Review of the Week: 5th-11th March 2009


The week at a glance

The past week has been something of a mixed bag weatherwise: bright sunny days, mild and nearly warm, contrasted with those that showed dramatic deep lead-grey skies, thunder, sleet and hail, backed with brisk winds from the west. Summer migrants still managed to drift onto our shores and there were still some very decent birds on offer in a controversy-free week.

The stunning first-winter Ivory Gull continued to perform wonderfully well in the harbour at Baltimore (Co. Cork) to 8th at least and allowed many Irish birders and photographers too the chance to marvel at a terrific bird, often at very close quarters. Sadly the same couldn't be said for the "probable" Alpine Accentor reported near Dartmouth (Devon) on 27th February by a non-birder. If any evidence emerges to deem the record "acceptable", this would become the earliest spring record on the books (there are historical winter records for December and January). Nearly five years have passed since the last Alpine Accentor in the UK, the cliff-top bird near Overstrand (Norfolk) in April 2004 being the last chance for those of a listing persuasion to see the species in the UK.

Ivory Gull
Ivory Gull, Baltimore, Cork (Photo: Derek Charles)

A White-billed Diver was seen offshore of Inch Kenneth (Argyll) on 7th, and followed on from a "probable" seen in Spey Bay (Moray) on 6th. A pale-phase Pomarine Skua was seen off Aldeburgh (Suffolk) on 7th and a storm-driven Grey Phalarope arrived at King George V Reservoir (Surrey) on 6th, remaining to 8th at least.

Grey Phalarope
Grey Phalarope, King George V Reservoir (Permit Only), London (Photo: Roy Woodward)

The Celts were dominant in terms of the week's Cattle Egrets once again. In Ireland, County Cork rattled in nine birds at Clogheen Marsh on 7th, with further birds on the same date including four at Timoleague and one at Rossleague. The following day saw seven birds again at White's Marsh and five were at Clonakilty. Elsewhere in the Republic, a single Cattle Egret was at Rosslare (Co. Wexford) and four remained at Ballycrompane (Co. Waterford). In Cornwall, eight birds were still present around the Hayle Estuary on 7th and four were around Brew Pool, Sennen on 6th–7th. Over on St. Mary's, the lone Cattle Egret lingered near the dump throughout the week. Up to ten birds were seen around Devon in the week: the usual three were on the Exe Estuary at Powderham, and three were still around the Kingsbridge Estuary for much of the week, although four birds were present on 9th. One or two Cattle Egrets were seen around Otterton on 7th and the bird in north Devon, along the Tarka Trail near Yelland, was still present to 8th. In Dorset, a lone bird was seen near Wareham on 7th and in Wiltshire, last week's bird at Seend Cleeve was present to 11th (with another in the county, at Ashton Keynes, on 10th). On the Isle of Wight, the Cattle Egret at Puckpool Point was present at the start of the week and out on the Isle of Man, one was seen again near Ballagawne on 5th. Further singles lingered in Pembrokeshire and Norfolk while, from 9th–11th, Suffolk birders enjoyed their first Cattle Egret for over 18 months when one appeared near Nayland End Wood, at Bures (close to the Essex border) — this proved to be the bird seen at Strumpshaw until 7th.

Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret, Seend Cleeve, Wilts (Photo: Graham Cox)

One or two Great White Egrets continued to move around the Cambridgeshire washes this week, one popping in to roost at Roswell Pits on 7th. In Somerset, one remained around the Levels this week, while another bird set for a long stay was the bird in Suffolk, seen again at North Warren on 7th–9th. A Great White Egret was seen over The Brooks (East Sussex) on 6th but the pick of records for the species this week was the bird seen at Gilmourton (Clyde) late on 4th, still present on 5th and in place to 11th — it transpired that the bird had been present since the third week of February. Devon and Dorset, as is often the case, lay claim to the bulk of the week's Spoonbills. At least four (probably still half a dozen) were still around Isley Marsh and the Taw Estuary to the middle of the week, while in Dorset, at Middlebere, five birds were noted in the channel there on 7th and one remained at Lodmoor. Further singles were seen at Wacker Quay (Cornwall), the National Wetlands Centre (Carmarthenshire) and Cromane (Co. Kerry). It was another very quiet week for Common Cranes, although up to 17 were seen in the Norfolk Broads on 11th. Two Cranes were still at Lakenheath (Suffolk) throughout the week. A White Stork was noted on top of a cricket pavilion in Didsbury (Lancashire) on 11th; the usual "of unknown origin" caveat applies.

Great White Egret
Great White Egret, Gilmourton, Clyde (Photo: Ron McCombe)

Great White Egret
Great White Egret, Gilmourton, Clyde (Photo: Lang Stewart)

The adult Red-breasted Goose at West Wittering and East Head (West Sussex) still hasn't made a move for the continent and was still present to 8th at least. The Taverner's Canada Goose was seen at Idlesteps, just south of Dumfries, on 7th. A "Lesser" Canada Goose — a small race bird — was seen at Kenovay, Tiree (Argyll), also on 7th. The potentially fascinating flock of upwards of 25 Snow Geese seen last week flying over Rye Harbour seemed to lose their appeal with each sighting. After Rye, they popped up in Kent, at Dungeness, and then Scotney GPs, and then fell off the radar all together. Rather more likely vagrant contenders were still at Craobh Haven (Argyll) and at Fail Loch and Tarbolton (Ayrshire) during the week. A couple of Black Brants lingered along the north Norfolk coast this week (at Wells and Titchwell) with further singles along the Exe Estuary (Devon), at Farlington Marshes (Hampshire) and on the North Slob (Co. Wexford).

Red-breasted Goose
Red-breasted Goose, West Wittering, W Sussex (Photo: David Campbell)

Black Brant
Black Brant, Titchwell RSPB, Norfolk (Photo: Eric Yeomans)

We were back down to just the two Lesser Scaup this week (the week that celebrates the 22nd anniversary of the first record of the species, at Chasewater from 8th March 1987). The adult drake was still at Holme Pierrepont (Nottinghamshire) throughout the week and the first-winter drake was still around Cardiff Bay (Glamorgan) to 11th. The first-winter drake Ring-necked Duck at Frithend Sand Pits (Hampshire) was, for much of the week, the only British record of the species, present to 7th at least. Single females were still on Martnaham Loch (Ayrshire) and North Ronaldsay (Orkney), both on 9th, and the male Ring-necked Duck was seen again on Loch an Eilein, Tiree (Argyll) on the same date. In Ireland, a drake, then a duck, were noted on Lough Bo (Co. Sligo) off and on throughout the week. Elsewhere in Sligo, a female was at Lough Arrow to 10th and a female was again seen on The Gearagh (Co. Cork) on 7th. In Donegal, a hybrid drake Ring-necked x Tufted Duck was seen at Lough Fern on 5th. A drake Ferruginous Duck was present at Staines Reservoirs (Surrey) from 5th–7th.

Ring-necked Duck
Ring-necked Duck, Frithend Sand Pit, Hants (Photo: David Campbell)

Five of the week's nine Green-winged Teal were "review regulars" — two in Scotland (in Ayrshire and Forth) and three in England (in Leicestershire, East Yorkshire and Northumberland) — but three were noted at new sites. One was seen at Greenabella Marsh (Cleveland) on 7th and on 8th single drakes were at Netherfield Lagoons (Nottinghamshire) and Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) — the latter bird may have been around a while of course: one was there on 25th January. The first-winter drake American Wigeon was still at Slimbridge (Gloucestershire) to 8th at least and the adult drake was still at Carnan, South Uist (Outer Hebrides) to 9th. A new drake was seen at Mill Sand, Mainland (Orkney) on 10th and then at Loch of Tankerness the following day (with a Green-winged Teal for good measure) and a female was found at Inchiquin (Co. Galway) on the same date. In Cornwall, at Windmill Farm NR (Cornwall) a hybrid drake American Wigeon x Eurasian Wigeon was seen on 8th, and may well scupper the recent (very intermittent) records from the site.

Surf Scoters this week were represented by the same two that have flown the flag for weeks now: a drake remained off Ruddon's Point (Fife) and the female remained off Dawlish Warren (Devon) all week. That said, the female at Hough Bay on Tiree popped up again on 10th. The usual three King Eiders were still up for grabs this week as well: the second-winter male at Kincraig Point (Fife) was present for much of the week while the pair in Drumcliffe Bay, Lissadell (Co. Sligo) remained to 10th at least. Inevitably, the drake Hooded Merganser at Radipole Lake (Dorset) was still present to 8th at least.

King Eider
King Eider, Kincraig Point, Fife (Photo: Mike Thrower)

Hooded Merganser
Hooded Merganser, Radipole Lake RSPB, Dorset (Photo: Chris Cook)

A magnificent young white Gyrfalcon was seen on St. Mary's (Scilly) on 5th, where it polished off an unfortunate farmyard duck before heading off around the Garrison. The bird was then seen on Tresco on 6th and Bryher on 7th and it is tempting to suggest that this may well be a new bird to the islands — this is a great time of year for the species to move and it has been two months since the last report around the islands (that bird may well have ended up in Pembrokeshire). A white Gyr was seen over Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway) on 8th (what a change that makes from the gulls) and in the "possibles/probables" category are birds seen at Treen (Cornwall) and Cromer (Norfolk), both on 7th. There have been at least four reports of Gyrs (or potential Gyrs) in Norfolk in the past three weeks, grey ones as well as white — what's that all about?!? Back in Cornwall, on 10th, a probable white Gyrfalcon was seen near Pentire Steps and was reported to have been present for several days, with the fourth potential Gyr of the week appearing near Newgale (Pembrokeshire), also on 10th.

A released juvenile White-tailed Eagle was still at large in Aberdeenshire this week, seen at Loch of Strathbeg to 9th at least, and one seen over Lough Atedaun (Co. Clare) on 9th was a tagged bird from the reintroduction scheme underway in County Kerry. Two Rough-legged Buzzards remained around the Wolferton/Dersingham/Snettisham/North Wootton areas of west Norfolk to 8th at least, and further Norfolk records included one reported near Hunworth on 5th, with another on the marshes at Haddiscoe on 9th. Back to 5th and single Rough-legged Buzzards were reported from Stocks Reservoir and the Forest of Bowland (Lancashire), the Isle of Sheppey (Kent) and Brownberry Plantation (Co. Durham). The second-winter male at Combe Hill on the Berkshire/Hampshire border was seen to 8th at least, and on 11th two Rough-legs were seen together at Newbiggin Common (Co. Durham). Rather more surprising was the Black Kite reported near Melton Mowbray (Leicestershire) on 11th — an early migrant or a wintering bird?

Rough-legged Buzzard
Rough-legged Buzzard, Newbiggin Common, Durham (Photo: Mark Newsome)

An adult Bonaparte's Gull was a neat find in Cardiff (Glamorgan) on 8th, the third adult seen in the area since 2004, and the bird continue to pop up on 9th–11th. The much-discussed possible second-winter American Herring Gull was seen again at Seaforth Docks (Lancashire) on 5th and was followed by the reappearance of the first-winter on the Otter Estuary (Devon) on 6th–7th and again on 9th. A new first-winter American Herring Gull was found at Castletown Bearhaven (Co. Cork) on 8th and the adult was at Nimmo's Pier from time to time to the week's end.

Bonaparte's Gull
Bonaparte's Gull, Cardiff Bay, Glamorgan (Photo: stevehinton)

American Herring Gull
American Herring Gull, Nimmo's Pier, Galway (Photo: Tom Cuffe)

It was a poor week for Caspian Gulls, with around eight birds noted. In Kent, Dungeness scored at least two, while in Essex the tip at Pitsea did likewise. Another Essex bird, a first-winter, was seen at Mistley on 8th, with further first-winters appearing in the roost at Stewartby Lake (Bedfordshire) on 6th, at Rainham Marshes (London) on 9th and on Draycote Water (Warwickshire) on 10th.

Caspian Gull
Caspian Gull, Mistley, Essex (Photo: Sean Nixon)

Iceland Gulls continued to impress with the numbers present across the UK and Ireland: at least 100 birds in Britain and around 80 in Ireland this week. The Irish tally included eight birds at Nimmo's Pier on 11th, nine in Dingle (Co. Kerry) on 8th, 10 at Castletown Bearhaven in Cork and 11 at Reenard Point (Co. Kerry) on 7th, with 11 at Rossaveal (Co. Galway) on 11th. However the week's highest count was of 12 at the Shetland Catch factory, near Lerwick, also on 7th. Four birds at Swillington Ings (West Yorkshire) on 10th were also of note. Following probable Kumlien's Gulls in West Yorkshire and Devon, confirmed birds this week were single juveniles on Scilly, at Rossaveal and Castletown Bearhaven, single second-winters at Shetland Catch on 7th and Shawell (Leicestershire) on 10th–11th, third-winters at Clifden (Co. Galway) and Reenard Point (Co. Kerry) and an adult seen in the roost at Stewartby Lake (Bedfordshire) on 8th. Two birds (a second-winter and third-winter) were still at Nimmo's Pier to 7th.

Iceland Gull
Iceland Gull, Castletown Bearhaven, Cork (Photo: Josh Jones)

Kumlien's Gull
Kumlien's Gull, Castletown Bearhaven, Cork (Photo: Richard Bonser)

Numbers of Glaucous Gulls peaked at around 90–95 birds this week, with at least 16 still on the Gualan spit, South Uist (Outer Hebrides) on 5th and 9th. On 9th, perhaps as many as 29 birds were seen around South Uist, while the previous day had seen a confirmed 23 around the island group, a figure which included seven at Aird an Runair on North Uist. Up to seven birds were also on Orkney this week, while in Ireland, Castletown Bearhaven managed seven on 7th and five were seen at Ferriter's Cove (Co. Kerry) on 8th.

Glaucous Gull
Glaucous Gull, Newlyn, Cornwall (Photo: Shaun Boyns)

As with Cattle Egrets, it was Ireland that was dominant where Ring-billed Gull was concerned this week. At least 23 birds were seen during the week, with four adults at Cuskinny Marsh on 8th and four further adults at Sandymount (Co. Dublin) on 11th the largest groups noted. Cork boasted at least eight birds in all, including a first-winter at Bantry on 7th. Three birds were in County Kerry, including two at Blennerville, and an adult and first-winter were seen in Antrim on 8th–9th. A new first-winter was on Bull Island (Co. Dublin) on 6th–7th. Singles were also in Galway, Sligo, Limerick and Wicklow. At least eight birds were seen in Britain this week, including the second-winter bird again at Ferryside (Carmarthenshire) and notable adults again at Strathclyde Loch (Clyde), Seaforth, Moore (Cheshire) and Lytchett Bay (Dorset). One was reported from Brightlingsea (Essex) on 10th.

Ring-billed Gull
Ring-billed Gull, Bantry, Cork (Photo: Josh Jones)

Ring-billed Gull
Ring-billed Gull, Cobh, Cork (Photo: Ronan McLaughlin)

The adult Forster's Tern was again off the beach near Nimmo's Pier on 5th, but one tern in Ireland this week was much more surprising: a Caspian Tern seen off Duncannon Harbour (Co. Wexford) on 10th which comfortably becomes the earliest ever seen in Ireland (and beats the earliest British record by three weeks). If accepted, this will be the first for the county, the first since a juvenile at Black Rock Strand (Co. Kerry) in August 2001, and only the ninth Caspian Tern ever seen in the Republic (Cork leads with four sightings of five birds, with singles in Kerry, Donegal and Westmeath).

The Cornish male Snowy Owl was still around the moors at Zennor until 9th at least. Where will he turn up when he starts to head north? In Norfolk, those who failed to see the hotly debated "is it or isn't it" (out of a cage) Siberian Thrush could still enjoy the indisputably wild Black-bellied Dipper along the River Glaven, the bird spending the week near the ford in Hunworth village.

Black-bellied Dipper
Black-bellied Dipper, Letheringsett, Norfolk (Photo: john Spraggett)

Norfolk also held three of the week's 20 Great Grey Shrikes (at Roydon, Dersingham and Briston). There were two birds in the Clocaenog Forest (Denbighshire) on 7th and there were two birds noted this week in Gloucestershire, Northumberland and Hampshire. Late news from last week concerns a Richard's Pipit reported on 2nd–3rd at Hickling Broad (Norfolk). On Shetland, the country's only wintering Shore Lark was still at Lamba Ness, Unst on 10th.

Great Grey Shrike
Great Grey Shrike, Hamsterley Forest, Durham (Photo: Mark Newsome)

Great Grey Shrike
Great Grey Shrike, Bircher Common, Herefordshire (Photo: Jim Almond)

Waxwings remained reasonably well spread out around the UK and Ireland this week, but just two groups of three figures was noted: 100+ seen at Finglas (Co. Dublin) on 5th and 130+ in Kirkby-in-Ashfield (Nottinghamshire) on 9th.

Waxwing, Castleford, W Yorks (Photo: Joseph Seymour)

Siberian Chiffchaffs this week included one still at Holes Bay (Dorset) and one still at Endon (Staffordshire). First two, then four Penduline Tits were found in the reedbeds at Ingrebourne Valley (London) on 8th, but there was no sign after mid-morning, the birds presumably moving through. How long before they find Rainham Marshes? In Devon, at Clennon Valley, the male Penduline Tit was seen again on 11th.

Photo of the Week

Common Kestrel
Common Kestrel, Tenbury Wells, Worcs (Photo: Mark Hancox)

Earlier this year, we received our first photos showing the apparently widespread practice of Kestrels stealing prey from Barn Owls. This week, Mark Hancox has uploaded further images of this behaviour. In fact, with three mice being taken from a single Barn Owl in one afternoon, this represents yet one more problem facing our beleaguered Barn Owls. Our selected PotW image shows a classic scene for a Barn Owl photo, with the setting sun illuminating the hunting bird as it flies low over a meadow carrying its prey. In this case, though, there is the added element of the pursuing Kestrel, with both birds beautifully emphasised by the strong backlighting.

Black-tailed Godwit
Black-tailed Godwit, Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk (Photo: Jon Evans)

Waxwing, Gillingham, Kent (Photo: Steve Ashton)

Pheasant, Hanbury, Worcs (Photo: Mark Hancox)

Golden Eagle
Golden Eagle, Norway (Photo: James Wood)

Lapwing, Cley Marshes NWT, Norfolk (Photo: Richard Bedford)

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

Water Rail
Water Rail, Conwy RSPB, Conwy (Photo: Steve Round)

Great Spotted Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker, Over Haddon, Derbys (Photo: Robert Askew)

Red Grouse
Red Grouse, Grinton, N Yorks (Photo: Gordon Speirs)

Siskin, Chamber's Farm Wood NR, Lincs (Photo: Dean Eades)

Red-rumped Wheatear
Red-rumped Wheatear, Morocco (Photo: Rudi Debruyne)

Dipper, Lathkill Dale NNR, Derbys (Photo: Gordon Speirs)

Written by: Mark Golley