The rarest birds of a rel­a­tively quiet Fe­bru­ary, sum­marised by Lee Evans

Bird Watching (UK) - - Uk Bird Sightings -

THIS HAS BEEN one of the qui­etest starts to a ‘twitch­ing’ year that I can re­mem­ber, with just 259 species recorded in Bri­tain and Ire­land by the end of Fe­bru­ary. Noth­ing ex­cep­tional oc­curred within the weather sys­tems, nor in terms of rar­ity sight­ings. One could say that the rarest birds were of doubt­ful prove­nance, with an adult De­moi­selle Crane south-west of Cock­er­mouth near Ea­gles­field (Cum­bria) be­ing most con­tro­ver­sial. This bird was first noted on 21st Fe­bru­ary, per­haps well out of kil­ter with usual mi­gra­tion dates of this species. In fact, this is the 23rd De­moi­selle Crane to be recorded in Bri­tain, all of which are con­sid­ered to be of cap­tive rather than wild ori­gin. A 1992 Zoo Fed­er­a­tion in­ven­tory re­vealed the pres­ence of at least 67 in cap­tiv­ity in Bri­tain, the vast ma­jor­ity un­ringed, with par­ties of up to six in­di­vid­u­als es­cap­ing in the past. How­ever, an ex­hausted adult that ar­rived in off the sea at Spurn Point (East Yorks) dur­ing a rag­ing east­erly gale with heavy rain on 13th Septem­ber 1993 was most likely gen­uine. It was con­se­quently re­jected, how­ever, af­ter re­sort­ing to tak­ing mag­gots from a fish­er­man’s bucket… Hooded Mer­gansers also fea­tured in Fe­bru­ary 2016, with two adult fe­males ap­pear­ing in ad­di­tion to Radipole Lake’s (Dorset) res­i­dent drake. One Lee Evans is the UK’S most well-known and fa­nat­i­cal ‘twitcher’, hav­ing recorded 585 species in Bri­tain and Ire­land, 863 in the wider Western Palearc­tic and 386 in just one cal­en­dar year in the UK. He has writ­ten many or­nitho­log­i­cal publi­ca­tions and runs nu­mer­ous bird­ing tours through­out the year, in­clud­ing cus­tom-led trips. Visit bbabird­ing.blogspot.co.uk and uk400­clu­brarebird alert. blogspot.co.uk was dis­cov­ered in Blair Drum­mond Wildlife Park on 2nd, where it re­mained in­ter­mit­tently un­til late March, while another joined win­ter­ing Goosanders at Cor­sham Lake (Wilts) on 23rd, stay­ing un­til 27th and later mov­ing north into the Mid­lands. There have now been no fewer than 82 Hooded Mer­gansers recorded in Bri­tain, with the species ap­pear­ing an­nu­ally, but be­ing so pop­u­lar in col­lec­tions, 90% or more most likely re­late to es­caped birds. How­ever, since re­stric­tions on hunt­ing in North Amer­ica have re­versed a de­cline, num­bers there have in­creased by 55% and va­grancy in lo­ca­tions such as Ice­land, the Azores and in Por­tu­gal have risen dra­mat­i­cally. Our re­cent spate of March-june ar­rivals could well re­flect these for­tunes, with the chance of some be­ing gen­uine mi­grants greatly in­creased. One can never know for sure, though. Lastly, true bird of the month was an ex­cep­tion­ally con­fid­ing Pal­las’s Leaf War­bler at Porte­sham (Dorset) from 25th, the sec­ond to be dis­cov­ered this win­ter, the bird still de­light­ing large num­bers of ad­mir­ers into April. The adult Pa­cific Diver re­mained through­out in Mount’s Bay (Corn­wall), com­mut­ing be­tween New­lyn and just east of St Michael’s Mount, Marazion, while White-billed Diver num­bers in­creased, in­clud­ing a moult­ing adult in Uig Har­bour (Skye) from 28th. At least eight Cat­tle

La­p­land Bunting, Blak­eney Fresh Marsh, Nor­folk, 26 Fe­bru­ary

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