14/03/2013
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Review of the Week: 7th–13th March

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The week at a glance

Last week's faint glimmer of spring was well and truly vanquished this week as a bitter easterly wind brought sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow to many parts of Britain — particularly eastern areas. And, with a minimal list of new arrivals and the majority of long-stayers staying put, it would have been very easy simply to copy and paste last week's review here...

You really had to feel sorry for those migrants arriving over the weekend, with blizzards and Arctic air greeting the first Little Ringed Plovers of 2013 in the southeast. Sand Martins and Wheatears bravely battled on, though their northward progress was halted somewhat as the wind switched to a more northerly direction by the end of the review period. Nevertheless, Portland (Dorset) did manage a total of ten Wheatears on 13th hinting that, if the weather allows, a widespread arrival is imminent. Though the far southwest may have avoided the worst of the winter weather, Hoopoes on St. Agnes and St. Martin's (Scilly) on 8th and 10th must have felt a little bemused, although the long-staying Hamworthy (Dorset) bird — still there on 10th — must be more acclimatised to British weather by now.

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

Otherwise, it was business as usual. North Uist's delicious drake Harlequin continued off Balranald throughout the week (though it has moved several hundred metres south from its original spot), with the Richardson's Canada Goose, two Snow Geese and Ring-necked Duck all lingering in the vicinity. Over in Ireland, the American Coot was still at Ballyconneely (Galway) and the possible Gray-bellied Brant still at Donaghmede (Dublin), while Somerset's Pied-billed Grebe remained at Ham Wall throughout.

In Hampshire, the Red-breasted Goose continued at Farlington Marshes throughout the week, with a Black Brant nearby in Portsmouth one of seven seen — others included a new bird in the Spurn (E Yorks) area from 9th, a possible first-winter again at Rampside (Cumbria) on 10th and two in County Wexford. The Richardson's Canada Goose was still on The Mullet (Mayo) on 13th and another was again at Mersehead (Dumf & Gall) on 12th. The Todd's Canada Goose was still across the Solway at Kirkbride (Cumbria) the previous day, and another Todd's was at Rhunahaorine Point (Argyll) on 8th. The last-mentioned county also claimed a blue-morph Snow Goose, with Greylags near Westport on 12th.

Red-breasted Goose
Red-breasted Goose, Farlington Marshes HWT, Hampshire (Photo: Bill Dykes)

Todd's Canada Goose
Todd's Canada Goose, Rhunahaorine Point, Argyll (Photo: John Nadin)

County Cork's duo of drake Black Ducks was still near Crookhaven on 9th, with the drake Blue-winged Teal again at Threave (Dumf & Gall) on 12th. A trio of lingering drake American Wigeon consisted of birds in Devon, Highland and Orkney, while two of the seven British Green-winged Teal were new: at Saul Warth (Glos) on 8th — admittedly probably the recent Slimbridge bird — and at Loch a'Phuill, Tiree on 11th. Others remained in Cornwall, Hampshire, Warwickshire, Cleveland and Dumfries & Galloway, while Irish birds were in Counties Cork, Wexford and Down, with a new bird at Ashton's Callows (Tipperary) on 9th.

American Wigeon
American Wigeon, Finstown, Mainland, Orkney (Photo: Ian Cunningham)

The drake Ferruginous Duck was still at Ham Wall (Somerset) on 10th, as was the drake Ring-necked Duck; eight other Ring-necks included a drake reported at Coed-y-Dinas (Powys) on 9th, the triumvirate still touring Scilly and the only Irish individual of the week: the long-stayer at Lough Leane (Kerry). Wales once again claimed two Lesser Scaup, birds remaining on Shotton Pools (Clwyd) to 8th and Cosmeston Lakes (Glamorgan) to 10th. The Cornish drake also remained at Siblyback Reservoir while a new drake was found at Auchendores Reservoir (Clyde) on 12th. Surf Scoters this week comprised three drakes still off Llanddulas (Conwy), the drake still at Soleburn (Dumf & Gall) and the female off Broad Haven (Pembrokeshire).

Lesser Scaup
Lesser Scaup, Siblyback Reservoir, Cornwall (Photo: Brian Mellow)

A quite fabulous week for Great White Egrets saw an outstanding nine birds together at Ham Wall (Somerset), though Dungeness beat its own personal best with eight on the RSPB reserve on 11th. Elsewhere, three remained in Wales, two were at Rye Harbour (E Sussex) and several further individuals remained widely scattered across the southern half of England.

Great White Egret
Great White Egret, Shapwick Heath NNR, Somerset & Bristol (Photo: Steve Copsey)

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A couple of flyover Glossy Ibis records concerned birds over Coventry (W Mids) on 12th and Abergwyngregyn (Conwy) the following day, the latter bird flying towards Anglesey. The Hampshire individual remained at Warblington throughout the week and the Marloes (Pembrokeshire) bird was there on 9th at least. A ringed White Stork toured Clyde from 11th, being seen at Linwood to 12th and then at Carbarns Pool on 12th–13th. Small numbers of Spoonbills continued to move, with birds in Dorset, Hampshire, Somerset, London, Essex and Ceredigion all away from familiar wintering sites.

Glossy Ibis
Glossy Ibis, Warblington, Hampshire (Photo: Mark Leitch)

White Stork
White Stork, Carbarns Pool, Clyde (Photo: D Abraham)

In County Wexford, the Northern Harrier was still at Tacumshin on 9th, with the week's only Rough-legged Buzzard report concerning one last lingering bird at Haddiscoe Marshes (Norfolk). An eagle seen over Bridge Hewick (N Yorks) during the afternoon of 13th was identified as a White-tailed Eagle when it was later seen over Barningham Moor — is this the recent East Anglian bird on tour?

Pembrokeshire's Long-billed Dowitcher remained on the Gann Estuary, as did the Wexford individual at Lady's Island Lake; following last autumn's mini-influx and the confirmed identification of Spain's first-ever Short-billed Dowitcher this week, it will be worth scrutinizing any northbound dowitchers found this spring for the rarer cousin of this ever-tricky species pair. Otherwise, waders were limited to the continuing Lesser Yellowlegs in Devon and the Temminck's Stint making a reappearance at Steart (Somerset) on 8th.

County Dublin's adult Bonaparte's Gull reappeared at Skerries on 9th, with Glamorgan's brace of adults still on the Ogmore Estuary and in Cardiff Bay respectively, though a report of a Franklin's Gull in Cornwall remained unsubstantiated. A first-winter Ring-billed Gull was at Titchfield Haven (Hants) for its second day on 10th, with five other British records concerning first-winters still at Neath (Glamorgan) and Scalloway (Shetland), and adults still in Highland, West Yorkshire, and Hampshire. Seventeen Irish records saw three at Tralee (Kerry) and twos at Bull Island (Dublin), Bantry and Timoleague (both Cork). Iceland and Glaucous Gull numbers further dwindled nationwide, although a handful of the latter were clearly new, northbound migrants.

Kumlien's Gull
Kumlien's Gull, Rossaveal, Galway (Photo: Dermot Breen)

Passerines included the lingering Desert Wheatear at Rattray Head (Aberdeenshire), whose stay has now passed a century of days (102 to be precise). Also still around were the Norfolk Black-bellied Dipper and the Devon Rose-coloured Starling, though two Penduline Tits at Dungeness (Kent) and a Little Bunting trapped and ringed at Rawcliffe Moss (Lancs) on 13th were new — none lingered, however.

Desert Wheatear
Desert Wheatear, Rattray Head, Aberdeenshire (Photo: Tim Marshall)

Black-bellied Dipper
Black-bellied Dipper, Thetford, Norfolk (Photo: John Richardson)

Rose-coloured Starling
Rose-coloured Starling, Exminster, Devon (Photo: John Friendship-Taylor)

And finally, a quick note about an exceptional flock of Hawfinches in Surrey — a conservative estimate of 100 birds was made at Mickleham (Surrey) on 10th, providing observers with an unprecedented opportunity to see large numbers of this charismatic yet secretive finch in Britain. It does appear to have been a good winter for the species in many areas, with double-figure counts also coming from Llanbedr-y-cennin (Conwy), Cromford (Derbys) and Norton Sub Hamdon (Somerset) this week.

Photo of the Week

Barn Owl
Barn Owl, undisclosed site, Lancashire (Photo: David Cookson)

At one time, magazine photos were the main source of inspiration for budding bird photographers. In particular, the type of classic bird image needed to make the front cover of bird magazines was held as the ultimate goal of many beginners. Even now, despite the rise of digital media, such archetypal images retain a powerful allure. Occasionally, we receive photo submissions that prompt our members to comment that the image would make a great magazine cover. This happened this week with David Cookson's image of a Barn Owl on an RSPB-branded fencepost. So what characterises such cover shots? In general, apart from the obvious need for an A4 portrait format, it takes an iconic species in a strong pose with good lighting and aesthetics plus, more than anything, a bold, graphic composition. Picture the same fence post with a dishevelled pigeon on a dull day, with a mass of twigs in the foreground and background and imagine how that would look to a magazine Photo Editor. We're pretty sure they'd choose David's image instead!

Other notable images

White-tailed Eagle
White-tailed Eagle, Japan (Photo: John Anderson)

Spoonbill
Spoonbill, Catcott Lows NR, Somerset & Bristol (Photo: Jeff Hazell)

Kestrel
Kestrel, Hampton, Worcestershire (Photo: Mark Hancox)

Little Egret
Little Egret, National Wetlands Centre, Carmarthen (Photo: Wayne Davies)

Spotted Redshank
Spotted Redshank, Titchwell RSPB, Norfolk (Photo: Norman West)

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl, Ecuador (Photo: Austin Thomas)

Buzzard
Buzzard, Spital, Cheshire (Photo: Steve Round)

Black Redstart
Black Redstart, Bardsey Island, Gwynedd (Photo: Ben Porter)

Black-shouldered Kite
Black-shouldered Kite, Tanzania (Photo: Darran Rickards)

White-crowned Black Wheatear
White-crowned Black Wheatear, Morocco (Photo: Mick Southcott)

Beautiful Sunbird
Beautiful Sunbird, Gambia (Photo: Tony Hovell)

Siskin
Siskin, Wayoh Reservoir, Lancashire (Photo: John Barlow)

Grey Wagtail
Grey Wagtail, Kirkcudbright, Dumfries & Galloway (Photo: Chas Moonie)