Rarity Round-up 14th to 20th January 2017

The northerly wind, which brought lower temperatures at the end of last week, shifted back westerly for the first half of the period, bringing overcast and wet conditions before high pressure delivered colder, drier weather on the back of an easterly airflow from the continent. There were no major surprises, however, and Waxwings remained firmly in the limelight at the very beginning of the week.

Predictably, the adult Whooper Swan remained at Sywell CP until at least 17th but a herd of fifteen flying up the Nene Valley between Elton and Fotheringhay on 19th was more unusual in terms of the number involved.

Whooper Swan, Sywell CP, 17th January 2017 (Alan Francis)

Whooper Swan, Sywell CP, 17th January 2017 (Alan Francis)

At least eleven Eurasian White-fronted Geese were still with Greylags below Great Doddington on 17th, while a juvenile was reported at Kislingbury GP on the same date. Oddball of the week was a female Wood Duck on the Nene at Wellingborough Embankment on 15th. Although mooted as a potential vagrant, this one must surely have been a fence-jumper at some previous point in time.

Female Wood Duck, Wellingborough Embankment, 15th January 2017 (Paul Gosling)

Female Wood Duck, Wellingborough Embankment, 15th January 2017 (Paul Gosling)

Just two Red-crested Pochards were at Pitsford Res on 17th, with one remaining to 20th and both Scaups remained on station all week on the large lake east of Mary’s Lake at Earls Barton GP and on the main lake at Stanwick GP.

Red-crested Pochards, Pitsford Res, 17th January 2017 (Doug Goddard)

Red-crested Pochards, Pitsford Res, 17th January 2017 (Doug Goddard)

Red-crested Pochard, Pitsford Res, 21st January 2017 (Clive Bowley)

Red-crested Pochard, Pitsford Res, 21st January 2017 (Clive Bowley)

The Long-tailed Duck – apparently unreported last week – was still at Stanford Res, by the reedbed on the northern bank, at the week’s end, while a ‘redhead’ Smew was seen there again on 14th. The drake Smew from last week remained on the large lake between Higham Ferrers and Irthlingborough at Ditchford GP until 14th.

Long-tailed Duck, Stanford Res, January 2017 (Bob Bullock)

Long-tailed Duck, Stanford Res, January 2017 (Bob Bullock)

The usual fixtures and fittings included three Great White Egrets still at Ravensthorpe Res on 17th, apparently dwindling to one there by 20th, up to two were still at Pitsford Res to 17th and one was at Summer Leys all week, with two there on 19th. Two species of harrier were notched up during the period, both on 15th, beginning with with a male Marsh Harrier at Stanford Res and followed by a ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier at Polebrook AF, which was also reported at nearby Lutton on 12th. The 15th also saw an unconfirmed report of a Black-tailed Godwit at Summer Leys.

Caspian Gulls came to the fore this week. On 14th they were found at no less than five different localities, which may actually constitute a local ‘day record’. On this date, there were three (two adults and a first-winter) at Rushton Landfill, a first-winter near Chacombe and single adults at Hollowell Res (remaining all week), Pitsford Res and Stanford Res. The following day saw three adults at Rushton Landfill and an adult plus a first-winter in the gull roost at Pitsford and subsequent to this, near Chacombe, a second-winter on 18th and an adult the following day. The number of Yellow-legged Gulls looked poor by comparison, with an adult and a second-winter near Chacombe on 14th – the second-winter remaining on 19th, a first-winter in the Pitsford roost on 14th and two there the following day and a first-winter at Rushton Landfill also on 14th.

Short-eared Owl, Neville's Lodge, Finedon, 18th January 2017 (Doug Goddard). One of four long-staying individuals wintering in this area.

Short-eared Owl, Neville’s Lodge, Finedon, 18th January 2017 (Doug Goddard). One of four long-staying individuals wintering in this area.

Four Short-eared Owls remained at Neville’s Lodge, near Finedon until at least 18th, while Waxwings continued to prove a popular draw in downtown Kettering, where twenty-seven entertained observers (and bemused shoppers) around the Sainsbury’s/Pets At Home/School Lane area on 14th, the flock subsequently moving to St Mary’s Road the following day.

Waxwing, Kettering, 14th January 2017 (Mike Alibone)

Waxwing, Kettering, 14th January 2017 (Mike Alibone)

Waxwing, Kettering, 14th January 2017 (Stuart Mundy)

Waxwing, Kettering, 14th January 2017 (Stuart Mundy)

Following this, six or seven were feeding on apples in a Great Billing Garden on 18th and approximately twenty were in the Boothville area of Northampton briefly on 20th.

Stonechat, Blueberry Farm, Maidwell, 20th January 2017 (Martin Swannell). A maximum site count of six came from Hollowell Res during the week.

Stonechat, Blueberry Farm, Maidwell, 20th January 2017 (Martin Swannell). A maximum site count of six came from Hollowell Res during the week.

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Rarity Round-up 7th to 13th January 2017

A mild start to the week even inspired some to go birding without a coat on 8th but the relatively warm blip, brought by light south to south-westerlies, quickly gave way to cooler, wetter conditions the following day. By mid-week, the wind had swung to the west before becoming north-westerly, and eventually northerly, by the week’s end. The change in direction saw daytime temperatures fall to just above freezing and the county experienced its first snow showers on 12th and 13th. The weather evidently had little influence on the arrival of Northamptonshire’s sixth-ever Cattle Egret, which was part of a national invasion, while Waxwings continued to be discovered and proved to be as popular as ever.

The ‘roll up and see’ adult Whooper Swan, now into the sixth week of its stay, remained at Sywell CP throughout, while the twenty-three Eurasian White-fronted Geese remained in the vicinity of Summer Leys LNR/Great Doddington, until at least 10th. Four White-fronts also visited Pitsford Res briefly on 11th. Small numbers of Red-crested Pochards included a drake at Stanford Res on 7th, a female at Pitsford Res on 8th and two at Ditchford GP on 11th, while the drake Scaup returned to, and remained on, the large lake east of Mary’s Lake at Earls Barton GP from 8th until the end of the week and the female was also still on the main lake at Stanwick GP on 13th.

Drake Scaup, Earls Barton GP, 11th January 2017 (Bob Bullock)

Drake Scaup, Earls Barton GP, 11th January 2017 (Bob Bullock)

The only Smew reported this week was a drake on the large lake between Higham Ferrers and Irthlingborough at Ditchford GP on 11th.

The highlight of the week materialised in the form of Northamptonshire’s sixth-ever Cattle Egret which, alas, remained for only one day near Dunkley’s old restaurant at Whiston on 7th. Part of a national invasion exceeding one hundred individuals, it was not entirely unexpected.

Cattle Egret, Whiston, 7th January 2017 (Bob Bullock)

Cattle Egret, Whiston, 7th January 2017 (Bob Bullock)

captionFrom the exciting to the more mundane, up to three Great White Egrets remained at Ravensthorpe Res, numbers between one and three were at Pitsford Res and one was again at Summer Leys all week. Also making it into the new week was the Pitsford Res Slavonian Grebe, which was still present around the dam/sailing club/Pintail Bay area until at least 11th.

Great White Egrets, Ravensthorpe Res, January 2017 (Bob Bullock)

Great White Egrets, Ravensthorpe Res, January 2017 (Bob Bullock)

The scarcest waders of the week were Jack Snipe, with two at Barnes Meadow LNR, Northampton between 7th and 12th and one at Ditchford GP on 11th. Similarly uncommon gulls during the period were restricted to the third-winter Mediterranean Gull at Daventry CP again on 12th, two Caspian Gulls (adult and first-winter) near Rushton on 8th and an adult at Daventry CP the following day. In a period during which considerable numbers of northern ‘white-winged’ gulls have appeared in the UK it is disappointing that we have not yet had one in Northants!

Short-eared Owl, Neville's Lodge, Finedon, January 2017 (Simon Wantling www.simonwantlingphotography.com)

Short-eared Owl, Neville’s Lodge, Finedon, January 2017 (Simon Wantling www.simonwantlingphotography.com)

Two Short-eared Owls were still present at Neville’s Lodge, near Finedon on 8th and one near Summer Leys on 13th, while the flow of Waxwings into the county continued, with the three at Woodford Halse increasing to seven on 7th, three appearing at Sywell on 8th, eight in Bulwick on 10th and twenty-four in Kettering between 11th and 13th, while two Crossbills were still in Fineshade Wood on 10th.

Waxwing, Kettering, 13th January 2017 (Mark Tyrrell)

Waxwing, Kettering, 13th January 2017 (Mark Tyrrell)

Waxwing, Kettering, 11th January 2017 (Paul Bolton)

Waxwing, Kettering, 11th January 2017 (Paul Bolton)

Waxwing, Kettering, 11th January 2017 (Alan Francis)

Waxwing, Kettering, 11th January 2017 (Alan Francis)

Waxwings, Kettering, 13th January 2017 (Geof Douglas)

Waxwings, Kettering, 13th January 2017 (Geof Douglas). A nice comparison between adult male (left) and first-winter male.

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The Whiston Cattle Egret

Northamptonshire’s 6th Cattle Egret was found by Neil Underwood this morning, close to the site of last month’s White-fronted Goose grazing area alongside the River Nene, at Dunkleys, between Whiston and Earls Barton. Around midday it moved a few hundred metres to the south to a weedy field between Dunkleys and the newly-formed earth bank running alongside the new quarry conveyor belt.

In a winter notable for its Cattle Egret invasion it would have been surprising (and disappointing!) if Northants had not featured. Currently there are well over 100 individuals at large in the UK, most of which are in south-west England, although some have reached as far north as Lancashire.

A few digiscoped shots below. dscn3319-copy                                                                                                     dscn3326-copydscn3325-copy                                     Lack of dark tip to bill (when not soil-covered) ages it as an adult. There have been 5 previous  records, 4 of which have been in the same short stretch of the Nene Valley as this one. Previous accepted records are:

2006   Earls Barton GP, 11th-13th August                                                                                                                 2008   Fotheringhay, 23rd February; Earls Barton GP, 30th-31st July                                               2009   Earls Barton GP, 27th-28th May                                                                                                            2012   Earls Barton GP, 1st-6th May

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Rarity Round-up 1st to 6th January 2017

The beginning of the week was marked by a shift in the wind direction with a more northerly vector, bringing with it lower daytime, and sub-zero overnight, temperatures with associated heavy frosts. The conditions did not produce anything dramatic beyond a few new and scarce wildfowl, while local Short-eared Owls and Waxwings continued to prove popular attractions.

The 5th brought five adult Bewick’s Swans to Pitsford Res, albeit fleetingly as they were picked up flying south over the dam. Veteran local birders will recall the time when this species was a fairly common visitor, with Pitsford annually holding flocks of between sixty and seventy individuals from late October well into the winter months.

Bewick's Swans, Pitsford Res, 5th January 2017 (Jacob Spinks)

Bewick’s Swans, Pitsford Res, 5th January 2017 (Jacob Spinks)

Conversely, the adult Whooper Swan remained at Sywell CP all week, while the Eurasian White-fronted Geese – now down to twenty-three – became much more mobile, being seen to fly off from White Mills Marina, Whiston on 2nd, arriving shortly afterwards at Clifford Hill GP. The following morning they visited the main lake at Summer Leys LNR before relocating to nearby fields alongside the River Nene, below Great Doddington, where they remained until at least 4th. Two adult White-fronts also visited Pitsford Res, where they were seen in Pintail Bay – also on 4th. Red-crested Pochard numbers remained low with singles at both Sywell CP and Pitsford Res on 2nd and two at the latter site on 5th. In the Nene Valley, a female Scaup appeared at Summer Leys on 2nd before quickly relocating later the same day to Stanwick GP, where it remained until the end of the week. A drake Scaup appeared on the large lake behind Mary’s Lake at Earls Barton GP on 4th but it was not seen subsequently.

Drake Scaup, Earls Barton GP, 4th January 2017 (Alan Horsley)

Drake Scaup, Earls Barton GP, 4th January 2017 (Alan Horsley)

Further north, Stanford’s Long-tailed Duck remained there until at least 4th there along with the ‘redhead’ Smew. Elsewhere drake Smews were seen at Stanwick GP on 3rd and at Earls Barton GP the following day, both records almost certainly relating to the same individual.

By 2nd, the Thrapston GP Bittern had moved from Heron Lake to Aldwincle Lake, where it was seen in reeds at the north end of the lake, while Great White Egrets continued to number three throughout at Ravensthorpe Res, up to two at Pitsford Res and the same number intermittently at Summer Leys along with one at Thrapston GP.

Great White Egrets, Ravensthorpe Res, 2nd January 2017 (Mike Alibone)

Great White Egrets, Ravensthorpe Res, 2nd January 2017 (Mike Alibone)

The Slavonian Grebe remained at Pitsford Res throughout, although it became more mobile, ranging between Catwalk Bay and the sailing club, while an unusual winter visitor in the shape of a Marsh Harrier visited Summer Leys briefly on 3rd.The only scarce gulls reported this week were single adult Caspian Gulls at Stanwick GP on 4th and at Pitsford Res the following day.

Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 3rd January 2017 (Ricky Sinfield)

Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 3rd January 2017 (Ricky Sinfield)

Neville’s Lodge, near Finedon, again continued to prove a popular draw for observers of Short-eared Owls, now with up to five present throughout the period and birders visiting daily.

Short-eared Owl, Finedon, 2nd January 2017 (Mark Tyrrell)

Short-eared Owl, Finedon, 2nd January 2017 (Mark Tyrrell)

Short-eared Owl, Finedon, 5th January 2017 (Martin Swannell)

Short-eared Owl, Finedon, 5th January 2017 (Martin Swannell)

Short-eared Owl, Finedon, 5th January 2017 (Martin Swannell)

Short-eared Owl, Finedon, 5th January 2017 (Martin Swannell)

After the rush last week to see the first Waxwings of the winter there were no reports of the reportedly forty-strong crowd-pleasing birds in Roade, where the flock size peaked at fifteen just prior to their departure on 2nd.

Waxwings, Roade, 2nd January 2017 (Simon Hales)

Waxwings, Roade, 2nd January 2017 (Simon Hales)

Waxwing, Roade, 2nd January 2017 (Alan Coles)

Waxwing, Roade, 2nd January 2017 (Alan Coles)

Waxwing, Roade, 2nd January 2017 (Alan Coles)

Waxwing, Roade, 2nd January 2017 (Alan Coles)

Waxwing, Roade, 2nd January 2017 (Alan Coles)

Waxwing, Roade, 2nd January 2017 (Alan Coles)

Waxwings, Roade, 2nd January 2017 (Simon Hales)

Waxwings, Roade, 2nd January 2017 (Simon Hales)

Waxwings, Roade, 2nd January 2017 (Doug Goddard). Note the colour-ringed individual on the left (see text).

Waxwings, Roade, 2nd January 2017 (Doug Goddard). Note the colour-ringed individual on the left (see text).

One of these birds was colour-ringed and traceable to Kincorth, Aberdeen, where it was ringed on 2nd December 2016; it’s a first-winter female. Another Waxwing, a male, paid a brief visit to a garden on Borough Hill on 3rd and, perhaps surprisingly, three return to the site of the ‘Boxing Day One’ – the Rowan outside the Co-op at Woodford Halse – on 6th. Lastly, Crossbills continued to be reported intermittently from Fineshade Wood to 5th.

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Rarity Round-up 24th to 31st December 2016

The light west to south-westerly airstream continued throughout the eight-day ‘week’ extending the period to fit to the last day of 2016. The weather was generally mild, with slow-clearing thick fog a prominent feature during the latter half of the week. The Christmas highlight for most was the appearance of the first twitchable Waxwings between Boxing Day and the New Year.

The adult Whooper Swan remained at Sywell CP until at least 29th, while at least twenty-three of the twenty-four Eurasian White-fronted Geese were still present by the River Nene at White Mills Marina, Whiston until the year’s end. Also present to 31st were up to four Red-crested Pochards at both Pitsford Res and Stanford Res with the latter site also producing a first-winter Scaup again on 30th, on which date another first-winter was also discovered at Ravensthorpe Res. Arguably, though, wildfowl of the week was the Long-tailed Duck found at Stanford on 27th, remaining there along with the ‘redhead’ Smew until 31st. Last week’s two drake Smew were also still present at Pitsford Res until at least 27th.

Long-tailed Duck, Stanford Res, 27th December 2016 (Chris Hubbard)

Long-tailed Duck, Stanford Res, 27th December 2016 (Chris Hubbard)

Perhaps one of the Stanwick birds relocating, a ‘new’ Bittern was viewable from the hide on Heron Lake at Thrapston GP between 27th and 30th, while Great White Egrets continued to feature throughout with daily reports from Pitsford Res, where four were seen together on 26th and Ravensthorpe Res, where three remained all week, while one was seen at Summer Leys LNR intermittently between 24th and 29th, with two there on 31st.

The Slavonian Grebe present at Pitsford Res from 19th was last seen there on 28th, by which time it had moved closer to Catwalk Bay and, at nearby Scaldwell, the only scarce raptor of the week, a male Merlin, appeared fleetingly on 27th. Similarly, the only uncommon wader during the period was a Jack Snipe at Boddington Res on the same date.

An adult Mediterranean Gull appeared at Stanford Res on 31st, while in the far south-west of the county, near Chacombe, the loafing, mixed gull flock again included a first-winter and second-winter Caspian Gull on 24th and a second-winter and third-winter on 27th. Additionally, a first-winter Caspian was at Pitsford Res on 24th and two – an adult and a third-winter – visited Hollowell Res on 30th.

Short-eared Owl, Neville's Lodge, Finedon, 29th December 2016 (Martin Swannell)

Short-eared Owl, Neville’s Lodge, Finedon, 29th December 2016 (Martin Swannell)

Short-eared Owl, Neville's Lodge, Finedon, 29th December 2016 (Martin Swannell)

Short-eared Owl, Neville’s Lodge, Finedon, 29th December 2016 (Martin Swannell)

Neville’s Lodge, near Finedon, again proved a popular draw for observers of Short-eared Owls with four present throughout the period but their popularity was eclipsed by the arrival of the first twitchable Waxwings of the winter. Just one in a Rowan outside the Co-op at Woodford Halse on Boxing Day was enough to scramble birders from as far away as Northampton and Rugby and, although it performed well all day, it had departed by the following morning.

First-winter male Waxwing, Woodford Halse, 26th December 2016 (Bob Bullock)

First-winter male Waxwing, Woodford Halse, 26th December 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Hot on its heels came three in Roade on 29th, the number there rapidly growing to ten, which drew a sizeable procession of spectators during their stay into the New Year.

Female Waxwing, Roade, 29th December 2016 (Mike Alibone)

Female Waxwing, Roade, 29th December 2016 (Mike Alibone)

Waxwing, Roade, 30th December 2016 (Alan Coles)

Waxwing, Roade, 30th December 2016 (Alan Coles)

Down in the Nene Valley, the male Bearded Tit remained along the causeway at Stanwick GP’s A45 Lay-by Pit until at least 27th, while four Crossbills were found at Fineshade Wood on 26th.

Male Crossbill, Fineshade Wood, December 2016 (Roger Eads)

Male Crossbill, Fineshade Wood, December 2016 (Roger Eads)

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Woodford Halse Waxwing

Couldn’t resist posting a few pics of the Woodford Halse Waxwing this afternoon. After the late autumn influx – chiefly ‘up north’ – and a few fleetingly fickle or fanciful fly-overs locally, this is the first twitchable individual in Northants this year. Clean-cut black bib and broad yellow tail-band sex it as a male and the reduced yellow feather edgings in the primaries age it as a first-winter.dscn3205-copy A big thank you to Donna Wise for putting the news out.dscn3227-copydscn3224dscn3208-copy

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Rarity Round-up 17th to 23rd December 2016

In the run up to Christmas the week remained mild and largely dry, although it was gloomy, dank and dull for the greater part of the period. The wind direction remained unchanged from last week’s light south to south-westerly airstream. The highlight of the week was the discovery of the largest flock of Eurasian White-fronted Geese locally for nearly twenty years.

The Sywell CP Whooper Swan continued to be reported throughout the period, now seemingly settled and showing all signs of being present for the winter.

Whooper Swan, Sywell CP, 18th December 2016 (Mike Alibone)

Whooper Swan, Sywell CP, 18th December 2016 (Mike Alibone)

Whooper Swan, Sywell CP, 18th December 2016 (Mike Alibone)

Whooper Swan, Sywell CP, 18th December 2016 (Mike Alibone)

On 19th, a flock of twenty-four Eurasian White-fronted Geese was discovered alongside the River Nene, close to the new White Mills Marina, east of Whiston Lock, where they remained all week. While family parties, single-figure flocks and fly-overs are not unusual, this is the largest ‘on the ground’ flock in Northants since December 1998, when up to thirty-eight were present at Ditchford GP. Nevertheless, it remains scarce in the county but not as scarce as Greenland White-fronted Goose, for which there are only four records, in 1981 (2), 1991 and 2009. Another would undoubtedly be appreciated.

white-fronted-geese-caption

White-fronted Geese, Whiston, 21st December 2016 (Mike Alibone)

Eurasian White-fronted Geese, Whiston, 21st December 2016 (Mike Alibone)

Somewhat overshadowed by the birds at White Mills, another adult Eurasian White-front was found with Canada Geese at Fawsley Park Lakes on 20th and was still present there on 22nd.

White-fronted Goose, Fawsley Park, 22nd December 2016 (Angus Molyneux)

Eurasian White-fronted Goose, Fawsley Park, 22nd December 2016 (Angus Molyneux)

In a similar vein to last week the only other wildfowl of note were up to four Red-crested Pochards at Pitsford Res between 18th and 20th, with the two drake Smew still there on 23rd and a ‘redhead’ Smew at Stanford Res from the beginning of the week to 22nd.

The three Great White Egrets remained at Ravensthorpe Res on all week, while ones, twos and, on 20th, three, were reported from Pitsford Res and one was found at Ditchford GP on 18th. On 19th a ‘new’ Slavonian Grebe was discovered north-east of the dam at Pitsford Res, where it was still being seen on 23rd.

Slavonian Grebe, Pitsford Res, 21st December 2016 (Angus Molyneux)

Slavonian Grebe, Pitsford Res, 21st December 2016 (Angus Molyneux)

There were no reports of the wintering juvenile male Hen Harrier at Stanford Res this week, although a ‘ringtail’ was seen flying north, close to the A508 at Kelmarsh on 21st. A Curlew at Pitsford Res on 20th was the only notable wader during the period.

All the gull action was restricted to the west of the county where, at Daventry CP, a third-winter Mediterranean Gull was present on 19th and 23rd, followed by an adult and a first-winter in the pre-roost gathering there on 21st, while an adult Caspian Gull was in the roost at Boddington Res on 17th and single first-winters were in fields near Chacombe and at Daventry CP on 23rd.

Third-winter Mediterranean Gull, Daventry CP, 19th December 2016 (Gary Pullan)

Third-winter Mediterranean Gull, Daventry CP, 19th December 2016 (Gary Pullan)

Neville’s Lodge, near Finedon, remained the only reliable location to see Short-eared Owl this week, with up to two present there while, not too far to the south, the male

Short-eared Owl, Neville's Lodge, Finedon, 20th December 2016 (Geof Douglas)

Short-eared Owl, Neville’s Lodge, Finedon, 20th December 2016 (Geof Douglas)

Bearded Tit remained throughout the week along the causeway at Stanwick GP’s A45 Lay-by Pit and a ‘Nordic’ Jackdaw – of which there have been few reports in recent winters – was seen at Bozeat on 18th.

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