Review of the Week: 6th–12th December


The week at a glance

The weather remained cold as the second week of December progressed, with hard frosts, freezing fog and further isolated outbreaks of snow all contributing to the wintry theme. It was fitting, then, that the week's headline bird was a big, white and fluffy Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll along the beach at Aldeburgh (Suffolk). Found on Saturday 8th, the bird was identified from photographs and was thankfully still present the following morning, alleviating the pain inflicted by a rather less co-operative snowball in North Norfolk back in late October. Indeed, it continued to show extremely well just south of the town until 12th and unsurprisingly represents the first record for Suffolk.

Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll
Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, Aldeburgh, Suffolk (Photo: Debra Pickering)

Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll
Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, Aldeburgh, Suffolk (Photo: Allan King)

Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll
Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, Aldeburgh, Suffolk (Photo: Allan King)

The second headline discovery of the week was a Buff-bellied Pipit at Queen Mother Reservoir (Berks) on 12th. Inland birds are not unprecedented (an Oxfordshire record came from Farmoor in October 2007) but still extremely rare, and this will likely prove an extremely popular fixture next week should it linger.

Three of the recent weeks' highlights also remained in residence: over in Ireland, the American Coot continued to show well near Ballyconneely (Galway) throughout the week, while the Pied-billed Grebe was still at Smerclate, South Uist (Outer Hebrides) to at least 8th and the Pacific Diver prolonged its stay in Mount's Bay (Cornwall) into a second week, although it remained very distant.

Fewer unusual geese were reported this week, although the Ross's Goose was again noted at Haddiscoe Marshes (Norfolk) on 6th and the Red-breasted Goose had returned to Farlington Marshes (Hants) by 11th after its tour of Portsmouth Harbour. Three Richardson's Canada Geese remained at Ballyconnell (Sligo) on 9th and a fourth was still in the Cley (Norfolk) area to 11th. Six Black Brants comprised two at Rosslare Backstrand (Wexford) on 8th and another still at Dungarvan (Waterford) in addition to English records from Lincolnshire, Essex and Norfolk.

The arrival of a wonderfully smart drake Falcated Duck to Farmoor Reservoir (Oxon) on 9th prompted the usual questions regarding provenance. Appearing in conjunction with a large arrival of Mallard to the reservoir, it remained until 11th but disappeared overnight with the majority of the Mallard flock. Wigeon has always been regarded as the classic carrier species for Falcated Duck but, with an extensive range across much of Eurasia, wild Mallards must also have the potential to lure one of these glorious East Asian ducks westwards.

Meanwhile, the drake American Wigeon returned to the Yare Valley between Bawburgh and Marlingford (Norfolk) from 9th — it was last seen here on 9th March. The Tacumshin drake had moved to Cahore (Wexford) on 8th and others remained at Loch of Strathbeg (Aberdeenshire) and Wintersett Reservoir (W Yorks). The drake Blue-winged Teal was seen again at Threave (Dumf & Gall) on 11th–12th, and the female returned to Bull Island (Dublin) on 9th for the eighth winter, no less. Six Green-winged Teal consisted of lingering drakes at Portworthy Dam (Devon), Tacumshin (Wexford), Ballyconneely (Galway), Hodbarrow (Cumbria) and Loch Sandary, North Uist (Outer Hebrides) plus a new bird on the Newry Estuary (Down) on 8th.

A drake Lesser Scaup on Blagdon Lake (Somerset) from 7th is no doubt the recent Chew Valley Lake bird relocating; others remained on Lough Gash (Clare) on 9th and Siblyback Reservoir (Cornwall) on 12th. A new drake Ring-necked Duck was at Dungeness (Kent) on 9th and the female returned to East Norfolk, being seen on Whitlingham Great Broad on 9th–10th. The Leicestershire drake remained on Eyebrook Reservoir to 8th before relocating back to Rutland Water on 11th, while the drake was still at Loughrea (Galway) on 8th and the female still at Slapton Ley throughout. The drake Ferruginous Duck was still at Hay Moor (Somerset) to 9th but had moved to Wimbleball Lake by 11th.

An immature drake King Eider was seen off Filey (N Yorks) on 8th although not again. Surf Scoters concerned three (2 drakes) still off Llanddulas (Conwy) and juveniles still off Dungarvan (Waterford) and on Loch na Reivil, North Uist (Outer Hebrides).

In Hampshire, the Glossy Ibis remained on floods at Bickerley Common to 10th while the second-winter was also still at Marloes Mere (Pembrokeshire). Of the fifteen or so Great White Egrets, four were still kicking around the RSPB reserve at Dungeness (Kent) with two still at Ham Wall (Somerset). On Jersey, the Cattle Egret continued at Grouville Marsh, and up to 15 Spoonbills were regular in Holes Bay (Dorset) throughout.

Great White Egret
Great White Egret, Dungeness RSPB, Kent (Photo: John Whitting)

Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret, Grouville Marsh, Jersey (Photo: Mick Dryden)

Spoonbill, Holes Bay, Dorset (Photo: Simon Johnson)

A white-morph Gyr Falcon was seen again at Balranald, North Uist (Outer Hebrides) on 11th before being noted at Loch Paible and Knockintorran later that day, while another was reported near Portrush (Antrim) on 11th. Over in County Wexford, the Northern Harrier was still at Tacumshin on 9th. The only Rough-legged Buzzard reports came from Westwood (Wilts) on 8th and Cemaes and Cemlyn Bays (Anglesey) on 12th.

A familiar line-up of Nearctic shorebirds involved remaining Long-billed Dowitchers at Slimbridge (Glos) and Alkborough Flats (Lincs), with the Lesser Yellowlegs also still at the latter site and a second still at Ernesettle Creek (Devon). The first-winter Temminck's Stint was still showing well on the pools at Steart (Somerset) to 11th, with the Baird's Sandpiper still at Black Rock Strand (Kerry) on 12th and the White-rumped Sandpiper still at Longham Lakes (Dorset) on 9th. A Grey Phalarope was off Gibraltar Point (Lincs) on 9th and a second was found at Dunstable sewage works (Beds) on 12th.

Lesser Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs (right), Alkborough Flats, Lincolnshire (Photo: Richard Jackson)

Baird's Sandpiper
Baird's Sandpiper, Black Rock Strand, Kerry (Photo: Davey Farrar)

Temminck's Stint
Temminck's Stint, Steart, Somerset & Bristol (Photo: Gary Thoburn)

In Devon, the adult Bonaparte's Gull reappeared at Teignmouth on 8th–10th, and a Franklin's Gull was reported belatedly from Lessingham (Norfolk) on 9th. The adult Ring-billed Gull returned to Sands Lane Gravel Pits (W Yorks) for its fourth winter on 11th, and was still there the next day. Two adults were on Beale Strand (Kerry) on 6th, with singles still at Groomsport (Down), Bray (Wicklow) and Gosport (Hants). In Cork, one was again at Cuskinny Marsh and the adult Sabine's Gull was seen again nearby at Cobh. The Forster's Tern had returned to the north side of Galway Bay, being seen off Claddagh Beach on 7th–8th and 12th.

Ring-billed Gull
Ring-billed Gull, Gosport, Hampshire (Photo: Mark Leitch)

The Breckland Black-bellied Dipper was again seen on the River Thet in Thetford (Norfolk) on 6th but not again. Female Desert Wheatears remained at Rattray Head (Aberdeenshire) to 11th and on Guernsey throughout.

Black-bellied Dipper
Black-bellied Dipper, Thetford, Norfolk (Photo: Ian Goodall)

Desert Wheatear
Desert Wheatear, Fort le Crocq, Guernsey (Photo: Chris Bale)

Unsurprisingly, the far southwest boasted the majority of the week's insectivorous highlights. Cornwall's toothsome Subalpine Warbler lingered on at St. Just throughout the week, while a new Dusky Warbler was found at Lower Moors, St. Mary's (Scilly) on 10th and the Yellow-browed Warbler was again at Swanpool (Cornwall) on 6th. A Red-breasted Flycatcher was very late at Nanquidno Valley on 11th–12th.

Siberian Chiffchaff
Siberian Chiffchaff, Helston, Cornwall (Photo: Steve Bury)

A new Rose-coloured Starling — a first-winter — was found in Exminster (Devon) on 12th in addition to lingering Cornish birds at Port Isaac and Wadebridge on 6th. At least two Penduline Tits were reported again at Ouse Fen (Cambs) on 8th, while individuals were also seen at Pegwell Bay (Kent) on 6th and Minsmere (Suffolk) on 8th. Just seven Great Grey Shrikes were seen in Dorset (2), Surrey, Hertfordshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Powys. Finally, a Little Bunting was found at East Burrafirth (Shetland) on 7th and was still there on 10th.

Great Grey Shrike
Great Grey Shrike, Beeley Moor, Derbyshire (Photo: Vernon Barker)

Photo of the Week

Peregrine, Hoylake, Cheshire (Photo: Gerhard)

Photographing birds in flight is always a challenge, but photographing flocks of flying birds has its own specific difficulties. First, there is the difficulty of getting enough of the birds in focus for the shot to look like a flock rather than a blur and, second, it's not easy to find a focal point to an image when there are many birds in the frame. Gerhard Hofmann's photo of a wader flock off the Wirral peninsula shows what can be done. Gerhard used a small aperture to increase the depth of field so that as many of the birds as possible would be in focus. To find a point of interest, though, he couldn't have asked for a better volunteer than a Peregrine powering into the flock in the hope of an easy lunch. At first glance, especially at thumbnail size, the high-frequency mix of mid-tones make this an easy image to overlook, but closer inspection reveals an evocative record of one of our great wildlife spectacles. Congratulations to Gerhard on his first Photo of the Week.

Other notable images

Waxwing, Droitwich, Worcestershire (Photo: Bob Jones)

Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll
Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, Aldeburgh, Suffolk (Photo: Jon Evans)

Red Kite
Red Kite, Gigrin Farm, Powys (Photo: Jamie MacArthur)

Barn Owl
Barn Owl, undisclosed site, Norfolk (Photo: Paul Riddle)

Bittern and Marsh Harrier, Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk (Photo: John Richardson)

Goldfinch and Blue Tit, Wigan, Greater Manchester (Photo: Roy)

Robin, Mere Sands Wood LWT, Lancashire (Photo: John Hughes)

Little Egret
Little Egret, Widewater Lagoon, West Sussex (Photo: Howard Kearley)

Bearded Tit
Bearded Tit, Strumpshaw Fen RSPB, Norfolk (Photo: Dave Martin)

Desert Wheatear
Desert Wheatear, Vazon Bay, Guernsey (Photo: Adrian Gidney)

Red Grouse
Red Grouse, Stanhope, Durham (Photo: Morgan)

Brambling, undisclosed site, Shropshire (Photo: John Fielding)

Firecrest, Bardsey Island, Gwynedd (Photo: Ben Porter)