Sunday, 9 November 2008

Review of the Week: 30th October-5th November 2008 by Mark Golley

An illustrated version of this article is available on our website to webzine subscribers, at: http://www.birdguides.com/weeklyreview

The week at a glance:

- Presumed CANVASBACK in North Yorkshire
- AMERICAN BUFF-BELLIED PIPIT in the Outer Hebrides
- Presumed PACIFIC DIVER again on Orkney
- BLACK-THROATED THRUSH reported in Norfolk
- RED-FLANKED BLUETAILS in Norfolk and Kent
- GREEN HERON still in Kent
- SNOWY OWL still on Scilly
- One or two GREY-CHEEKED THRUSHES on Scilly
- HOODED MERGANSER still in Fife

It was another week full of outstanding new arrivals, with almost every point on the compass represented, as is so often the way as October edges in to the first throes of November. Funnily enough, given that the vast majority of the week saw focus shift, at long last, to North Sea coastal counties, it was still birds from the Nearctic that proved the main draw, although the weather systems offered up (and provided in abundance) a wealth of birds, full of classic eastern promise.

The best bird of the week was arguably the (presumed) adult drake CANVASBACK that arrived at Nosterfield Reservoir (North Yorkshire) on 30th. The bird was present for most of the afternoon, in the company of some 20 Pochard, but sadly for those searching for the bird the following day, it was gone. As is often the case with the very rarest Aythya species, there has been some debate as to whether the bird's bill pattern, head shape and body markings were good enough for the bird to be judged as a pure Canvasback. A neat collection of images certainly show a very interesting subject and observers will remember similar questions being asked of the first twitchable bird, at Wissington and Welney (Norfolk) in 1997. On the Outer Hebrides, an AMERICAN BUFF-BELLIED PIPIT was found on the beach at Smerclate, South Uist on 1st, and was still present the following day. Across on Orkney, a potential PACIFIC DIVER was seen again off Stronsay on 1st and again on 4th (after the initial sighting there last week, on 29th). The easterly winds that dominated the week were welcomed by birders in east-coast counties who had been beaten into submission by weeks of westerlies, and whose patience was well rewarded. A female-type BLACK-THROATED THRUSH was reported for an hour at Holme (Norfolk) on 31st (following on from a briefly seen possible there the previous day). A rather more obliging Norfolk bird was the RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL that performed around Muckleburgh Hill, Weybourne from 31st-4th. A second Bluetail was found at Ramsgate (Kent) on 1st, and this bird was still present to 2nd. Staying in the Garden of England, last week's star attraction still drew in the crowds: the marvellous first-winter GREEN HERON remained along the Royal Military Canal at West Hythe to 5th. The cracking juvenile SNOWY OWL on Scilly moved to St. Martin's on 30th, where it remained to 3rd. Who knows where this impressive bird will appear next? Still on Scilly, the GREY-CHEEKED THRUSH at Porth Mellon, St. Mary's remained to 31st, with (presumably) another bird appearing on Bryher on 4th. Finally, the "is it or isn't it?" debate was in full flow with regard to the first-winter HOODED MERGANSER that remained in Fife this week. On 30th, the bird was found at Birnie and Gaddon Lochs, before relocating back to Tayport on 31st-4th. After reports suggested that it was a local escape, the heat was off but, after a little detective work, that theory seemed to be disproved. Who'd want to be on the BBRC eh?

Several coastal sites in the Northeast were witness to at least a couple of fly-by WHITE-BILLED DIVERS this week: on the morning of 31st, one flew past Newbiggin before being seen in the afternoon off Hauxley and Bamburgh (Northumberland) during the afternoon, while one was off Whitburn (Co. Durham) just after midday. An adult was seen off Girdle Ness (Aberdeenshire) on the same date, while the following day, November 1st, a moulting adult was seen off Whitburn. On 2nd, a White-billed Diver was seen in Bluemill Sound, Unst (Shetland), with another on Shetland, at Kirkabister, Mainland on 2nd. Only a handful of BALEARIC SHEARWATERS were noted this week (off Scilly, in Devon and East Yorkshire) and SOOTY SHEARWATERS were in equally short supply. Being in short supply is something of an alien concept to GREY PHALAROPES this autumn, with high counts this week of 119 at Lamb Holm (Orkney) on 30th and at least 197 seen near Gedintailor, Skye (Highland) on 2nd. Elsewhere, birds were seen from Shetland to Devon, with an inland bird at Farmoor Reservoir (Oxfordshire) on 30th-1st and two on the Goose Field at Lissadell (Co. Sligo) on 30th. A dozen or so LEACH'S STORM-PETRELS were seen off the Kent coast on 31st-1st, including five off Shell Ness on 1st. One was off Frinton-on-Sea (Essex) on 1st, with two more from Spurn (East Yorkshire) on 2nd. Further Kentish singles appeared on 3rd and 5th. Around 50 POMARINE SKUAS were recorded including, in Northumberland, five from Newbiggin on 30th and four past St. Mary's Island on 31st, along with four off Canvey Island (Essex) on 1st. A single LONG-TAILED SKUA was recorded from Thorpeness (Suffolk) on 2nd. Some half a dozen SABINE'S GULLS were seen around Norfolk and Suffolk on 1st-2nd. Around 100 LITTLE AUKS around the country included two sets of a dozen at Fraserburgh (Aberdeenshire) and Tarbet Ness (Highland), with at least 16 in Bluemill Sound, Unst, all on 31st.

Lingering single CATTLE EGRETS remained at Studland (Dorset), Sandy Haven (Pembrokeshire) and Inchydoney (Co. Cork) this week. Two birds were seen at Buckton and Brampton (Cambridgeshire) on 1st, while three birds appeared at Downholland Moss (Lancashire) on the same date. Also on 1st, singles were seen in Cornwall at Kingsmill Haven and Landulph Marsh, while six birds at Walton Heath (Somerset) was the largest group noted this week. In Essex, the GREAT WHITE EGRET was again at Abberton Reservoir on 1st, with another appearing in Northamptonshire, at Grafton Regis on 2nd and then Summer Leys on 3rd while one flew over Beeston Regis (Norfolk) on 4th. In Greater Manchester, one remained in the Astley Green area to 5th at least. The regular wintering Great White Egret was still in Hampshire, at Blashford Lakes, to 2nd at least. Once again, numbers of SPOONBILLS mustered around 30, with 15 birds in Arne Bay (Dorset) on 1st. In Devon, five birds were at Isley Marsh (Devon) throughout the week, and two birds were seen on Tresco (Scilly) on 30th. The adult GLOSSY IBIS flew west from Swillington Ings (West Yorkshire) on the morning of 1st and by the morning of 2nd it was back to its favourite stomping ground of Warton Marsh (Lancashire) where it was last seen in late July. A COMMON CRANE was found at Modbury (Devon) on 3rd, remaining to 5th. On Scilly this week, single SPOTTED CRAKES were noted on St. Mary's (at Lower Moors) and on St. Agnes (on Big Pool).

At Caerlaverock (Dumfries & Galloway) both CACKLING CANADA GOOSE and TAVERNER'S CANADA GOOSE were seen off-and-on throughout the week, while a RICHARDSON'S CANADA GOOSE was present at Mersehead (Dumfries & Galloway) on 30th. A ROSS'S GOOSE was again at Martin Mere (Lancashire) on 2nd and single white SNOW GEESE were again at Windwick, South Ronaldsay (Orkney) and Craobh Haven (Argyll) on 31st (both birds still present to 3rd) with further birds at Martin Mere (Lancashire) on 2nd and Spey Bay (Moray) on 5th. Two adult BLACK BRANTS were around the Fleet (Dorset) on 31st-1st, and another was seen briefly at Titchwell (Norfolk) on 1st and 3rd. Still in Norfolk, another was seen at Wells on 5th, with one at Cliffe Pools (Kent) the previous day, and another at Pagham Harbour (West Sussex) on 5th. At least one drake LESSER SCAUP remained at Hogganfield Loch (Clyde) to 4th, while the drake at Holme Pierrepoint (Nottinghamshire) remained to 5th. A juvenile Lesser Scaup was found at Angliham (Co. Galway) on 2nd alongside an eclipse RING-NECKED DUCK and, also in Galway, a new drake was at Lough Corrib on 4th. Further drake Ring-necked Ducks were at Foxcote Reservoir (Buckinghamshire) and Loch of Tingwall, Mainland (Shetland) and in Ireland single drakes were at The Gearagh (Co. Cork), Lough Fern and Inch Island Lake (Co. Donegal) and, up in Wicklow, at Kilcoole. A female Ring-necked Duck returned to Bassenthwaite Lake (Cumbria) on 2nd, having left there on April 9th. Drake FERRUGINOUS DUCKS were still being seen at Amwell GPs (Hertfordshire) to 30th and Calvert Lake (Buckinghamshire) to 4th, and one was at Chew Valley Lake (Somerset) on 3rd while a new bird appeared at Old Hall Marshes (Essex) on 2nd, remaining to 5th. Two drake AMERICAN WIGEON were seen in County Cork on 2nd, at Dooniskey and The Gearagh. Eight GREEN-WINGED TEAL were reported this week: on 30th, birds were seen at Belfast Lough (Co. Antrim) and Cresswell Pond (Northumberland) and on 31st, singles were at Kilcoole (Co. Wicklow), Farlington Marshes (Hampshire) and Mersehead (Dumfries and Galloway). The bird at Carrowmore Lake (Co. Mayo) was seen again on 3rd, the drake remained at Capringstone Flash (Ayrshire) on 4th and a new bird was at Clonakilty (Co. Cork) on 5th. The drake BLACK DUCK was still being seen at Ventry (Co. Kerry) on 2nd. In Devon, the KING EIDER remained at Appledore (Devon) to 5th, with a drake was in Mousa Sound (Shetland) on 1st. There was only one SURF SCOTER to report this week: a drake in Largo Bay (Fife) on 1st. Also on 1st, a little curio - a MARBLED DUCK - was seen at Hollowell Reservoir (Northamptonshire) before being flushed by a rower and it wasn't seen again. Then news emerged of a Marbled Duck at Wissington Beet Factory (Norfolk) on 25th October - could it be the same bird? At some stage this species must be destined for its rightful place on Category A, but quite which birds will be deemed as acceptable is a tough one to call. Talking of recent Category A additions, the popular drake HOODED MERGANSER at Radipole Lake (Dorset) was featured in the BBC's Autumnwatch show this week, given the thumbs-up by Bill Oddie, but whether the "10 Rare Men" are so well disposed towards it is one for next year's Rarities Report.

Raptors of note were, unsurprisingly, thin on the ground. A ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD was seen at Causey Park (Northumberland) on 1st, with another at Otmoor (Oxon) the same day, while the third of the week was seen on Hoy (Orkney) on 5th. Single WHITE-TAILED EAGLES were seen at Blair Drummond (Forth) on 30th and Vane Farm (Perth & Kinross) on 31st, while a wing-tagged bird was seen at Rosscarbery (Co. Cork) on 1st. A SNOWY OWL was seen at Balranald, North Uist (Outer Hebrides) on 3rd.

In Norfolk, the juvenile AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER remained near East Harling to 2nd (with the DOTTEREL still there for good measure to the same date), while further singles were at Needingworth (Cambridgeshire) to 30th, at Fillingham Lake (Lincolnshire) on 3rd-4th and at Omey Strand (Co. Galway) on 5th. Single WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS remained at Baile Gharbhaidh, South Uist (Outer Hebrides) to 30th (with the same bird perhaps then moving to South Ford on South Uist on 2nd), with another on St. Agnes (Scilly) from 30th-31st. The PECTORAL SANDPIPER was reported again at the Newport Wetlands (Gwent) on 31st and the LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER was still in Dundalk (Co. Louth) on 2nd-3rd.

In Cornwall, the second-winter presumed Azorean YELLOW-LEGGED GULL remained around the Sennen area to 3rd at least. Around 15 CASPIAN GULLS included two birds at Stubber's Green (West Midlands) on 30th, two birds at Ogston Reservoir (Derbyshire) on 31st, two birds at Shustoke Reservoir (Warwickshire) on 2nd and Beddington Sewage Farm (London) on 4th. Around a dozen ICELAND GULLS seen during the week included an inland adult near St. Neots (Cambridgeshire) on 3rd and a juvenile KUMLIEN'S GULL was at Forfar Loch (Angus) on 4th-5th. Up to 15 GLAUCOUS GULLS were recorded during the week, including an adult at Throckmorton Tip (Worcestershire) on 1st and two birds at Spurn (East Yorkshire) on 2nd. The same site and the same date also hosted a first-winter RING-BILLED GULL, the bird initially appearing at Bredon's Hardwick, earlier on 1st. A second-winter was at Lamby Lake (Glamorgan) on 31st-4th, while adults were at Westcliff-on-Sea (Essex) on 30th (with an adult at Canvey Island on 1st), Gosport (Hampshire and Timoleague (Co. Cork) on 31st and Nimmo's Pier (Co. Galway) to 1st at least. Still in Ireland, a FORSTER'S TERN was at Nimmo's Pier on 5th.

A male DESERT WHEATEAR was found at Easton Bavents (Suffolk) on 4th, remaining to 5th. The obliging first-winter male BLUETHROAT remained at Land's End (Cornwall) until 31st. Further Bluethroats were seen on Fair Isle (Shetland) on 30th, at Flamborough Head (East Yorkshire) on 1st and at Horse Shoe Point (Lincolnshire) on 4th. A HOOPOE was reported at Burgh-le-Marsh (Lincolnshire) on 30th and another was seen at Dyce (Aberdeenshire) on 5th. An OLIVE-BACKED PIPIT was reported at Holme (Norfolk) on 31st, with another at Gibraltar Point (Lincolnshire) on 2nd-3rd. Two birds were seen on 5th: one was at Flamborough Head (East Yorkshire) and the other at Toab, Mainland (Shetland). Six RICHARD'S PIPITS were found far and wide this week: singles were on Lundy (Devon) and West Runton (Norfolk) on 30th; one flew over Gibraltar Point (Lincolnshire) on 31st when one was at Kilnsea (East Yorkshire); on 2nd, single Richard's Pipits were at South Shields (Co. Durham) and on South Ronaldsay (Orkney); on 3rd, one was found on the Farne Islands (Northumberland); another was at East Head (West Sussex) on 4th; and on 5th, one flew over Ballycotton (Co. Cork). A SIBERIAN STONECHAT was found at St. Margaret's at Cliffe (Kent) on 30th, remaining there to 2nd, while two birds were found in East Yorkshire on 1st, at Easington and Withernsea, with the Easington individual remaining to 4th. At least 15 GREAT GREY SHRIKES were recorded during the past week, including as many as three birds in Surrey and three more in Norfolk. Also in Norfolk, a BLACK-BELLIED DIPPER was found on the Bayfield Estate, Glandford on 1st, staying only until early the following day, and another appeared at Gibraltar Point (Lincolnshire) on 4th. One of the big stories of the week was the (relatively) early irruption of WAXWINGS into the country. Thousands arrived during the past seven days, with birds hitting Scotland en masse and on the English east coast birds arrived in some number too, while birds made it to Wales (a single on Anglesey on 2nd) and Ireland (two birds in Sligo on 1st). A flock of 100+ was at Arisaig (Highland) on 1st, with at least 120 at Ullapool (Highland) the same day. Over 200 birds were seen at Brora (Highland) on 2nd and on 3rd, a flock of over 400 birds appeared at Portree, Skye (Highland). Another 100 or more were at Pitlochry (Perth & Kinross) on the same date, and numbers rose at Arisaig (to 140+) and Ullapool (to 250). Another 100 birds were around Pitlochry on 4th and with sizeable double figure-flocks along the east coast it promises to be an absolutely classic Waxwing winter. But will anything rarer be dragged along with them?

Following on from a possible at Gibraltar Point (Lincolnshire) on 31st, definite HUME'S YELLOW-BROWED WARBLERS were found at North Gare (Cleveland) and Baltasound, Unst (Shetland) on 1st (the latter remaining to 5th), at Sandwich Bay (Kent) on 2nd and at Bru, Lewis (Outer Hebrides) and Symbister, Whalsay (Shetland) on 5th. Fans of PALLAS'S WARBLER have begun to enjoy the best autumn for this fabulous species in ages - it was something a slow start, with only two birds before this week, but it's been all change since then! On 30th, 11 birds appeared from Scilly to North Yorkshire, with three birds apiece for Holme (Norfolk) and Flamborough Head (East Yorkshire), with two more in Wells Woods (Norfolk). A further 14 or so were new in on 31st, with five or six new birds in Norfolk, with four birds at Holme. By 1st, another eight or nine fresh arrivals were noted from Scilly to Lincolnshire, Yorkshire and Durham. Kent bagged three birds on 2nd and a couple of new arrivals hit Suffolk and by 3rd Northumberland was a new county to be represented as one arrived at Marden. On 4th, at least 10 birds were seen between Suffolk and North Yorkshire, with three at Donna Nook (Lincolnshire) and on 5th one was new to Lothian, at Torness. Dozens of single YELLOW-BROWED WARBLERS were recorded alongside their rather more glamorous cousins; as many as 80 birds were noted, from Scilly to Shetland. The autumn's second DUSKY WARBLER was seen at North Foreland (Kent) on 2nd, with the third found later the same day at Spurn (East Yorkshire). On 3rd, new arrivals were found at Flamborough Head (East Yorkshire) and Muckleburgh Hill (Norfolk) and on 4th, one was at Bawdsey (Suffolk). A RADDE'S WARBLER was seen at South Gare on Teesside on 3rd-4th, with one reported at Foreness Point (Kent) on 2nd. Single BARRED WARBLERS were found at Holme (Norfolk) on 30th, on Holy Island (Northumberland) on 1st and at Hartlepool (Cleveland) on 2nd and a rather handsome SUBALPINE WARBLER was found in the hedges at Bempton Cliffs (East Yorkshire) on 31st, remaining to 1st; another was reported this week at Bawdsey. The BLYTH'S REED WARBLER remained on St. Agnes (Scilly) until 29th at least, and a new bird arrived at Mizen Head (Co. Cork) on 31st-1st was the site's, the county's and the country's second-ever record of the species, following the first last October. A male RED-BREASTED FLYCATCHER was found at The Snook, Holy Island on 30th with single first-winters at Flamborough Head (East Yorkshire) on 31st, on Tresco (Scilly) on 1st, at Galley Head (Co. Cork) on 3rd, at Land's End (Cornwall) on 4th and at Stronsay (Orkney) on 5th.

A HORNEMANN'S ARCTIC REDPOLL was found at Loch Eynort, South Uist (Outer Hebrides) on 2nd, while at least three SERINS remained at Rainham Marshes (London) until 31st (and one was still present to 3rd) with another at Margate (Kent) on 1st. A PARROT CROSSBILL was reported in a garden at Mull of Oa, Islay (Argyll) on 5th while four single COMMON ROSEFINCHES were seen on Cape Clear Island (Co. Cork) on 30th, at Dawlish Warren (Devon) and at Cleadon (Co. Durham) on 1st and at Holland Haven (Essex) on 2nd. Finally this week, LITTLE BUNTINGS were seen at Gibraltar Point (Lincolnshire) on 31st, on Cape Clear Island (Co. Cork) on 1st and at Polgigga (Cornwall) on 5th, while a RUSTIC BUNTING was found at Loftus (Cleveland) on 3rd.


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