Review of the Week: 6th-12th November 2008


The week at a glance

With the weather being what it was, it came as little surprise that, for the early part of the new week at least, the east side of the country continued to dominate the headlines as all manner of rarities peppered the coast. There were no real surprises, though; indeed, the bird of the week was rather predictable given the conditions, but that didn't it stop it drawing an appreciative crowd—for many it had been a long time coming.

Steppe Grey Shrike
Steppe Grey Shrike, Saltfleet, Lincolnshire (Photo: Garth Clarke)

Steppe Grey Shrike
Steppe Grey Shrike, Grainthorpe Haven, Lincolnshire (Photo: Matt Latham)

Canvasback, Nosterfield Quarry, North Yorkshire (Photo: Andy Booth)

Green Heron
Green Heron, Hythe, Kent (Photo: Darren Chapman)

Hooded Merganser
Hooded Merganser, Tayport, Fife (Photo: Tristan Reid)

Hooded Merganser
Hooded Merganser, Radipole Lake RSPB, Dorset (Photo: Aidan)

Red-flanked Bluetail
Red-flanked Bluetail, Holy Island, Northumberland (Photo: Tom Tams)

The first-winter Steppe Grey Shrike found near Grainthorpe Haven (Lincolnshire) on 7th was the first county record and only the third time the species has been seen during the 2000s. The last truly twitchable bird was on the Isle of Man in the summer of 2003 (and another was reported in Kent in 2004) but for those who follow the letter of the BOURC listing law, the bird at The Ayres NNR would not be countable on a British List. Quirky, huh? The bird performed admirably to all until 11th at least. In North Yorkshire, the adult drake Canvasback (candidate) re-appeared at Nosterfield Lake for an afternoon on 8th, after it first spent a couple of hours at the same site on 30th October. The bird remained on show for just a few hours until dusk and then went missing once more. In Kent, the first-winter Green Heron was still proving to be wonderfully obliging along the Royal Military Canal at West Hythe until 9th at least (thereafter it had either gone or no-one was going to see it). Another potential "mega" was still the cause of much discussion, and more miles driven: the first-winter, or female, Hooded Merganser that showed well around Tayport (Fife) from 6th–12th. The adult drake Hooded Merganser at Radipole Lake (Dorset) suddenly seems to have been elevated to rather grand status too after its TV appearance, and was still attracting visitors to 12th. As one species seeks approval as a bona fide mega, another must surely have to take its leave of headline status as we bid a fond farewell to Red-flanked Bluetail. What a few days it's been for this little gem: belated news appeared during the week of a bird at Brancaster (Norfolk) on 4th, which was followed by available individuals at Chapel St. Leonard's (Lincolnshire) and Blakeney Point (Norfolk), both on 6th, another on Holy Island (Northumberland) on 7th, then again on 9th–12th, while two birds were trapped and ringed on 8th (at Hollesley in Suffolk and Saltfleetby in Lincolnshire). The grand total for the autumn so far (from the first on Fair Isle in late September) is 13 birds and eight of those have been seen since the start of November. It seems staggering that since the famous bird at Winspit (Dorset) in 1993—the first chance many had to encounter the species in Britain—another 48 individuals have been seen since, compared to just 12 birds before it.

Grey Phalarope
Grey Phalarope, Stevenston Point, Ayrshire (Photo: Jim Woods)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it has been a pretty poor week for seabirds. There were single figures apiece for both Balearic Shearwater and Sooty Shearwater this week, while around 300 Grey Phalaropes were noted—262 of those were seen from Kilcummin Head (Co. Mayo) on 11th. Elsewhere, 14 Grey Phalaropes were seen off Tiree (Argyll) on 11th and 10 off Ballynahown (Co. Galway) on 10th, while singles were dotted around from Shetland to East Sussex. With just a couple of Pomarine Skuas noted (from Berry Head in Devon on 10th) we'll move swiftly on to Sabine's Gull, with a juvenile off Holme (Norfolk) on 7th and an adult seen off Low-Newton-by-the-Sea (Northumberland) on 9th. There were fewer than 10 Little Auks to report this week, with six off Kilcummin Head on 11th the only count of any note.

Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret, Ellesmere, Shropshire (Photo: Jim Almond)

Great White Egret
Great White Egret, Saddington Reservoir, Leicestershire and Rutland (Photo: Nigel Spencer)

Common Crane
Common Crane, Modbury, Devon (Photo: John Lee)

On 7th, single Cattle Egrets were seen at Ellesmere (Shropshire), Bransbury Common (Hampshire), Marshside (Lancashire) and one remained at Sandy Haven (Pembrokeshire). On 8th, the two birds seen last week at Brampton (Cambridgeshire) were present again, while another was at Dorchester-on-Thames (Oxfordshire) and at least four birds were at Walton Heath (Somerset), with five birds there on 9th. Also on 9th, the Cambridgeshire birds relocated to Fen Drayton GPs and two were seen at Meare Heath (Somerset). The Great White Egret remained at Astley Green (Greater Manchester) from 6th–10th and the bird at Blashford Lakes (Hampshire) was seen on 7th. On the same date, one flew over Spellbrook (Hertfordshire) and on 8th another Great White Egret was seen at Bungay (Suffolk). In Leicestershire, a Great White Egret was again at Saddington Reservoir on 9th (after one was present there on 24th October) and one flew over Cley reserve, Titchwell and Holme (Norfolk) on 12th. Spoonbills struggled towards double figures this week, presumably because there was no news from Poole Harbour. At least five birds were still on Isley Marsh (Devon) throughout the week while singles were at the National Wetlands Centre (Carmarthenshire) to 7th and Abberton Reservoir (Essex) to 11th. The adult Glossy Ibis was still at Warton Marsh (Lancashire) to 9th while on 10th a Squacco Heron was reported flying past the Visitor Centre at Rainham Marshes (London). A White Stork was reported near South Newington (Oxfordshire) on 10th. In Devon, the Common Crane remained near Modbury to 11th at least, while in Norfolk around 30 birds were seen around Horsey on 9th, and singles flew over Ormesby Broad (Norfolk) on 10th and Southwold (Suffolk) on 11th. A Corncrake was seen briefly at Rosenannon Downs (Cornwall) on 6th and a singing Spotted Crake was heard at Titchwell (Norfolk) on the same date.

A Taverner's Canada Goose was at Loch Gorm, Islay (Argyll) on 6th along with a Richardson's Canada Goose (with it or another Richardson's at Loch Gruinart the same day). An adult Red-breasted Goose was at Pennington Marshes (Hampshire) on 6th (in the company of Canada Geese) before jumping into a Brent Goose flock the following day. Later on 7th, the bird appeared at Keyhaven Marshes and it continued to move between sites (and carrier species) until 9th. A Ross's Goose was seen flying over Abram (Greater Manchester) on 7th, while a Ross's or Snow Goose was seen near Vane Farm on the same day. A flock of 13 Snow Geese spent 3rd–6th north of Skegness (Lincolnshire) and raised an eyebrow or two (origins for these will always be "unknown") while the provenance of single birds at the North Slob reserve (Co. Wexford) and Annagh Head (Co. Mayo), both on 9th, is less likely to cause debate. The bird in Mayo was seen again at Belmullet on 11th. Up in Argyll, the regular wintering Snow Goose was at Craobh Haven on 12th. In Norfolk, single Black Brants were at Titchwell on 8th and 10th–12th, and at Burnham Overy Staithe on 9th, while another remained around the Fleet (Dorset) to 12th and another was at Gosport (Hampshire) on 11th–12th.

Lesser Scaup
Lesser Scaup, Helston, Cornwall (Photo: anon)

Green-winged Teal
Green-winged Teal, North Cave Wetlands, East Yorkshire (Photo: Ross Ahmed)

Lingering drake Lesser Scaup were at Holme Pierrepoint (Nottinghamshire) to 8th and Hogganfield Loch (Clyde) to 9th. A female was found at Helston Loe Pool (Cornwall) on 8th, remaining to 11th at least, while another female-type was found at Loch Ennell (Co. Westmeath) on 9th. On 10th–11th, a first-winter drake was at Lydney (Gloucestershire). An amazing eight Ring-necked Ducks were found at Chew Valley Lake (Somerset) on 9th—a single, a pair and then a flock of five (could some of them possibly be the birds seen on Inish Mor earlier this autumn?)—with three birds still present on 10th and a female remaining to 11th. At Foxcote Reservoir in Buckinghamshire, the drake Ring-necked Duck was seen again on 12th. The only other birds reported this week were the female on Bassenthwaite Lake (Cumbria) on 10th and at Whitlingham Lane, near Norwich (Norfolk) on 11th–12th. The drake Ferruginous Duck was still at Calvert Lake (Buckinghamshire) on 8th–12th and the first-winter drake remained at Old Hall Marshes (Essex) from 7th–9th. A drake American Wigeon was seen near Llangorse Lake (Powys) on 8th while Green-winged Teal remained at Farlington Marshes (Hampshire), Capringstone Flash (Ayrshire), Kilcoole (Co. Wicklow), Belfast Lough (Co. Antrim) and Clonakilty (Co. Cork), with a presumed returning drake seen at Bell Harbour (Co. Clare) on 8th. New individuals were seen at North Cave Wetlands (East Yorkshire) and Kinneil Lagoon (Forth) on 9th (the East Yorkshire bird presumably relocating to Blacktoft Sands on 10th), and Wheldrake Ings (North Yorkshire) and Campfield Marsh (Cumbria) on 10th, with one again at Caerlaverock (Dumfries & Galloway) on 12th. The second-winter drake King Eider was still off Appledore (Devon) to 11th while Devon also hosted at least one female Surf Scoter this week, one off Preston, Torbay on 6th–7th with another at Seaton Hole on 10th. A juvenile Surf Scoter was seen off Pendower Beach (Cornwall) on 6th and two young birds were seen off Doonbeg (Co. Clare) on 8th.

A Rough-legged Buzzard was seen at a handful of sites (Hilbre, Hoylake and West Kirkby) around Cheshire on 6th–7th (having initially been seen on 5th) while in Lincolnshire, birds were reported at Scamblesby on 7th and Dorrington Farm on 9th. Further singles were in Essex, at Orsett, on 8th and 11th, and in Kent, at Maidstone, on 10th and near Sandwich Bay on 11th. A Dark-breasted Barn Owl was at Embleton (Northumberland) on 7th.

The juvenile American Golden Plover was still on Omey Island (Co. Galway) on 7th with another at The Cunnigar (Co. Waterford) on 8th, and a juvenile was at Fen Drayton GPs (Cambridgeshire) on 9th. The Dotterel stayed around East Harling (Norfolk) to 10th at least, and the American Golden Plover reappeared there on 11th. Another Dotterel was seen at Nanjizal (Cornwall) on 7th. A first-winter Lesser Yellowlegs was at Clonakilty (Co. Cork) on 12th, while in a rather lean week for shorebirds, the Long-billed Dowitcher remained at Dundalk Docks (Co. Louth) until 9th.

Iceland Gull
Iceland Gull, Scarborough, North Yorkshire (Photo: Steve Race)

Glaucous Gull
Glaucous Gull, Donna Nook, Lincolnshire (Photo: Andy Booth)

Ring-billed Gull
Ring-billed Gull, Prescot Reservoirs (Permit Only), Lancashire (Photo: Stephen Tomlinson)

The second-winter Azorean Yellow-legged Gull remained around the far west end of Cornwall this week, at Skewjack on 6th and Trevorian Pool on 8th. Around 15 Caspian Gulls were seen over the week, including three (two adults and a first-winter) at Calvert Lakes (Buckinghamshire) on 7th, with two adults at Ditchford Gravel Pits (Northamptonshire) on the same date. Two birds dropped in at Lea Marston and Coton Lakes (Warwickshire) on 12th, and two different birds, a first- and third-winter, were at Beddington Sewage Farm in London during the week. A dozen Iceland Gulls included a juvenile at Southwold (Suffolk) on 7th and a juvenile Kumlien's Gull was at Loch Ryan (Dumfries & Galloway) on 12th, while six Glaucous Gulls included a second-winter at Donna Nook (Lincolnshire) on 8th–12th. The second-winter Ring-billed Gull was still at Lamby Lake (Glamorgan) to 9th, while regular wintering adults were still at Westcliff-on-Sea (Essex) and Gosport (Hampshire) during the week. Further adults were at Dingwall (Highland) and in the roost at Carsington Water (Derbyshire) on 7th and again on 12th, at Portrush (Co. Antrim) on 10th–11th, briefly at Prescot Reservoirs (Lancashire) on 11th and at Clonakilty (Co. Cork) on 12th. Also on 11th, a first-winter Ring-billed Gull was seen at Wadebridge (Cornwall). The adult Forster's Tern was at Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway) to 7th at least.

Pied Wheatear
Pied Wheatear, Reighton Sands, North Yorkshire (Photo: Steve Race)

Pied Wheatear
Pied Wheatear, Reighton Sands, North Yorkshire (Photo: Marcus Conway)

Desert Wheatear
Desert Wheatear, Saltfleet, Lincolnshire (Photo: Trevor Gunby)

Desert Wheatear
Desert Wheatear, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland (Photo: Tom Tams)

Great Grey Shrike
Great Grey Shrike, Knitsley Fell, Durham (Photo: Derek C.)

Waxwing, Hull, East Yorkshire (Photo: Maurice Gordon)

In North Yorkshire, a first-winter female Pied Wheatear was found at Reighton Sands on 8th and stayed to 12th. This is the first Pied Wheatear for a couple of years (since one on Bryher, Scilly in October 2006) and the first in North Yorkshire since the super first-summer male at Scarborough in 1991. The young male Desert Wheatear remained at Easton Bavents (Suffolk) to 7th and again from 9th–10th. Four more Desert Wheatears arrived this week: first-winter females were seen at Sandwich Bay (Kent) on 7th–11th and at Saltfleet (Lincolnshire) on 8th–12th, while males were seen around Lynemouth and Newbiggin-by-the-Sea (Northumberland) from 9th–12th and at Instow (Devon) on 12th. Staying in Northumberland, a Bluethroat was on the Farne Islands on 7th, with another at Girdle Ness (Aberdeenshire) the previous day. A Hoopoe was seen at Saltfleetby (Lincolnshire) on 9th. Three Olive-backed Pipits were seen in the Northern Isles this week—on Bressay (Shetland) on 7th and Fair Isle (Shetland) and North Ronaldsay (Orkney) both on 8th. The Siberian Stonechat was still at Easington (East Yorkshire) to 6th and a Penduline Tit was seen briefly at North Foreland (Kent) on 8th. Great Grey Shrikes mustered some 18 birds, with three or four birds in Norfolk and East Yorkshire, while the bird at Farmoor Reservoir (Oxfordshire) remained until 6th and the returning bird at Dalton Crags (Cumbria) was still present on 8th. Tiree scored an island first when a Great Grey Shrike was found at Cornaibeg on 12th. Well over 2000 Waxwings were on offer this week and it was Scotland that (not surprisingly) fared best again. A flock of 150 were seen around Inverness (Highland) on 6th and 140 or more were in Aberdeen on 7th. At least 100 remained around Arisaig (Highland) on 7th and on the same date, 150+ were seen at Stornoway, Lewis (Outer Hebrides). By the morning of 8th, numbers in Aberdeen had exceeded 200, rising steeply by close of play that day to just under 600 around the city! At least 500 were seen in a single flock at Allenvale Cemetery in Aberdeen on 9th, when another hundred were seen at Dunbar (Lothian) and 250+ were still at Pitlochry (Perth & Kinross) with around 100 in Perth on 11th. Also on 11th, at least 200 were in Dundee (Angus), 200 were seen around Stirling (Forth) and 145 were at Dunbar (Lothian). There have been no three-figure flocks south of the border yet; 84 at Ashington (Northumberland) on 8th was the closest we got this week. In Norfolk, the Black-bellied Dipper reappeared at Glandford on 12th.

Pallas's Warbler
Pallas's Warbler, Dunbar, Lothian (Photo: Mike Thrower)

Hume's Leaf Warbler
Hume's Leaf Warbler, Bressay, Shetland (Photo: Steve Minton)

Radde's Warbler
Radde's Warbler, Scarborough, North Yorkshire (Photo: Terry Hobson)

The surprise of the week in terms of warblers was the discovery of a female Sardinian Warbler at Berry Head (Devon) on 12th. It's been 16 years since the last record of the species in the county, a female trapped at Prawle Point in May 1992. It was another excellent week for Hume's Yellow-browed Warblers this week, with at least seven news birds seen. Last week's bird at Symbister, Whalsay (Shetland) remained until 7th, on which date new birds were found on North Ronaldsay (Orkney), on St. Mary's Island (Northumberland) and in Wells Woods (Norfolk). Three more new arrivals were found on 9th including two in Aberdeenshire, at Muchalls and Balmedie CP, with another in Northumberland, this one arriving at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea. On 11th, a Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler was seen on Bressay (Shetland) and was still present on 12th. At least 28 Pallas's Warblers were seen this week, with at least five birds each for Aberdeenshire (including two at Newtonhill on 9th) and North Yorkshire (two at Filey on 7th). Norfolk scored four and two were seen at Hartlepool (Cleveland) on 7th and one made it to Kent, seen at Westgate on Sea, also on 7th. Just under 40 Yellow-browed Warblers were pretty widely scattered with five making it across to Wales and one lingering down on Scilly, with almost all the others being seen in North-Sea-facing counties. Dusky Warblers remained at Spurn (East Yorkshire) and Muckleburgh Hill (Norfolk) to 6th while three Radde's Warbler made landfall on 7th, on Blakeney Point (Norfolk), and at Easington (East Yorkshire) and Scarborough (North Yorkshire). A male Red-breasted Flycatcher was at Sumburgh, Mainland (Shetland) on 7th.

Two-barred Crossbill
Two-barred Crossbill, Bilsdale, North Yorkshire (Photo: Andy Booth)

Two-barred Crossbill
Two-barred Crossbill, Bilsdale, North Yorkshire (Photo: David Brown)

It seems ages ago that the weekly review was awash with Two-barred Crossbills but it really was only three or four months ago that the incredible Northern Isles invasion occurred. As predicted back then, there would be one bird that finally gave itself up to those on the mainland who hadn't come across the species until now. After near misses this autumn in private gardens in Durham and West Yorkshire, a male at garden feeders near Bilsdale (North Yorkshire) from 7th onwards proved very popular. The bird had been coming to feeders since 29th October (the very same date as the one in West Yorkshire) and continued to show until 12th. The last twitchable bird was the male at Hedgerley in Buckinghamshire in March 2003. A couple of probable Arctic Redpolls were seen with Mealy Redpolls at Horseshoe Point (Lincolnshire) on 8th, with one there to 11th. At Rainham Marshes (London) a couple of Serins were seen to 9th, then four were seen on 11th–12th. Further single Serins were seen at Hengistbury Head (Dorset) on 6th and Sandy Point (Hampshire) on 9th. A Rustic Bunting was found at Baltasound, Unst (Shetland) on 9th, remaining to 11th.

Long-tailed Duck
Long-tailed Duck, Scarborough, North Yorkshire (Photo: Mark Ranner)

Photo of the Week

Desert Wheatear
Desert Wheatear, Saltfleet, Lincolnshire (Photo: Dean Eades)

The Desert Wheatears that turned up along the east coast of England this week enabled photographers to capture a range of high-quality portrait shots. In particular, the female bird at Saltfleet in Lincolnshire provided opportunities to use the sandy beach setting to capture some very natural-looking images. With these in the bag, though, it's great to see photographers looking for a more creative angle. Dean Eades' shot of this bird perched on a camera, reminiscent of many a cartoon image, brings a refreshing injection of humour into the all-too-serious world of bird photography.

Other notable photos

Harlequin Duck
Harlequin Duck, Iceland (Photo: Nicholas Oakes)

Waxwing, Halifax, West Yorkshire (Photo: Sean Gray)

Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret, Spain (Photo: Steve Fletcher)

Jack Snipe
Jack Snipe, Chipping, Lancashire (Photo: Gavin Thomas)

Goldcrest, Belgium (Photo: Rudi Debruyne)

Scaup, West Kirby Marine Lake, Cheshire (Photo: Steve Round)

Great Northern Diver
Great Northern Diver, Scarborough, North Yorkshire (Photo: Steve Race)

Green Heron
Green Heron, Hythe, Kent (Photo: Chris Mayne)

Grey Plover
Grey Plover, Cobo Bay, Guernsey (Photo: Paul Hillion)

Steppe Grey Shrike
Steppe Grey Shrike, Saltfleet, Lincolnshire (Photo: Dean Eades)

Long-eared Owl
Long-eared Owl, Holy Island, Northumberland (Photo: Paul Massey)

Moorhen, Wallasey, Cheshire (Photo: Richard Steel)

Eurasian Griffon Vulture
Eurasian Griffon Vulture, Spain (Photo: Steve Fletcher)

Long-tailed Tit
Long-tailed Tit, Portskewett, Gwent (Photo: Mike Warburton)

Hooded Merganser
Hooded Merganser, Radipole Lake RSPB, Dorset (Photo: Jeff Hazell)

Great Shearwater
Great Shearwater, Inishbofin, Galway (Photo: Craig Nash)

Twite, Fife Ness, Fife (Photo: John Anderson)

Written by: Mark Golley