Highlights: Hundreds of Red-throated Divers, tens of Great Northern Divers, and good numbers of Black-throated Divers passed St Catherine’s breakwater and La Coupe headland early mornings on many days, with Common Scoters, hundreds of auks – mostly Razorbills – hundreds of gulls – including Kittiwakes, Little Gulls and Black-headed Gulls – Slavonian Grebes, Black-necked Grebes and Great Crested Grebes, and Red-breasted Mergansers.
At Pontac up to 30 Mediterranean Gulls, and 800-1,000 Herring Gulls roosted with 20 or so Sandwich Terns and many egrets and shorebirds. Out in St Clement’s Bay at Icho Tower was the usual adult Spoonbill which normally fed in rock pools with up to 100 Little Egrets and up to 50 Grey Herons at La Rocque.
At St Peter up to five Cattle Egrets fed regularly in cattle fields and were also seen at the Wetlands Centre in St Ouen’s Bay and near the Union Inn at Mont a l’Abbe, and near Five Oaks and near La Hougue Bie in Grouville.
A big flock wintered in Guernsey. On the 7th eight Purple Sandpipers were in the wader roost at Petit Port with the usual Whimbrel and Curlews, and remained there throughout the month at high water roosts.
At the Wetlands Centre 15 Wigeon were often on the 'Scrape' hide viewing area and some were in Queen's Valley with nine or so Greenshanks, which fed in Grouville Bay at low water. Between 1,400-1,500 Brent Geese wintering around the coasts of Jersey included about 10% juveniles.
At St Aubin’s near the harbour and in Beaumont Marsh up to 89 pale-bellied Brent Geese were seen (20th) and were normally around St Aubin's harbour or Beaumont Goose Green Marsh.
Pale-bellied Brent Geese seemed to have about 25% juveniles after a very good breeding year and juveniles were at Happy Hens at La Rocque with 50 Little Egrets, plus old Icelendic colour-ringed pale-bellied adult Brent Goose and 100 or so dark bellied Brent Geese at most high waters.
On 10th-11th, a House Martin was feeding about St Catherine’s Woods and Gorey on the east coast, where Firecrests and Chiffchaffs were present with 10 or more Black Redstarts and up to 50 Rock Pipits, which were also present at Le Pulec at St Ouen’s Bay, Twenty or so Choughs were close to the Black Redstarts and about 50 Rock Pipits were near L’Etacq.
Up to 121 Ringed Plovers including the Norwegian colour-ringed bird were at St Ouen’s Bay between the Wetlands Centre car park and L’Etacq. At the Wetlands Centre 52 Shovelers, two Bitterns, three or so Bearded Tits, 50 Teal, Jack Snipe, Water Pipits, Little Grebes, 20 Cormorants, 38 Pochards, up to 50 Tufted Ducks, 200 Snipe, 100 Reed Buntings, 20 or so Marsh Harriers, Merlin, female Hen Harrier, Curlew and Brent Geese, including a colour-ringed bird, were present.
At Le Pulec (30th) a Common Sandpiper was a surprise wintering bird. The following day a Short-eared Owl was at the Wetlands Centre. At St Helier harbour freight warehouse a Long-eared Owl regularly roosted. Barn Owls were numerous in the west of Jersey and at Trinity near the Manor.
Woodcock were numerous in woodland. Up to 200 Fieldfares turned up in fields in Jersey with thousands of Redwings in the cold weather at the end of the month. Up to 500 Pied Wagtails were roosting in St Helier Marina. Grey Wagtails were thin on the ground but a few were flying about. Black Redstarts were regularly around La Rocque and Fauvic.
RSPB Rainham Marshes: It was a quite a disappointing end to the year, but there were still some notable sightings, with a Cattle Egret (16th-20th) taking centre stage.
Given the national influx this is just as likely to be a new bird rather than one of the October duo. A Bonxie was found eating a deceased Guillemot on the river (3rd) and a female Goosander (27th) was also seen but otherwise it was quiet with just a Little Stint (sporadically from the 13th), seven Knot (30th), two Turnstone and an ever increasing Avocet flock – peaking at 22 on the 31st – amongst the commoner fare.
Both Woodcock and Jack Snipe were seen out on the marsh but duck numbers were still low, mirroring the water levels.
At least six Water Pipits were regularly seen out on the pools and a male Merlin made a couple of sorties after thrushes and Sky Larks.
Similarly a ringtail male Hen Harrier that arrived on the 5th for 10 days was also seen going after small birds while up to six Marsh Harriers, two Buzzards and three Peregrines were daily hunters.
A Red Kite (13th) would prove to be the last of the year. Short-eared Owls became more visible with at least four over the Christmas period while five Barn Owls was somewhat of a surprise and unusually our birds were often active from mid-afternoon.
A Little Owl was seen near the railway and 229 Stock Doves were out feeding on Wennington. Gull-wise it was quiet with peaks of 14 Yellow-leggeds and two Caspians.
Metropolitan Essex (LHNS area): Wanstead Flats got the month off to a great start with Yellow-browed Warbler (7th-31st at least), that spent the time into the New Year working its way around the island in Alexandra Lake.
Firecrests were seen in the nearby Wanstead Park, Hatch Wood and Mardyke Valley, while there seem to be a good number of Chiffchaffs wintering with up to a dozen around Beckton STW.
A Treecreeper was a very good find at Fairlop Waters and a Short-eared Owl became fairly regular there (from 19th).
At least one Bittern continued to be seen at Seventy Acres Lake along with up to 18 Goosanders and a single Smew. Both species were also seen at Connaught Water with three Goosanders also in Weald Park (from 27th).
Both the male Scaup and Black-necked Grebe remained at Walthamstow Reservoirs and a Caspian Gull was seen there (28th). Some serious gulling between the Thames Barrier Park and Lyle Park revealed at least five different Caspians, 10 Yellow-leggeds and an adult Med Gull.
Three Red-crested Pochards were on Hollow Pond (19th) and a single Common Scoter was on the Girling (14th). Mandarin numbers seem to have been dropping in recent years in Epping Forest so counts of 26 at Strawberry Hill Pond and 30 at Connaught Water were encouraging.
Two Waxwings were seen in the Mar Dyke (9th) with another over Walthamstow (30th) and eight in Harold Hill (from 31st). Perhaps we will get a Waxwing winter after all? A skein of 44 White-fronted Geese overflew Upminster (2nd), with two more with the Greylags in the Mar Dyke (26th).
Down on the Thames at West Thurrock Marshes there were 10 Avocets, 1400 Dunlin, two Grey Plovers and two Jack Snipe (24th) with another Jack Snipe in the Ingrebourne Valley the same day. The Rainham Marshes Hen Harrier went roaming (11th) and was seen at Gallions Reach and Barking Bay before returning to the reserve.
South East Essex: Wallasea Wetlands RSPB was the place to be for quality raptor action, with the new trails open and plenty of close activity from three ringtail and one male Hen Harrier, seven Short-eared Owls, three Merlins and the other regular birds of prey.
Add to this over 250 Corn Buntings and Sky Larks, finch flocks that included five Twite and a host of waders and wildfowl, and you had a proper spectacle. Other Hen Harriers were seen at Bradwell BO, Stow Marsh and around Barling, while the only Red Kite was over Basildon (3rd).
A juvenile Whooper Swan and female Eider were at Blue House Farm (1st) with five White-fronts (15th) and three Short-eared Owls (16th) also seen. Nearby at Stow Marsh there were six tundra Bean Geese and a Little Stint (31st) while around Paglesham lagoon and Barling six White White-fronts were present (from 24th) along with up to three Velvet Scoters.
A Black Brant was also seen here (11th) along with a Snow Bunting (2nd). Two more Snow Buntings were seen at Deal Hall (6th) while two Black Brants were found among the 2,799 dark-bellied Brents.
The Thameside patches continued to be quite productive with a Great Grey Shrike on Foulness (11th) and Black-throated Divers off Gunners Park and Southend Pier, where there were also 23 Med Gulls and a Shag (29th).
A Short-eared Owl was seen on Two Tree Island and West Canvey Marshes RSPB had up to eight Barnacle Geese (from 10th). Off Canvey Point the Velvet Scoter flock reached eight birds and Black-throated Divers (13th & 31st) and three Great Northern Divers (31st) were noted.
At Bowers Marsh RSPB there were 15 White-fronts (6th), with 18 there (20th), while an adult Bewick’s Swan arrived at Vange Marshes RSPB (18th-27th).
The long-staying but very elusive Glossy Ibis was seen again at Wat Tyler (18th). Further up-river a Rough-legged Buzzard was seen over Corringham (1st) and an Eider lingered with 27 Common Scoters off East Tilbury, where there were 956 Avocets (16th) and 1,765 Black-tailed Godwits (18th). Firecrests were seen in Hockley Woods and Rayleigh and the first three Waxwings were also in Rayleigh on New Years Eve.
Mid Essex: The Blackwater continued to be a draw for those wishing to have an Essex seaduck experience, with collective high counts as follows, mainly off Tollesbury, Goldhanger and Osea – four Great Northern Divers, singles of the other two species, two Red-necked Grebes, 100 Great Crested Grebes, only two Slavonian Grebes, Black-necked Grebe, 90 Goldeneyes, 12 Long-tailed Ducks, 14 Scaup, three Velvet Scoters, 24 Common Scoters, Eider and 110 Red-breasted Mergansers!
The Colne still held singles of Scaup and Long-tailed Duck along with two Velvet and four Common Scoters.
December at Abberton was much like November with four Smew, eight Goosander, two Bitterns, two Slavonian and single Black-necked Grebes and nine Scaup but with the excellent addition of a fine drake Ring-necked Duck (5th-31st at least), two Long-tailed Ducks (from 11th) and a Bewick’s Swan (from 25th). Black Redstart (8th) and Merlin (3rd) made for a good month.
A Merlin was also seen at Fingringhoe Wick (1st) with a Goosander there (2nd) and 45 White-fronts over (29th). Eleven Goosanders were seen further upriver at Wivenhoe (21st) and 24 were inland at Ulting (23rd) The Glossy Ibis was seen again on Mersea (9th) with Lapland Buntings reappearing (17th) but it was the male Dark-eyed Junco in a West Mersea garden (8th) that stole the headlines. Unfortunately it was not seen subsequently.
A Jack Snipe was seen at The Hythe (31st) and 13,200 Knot were counted at Osea (15th) when two Purple Sandpipers were seen at nearby Goldhanger. Hen Harriers remained scarce with singles at Tollesbury (3rd) and two tundra Bean Geese were seen there (11th).
Although no Hen Harriers came into roost at Old Hall Marshes RSPB (18th) there was an impressive count of 42 Marsh Harriers present and over 1,000 Fieldfares milling around. A Waxwing were seen around Maldon (29th-30th), and a Long-eared Owl was further up-river at Paper Mill Lock (10th).
North Essex: Although the numbers dropped off in December there were still plenty of interesting waterfowl to catch up with on the Stour with Scaup, Eider and six Long-tailed Ducks still on offer in the creeks of Hamfords Water and the Naze, while up-river at Wrabness and Bradfield there were two more Scaup, Slavonian and Red-necked Grebes and Velvet Scoter to be seen.
Short-eared Owl and Merlins were seen at The Naze, where an unseasonal Pallas’s Warbler was seen (22nd & 24th). At Holland Haven 28 Barnacle Geese dropped in (3rd) and a White-front was with the Greylags (19th).
Twelve more White-fronts were at Howlands Marsh (from 16th) with six Twite there the same day. Nine Snow Buntings were at Colne Point (4th) and Jaywick had 40 Common Scoters (28th).
Wigboro Wick Farm had two Bramblings and up to four Lapland Buntings with the other passerines feeding in the fields (from 16th) but there were no reports of Tree Sparrows. Red-throated Diver passage started off Frinton (12th) with 34 south increasing to 126 (24th) when 22 White-fronts, Velvet Scoter and 114 Great Black-backed Gulls were logged.
Inland there were five Marsh Tits in Hatfield Forest and probably the rarity of the month – a Hooded Crow around Bulmer and Belchamp Walter (24th-31st at least).
West Glamorgan (Gower)
Highlights: A Lapland Bunting was at Rhosilli (11th), and a Great Skua was at Mumbles.
Other sites: At Broughton there were 250 Gannets, five pale-bellied and 145 dark-bellied Brent Geese, two Red-breasted Mergansers, two Razorbills, 100 Oystercatchers, three Great Northern Divers and a Chough. Rhosilli had a female Hen Harrier, Red Kite, Snipe, Chough, 40 Sky Larks, 75 Chaffinches, and a Black-throated Diver. At Landore on the River Tawe there were four male and one female Goosanders. At Mumbles Pier were 75 Turnstones, 15 Redshanks, and one Purple Sandpiper. Fenrod Lake had three Goosanders, and the nearby amenities tip had 400-plus Herring Gulls, 100-plus Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and 60 Jackdaws. Fifty Common Scoters were off Burry Holmes. At Penclawdd there were 200 Black-tailed Godwits, Whiteford had a Slavonian Grebe, Oxwich had 60 Snipe, two Jack Snipe, four Chiffchaff, a Water Rail, and a Kingfisher. A female Hen Harrier was over Swansea. A Peregrine has been roosting in the Liberty Stadium.
Highlights: Waxwings dominated December with reports of flocks of over 100 birds and one of 400 birds in Aberdeen. On the 2nd a Lapland Bunting flew over Forvie NNR. A female Hen Harries was spotted north of Edzell Woods (4th). On 10th, a Bewick's Swan was with the Whooper Swans at the south end of the Loch of Strathbeg. A Black Redstart was seen at Aberdeen University (14th). On 18th-19th, 15 Snow Buntings and 10 Twite were in the dunes at Forvie NNR.
Normally a very rare visitor, there was an astonishing count of 13 White-billed Divers off the Mull Head of Papay (5th). There was a good count of 41 Slavonian Grebes on the Harray Loch (16th) while a Black-necked Grebe on the Loch of Skaill was presumably last winter’s returning bird.
A series of Little Egret sightings in the northern part of the West Mainland was thought to perhaps involve two individuals while another was at Inganess, St. Ola (18th). The highest count of Grey Herons was 15 at Dale Moss, South Ronaldsay (14th). The immature Night Heron found on Sanday in November was still present (3rd).
There were no counts of the main wintering flock of Barnacle Geese in South Walls but 170 were at Skaill, Sandwick (16th) and 68 near Hestily, South Ronaldsay (18th). Shelducks continued to return from their moulting grounds with up to 27 at the Oyce of Quindry, South Ronaldsay during the month.
A drake American Wigeon was seen on Sanday (3rd & 19th) while the bird now considered to be a hybrid Eurasian x American Wigeon at the Peedie Sea was seen again (2nd). Green-winged Teals were seen at the Bay of Meil, St. Ola (3rd), on North Ronaldsay (12th) and at the Loch of Skaill (16th).
Two more American ducks, the Ring-necked Duck on the Loch of Skaill and the Lesser Scaup on the Boardhouse Loch both remained until at least 18th. The only Common Scoter reported was one off North Ronaldsay (10th) but up to three of the much rarer Surf Scoter were present in Kirkwall Bay.
Two drake Goosanders were on the Harray Loch (16th) with perhaps the same birds on the Loch of Bosquoy (27th). A drake Smew on Sanday’s North Loch (19th) was a good find.
A Water Rail fed at a site in Rendall almost every day while another was seen on North Ronaldsay (29th). The Crane in Sandwick was elusive but was noted near the Loch of Clumly (10th) and at the Yesnaby crossroads (27th). The Northern Harrier was seen once again on North Ronaldsay (30th) while a spectacular white Gyr Falcon, probably emanating from Greenland, was seen at Frustigarth, Shapinsay (17th).
The largest Woodcock count was of nine in Rendall (7th) while four were at Hestily (4th) and singles were in three other localities. Single Jack Snipes were on Burray (19th) and in Stromness (27th).
Two Iceland Gulls were on North Ronaldsay (27th) while singles were seen in four West Mainland localities. A Glaucous Gull was on North Ronaldsay (24th) with two there (30th) and another at Burwick (27th).
A Barn Owl was reported from Bossack, Tankerness (8th). A Rock Pipit was on Hammars Hill, Evie, a mile from the sea (15th) while there was a Grey Wagtail at the Peedie Sea (2nd). The only Fieldfares reported were one or two on North Ronaldsay; up to four Redwings were also seen there with 12 on the Lyde Road (3rd).
A male Blackcap was in Stenness (3rd-5th) while an incredibly late Garden Warbler was in a Finstown garden (1st). The Blue Tit remained at Hestily until at least 21st while a Long-tailed Tit was at Berstane, St. Ola (3rd) with a ‘tribe’ of 12 at Longhope (12th). Bramblings were few with 10 in Rendall (15th) and eight there (28th); the only other was one at Dale, Costa (6th).
The largest Goldfinch flock was 20 at Skaill, Sandwick (16th) and, of Twite, 60 at Dale (6th). The cock Bullfinch remained in Rendall until at least 12th. The only Snow Bunting reported was one near Stromness Reservoir (20th) and the largest Reed Bunting count was 20 at Dale (6th).