This is the first in a new series of weekly reports which picks out the highlights from the past seven days – in this case 1st-7th December.
This month usually sees the beginning of a build up of scarcer wintering wildfowl but eight Dark-bellied Brent Geese which flew over Haselbech on 2nd was a great, unexpected record for a species which normally only occurs as singles in late autumn. A first-winter drake Scaup was discovered on the fishing lake at Ditchford GP on the same date, being joined by another there on 5th while an adult drake was seen off the dam at Pitsford Res the following day. Three ‘redhead’ Smew were found on the ‘small side’ at Ravensthorpe Res on 1st and a drake had joined them by 7th, while the highest count of the more common Goosander was eighteen at the now well established urban wintering site of Abington Park Lake, Northampton on 1st.
A Bittern was found at Summer Leys on 2nd and last month’s Great White Egret continued to show sporadically at Pitsford Res (and on adjacent floodwater at Holcot) throughout the week. The long-staying Black-necked Grebe, present since September, remained in the vicinity of the yacht club at Pitsford Res until at least 3rd and a ‘ringtail’
Hen Harrier was watched hunting south of Weston on 1st but subsequent searches failed to relocate it. Other scarce raptors included single Merlins at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 4th and at Fineshade Wood and near Firmyn Woods CP the following day, while two Peregrines were at Fineshade Wood on 5th with two more at Ditchford GP on the same date. A count of 17 Common Snipe at Ditchford GP on 2nd was noteworthy when a single Redshank was also present there.
A first-winter Mediterranean Gull visited Pitsford Res roost on 4th and an adult was at Ravensthorpe Res the following day, while an adult Caspian Gull was found at Sidegate Landfill an 5th and a third-winter roosted at Pitsford Res on 6th. The only Short-eared
Owl of the week was one at Harrington AF on 6th and, braving the falling temperatures, a Chiffchaff was seen at Ravensthorpe Res on 5th and 7th and a male Central European Blackcap was feeding on crab apples in a Northampton garden throughout the week while a Stonechat – locally scarce this winter – was at Ditchford GP on 2nd.
As the week drew to a close, however, Waxwings began to move in in force. Twos were seen at Hanging Houghton and Sywell on 1st and at Pitsford Res on 3rd, with one at the latter site on 4th when at least fourteen were found in Corby. Five were in Daventry on 5th with, the next day, four or five at Byfield and one at Daventry CP but the week ended with thirty-one at Oundle, approximately thirty in Kettering (at Sainsburys supermarket) and ten in Wellingborough at Appleby Lodge Farm.
A Hawfinch was reported from Firmyn Woods CP on 2nd and, apart from one at Hanging Houghton on 1st, up to ten Bramblings were visiting Harrington AF to feed on wild bird food throughout the week.