Review of the Week: 6-12 December 2021


In what largely felt like a typical December week, where the odd lingering rarity and a couple of treats of the Anser persuasion provoked the most interest, it was Glamorgan which provided the greatest prize. A juvenile Pacific Diver was an excellent find at the private Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir from 11th, the site of a famous Bobolink record back in 2010. It is just the second for Wales after one at Llys-y-Fran Reservoir, Pembrokeshire, between 2007 and 2009 – itself the second British record at the time. Elsewhere, the returning adult was again off Crookhaven, Co Cork.

Pacific Diver, Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir (no general access), Glamorgan (Tom Wright).

Since its addition to the British list in 2016 on the basis of a 40-year-old record from Lancashire, Cackling Goose has been a rare bird south of the Scottish border – individuals in Cumbria and Northumberland the only such examples – making one with Pink-footed Geese at Ribble Marshes, Lancashire, from 9th very popular indeed. Another new bird accompanied Barnacle Geese and a white-morph Snow Goose at Ballygilgan, Co Sligo, early in the week, with at least one lingering on Islay, Argyll.

Richardson's Cackling Goose (centre), Crossens Outer Marsh, Lancashire (Dan Owen).

Just south-west of Glasgow, the white-morph Ross's Goose continued to attract a healthy number of admirers at Hunterston Sands, Ayrshire, where it remained settled throughout.

Ross's Goose (right), Hunterston Sands, Ayrshire (Ian Bollen).

Lancashire's elusive Belted Kingfisher continued to be tricky to pin down, reported along the River Darwen near Roach Bridge on 6th before a likely fly-past sighting along the River Ribble near Red Scar Wood the following day.

Several Lesser Scaup included new drakes at Lough Neagh, Co Armagh, and Ballinascarty, Co Cork, with others still at Loch Skerrols, Islay, Argyll (four), Beesands Ley, Devon (two), Round Lough, Co Cavan, and Ardmore, South Uist, Outer Hebrides. Drake Ferruginous Duck remained at both Thorpe Park, Surrey, and Blashford Lakes, Hampshire, with at least one King Eider still at Uyeasound, Unst, Shetland, and the drake White-winged Scoter still at Musselburgh, Lothian.

Ferruginous Duck (centre), Thorpe Park, Surrey (Wayne Glossop).

A probable Brünnich's Guillemot flew past Burntisland, Fife, on 8th, with a new first-winter Bonaparte's Gull on Luing, Argyll, the following day.

The White-tailed Lapwing lasted another week at Blacktoft Sands RSPB, East Yorkshire and the Spotted Sandpiper was still on St Mary's, Scilly.

White-tailed Lapwing, Blacktoft Sands RSPB, East Yorkshire (Paul Coombes).

Last noted at Seahouses, Northumberland, on 14 November, the young female Walrus, christened 'Freya' during her Dutch escapades, continued her journey northwards with a stop at salmon cages near Vementry, Mainland Shetland, from 10th. Shetland also hosted a Parti-coloured Bat – at Vidlin, Mainland, on 11th, while a Pygmy Sperm Whale was unfortunately found dead at Burton Bradstock on 9th.

Walrus, Vementry, Mainland, Shetland (Roger Riddington).


Scottish mainland

Hoopoe isn't an expected species to see during a cold Scottish winter, so two this week – at Kingoodie, Perth & Kinross, and Montrose, Angus – were somewhat of a surprise. Auchinleck, Ayrshire, scored a notable inland Pallas's Warbler on 12th, a Great Grey Shrike was at Glen Feshie, Highland, and the Cetti's Warbler remained near Stevenston, Ayrshire. Broadford on the Isle of Skye hosted a Siberian Chiffchaff and a probable Rough-legged Buzzard was reported at Glasdrum Wood NNR, Argyll, on 11th.

A rare Scottish Caspian Gull – a first-winter – visited Cramond, Lothian; 10 Iceland and four Glaucous Gulls were also recorded nationally. A flurry of Great Egrets included one in the far north at Loch Scarmclate, Caithness.

Iceland Gull, Carnoustie, Angus & Dundee (Stuart Green).

The Green-winged Teal count at Tain Links, Aberdeenshire, increased to two on 12th, while another was a brief visitor to Waterloo, Clyde. Elsewhere, the Todd's Canada Goose was again at Mersehead RSPB, Dumfries & Galloway, on 9th, two drake Surf Scoter continued off Musselburgh, Lothian, and Smew were at two Clyde sites. An impressive couple of days for Balgray Reservoir, Clyde, included a Velvet Scoter, Great Northern Diver and Greenland White-fronted Goose.

Four Ring-necked Duck on Tiree, Argyll, included a new drake, with a Todd's Canada Goose at Cornaigbeg and a Siberian Chiffchaff at Balephuil. A Great Egret at Eorrabus was the best on Islay.

At least one Humpback Whale continued to be seen daily off Pettycur, Fife.


Northern Isles and the Hebrides

The regular White-billed Diver remained at South Nesting Bay, Mainland. The young drake Ring-necked Duck was still at Loch of Tingwall, Mainland, with the Todd's Canada Goose relocating to Vatsetter, Yell, on 12th, and a lone Tundra Bean Goose was at Fleck, Mainland. Little Auks had a fair showing: five sites scored, including 397 past Sumburgh Head in less than three hours on 9th. Iceland Gulls were at just two sites and Glaucous Gulls at three, including four juveniles on Fair Isle on 6th, where the Red-necked Grebe continued.

Ring-necked Duck (front bird), Loch of Tingwall, Mainland, Shetland (Roger Riddington).

A juvenile Surf Scoter was off the south end of Westray on 7th, with a Grey Phalarope off Papa Westray on 11-12th. The first-winter European Turtle Dove was again at Orphir Bay, Mainland, while a Common Rosefinch was trapped and ringed at Finstown. Just one Iceland Gull made the Orkney airwaves, with one off Burwick, South Ronaldsay, on 8th, and at least one adult Glaucous Gull roamed Papa Westray.

Barra was the Outer Hebrides' main source of reports this week: the juvenile Surf Scoter was still on the sea off Allasdale, a Green-winged Teal remained at Aird Mhor and three Siberian Chiffchaffs were on the island.

Dan Owen


North-East England

No new scarcities were unearthed in Northumberland this week, although news did emerge of a Siberian Chiffchaff at Hauxley NR on 4th. Glaucous and Iceland Gulls were again seen in small numbers, including two of the former at Budle Bay on 12th. Widdrington Moor Lake was productive, with the long-staying Red-necked Grebe and Smew being joined by a couple of Great Northern Divers. Water Pipits were at Druridge Pools and St Mary's Island, while a single Hawfinch remained at Morpeth. Castle Island held onto its Eurasian Spoonbill and a Spotted Redshank put in an appearance.

Slavonian Grebe, Cresswell Pond NWT, Northumberland (Colin Bradshaw).

The European Serin remained at Brusselton Wood, Durham, throughout, where a Hawfinch overflew on 11th. A few Little Auks continued to pass Whitburn Coastal Park in the first half of the week and single Iceland and Glaucous Gulls also passed the site. Hurworth Burn Reservoir produced a late Garganey on 10th and South Shields scored an Iceland Gull and 16 Snow Buntings. A Rough-legged Buzzard was reported by the A1 at Darlington on 6th.

In Cleveland, Black-throated Divers were at Seal Sands and Hartlepool, with the latter locality also producing a Glaucous Gull and a couple of Velvet Scoter. Little Auks were seen off a couple of sites and Snow Buntings were noted in small numbers. A Lapland Bunting was recorded at Saltholme RSPB on 10th and a possible Rough-legged Buzzard flew over Hartlepool Headland that morning.

Jonathan Farooqi


North-West England

The drake Green-winged Teal continued at Conder Green, Lancashire, and it transpired that a second drake had been present on 27 November. A Tundra Bean Goose was with Pink-feet at Ryscar Farm, Carleton, and Snow Buntings were scattered at a handful of coastal localities, while a Great Skua at Brockholes LWT on 11th was the second site record.

Cumbria's Great Grey Shrike held out at Killington Reservoir until 6th and the Greenland White-fronted Geese remained in the Kirkbridge area throughout.

Great Grey Shrike, Killington Reservoir, Cumbria (Sam Northwood).

The Black-necked Grebe resurfaced at Acre Nook Sand Quarry, Cheshire, on 11th. A possible Siberian Chiffchaff was at Pickerings Pasture on 12th and at least two Snow Buntings were milling around the north Wirral coast. It was a two-diver week in Greater Manchester, with a juvenile Great Northern Diver at Pennington Flash CP on 9-10th and the Red-throated Diver still at Watergrove Reservoir.

Dan Owen


Lincolnshire and Yorkshire

Highlight of Lincolnshire's week was a brief White-billed Diver off Gibraltar Point NNR on 9th. Covenham Reservoir had a fine week, with the Grey Phalarope still, two Great Northern Divers, Snow Bunting and Caspian Gull. A redhead Smew was briefly at Crowle Moor on 12th.

Grey Phalarope, Covenham Reservoir, Lincolnshire (Russell Hayes).

The Water Pipit continued at iPort Lakes, South Yorkshire, and a Caspian Gull was in Sheffield on 11th. A Great Northern Diver was at Pugney's CP, West Yorkshire, on 9th, with it or another at Eccup Reservoir on 9-10th. The Iceland Gull was seen intermittently at Rodley NR and a Glaucous Gull flew over St Aidan's RSPB on 12th.

A redhead Smew was at Heslington East, North Yorkshire, on 11th, with two Greater Scaup continuing at Hay-a-Park GPs. The Western Cattle Egret was still at Seamer Carr on 12th. Little Auks were still just about making the airwaves, with six past Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire, on 10th. Tophill Low's Great Northern Diver remained and another was near Broomfleet from 10th. A Water Pipit was reported from Hornsea Mere on 11th. Two Siberian Chiffchaffs remained at Easington, with another at Blacktoft Sands RSPB.

Josh Jones


West Midlands

Staffordshire's Shore Lark lingered at Blithfield Reservoir throughout, although proved elusive at times. Belvide Reservoir continued to house the young female Garganey, plus the adult Ring-billed × Lesser Black-backed Gull hybrid most evenings. A probable Great Northern Diver overflew Cae Howel, Shropshire, on 11th.

Garganey, Belvide Reservoir (PERMIT ONLY), Staffordshire (Steve Nuttall).

In Worcestershire, a Grey Phalarope passed through Westwood Pool and a Siberian Chiffchaff was at Kempsey sewage works. Draycote Water, Warwickshire, logged two Great Northern Divers on 10th, with one lingering until at least 12th, when a Glaucous Gull was picked out among the throng of roosting gulls.

Dan Owen


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East Midlands

The drake American Wigeon proved a crowd-pleaser at Carr Vale NR, Derbyshire, with redhead Smew at Carsington Water on 9th and Ogston Reservoir the next day. The Great Grey Shrike was still at Bonsall Moor until 9th.

Great Grey Shrike, Bonsall Moor, Derbyshire (Jonathan Lowes).

The Wood Sandpiper lasted at Pitsford Reservoir, Northamptonshire, and was joined by two fine drake Smew from 10th, with the redhead still being reported at Titchmarsh NR on 11th. The Dark-bellied Brent Goose remained at Clifford Hill GPs.

In Nottinghamshire, the juvenile Great Northern Diver remained at Langford Lowfields RSPB until 11th and was later relocated at Girton Pits (another was at Hoveringham GPs on 8th). Also at Langford were two female Ring-necked Duck on 12th, following one there in November. Attenborough NR boasted the redhead Smew throughout, with one at Kilvington Lakes on 9th. A drake was at Holme Pierrepont on 11th, when a vocal Siberian Chiffchaff was present.

Smew, Attenborough NR, Nottinghamshire (Alan Shaw).

The Rutland Water roll-call included the Black-throated and two Great Northern Divers, Slavonian Grebe and two Greater Scaup. Eyebrook Reservoir continued to hold its own, with the female Ring-necked Duck accompanied by at least four Smew and six Greater Scaup. A single Greater Scaup was at Swithland Reservoir and a juvenile Iceland Gull flew over Shawell on 11th.

Dan Owen


East of England

In Norfolk, the Barred Warbler lasted out a mild week at Wiveton, while the Black Brant and Iceland Gull were still at nearby Cley. A Grey Phalarope flew past Weybourne on 10th, while the Great Grey Shrike continued at Waxham. In a winter where the species is scarce, two Tundra Bean Geese at Great Bircham on 12th were notable. A Siberian Chiffchaff was trapped at UEA Broad on 6th.

Barred Warbler, Wiveton, Norfolk (Patrick Safford).

Last week's Little Auk at Oulton Broad, Suffolk, hung around to 7th, with another seen on the River Orwell at Woolverstone on 12th. Shore Larks were at three sites: singles at Kessingland and Dingle Marshes, with five still in the Hollesley area.

A Black Brant was at the classic location of Mersea Island, Essex, with a Black-throated Diver still performing there and a Siberian Chiffchaff nearby at Colne Point. A fine suite of winter birds were on offer at Abberton Reservoir and included two Smew, Great Northern Diver, Bewick's Swans and all five regular grebe species. A Slavonian Grebe was at Hanningfield Reservoir on 6th and a Glaucous Gull flew past Canvey Point on 9th. An impressive 28 Hawfinches were at Hatfield Forest.

Kumlien's Gull, Heydon, Cambridgeshire (Richard Taylor).

Hawfinches were also prominent in Hertfordshire, with five near Whitwell, and the Smew was still at Amwell NR. The American Wigeon was again at Marston Vale CP, Bedfordshire, with a Velvet Scoter at Brogborough Lake late on 7th. Up to six Smew were at Fen Drayton RSPB, Cambs, on 12th, with Great Northern and Red-throated Divers still at Grafham Water, Black Redstart still at Over, Glossy Ibises at Berry Fen and Kumlien's Gull at Heydon.

Josh Jones


South-East England

Well inland in a poorly birded part of Sussex, a Little Bunting at Iping Common from 11th was a first-class find and makes one wonder how often this species winters unnoticed in England in habitat mimicking its taiga breeding grounds. During the last three years there have been more Little Buntings in Sussex than Smew – a reflection of the duck’s rapidly changing status in the South-East – so a redhead at Ashburnham Forge was popular from 8-11th. A Shore Lark was at Pevensey on 10th. It seems the Arun Valley will host wintering Bewick’s Swans for at least another winter, with two at Pulborough 11th soon relocating the Burpham; 18 were at Scotney GPs on 9th, too. Church Norton and Goring-by-Sea scored Snow Buntings, the Polegate Hooded Crow was still about and Siberian Chiffchaffs were at Chichester GPs and North Chailey.

Little Bunting, Iping Common, West Sussex (Matthew Eade).

An adult Iceland Gull at Weston on 6th was probably the highlight of a quiet week in Hampshire, where Siberian Chiffchaffs were at Blashford Lakes and Eastleigh SF. Surrey continued to host the Reigate Ring-necked Duck, with a Great Northern Diver at Island Barn Reservoir from 9th. A Red-necked Grebe was at King George V Reservoir, London, from 11-12th, joining the lingering Great Northern Diver. Another GND was at Staines Reservoir on 12th, where the two Slavonian Grebes remained all week.

In Berkshire, the Padworth Lane Pink-footed Goose spent another week on site, while the Buckinghamshire Iceland Gull was around until 8th and a Siberian Chiffchaff was at Willen Lake on 11th. A Eurasian Dotterel was an unseasonal surprise at Port Meadow, Oxfordshire, on 8-9th and a Great Northern Diver visited Farmoor on 12th.

Bewick's Swan, Isle of Sheppey, Kent (Terry Laws).

A steady period in Kent included a redhead Smew at Oare Marshes from 12th, Black Brant at Funton Creek and Reculver (possibly the same bird), a Grey Phalarope gracing Sandwich Bay on 7th and the Swalecliffe Siberian Chiffchaff being seen again. A juvenile Glaucous Gull was at Foreness Point and North Foreland on 11th. Snow Buntings were at four sites, a Lapland Bunting was at Reculver on 6th and both the Dungeness and Hoo Peninsula Glossy Ibises were still about.

Ed Stubbs


South-West England

Just five Siberian Chiffchaffs were recorded on St Mary's, Scilly this week, with the island also playing host to a Glaucous Gull and a couple of Western Cattle Egrets. A Eurasian Spoonbill remained on Samson on 6th.

The adult Ring-billed Gull returned to Cornwall's Hayle Estuary for another winter on 6th, with a further adult seen at Gerrans Bay on 12th. The juvenile American Golden Plover reappeared at the former locality at the end of the week and the Rosy Starling at Pendeen remained throughout. Five Ring-necked Duck continued at Dozmary Pool and the Glossy Ibis was reported again in Newlyn on 8th. Siberian Chiffchaffs graced three localities, with Pendeen scoring a fly-by Leach's Storm Petrel on 8th. Two Little Auks and an Iceland Gull also flew past, with another of the latter off St Agnes Head on 12th.

Black Redstart, Newlyn, Cornwall (Alex Mckechnie).

Lingering scarcities in Devon consisted of the Ring-necked Duck still at Beesands Ley and two Glossy Ibis again at Fremington Pill. Four Siberian Chiffchaffs and a Yellow-browed Warbler were at Clennon Valley Lakes with three of the former recorded at Dawlish Warren NNR. Four Black-throated Divers were noted off Broadsands, while two Black-necked Grebes lingered on the River Exe.

In Dorset, the Pallas's Warbler reappeared in Weymouth mid-week although proved elusive. Siberian Chiffchaffs were at Stour Valley LNR and Studland Heath NNR. The second-winter Iceland Gull was again at Weymouth and Lodmoor RSPB.

Slimbridge was the place to be in Gloucestershire with 51 Bewick's Swans, Eurasian Spoonbill, Little Stint, Western Cattle Egrets and a couple of Dark-bellied Brent Geese all reported. Eleven Hawfinches were at Parkend on 11th and the male Black Redstart remained at Sharpness.

In Wiltshire, a Siberian Chiffchaff was discovered at Westbury's sewage works on 9th. The Great Northern Diver at Cotswold Water Park and Snow Bunting at Mere both remained in place and 27 Hawfinches were recorded at Franchises Lodge RSPB. A released White-tailed Eagle was seen over two localities.

Great Northern Diver, Cotswold Water Park, Wiltshire (Paul Boult).

Somerset had a productive week with drake Green-winged Teal at both Blagdon and Chew Valley Lakes. The drake Ring-necked Duck remained in place at Ham Wall RSPB along with a Glossy Ibis at Westhay. Up to five Siberian Chiffchaffs roamed Shapwick Heath NNR and another was at Berrow. A few seabirds were moving on 8th with a Grey Phalarope past Burnham-on-Sea and Leach's Storm Petrels past there and Steart highlighting.

Jonathan Farooqi



News emerged of a young Rosy Starling in a Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, garden in early December – the highlight of a lethargic Welsh week. Elsewhere, Siberian Chiffchaffs remained at Llanelli Wetland Centre WWT, Carmarthen, and Kenfig NNR, Glamorgan. At least one Great Grey Shrike hung on near Llyn Brenig, Conwy, while a bumper count of three Black Redstarts was made at Cardiff Bay, Glamorgan. Four coastal sites held Snow Buntings.

Snow Bunting, Cefn Sidan Sands, Carmarthen (Angi Harrell).

A first-winter Ring-billed Gull was a Saturday treat in the roost at Llys-y-Fran Reservoir, Pembrokeshire, with an adult Caspian Gull at Gann Estuary a day later. In Glamorgan, one of the female Ring-necked Duck relocated to Cosmeston Lakes CP on 10th, while a drake continued at Bicton, Pembrokeshire. The Surf Scoter remained off Broad Haven, Pembrokeshire, too, while an adult Glaucous Gull was a nice surprise at Ynys-Hir RSPB, Ceredigion, on 8th. A Grey Phalarope danced at Aberystwyth, Ceredigion.



Up to five Ring-necked Duck continued into another week at Lough Gara, Co Sligo, with two females also found at Derrybrick Lake, Co Cavan, plus the drake at nearby Round Lough. A drake also returned to Ballyalia Lake, Co Clare, and a further female was near Ballinascarty, Co Cork. A Surf Scoter was new at Crookhaven, Co Cork, on 8th. Green-winged Teal hung on at Blennerville, Co Kerry, and East Coast NR, Co Wicklow.

Ring-necked Duck, Ballyallia Lake, Clare (Barry Howell).

A Little Auk lingered off Ballycotton, Co Cork, with three passing Bloody Foreland, Co Donegal, on 10th. Two Glossy Ibises flew over Lisburn, Co Antrim, on 9th, with four in the Ballycotton area of Co Cork.

With new occurrences so rare these days, news of an adult Ring-billed Gull at Cuskinny Marsh, Co Cork, on 12th was welcome. The regular birds were also seen in Cos Galway and Louth. Just a handful of Iceland Gulls were reported.

Two Swallows were at Shannon, Co Clare, early in the week.

Josh Jones


Western Palearctic

Sweden's fifth Dusky Thrush – a fine male – was at Visby harbour, Sweden, from 9th, with an impressive supporting cast including a drake Stejneger's Scoter off Hemmeslöv on 10th, Oriental Turtle Dove at Stångberga from 8th and the lingering Siberian Rubythroat at Vargön. Meanwhile, Ukraine's first Black-throated Accentor was photographed at Kuchurhan on 3rd.

Last week's Ross's Gull relocated to Leffrinckoucke, France, from 6th, where it marvelled the crowds on the town's beach. It was swiftly replaced by another – Belgium's second – at Zeebrugge from 7th. Elsewhere in France, a Pygmy Cormorant was at Arles, with a Lesser Flamingo at L'Oeil du Chat.

Ross's Gull, Leffrinckoucke, Nord (Davy Bosman).

In Spain, the White-backed Vulture remained at Los Barrios and a Sociable Lapwing continued at El Hondo, while a female Snowy Owl was at Santoña on 30 November. An outstanding count of 18,226 Eurasian Crag Martins roosted at Gorham's Cave, Gibraltar, on 8th – approximately 3% of the entire European population (see here).

On Terceira, Azores, the Belted Kingfisher held on at Praia da Vitória and a Great Blue Heron was at Cabo da Praia, with Snowy Egrets on Terceira and São Miguel.

A Firecrest at Birya on 8th is just a second for Israel, while the second Franklin's Gull for Cyprus was at Akrotiri. In The Netherlands, the Caspian Plover, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler and Pygmy Cormorant all remained. Italy's first Eastern Yellow Wagtail was at Siracusa, Sicily, from 9th.

Written by: Sam Viles & the BirdGuides team