A series of fast-moving Atlantic lows whipped up bouts of strong wind and rain throughout the week, resulting in ‘Cuckoo-clock’ trips into the field for many a weekday birder. Established winter visitors largely stayed put and surprise finds were in short supply …
On 10th the four Pink-footed Geese were still with Greylags at Blatherwycke, a first-winter was found at Ditchford GP and the Leicestershire trio, close to Stanford Hall, strayed momentarily into Northants, while the three European White-fronted Geese remained at Pitsford Res until at least 14th. The week’s brace of Pintail were three also there on 13th and two at Stanwick GP and five at Daventry CP on 16th. The two female Red-crested Pochards remained faithful to Stanford Res until at least 11th, as did the drake at Hardingstone GP until 14th, the same date on which five visited Ringstead GP. At Hollowell Res the first-winter drake Scaup remained all week, and the female Ring-necked Duck at Billing GP stayed until 10th before moving fleetingly down the Nene to Stanwick GP on 11th. It has not been seen since. Three sites produced this week’s Smew with the highest numbers being four (two drakes) at Ravensthorpe Res and the same at Stanwick GP and up to two at Pitsford Res.
Surprise of the week was a Red-throated Diver reported from Canons Ashby Lake on 13th before flying off. You will have to look back to 2008 for the last one, which was at Pitsford Res from 28th January to 9th February. Northants appears to be the UK county capital for the most wintering Great White Egrets at present with up to three at Summer Leys, two at Ditchford GP, two at Stanwick GP (likely to be the Ditchford birds) and at least one still at Pitsford Res. Less obvious was the week’s only Bittern, found at Ditchford GP on 10th, while the Slavonian Grebe remained at Pitsford Res until at least 14th.
There were no rare raptors to tickle and tantalise this week but a ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier at Callendar Farm near Naseby was later reported for 9th. The only others were a Merlin near Towcester on 13th and Peregrines at Ditchford GP on 10th and 15th, Lowick on 11th and Higham Ferrers and Pitsford Res on 14th.
Golden Plovers have been thin on the ground so far this winter and there was no improvement in numbers wintering this week with a maximum of just one hundred and twenty at Harrington AF on 16th. Not so for Jack Snipe, however with a single site record of a fabulous fourteen at Barnes Meadow, Northampton on 13th, while just one was at Pitsford Res the following day. Pitsford also produced the highest number Common Snipe – a very respectable one hundred on the same date. Other waders included up to ten Redshanks at Stanwick GP and a Green Sandpiper at Ravensthorpe Res on 11th with two at Pitsford Res on 14th.
Things took a turn for the better on the larid front this week with a juvenile Glaucous Gull appearing in the Stanwick GP pre-roost on 16th, along with an adult Caspian Gull; another adult Caspian was at Stanford Res on 10th, while two Yellow-legged Gulls visited Hollowell Res and Stanford Res roost on 11th and singles were at Pitsford Res on 14th, Ditchford GP and Hollowell again on 15th. Mediterranean Gulls featured as first-winters at Ditchford GP on 10th and Stanford Res on 11th and an adult in the roost at Boddington Res on 14th.
Short-eared Owls remained scarce with just one seen at Harrington AF on 11th and 13th, while up to three Ring-necked Parakeets were still very much in evidence in Abington Park, Northampton throughout the week and still proving popular was the Great Grey Shrike at Burn Coppice, Deenethorpe until at least 14th.
Worth a mention is Daventry CP’s first-ever Cetti’s Warbler on 12th but there were only two reports of Chiffchaffs, with ten counted at Ditchford GP on 10th and one at Stanwick GP on 14th. Similarly, Central European Blackcaps went under-recorded with one in a Byfield garden on 11th and two in East Hunsbury, Northampton the following day.
Up to two Stonechats continued to be seen throughout the week at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell, Ditchford GP, Hollowell Res, Pitsford Res and Thrapston GP.