The weather this week appeared to be a major influencer in terms of movement of wildfowl. Strong south-westerlies and heavy rain were quickly followed by cold north-westerlies in the latter part of the week, as a deep low pressure system swept east across the country.
So, with a favourable tail-wind, Whooper Swans were the order of the day on 21st-22nd, when they were found at four localities. In the vanguard were two at Pitsford Res, briefly, on 19th, subsequently followed by one at Stanford Res early in the morning of 21st, that number having risen to three there in the evening. On the same date, three flew south-west over Stanwick GP and two were found at Clifford Hill GP – shortly to be joined by two more before the morning was out. Pitsford was back in the game on 22nd, when one was discovered among the Mute Swans there early on and five passed east through Stanwick’s airspace later in the afternoon.
DIRFT 3 held on to its Cackling Goose on 18th, while the female Ruddy Shelduck and the drake Cape Shelduck were also both on site on 16th but their recently developed liking for nearby Foxholes Fisheries at Crick saw them spending more time there – daily from 17th to 20th and again on 22nd.
The last vestiges of summer were evident at Ditchford GP on 21st, where a juvenile Garganey was dozing among surface weed in the sunlit shallows of Delta Pit on 21st. One was also present in Pitsford’s Scaldwell Bay on the same date. These two are clearly late but not the latest ever in the county – that accolade goes to a bird at Earls Barton GP on 13th November 2015.
A drake Common Scoter dropped in at Boddington Res late on 20th, while a further hint of winter materialised in the form of a female Greater Scaup at Sywell CP, the following day. ‘Duck of the week’, though, was, indisputably, the ‘redhead’ Red-breasted Merganser, which played hard to get, appearing to roost on Stanwick’s Main Lake and being seen only briefly at first light on 21st and 22nd before flying off west to whereabouts as yet unknown. The erratic appearances of this skinny sawbill in the county already render it difficult to catch up with. It’s by no means annual and the last records were of single birds in 2019 and 2016.
Looking settled, last week’s Black-necked Grebe remained throughout the period on Thrapston GP’s Town Lake, as was the Bittern at Summer Leys – at least until 19th.
Cattle Egrets upped their number to seven at the Ringstead GP roost on the latter date and they continued to be seen at Stanwick, where there were four at the week’s end, while three visited cattle fields below the church at Irthlingborough on 21st. Stanwick also hosted the highest number of the period’s Great Egrets, three, while ones and twos were also seen at Daventry CP, Pitsford, Ringstead and Summer Leys.
Last week’s juvenile Osprey, continued to roam the Nene Valley between Billing GP and Summer Leys from 16th to 21st and a male Hen Harrier flying north-west over Daventry CP on 18th was the only other raptor worthy of note.
The long-staying juvenile male Ruff also remained at Summer Leys until at least 19th, otherwise scarce waders were at a premium.
This week’s scarcer larids were limited to three Caspian Gulls – a third-winter at Daventry on 18th and single adults at Boddington on 18th and Pitsford on 19th, while Yellow-legged Gulls included a maximum of six at Boddington on 18th, up to three were at Thrapston between 18th and 22nd and two at Pitsford on 19th-20th.
Passerines were again in short supply with four Stonechats at Thrapston on 18th being the highest count, plus two at Earls Barton GP on the same date and singles at Pitsford on 20th-22nd and at Oundle and Summer Leys on 18th. And finally … about to enter super-rare status, a Rock Pipit was at Stanwick on 17th – only the second in the county this year after one at the same site on 21st March. Times are getting hard …