The Week in Focus 30th January to 5th February 2016

The mild conditions continued throughout the week, dispelling any hope of late winter arrivals resulting from hard weather movements. As January – arguably the only migration-free month of the year – slipped into February, there was evidence of some northerly ‘spring’ movement at Daventry Country Park and Pitsford Reservoir.

In the Nene valley the Barnacle Goose remained at Clifford Hill GP until at least 30th and the Ruddy Shelduck was still at Pitsford Res on 3rd. The bird of the week also turned out to be a duck, a drake Green-winged Teal, discovered at Daventry CP on 3rd and still present at the week’s end. This represents only the fifteenth record of this species for Northants, following the last at Stanwick GP in spring 2013.

Green-winged Teal, Daventry CP, 3rd February 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Green-winged Teal, Daventry CP, 3rd February 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Green-winged Teal, Daventry CP, 3rd February 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Green-winged Teal, Daventry CP, 3rd February 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Green-winged Teal and Teal, Daventry CP, 3rd February 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Green-winged Teal and Teal, Daventry CP, 3rd February 2016 (Bob Bullock)

On the last day of January a drake Red-crested Pochard was found at Blatherwycke Lake and, like last week’s, proved to be only a one-day bird, while single drake Smew were at Pitsford Res and Stanwick GP on the same date.

Wintering Great White Egrets remained throughout the week at Summer Leys LNR and at Ravensthorpe Res until at least 2nd, while the one at Thrapston GP was still present on 30th and the Ditchford GP bird also remained on 2nd. On the latter date a Bittern was seen flying over Swan Valley, Northampton toward the M1 motorway.

A Merlin was again at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) on 2nd and this week’s Peregrines were singles at Rushden on 31st, Kettering on 5th and at both Blueberry Farm and Summer Leys on 2nd. Of the few Golden Plovers reported during the period one unfortunate individual ended up in the talons of the Peregrine there, while approximately four hundred and fifty were counted at Stanwick GP on 30th. The only Redshanks were eight at Stanwick GP on 31st and one at Summer Leys on 3rd-5th and the only Green Sandpiper was one at Pitsford Res between 1st and 4th.

Peregrine with Golden Plover, Summer Leys, 2nd February 2016 (Alan Coles)

Peregrine with Golden Plover, Summer Leys, 2nd February 2016 (Alan Coles)

Peregrine with Golden Plover, Summer Leys, 2nd February 2016 (Alan Coles)

Peregrine with Golden Plover, Summer Leys, 2nd February 2016 (Alan Coles)

Northbound Kittiwakes arrived at both Daventry CP and Pitsford Res on 1st, the Daventry individual departing north-west after little more than an hour. Unfortunately the Pitsford bird, a first-winter, was moribund and died there before midday. Pitsford also saw the usual adult Caspian Gull visiting the roost there on 31st, while two Yellow-legged Gulls were at Hollowell Res on 2nd.

Kittiwake, Daventry CP, 1st February 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Kittiwake, Daventry CP, 1st February 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Kittiwake, Daventry CP, 1st February 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Kittiwake, Daventry CP, 1st February 2016 (Bob Bullock)

First-winter Kittiwake, Pitsford Res, 1st February 2016 (Alan Francis)

First-winter Kittiwake, Pitsford Res, 1st February 2016 (Alan Francis)

Northamptonshire Kittiwakes 1996-2015. Totals reflect records, rather than individual birds. Background image first-winter Kittiwake, Daventry CP, 7th April 2012 (Mike Alibone)

Northamptonshire Kittiwakes 1996-2015. Totals reflect records, rather than individual birds. Background image first-winter Kittiwake, Daventry CP, 7th April 2012 (Mike Alibone)

The only Short-eared Owl of the review period was one over rough fields east of Warkton Lane at Barton Seagrave on 2nd. After an apparent absence of nearly four weeks, the Brixworth Firecrest was back in the border hedge at the sewage treatment works on 4th and the Stanwick GP Siberian Chiffchaff was also seen again on the same date, while three Central European Blackcaps included a male and female in a Barton Seagrave garden on 30th and a female in a Duston (Northampton) garden on 5th. Stonechats continued to be seen at Hollowell Res, Summer Leys and Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) with two new birds at Blatherwycke Lake on 1st. The Mealy Redpoll making sporadic visits to a garden feeder at East Hunsbury (Northampton) was seen again on 3rd and 4th while up to two Bramblings were at Hanging Houghton and at least six were still showing between Badby and Upper Catesby on 2nd, where a Corn Bunting was also still present on the same date.

 

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The Week in Focus 23rd to 29th January 2016

Mild conditions again prevailed under the continuing influence of the Atlantic airstream and a relatively quiet week ensued on the birding front.

The Clifford Hill GP Pink-footed Goose lingered with Greylags there until at least 25th, as did the Barnacle Goose, while the Ruddy Shelduck continued to be seen – if only sporadically – at Pitsford Res. A female or first-winter Scaup was at Earls Barton GP’s

Caption Mary’s Lake on 23rd but it was not seen subsequently. Paying an equally brief visit to Clifford Hill GP, a drake Red-crested Pochard was a one-day bird on 24th, while Smew continued to remain both scarce and elusive with just single drakes at Pitsford Res on 23rd and Ravensthorpe Res on 26th and a ‘redhead’ at Thrapston GP on 29th.

Smew, Ravensthorpe Res, 26th January 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Smew, Ravensthorpe Res, 26th January 2016 (Bob Bullock)

The latter site continued to host a long-staying Great White Egret throughout the week, as did Summer Leys LNR and Ravensthorpe Res, while one flew west over Ecton SF on 24th and singles were also at Ditchford GP on 25th and Pitsford Res the following day. Pitsford’s Red-necked Grebe became more mobile, venturing north to the opposite shore of the ‘big side’, where it was seen off the gorse bushes on 23rd.

Great White Egret, Ravensthorpe Res, 23rd January 2016 (Stuart Mundy)

Great White Egret, Ravensthorpe Res, 23rd January 2016 (Stuart Mundy)

Raptors were again poorly represented this week with just two reports of Peregrines comprising one at Thrapston GP on 23rd and two between Badby and Upper Catesby on 25th, while single Merlins were seen at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) on 26th and between Walgrave and Holcot on 28th.

Meagre pickings for wader buffs included Golden Plovers at Harrington AF, Summer Leys, and Stanwick GP with a maximum of approximately five hundred at the latter site on 24th, while the only Redshanks were two at Pitsford Res on 23rd and up to nine at Stanwick GP between 26th and 28th. Two Green Sandpipers were located at Broadholme STW (Ditchford GP) on 24th and the WeBS count at Pitsford Res yielded forty Common Snipe on 23rd.

The county’s reservoirs produced an adult Mediterranean Gull at Ravensthorpe on 26th and a third-winter Caspian Gull flew south over Pitsford on 23rd, while an adult visited the roost there later the same day.

Adult Mediterranean Gull, Ravensthorpe Res, 26th January 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Adult Mediterranean Gull, Ravensthorpe Res, 26th January 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Adult Mediterranean Gull, Ravensthorpe Res, 26th January 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Adult Mediterranean Gull, Ravensthorpe Res, 26th January 2016 (Bob Bullock)

In what is proving so far to be a good winter for Firecrests another was found by the main observation hide overlooking the A45 Lay-by Pit at Stanwick GP on 24th, along with a Siberian Chiffchaff near to the visitor centre there on the same date. Just occasionally in winter a Black Redstart will put in an appearance but visits tend to be brief and long stays rare, so conforming to this pattern was one in Kingsthorpe (Northampton) on 23rd, which was not accessible to the public and it had departed by the following day.  Easier to get to grips with, however, were Stonechats which continued to be seen at Blueberry Farm, in the Brampton Valley, Summer Leys and Pitsford Res. The Mealy Redpoll making sporadic visits to a garden feeder at East Hunsbury (Northampton) was seen again on 23rd and 25th, while single Bramblings were at Harrington AF on 25th and in Hanging Houghton on 26th-27th with at least six still showing between 23rd and 28th between Badby and Upper Catesby, where the two Corn Buntings continued to be seen until 28th.

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The Week in Focus 16th to 22nd January 2016

The mini cold snap, which delivered some snow locally on 17th, proved to be short-lived and it was back to the influence of an Atlantic airstream and unseasonally mild temperatures by the week’s end. One or two new birds were discovered during the period, while the same long-staying scarcities stayed put.

New in – and on the ground for once – single Pink-footed Geese joined local Greylags at Weston Mill/Clifford Hill GP from 19th to 22nd and Deene Lake on 20th, the first of these two sites continuing to host a solitary Barnacle Goose throughout. The Pitsford Ruddy Shelduck was still present there on 18th and up to three Pintails were at Ravensthorpe Res mid-week, while the first-winter drake Scaup paid one of its occasional visits to Stortons GP on 19th and it, or another, visited Clifford Hill GP on 22nd. Coinciding with the snowfall on the 17th, three Common Scoters arrived at the latter locality but had similarly melted away by the following day.

Common Scoters, Clifford Hill GP, 17th January 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Common Scoters, Clifford Hill GP, 17th January 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Smew remained sporadic in their appearances with a ‘redhead’ and a drake at Ravensthorpe Res on 18th – the drake still present on 20th – and another drake was close to the causeway at Pitsford Res the following day. The 16th saw a ‘redhead’ Red-breasted Merganser come in to roost with Goosanders on the main lake at Stanwick GP, although it has not been seen since, despite searching by the locals.

Smew, Pitsford Res, 21st January 2016 (Martin Swannell)

Smew, Pitsford Res, 21st January 2016 (Martin Swannell)

The juvenile Great Northern Diver remained on the watersports pit at Ditchford GP until at least 16th and the same site hosted two Great White Egrets mobile about the complex between Viaduct Pit and Wilson’s Pit until at least 18th. More Great Whites included the Ravensthorpe Res individual all week, singles at Thrapston GP until 17th and Summer Leys LNR until 21st, while two were reported from Clifford Hill GP, along with a Slavonian Grebe on 19th. Pitsford Res hung on to its long-staying Red-necked Grebe off the dam until at least 19th.

On the rather flaccid raptor front single Peregrines were at Stanwick GP on 17th, Stortons GP on 19th and Higham Ferrers the following day and the only Merlin was a female/immature at Charwelton on 20th.

Wader numbers were similarly poor with Golden Plovers reported from Clifford Hill GP, Daventry CP, Harrington AF and Stanford Res with a rather low maximum of approximately one hundred and eighty at the latter site on 16th. The only Redshanks were five at Stanwick GP and one at Summer Leys on 17th, a Jack Snipe was found at Hollowell Res on 20th and Common Snipe were seen at Daventry CP, Ditchford GP, Harrington AF, Hollowell Res, Stanford Res, Stanwick GP and Summer Leys with a maximum of only six at Stanwick GP on 17th.

Looking for larids proved hard work for roost-watchers with a first-winter Mediterranean Gull at Boddington Res on 16th followed by an adult there on 22nd. On the first of these dates a first-winter Caspian Gull was at Stanford Res, while single adults were at Stanwick GP and Pitsford Res the following day. An adult Yellow-legged Gull was at Stortons GP on 18th and two more visited Hollowell Res on 20th but an adult Glaucous Gull on Stanwick’s main lake at dusk on 16th did not hang around for a repeat performance on subsequent evenings.

Back on the birding menu this week was Short-eared Owl with one at Harrington AF on 16th; surely there are more to be found in suitable habitats across the county. Considering they are on the up, only two reports of Central European Blackcaps were received including a male in a garden in Scaldwell on 16th and a male and female in a Barton Seagrave garden all week.

Central European Blackcap, Barton Seagrave, 20th January 2016 (Geof Douglas)

Central European Blackcap, Barton Seagrave, 20th January 2016 (Geof Douglas)

The usual Stonechats continued to occupy winter territories at Brampton Valley, Clifford Hill GP, Summer Leys LNR and Hollowell Res, with new birds at Thrapston GP and Barnes Meadow (Northampton) and a maximum of seven at Hollowell Res on 18th. The Mealy Redpoll at East Hunsbury (Northampton) was seen only once this week, on 16th, and another appeared on a garden feeder in Byfield on 21st. This week’s Bramblings were singles at Stanford Res on 16th and Hanging Houghton on 17th-18th, up to ten between Badby and Upper Catesby between 19th and 22nd and 3 visiting a garden feeder in Warmington on 22nd, while two Corn Buntings were with the Bramblings between Badby and Upper Catesby on 19th.

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Two Weeks in Focus 1st to 15th January 2016

This summary covers the first two weeks of the New Year, a period which saw much of the same unusually mild and wet weather conditions prevail until the middle of the second week when the winds swung northerly, allowing an airstream with a more Arctic element to cover the UK, delivering much lower temperatures more akin to the seasonal norm. Can we at last look forward to some fresh arrivals from north-east Europe?

Still present from the end of last year was the Barnacle Goose at Clifford Hill GP with the Greylags and Canadas there during the first week and the Pitsford Ruddy Shelduck was still mobile around the reservoir until at least 9th. The first day of the New Year produced two Red-crested Pochards at Ringstead GP and, on 15th, the first-winter drake Scaup from the last day of 2015 reappeared at Stortons GP.

Red-crested Pochard, Ringstead GP, 1st January 2015 (Alan Francis)

Red-crested Pochard, Ringstead GP, 1st January 2016 (Alan Francis)

Smew continued to remain scarce with up to two drakes at Pitsford Res until 3rd and one at Ravensthorpe Res on 6th and one – possibly two – ‘redheads’ were at Pitsford until at least 13th.

Smew, Pitsford Res, 7th January 2016 (Alan Francis)

Smew, Pitsford Res, 7th January 2016 (Alan Francis)

Smew, Pitsford Res, 10th January 2016 (Simon Hales)

Smew, Pitsford Res, 10th January 2016 (Simon Hales)

The juvenile Great Northern Diver remained on the watersports pit at Ditchford GP until at least 10th but it was not seen during a one-hour search there on 14th, although it has been known to give observers the slip from time to time. Birders visiting the site are requested not to enter the grounds of the watersports pit as it is private and the landowner has made it unequivocally clear that trespassers will be dealt with harshly. View only from the north bank of the River Nene or more distantly from the pull-in by the gate at the top of Ditchford Lane, just off the slip road from the A45. You have been warned!

Always elusive and typically seen only in flight, two Bitterns were glimpsed during the first week – one at Stanwick GP on 4th and the other at Summer Leys LNR two days later. The opposite is true of Great White Egrets, of course. This sore thumb former rarity now occurs anywhere and everywhere in Northants during winter, with rising water levels at some localities no doubt responsible for local movements between sites. In summary, then, Ravensthorpe Res hung on to its long-stayer throughout, two were at Pitsford Res on 5th with one there the following day and singles were at Stanwick GP on 1st, Ditchford GP on 1st, 10th and 14th, Summer Leys on 3rd-4th, 10th and 14th, Clifford Hill GP on 4th, Stanford Res on 9th and Thrapston GP on 10th-11th. The long-staying Red-necked Grebe remained at Pitsford Res, off the dam or in Moulton Grange Bay, until at least 13th.

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 10th January 2016 (Alan Coles)

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 10th January 2016 (Alan Coles)

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 10th January 2016 (Alan Coles)

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 10th January 2016 (Alan Coles)

Raptors were again scarce – the two week period producing a monster local rare in the form of a Goshawk west of Welford on 9th, while single Peregrines were at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) on 1st, 3rd and 8th, Kelmarsh and Stortons GP on 1st, Trafford Marsh and Summer Leys on 3rd, at Guilsborough on 4th and Northampton on 15th. The only Merlin was at Harrington AF on 7th.

Golden Plovers were reported from Brixworth, Chacombe, Clifford Hill GP, Harrington AF, Summer Leys and Stanwick GP with a maximum count of approximately eight hundred at the latter site on 6th. A lone Dunlin at Stanwick GP on 6th was the only one during the period, Green Sandpipers were limited to singles at Pitsford Res on 2nd and 9th and Ravensthorpe Res on 4th and the only Redshanks reported were four at Stanwick GP on 1st and nine there on 6th. For those intrepid enough to brave the bogs of Barnes Meadow (Northampton) the rewards came in the form of twelve Jack Snipe on 7th – the highest single site count in recent years – at least two still being present there on 10th.   The highest count of forty-six Common Snipe was also made at this site on 7th with eighteen there on 10th, while up to twelve were at Trafford Marsh on 3rd and one was at Pitsford Res on 13th.

In line with a national sprinkling, an adult Little Gull appeared at Fawsley Park Lake on 2nd, quickly followed by seven at Pitsford Res on 4th, three of which remained in the gull roost. Two Mediterranean Gulls were found during the period comprising an adult at Daventry CP on 5th and a second-winter at Hardingstone GP on 14th, while the adult

Second-winter Mediterranean Gull, Hardingstone GP, 14th January 2015 (Mike Alibone)

Second-winter Mediterranean Gull, Hardingstone GP, 14th January 2016 (Mike Alibone)

Caspian Gull continued to visit the gull roost at Pitsford Res, where it was seen on 1st, 4th, 8th and 9th and another adult visited Daventry CP on 6th. An adult Yellow-legged Gull was at Clifford Hill GP on 2nd while, on 4th, singles visited Pitsford Res and Daventry CP and two were at Hollowell Res.

On the passerine front the county experienced a ‘glut’ of Firecrests, with one trapped and ringed at Brixworth STW on 6th remaining there until 8th, another at nearby Hanging Houghton also on 8th, one at Rushden between Washbrook Road Bridge and Waitrose on 9th and another at nearby Ditchford GP the following day. In addition to those four, a ‘probable’ was reported along the entrance track to Ravensthorpe STW on 8th.

Firecrest, Brixworth, 8th January 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Firecrest, Brixworth, 8th January 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Just four Central European Blackcaps were seen in gardens at Wellingborough on 4th, Overstone on 6th, Barton Seagrave on 8th and Woodford Halse on 10th. Stonechats, enjoying a good winter, were reported from Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) and the wider Brampton Valley, Clifford Hill GP, Ditchford GP, Pitsford Res, Summer Leys LNR and Hollowell Res, with a maximum of five at the latter site on 4th. The Mealy Redpoll present in December 2015 continued to make irregular visits to feeders in an East Hunsbury (Northampton) garden where it was seen on 6th, 7th, 12th and 14th,

 Mealy Redpoll, East Hunsbury, Northampton, 7th January 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Mealy Redpoll, East Hunsbury, Northampton, 7th January 2016 (Bob Bullock)

while Bramblings were found at four localities with one at Fawsley Park on 2nd, up to twelve nearby along the minor road between Badby and Upper Catesby on 2nd and 13th, one at Trafford Marsh on 3rd and two at Sywell CP on 4th. Staying in the west of the county, two Crossbills were at Staverton on 3rd and a Corn Bunting – now sadly a local rarity – was with the Bramblings between Badby and Upper Catesby on 2nd and 13th.

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The Week in Focus: 25th to 31st December 2015

Sunshine, showers, heavy rain and gale-force winds, still from the south-west, were the hallmarks of the last week of the year.

Barnacle Goose at Clifford Hill GP on 27th and two with the Greylags at Cransley Res the following day failed to make up for the lack of any truly wild geese during the period, while the Ruddy Shelduck returned from Sywell CP to Pitsford Res, where it was

Ruddy Shelduck, Pitsford Res, 30th December 2015 (Alan Francis)

Ruddy Shelduck, Pitsford Res, 30th December 2015 (Alan Francis)

present again from 26th. The striking-looking drake Chiloe x Eurasian Wigeon hybrid was again at Summer Leys LNR on 29th. The only other ducks of note were a first-winter drake Scaup at Stortons GP on 31st and three drake Smew at Pitsford Res on 27th, two

First-winter drake Scaup, Stortons GP, 31st December 2015 (Bob Bullock)

First-winter drake Scaup, Stortons GP, 31st December 2015 (Bob Bullock)

First-winter drake Scaup, Stortons GP, 31st December 2015 (Mike Alibone)

First-winter drake Scaup, Stortons GP, 31st December 2015 (Mike Alibone)

of which had relocated to Ravensthorpe Res two days later, remaining there until 31st. One drake remained at Pitsford and a ‘redhead’ was also there on 28th.

Juvenile Great Northern Diver, Ditchford GP, 29th December 2015 (Mike Alibone)

Juvenile Great Northern Diver, Ditchford GP, 29th December 2015 (Mike Alibone)

The juvenile Great Northern Diver remained throughout on the watersports pit at Ditchford GP as did a Great White Egret on Viaduct Pit until at least 29th. Three Great Whites were present at Pitsford on 26th with one until 29th and four on 31st, while one at

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 29th December 2015 (Martin Swannell)

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 29th December 2015 (Martin Swannell)

Summer Leys LNR on 28th was joined by a second individual the following day. The Red-necked Grebe remained off the dam at Pitsford Res all week, although it roamed as far east as ‘The Holly Tree’, beyond Moulton Grange Bay on 29th.

Red-necked Grebe, Pitsford Res, 29th December 2015 (Alan Coles)

Red-necked Grebe, Pitsford Res, 29th December 2015 (Alan Coles)

Raptors this week were few and far between with, for the first time in three months, the long-staying second calendar year male Marsh Harrier not being reported from Summer Leys, while single Peregrines were in the Brampton Valley on 29th and at Pineham, Northampton on 31st and a male Merlin was seen at Stanford Res on the first of these two dates.

This week’s Golden Plovers counts included two hundred at Ditchford GP and at least two hundred and fifty at Clifford Hill GP on 27th, two hundred near Chipping Warden on 29th and fifty-six at Pineham, Northampton on 31st. The only Redshanks were four at Ditchford GP on 27th and the one at Pitsford Res the following day, while the only Green Sandpiper reported was one Ravensthorpe Res on 29th – the same day that the week’s only Common Snipe was seen at Hollowell Res.

Scarce gulls were limited to single adult Caspian Gulls at Hollowell Res on 29th and at Pitsford Res in the gull roost the following evening, while the latter site produced an adult and a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull on 26th and Hollowell held two adult Yellow-leggeds on 29th.

Two Short-eared Owls were again at Stanford Res on 29th; the rough ground east of the feeder stream and visible from the minor road is still paying dividends.

Stonechat, Pitsford Res, 29th December 2015 (Alan Coles)

Stonechat, Pitsford Res, 29th December 2015 (Alan Coles)

Stonechat, Summer Leys LNR, 29th December 2015 (Martin Swannell)

Stonechat, Summer Leys LNR, 29th December 2015 (Martin Swannell)

The only Stonechats this week were two at Clifford Hill GP on 28th and, on the following day, two were at Hollowell Res and singles at Pitsford Res and Summer Leys. The week’s

Mealy Redpoll, East Hunsbury, Northampton, 27th December 2015 (Mike Alibone)

Mealy Redpoll, East Hunsbury, Northampton, 27th December 2015 (Mike Alibone)

only Brambling was at Hanging Houghton on 29th and the East Hunsbury, Northampton Mealy Redpoll again visited a garden feeder with Lesser Redpolls on 26th-27th.

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Short Week in Focus: 19th to 24th December 2015

The period saw a slight drop in temperature accompanying largely wet and blustery conditions, still backed by a south-westerly Atlantic airstream, still effectively blocking arrivals of numbers of wildfowl – and other potentially interesting species – from the east.No longer site faithful, the Pitsford Ruddy Shelduck went on vacation to Sywell CP

Ruddy Shelduck, Sywell CP, 20th December 2015 (Charlie Bridgeford)

Ruddy Shelduck, Sywell CP, 20th December 2015 (Charlie Bridgeford)

on 20th, leaving behind the drake and ‘redhead’ Smew in Holcot Bay until at least 23rd, while another drake Smew was discovered at Stanford Res on 21st and another at Earls Barton GP on 24th. Meanwhile, the juvenile Great Northern Diver remained throughout on the watersports pit at Ditchford GP

Caption GND Videoand last week’s Great White Egret was also still there on Viaduct Pit on 20th. Other long-staying Great White Egrets were one at Ravensthorpe Res and up to two still at Pitsford Res during the period. This week also saw the discovery of another Bittern – this time at Stanwick GP on 20th. The Red-necked Grebe remained off the dam at Pitsford Res until at least 20th, although it’s still likely to be present there. Is anyone looking?

Red-necked Grebe, Pitsford Res, 20th December 2015 (Martin Swannell)

Red-necked Grebe, Pitsford Res, 20th December 2015 (Martin Swannell)

Caption RNG VideoThis week’s raptors included the long-staying second calendar year male Marsh Harrier at Summer Leys LNR on 19th and an unidentified harrier species south of Broughton the following day, while single Peregrines were at Buckby Wharf on 19th and Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 21st, the latter site producing a Merlin on the same date and another Merlin was seen at Ditchford GP on 23rd.

Just two reports of Golden Plovers this week included ‘many’ at Summer Leys on 19th and in excess of one thousand between Yardley Gobion and Potterspury on 21st, the latter having been present in the area for the last six weeks. The only Redshanks were again the one at Pitsford Res on 19th and another at Wicksteed Park Lake on 22nd, while single Green Sandpipers were at both Daventry CP and Ravensthorpe Res on 19th and Pitsford Res from 20th to 23rd, with two there on 21st.

Winter gulling has not really got underway this year and the closure of Sidegate Landfill last January will no doubt have a severe impact on gulls visiting previously favoured roost sites in the Nene valley. Nevertheless, the Pitsford Res roost produced an adult Mediterranean Gull on 21st, while earlier in the day the same site produced a third-winter Caspian Gull and a first-winter Caspian visited Stanford Res on the same date.

Third-winter Caspian Gull, Pitsford Res, 21st December 2015 (Jacob Spinks)

Third-winter Caspian Gull, Pitsford Res, 21st December 2015 (Jacob Spinks)

Third-winter Caspian Gull, Pitsford Res, 21st December 2015 (Jacob Spinks)

Third-winter Caspian Gull, Pitsford Res, 21st December 2015 (Jacob Spinks)

North of Pitsford, a Short-eared Owl was again at Harrington AF on 21st, while the bird in the set-aside area, east of the feeder stream at Stanford Res, was still present on 23rd. On the passerine front there were single Stonechats at Summer Leys on 19th and

Caption Mealy VideoDitchford GP the following day, while the usual handful of Central European Blackcaps lingered in some of the county’s favoured gardens, with a new male visiting an East Hunsbury (Northampton) garden on 20th – the same garden also producing what appears to be the county’s only 2015 Mealy Redpoll from 19th to 24th.

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Stanford Ringing Group Appeal

Ringing. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea – indeed it’s regarded as a controversial  practice in some quarters – but let’s be clear on the benefits: ringing generates important information on the survival, productivity and movements of birds, helping to understand why populations are changing and providing knowledge which can be used effectively in conservation initiatives. These may range from population monitoring at local constant effort sites to tracking globally endangered species, such as Spoon-billed Sandpipers after they have left their breeding grounds in order to establish secure sites for wintering and migration stop-overs.

There are a number of active ringing groups in Northants of which the Stanford Ringing Group (SRG) is one. Ringing takes place at Stanford Reservoir several days a week, weather conditions permitting, with volunteers from the group actively involved in habitat management and providing a constant supply of food for the feeding station. The feeding station has been a great success, particularly with Tree Sparrows. About 700 individuals a year are now handled from the low point of none being caught or seen at the reservoir just a few years ago. This is all down to SRG’s efforts to create the perfect habitat and to feed them with the right food.

Tree Sparrow (Mick Townsend)

Tree Sparrow (Mick Townsend)

The feeding station therefore plays an important role. Recent ringing recoveries include a Tree Sparrow initially ringed at Stanford on 10th September this year which was then retrapped at Pitsford Reservoir less than a month later, on 3rd October. This is one of a number of Tree Sparrows over the years that have moved between the dedicated feeding stations at both reservoirs.

Feeding Station (Mick Townsend)

Feeding Station (Mick Townsend)

The feeders are filled regularly throughout the year, regardless of the area which is being used for ringing. The idea of the feeders originally was to increase the numbers of both birds and species that use the reservoir throughout the year, and to increase the enjoyment for the people walking around the reservoir, especially during the winter months and early spring, when natural food supplies are at their lowest. As well as the feeders there is also a hopper there which has enough food in it to last all week if the weather prevents volunteers from visiting during the week to top up the rest of the feeders.

Feeders (Mick Townsend)

Feeders (Mick Townsend)

SRG is currently processing in excess of 10,000 birds per year, of which 7,500+ are being ringed with the remainder being retraps. This year the group managed to ring just over 4,000 warblers of which 1800 were Blackcaps and 960 Chiffchaffs. It’s almost unbelievable how these two species have flourished over the last few years and it was only in 2003 that SRG ringed, for the first time, 100 of each and now they are processing these fantastic numbers.

Stanford really has become a mecca for warblers and a very important site within the county. This is shown by the increased numbers being caught and increasing breeding populations which are believed to be as a direct result of SRG’s on site habitat management.

Over the last few years SRG have also trapped an enviable range of scarce passerines, including Icterine Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler, Siberian Chiffchaff, Siberian Lesser Whitethroat and Northern Willow Warbler to name but a few. What else is likely to be a surprise find in the nets in future is anyone’s guess …

Early morning netting (Mick Townsend)

Early morning netting (Mick Townsend)

Of course, all of the above requires funding and SRG is trying to raise money in order to continue at its present level of activity and to continue to feed the birds at Stanford. Currently the feeding station is costing about £400 per year with the rings a further £2000.

Current ring costs are high with, for example, those used for Wrens and Chiffchaffs costing 20p each (£200/1000), Blue Tit, Whitethroat and Chaffinch 24p each (£240/1000), Dunnock and Greenfinch 28p each (£282/1000), Blackbird 20.5p each (205/1000) and Mute Swan £3 each. On top of this there are periodic costs for new nets, which range from £105 for a 12-metre net to £54 for one of 6 metres.

Any donations to maintain the current level of activity during 2016 would be gratefully welcomed by the group and should be sent to Mick Towsend at 87, Dunton Road, Broughton Astley, Leicestershire  LE9  6NA, with cheques made payable to Stanford Ringing Group.

Thank you!

Note: SRG would be available to any individual or group to do a ringing demonstration, preferably any time from June onwards and if anybody is interested in helping with the habitat management then they would welcome the help; this activity takes place every Saturday morning between
08.00 and 12.00, January to March, weather permitting. In both instances please contact Mick, above at denandmick@talktalk.net

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