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Friday, 21 January 2011

A week passes but still no sign of the gull

A total of 237 species has so far been recorded in Britain and Ireland in 2011, including one never before recorded. A near adult SLATY-BACKED GULL was identified at Rainham Marsh RSPB Wennington Marsh and Landfill Site (London/Essex) on 13 January and seen again by just 34 observers the following day. At least 1,400 observers visited the site on Saturday 15 January but of this number, just 25 believed that they had seen it that day.

The adult winter PACIFIC DIVER remains in Mount's Bay, West Cornwall, fishing with up to 6 Great Northern and 5 Black-throated Divers in the Marazion area (difficult to see in inclement weather conditions).

An unusual number of BALEARIC SHEARWATERS has been seen this year, with a raft of 40 or more in Carbis Bay, St Ives (Cornwall) for a couple of weeks and almost daily sightings off Porthgwarra (Cornwall), including an impressive 29 birds on 16th. Porthgwarra also logged some very early Manx Shearwaters, along with two different SOOTY SHEARWATERS - another of the latter passing Portland Bill (Dorset) on 17th.

After leaving Freeman's Marsh just west of Hungerford (Berkshire) on 9 January, the long-staying GLOSSY IBIS pitched up at Dungeness RSPB (East Kent) before crossing the English Channel next day. It has remained ever since, showing mainly on the pools to the right of the entrance track. GREAT WHITE EGRETS remained at seven sites, including a new winter record of 5 together at Ham Walls RSPB (Somerset) on 17th; last winter's two were again at Pitsford Reservoir (Northants) with other regular wintering birds at Thorpeness Mere (Suffolk) and at Blashford Lakes HWT (Hampshire). Apart from one over Elmley Marshes RSPB (North Kent) on 16th, all EURASIAN SPOONBILLS this past week have been in the Southwest, with 9 on Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour (Dorset), 3 at Walmsley Sanctuary CBWPS (Cornwall) and another on Samson (Scilly).

In West Cornwall, the 7 BEWICK'S SWANS were still to be found most afternoons at the southern causeway of Stithians Reservoir, with further out-of-range herds being noted in Dorset, Hampshire and in Surrey, whilst on the goose front, Norfolk continued to host an adult LESSER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE of unknown origin with up to 107 TAIGA BEAN GEESE in the Yare Valley between Buckenham Carrs RSPB and Cantley Beet Factory and up to 3 different ROSS'S SNOW GEESE with the Pink-footed Geese including a fairly reliable bird at Holkham Freshmarshes.

A first-winter RED-BREASTED GOOSE continues to be seen in North Lancashire with the wintering Pink-footed Geese there, wandering each day and being seen at Cleveleys, Pilling Lane Ends and Eagland Hill. An adult of unknown origin appeared amongst the Dark-bellied Brent Geese on Titchfield Haven foreshore (Hants) on 19th and was still present today, feeding just inland of the shore in fields by the caravan and Holiday Park half a mile to the west of the reserve. The only SNOW GOOSE reported was the long-staying bird with Greylag Geese near Kirkwall in Orkney. Some 10 or more BLACK BRANTS continue to be seen.

A female FERRUGINOUS DUCK was seen at Cockshoot Broad (Norfolk) on 16th, with long-staying RING-NECKED DUCKS involving a drake at Cowpen Bewley (Cleveland) and at Loch Evelix (Sutherland) and females at Nosterfield Quarry (North Yorkshire) on 16th and at Talley Lakes (Carmarthen) on 18th. There was also a drake at Stithians Reservoir (Cornwall) on 16th. Four adult drake AMERICAN WIGEONS are on offer, with singles at Udale Bay, Cromarty (Highland), Rutland Water (Leics), Cley Marshes NWT East bank (North Norfolk) and Stoke Ferry Washes (Central Norfolk), whilst LESSER SCAUPS include drakes at Cosmeston Lakes CP (Glamorgan) and Dozmary Pool, Bodmin Moor (Cornwall) and a female at Slimbridge WWT (Gloucs).

The female SURF SCOTER remains offshore at Dawlish Warren (South Devon), with the usual drake off Ruddons Point in Largo Bay (Fife) and others in SW Wales and on Harris (Outer Hebrides) and the three continuing KING EIDERS in Northern Scotland - the adult drake off Burghead (Moray) and the first-winter drake and female in the West Voe of Sumburgh (Shetland). SMEW continued to be in good supply with at least 120 wintering, with a single bird in Wales, 5 in Scotland and two in Ireland.

Norfolk continued to harbour up to 6 different ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARDS, mostly in the Scolt Head/Overy Dunes/Holkham and Lodge Marsh areas, with several elsewhere including the long-staying bird on the River Humber (at South Ferriby) and another at Hatfield Moors NNR (South Yorkshire), whilst the juvenile Hen Harrier showing some characteristics of the Nearctic form hudsonicus remained very faithful to Thornham Marsh and its environs (North Norfolk).

The juvenile WHITE-TAILED SEA EAGLE continued to eek out carrion in the woodlands to the west and SW of Hordle Lane near Milford-on-Sea (Hampshire) until at least 17th.

On the wader front, the first-winter LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER at Lodmoor (Dorset) was the main event, whilst in terms of rare gulls, the regular adult RING-BILLED GULLS could all be relied upon in Argyll (Oban Harbour), Hampshire (Gosport), Essex (Westcliff-on-Sea) and in West Yorkshire (Mirfield).

It has been a very good winter for SHORE LARKS with reliable flocks still to be found at John Muir Country Park (Lothian) (5 birds), Gibraltar Point (Lincs) (21), Theddlethorpe Dunes (North Lincs) (7), Titchwell RSPB (North Norfolk) (9), Holkham Bay (North Norfolk) (5), Cley Beach (North Norfolk) (11), Dingle Marshes (Suffolk) (13) and Reculver Marshes (North Kent) (3) whilst the most impressive gatherings of LAPLAND BUNTINGS remain the 15 or so at Weybourne Clifftop Fields (North Norfolk) and 14 or so at Cut Bridge stubble field, Hurst Beach (Hampshire).

BOHEMIAN WAXWING numbers still remain high in the south, with over 700 at one site in Hampshire and flocks of 200 or more still present in Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Essex.

It has also been a very good winter for MEALY REDPOLLS, with many hundreds of birds present, with a few SCANDINAVIAN ARCTICS amongst them including two in Bedfordshire, 3 at Rainton Meadows (County Durham) and a singleton near Whiteadder Reservoir (Borders).

The male DUSKY THRUSH that appeared in gardens in Leigh (Gtr Manchester) in early December and may have been the same bird seen at two further suburban localities in Central England did not make it into January 2011 but may well be lurking with the large numbers of thrushes in SW England, whilst NORTHERN WHITE-HEADED LONG-TAILED TITS included a flock of 5 in Dymchurch (Kent) and at least 2 more at nearby Kingsdown.

IRELAND held on to at least seven species not recorded in Britain thus far in 2011 namely PIED-BILLED GREBE, BLUE-WINGED TEAL, AMERICAN COOT, BONAPARTE'S GULL, FORSTER'S TERN, INDIAN HOUSE CROW and CENTRAL ASIATIC LESSER WHITETHROAT. The PIED-BILLED GREBE, although elusive and wide-ranging, was seen at Great Island (Co. Cork) until at least 20th, with the AMERICAN COOT at Termoncarragh Lake (Co. Mayo) until at least 16th, the female BLUE-WINGED TEAL at North Bull Island (Co. Dublin), the adult winter BONAPARTE'S GULL at Great island on 15th, the adult winter FORSTER'S TERN at Glassagh Beach, Galway Harbour (Co. Galway), the INDIAN HOUSE CROW in Cobh (Co. Cork) and the apparent halimodendri LESSER WHITETHROAT on garden feeders at Drogheda (Co. Louth).

Also recorded were a SNOW GOOSE at Grey Abbey, Strangford Lough (Co. Down), the RICHARDSON'S CANADA GOOSE (SMALL CANADA) at Raghley (Co. Sligo), FERRUGINOUS DUCKS at Tacumshin (Co. Wexford) and Craigavon Balancing Lakes (Co. Armagh), SMEWS at Portmore Lough (Co. Antrim) and Inch Island Lake (Co. Donegal), the Hen Harrier showing characteristics of 'NORTHERN HARRIER' at Tacumshin Lakes (Co. Wexford) and good numbers of WAXWINGS still.