Review of the Week: 7-13 November 2022


Freakishly mild weather meant that many of last week's birds continued into the review period, although a blast of easterly winds did deliver a scattering of late autumn Sibes in eastern areas – and northerly winds produced a smattering of misplaced Little Auks.

It turned out that the west coast of Ireland would deliver the week's biggest prize, however, with a surprise Nearctic double-act of two Bufflehead at Carrowmore Lake, Co Mayo, earning top spot. Flighty and present for just one day only, the pair could hardly be better placed for a pair of genuine vagrants. Birders across both Ireland and Britain will be hoping that the pair resurface somewhere else this winter.

A resident of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the presence of Swinhoe's Storm Petrel in the Atlantic Ocean in small numbers on a near-annual basis is perhaps the single greatest mystery in Western Palearctic birding. Co Cork added to the totals this week, when one flew close inshore past Ballycotton, Co Cork, on 11th. There are just two accepted records of the species in Ireland, one off Bridges of Ross, Co Clare, in 1985 and one trapped on Great Skellig, Co Kerry, in 2000.

The aforementioned mega-rare petrel aside, seabird action saw large numbers of Great Shearwaters continue to roam the South-West Approaches, with counts of several hundred off both Lizard Point, Cornwall, and Galley Head, Co Cork. A Cory's Shearwater lingered off the Isle of May, Fife, on 10-11th. In Kent, a juvenile Sabine's Gull at Port Lympe Safari Park continued to prove popular, with others logged off coastal sites in 10 counties. It was another bumper week for Leach's Storm Petrels in southern and western areas, while 12 Grey Phalaropes were recorded and Long-tailed Skuas were off five counties.

Sabine's Gull, Lympne, Kent (Stephen Ray).

An arrival of classic late autumn Siberian vagrants peaked with a brief Black-throated Thrush on North Ronaldsay, Orkney, for a few minutes on 9th. A quintessential November 'rare' is Hume's Leaf Warbler. The most notable of three found this week was one in the company of a Yellow-browed Warbler at Swanpool, Cornwall. Others were at Blakeney Point, Norfolk, and Grutness, Mainland Shetland.

Black-throated Thrush, North Ronaldsay, Orkney (Dante Shepherd).

Ever popular was the young male Pied Wheatear at Whitley Bay, Northumberland, which – to the relief of skateboarders across North Tyneside – bid adieu to the site's skate park after 12th. Belated news concerned a first-winter female photographed at Portland Bill, Dorset, on 29 October. An Isabelline Wheatear remained at Uwchmynydd, Gwynedd, throughout, with the Irish example lasting at Toe Head, Co Cork, until 8th at least.

Pied Wheatear, Whitley Bay, Northumberland (Mike Barth).

Isabelline Wheatear, Uwchmynydd, Gwynedd (Fergus Mosey).

Greater Manchester's first Eurasian Penduline Tit was an excellent find at Pennington Flash on 9th. Unfortunately, it wouldn't stay long, with only the finder lucky enough to connect with it. Equally brief was one mist-netted by the ringing team at Woolston Eyes, Cheshire, on 12th – a second county record after one in 1986. Though impossible to confirm as the same bird, it feels a distinct possibility – both sites are just 10 km apart. A second (or third) bird was on St Mary's, Scilly.

Eurasian Penduline Tit, Pennington Flash CP, Greater Manchester (Colin Davies).

Eurasian Penduline Tit, Woolston Eyes NR (PERMIT ONLY), Cheshire (Dan Owen).

The second Olive-backed Pipit for Skokholm, Pembrokeshire, rounded of an impressive autumn for the island late on 13th, with two more in Shetland. No fewer than six Richard's Pipits were logged and Shore Larks were at six east coast sites between Lothian and Essex. At opposite ends of Britain, Red-throated Pipits were at Nanjizal Valley, Cornwall, and Loch of Norby, Mainland Shetland. On 10th, an American Buff-bellied Pipit overflew St Mary's, Scilly, after a 10-day absence.

Four Great Grey Shrikes were in England – at Thursley Common, Surrey, Black Down, West Sussex, Berney Marshes RSPB, Norfolk, and Hothfield, Kent. Further afield, one skirted the Conwy-Clwyd border near Llyn Brenig, Wales, with another on Whalsay, Shetland. A late Red-flanked Bluetail was on St Mary's, Scilly, from 9th and a probable Eastern Yellow Wagtail graced the seafront at East Cowes, Isle of Wight, from 27 October-8 November. Otherwise, four Wrynecks were along the south coast between Scilly and East Sussex and two Little Buntings were in Shetland.

Red-flanked Bluetail, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Kris Webb).

Wryneck, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Kris Webb).

Hornemann's Arctic Redpolls were again at both Lerwick, Mainland Shetland, and North Ronaldsay, Orkney. Common Rosefinches were split between Portland, Dorset, Kirkpatrick Durham, Dumfries & Galloway, and North Ronaldsay, Orkney, with European Serins at Lizard, Cornwall, and Portland, Dorset.

Pallas's Warbler, South Foreland, Kent (Jamie Partridge).

Both Radde's and Dusky Warblers were on St Mary's, Scilly. Dusky Warblers were at four sites in total, with another Radde's Warbler at Portland, Dorset. Six Pallas's Warblers included two at South Foreland, Kent, with a Blyth's Reed Warbler again at Lerwick, Mainland Shetland. Three presumed Siberian Lesser Whitethroats were logged – at Croydon, London, St Dennis, Cornwall, and Vatersay, Outer Hebrides.

Radde's Warbler, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Ashley Fisher).

Dusky Warbler, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (Ashley Fisher).

Three of the week's four reported Pallid Swifts hailed from the Scottish coast. Singles were in Highland and Aberdeenshire, while one at Portknockie, Moray & Nairn, throughout proved especially popular. In Hampshire, a probable flew over Old Basing, Hampshire. Perhaps even more surprising for mid-November was the continued occurrence of several Red-rumped Swallows along the east coast of England. Most impressive were three near Walberswick, Suffolk, accompanied by over 50 Swallows! Up to three were in Kent too, while one flew south flew Spurn, East Yorkshire.

Pallid Swift, Portknockie, Moray & Nairn (Peter Stronach).

Red-rumped Swallow, Walberswick, Suffolk (Andrew Moon).

An apparent near-adult Azores Gull at The Mere from 10-12th would make for a surprise Shropshire first. Elsewhere, a juvenile Kumlien's Gull flew past Lizard Point, Cornwall, on 7th; Bonaparte's Gulls were at Stag Rocks, Northumberland, and Kilshannig, Co Kerry. Long-stayers in Ireland comprised a Double-crested Cormorant at Doon Lough, Co Leitrim, and a Forster's Tern at Kinvarra, Co Galway.

Azores Gull, The Mere, Shropshire (Stephen Tomlinson).

Elsewhere in Ireland, inland Co Kildare racked up another impressive Nearctic visitor with a Spotted Sandpiper at Leixlip Reservoir from 8th – following both a Greater Yellowlegs and another Spotted Sandpiper earlier in 2022. The Wilson's Snipe racked up a round month on St Mary's, Scilly, with other continuing shorebirds including a Long-billed Dowitcher at Salthouse, Norfolk, Lesser Yellowlegs at Loch of Strathbeg RSPB, Aberdeenshire, and a White-rumped Sandpiper on Benbecula, Outer Hebrides. Pectoral Sandpipers were in both Nottinghamshire and Dumfries & Galloway, while American Golden Plovers were split between North Uist, Outer Hebrides, Myroe Levels, Co Londonderry, and Annagh Marsh, Co Mayo.

Spotted Sandpiper, Leixlip, Kildare (Derek Brennan).

Deep in the Scottish Borders, a Pallid Harrier headed south over Newcastleton Forest near the Northumberland border on 9th. In Norfolk, one was again quartering the saltmarsh near Warham Greens, while Co Kerry was treated to a sub-adult male Montagu's Harrier at Ballyheige from 11th. In Conwy, a small crake species was reported at Conwy RSPB on 8th.

Perhaps the most surprising find of the week saw a Marbled Duck on Holy Island, Northumberland, on 13th. Much like last week's record of two Wood Duck in Cornwall, previous Marbled Duck occurrences have trodden a tricky path with the national rarities committees. It is also commonly kept in captivity, making distinguishing between wild and escape fraught with difficulty. With a White-headed Duck in Belgium, Pallid Swifts aplenty and a supporting cast of several Iberian vagrants across North-West Europe, however, who would we be to bet against this latest example?

Marbled Duck (bottom right), Holy Island, Northumberland (Graham Sorrie).

Up to three Ferruginous Duck were at Ormesby Broad, Norfolk, over the weekend, although the possibility of hybrids wasn't eliminated. Another remained at Inch Island Lake, Co Donegal, with Ring-necked Duck reported from 18 sites. Another bumper winter showing appears on the cards for this dapper Nearctic visitor.

The American Black Duck was back at Termoncarragh Lough, Co Mayo, and eight Green-winged Teal included five new birds, while American Wigeon were in Somerset, Lincolnshire, Dumfries & Galloway and Shetland. Both the White-winged Scoter and King Eider lingered off Musselburgh, Lothian, with the Black Scoter still off Northumberland. White-billed Divers were off Brora, Highland, and North Ronaldsay, Orkney.

Green-winged Teal, Tain, Highland (Robert Swann).

American Wigeon (left), Meare Heath, Somerset & Bristol (Chris Teague).

Two Snow Geese – white-morph and blue-morph adults – were reported again from Aghernagallagh, Co Mayo, with seven Taiga Bean Geese over Kinghorn, Fife, in addition to the regular wintering flock at Slamannan, Forth. An impressive mini-flock of four Todd's Canada Geese were on Tiree, Argyll, on 13th, with one still with Barnacle Geese at Mersehead RSPB, Dumfries & Galloway. Black Brant remained in East Yorkshire, Essex and Dorset.

Todd's Canada Geese, Salum, Tiree, Argyll (Jim Dickson).


Western Palearctic

The Red-breasted Nuthatch at Tönsheider Wald, Germany, continued to prove a popular draw. Other continuing Nearctic megas concerned a Common Yellowthroat at Magadino, Switzerland, and a Sandhill Crane at Balmazújváros, Hungary.

Elsewhere in Germany, the Western Olivaceous Warbler remained on Heligoland until 8th, while a Bonaparte's Gull and Lesser Scaup both lingered. A Eurasian Crag Martin overflew Mandø and the Hooded Merganser hung on at Randers. Poland's third Stejneger's Scoter was at Krynica Morska on 13th. In Norway, a Black-throated Thrush was at Karmøy and an Oriental Turtle Dove was at Utö.

Red-breasted Nuthatch, Tönsheider Wald, Schleswig-Holstein (Kris De Rouck).

If accepted, an unringed White-headed Duck at Marais d'Harchies from 11th will become Belgium's fourth record. The Netherlands's third Alpine Accentor of the autumn spent some time on the pier at Hoek van Holland, with a returning drake Baikal Teal at Zevenhoven and Black Scoter still off Schiermonnikoog.

The first Blyth's Pipit for the Channel Islands lingered at Pleinmont, Guernsey, where it was joined by the island's third Little Bunting. A ringtail Pallid Harrier overflew Alderney on 11th, the same day a Eurasian Treecreeper was trapped and ringed. Amazingly, the latter is just the fourth for the Channel Islands and the first for Alderney! In France, the Northern Harrier was back on Ouessant Island, two Lesser Scaup remained at Étang du Curnic and a Spotted Sandpiper was again at Retenue de Pincemaille.

Spain's third Short-billed Dowitcher – a juvenile – was in Galicia at Ría de Foz, with a Least Sandpiper and two Lesser Scaup also in the province. A Blyth's Pipit was at Cabo de Peñas, while Brown Boobies were off both Tarifa, Spain and Cascais, Portugal. The second Dusky Warbler for the Canary Islands accompanied a Lesser Scaup on Fuerteventura, with a Pied-billed Grebe again on Terceira, Azores.

Written by: Sam Viles