Review of the Week: 6-12 February 2023


Although the birding has been quiet on home shores for some time, mid-week saw the monumental announcement of the first confirmed Madeiran Storm Petrel for Britain. A breeding pair on the Canary Islands was recently satellite tagged, with one individual travelling a massive 5,000 km in just 10 days, feeding in both British and Irish territorial waters on the edge of the continental shelf approximately 270 km WSW of the Isles of Scilly before returning to the breeding colony. While there have been four accepted records of the species group to date, this will be the first attributed to species level.

Outrageous news from Orkney, meanwhile, saw the discovery of a Ptarmigan on 7th (see more here), with news later emerging that the bird, a female, had first been seen a couple of weeks earlier. The archipelago's first modern record, the species was extirpated by shooting interests in the 1830s, with the closest breeding Ptarmigan to Orkney now present approximately 70 km away in Caithness.

Ptarmigan, Ward Hill, Hoy, Orkney (Graham Campbell).

The drake Baikal Teal persisted at Foryd Bay, Gwynedd, throughout the week, although its chosen Northern Pintail comrades posed some interesting questions. Ringing recoveries of Northern Pintail in North Wales suggest that the majority originate from Iceland – so, not the ideal location for carrier species you'd expect a duck from the Far East to be associating with  – although some in Ireland are known to arrive from the east. Meanwhile, five American Wigeon included a new drake at Hellifield Flash, North Yorkshire, with Green-winged Teal at 12 sites.

King Eider are rare visitors to southern parts of the North Sea, and reports of second-winter drakes visiting Musselburgh, Lothian, and Redcar, Cleveland, have long been thought to relate to the same bird wandering with the region's Common Eider flocks. Until this week, that is, when birds were present concurrently at both locales.

King Eider (centre), Redcar, Cleveland (Chris & Mike Small).

The female-type Harlequin Duck was back at Traigh Mhor, Barra, after an 11-day absence and apparent borealis Common Eider were again off Campbeltown, Argyll, and Redcar, Cleveland. In Northumberland, the Black Scoter showed well off Stag Rocks on 12th, the same date the White-winged Scoter was back off Musselburgh, Lothian. The young female White-winged continued off Achill Island, Co Mayo, throughout. Two Surf Scoter off Islay, Argyll, were new finds, with others off Lothian, Conwy and Anglesey.

White-winged Scoter, Tonatanvally, Achill Island, Mayo (Josh Jones).

A Lesser Scaup returned to Ham Wall RSPB, Somerset, after a brief sojourn to neighbouring Shapwick Heath NNR. Others remained at Staines Reservoirs, London, and on South Uist, Outer Hebrides. Three Ferruginous Duck continued at Filby Broad, Norfolk, with the Northern Irish drake again at Ballysaggart Lough, Co Tyrone. Some 30 Ring-necked Duck were logged across 25 sites, although Smew numbers remained low. In Co Mayo, the adult drake Hooded Merganser held on at Rosduane.

Hooded Merganser, Rosduane, Mayo (Josh Jones).

Ring-necked Duck, Helston, Cornwall (Adrian Davey).

A bumper flock of 12 Taiga Bean Geese made for a notable contemporary find near Ludham Bridge, Norfolk, on 11th – it is the largest group in the county since January 2019! In contrast, it appears that much of the Forth wintering population made its way back to the continent during the latter half of January, with satellite tracks showing birds near Pandrup, Denmark.

Richardson's Cackling Geese continued on The Mullet, Co Mayo, and Islay, Argyll, while Norfolk's popular bird resurfaced at Holme-next-the-Sea on 11-12th. A Todd's Canada Goose again wandered the Ribble Marshes, Lancashire, single Grey-bellied Brant were again in Co Louth and Co Dublin, and, in Argyll, the Red-breasted Goose was again at Gruinart, Islay. Black Brant were in southern and eastern areas, with birds in Hampshire, Essex and East Yorkshire. Snow Geese lingered in Co Mayo, Co Offaly and North Yorkshire.

Buckinghamshire's first Ring-billed Gull in at least nine years – an adult at Little Marlow GPs on 10th – would have been undoubtedly well received if it had lingered more than a few minutes. Notably, the last five records for the county – in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2014 – all occurred at the same site. Two more were reported in England – regular adults in Cornwall and Hampshire – with five more in Ireland.

Ring-billed Gull, Keel, Achill Island, Mayo (Josh Jones).

On 7th, a probable third-winter American Herring Gull roosted on St Clement's Isle, Cornwall, with a first-winter reported again at Baltimore, Co Cork. Hampshire's popular Sabine's Gull bid adieu to Langstone Harbour after 9th, although an Azores Gull remained on The Mullet, Co Mayo, as did the Double-crested Cormorant at Doon Lough, Co Leitrim. A small number of Kumlien's Gulls arrived, including two in Mainland Shetland. Other adults lingered in Cornwall and Cambridgeshire. Numbers of both Glaucous and Iceland Gulls remained low – birds were present mostly in ones and twos, but there were up to 12 Icelands together at Lerwick, Shetland.

Sabine's Gull, Budds Farm SW, Hampshire (Ian Bollen).

Glaucous × Herring Gull (left) and Iceland Gull (right), Westing, Unst, Shetland (Robbie Brookes).

A new Hume's Leaf Warbler treated Kent birders at Sandgate from 11th – the county's fourth in the last 16 months. Another remained just a stone's throw away in Dover, with one still at Compton Dando, Somerset, too. Both Pallas's Warblers (in Kent and Durham) remained popular and Yellow-browed Warblers were in Cornwall and Lancashire. The first Cetti's Warbler for Borders was a smart find at Bemersyde Moss on 11-12th.

Hume's Leaf Warbler, Compton Dando, Somerset & Bristol (David Gilbert).

Three Richard's Pipits made for an impressive February showing. All were along the south coast, at Pegwell Bay, Kent, Wyke Regis, Dorset, and St Mary's, Scilly. Shore Larks remained in Norfolk, Hampshire and East Yorkshire and four Eurasian Penduline Tits were split two apiece between Elmley NNR, Kent, and West Rise Marsh, East Sussex. Rosy Starlings clung on in Somerset and Cornwall, and Ring Ouzels were at four sites.

Richard's Pipit, Wyke Regis, Dorset (John Wall).

Rosy Starling, Sennen, Cornwall (Adrian Lea).

A new Great Grey Shrike was at Langdale Forest, North Yorkshire, with the bird at Shatterford, Hampshire, the only other report of the week. In Cornwall, the Isabelline Wheatear continued at Holywell and both Little Buntings kept close company at Cot Valley. Waxwing numbers continued to be fairly subdued, with around 90 logged across Britain during the week.

Great Grey Shrike (right) and Blue Tit, New Forest, Hampshire (Lee Fuller).

Waxwing, Bradford, West Yorkshire (Glyn Sellors).

Mainland Orkney's wintering Rough-legged Buzzard was the only individual of its species seen this week, with the Pallid Harrier again at Warham Greens, Norfolk. A possible Black-crowned Night Heron was reported from Lindley Wood Reservoir, North Yorkshire, on 6th and the White Stork persisted at Worth Marsh, Kent. Glossy Ibis were again thin on the ground, present at the same six locations as recent weeks.

Glossy Ibis, Dungeness RSPB, Kent (Ian Chivers).

A Grey Phalarope flew past Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire, on 12th while a trio of rare shorebirds lingered further into February – the Greater Yellowlegs in Co Waterford, Long-billed Dowitcher in Norfolk and Kentish Plover in Somerset.

Greater Yellowlegs, Tallow, Waterford (Andrew Malcolm).


Western Palearctic

Major news from southern France involved the momentous discovery of a Grey-tailed Tattler near Montpellier at Étang de Thau on 12th. A first for France and the seventh for the Western Palearctic, it follows Iceland's first back in September. Could it be the same bird relocating south, perhaps? An immense French roll-call elsewhere included the Killdeer at Guissény, Least Sandpiper at La Guittière, Forster's Tern at Plounéour-Trez and American Herring Gull at Gueltas. A Long-legged Buzzard and Pygmy Cormorant also lingered.

Grey-tailed Tattler, Étang de Thau, Languedoc-Roussillon (Paul Bonfils).

A Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit at 's-Gravendeel from 7th is the first Buff-bellied Pipit of either race to be recorded in The Netherlands. Not yet recorded in Britain, the subspecies must be a strong shout for a potential future visitor, as in north-west Europe, the taxon has now occurred in The Netherlands, France, Sweden and Norway. Otherwise, the Baikal Teal at Zevenhoven remained and a quality suite of rarities – namely Alpine Accentor, Moustached Warbler and Pygmy Cormorant – continued in Belgium.

Spain's second Black-faced Bunting – a male – was at Silla, Valencia, on 12th. Amazingly, the country's first occurred in Galicia as recently as March 2022! At least three Lesser Flamingos continued, with birds at Fuente de Piedra (two) and Laguna de Navaseca. The Semipalmated Plover count on Tenerife increased to two – the fifth and sixth records for Spain. Belated news concerned an African Crake at Guía, Gran Canaria, on 7 January. In the Azores, the female Hooded Merganser at Lagoa do Capitão, Pico, and Pied-billed Grebe at Lagoa das Furnas, São Miguel, both lingered.

The seventh Dusky Thrush for Germany was on the outskirts of Berlin at Rudow from 7th, while a Black Scoter was again at Blåvands Huk, Denmark, and a Stejneger's Scoter was still at Kąty Rybackie, Poland. Sweden's pair of mega-rare visitors remained – the Baltimore Oriole at Förslöv and Siberian Rubythroat at Trollhättan. In Norway, meanwhile, a first-winter American Herring Gull was at Mandal, with a Baikal Teal at Klepp and orientalis Oriental Turtle Dove at Stavanger both hanging on.

In Israel, a Three-banded Plover at Hazore'a was a fresh arrival, with the Pied Bush Chat still at Ma'or and a Brown Booby again off Tel Shikmona.

Written by: Sam Viles