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Monday, 19 December 2011

Christmas Birding as we near the end of 2011

Well, I would just like to wish every one of you a very Happy and Healthy Christmas and hopefully another bird-filled and enriching, captivating New Year........

Although not quite over, 2011 has proven to be a record-breaking year in terms of species diversity in Britain and Ireland with an exceptional 451 species recorded - perhaps championed by the spectacular Siberian Rubythroat in Shetland in October and White-throated Robin in Hartlepool in May, as well as by the most unexpected and way off course vagrants such as the Stejneger's Scoter and the Slaty-backed Gull

As we enter this Christmas Week, the finest we have on offer at the moment are the following......

With last week's unsettled weather, involving heavy snowfall and localised flooding, one of our rarest birds has moved to pastures new......the juvenile SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER was finally flooded out of Blagdon Lake (Somerset) last Wednesday and has not been seen since

Meanwhile, Northumberland's GREATER YELLOWLEGS was blown nearly 200 miles NW to Skelbo (Sutherland), where it has graced a roadside field for five days just SE of Loch Fleet adjacent to the entrance to Coul Farm. In North Norfolk, the first-winter WESTERN SANDPIPER seems set on wintering at Cley NWT Reserve with the Dunlin and although highly mobile and somewhat elusive, is still visiting Pat's Pool and Simmond's Scrape daily, and the first-winter SPOTTED SANDPIPER can still be found at the north end of the River Plym near Marsh Mills Roundabout, Plymouth (South Devon). Exceptionally late is a confiding juvenile PECTORAL SANDPIPER in shallow pools just north of Barassie (Ayrshire) between Dundonald Camp and the smallholdings (at NS 331 344).

Although recent females in Shetland and Salop have now moved on, as well as a male in East Yorks, a first-winter male DESERT WHEATEAR still survives in Northumberland at Newbiggin-on-Sea, showing well on the beach midway between Beacon Point and Church Point.

In Hampshire, a CATTLE EGRET is by Church Lane, Warblington, favouring a field with cattle viewable from the gate by the church car park at SU 728 053 whilst GLOSSY IBISES include two at Stodmarsh NNR (Kent) and singles at Leighton Moss RSPB (Lancs) and Fingringhoe Wick (Essex)..

Many ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARDS remain on wintering territories in Britain with singles at Burpham (West Sussex), North Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Nickoll's Quarry, near Hythe (East Kent) and Elmley Marshes (North Kent), with up to 7 in Norfolk (including 3 in the East Hills, Wells, area) and 3 in Suffolk.

Norfolk has at least 3 ROSS'S SNOW GEESE wintering, with one with Pink-footed Geese in the Weybourne area and two returning birds along the Acle Straits and Berney Marshes area, whilst TUNDRA BEAN GEESE left over from the huge influx still number well over 100 birds and TAIGA BEAN GEESE in the Norfolk Yare Valley have only climbed thus far to 16 individuals. Islay (Argyll) has its normal scattering of up to 4 vagrant Canada Geese and the only likely wild RED-BREASTED GEESE are singles in Essex and in South Devon (at Topsham). The most reliable wintering drake AMERICAN WIGEONS include singles at Angler's Country Park on Wintersett Reservoir (West Yorks) and at Dawlish Warren NNR (South Devon) whilst Ranworth Broad in Broadland Norfolk has both the regular female RING-NECKED DUCK wintering and the drake Ferruginous Duck of unknown origin. A couple of SURF SCOTERS were discovered last week, including the regularly wintering female off Dawlish Warren (South Devon) and a young drake in with 50 Common Scoter offshore of Penzance Jubilee Pool (Cornwall) in Mount's Bay. Not far from the latter is the long-staying juvenile female BUFFLEHEAD on the Loe Pool at Helston (Cornwall). The only KING EIDER on offer is that restricted to Burghead Harbour in Moray & Nairn district.

The only wintering YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER is a bird present alongside both Common and Siberian Chiffchaffs in Clennon Valley, Paignton (South Devon)

In IRELAND in County Kerry, a young female KING EIDER is present by the Reen Pier at Ballinskelligs and showing well (with a LITTLE AUK also in the same general area)