15/03/2003
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Review of the Week: 6th–12th March 2003

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Mild winds continued to dominate and temperatures throughout much of the week were decidedly spring like. As a result many observers enjoyed the sight of their first spring migrants, though as would be expected most of the sightings were in the south.

Winds off the continent in March invariably produce an overshooting Alpine Swift or two and this week was no exception. One was in Kent on the 8th and 9th, and another was reported in Dorset on the 5th. Often the first of the 'rare' spring migrants, their highly mobile nature ensures that this species can be devilishly difficult to catch up with before they re-orientate themselves. Typically early scarce migrants comprised three Hoopoes, with singles in Cornwall, St Agnes and Co. Cork, and two Serins with brief birds in Suffolk and Kent; in addition the long-staying individual in East Sussex remained.

Commoner migrants such as Wheatears and Sand Martins continue to arrive in southern England, with birds slowly spreading northwards, along with many Chiffchaffs reported. Several Little Ringed Plovers have been seen in southern counties. More unusual was a Ring Ouzel in Suffolk on the 11th, a Turtle Dove reported in Essex on 9th and a Whinchat in London on the 10th. Elsewhere, Yellow Wagtails were in Beds on 10th and a Whimbrel was in Essex on the 12th. The first House Martin of the spring was seen in the West Midlands on the 12th March and Swallows in Devon on 6th and West Sussex on 10th. Also of note, two Ospreys were seen at the famous Loch Garten on 12th, with migrants through several sites during the week. Spring has definitely sprung early this year! For more details on migrants go to the BTO Migration Watch at http://www.bto.org/migwatch/ or keep an eye on Bird News Extra to pick up on arrivals of migrants near to where you live.

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Despite the fine weather there have been few 'new' birds reported during the week. A Great White Egret was seen in Norfolk and a Grey Phalarope on Islay. A wing-tagged White-tailed Eagle was seen at Stocks Reservoir (Lancs) on 12th. If relocated this will no doubt prove a popular attraction for birders over the weekend. In Cheshire the Long-billed Dowitcher was again seen at Inner Marsh Farm, whilst the wintering bird remained at Inver (Highland).

Wintering birds are starting to thin out, but good numbers of Waxwings remain in the country, whilst thrushes are still in evidence in a number of areas. In Norfolk the Pallid Harrier and Yellow-browed Warbler remain, as does the Two-barred Crossbill in Bucks. Common Cranes are still present at a number of sites, including 5 birds in Beds/Hertfordshire. The two Richard's Pipits, in South Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, remain, but will probably depart soon.

Written by: Russell Slack