Review of the Week: 11th-17th January 2002


The mild weather of the last week lead to a slow thaw in most areas, with waters and reedbeds returning to an ice-free state after the weekend. The mild airflow has penetrated into much of northwest Europe ensuring that any cold weather movements have ceased. Given the severity and geographical spread of the freezing conditions it was surprising how little turned up here, though there have been a number of interesting sightings throughout the Mediterranean.

New 'rarities' have been a bit thin on the ground, but Common Cranes were seen briefly in West Sussex, Berkshire and Wiltshire and could conceivably relate to just one mobile individual. A White Stork of unknown origin is present in Derbyshire and will doubtless stimulate debate as to its origin. A Cattle Egret was observed flying over High Wycombe (Bucks) on 16th only to vanish for the time being. In Norfolk a 1st-winter Rose-coloured Starling has been in Great Yarmouth since the 14th and has today developed a taste for chips! Likewise, a Black Duck in Cornwall on 16th was readily coming to bread, illustrating that it is acceptable for some species to come to bread whilst others can not. In Ayshire the Snowy Egret was seen on Arran for two days during the week, but illustrates how mobile some rarities can be once they reach our shores. Amongst the unconfirmed records, a Laughing Gull was reported in Cornwall on 13th, but not subsequently. A couple of 'possible' Arctic Redpolls have been claimed during the week with Common (Mealy) Redpoll flocks, though numbers of the latter seem to have diminished over the past week or two, and with them any hopes of local observers finding themselves a nice Arctic Redpoll.

Present for all of the week have been Great White Egrets in Cheshire and North Yorkshire, whilst the Redhead in Glamorgan and the Lesser Scaup in Dorset look set to remain for the winter. The Bonaparte's Gull has been present in Cornwall for most of the week and the Lesser Yellowlegs was still in Pembrokeshire last weekend. At Titchwell the Arctic Redpolls have been seen on a couple of occasions during the week but they do no longer appear to be reliable. On the Isle of Man the Desert Wheatear remains at Niarbyl. Large numbers of white-winged gulls have been seen during the last week, and several Kumlien's Gulls have been seen amongst them.

With the milder conditions Bitterns have become more difficult to see, but as predicted in last week's review it was a good time to be out and about looking for these super birds and at least 70 were reported during the weekend. Elsewhere, numbers of Smew remain scattered around the country, but as usual drakes appear to be in short supply. Seawatchers off the south coast have been witnessing exceptional numbers of Red-throated Divers with county records set in Sussex (1,074 past Bexhill) and Hampshire (27 past Hurst Point), but little seems to have been associated with them. Unusual records include a Curlew Sandpiper in Argyll and a Wryneck in a birder's garden on Guernsey from 12th onwards.

Written by: Russell Slack, BirdGuides