The Week in Focus: 14th to 20th December 2013

The weather remained mixed and temperatures unseasonally high throughout the period, with a low pressure system centred just north of the UK bringing gale force west to south-westerly winds toward the week’s end. Another potential first for Northants was discovered on 14th, subsequently proving elusive.

Two Egyptian Geese were at Ditchford GP on 19th with a drake Red-crested Pochard there at the same time, while eight of the latter species were found at Ravensthorpe Res on 14th and eleven were still at Pitsford Res on 17th. The drake Scaup remained at Ditchford GP all week while another was discovered at Pitsford Res on 15th and was still present there on 18th and the three Long-tailed Ducks – now qualifying as ‘long stayers’ – remained on Mary’s Lake at Earls Barton GP all week. At the beginning of the period, six Smew (two drakes) were at Pitsford Res and two ‘redheads’ were found at Ditchford GP on 19th while Goosanders were reported from just three localities.

New in this week was a juvenile Great Northern Diver at Pitsford Res from 15th to 20th, occasionally posing well for photographers but remaining elusive for some would-be observers.

Juvenile Great Northern Diver, Pitsford Res, 20th December 2013 (Bob Bullock)
Juvenile Great Northern Diver, Pitsford Res, 20th December 2013 (Bob Bullock)

Up to three Great White Egrets remained at the same locality and another visited Summer Leys LNR on 15th and 17th. The only Merlin of the week was a male at Pitsford Res on 17th, while Peregrines were seen in the Brampton Valley on 16th and at Pitsford Res on 16th and 18th.

The same waders as last week’s were still around, including the early returning Oystercatcher at Stanwick GP on 15th-19th, the Pitsford Black-tailed Godwit reappearing on 15th, up to four Redshanks at the same locality throughout the week with seven at Stanwick GP on 19th and single Green Sandpipers at Pitsford Res on 16th and 18th and at Ditchford GP on 19th.

Ditchford GP was also the place to be for gulls this week, producing a potential County first in the shape of a probable second-winter American Herring Gull, which was found on the Watersports Pit late on 14th, reappearing there briefly the following day. The supporting cast comprised up to six different Caspian Gulls on various dates, a juvenile Glaucous Gull on 15th, 16th and 18th, a second-winter Iceland Gull on 16th and 18th and a juvenile on 19th plus three to five Yellow-legged Gulls and, for good measure, two

Juvenile Iceland Gull, Ditchford GP, 19th December 2013 (John Friendship-Taylor)
Juvenile Iceland Gull, Ditchford GP, 19th December 2013 (John Friendship-Taylor)

Glaucous x Herring Gull hybrids on 16th. Another Glaucous Gull was seen flying west at Thrapston GP’s Town Walk on 14th, while up to two adult and second-winter Caspian Gulls were at Stanwick GP between 15th and 19th, where there was also a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull on 17th.

At least one Short-eared Owl remained at Blueberry Farm on 17th and the Hume’s Warbler remained in residence on private land in north Northants all week, while Chiffchaffs were reported from Ecton SF, Ditchford GP, Kelmarsh, Pitsford Res and Stanwick GP with a maximum of three at the first of these localities on 14th. A single male Blackcap visited a garden in Kettering on 17th, two Stonechats were still at Blueberry Farm on 14th and 17th and a Water Pipit – locally very scarce this year – was located at Ditchford GP on 19th. Bramblings were seen only at Kelmarsh and Harrington AF, with a maximum of twelve at the latter site on 17th, while six Crossbills visited Brixworth CP on 18th, two were nearby at Pitsford Res and at least two at Sywell CP – both on 20th.

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