17/01/2003
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Review of the Week: 9th-14th January 2003

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A much milder week with a west and southwesterly influence for the latter part. The milder conditions dictating weather across the UK also penetrated into northwestern Europe and extinguished any immediate hope for a cold weather influx from the continent.

A Forster's Tern in Argyll was an excellent find for this underwatched stretch of coastline, and yet another addition to the records of this Nearctic tern this winter. Winter is certainly the period for locating this rare tern, but much of that is presumably due to the fact that any tern species receives close attention at this time of year. If this is the case, how many must go undetected at other times of the year? The first record was as recently as 1980 and over 30 have now been recorded, due mostly to a better understanding of the identification criteria coupled with a northward spread along the eastern seaboard of the USA.

A Richard's Pipit just outside the northwest suburbs of Sheffield was a surprise find for the birder taking his dogs out for a walk in the local fields! Yet again this illustrated how many rarities are missed, rather than how many are found! Winter records are unusual, and it is interesting to think that, as the pipit flies, this bird is probably little over 20 miles away from the Blyth's Pipit in Notts - what else is lurking in a field near you! In Cleveland a Short-toed Lark was an unusual find at Cowbar, but it did not linger. A Great White Egret in Norfolk was more expected, whilst two more Lesser Scaups were found (Cumbria and East Yorkshire) to supplement several birds already present across the country. At last gull watchers were able to enjoy a few white-winged gulls, with a definite increase in the number of Iceland and Glaucous Gulls picked up on landfill sites and at gull roosts. However, the rarest was still the Bonaparte's Gull in Co. Cork, though the late winter period always provides the most interest for larid enthusiasts. Strong winds late in the week not surprisingly produced relatively little, but both Balearic Shearwater and Sooty Shearwater were noted in Cornwall.

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Waxwings continued to entertain, though the east coast bias prevailed, with just a few birds moving further inland and westwards. To find out more about the influx, which presently exceeds 1,200 birds, go to: http://www.birdguides.com/birdnews/article.asp?a=225 (BNE subscribers only).

Dotted around the country were a number of familiar long-stayers. These included the Pallid Harrier and Yellow-browed Warbler in Norfolk, Glossy Ibis in Devon, Redhead in Glamorgan and Long-billed Dowitcher in Highland. In the Forest of Dean (Glos) the Little Bunting remained, whilst the two Rose-coloured Starlings attempting to see out the winter are still present in Cornwall and Lincolnshire.

Written by: Russell Slack