The Week in Focus: 26th January to 1st February 2013

Localised flooding followed a rapid snow thaw as temperatures rose significantly at the beginning of the week. Thirty-two Mandarin Ducks were counted at Blatherwycke Lake on 29th, Pintail remained scarce with just four at Ravensthorpe Res on 27th and two at nearby Hollowell Res on 29th and the mobile first-winter drake Scaup visited both reservoirs on 26th and 27th. What may have been a ‘new’ female Scaup was found at the Irthlingborough end of Ditchford GP on 30th, while the Aythya hybrid resembling a drake Lesser Scaup was still present on the watersports pit there on 26th. Varying numbers of Smew were present at Ravensthorpe Res throughout the week, peaking at an impressive thirteen (five drakes) on 30th, while up to three remained at Pitsford Res. Four out of five locations where Goosanders were found this week were suburban Northampton lakes, with four at Shelfley’s Lake and seven at Abington Park Lake on 26th and two at Thorplands Lake and four at Sixfields Lake on 31st while the highest count of the winter so far was made at Thrapston GP, where there were twenty-five on 26th.

Bitterns were found at four localities during the period: Pitsford Res on 26th, Billing GP on 27th, Ravensthorpe Res on 28th and Stanwick GP on 29th but there were no reports of the Great White Egret at Pitsford. In a poor week for raptors the only Merlins were a male and female at Ecton SF on 31st and the only Peregrines were singles at Ditchford GP on 26th and Harrington AF on 31st while the latter locality played host to the only Golden Plover, one, on 27th.  Other waders included a Jack Snipe at Hollowell Res on 29th and Green Sandpipers at Kirby Hall (Corby) on 26th and Ecton SF on 27th and 31st.

On 29th, an adult Mediterranean Gull was in the roost at Pitsford Res while Ditchford GP produced an adult Caspian Gull on 26th and a second-winter Yellow-legged Gull was in the Pitsford roost on 29th. No Short-eared Owls were reported from Blueberry Farm, Maidwell during the period but two were seen near Thorpe Waterville on 29th, while the ‘Nordic’ Jackdaw was seen again at Hanging Houghton on 27th.

Perhaps surprisingly, the ‘bird of the week’ slot was taken by a warbler and came in the shape of three Siberian Chiffchaffs, which were found along the sewage outfall stream

Siberian Chiffchaff, Ecton SF, 27th February 2013 (Bob Bullock)

Siberian Chiffchaff, Ecton SF, 27th February 2013 (Bob Bullock)

at Ecton SF on 26th and remained there all week along with at least twelve Chiffchaffs. A total of four Central European Blackcaps, all males, was seen in gardens in Nether Heyford, Northampton and Weldon while Waxwing numbers continued to decline with just two in Wilby on 26th, 6 in Desborough on 28th and five or six in Wellingborough on 29th and 30th.

Central European Blackcap, East Hunsbury, Northampton 1st Feb 2013 (Mike Alibone)

The long-staying Stonechat at Hollowell Res was still present on 26th  while one to two Bramblings were seen at Brampton Valley, Hanging Houghton, Pitsford Res and Thrapston GP and numbers had built to twenty at Harrington AF by 1st. Approximately fifteen Crossbills were near the car park at Wakerley Great Wood on 29th and at least ten were still present on 1st while a male Hawfinch visited a garden in Great Billing briefly on the latter date. A Snow Bunting was a surprise visitor to Harrington AF on 26th and exceptionally high counts of around five hundred Yellowhammers and seven hundred Reed Buntings were made near Sybole Farm in the north of the County on 25th.

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