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Birding round-up: 06 - 12 Jan 2016

The week at a glance
Another week, another mega gull in Ireland – the Western Palearctic’s first Vega Gull in Co.Wexford
Orkney scores a Brunnich’s Guillemot - and it’s alive
Ireland’s first Glaucous-winged Gull remains in Co.Cork
Shetland holds onto its Mourning Dove in Lerwick for another week

With the wettest December (ever) firmly behind us now, this week saw us heading bright-eyed and bushy-tailed into January and all the promise offered by 2016 stretching out ahead of us.

At the start of last week that all looked like continuing unabated as yet another spasm of heavy rain came sweeping off the Atlantic and across the British Isles – while south-easterlies continued to push strongly against the Scottish east coast.

Meanwhile stuff was happening in the Arctic – a big lump of high pressure was building up there, pushing cold air down across northern Britain as the week wore on. The temperatures finally began to feel more like winter, and at long last it began to stop raining.

But what of the birds?

Headline birds this week

 

Headline birds
Vega Gull
Vega Gull, Duncannon, County Wexford, (© Paul Kelly)

When I said last week in my concluding thoughts of the New Year Rarity Round-up that I fancied Ireland would land another tasty gull, I suppose what I really had in mind was, if I was being optimistic, another Slaty-backed Gull or, if I was being wildly hopeful, a Black-tailed Gull. The latter has been mooted in these columns before, but for now that’s another headline for another day. This week, what happens in Ireland stays in Ireland...

... as not content with last week’s superb national first Glaucous-winged Gull (more of which in just a moment), Irish birders did it again on 10th with what looks like an extremely strong candidate for the Western Palearctic’s first ever acceptable Vega Gull. Found that day at Duncannon in Co.Wexford, this tremendous adult bird remained until the morning of the next day giving those British birders so inclined to head to Ireland precious little time to mobilise, call in sick (what, you’ve never done that for a bird? Oh c’mon...) and head west. Big listers dancing in the street? With no further sign of the bird as the week closed, not quite yet – this was the cruellest example of here today and gone tomorrow.

The decision to travel, whatever the complexion of one’s list, would have been relatively straightforward, not least given the pedigree of the birders involved in the identification of this latest Pacific gull. If only the taxonomy of Vega Gull itself were so simple.

As it stands, depending on the authority one chooses to adopt, Vega Gull is either a valid monotypic species all of its own, or a subspecies of Herring Gull or American Herring Gull. Mongolian Gull meanwhile, just for fun, is occasionally lumped in with Vega Gull. Large white-headed gulls... dontcha just love ‘em?

Vega Gull, Duncannon, County Wexford, (© Paul Connaughton)
Vega Gull, Duncannon, County Wexford, (© Paul Kelly)

Whatever the taxonomic status of the species as a whole, as excellent images of this particular bird were posted online it wasn’t hard for the ardent laridophile to feel the love for Johnny Vega. This was a handsome adult bird that appeared to tick all the right boxes. It remains to be seen whether these are being overlooked in Britain and Ireland – the species breeds further west than either Glaucous-winged or Slaty-backed Gulls, after all, but confidently claiming say a first-winter bird would be a very different call indeed. For those wanting to start to gen up on adult Vega Gull at this time of year before heading out to find fame and Britain’s first this weekend, Chris Gibbins’ blog would be a good starting point:

chrisgibbins-gullsbirds.blogspot.co.uk/2010/01/adult-vega-gull-wing-patterns

Vega Gull, Duncannon, County Wexford, (© Paul Kelly)

In a nutshell, concentrating on the wing-tips is paramount – paying particular attention to both pattern and moult alike – Herring Gull is rarely still in the process of completing primary moult at this time of year. Adult or otherwise, one of these subtle birds is always going to be an immense call to make...

Vega Gull, Duncannon, County Wexford, (© Paul Kelly)

 

Brunnich’s Guillemot

Given the immense numbers of Little Auks that have been on the move lately, and hence the increased attention of birders on the coast, it almost felt like a matter of time before someone claimed a fly-by Brunnich’s Guillemot.

(And good luck with getting that record accepted...)

That or someone finding the remains of one on the tideline somewhere in Scotland or the east coast.

Happy days then that this week delivered a Brunnich’s Guillemot very much alive and kicking in the waters of Orkney’s Scapa Bay on 8th January. Birders being the fickle bunch that we are, in the aftermath of the superb (and not to mention, accessible) individual that graced Dorset’s Portland Harbour back in the dying days of 2013, this latest settled individual wasn’t likely to tempt many of our number to head to Orkney, but while the bird remained there until 12th I know for a fact that it was being enjoyed immensely by Orkney’s resident birders.

Brunnich's Guillemot, Scapa Bay, Orkney, (© Martin Gray)

Not least because this bird was sharing the bay with a host of calling Little Auks, the resident Orcadian Black Guillemots, a few dozen Guillemot and Razorbill, and at times a lone Puffin. That’s six species of Alcid all in one place at one time – quite a sight!

Britain and Ireland can boast 45 accepted records up to the end of 2013. Infamous for turning up dead on arrival, 26 of those have been found dead or dying. This latest (and judging by the small bill and poor tomium stripe) apparent first-winter Brunnich’s will be Orkney’s 8th record of the species, but only the second live one – the last one with a pulse being back on 25th January 1991 from Sule Skerry. A big one then for the Orkney listers.

(“Tomium stripe”? Yes, me neither. Big thanks to Orkney resident birder Martin Gray for teaching me a new morphological term!)

The week drew to a close with a report of a possible Brunnich’s on the sea in the morning of 10th off Cley NWT before the bird in question flew off west. Suffice to say Norfolk can’t boast an accepted claim of the species to date...

 

Glaucous-winged Gull

From one Pacific gull in Ireland to another (and no, I’ve far from given up hope that a Black-tailed won’t be forthcoming in the not too distant future, the way things are going at present)....

Glaucous-winged Gull, Castletown Bearhaven, County Cork, (© Chris Bromley)

...as in Co.Cork at Castletown Bearhaven the delicious adult Glaucous-winged Gull remained in situ delighting all comers, including a goodly number of British birders who’d missed previous individuals.

Glaucous-winged Gull, Castletown Bearhaven, County Cork, (© Stuart Elsom)

Funny thing, really. It’s not so very long ago that winter-gulling was mostly about looking for white-wingers, and hoping for something smaller windblown from the high Arctic. Then the taxonomy of large white-headed gulls started to get some serious attention, and the next thing you knew we’d gone all Yellow-legged and Caspian Gull crazy. And now in the past 10 years we’re starting to reap some Pacific goodness from much further afield.

Glaucous-winged Gull, Castletown Bearhaven, County Cork, (© Paul Kelly)

It’s all changes (for the better, of course) at the coalface of gulling. Worth remembering when next you’re indulging in the modern love for standing freezing your knackers off while sifting through a vast, restless flock of gulls at the local tip / pier / reservoir etc. There’s gold in them thar gulls.

Glaucous-winged Gull, Castlebearhaven, Co.Cork, (© Wat Birder)

 

Mourning Dove

Away from Ireland’s Larid lovelies, up in Shetland the Mourning Dove continued to endure some atrocious weather this week and, in so doing, to exercise the resolve and the bank balances of the nation’s listers.

Mourning Dove, Lerwick, Shetland, (© Jon Dunn)

That and their sea-legs. For those seeking to economise, the overnight ferry from Aberdeen to Lerwick was proving every bit as unreliable an option as Flymaybe this week. From a local perspective, cancelled sailings due to extreme weather conditions meant empty shelves in the Lerwick supermarkets; from a twitcher’s viewpoint, it meant potentially fruitless treks to Aberdeen. Spare a thought also for those poor souls who did make it onto the ferry, only to find themselves on there for 30 hours in horrendous conditions rather than the advertised 13...

The Mourning Dove was blissfully unaware of such travails, and thanks to the generous seeding of its favoured garden has no reason to move on just yet. That said, I’ve seen a Sparrowhawk hunting in the well-wooded vicinity in the past week, so it’s not entirely a foregone conclusion that the dove will be here for weeks to come yet...

Mourning Dove, Lerwick, Shetland, (© Hugh Harrop / Shetland Wildlife)

 

Seabirds
Little Auk reports this week

Little Auks continued to feature prominently in the news this week, though not anywhere close to the numbers reported in the previous seven days. Sadly there were plenty of the more tragicomic sort of news reports, reflecting the often exhausted and sometimes moribund state of these tiny auks – “on side of main road”, “eaten by Great Black-backed Gull”, “in farmyard”, “dead on a golf course”, “picked up by dog” etc.

While most daily tallies involved dribs and drabs, mostly single figure counts with just a few sites edging into double figures, one or two notable scores were still posted: the stand-out sighting being almost 1,000 birds passing Fraserburgh (Aberdeenshire) in a mere half hour watch in the morning of 8th. Elsewhere three figure counts came from Point of Ayre (Orkney) on 6th, with 183 birds noted; Girdle Ness (Aberdeenshire) on 7th with 101 past in half an hour; and sharing Scapa Bay (Orkney) with all manner of other Alcids, where 150 were noted on 7th and 100 on 8th. In total around 3,000 birds were reported in the week -numbers tailing off markedly as the week progressed - well down on last week’s rough estimate of 16,000, but again certainly a gross underestimate of just how many were still moving out there.

Little Auk, Connah's Quay, Flintshire, (© Alex Humphreys-Jones)

Relegated from the headlines not on account of rarity, but simply due to longevity and an otherwise star-studded midwinter week (see also Hudsonian Whimbrel and Greater Yellowlegs), was the long-staying regular Cornish Pacific Diver at Newlyn – present pretty much daily in the news.

Little Auk, Connah's Quay, Flintshire, (© Alex Humphreys-Jones)

While we’re sticking with the divers, a probable White-billed Diver was off Torness Point (Lothian) on 8th and again on 11th.

Moving on to other seabirds, just two Pomarine Skuas were logged this week – singles off Leith (Lothian) and Cahore (Co.Wexford) on 6th – and slightly more Balearic Shearwaters – Cornwall dominating the news in that regard, with duos passing St.Ives on 7th and 10th, singles off Newlyn on 8th and Pendeen on 10th, and four birds seen from St.Ives on 12th. One was seen from Ballycotton (Co.Cork) on 9th.

 

Herons, Egrets & allies

Once again there was plenty to go at this week where Glossy Ibises were concerned, particularly over the water in Ireland. Last week’s mega flock remained at Tramore Backstrand (Co.Waterford) with 19 there still on 6th reducing to eight birds by 10th-11th and back up to nine by 12th. Meanwhile at Carrigtwohill in Co.Cork on 8th a flock of 16 were noted, with two still there on 12th. Two remained at Lahinch (Co.Clare) on 6th-11th, with other Irish sightings being recorded elsewhere: one in Co.Clare on 8th from New Quay; on 9th in Co.Cork with one at Fota and three at Goleen; and on 10th when two were noted at Wellingtonbridge (Co.Wexford).

Glossy Ibis, Ramsholt, Suffolk, (© John Richardson)

Away from Ireland, Somerset retained one at Ham Wall RSPB on 6th-11th, with one remaining in the South Huish Marsh vicinity of Devon on 6th-9th also. One was seen circling Chew Valley Lake (Somerset) on 11th, with one that day in Devon at Seaton Marshes. The single bird remained in East Sussex at Pett Levels until 12th. Two arrived in Suffolk on 10th at Hemley with one seen at Ramsholt on 11th-12th.

Glossy Ibis, Ramsholt, Suffolk, (© Stephen Whayman)

Wales accounted for a single bird at Ferryside (Carmarthen) on 8th-11th with one seen over the National Wetland Centre on 11th, while in Scotland one was on Skye at Kyleakin (Highland) on 10th.

Cattle Egrets from last week remained at several English sites: the Somerset bird was still around Steart WWT until 8th with one at Mudgeley again on 9th-12th; while in Suffolk the Iken bird remained there until 12th. One was at Darts Farm RSPB (Devon) on 8th-9th with one at Turf on 10th, while in Norfolk one was around Pentney on 10th and East Walton on 12th. In Ireland the bird remained at Tacumshin (Co.Wexford) until 10th.

Cattle Egret, Iken, Suffolk, (© Stephen Whayman)
Cattle Egret, Pentney, Norfolk, (© John Saunders)

Reports from Spoonbill Central, aka Poole Harbour (Dorset) continued to filter through daily – peak counts came from Arne RSPB with 33 birds noted there on Shipstal Point on 11th.. Away from Dorset familiar faces remained on Scilly at Samson on 10th -11th again; at Hayle (Cornwall) until 12th; at Isley Marsh RSPB (Devon) on 9th (with four birds there on 10th and three nearby on 12th), and three birds again at Wrafton on 9th also; around Pennington and Keyhaven Marshes (Hampshire) until 12th, with three noted from Fawley Power Station on 10th; while trios were at the regular sites of Church Norton (West Sussex) and Minsmere RSPB (Suffolk) on 6th. Four were again at Hazlewood Marshes SWT (Suffolk) on 10th, and one recorded from Titchwell RSPB (Norfolk) on 11th. The week closed with two in Cornwall at Forder on 12th. In Ireland five birds remained at The Cunnigar (Co.Waterford) on 7th-10th.

Spoonbill, Brownsea Island, Dorset, (© Hamish Murray)

It was particularly quiet this week where Common Cranes were concerned – away from Norfolk, two were at Eldernell (Cambridgeshire) on 7th; an unringed adult associating with the Great Crane Project birds at Aller Moor (Somerset) on 10th was of wild origin; while an adult was again noted on 8th up at Quoys of Reiss (Highland).

 

Geese and Ducks

We have the usual colourful shenanigans to work our way through in the covered aviary that’s the Geese and Ducks section this week. Grab some bread and we’ll see what we’ve got...

Starting with the geese, the four blue Snow Geese seen last week in Aberdeenshire at Kemnay popped up again at Loch of Skene on 11th. Further north, the white morph was again at Stenness (Orkney) on 7th-8th, while down in Cumbria the white adult bird continued to lob around the Burgh Marsh vicinity.

Snow Goose, Drumburgh, Cumbria, (© Darren Robson)

We have eight Black Brants to report on this week, kicking off with the regular adult on the north Norfolk coast again on 9th-11th. Another familiar face was down on the Exe Estuary (Devon) again with the adult seen once more there on 10th. Further adults were again in Chichester Harbour (West Sussex) on 7th, West Mersea (Essex) on 9th, and up in East Yorkshire at Kilnsea where two birds were seen on 7th-9th. A further duo were at Farlington Marshes HWT (Hampshire) on 10th.

Three honkers conclude matters before we nurdle onto the pretty duckies –a Cackling Goose was at Malin Head (Co.Donegal) on 6th; the Todd’s Canada Goose remained in Co.Sligo at Ballygilga; and on the Western Isles we find a Richardson’s Cackling Goose on Berneray at Loch Brusda on 9th.

Rare and scrace duck this week

We start our tour of the duckpond with the drake Lesser Scaups still sitting pretty in Somerset at Chew Valley Lake until 7th and in Cornwall on Dozmary Pool until 12th. In Shetland the first-winter drake was again seen on Loch of Benston on 12th. Such a staple of our wintering wildfowl these days and pushing on for 200 accepted records, it’s easy to forget the excitement they generated back in the golden years of the late 1980s and early 1990s after the very first individual was found.

Scotland held on to three Ring-necked Ducks this week: the first-winter drake still at Caerlaverock WWT (Dumfries & Galloway) until 12th; and drakes still at Loch of Skaill (Orkney) on 6th and at Pitlochry (Perth & Kinross) until 8th.

Ring-necked Duck, Andover, Hampshire, (© Michael Trew)

Three also for England this week, all settled birds – the two females remained at Rooksbury Mill LNR (Hampshire) until 12th, while the drake in Berkshire stayed at Bray GPs until 11th also.

Ireland concludes our Ring-necks with two birds – the drake still at Lough Shivnagh (Co.Donegal) on 10th, and one in Co.Cork at Ovens on 9th still.

Ring-necked Duck, Caerlaverock WWT, Dumfries and Galloway, (© Michael Richardson)

The drake Ferruginous Duck remained on the lakes at Blashford HWT (Hampshire) again all this week.

Ferruginous Duck, Blashford Lakes, Hampshire (© Shaun Ferguson)

Five records constitute our American Wigeons - starting in Scotland, one remained at Udale Bay (Highland) on 7th-8th; English birds were in Northumberland at Grindon Lough again on 6th-7th and for much of the latter part of the week in Devon at Bowling Green Marsh RSPB; and two Irish drakes were in Co.Donegal at Malin Town.

American Wigeon, Bowling Green Marsh, Devon, (© David Boult)

There are many familiar faces amongst this week’s Green-winged Teals - starting in Scotland, the Caerlaverock (Dumfries & Galloway) bird remained there all week, while on Banton Loch (Clyde) the individual remained until 10th. Orkney provided a superb end to the week with no fewer than three birds on Loch of Skaill on 12th. The drake remained in Cleveland at Saltholme RSPB on 6th; similarly settled were the birds at Needingworth Quarry Lakes (Cambridgeshire) until 9th, Neumann’s Flash (Cheshire) until 10th and in Cornwall at Walmsley Sanctuary until 11th. Reports from Northumberland came from Backworth Pond on 7th-12th and Alnmouth on 8th. The week’s sole Irish record came courtesy of White’s Marsh (Co.Cork) on 7th still.

Green-winged Teal, Caerlaverock WWT, Dumfries and Galloway, (© Michael Richardson)

With no reports from Wales we’ll kick off our Surf Scoters in Lothian where the drake remained off Musselburgh until 10th, with a report on the latter date coming from Gullane Bay. Further Scottish drakes remained off Ruddon’s Point (Fife) on 8th-9th and up in Shetland off Unst’s Easting beach on 7th-12th.

The first-winter drake remained off Filey (North Yorkshire) until 12th, while in Ireland a first-winter drake was in Hermitage Bay (Co.Louth) on 6th-8th, with a drake off Finvarra Point (Co.Clare) on 9th.

Our final duck this week is the queen King Eider still being seen off Ruddon’s Point (Fife) until 9th at least.

 

Shorebirds

Relegated from the headlines in another strong midwinter week of news, the lately rediscovered Hudsonian Whimbrel was still sporadically at Marazion (Cornwall) until the week’s end, giving yearlisters (do many people still do national yearlists, I wonder?) a further chance to catch up with it.

A similar story with the Isle of Wight’s long-staying Greater Yellowlegs - after apparently doing a flit at the tail end of last week this seemingly settled adult bird was once again reported from the River Medina on 6th and 11th January.

Up in Northumberland the wintering first-winter Long-billed Dowitcher moved between Cresswell Pond NWT and the flood at Hemscott Hill all week long. On 12th a first-winter bird was seen in Hampshire at Keyhaven Marshes.

Long-billed Dowitcher, Cresswell, Northumberland, (© David Dinsley)
Long-billed Dowitcher, Cresswell, Northumberland, (© David Dinsley)

In Ireland the juvenile Spotted Sandpiper was again recorded at Pilmore (Co.Cork) on 10th.

After last week’s largesse there was much less to report where Grey Phalaropes were concerned this week – we went from feast to relative famine in very short order. One remained from last week at Yarmouth (Isle of Wight) on 6th, while in Gloucestershire last week’s individual stayed at Slimbridge WWT until 12th. In Ireland one stayed put at Lisselan (Co.Waterford) until 7th.

New birds were seen on 6th from Mains of Usan (Angus) and St.Justinian (Pembrokeshire); in Devon on 8th at Thurlestone and on 8th-9th off Fife Ness (Lothian); one was reported on 9th from Mistley (Essex); and on 10th singles were seen in Mount’s Bay (Cornwall), at Dawlish Warren NNR (Devon), Flamborough Head (East Yorkshire) with a further probable bird was off Kirkcaldy (Fife).

 

Gulls and Terns
Rare and scrace gulls week

Away from the fabulousness that was Ireland, there was small gull joy to be had a lot closer to home this week – last week’s painfully brief adult Bonaparte’s Gull in Hertfordshire did the decent thing this week and reappeared at Wilstone Reservoir on 8th-12th. A routine was swiftly established as it spanged back and forth across the county border between the former site and Buckinghamshire’s College Lake NR – thereby becoming not only Hertfordshire’s first record of the species but also Buckinghamshire’s first too for good measure.

Bonaparte's Gull, Wilstone Reservoir, Hertfordshire, (© Ian Williams)
Bonaparte's Gull, Wilstone Reservoir, Hertfordshire, (© Ian Williams)

Meanwhile in Devon our regular wintering adult was again seen around Dawlish Warren NNR on 9th-10th and off Shelly Beach on 12th.

Just one report of a juvenile Sabine’s Gull surfaced this week – one reported from Stolford (Somerset) on 7th.

As usual, Ireland dominated the week’s showing of Ring-billed Gulls with 12 birds recorded. The only multiple sightings involved two adults at Tralee Bay Wetlands (Co.Kerry) on 11th, with an adult and a first-winter there the following day; the remainder were all singletons. In chronological order, the week began on 6th with a second-winter still at Blockrock (Co.Louth) on 6th-10th; single adults remained at Bray (Co.Wicklow) and Sandymount (Co.Dublin) on 6th-10th also. On 7th an adult was in Co.Cork at Clonakilty; on 9th-12th an adult was in Co.Kerry at Blennerville; and on 10th Co.Antrim’s Carrickfergus still hosted an adult too. Cork City (Co.Cork) and Nimmo’s Pier (Co.Galway) respectively added further second-winters to the week’s tally on 10th also. As the week drew to a close another adult was at Kilcoole (Co.Wicklow) on 11th.

Ring-billed Gull, Dundalk, Co. Louth, (© Brendan Connolly)

Away from Ireland it was Cornwall that took the English laurels with a first-winter again in the Newlyn and Mousehole area on 7th-12th, the second-winter bird again at Hayle on 6th, and an adult at Bartinney Downs on 9th. Up country in Hampshire the adult remained at Blashford Lakes HWT all week while on 12th an adult was at Chew Valley Lake (Somerset).

Wales accounted for one bird, the adult again at Llys-y-Fran reservoir on 10th, while up in Scotland the adult remained at Strathclyde Loch (Clyde) on 6th-9th.

Numbers of both our regular white-wingers stayed fairly static this week, with solid tallies of both Glaucous and Iceland Gulls to show for ourselves.

Glaucous Gull, Goring-by-Sea, Sussex, (© David Potter)

Taking the Glaucous Gulls first, around 50 birds in all were noted the length and breadth of the region, with a particularly widespread scatter across 18 English counties. Gulling hotspot Rufforth (North Yorkshire) had a peak count of three birds on 8th – an adult, a juvenile and a second-winter – while Warwickshire’s Draycote Water also had three birds on 6th – two adults and a juvenile. The third of our weeks trios was up in Shetland on Yell, where three juveniles spent 11th-12th at Cullivoe. Birds were noted in sic Scottish counties besides Shetland; in six Irish counties; and in Wales, in Glamorgan.

Glaucous Gull, Hartlepool, Cleveland, (© Darren Ward)

Once again Iceland Gulls slightly outnumbered their bulkier brethren, with around 75 birds recorded in 16 English, nine Scottish and nine Irish counties; and in Wales, in Gwent.Peak count came this week from Ireland, where on 8th at Kilmoyley (Co.Kerry) five birds were logged. Staying in Co.Kerry, four birds (three juveniles and a second-winter) were on the Cashen Estuary on 7th, and three birds (an adult and two juveniles) were noted on Kerry Head on 9th. Duos were seen at Collieston (Aberdeenshire) on 6th; Rufforth (North Yorkshire) on 7th; at Rathmullan (Co>Donegal) on 9th; and on 10th at Dunmore East (Co.Waterford) and Duncannon (Co.Wexford). A number of single birds settled down at their chosen sites for a few days allowing a steady stream of passing birders to enjoy this regular winter highlight both at the coast and inland.

Iceland Gull, Queen Elizabeth II Country Park, Ashington, Northumberland, (© Jonathan Farooqi)

For a while it looked like we were going to treated to a new daily Kumlien’s Gull this week as for the first five days of the week consecutive new birds were unearthed. And then it all stalled. But until 11th we were going great guns: on 6th a second-winter was at Omey Strand (Co.Galway); on 7th-12th a third-winter was at Blacksod (Co.Mayo); on 8th a possible juvenile was at Fen Drayton Lakes RSPB (Cambridgeshire); on 9th-10th a juvenile was at Anglers CP (West Yorkshire); and on 10th one was in Co.Antrim at Glenarm.

Kumlien's Gull, Belmullet, County Mayo, (© Dave Suddaby)

We stay in Ireland to conclude with the adult Forster’s Tern seen on 9th in Co.Clare at Corranroo Bay and on 10th in Co.Galway at Kinvarra.

 

Raptors

In the winter raptor wonderland that’s Norfolk the juvenile Pallid Harrier continued its winter sojourn at Flitcham day-in day-out this week, even showing the temerity to attack a Merlin on 6th. (As we all know, Merlins are hard as nails and will in their own right have a go at pretty much anything with a pulse – I’ve seen one take on a Peregrine in Shetland and a Cornish bird, memorably, harrying an increasingly irritated Fox in the fields above Porthgwarra).

Pallid Harrier, Flitcham, Norfolk, (© David Carr)
Pallid Harrier, Flitcham, Norfolk, (© Andrew Steele)

Staying Norfolk a while yet, much of this week’s Rough-legged Buzzard action was again in the county: the two juveniles remained at Choseley throughout, while two were seen at Haddiscoe Island on 10th, and a further report came from Berney Marshes RSPB on 8th. In Essex the juvenile remained at Holland Haven CP until 11th, with further English records coming in the form of a reported bird at Newport (Essex) on 7th and one at Egglestone (Co.Durham) on 10th.

Rough-legged Buzzard, Choseley, Norfolk, (© Ben Moyes)

Up in the Western Isles the white Gyr remained on North Uist, being seen again at Baleshare on 8th.

 

Passerines & their ilk

With several new individuals to report, Penduline Tits get promoted to the top of the passerine bill (geddit?) this week. The three birds previously reported on remained in Hampshire at Titchfield Haven NNR until 11th, while on 6th two birds were found in Kent at the traditional site of Dungeness RSPB – playing hide’n’seek there with birders until 10th at least. On 11th two males were found in Gloucestershire at the evocatively-named Horsebere Flood Alleviation Pool.

Penduline Tit, Titchfield Haven NNR, Hampshire, (© Leigh Prevost)

While Hampshire and Kent in particular enjoy a good pedigree for the species up to the end of 2013 (with Hampshire claiming five accepted records involving 11 birds, and Kent a whopping 61 accepted records of more birds than I have fingers, toes and time to count), it’s a somewhat different story for Gloucestershire – with no accepted records to the end of 2013, these two male birds – still present on 12th - represent a significant county tick for local birders.

Penduline Tit, Dungeness, Kent, (© Richard Gannon)
Penduline Tit, Brockworth, Gloucestershire, (© Jonathan Mercer)

Really very slim pickings indeed this week where warblers were concerned – providing welcome variety were the fabulous Pallas’s Warbler in Cheshire at Heswall still until 12th, and the Dusky Warbler still skulking at Ham Wall RSPB (Somerset) until 12th also.

Pallas's Warbler, Heswall, Cheshire and Wirral, (© Phil Woollen)

But what had become of our wintering Yellow-browed Warblers? Reports dwindled to next to nothing in recent days, with just a handful of stalwart individuals involved. In Hampshire the bird remained at Eastleigh all week; moving west into Somerset one bird was regularly reported throughout the week in Yeovil before the second bird was confirmed as still being extant there on 10th; one was again in the Lizard village in Cornwall on 8th, with the Hayle individual reported daily until 12th. The only new record came from Ireland – one at Lough Leane in Co.Kerry on 8th-9th.

Yellow-browed Warbler, Yeovil, Somerset and Bristol, (© Brian Gibbs)
Yellow-browed Warbler, Ross Castle, County Kerry, (© Caleb Knight)

The hardy Hoopoe remained in situ at Wall Heath, Hinksford (Staffordshire) until 12th – we’ll see how it fares with the anticipated cold snap in coming days.

Hoopoe, Kingswinford, West Midlands, (© Michael Turner)

The Lizard (Cornwall) continued to prove attractive to the adult Rose-coloured Starling found last week, remaining there until 11th at least.

Meanwhile Waxwings, which have never been exactly plentiful this winter, retreated even further into their shell this week. Before 12th we couldn’t even muster double figures nationally, let alone in a flock. Lincolnshire provided the best of it, with four birds at Deeping High Bank on 6th, and four at Frampton Marsh RSPB on 9th – with just one there still on 11th-12th. A further singleton was seen in South Yorkshire on 10th at Brampton. Finally, on 12th a flock of 20 birds was at Cock Marsh in Berkshire, with one that day also at Kinross (Perth & Kinross).

Wintering Richard’s Pipits continued to endure at Flamborough (East Yorkshire) until 9th; Swillington Ings (West Yorkshire) until 10th; and Shell Ness (Kent) until 12th.

Richard's Pipit, Shell Ness, Isle of Sheppey, Kent, (© Neil Hughes)

One Black-bellied Dipper in Shetland on the sheltered stream at Voe on 11th turned into two birds there on 12th.

Black-bellied Dipper, Voe, Shetland, (© Hugh Harrop / Shetland Wildlife)

Numbers of Great Grey Shrikes still felt a little subdued. The week kicked off on 6th with individuals still present in Wales at Afan Forest Park and Llyn-on Reservoir (Glamorgan) and Neuadd Reservoirs (Powys); and in English counties at Croome Park (Worcestershire), Pig Bush (Hampshire) and Staple-edge Wood (Gloucestershire), this latter bird being reported until 11th still.

Further reports trickled through more or less daily – in Wareham Forest (Dorset) on 6th; still on Thursley Common (Surrey) on 7th-12th; in Hampshire at Amberwood Inclosure on 8th and Islands Thorns Inclosure on 11th; at Soussons Down (Devon) on 8th; on 8th-12th in East Sussex in Ashdown Forest; on 8th-12th in Oxfordshire at South Leigh; on 9th again at Chobham Common (Surrey); and on 11th at Upton Heath DWT (Dorset) and Cawthorn Moor (North Yorkshire).

Last week’s unseasonal female Serin seen on 4th January in Cambridgeshire at Fen Drayton Lakes RSPB became two birds at that site this week on 10th-12th.

Reports came out this week of two potentially more anticipated winter finches – a possible Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll briefly on 8th in Fife at St.Monance; and a putative Coue’s Arctic Redpoll on 10th-12th in Northumberland at Birling Carrs. The latter could also prove to be a Mealy Redpoll... and indeed, both could before long find themselves unceremoniously lumped as Redpoll. Given the current vogue for identifying subspecies I imagine we’ll be reporting them for a while yet...

 

The coming week…

Cor, so there you have it. Another week done, the first full ‘un of the new year, and already it looks like we’ve had our (well, Ireland’s...) first new bird of the year in the form of that cracking Vega Gull at Duncannon.

Whatever next? (And yes, Black-tailed Gull simply has to be happen eventually given the Pacific flavour of recent years...)

Let’s be (a little) more realistic though, and take a small weather-related punt – if we get the anticipated cold snap this coming week, birds may be encouraged to come into gardens to top up on fuel. Looking to the past no fewer than four species of rare thrush feature and perhaps give us some scope to dream...

Moving swiftly on from the unfortunate White’s Thrush shot on 14th January 1892 in Moreton Corbet (Shropshire), we come to a certain long-staying Naumann’s Thrush in London at Woodford Green, found on 19th January 1990 – and if there was ever one for all the young dudes to unblock, it’s this one...

...two long-staying Black-throated Thrushes, found at Webheath (Worcestershire) and on the Isle of Bute (Clyde) on 17th January 1996 and 18th January 2007 respectively and, last but by no means least...

...four American Robins, all found in a tight window of 14-16th January – two one day birds, and two long stayers; and scattered far and wide from St.Kilda (Western Isles) in the extreme north-west to Dorset in the very south, via a couple of Irish birds.

It’s a long-shot – knock on wood - but if the temperature finally plummets to resemble something we used to quaintly know as ‘winter’ then it could be worth checking the berries in your garden. Who knows what might be there...

Black-throated Thrush, Swansea, Glamorgan, (© Kit Day)

 

Jon Dunn
13 Jan 2016

 

Please note: we put a lot of time and effort into sourcing and and producing the images, videos and graphics for each roundup. Some of you (probably Apple users) may notice some photos etc. that appear to have incorrect captions. Please try refreshing the page as they are correcty captioned. If after a refresh they are still showing the incorrect captions then please email us

 

 

 

Thanks to this week's contributors for their photos and videos.

Paul Kelly / Irish Bird Images, Paul Connaughton, Hugh Harrop / Shetland Wildlife, Martin Gray, Chris Bromley, Stuart Elsom, Wat Birder, Alex Humphreys-Jones, John Richardson, Stephen Whayman, John Saunders, Hamish Murray, Darren Robson, Michael Trew, Michael Richardson, Shaun Ferguson, David Boult, David Dinsley, Ian Williams, Brendan Connolly, David Potter, Darren Ward, Jonathan Farooqi, Dave Suddaby, David Carr, Andrew Steele, Ben Moyes, Leigh Prevost, Richard Gannon, Jonathan Mercer, Phil Woollen, Brian Gibbs, Caleb Knight, Michael Turner, Neil Hughes, Kit Day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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