Newsround – 13th to 19th February 2021

This week, the meteorological pendulum swung in the opposite direction and almost at the flick of a switch, temperatures soared from well below, to significantly above, average. South-westerlies were back and the ice melted as one celebrity bird ended the long wait for many local birders to catch up with it in the county.

But first things first and new on the scene this week were more Pink-footed Geese – one at Stanwick GP from 13th until at least 17th and two just along the valley near Ringstead GP on 17th with at least one remaining until 19th. Back at Stanwick, the wintering White-fronted Geese topped thirty-three – a highly respectable total for the county in recent years.

All the pizzazz exuded by Ditchford’s glitzy drake Ring-necked Duck quickly evaporated as it seemingly vanished after 14th, the date it was last seen on Higham Lake. It might just be that no one has looked since, of course. Perhaps the same could be said about the two Smews at the same locality – the ‘redhead’ not having been seen since the day it was found and the drake coincidentally appearing to do a bunk after 14th. What is it about Valentine’s Day?

Drake Smew, Ditchford GP, 14th February 2021 (Adrian Borley)
‘Redhead’ Smews, Ravensthorpe Res, 13th February 2021 (Angus Molyneux)

Perhaps the drake making a brief appearance in Pitsford’s Holcot Bay on 16th was the same bird. Some consolation was subsequently provided by a bevy of three ‘redheads’ which turned up at Ravensthorpe Res on 13th, remaining there until 15th, after which only one appeared to be present the following day. Across the road, at Hollowell Res, a female Greater Scaup was discovered on 14th, remaining there until the week’s end.

Female Greater Scaup, Hollowell Res, 15th February 2021 (Jon Cook)

Meanwhile, fast fading into the background was Pitsford’s juvenile Great Northern Diver, which was reported only on the first day of the period.

In a bizarre and unexpected turn of events, however, it was a species hitherto notoriously difficult to catch up with locally that stole the limelight this week. After multiples in neighboring Cambridgeshire and a roving bird in Bedfordshire this winter, a Glossy Ibis finally found its way into Northants. First seen flying south over Thrapston GP on 13th it was subsequently discovered three days later on Islip Water Meadows, only a stone’s throw from where it had originally been seen in flight. Providing respectable views from the track running down the western flank of Thrapston’s Town Lake and from Islip’s Mill Lane, unlike the previous six seen in the county, it did the decent thing and settled there throughout the remainder of the week, allowing many a local to catch up with it. Hopefully, it has now dug in for the rest of the winter.

First-winter Glossy Ibis, Islip Water Meadows, 17th February 2021 (Bob Bullock)

First-winter Glossy Ibis, Islip Water Meadows, 18th February 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Undoubtedly overshadowed by the above, just two Cattle Egrets were reported, not a million miles away, at this species’ favoured location of Stanwick on 13th. Nine wetland localities produced between one and four Great Egrets apiece this week with, once again, Summer Leys LNR laying claim to the lion’s share of seven on 13th. A Bittern was reported from Thrapston on 19th.

Cattle Egret, Stanwick GP, 13th February 2021 (Mark Tyrrell)

Some of last week’s hard weather waders remained in the county throughout the period, most notably Stanwick’s Bar-tailed Godwit, which crossed the A6 to visit Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows LNR on 16th before returning to Stanwick to see out the remainder of the week. A single Knot further contributed to putting Islip Water Meadows firmly on the map during its brief visit on 13th, while Dunlins maintained a presence of sorts, with lower numbers this week including up to four at Stanwick and Clifford Hill GP, three at Earls Barton GP and one at Pitsford. Only to be expected were Jack Snipes at the usual locality of Hollowell, where there were up to three and at the less renowned sites of Wicksteed Water Meadows, Kettering – again with three and two at Clifford Hill GP.

Apart from an adult Yellow-legged Gull at Pitsford on 16th-17th, a gull with ‘form and history’ visited Stanford Res on 13th, identifying itself to observers as a Polish-ringed, first-winter Caspian Gull by way of its decorative legwear. Yellow ring, number P:PW6, enabled its movements to be followed since being ringed as a nestling at Mazowieckie, Poland on 16th May 2020. On 12th December 2020, it visited Zeeland in The Netherlands, subsequently crossing the North Sea to appear at Tanholt Landfill, Peterborough on 26th January 2021, before being seen again at Shawell Landfill in Leicestershire on 5th February – a distance of 1522 km from its Polish colony.

First-winter Caspian Gull, Stanford Res, 13th February 2021 (Chris Hubbard). This individual was ringed as a nestling in Poland.

On dry land, last week’s Short-eared Owl remained at Harrington AF throughout and another was seen nearby, in the Brampton Valley, on 14th, while a female Merlin was at Harrington on 13th.

Stonechats were found at eight sites this week, with Hollowell producing the highest count of six between 16th and 19th, as well as solely accounting for this week’s Crossbills the highest number of which was eight or nine on 13th.

That would be it, other than for the fact that we now know the first summer visitors have arrived in the UK this week, with South Wales producing the first Northern Wheatear and Sand Martin, Dorset seeing the country’s first Swallow and the first Ring Ouzel appearing in Devon. Dare we hope the forthcoming week will deliver at least one early migrant to our own county … ?

Looking settled – the Thrapston Glossy Ibis

When is a fly-over not a fly-over? When it’s the 7th Glossy Ibis for Northamptonshire!

On Saturday 13th February, Nick Parker was birding at Thrapston GP when he was lucky enough to pick up a Glossy Ibis flying south at around 11.30. Expectant birders at Stanwick kept their eyes to the skies, hopeful it would appear there. Unfortunately, it didn’t. That would have been the end of it but for Dick Curtiss relocating it late yesterday afternoon on Islip Water Meadows, before it flew off toward Aldwincle. Clearly, it hadn’t gone far since the initial sighting.

Today it was back again on Islip Water Meadows and according to locals, well, it’s been there four or five days …

Glossy Ibis, Islip Water Meadows, 17th February 2021 (Mark Tyrrell)
Glossy Ibis, Islip Water Meadows, 17th February 2021 (Bob Bullock)
Glossy Ibis, Islip Water Meadows, 17th February 2021 (Bob Bullock)
Glossy Ibis, Islip Water Meadows, 17th February 2021 (Leslie Fox)

Unlike all previous occurrences in the county, this one has stayed for longer than an hour and a half and is the 7th for Northants.

Set in context, following a small influx last autumn, November-February has seen several birds wintering in the UK. Three are currently present together at Earith in Cambridgeshire, at least one is wandering throughout Bedfordshire, four are at one site in Devon and singles are ensconced in Dorset and Kent.

Newsround – 6th to 12th February 2021

From some way beyond Scandinavia, cold Arctic air on the back of so-called ‘Storm Darcy’ delivered little more than a sprinkling of snow during a week in which daytime temperatures reached a low of -3°C. Factor in the wind chill and you were down to -8°C. Associated with these conditions there was also a sprinkling of rather unseasonal waders, along with the discovery of the county’s 9th record of Ring-necked Duck. Other ducks were also available …

And so were geese, with another sizeable flock of Barnacles – this time twenty-four – appearing on land adjacent to Boddington Res on 11th. The same winter gaggle of at least twenty-nine White-fronted Geese continued to find Stanwick GP to their liking, remaining on, and around, the site all week.

White-fronted Goose, Stanwick GP, 8th February 2021 (Steve Fisher)

Meanwhile, some observers were treated to a white-out at Stanford Res, where eighteen Bewick’s Swans were discovered early on 6th. Seemingly ‘grounded’ in foggy conditions, they were off as soon as the mist cleared, being seen minutes later flying north-east over nearby Sulby. Interestingly, at least two of these birds were identified from the Stanford photos (on bill pattern) as having recently left their wintering grounds at WWT Slimbridge in Gloucestershire, setting out on the long journey back to their breeding area. However, they seemingly aborted their migration in the face of adverse weather conditions and returned to Slimbridge shortly afterward. More Bewick’s were subsequently logged in the area, with five south-west over Sulby on 11th and two over, north-east, on 12th, when five also flew east over the Brampton Valley Way between Clipston and Arthingworth.

Bewick’s Swans, Stanford Res, 6th February 2021 (Chris Hubbard). Part of the flock of 18 briefly present at this site.
Bewick’s Swans, Stanford Res, 6th February 2021 (Chris Hubbard)

Quickly glossing over the appearance of the female Ferruginous Duck x Pochard hybrid again at Stanwick on 8th, the focus this week was on the discovery of a fine drake Ring-necked Duck at Ditchford GP on 6th. Mobile between Big Lake and Skew Bridge Lake, it remained until the morning of 12th, after which it promptly did a bunk. To set this occurrence in context, we are in the midst of a sizeable influx, this winter having so far seen almost forty birds across the UK and Eire, with multiples of up to four to be found at some sites.

Drake Ring-necked Duck, Ditchford GP, 6th February 2021 (Matt Hazleton)
Drake Ring-necked Duck, Ditchford GP, 6th February 2021 (Bob Bullock)

 

Vagrants aside – no matter how smart they might be – no winter is complete without that final vital ingredient – a drake Smew. The first one this side of the New Year again put Ditchford firmly on the map, being found on 11th, along with a ‘redhead’, both birds being independently mobile throughout the day before teaming up on Delta Lake at dusk. Neither was seen subsequently.

Drake Smew, Ditchford GP, 11th February (Bob Bullock)
Drake Smew, Ditchford GP, 11th February 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Demonstratively more dependable, though eliciting seemingly less interest, Pitsford’s juvenile Great Northern Diver remained all week, as did up to three Cattle Egrets at Stanwick. Four localities – Ditchford, Stanford, Stanwick and Thrapston GP – produced between one and two Great Egrets apiece, while Summer Leys LNR notched up at least five on 12th.

Great Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 12th February 2021 (Ricky Sinfield)

Perhaps an indication of just how severe the freezing conditions have been this week was the arrival in the county of a number of waders which would normally be found wintering in coastal locations. Hard weather movements resulted in the unseasonal appearance of a Ringed Plover at Willowbrook Industrial Estate in Corby on 7th, a Bar-tailed Godwit, which remained at Stanwick from 9th until the week’s end and Knots at four localities.

Bar-tailed Godwit, Stanwick GP, 11th February (Steve Fisher)
Knot, Gretton, 9th February 2021 (Bob Bullock)

The latter included a flock of thirteen flying NNE over Byfield on 8th, three on floodwater by the River Cherwell near Kings Sutton on the same date, one at Stanwick GP on 9th and one by the River Welland, south of Gretton, from 8th to 10th. This last bird was accompanied by around thirty Dunlins, dropping to about twenty over the following two days. This is an exceptional number in modern-day Northamptonshire – especially in winter! There were more. Five near Kings Sutton and singles at Ditchford GP and Pitsford Res on 8th, up to three at Stanwick between 9th and 12th, five on floods near Barnwell on 10th and two at Summer Leys on the same date. More in season were Jack Snipes, with singles at Hollowell on 6th, Stanford on 7th and Clifford Hill GP on 12th.

Dunlins, Gretton, 9th February 2021 (Bob Bullock)

Meanwhile, scarce gulls remained just that, with two adult Mediterranean Gulls in the roost at Stanford on 12th, the juvenile Iceland Gull seemingly settled at Rushton Landfill all week and an adult Caspian Gull there on 7th.

‘Scarce’ is also undoubtedly applicable to Short-eared Owls this winter, one of which was seen this week at Harrington AF, on 6th. Surely Northants can do better than this? Two Merlins comprised single females in flight at Pitsford on 10th and Boddington the following day.

Stonechats were present in the Brampton Valley and at Hollowell and Stanford, while after a week with no reports, Crossbills were back, with up to five at Harlestone Heath between 8th and 10th and between five and ten at Hollowell on 9th.

Newsround – 30th January to 5th February 2021

Chilly east to north-easterlies kept temperatures depressed in the first half of the period, after which a mild spell saw a double-figure rise to 11°C, under the influence of a south to south-westerly airstream. The week’s focus was centred firmly on the presence of two White-tailed Eagles, the anticipated easy connectivity with one giving rise to a small, though appreciable, stream of ‘local’ birders to its favoured wetland site.

It was, however, a poor week for wildfowl by recent standards with the thirty or so White-fronted Geese remaining around their chosen fields at the northern extremity of the Stanwick GP complex until at least 2nd and the female Ruddy Shelduck enjoying an away-day at Foxholes Fisheries, Crick on the same date. The infamous female Ferruginous Duck x Pochard hybrid again materialised at Stanwick on 31st, remaining in the area until at least 3rd. In terms of its physical appearance it looks almost the real deal – close but no cigar.

Female Ferruginous Duck x Pochard hybrid, Stanwick GP, 31st January 2021 (Steve Fisher)

The juvenile Great Northern Diver remained loyal to Pitsford Res all week and, keeping a low profile, between one and three Cattle Egrets were seen at Stanwick GP throughout, while three were on fields immediately south of Irthlingborough on 31st. A rather modest number of Great Egrets was logged, with up to three at Stanwick and singles at Ditchford GP (IL&M), Hollowell Res, Pitsford, Ringstead GP, Stanford Res and Stortons GP.

Great Egret, Stortons GP, 31st January 2021 (David Smith)

This week, the county played host to no less than two immature White-tailed Eagles from the Isle of White introduction scheme, their paths almost crossing near Pitsford Res on 1st. Their movements are documented here. Despite not being ‘fully wild’, their majesty, grandeur and sheer enormity were more than enough to captivate, interest, and inspire a number of local birders to make the interpreted ‘permitted short journey to exercise’ at Pitsford to connect with the lingering male, on 31st. He departed to Oxfordshire the following day, when the female arrived, this second bird remaining in the county until moving into Cambridgeshire on 3rd.

Immature male White-tailed Eagle, G393, from the Isle of Wight reintroduction scheme, Pitsford Res, 31st January 2021 (David Preece)

Waders’ sole representative this week was a Jack Snipe at Hollowell on 30th-31st but gulls rallied somewhat, with an adult Mediterranean Gull in the roost at Stanford on 4th, followed the next day by a juvenile Iceland Gull at Rushton Landfill – only the second of the winter so far, the previous one having also been found at the same site. Two adult Caspian Gulls were also present there on 5th and another adult visited Hollowell on the same date, while single adult Yellow-legged Gulls visited Daventry CP on 1st, Pitsford on 2nd and Hollowell on 5th.

Juvenile Iceland Gull, Rushton Landfill, 5th February 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Adult Caspian Gull, Rushton Landfill, 5th February 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Although passerines were poorly represented during the period, suburban Northampton was still delivering the goods in the shape of at least one Bearded Tit, a male, at Stortons GP, where it popped up again in the reedbed on 4th.

Stonechat, Raunds, 31st January 2021 (Mark Tyrrell)

Otherwise, Stonechats continued to delight at Hollowell, Pitsford, Raunds, Stanford, Summer Leys and Sywell CP, with no more than three at any one locality.

Newsround – 23rd to 29th January 2021

The cold, northerly, Arctic air brought the first lying snow of winter to the county at the beginning of the period, before giving way to a warmer, Atlantic weather system in the latter part of the week, while a certain large raptor slipped in, unnoticed …

Otherwise, there was little change in the county’s mid-winter mix, with the thirty or so White-fronted Geese remaining around the northern extremity of the Stanwick GP complex throughout and the three Pink-footed Goose at Kislingbury GP on 22nd hanging on until 23rd in the waterlogged meadows of the surrounding Upton CP. A Barnacle Goose was also present there on the same date a, while the Stanford Res bird remained until at least 26th and six were found at Clifford Hill GP on 24th.

Back on the menu, once again, were Whooper Swans, with a mighty large dollop of thirty-five dished out onto the flooded meadows south of Nassington on 24th. This would appear to be the largest flock recorded in Northamptonshire in recent history although, as the swan flies, the location is not too far away from its Cambridgeshire wintering grounds, where such herds are commonplace. Not quite measuring up in many birders’ books, the long-staying female Ruddy Shelduck was still at Hollowell on 26th. In terms of it being taken more seriously, things could change, however, with the recent announcement by the BOURC that it is currently reviewing the status of this species on the British List as it is potentially occurring in Britain as a vagrant from established naturalised populations on the near continent. It should, therefore, be treated as a candidate for Category C5 (vagrant naturalised species from outside Britain). We await the outcome of the review with bated breath …

Female Ruddy Shelduck, Hollowell Res, 23rd January 2021 (Jon Cook)

The juvenile Great Northern Diver was still at Pitsford Res on 27th and four Cattle Egrets were still at Stanwick GP on 24th, one was seen there the following day and one visited Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR on the same date. This week’s Great Egrets were at Ditchford GP (IL&M), Hollowell, Oundle, Pitsford, Ringstead GP, Stanford, Stanwick and Summer Leys LNR, with no more than two at any one locality.

Great Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 26th January 2021 (Ricky Sinfield)

Eclipsing all of the above, literally, was the immature White-tailed Eagle, which roosted at Brampton Wood, near Desborough on 28th and just north of Pitsford’s Scaldwell Bay the following evening, on 29th. Yes, he’s back. G393, the radio-tagged immature male from the Isle of Wight’s reintroduction scheme, which visited Northamptonshire last year, slipped into the county after spending five months in West Norfolk from 1st August 2020, before moving west into Lincolnshire and then Leicestershire earlier this month.

G393 Satellite tracking data.

It is amazing how elusive the birds from this scheme are proving to be and this individual hasn’t actually been reported since it left Norfolk! Many thanks to Dr Tim Mackrill for supplying the satellite tracking information. Where will it appear next?

Back down to earth and well out of the limelight, a Jack Snipe was found on floods just north of Summer Leys on 25th and three days later, on 28th, fourteen Ruffs were nearby, on the reserve proper – a superb mid-winter total, beating any single-site autumn counts in recent years!

Ruffs, Summer Leys LNR, 28th January 2021 (Leslie Fox)

A paucity of gulls this week left just a single adult Yellow-legged Gull at Pitsford on 23rd and this week’s token Merlin was a female, over farmland near Braunston, on the same date.

Stonechat, Stanford Res, 24th January 2021 (Chris Hubbard)

Stonechats were present at Earls Barton GP, Ecton SF, Oundle, Pitsford, Stanford, Stanwick, Sywell CP and near Towcester, with the highest count of at least five at Pitsford on 28th. Apart from two at Salcey Forest on 23rd, Crossbill sightings were confined to Hollowell, where they were seen on four dates, with a maximum of ten present on 29th.

Newsround – 16th to 22nd January 2021

A largely westerly airstream, bringing intermittent rain, served to top up existing areas of floodwater throughout the county this week. ‘Dry January’ it isn’t and, apart from the rediscovery of the recent Greenland White-fronted Goose, there was little change to the birding mix.

However, the winter goosefest continued apace, beginning with the relocation of the Greenland White-fronted Goose in the Nene Valley, close to Summer Leys LNR, on 16th. It was still present on 19th, when it was also seen on the reserve proper.

Adult Greenland White-fronted Goose, Summer Leys LNR, 19th January 2021 (Bob Bullock)

Further east, around thirty White-fronted Geese remained at Stanwick GP until at least 19th and following last week’s Pink-footed Goose at Hollowell, more appeared this week – one on water meadows between Thrapston GP and Islip on 22nd and three at Kislingbury GP on the same date. A Barnacle Goose at Stanford Res on 17th was the only one recorded during the period.

Pink-footed Geese, Kislingbury GP, 22nd January 2021 (Mike Alibone). Two of three present on this date.

Other wildfowl were also available but limited to the long-staying female Ruddy Shelduck at Hollowell on 17th and a female Red-crested Pochard, mobile between the gravel pits at Stortons and Kislingbury from 17th to 22nd, accompanied by a drake at the latter site on 21st.

The juvenile Great Northern Diver was still at Pitsford Res on 21st, the same date that three Cattle Egrets – the only ones reported this week – visited Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR. Great Egrets were still very much in evidence, being seen at Ditchford GP (IL&M), Ecton SF, Hollowell, Pitsford, Stanford, Summer Leys and Woodford, the last two sites producing the maxima of four and three, respectively.

A Marsh Harrier caused a stir at Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows on 19th. Winter records are on the increase but the species remains scarce at this time of the year, nonetheless.

No waders of note could be squeezed out of the week and winter gulls bounced back from last week’s zero to include an adult Mediterranean Gull at Pitsford on 19th, an adult Caspian Gull at Hollowell on 16th, plus a second-winter in the Stanford roost on 22nd and single adult Yellow-legged Gulls at both Pitsford and Stanford on 16th.

Second-winter Caspian Gull, Stanford Res, 22nd January 2021 (Chris Hubbard)

This week’s token Merlin was a male, just west of Hardwick, on 17th. Passerine numbers were somewhat depressed, with the two Bearded Tits at Stortons showing well on 17th and the male only on the following day, 18th.

Male Bearded Tit, Stortons GP, 17th January 2021 (Bob Bullock)

And this week’s highest Stonechat total goes to … Hollowell, where five were present on 16th. Stonechats were also present at Clifford Hill GP, Ditchford, Irthlingborough, Pitsford, Stanford and Thrapston. Hollowell was also the only locality this week to produce Crossbills – a combined total of up to forty on 22nd.

Greenland White-fronted Goose at Summer Leys

Sometimes hunches pay off. After the incredibly short stay of the Greenland White-fronted Goose at Wicksteed Park, Kettering on 6th January, it seemed logical to assume it might emerge somewhere else in the county – if we were lucky.

On 16th January, a White-fronted Goose was reported with Greylags just outside the northern boundary of Summer Leys LNR and it was seen and reported again the following day. Despite it being a good winter for the species so far, under the current circumstances, a lone whitefront was surely worth some scrutiny and on the 18th a visit to check it out was duly made.

And there it was – in the water meadow by the Nene, just north of Wollaston Lock – the tell-tale orange bill, along with the characteristic dark plumage of the Greenland race flavirostris, easy to find among the 80 or so Greylags which it had latched on to.

Adult Greenland White-fronted Goose, near Summer Leys LNR, 18th January 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Closer scrutiny reveals the slightly thicker neck than the nominate albifrons race (‘Russian’ White-fronted Goose), although this is subjective and dependent on the bird’s stance. The slightly darker face is also evident as well as, from the rear, the thinner white terminal tailband than that of albifrons.

Adult Greenland White-fronted Goose, near Summer Leys LNR, 18th January 2021 (Mike Alibone)
Adult Greenland White-fronted Goose, near Summer Leys LNR, 18th January 2021 (Mike Alibone)
Adult Greenland White-fronted Goose, near Summer Leys LNR, 18th January 2021 (Mike Alibone)

The unique patterning of the black belly bars identifies this bird as the same individual which visited Wicksteed Park on 6th January. Interestingly, this bird had also been present at Watermead, near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire (approximately 46 km south of Summer Leys) on 31st December 2020. This is the 6th record for Northamptonshire. It is still present today, 19th January.

Adult Greenland White-fronted Goose, Wicksteed Park, 6th January 2021 (left, Nick Parker) and near Summer Leys LNR, 18th January 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Greenland White-fronted Goose winters principally in Ireland and western Scotland. Small numbers winter in Wales and small groups can also be encountered in other parts of Scotland and north-west England. The global population of Greenland White-fronted Geese in spring 2020 comprised 21509 individuals, up very slightly on the 21466 (0.2%) on the previous year; 10418 were counted in Ireland and 11091 in Britain (Fox et al. 2020).

Newsround – 9th to 15th January 2021

Despite a shift toward a warmer Atlantic airstream, northerlies persisted, temperatures remained depressed and more rain added to an already waterlogged landscape. Add the restrictions of ‘local area’ travel to the mix and this week’s rather subdued birding didn’t quite hit the mark …

Still, for those fortunate enough to live on the doorstep of a not too shoddy birding location, there were still birds to be had. Among these, the regular White-fronted Geese at Stanwick GP remained throughout, albeit a little depleted in numbers, with the highest tally nudging thirty on 13th. A Pink-footed Goose at Hollowell Res on 12th was the first to be seen there for three weeks and two Barnacle Geese accompanied the regular canalside Greylag and Canada flock at Braunston on 10th.

Other wildfowl were limited to two Red-crested Pochards at Stortons GP on 11th and what was presumably last year’s female Ferruginous Duck-type hybrid performing an encore, for one day only, at Stanwick on 13th.

Juvenile Great Northern Diver, Pitsford Res, 10th January 2021 (Angus Molyneux)

The long-staying juvenile Great Northern Diver was still at Pitsford Res on 10th, as were up to six Cattle Egrets at the northern end of Stanwick throughout the week.

Cattle Egret, Stanwick GP, 9th January 2021 (Adrian Borley)

Gleaming white Great Egrets, perhaps visible from space, were to be found loafing in most of the usual places, including Deene Lake, Pitsford, Stanwick, Summer Leys and Thrapston, with a maximum of three at Stanwick on 13th.

Great Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 14th January 2021 (Leslie Fox)

No gulls this week and just one Jack Snipe, at Stanford Res on 10th, served to fill the slot on an otherwise empty list of waders.

Continuing a run of winter records, Merlins were seen at Harrington AF on 10th and 11th and over Stortons GP on the second of these two dates, the latter site continuing to provide both sight – on 9th – and sounds, on 10th and 11th, of the two Bearded Tits which were present there on 8th.

Once again, Pitsford produced the highest count of Stonechats, with four on 12th, three were at Clifford Hill GP on 15th and singles at Stanford Res on 10th and Sywell CP on 15th.

Stonechat, Clifford Hill GP, 15th January 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Perhaps vying with the Bearded Tits, ‘passerine of the week’ arguably goes to the female Hawfinch seen and caught fleetingly on camera in Weldon on 13th. Hopefully there will be more before the winter is out. Other large-billed finches are available, of course, and this week’s Crossbills were limited to nine at Hollowell Res on 12th and 15th, while the larches of Wakerley Great Wood continued to hold several on 13th.