Review of the Week: 8th-14th November 2007


The week at a glance

Little Auk: Flamborough Head, E Yorks (Photo: Marcus Conway)

After such a remarkable collection of rarities last week, it was perhaps not too much of a surprise that the second week of November saw pulses calming just a little, as the late autumn rarity haul took on a decidedly wintry, Arctic feel at times. Just one of the two Mourning Doves made its way into another week, with the bird on Inishbofin (Co. Galway) remaining to at least 11th. The bird on North Uist (Western Isles) was thought to have either succumbed, or moved off, as a fearsome weather front moved through the islands on the evening of 7th. The strong northwesterly airflow along North Sea coasts aided the passage of a Brünnich's Guillemot pushing on over the surf, close inshore, off Cley (Norfolk) on 12th. Hot on the heels of the bird at Girdle Ness last week, this second live individual suggests that surely more examples of this near-mythical species could well be found this winter. This is a potential county first, and the first to be seen on the British side of the southern North Sea (though one was seen from the Dutch coast in October 2005). In the far reaches of west Cornwall, the American Buff-bellied Pipit remained around Trevilley Farm, near Land’s End, to 14th (though remaining extremely elusive on occasion), with the bird at Ballycotton (Co. Cork) still present to 11th. On Fair Isle (Shetland), the male Pine Bunting remained to 10th, while at the opposite end of the country, a Wilson's Snipe was again present at Lower Moors, St. Mary's (Scilly) on 13th.

Grey Phalarope: Berrow, Somerset (Photo: Paul Bowyer)

Pomarine Skua: Salthouse, Norfolk (Photo: John Miller)

Great Northern Diver: Covenham Reservoir, Lincs (Photo: Russell Hayes)

Black-throated Diver: Scarborough, N Yorks (Photo: Steve Race)

A rapidly deepening low-pressure system careered across northern Britain overnight on 7th and on into 8th and was responsible for some appalling weather along northern and eastern coasts. The adverse conditions did, however, produce many memorable seawatching highlights over the days that followed. Summer-plumaged White-billed Divers were seen from Girdle Ness (Aberdeenshire) on 9th, South Nesting Bay (Shetland) on 10th and on Fetlar (Shetland) on 14th. A juvenile White-billed Diver was seen off Cley (Norfolk) on 9th, with the same bird flying over Blakeney Point, heading towards Wells, (Norfolk) on 10th. Also on 10th, a White-billed Diver flew past Flamborough Head (E. Yorkshire), while on 11th what was doubtless the same bird was seen from three coastal sites in Northumberland and Borders. Other Shetland records came from Fetlar on 12th, and on Mainland on 14th. Not to be outdone, the Selsey Bill (West Sussex) White-billed Diver put in another appearance on 13th-14th (it was last reported there on 26th October). Several Storm Petrels were reported from around the country during the gale force conditions of 9th-11th, while Leach's Petrels totalled upwards of 50 birds, including 23 off Uisaed Point (Argyll) on 8th. Numbers of Pomarine Skuas were down a little on last week, but still easily nudged into the low hundreds, including 67 from Gibraltar Point NNR (Lincolnshire) on 9th. Late Long-tailed Skuas were seen from Gosport (Hampshire) on 8th, Selsey Bill (West Sussex) on 11th and Dungeness (Kent) on 12th. Given the stormy weather, it was little surprise that a number of Grey Phalaropes were caught up in the seabird passage, some 60 or more being reported during the week, including six past Brue, Lewis (Western Isles) on 8th and six seen from Bishopstone Glen (Kent) on 9th. Another Grey Phalarope appeared well inland, at Upton Warren (Worcestershire) on 8th-9th. However, all of the above paled into insignificance when compared to the astonishing movement of Little Auks recorded during much of the week. Several sites recorded four-figure totals on 9th and 11th, but nothing could (seemingly) compare to the phenomenal count of 18,713 that whizzed past the Farne Islands (Northumberland) on 9th. Just two days later and all that changed, when 18,900 flew by St. Abb's Head (Borders) in just four hours (that's around 4,725 an hour, or 79 a minute!) breaking the Farne Islands' newly set record. However, Northumberland watchers were not to be beaten, and the two marvellous tallies of nigh-on 19,000 apiece were cast aside in the grandest of fashion by the astounding total of 28,803 heading north past Farne Islands on 11th. Such dizzying, mind-boggling figures seem almost impossible to comprehend. One of the most prolonged British Little Auk movements ever continued to 13th, when 4,476 flew past Farne Islands (in just two hours) and many birds were noted from inland counties, including eight at Queen Mother reservoir, Slough (Berkshire) on 14th.

Glossy Ibis: Greylake RSPB, Somerset (Photo: John Ball)

Great White Egret: Leighton Moss RSPB, Lancs (Photo: Richard Fox)

A belated report from 5th November concerned a White Stork at Aberthaw Quarry (Glamorgan), the bird possibly being present for a month or so. Another White Stork was noted near Wimborne Minster (Dorset) on 9th, with the same bird being seen near Cattistock (Dorset) on 12th. Staying in Dorset, the Cattle Egrets that appeared last week remained, albeit rather elusive, during much of this week. One was seen at Middlebere on 8th and up to three seen at Wareham Moors between 9th and 12th at least. Another Cattle Egret arrived in Ireland, at Kilcoole (Co. Wicklow) from 9th-12th. So often in the headlines over the past month, Great White Egrets took something of a back seat this week, with regular birds noted again in Lancashire, Hampshire and Co. Derry. In Norfolk, a Great White Egret was followed along the north coast on 13th (flying over two adult Pomarine Skuas at Salthouse at one stage!) The Glossy Ibis that appeared in Somerset last week, took in its fourth site on its visit to the county, when it arrived at Greylake RSPB for an hour on 7th before settling down and remaining there to at least 14th. In the northwest, the Glossy Ibis was still to be found at Marshside Marsh RSPB (Lancashire) to 11th, then moved to Warton Marsh, near Lytham St. Anne's to 14th. A dozen Spoonbills remained on Brownsea Island (Dorset) to at least 9th, while three were seen on Tresco (Scilly) on 8th and 12th. The ever-popular flock of Common Cranes in the Norfolk Broads hit a late-autumn peak of 31 birds, at Heigham Holmes on 9th.

Lesser Scaup: Inch Island Lake, Donegal (Photo: Derek Charles)

Long-tailed Duck: Parc Cwm Darran CP, Glamorgan (Photo: Nathan Casburn)

Staying in the Broads, indeed at the same site as the gathering of Cranes, a wintering Ross's Goose was again at Heigham Holmes on 8th. The white Snow Goose was seen around Waxham (Norfolk) on 10th-12th, (and had also been seen near Great Yarmouth on 8th). What may well have been one of the Norfolk Ross's Geese relocated to Lancashire on 10th-11th (movement of Pink-footed Geese and rarer species of geese between the two counties is a frequent winter occurrence). North of the border, blue-phase Snow Geese continued to roam around Scotland. One was at Udale Bay (Highland) on 8th-10th, and again on 12th, (with probably the same bird near Dingwall (Highland) on 10th), while in Fife, one remained around Elie until 13th at least. A Red-breasted Goose was found amongst the Barnacle Geese at Caerlaverock WWT (Dumfries and Galloway) on 13th, while the Barnacle Geese on Islay (Argyll) hosted three Richardson’s Canada Geese on 14th. Across the Irish Sea, a small Canada Goose was with the Barnacles at Lissadell (Co. Sligo) on 14th. Six Black Brants were seen this week, five of them along the south coast, including two at Ferrybridge (Dorset) on 8th-9th at least. A drake American Wigeon remained at Wick (Highland) to 11th, while drake Green-winged Teals remained at Marshside RSPB (Lancashire), Woodhorn Flash (Northumberland) and Hayle Estuary RSPB (Cornwall), all to 14th. A new Green-winged Teal, a first-winter drake, was at Abbotsbury (Dorset) on 12th-14th (though there were thoughts that Eurasian Teal may be a parent) while the female Blue-winged Teal was still on Bull Island (Co. Dublin) to 10th at least. Three drake Lesser Scaups lingered through the week; at Blagdon Lake (Somerset) to 10th, at Inch Island Lake (Co. Donegal) to 11th, and at Woolhampton gravel pits (Berks) to 14th, while a female was on Fetlar (Shetland) on 11th-14th. Eight Ring-necked Ducks included three birds (two females and a young drake) at Lough Fern (Co. Donegal) on 10th-11th and the drake was at Foxcote Reservoir (Buckinghamshire) to at least 14th. The drake Ferruginous Duck was again at Chew Valley Lake (Somerset) on 14th, while a drake King Eider was found on mainland Shetland on 10th, the first sighting around the islands in a month. A female Surf Scoter was seen passing four Norfolk seawatching sites on 10th-11th (being first seen at Sheringham and last noted from Holme). Another female at Castlegregory (Co. Kerry) on 14th, while drakes included two off Tankerness (Orkney) on 12th, with another seen again from Ruddon's Point (Fife) to 13th at least. The juvenile remained off Dawlish Warren (Devon) until 14th. A late record of a drake Black Scoter came from Islay (Argyll) on 5th November, while the stalwart returning drake was back off the seafront at Llanfairfechan (Conwy) on 12th, for an eighth winter sojourn.

Gyr Falcon: Stornoway, Lewis, Outer Hebrides (Photo: Pecker)

Few raptors equal the majesty of a Gyrfalcon, and one of these Arctic wanderers (an impressive grey-brown juvenile) was discovered at Stornoway on Lewis (Western Isles) from 11th-14th (with presumably the same bird being seen, briefly, on South Uist on 9th). There were concerns that perhaps some Saker influence was apparent, and given the complexities of resolving some hybrid falcon pairings, we may never know for sure. However, given the time of year, the location, recent weather and arrival of other Arctic species during the week, the odds must surely weigh in favour of the most regal of large falcons. A White-tailed Eagle was seen near Braintree (Essex) on 10th but unfortunately was not relocated. Rough-legged Buzzards numbers dropped again during the week, with the adult and juvenile around the Harty Marshes (Kent) from 8th-12th at least, with two others reported; at Taicynhaeaf (Gwynedd) on 12th and on Mainland Orkney on 13th.

Kentish Plover: South Ford, S.Uist, Outer Hebrides (Photo: Terry Fountain)

The juvenile Spotted Sandpiper remained around Lisvane Reservoir (Glamorgan) from 8th-12th, and seems set to winter there. The juvenile Long-billed Dowitcher at Bowling Green RSPB (Devon) reappeared on 10th-14th after a three-day absence. New Long-billed Dowitchers were found at Bewl Water (East Sussex) on 12th and around the Seal Sands/Seaton Snook area (Cleveland) on 13th-14th. At Ballycotton (Co. Cork) last week's Long-billed Dowitcher and American Golden Plover were joined by a Pectoral Sandpiper on 10th. Another American Golden Plover was reported at Waxham (Norfolk) on 9th-10th, and again on 13th.The first-winter White-rumped Sandpiper at Kenfig (Glamorgan) continued to show well to 9th, while the juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs remained at Minsmere RSPB (Suffolk) until 9th. Elsewhere, Lesser Yellowlegs were at Rosscarbery (Co. Cork) to 14th and a new arrival was discovered at Montrose Basin (Angus) from 10th-14th. A very unseasonable, and rather out-of-place, Kentish Plover was a surprise find on South Uist (Western Isles), the bird present on 10th-13th.

Glaucous Gull: Benacre, Suffolk (Photo: Scott Mayson)

A juvenile Ivory Gull was seen briefly near Howmore, South Uist (Western Isles) on 10th but could not be relocated over the following days. An adult Franklin's Gull was an exciting inland discovery in the Farmoor Reservoir roost (Oxfordshire) on 10th, with the bird obliging the crowds by appearing again, late in the day, on 11th too. An adult Bonaparte's Gull was found at Fishtown of Usan (Angus) on 11th and was still present on 14th. Arctic gulls were represented not just by the Ivory Gull, but also by an invasion of Glaucous Gulls between 8th and 12th, with up to 40 birds seen (mainly biscuit-coloured birds of the year), including three past Girdle Ness (Aberdeenshire) on 9th, and three on Orkney on 11th. Iceland Gulls arrived too, but struggled in to double figures during the week. A second-winter Kumlien's Gull was at the Bay of Birsay (Orkney) on 10th-12th. Ring-billed Gulls mustered six birds, all adults, this week, with the finding of one at Carsington Water (Derbyshire) from 9th-14th being of particular note. Sabine's Gulls managed a total of five late birds, including one seen at La Jaonneuse (Guernsey) on 10th. The Forster's Tern was still to be found around Cruisetown Strand (Co. Louth) to 11th at least.

Just four Richard's Pipits lingered into the second week of November - at Salthouse (Norfolk) to 9th, near Land's End (Cornwall) on 10th, on Tresco (Scilly) to 11th at least and at Tachumshin (Co. Wexford) on 12th. After the hint of the first signs of an invasion last week, Waxwing numbers have been on the low side again this week, just 32 reported, including six in Aberdeen on 10th and six over Holme (Norfolk) on 14th. A Wryneck on Bardsey (Gwynedd) on 13th must have felt rather out of place, given the time of year.

An Arctic Warbler found near Baltasound, Unst (Shetland) on 10th was a very late date for a species more traditionally associated with a September or October arrival. This is not the latest British arrival date for this handsome Phylloscopus species though: one was seen at Whitburn (Co. Durham) on 12th-14th November 1984. More typical for the time of year is Pallas's Warbler and one was found at Spurn (East Yorkshire) on 14th. Numbers of Yellow-browed Warblers began to fade away as the week progressed, with some seven birds reported; at least three were on Scilly, two in the far west of Cornwall and singles one in Dorset and Glamorgan (at Maesteg, on 12th). A Barred Warbler was a surprise find out on the breezy expanses of Scolt Head Island (Norfolk) on 11th (and, as with Arctic Warbler, there are previous November records).

Around 15 Great Grey Shrikes could be found during the week, with the bird at Roydon Common (Norfolk) from 8th-11th proving popular. Two birds were noted in both Gloucestershire and Hampshire, while new arrivals included one at Fernworthy Reservoir (Devon) on 11th.

Penduline Tit: Dingle Marshes SWT, Suffolk (Photo: Scott Mayson)

Snow Bunting: Covenham Reservoir, Lincs (Photo: Russell Hayes)

Three Penduline Tits were seen on the Dingle Marshes (Suffolk) on 12th, with four birds (two adults and two first winters) present on 13th-14th. In neighbouring Norfolk, some 30 Lapland Buntings could still be found around the coastal marshes at Salthouse until 8th when the northerly gales, coupled with a dramatic tidal surge, meant their favoured feeding areas were, temporarily, inundated by the sea.

Photo of the Week

Grey Heron, Pagham Harbour LNR, W Sussex (Photo: Howard Kearley)

Although disliked by some - especially those who keep Koi carp in their garden ponds - Grey Herons are highly photogenic subjects. As well as being magnificent creatures physically, their hunting activities provide endless opportunities for unusual photos. Initially, Howard's image looks like a classic 'environmental shot', nicely portraying a heron in its natural environment. Closer inspection, though, reveals the full picture: the bird had caught a mole and was trying to drown it by repeatedly submerging it before swallowing it whole. This is just one frame from a sequence in which Howard skilfully captured the whole event.

Other notable photos

Little Auk, Scarborough, N Yorks (Photo: Steve Race)

Hawfinch, Wyre Forest, Worcs (Photo: Mark Hancox)

Great Grey Shrike, Bradnor Hill, Herefordshire (Photo: George Ewart)

Common Kestrel, undisclosed site, Cheshire (Photo: Richard Steel)

Water Rail, Hetton-le-Hole, Durham (photo: David Brown)

Shoveler, Summer Leys LNR, Northants (Photo: Richard Bedford)

Little Auk, Saltfleet, Lincs (Photo: Dean Eades)

Peregrine Falcon, undisclosed site, Dumfries & Galloway (Photo: Keith Kirk)

Common Redshank, West Kirby, Cheshire (Photo: Richard Steel)

Black-tailed Godwit, Titchwell RSPB, Norfolk (Photo: Garth Peacock)

Many of the images that appear in our weekly reviews can be purchased from the photographers, some of whom have their own websites:

John Anderson: http://www.pbase.com/crail_birder
Bill Aspin: http://billaspinsnatureblog.blogspot.com
Mike Atkinson: http://mikeatkinson.net
Richard Bedford: http://www.richardbedford.co.uk
Steve Blain: http://www.steveblain.co.uk
Will Bowell: http://www.wanderingbirders.com
Paul Bowerman: http://www.severnsidebirds.co.uk
Paul Bowyer: http://www.birdlist.co.uk
Graham Catley: http://pewit.blogspot.com/
Mark Caunt: http://www.AngusBirding.com
Dean Eades: http://www.birdmad.com
Andrew Easton: http://home.clara.net/ammodytes/
Graham Eaton: http://www.eatonphotography.co.uk
Stuart Elsom: http://www.stuartelsom.co.uk
Steve Evans: http://www.isabelline.co.uk
Katie Fuller: http://bogbumper.blogspot.com
Ian Fulton: http://www.pbase.com/ianfulton
Sean Gray: http://www.grayimages.co.uk
David Hatton: http://www.kowapower.com
Josh Jones: http://www.wanderingbirders.com
Paul and Andrea Kelly: http://www.irishbirdimages.com/
Matt Latham: http://www.mattlathamphotography.com
Micky Maher: http://www.aardfoto.co.uk/
John Malloy: http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/johnmalloy
Brian Mcgeough: http://www.brianmcgeough.com/
Tony Mills: http://www.notjustbirds.com
Jerry O'Brien: http://www.BirdsofBerkshire.co.uk
Mark Newsome: http://www.durhambirdclub.org/
James Packer: http://www.somersetbirder.co.uk
Mike Pennington: http://www.nature.shetland.co.uk
Ken Plows: http://www.kenswildlifepics.co.uk
Ray Purser: http://www.pbase.com/02purser
Marc Read: http://www.marcread-pix.com
Tristan Reid: http://www.atricillaimages.co.uk/
Steve Round: http://stevenround-birdphotography.com
Craig Shaw: http://craigsukbirdpictures.bravehost.com/
Tom Shevlin: http://wildlifesnaps.com/
Peter Simpson: http://www.blueskybirds.co.uk
Matt Slaymaker: http://www.mattslaymaker.co.uk
Oliver Smart: http://www.smartimages.co.uk
George Spraggs: http://www.bird-watching.co.uk
Richard Steel: http://wildlifephotographic.bblogspot.com/
Richard Stonier: http://www.birdsonline.co.uk
Stephen Tomlinson: http://stevesbirding.blogspot.com
Sue Tranter: http://www.suesbirdphotos.co.uk/
Damian Waters: http://www.drumimages.co.uk
Steve Williams: http://www.hilbrebirdobs.co.uk
Simon Wilson: http://www.bakewellbirder.co.uk/
Chris Wormwell: http://www.iombirding.co.uk
Dylan Wrathall: http://www.planetthanet.org
Written by: Mark Golley

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