations of House Martins are thought to winter in countries bordering the Bight of Benin, but there is still much to be learnt about the wintering areas of these familiar summer birds.

Cattle Egret: La Ramee, Guernsey. This was the 2nd for the island, the previous as long ago as 1964 when 3 were seen in December. (Photo: Mark Lawlor) Great White Egret: Mockbeggar Lakes, Hants. This bird would appear to be in no hurry to find pastures new! (Photo: Keith Simpson)

American Herring Gull: Nimmo's Pier, Galway. 1st-winter continues to give good views. (Photo: Paul and Andrea Kelly) Forster's Tern: Wexford, Co. Wexford. This bird from January is presumably the same bird seen at Rosslare. (Photo: Paul and Andrea Kelly)

On North Uist (Outer Hebrides) a Snowy Owl was located on Kirkibost Island on Monday 9th and was still present on 11th. It would appear that this is a different bird to the individual last summer as it has different plumage features. The bird from last summer was last seen on 16th December 2003. An adult Forster's Tern was at Strangford Lough (Co. Down) on Sunday 8th and Monday 9th, with one again seen in Co. Wexford, at Rosslare, on Sunday 8th and the long-staying bird still at Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway). Also in Ireland the adult Bonaparte's Gull was present at Cobh (Co. Cork) throughout the week as was the 1st-winter American Herring Gull at Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway).

Little Bunting: Newborough Warren, Anglesey. (Photo: Steve Round)

Little Bunting: Newborough Warren, Anglesey. (Photo: Sue Tranter) Little Bunting: Newborough Warren, Anglesey. (Photo: Sue Tranter)

On Anglesey the tail-less Little Bunting at Newborough Warren continues to perform well, as do the Northern Long-tailed Tits in E. Sussex and Suffolk. The Pallas's Warbler was seen again in Dover (Kent) on Wednesday 11th and the Hume's Warbler remains at Hook Head (Co. Wexford) as does the bird at Fairlop Waters (London), though just one Yellow-browed Warbler was reported during the week. The Dusky Warbler continues its residence at Paignton (Devon) as does the Penduline Tit in the same county and the Richard's Pipit in Glamorgan. The American Robin is still present in Grimsby (Lincs) and Rose-coloured Starlings were still in Cornwall and Scilly.

American Coot: South Uist, Outer Hebrides. (Photo: Martin Scott) Redhead: Barra, Outer Hebrides. (Photo: Martin Scott)

American Wigeon: Stanwick GPs, Northants. (Photo: Alan Clewes) Ferruginous Duck: Martin Mere, Lancs. (Photo: Sue Tranter)

A drake King Eider was on Unst (Shetland) on Thursday 5th, where the female remains and a 1st-winter drake is still at Laxfirth (Shetland). Long-staying 'megas' include the Redhead on Barra (Outer Hebrides) as well as the American Coots on Shetland and Outer Hebrides. The White-billed Diver was again off Kirkabister (Shetland) and gull enthusiasts had 5 Kumlien's Gulls, over 35 Iceland Gulls and similar numbers of Glaucous Gulls to tempt them into the field. A small number of Little Auks were noted (16), 6 of which were seen off St. Mary's (Scilly). Rare ducks were reduced in number this week, with 3 Lesser Scaup, one Ring-necked Duck, 3 Ferruginous Ducks, 3 Surf Scoters, 7 American Wigeon and 7 Green-winged Teals comprising a poor tally.

Little Auk: West Kirby, Cheshire. Small numbers were noted during the week. (Photo: Steve Round) Shore Lark: Severn Beach, Gloucs. A good find for the 'local patch'. (Photo: Paul Bowerman)
Written by: Russell Slack