Fool's spring, spring of deception … whatever you want to call it, the mild spell in mid-February feels like a long time ago, as the wintry beginning to March continued this past week. Much of Britain was subject to icy conditions and snow, with a northerly wind dominating. The last two days saw a switch to a more southerly airflow – and with it a few more summer migrants trickled through, but the floodgates feel like a long way from opening.
Of those migrants, Sand Martin was the most prevalent. Birds reached as far up the country as North Yorkshire, though southern and western areas had the bulk of the records. There was a similar spread of Little Ringed Plovers, which also reached North Yorkshire. A few Northern Wheatears, Swallows and House Martins also appeared, mainly in western areas, while the first Yellow Wagtail of the year was in Norfolk on Sunday and the first White Wagtail in Kent on Tuesday. Generally though, things were low-key in this department – and the longer term forecast suggests we might be made to wait a little longer for mass arrivals …
Little Ringed Plover, Seaton Marshes, Devon (Viv Keene).
In Aberdeenshire, the Ross's Gull reappeared at Kinnaird Head on 10th, and was still showing on 12th. The first-winter American Herring Gull continued at Inverlochy, Highland, until 11th and the Co Antrim Bonaparte's Gull put in an appearance at Ballygalley on 8-9th. Interestingly, of the seven Ring-billed Gull records two involved an apparently new birds, both adults: at Carrickfergus, Co Antrim, from 8-12th and, impressively, at Royton, Greater Manchester, on 12th.
American Herring Gull, Fort William, Highland (Alex Penn).
There was still plenty of wildfowl rarity interest, not least the drake Baikal Teal that showed at Foryd Bay, Gwynedd, on 6th and 12th. Other lingerers included the Lothian White-winged Scoter, the popular King Eider in Cleveland, the American Black Duck in Co Mayo and up to five each of Ferruginous Duck and Lesser Scaup.
King Eider, Redcar, Cleveland (Paul Coombes).
Lesser Scaup, Farmoor Reservoir, Oxfordshire (Tim Salkeld).
The Northumberland Richardson's Cackling Goose was last reported on 8th; continuing birds were on North Uist, Outer Hebrides (two), and Cross Lough, Co Mayo. The Red-breasted Goose was still on Islay, as were the apparent Grey-bellied Brant duo in Moray and Nairn.
Richardson's Cackling Goose, St Mary's Island, Northumberland (Alan Curry).
A Long-billed Dowitcher on Sanday on 10th was more or less the extent of the action in terms of new rarities; the Norfolk bird was reported at Cley Marshes, Norfolk, up to 9th. In Gloucestershire, the White-rumped Sandpiper performed at Slimbridge WWT all week. Co Waterford's Greater Yellowlegs was still at Tallow on 7th. Other Irish goodies included the Double-crested Cormorant and Forster's Tern.
White-rumped Sandpiper, Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire (Neil Cowley).
The Hume's Leaf Warblers continued in both Kent and Somerset, Cornwall's Isabelline Wheatear was still at Holywell and the Eastern Yellow Wagtail remained at Carlton Marshes.
Notable new scarcities included a Todd's Canada Goose on Tiree on 6th, a Green-winged Teal at Northstowe, Cambridgeshire, from 7-9th and an American Wigeon at Long Preston, North Yorkshire, on 12th. Further signs of wildfowl movement included no fewer than 10 new Ring-necked Duck, with a group of five at Kilkee Reservoir, Co Clare, among them.
Ring-necked Duck, Helston, Cornwall (Suzy Bristow).
Two Great Grey Shrikes in new places – Dalkeith, Lothian, and Felixkirk, North Yorkshire – may too involve birds on the move. Only three other locations scored this week, as another woeful winter for the species draws to a close.
A Little Bunting at Amwell NR, Hertfordshire, was a nice find on 9th; others in Cornwall (two) and Hertfordshire (a different bird) were continuing individuals. Other passerines still in situ included the Nottinghamshire Pallas's Warbler and both the Gloucestershire and Scilly Richard's Pipit.
Little Bunting, Stanborough Lakes, Hertfordshire (David Hutchinson).
It was a disappointing week for the remnant western 'population' of Siberian Crane. 'Omid', the last wild bird, had left Iran on 5th with his new partner, a recently released female named 'Roya'. Plenty of WP listers – including several Brits – were waiting in Azerbaijan in anticipation of the birds staging at Shirvan NP. Sadly this never happened, with the disappointing news coming through on Saturday that Roya had returned to Iran. Presumably she couldn't hack the mammoth flight, and with that you wonder if the final nail has been hammered into this sorry coffin.
It was otherwise a quiet week in the region. A Killdeer found far inland in France at Étang du Malsaucy, Belfort, on 10th was notable. The following day a Moussier's Redstart that had crossed the Strait of Gibraltar was discovered at Pedro Valiente, near Tarifa in Andalucia.
Other new birds included a Great Blue Heron on Pico, Azores, a White-headed Duck in The Netherlands at Westkapelle, Zealand, and Azerbaijan's first Hume's Leaf Warbler, which was found by Siberian Crane dippers at Salyan.