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Monday, 25 February 2013

HARLEQUIN DUCK remains top billing

Harlequin Duck (Andrew Kinghorn)

On the Outer Hebrides, the drake HARLEQUIN DUCK in advanced plumage continues to attract a constant stream of admirers, showing well between the offshore rocky island and the beach some 800 yards south of the Skua-watching site at Aird an Runair, Balranald RSPB on North Uist. In modern times (eg, post 1970), this is the best-looking Harlequin to ever grace our shores. The Balranald area continues to host up to 3 juvenile Glaucous Gulls, a juvenile Kumlien's Gull, a female Ring-necked Duck at Loch Scaraidh and a RICHARDSON'S CANADA GOOSE with up to 400 Barnacle Geese at Loch Grogarry. A few miles to the south, at Knockintorran, two adult SNOW GEESE remain with Greylags. WHITE-TAILED SEA EAGLES are very much in evidence and easy to see, with up to 7 on the Committee Road.

Elsewhere in Northern Scotland, the record-breaking female DESERT WHEATEAR remains at Rattray Head (Aberdeenshire), with the drake KING EIDER at nearby St Combs (offshore of the Tufted Duck Hotel) and adult drake SURF SCOTERS off Ruddons Point, Largo Bay (Fife) and Loch Ryan, Stranraer (D & G). The drake BLUE-WINGED TEAL is also still present on the River Dee at Lamb Island, Threave (D & G), showing again from the hide at NX 735 606.

At the opposite end of the country and attracting far bigger crowds is Somerset's adult breeding-plumaged PIED-BILLED GREBE - still showing intermittently on the main lake visible from the second observation platform just under a mile east of Ashcott Corner car park at Ham Walls RSPB.

Equally popular is a juvenile WHITE-TAILED SEA EAGLE in NW Norfolk, favouring the Bunker's Hill area just NNW of Great Bircham.. Elsewhere in Norfolk, the singing male BLACK-BELLIED DIPPER remains in Thetford just east of the Three Nun's Bridges at TL 874 824.

Newly discovered is a drake NORTH AMERICAN GREEN-WINGED TEAL in Warwickshire at Brandon Marsh NR, where it is frequenting the River Pool, whilst the GLOSSY IBIS that has wintered in Hampshire is now performing south of the natural burial site at Warblington, SE of Havant, at SU 731 054.

The drake RED-BREASTED GOOSE is still consorting with wintering Dark-bellied Brent Geese on Thorney Island (West Sussex), with South Devon's drake AMERICAN WIGEON once more on Dart's Farm Fishing Ponds just SE of Topsham and drake FERRUGINOUS DUCKS at Priory Country Park, Bedford (Beds) and again on Ivy Lake, Blashford HWT (Hants). In Lancashire, a blue morph LESSER SNOW GOOSE is with Pink-feet in the Eagland Hill area, often viewable from Bradshaw Lane.

The juvenile COMMON CRANE is still frequenting the ploughed field close to the B1407 near East Linton (Lothian) (at NT 607 784)

The LESSER YELLOWLEGS is still to be found in Ernesettle Creek by the River Tamar (South Devon), with the LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER still showing well on the Pickeridge Pools at the north end of the Gann Estuary at Dale (Pembs).

In East Sussex, the adult winter BONAPARTE'S GULL continues to show very well in Eastbourne on Princes Park Crumbles Pond, with adult RING-BILLED GULLS still in Dingwall (Highland) and Walpole Boating Lake, Gosport (Hants).

The first-winter ROSE-COLOURED STARLING is still favouring the lone Hawthorn to the right of Milbury Lane, Exminster (South Devon), just as you enter the road from the High Street, whilst on the Hampshire/Berkshire border, the PALLAS'S LEAF WARBLER is still with Long-tailed Tits on the River Blackwater SW of Moor Green Lakes..

Freshwater GREAT NORTHERN DIVERS include singles at Rutland Water (Leics) and Staines Reservoirs (Surrey), and the juvenile BLACK-THROATED DIVER still at Lisvane Reservoir (Glamorgan), whilst LONG-TAILED DUCKS include singles at Queen Mother Reservoir (Berks), Angler's Country Park (West Yorks)

It has been something of an excellent winter for HAWFINCHES with still some 35 birds being attracted to the flowering shrubs at Romsey (Hants), 4 still at Millfield LNR, Old Basing (Hants), 23 by Norton sub Hamdon Churchyard (Somerset), up to 12 at Llanbedr (Conwy), 8 in Bramfield Churchyard (Herts) and the very confiding female at Wimpole Hall (Cambs). Two TWITES at Aust Warth (Gloucs) are an excellent local record.

In IRELAND, recent highlights include the continuing CATTLE EGRET at St Johnston piggery (County Donegal), the FORSTER'S TERN in Galway Harbour (County Galway), the NORTHERN HARRIER at Tacumshin (County Wexford) and the two AMERICAN BLACK DUCKS at Crookhaven (County Cork).