The Week in Focus: 7th to 13th December 2013

A potential ‘first’ for Northamptonshire was identified at the beginning of a week which remained mild and mainly dry throughout with a warm south-westerly airstream bringing damp conditions towards its end.

Two Egyptian Geese remained at Thrapston GP until at least 8th and another visited Ditchford GP on 9th while a first-winter drake Scaup was found at the former locality on 8th and the adult drake was still at Ditchford GP the following day. The three Long-tailed Ducks remained on Mary’s Lake at Earls Barton GP until 11th with at least two of them still present on 13th, while one remained at Thrapston GP all week and two drake

Long-tailed Duck, Earls Barton GP, 11th December 2013 (Bob Bullock)

Long-tailed Duck, Earls Barton GP, 11th December 2013 (Bob Bullock)

plus two ‘redhead’ Smew were at Pitsford Res until at least 10th and another ‘redhead’ visited Earls Barton GP on 13th.

Up to three Great White Egrets remained at Pitsford Res until at least 10th, last week’s individual at Summer Leys LNR remained until 9th and was probably the same bird which visited Ditchford GP on 9th.

Great White Egret, Earls Barton GP, 7th December 2013 (Doug McFarlane)

Great White Egret, Earls Barton GP, 7th December 2013 (Doug McFarlane)

The only Merlin of the week was a female or immature at Stanwick GP on 12th, while Peregrines continued to be seen in the only to be expected localities of Blueberry Farm and Brixworth on 7th, Ditchford GP on 9th and near Maidwell on 13th.

Reports of waders dropped to a mere three: an unseasonal Oystercatcher at Stanwick GP on 8th (they do not normally return until very late winter) plus three Redshanks at Ditchford GP the following day, along with a Green Sandpiper there on 10th.

A first-winter Mediterranean Gull visited the A45 Lay-by Pit at Stanwick GP on 10th with the same site hosting an adult Caspian Gull on 8th, while another adult Caspian Gull was in the roost at Thrapston GP on 7th and an adult plus a second-winter were at Ditchford GP on 9th with a third-winter there on 13th. Ditchford also produced a juvenile Glaucous Gull on 8th and 9th plus a second-winter Iceland Gull on the latter date – which then put in a brief appearance at the Stanwick GP ‘pre-roost’ on 12th – and a juvenile on 13th. The only Yellow-legged Gulls this week were two at Stanwick GP on 8th and five at Ditchford GP the following day with one there on 13th.

Unusually scarce this year, a Ring-necked Parakeet paid a brief visit to a garden in Grange Park, Northampton on 13th, while Harrington Airfield produced two Short-eared Owls on 7th with one there again on 9th and another was at Blueberry Farm also on 7th. What must rank as Northamptonshire’s bird of the century so far (there are 87 years left!) was – if accepted by the British Birds Rarities Committee – the county’s first official record of Hume’s Warbler (but see further comment here), which was reidentified on 7th after being reported as a Yellow-browed Warbler last week, on 6th. The bird remained in residence on private land in north Northants all week and was seen well by numerous local visiting birders on a specially organised tour on 11th.

Hume’s Warbler, north Northants, 11th December 2013 (Jim Almond) www.shropshirebirder.blogspot.co.uk The first for Northamptonshire. Typically duller and plainer looking than Yellow-browed Warbler, lacking the latter’s darker lower border to the supercilium and darker bases to secondaries which, on Yellow-browed, lend contrast to the wing bars and supercilia, giving it a quite different character. Other pro-Hume’s features are the dark legs and bill, the latter with an extensive pale base to the lower mandible only.

Hume’s Warbler, north Northants, 11th December 2013 (Jim Almond) http://www.shropshirebirder.blogspot.co.uk  The first for Northamptonshire. Typically duller and plainer looking than Yellow-browed Warbler, lacking the latter’s darker lower border to the supercilium and darker bases to secondaries which, on Yellow-browed, lend contrast to the wing bars and supercilia, giving it a quite different character. Other pro-Hume’s features are the dark legs and bill, the latter with an extensive pale base to the lower mandible only.

Only one Chiffchaff was reported this week – at Ditchford GP on 9th while the two Stonechats remained at Blueberry Farm all week, Bramblings were seen only at Harrington AF, with a maximum of twelve there on 9th, while several Crossbills were at Pitsford Res on 10th and two at Harlestone Heath on 12th.

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