Nov 292023

During the late autumn, a large number of Short-eared Owls arrived into Britain from Northern Europe. They appeared to be pushed across by unprecedented storms and probably a shortage of rodents in Scandinavia. Short-eared Owls are a regular winter visitor to our shores, but some large numbers were counted, especially in Norfolk, as they arrived along the east coast.

They have now taken up territories at various traditional wintering sites around the country, and I visited one along the Humber Bank in mid November. We had 7 birds, as well as at least 3 Hen Harrier, a distant Barn Owl and a distant Marsh Harrier during the morning. In the same fields there were small numbers of Stonechat. The owls put on a fantastic display for us, as we watched them from a lay-by pull in, standing and using the car as a semi-hide. They were not perturbed by our presence at all, even flying along the lane, right in front of us on occasions. 

Nov 292023

On 31st October I found 4 juvenile Shags at Foremark Reservoir. Part of an inland influx after the recent storms and the first record in the county since 2020. One bird was colour ringed with a blue DARVIC ring. I managed to discover that it was from a ringing scheme in Scotland. Unfortunately the bird was always too distant to read the number. One bird was still present on 21st November and the corpse of one bird could be seen on the top of the draw-out Water Tower. No idea what happened there. Also on 31st October I found 3 Redhead Goldeneye at Staunton Harold Reservoir, the first ones of the year.

On 5th November a Glossy Ibis graced the flood waters at Swarkestone Causeway and could be viewed from Stanton-by-Bridge. The first since 2021. It was present several days until the flood waters receded, it then moved on.

On 21st November I met up with a birder friend who I had not seen for a number of years. Mike had moved down to Devon and was re-visiting family, so we met up for a morning’s birding. We discovered 6 Great White Egrets, a record count at Staunton Harold Reservoir, along with at least 15 Little Egrets, 141 Lesser Black-backed Gull, a Red Kite, a Kingfisher and a drake Pochard as other highlights. On 22nd November, I could only find 3 Great White Egret, along with a drake Goldeneye and 2 fly-over Wigeon.

By the end of November, Waxwings had finally started to arrive into Derbyshire. A flock had been present for a couple of days at Matlock and on 29th I had around 12 at Bull Lane, Matlock, very briefly before flying off and despite searching, they couldn’t be re-located.

Nov 052023

A first winter male Red-headed Bunting had been present at Flamborough Head, Yorkshire, for a number of days in mid October, tempting me to go and see it, having been found and tentatively identified on 21st October 2023. This species is super rare, and despite previously being recorded in Britain, the species is currently classed as Category D, due to many of the older records relating to adult males, at spasmodic times of the year. However, recently records have been reassessed since the cage bird trade was banned during the 80’s. All records post 1990 are being reviewed, as since the ban, the bird has become exceedingly rare, so there’s a good possibility that this bird is a genuine vagrant. It arrived with a good supporting cast, Siberian Stonechat and Little Bunting in the same hedge for example. Also other vagrants from Euro-Asia were around, Two-barred Greenish Warbler and Pallas’s Warbler on the day of my arrival, 30th October. So plenty of eastern migrants, to hopefully support its credibility. A DNA sample had been sent off for analysis, and a few days ago it was confirmed that this bird was in deed a Red-headed Bunting. (early November)

I also read recently with interest, that Red-headed Bunting moults on arrival on its wintering grounds. This bird apparently, started to moult a few days after its arrival and was still present on 2nd November in severe moult. The past few days it has been extremely elusive, with no reports since the 2nd November.

During my visit on 30th October, I managed to find the bird in the morning, much to the relief of the gathered crowd, as there had been no news on the bird prior to my arrival. I also saw 7 Waxwings, flying over the golf course heading north, and although distant, I had good views of the Two-barred Greenish Warbler, but failed to see the Pallas’s Warbler. There was also a large flock of Pink-footed Geese (Pinkies) feeding in nearby fields, and numerous and very obliging Goldcrests, these were my “Sprites” of the day!

I would like to thank Jack Bucknall for allowing me to use his excellent image, in this Blog, of the Two-barred Greenish Warbler. The picture portraits the bird just how I saw it, as it was feeding in distant vegetation. Unfortunately I was never able to get my camera on the bird, so this photo is a great memory.

Red-headed Bunting – 1st winter male with male Yellowhammer.
Two-barred Greenish Warbler – Image by Jack Bucknall© – many thanks..
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