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November - the Nights are Getting Shorter

Remember, remember the 5th of November,
1976 to be exact. Wallcreeper at Cheddar !!

After the excesses of October, things start to quieten down pretty quickly as the long nights advance upon us. It's definitely time to be booking that winter holiday or setting your new birding targets for next year.

But if October has only fired up your enthusiasm to spend more time in the field then hang in there; November has its own list of extreme rarities - this year could be no exception.

Species almost guaranteed to turn up in the early part of November include more Dusky Warblers, Olive-backed Pipits and Desert Wheatears. A White-tailed Eagle should make it across the North Sea. Black Brant, American Wigeon, Lesser Scaup and Ring-necked Duck will arrive with their Eurasian cousins. But check those flocks carefully - even rarer species may be present. Check inland waterways and lakes for a displaced juvenile Night Heron and reedbeds for Penduline Tit.

In the harbours look out for an Ivory Gull or a White-billed Diver. They'll be one somewhere. Further out seawatching should produce good numbers of Little Auk as well as Grey Phalorope and Pomarine Skua.

November might be good for an irruption of Parrot Crossbills or even Nutcracker (keep some rotting apples on the lawn !). With various species/forms of Redpoll, have you sorted out the differences yet - if not this month is your best chance to compare them.

Major rarities that seem to make a habit of turning up in November include Little Crake, Killdeer and Asian Desert Warbler; whilst three species of swift, Little, Chimney and Pallid all have a liking, amazingly, for this month. But don't hold your breath.

November also holds an array of extreme rarities, including a number that are high on many a top birders most wanted list. Remember (or not!) the Houbara Bustard in 1962; Brown Thrasher in 1967; Wallcreepers in 1969 and 1976 and Varied Thrush in 1982. Could we hope for a repeat performance from one of these stars ?

November 2013: A popular Western Orphean Warbler was identified thanks to the internet and subsequently performed for birders prepared to travel to Pembrokeshire. A Caspian Stonechat languished under a misidentification but then led to a rush of 'insurance listers' prepared to travel back down to the Isles of Scilly. A supressed Dusky Thrush in Devon raised all the usual issues. A popular Pied Wheatear in Nottinghamshire was more straightforward. A male Northern Harrier in Cornwall helped to quieten dissenting voices about the identification of this form in Britain and Ireland, whilst the Northern Isles produced a fine Short-billed Dowitcher, another American Robin for the year and a Black-throated Thrush. At the month's end a Baikal Teal arrived in Lancashire.

November 2012: had a brief Asian Desert Warbler been relocated in Kent, many birders would have travelled to see this bird; instead birders gave the thumbs up to a first winter Hooded Merganser in West Sussex. The run of Spanish Sparrows continued with a further bird on the Isle of Wight whilst County Mayo delivered a Blackpoll Warbler and a Cedar Waxwing on consecutive days. Ireland also turned up an American Coot surpassed only by the Outer Hebrides with a Pied-billed Grebe to accompany its own American Coot. A late Bee-eater in County Durham added a splash of colour to the shortening days.

November 2011: The autumn continued where October left off; highlight was the two male Eastern Black Redstarts in Kent and Northumberland whilst a long-staying Sharp-tailed Sandpiper in Somerset and a Greater Yellowlegs, again in Northumberland, were a magnet for birders. Wheatears were a plenty with Pied, Isabelline and Desert Wheatears all putting in appearances, the latter species in double digits. Nearctic passerines were now rather thin on the ground but a Blackpoll Warbler was seen by a few birders in Kent and the now traditional scattering of records of American Buff-bellied Pipit made it into the log. At the end of the month a Western Sandpiper appeared in Norfolk although it was not until December that its identity was finally nailed.

November 2010: Highlight of the month was a small arrival of Northern Harriers, with two birds identified in Ireland and a third in Norfolk. An adult Thayer's Gull in Essex also proved a tricky identification challenge. More straightforward were an American Robin in Devon and a popular Pied-billed Grebe in Manchester. Ireland also hosted an American Coot in Co. Mayo and two Buff-bellied Pipits. A Brown Shrike in East Yorkshire and a Desert Wheatear in Northumberland offered something for north-east birders. Autumn records of Red-flanked Bluetail breached the 30 mark.

November 2009: November confirmed the year's unbelievable sea-birding credentials when a dozen hardy birders watched a Fregetta (presumably Black-bellied Storm) petrel off Gloucestershire. A Taiga Flycatcher in Cornwall stayed little longer although the adult Pacific Diver (presumably the regularly returning bird of recent years) finally allowed decent views as it entered the Hayle Estuary. A second bird was seen in Gloucestershire. A Crested Lark on private land put in a belatedly reported two-day stay in Wiltshire.

November 2008: the month's highlight was a very tame Steppe Grey Shrike in Linconshire, whilst a Two-barred Crossbill at a North Yorkshire feeder encouraged south-coast birders to double-up. Elsewhere birders found a Pied Wheatear in North Yorkshire, another Slate-coloured Junco, in Somerset, and a Spotted Sandpiper in Staffordshire. The Outer Hebrides hosted the month's rarest birds however with a Brown Shrike and an all too brief American Black Tern.

November 2007: An obliging Pechora Pipit in Wales attracted plenty of admirers although the Mourning Doves in Scotland and Ireland were rarer. A Finish-ringed juvenile White-tailed Eagle in Hampshire was encouraged to settle down thanks to a kind-hearted landowner. A Pied Wheatear in Devon and three more Desert Wheatears were no surprise. Violent storms drove some 30,000 Little Auks into the North Sea along with unprecedented numbers of Pomarine Skuas and two East coast Brunnich's Guillemots. Yet another belated identification of a Greater Yellowlegs continued to keep this species off many birders' lists. The Pacific Diver returned to Mounts Bay, Cornwall for at least its second winter, whilst the adult White-billed Diver continued to loiter off Sussex.

November 2006: the belated news of a Long-billed Murrelet in Devon was surely too much to believe, but when it was found the very next day it was to spark the biggest twitch in history...and why not. Surely the bird of the millenium, Devon has, incredibly, now hosted both murrelets on the British list. As if birders still needed anything else to enjoy a Black-eared Kite in Lincolnshire was popular and a Masked Shrike on Scillies might have been had it stayed. Drake Barrow's Goldeneyes in Scotland and Ireland (the returning bird of 2005-06), Bufflehead on Shetland and a first winter Falcated Duck in Devon kept many birders quack-happy. Yorkshire seawatchers managed to track a Brunnich's Guillemot drifting south, presumably part of the large movement of Little Auks into the North Sea.

November 2005: nearctic vagrants kept on coming with the Irish Green Heron turning up in Wales and proving very popular as was an inland Gray-cheeked Thrush in Hertfordshire and an Upland Sandpiper in Somerset. Had the exhausted and finally moribund Magnificent Frigatebird found in Shropshire survived, one can only have imagined the stampede. More Chimney and Pallid Swifts were found as was a long-staying Brunnich's Guillemot on Shetland at the end of the month. Perhaps however the most memorable event was the mass arrival of some 60 plus Laughing Gulls and half a dozen Franklin's Gulls, like the frigatebird, caught up in the tail of Hurricane Wilma. An inland Pied Wheatear and five Desert Wheatears were more typical November birds. Norfolk's first Little Swift was just as we predicted.

November 2004: right on cue, a Little Crake arrived for a two-week stay in Cornwall, but better still was a Pine Grosbeak in East Yorkshire for three days. Unfortunately most birders missed this bird, it departing shortly after being identified. A Gray-cheeked Thrush, netted in Norfolk, must have been a shock to the local ringing group whilst a Blyth's Pipit in Cornwall and an Ivory Gull in Highland arrived mid-month for extended stays. Wintering wildfowl started to return including both Redheads from 2003. The waxwing invasion continued with birds pushing south.

November 2003: highlights included a long awaited but short staying American Robin on Bardsey. But could birders have predicted what December would bring ? An American Coot on Shetland was another great find, but like the Robin was not alone.....As many as nine Desert Wheatears were joined by a brief untwitchable Desert Warbler. Two wintering Sardinian Warblers settled down to enjoy the entertainment at Skegness, Lincolnshire. A Pied-billed Grebe arrived on Scilly, a Forster's Tern in Ireland and two Redheads returned this winter, the returning Welsh bird, and a female identified on the Outer Hebrides.

November 2002 to some extent made up for a poor October - at least nearctic wise. A Bobolink on the first of the month was bettered only by a delightful Killdeer on the Isles of Scilly four days later. A Stilt Sandpiper on Shetland and a Forster's Tern in Cornwall completed the transatlantic cast, whilst from the north came a Snowy Owl to County Mayo, an Ivory Gull to Swansea, Gyr Falcons to Shetland and County Galway and a White-tailed Eagle to Kent.

November 2001 will long be remembered for the UK's first Snowy Egret which delighted birders and photographers to Argyll alike. Probably arriving in October the bird remained in Scotland through to 2002. Causing less of a stir but still a great bird was Britain's second ever Redhead in South Wales. The origins of Suffolk's Baikal Teal mid-month created lively debates through to the year's end.

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