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


The week at a glance

This was an early November week that just drifted by. There were lots of good birds, but it all felt a little bit...over. The weather was a raggle-taggle mixture of sunshine and showers with occasionally longer spells of rain in some places on the west coast and temperatures well below freezing in Highland glens. There were no avian fireworks to herald the passing of another Guy Fawkes' night either: the words "damp" and "squib" were used more and more frequently, the hopes of one last autumn mega beginning to fade away like a wet, soggy Catherine Wheel.

All that said, it could have been so different if the presumed Taiga Flycatcher seen at Tregeseal near St. Just (Cornwall) had stayed long enough to have its identity proven beyond doubt. The bird was seen on the afternoon of 6th; the news filtered out the following day but sadly there was no sign of the bird in question. The two photos published so far certainly make it look like a tremendous contender — no call was heard, but the bird just looks like one! A mainland Taiga Flycatcher would certainly be well received — that April male at Flamborough seems like a long time ago...

The first-winter Brown Shrike on Staines Moor (Surrey) managed to make it through another weekend and on to 11th. This obliging individual, undoubtedly one of the most popular birds of the autumn, has now clocked up a 32-day stay so far: is over-wintering now a real possibility? Not far behind in the popularity stakes (and the over-wintering ideas) is the Zitting Cisticola at Pegwell Bay (Kent), still showing well from time to time until 11th. It seems as though it is destined to linger for some while to come too. Over in County Clare, the American Buff-bellied Pipit is now into its second month of residence at Clahane; it was still present on 5th, having appeared on 1st October but gone unreported since 21st.

Brown Shrike
Brown Shrike, Staines Moor, Surrey (Photo: Jason Kenny)

Zitting Cisticola
Zitting Cisticola, Pegwell Bay, Kent (Photo: Steve Ray)

There was, though, one bird that outshone all others in Ireland this week: the long-awaited first Red-flanked Bluetail that appeared on Dursey Island (Co. Cork) on the afternoon of 10th. Four lucky observers saw the bird on the day (and, interestingly, it was ringed — a Yorkshire or Durham ring perhaps, or one from a little further afield: vagrant Bluetails have been ringed in Lithuania and the Netherlands this autumn. With around 70 now recorded in the British Isles (numbers have soared in the past 10 to 15 years, of course), it has taken what seems like an age for Ireland to register its first one — now it's here, will the floodgates open?

What may have been a White-billed Diver flew west past Dungeness (Kent) on 7th, and a possible spent a couple of days (7th–8th) off Spurn (East Yorkshire) but couldn't be firmed up. Something of a surprise was the Great Shearwater reported off Minnis Bay (Kent) on 9th, less so the 14 Balearic Shearwaters that flew past St. Ives Island (Cornwall) on 5th. Another seven were noted around the Duchy's coastline throughout the rest of the week. A handful of Pomarine Skuas were noted during the week, only in ones and two though. Two Grey Phalaropes were seen in Cornwall, off St. Ives and Poltesco (on 5th and 8th respectively). Further Grey Phalaropes followed on 9th, in Lyme Bay (Dorset) and at Cley Marshes (Norfolk) — two birds reported there — and one was seen off Spurn (East Yorkshire) on 10th.

Little Auks were again in very short supply this week — no wonder given the lack of those classic northerly raging gales — with around 45 birds recorded. At least a dozen were counted off Rumps Point (Cornwall) on 8th (easily the highest tally of the autumn so far), six were seen in the Pentland Firth (Highland) on 10th, and the rest were seen mainly of the coasts of Suffolk and Norfolk (although four were seen at Spurn on 9th, along with two off the Pembrokeshire coast and another in Galway). The popular (and very photogenic) juvenile Sabine's Gull lingered around North Shields and South Shields (Northumberland and Co. Durham) until 9th at least, and another Northumberland juvenile was seen at Low-Newton-by-the-Sea on 8th. In Cornwall, two juveniles were seen off Rumps Point on 8th.

Little Auk
Little Auk, Rumps Point, Cornwall (Photo: Colin Selway)

Sabine's Gull
Sabine's Gull, North Shields, Northumberland (Photo: Geoff Athey)

Three Glossy Ibis remained at Catcott Lows (Somerset) to 9th at least, with two birds still at Dungeness to 9th and one at Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) to the weekend. A new Glossy Ibis was seen near Airth (Forth), also on 9th, and one at Graveney Marshes (Kent) on 11th had been present since at least 22nd October. Dungeness also continued to host both Cattle Egret and Great White Egret this week. Further long-staying Cattle Egrets were still being seen in Gloucestershire and Hampshire, while newer arrivals from more recent days remained on Islay (Argyll) and around Landulph Marsh and Kingsmill Lake (Cornwall). Thirteen Great White Egrets were reported during the week, with three birds still at Leighton Moss (Lancashire) to 10th (and single birds noted in the same county at Banks Marsh and Bolton-le-Sands). Three birds were in Suffolk (again at Minsmere and Lakenheath reserves, the inland bird again nipping into Norfolk from time to time and being joined by a second bird on 11th). Singles were seen from Devon to Aberdeenshire through the week, including long-staying birds (or returning wintering individuals) in Cumbria and Hampshire. In Ireland, single Great White Egrets were seen at Midleton (Co. Cork) on 8th and Termoncarragh Lough (Co. Mayo) on 11th.

Glossy Ibis
Glossy Ibis, Catcott Lows NR, Somerset & Bristol (Photo: Paul Masters)

Great White Egret
Great White Egret, Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk (Photo: Chris Upson)

Eleven Spoonbills was the week's high count at Brownsea Island (Dorset) on 8th, with six still at Isley Marsh (Devon) and five at Tregunna (Cornwall) on 7th. Three Spoonbills were at Lodmoor (Dorset) on 9th and groups of four remained at Timoleague (Co. Cork) to 9th and around Scilly to 10th. Another single bird was noted in Cornwall, with further birds in West Sussex, Norfolk and Cheshire. Also in Norfolk, the largest flock of Common Cranes since the birds' curious appearance in the Broads nearly three decades ago was counted on 5th, an impressive 43 seen at Horsey. One remained at Welney to 8th, while on the Outer Hebrides two Cranes were seen at Tabost (Lewis) on 6th. As the week drew to a close, two Cranes were reported near Inglesham (Wiltshire) and one was in Oxfordshire, over Farmoor Reservoir and Eynsham, on 11th. A White Stork was at Corbridge (Northumberland) on 8th.

Spoonbill, Pagham Harbour LNR, West Sussex (Photo: Sophie Lewis)

The party of four Snow Geese remained at Leighton Moss to 11th, with single white birds still at Budle Bay (Northumberland) and Holkham Freshmarsh (Norfolk) (the latter later headed back to fields near Docking). New birds were seen at the Montrose Basin (Angus) on 7th and Loch Leven (Perth & Kinross) on 10th. Two Black Brants were at Ferrybridge (Dorset) from 5th–8th and singles were seen near Cleethorpes (Lincolnshire) on 4th, West Wittering (West Sussex) on 5th and Allhallows-on-Sea (Kent) on 11th.

Single Richardson's Canada Geese were seen on Berneray (Outer Hebrides) on 5th and at Lissadell (Co. Sligo) from 6th–10th at least (the latter bird still in the loose company of a "medium-sized" Canada Goose sp.). In Lancashire, the probable parvipes Lesser Canada Goose was seen at Banks Marsh on 8th and the Taverner's Canada Goose was still on Islay (Argyll) on 10th.

The drake Green-winged Teal at Kinneil Lagoons (Forth) was still present to 8th and birds at Loch of Hillwell (Shetland) and Cley Marshes (Norfolk) stayed to 10th at least. New arrivals were noted at Rutland Water (Leicestershire) and Greylake (Somerset) on 7th, Daventry Reservoir (Northamptonshire) on 8th, Caerlaverock (Dumfries & Galloway) on 9th, Alkborough Flats (Lincolnshire) on 10th and, back in Dumfries & Galloway, Kildrochat on 11th. In Ireland, the female Blue-winged Teal remained at Bull Island (Co. Dublin) to 11th.

The ducks of Dumfries & Galloway also included a drake American Wigeon at Lochmaben from 5th–8th. Another American Wigeon, also a drake, was a new arrival at Loch of Brow (Shetland) on 8th, moving to Loch of Hillwell on 10th.

American Wigeon
American Wigeon, Lochmaben, Dumfries & Galloway (Photo: Brian Henderson)

A first-winter drake Ring-necked Duck was new at Tacumshin on 8th and a female was a further new arrival at Lough Gur (Co. Limerick) on 11th. The remaining four birds, all drakes, have all been in the news in recent days, weeks and months: at Chew Valley Lake (Somerset), Foxcote Reservoir (Buckinghamshire), Westport Lake (Staffordshire) and Kirkby on Bain (Lincolnshire).

Ring-necked Duck
Ring-necked Duck, Kirkby on Bain GPs, Lincolnshire (Photo: Josh Jones)

A single drake Surf Scoter was again off Ruddon's Point (Fife) on 7th and two drakes were in Largo Bay on 11th — the only unusual sea-ducks of the week.

Content continues after advertisements

Five Rough-legged Buzzards this week included two in off the sea at Hastings CP (East Sussex) on 9th, with singles noted at Blackdog (Aberdeenshire) on 7th, East Raynham and then near Fring (Norfolk) on 8th and 11th. A late Osprey was seen in Hertfordshire, at Sarratt, on 9th–11th with one recorded in Buckinghamshire, at Chenies, on 11th.

A couple of nice new Nearctic shorebird arrivals this week. In Gloucestershire, a Wilson's Phalarope was found at Slimbridge on 7th and made a few erratic appearances until 11th. There have been just three accepted county records, one at nearby Frampton, the other two at Slimbridge (in 1985 and, most recently, 1990). A Baird's Sandpiper was a decent November find at Belhaven Bay (Lothian) on 7th and was still present to 11th. Once accepted, this will be the sixth county record, and the first since September 2003. Nearby, at Aberlady Bay, the Lesser Yellowlegs was still being seen daily until 10th at least.

Baird's Sandpiper
Baird's Sandpiper, Belhaven Bay, Lothian (Photo: Willie McBay)

Lesser Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs, Aberlady Bay, Lothian (Photo: Sandy Morrison)

The second American Golden Plover of the year for Cley Marshes (Norfolk), this one a juvenile, was found on 6th and remained in the area until 11th (although it spent the vast majority of its time in nearby Blakeney Harbour). The juvenile lingered at Kirkistown (Co. Derry) to 8th while the adult was still at Dozmary Pool (Cornwall) to 6th. Back at Cley, a moulting juvenile White-rumped Sandpiper was found on the morning of 11th, and may be the bird seen there over a fortnight ago.

The week's two Pectoral Sandpipers were leftovers from recent weeks, at Port Clarence (Cleveland) and the Idle Valley NR (Nottinghamshire) — the latter site known, until recently, as Lound GPs. In Cambridgeshire, a Dotterel was seen at Holt Fen on 6th.

An adult Bonaparte's Gull was seen at Tralee (County Kerry) on 11th while the larger, and rather more obvious, near-adult Azorean Yellow-legged Gull was still drawing some attention in the fields near Appleford (Oxfordshire) until 7th. It's been another reasonable week for fans of all things cachinnans: at least 21 Caspian Gulls were seen, including two (a first-winter and a second-winter) at Minsmere on 6th and two (a third-winter and a near-adult) at Chasewater Reservoir (Staffordshire) on 11th. There were two different birds each for Eyebrook Reservoir (Leicestershire) and Holt Fen (Cambridgeshire), while both Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire also notched up two birds each. Notable singles were in Cornwall, at Sennen Cove on 5th, and in Lincolnshire, at Boultham Mere on 6th.

A probable first-winter Baltic Gull was at Daventry Reservoir in Northamptonshire this week and had, apparently, been seen since September. It generated some interest, but the regular "no ring, no record" caveat hangs heavy over this one so, sadly, it's going nowhere fast.

The adult Ring-billed Gull at Carsington Water (Derbyshire) was seen in pre-roost gatherings on 5th and 7th and the regular adult was at Gosport (Hampshire) throughout the week. Also in Hampshire, a first-winter Ring-billed Gull was at Blashford Lakes on 6th. In Wales, an adult Ring-billed Gull (perhaps another returning bird?) was at Llys-y-Fran Reservoir (Pembrokeshire) on 9th, while three birds were seen in Ireland: adults at Clonankilty (Co. Cork) and Portrush (Co. Antrim), with a second-winter at Lahinch (Co. Clare) on 5th.

Single Glaucous Gulls were in Clare, Shetland, Moray, Northamptonshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Kent this week, while the six Iceland Gulls lurked in Highland, Ayrshire, Sligo (three in the county) and Cork. The Forster's Tern on the Irish east coast was back at Cruisetown Strand in Louth on 8th, and on the other coast the adult Forster's Tern was back at Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway) on 11th.

The late-autumn tally of Red-rumped Swallows hit double figures this week when one appeared at Udale Bay (Highland) on 8th. This is only the second record for Highland; the other was in May 1990 at St. John's Loch. Last week's bird, at Aberlady (Lothian), was last seen on 5th.

A Short-toed Lark was at Flamborough Head (East Yorkshire) on 6th and may have been the bird seen there at the end of October. A Bluethroat was still on Whalsay (Shetland) to 5th and three birds were found on 8th: one was at Echna Loch, Burray (Orkney), another was at Ballycotton (Co. Cork), and one at Errol (Perth & Kinross) caused a few pulses to race as it was initially reported as a probable Siberian Rubythroat!

Bluethroat, Ballycotton, Cork (Photo: Ronan Mclaughlin)

A late Wryneck was a neat find out on Bardsey Island (Gwynedd) on 9th. Rather more expected as November draws on is the Waxwing, and the autumn's first flock was seen this week, around 25 noted at Thornaby-on-Tees (Cleveland) on 6th.

An Olive-backed Pipit was found in the Old Fall Hedge at Flamborough Head on 5th and a Red-throated Pipit was at Ballycotton on 8th–10th. Numbers of Richard's Pipits fell away this week: singles were on the Outer Hebrides (at Balemore, North Uist) on 5th, in Cornwall (at Porthgwarra and Land's End) on 5th and 9th, and one at Cossington Meadows (Leicestershire) on 8th was certainly worthy of note. Another was seen on Jersey, at Noirmont Point on 9th.

Red-throated Pipit
Red-throated Pipit, Ballycotton, Cork (Photo: Ronan mclaughlin)

Red-throated Pipit
Red-throated Pipit, Ballycotton, Cork (Photo: Graham Clarke)

Four of the week's nine (or ten) Great Grey Shrikes have already made their weekly review debuts prior to this edition, birds at Feshiebridge (Highland), Fenn's Moss (Clwyd), Dersingham Bog (Norfolk) and Ashdown Forest (East Sussex) all being seen over the past two or three weeks. New birds were at Wykeham Forest (North Yorkshire) on 6th, Westbury-sub-Mendip (Somerset) on 7th — although this bird had been present since 2nd — and on 8th, single birds were at Dalton Crags (Cumbria), in the New Forest (Hampshire) and around Fernworthy Reservoir (Devon). On 11th, one was seen at the Holmsley Enclosure (Hampshire) and another was trapped and ringed at Beachemwell (Norfolk).

The popular Dusky Warbler at Warrenhouse Wood, Gunton (Suffolk) remained from 5th–9th and the bird on Stronsay (Orkney) was reported as still being present on 7th. Scilly's first Dusky Warbler of the autumn was found on St. Mary's on 9th. A lowly dozen Yellow-browed Warblers included three in Dorset, along with one in County Clare and one at Wraysbury (Berkshire) on 7th. The only Pallas's Warbler of the week was seen at Gobhaig, Harris (Outer Hebrides) on 7th–8th.

Dusky Warbler
Dusky Warbler, Gunton, Suffolk (Photo: Chris Darby)

Yellow-browed Warbler
Yellow-browed Warbler, Kelynack Valley, Cornwall (Photo: Brian Mellow)

Two Barred Warblers appeared during the week. The first was seen at Laxfirth (Shetland) on 9th and was followed by one at Donna Nook (Lincolnshire) on 10th. A Red-breasted Flycatcher spent the 7th on the slopes of Harry's Bush Wood, at Seaford (East Sussex).

The adult Rose-coloured Starling was again seen on Shapinsay (Orkney) on 5th, while on 7th news emerged of a juvenile at Forest Hill in Oxfordshire (a county first), present for around three weeks and still present to 11th. Another juvenile was seen at Connor Downs, Hayle (Cornwall) on 9th. Finally this week, two Penduline Tits were reported from Slimbridge on 11th, a potential county first.

Rose-coloured Starling
Rose-coloured Starling, Forest Hill, Oxfordshire (Photo: Nic Hallam)

Photo of the Week

Greater Spotted Eagle
Greater Spotted Eagle, Qatar (Photo: Dileep Kumar)

Anyone seeking to get perfect reflection shots will obviously realise it's better to try for these on calm, rather than windy, days. More experienced bird photographers also know that their success rate will be much higher if they shoot at a shallow-water location first thing in the morning. These conditions were exploited to great effect this week by Dileep Kumar, who captured a stunning shot of a handsome Greater Spotted Eagle at the Abu Nakhla lagoons in Qatar. As well as getting a perfect reflection and uniform background from the still water, Dileep managed to get further softening of the warm, low-altitude sunlight due to the reflection of this light back up off the water on to the bird. A square crop with good subject placement rounds off a great composition.

Other notable photos

Fieldfare, Fladbury, Worcestershire (Photo: Mark Hancox)

Common Snipe
Common Snipe, Venus Pool NR, Shropshire (Photo: Jim Almond)

Grey Wagtail
Grey Wagtail, Hampton, Worcestershire (Photo: Mark Hancox)

Barn Owl
Barn Owl, undisclosed site, Suffolk (Photo: Richard Bedford)

Jay, North Wirral, Cheshire (Photo: Richard Steel)

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

Red Kite
Red Kite, Altcar Moss, Lancashire (Photo: David Cookson)

Little Auk
Little Auk, Gunton, Suffolk (Photo: Jon Evans)

Eider, Fife Ness, Fife (Photo: John Anderson)

Common Kingfisher
Common Kingfisher, East Tilbury, Essex (Photo: Lea Roberts)

Purple Sandpiper
Purple Sandpiper, North Wirral, Cheshire (Photo: Richard Steel)

Cetti's Warbler
Cetti's Warbler, undisclosed site, Gloucestershire (Photo: Chris Grady)

Bearded Tit
Bearded Tit, Holy Island, Northumberland (Photo: Colin Pears)

Grey Heron
Grey Heron, Regent's Park, Greater London (Photo: Fraser Simpson)

Written by: Mark Golley