The Week in Focus: 21st to 27th February 2015

No drama. This applies to both weather and birds this week, during which everything appears to have come to a painful standstill. Hopefully it’s the calm before the storm. Next week it’s March and that first Wheatear can’t be far away …

The rarely there Pink-footed Goose paid one of its brief visits to Ravensthorpe Res on 25th, while at Pitsford Res the three European White-fronted Geese remained all week, as did the two Ruddy Shelducks and the drake Pintail was still there on 22nd.

First-winter European White-fronted Goose, Pitsford Res, 22nd February 2015 (Mike Alibone)
First-winter European White-fronted Goose, Pitsford Res, 22nd February 2015 (Mike Alibone)

Up to five Red-crested Pochards were still being seen at Ringstead GP throughout the period, while the ‘redhead’ Smew at Stortons GP was joined there by a second one from 22nd to 25th, three to five were at Pitsford Res on 23rd with five (three drakes) at Ravensthorpe Res the next day and up to three remained at Stanwick GP to 26th.

Compared to last week, the number of Great White Egrets was down with just one at Ditchford GP on 21st and two at Summer Leys LNR on the same date, followed by singles there on 22nd and 25th. Similarly, raptor records were restricted to single Peregrines at Hanging Houghton on 21st and Higham Ferrers on 26th.

Waders were also at a low ebb with Golden Plovers numbering sixty-five at Kelmarsh on 22nd, seventy-five at Hollowell Res on 25th and approximately one hundred at Hellidon on 27th. In addition to these, two Common Snipe were at Moulton Quarry on 27th and a Curlew visited Stanwick GP on 26th. The week’s rare gulls were limited to two adult Caspian Gulls at Rushton Landfill on 22nd and a Yellow-legged Gull at Stanwick GP on 24th with two at Hollowell Res on 25th.

Wintering Chiffchaff numbers held up with at least twelve along the outflow stream at Ecton SF on 23rd and eleven around Broadholme SWT, Ditchford GP the following day. A male and female Central European Blackcap frequented a garden in Byfield during the week while Stonechats were seen between Deenethorpe and Benefield, at Hollowell Res, Pitsford Res and Blueberry Farm (Maidwell), with a maximum of four at the latter site on 23rd and 25th.

The Yardley ‘Rough-leg’

A couple of weeks ago there was a report of a ‘probable’  Rough-legged Buzzard flying across the A428 between Yardley Hastings and Denton in the direction of Yardley Chase. There appears to have been no further reports – until yesterday, that is. Thanks to Graham Bentley we now have some nice images. And here it is.

Common Buzzard, near Yardley Hastings, 25th February 2015 (Graham Bentley)
Common Buzzard, near Yardley Hastings, 25th February 2015 (Graham Bentley)

A Common Buzzard at the pale end of the colour morph spectrum. A stunning-looking individual with white underparts, a wholly whitish tail and virtually no dark carpal patches. This looks very much like one I saw in the same area about ten years ago, so likely to be the same bird. If so, where has it been all this time … ?

The Week in Focus: 14th to 20th February 2015

With no dramatic Atlantic systems on the horizon, calm and uneventful was the order of the week as far as the weather was concerned. In fact it was positively spring-like for a couple of days, all of which did little to usher in any stunningly new arrivals.

At Pitsford Res the three European White-fronted Geese remained all week, as did the two Ruddy Shelducks and a single drake Pintail was also present on 18th.

MA White-front Video Caption The two female Red-crested Pochards were still at Stanford Res on 15th at least with five again at Ringstead GP two days later and the long-staying first-winter drake Scaup seemed settled at Ravensthorpe Res on 14th-15th. The female Ring-necked Duck was back at Billing GP on 14th, although access restrictions and difficult viewing conditions at this site may mean it was present beyond this date. At least one Smew remained at Ravensthorpe Res on 17th, up to four were at Stanwick GP all week and three were at Pitsford Res on 14th.

RND DBJ Video CaptionIn the Nene Valley, Great White Egrets were present all week, being recorded in ones, twos and threes from Thrapston GP, Ditchford GP and Summer Leys LNR respectively but movement of individuals between sites made it almost impossible to assess just how many birds were present – until 20th, that is, when a record five were together at the latter of the three locations. With one still at Pitsford Res on 15th and 17th it is highly likely there were at least six in the county this week.

Great White Egrets, Summer leys LNR, 20th February 2015 (Stuart Mundy). Four of the five present at this site on this date.
Great White Egrets, Summer Leys LNR, 20th February 2015 (Stuart Mundy). Four of the five present at this site on this date.

Another poor week for raptors saw single Merlins at Stanford Res on 15th and again at Deenethorpe AF on the same date, while a Peregrine at Higham Ferrers was the only one reported during the period.

Waders were again in short supply with just six Golden Plovers over Ravensthorpe Res on 14th, fifteen at Harrington AF on the same date with 65 there and 300 at Summer Leys on 20th, while the same date saw one or two Jack Snipe at Barnes Meadow (Northampton) and one at Hollowell Res. Single-figure counts of Common Snipe came from Barnes Meadow, Moulton Quarry and Summer Leys but 15+ were at Stanwick GP on 20th, nine Redshanks were still at Stanwick GP on 15th and one visited Summer Leys LNR on 19th while a Green Sandpiper was also at Stanwick GP on 14th.

An unconfirmed report of an adult Iceland Gull in the roost at Pitsford Res on 19th remained exactly that (it would be the first of this species at this locality for many years), while the only Yellow-legged Gull was an adult at Stanford Res on 14th. A Common Gull showing characteristics of the race heinei was present in the Pitsford roost on 20th.

Up at Deenethorpe the Great Grey Shrike continued to be seen at Burn Coppice until at least 17th, although it appears to have taken up a position further away from the road, becoming more difficult to see well. Rumours of argy-bargy with the landowner have recently emerged so pursuing it across the fields is probably not the best course of action to take in attempting to obtain better views … The outflow stream at Ecton SF continues to hold good numbers of wintering Chiffchaffs with ten counted there on 14th, although the chances of their being joined by a tristis are now looking very slim indeed; elsewhere, single Chiffchaffs were at Stanford Res on 14th and Stanwick GP the following day. Other wintering passerines of note were single female Central European Blackcaps in gardens in East Hunsbury (Northampton) throughout and three Stonechats at Hollowell Res on 14th, two at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) on the same date, with four there on 20th, and two at Thrapston GP on 27th.

The Week in Focus: 7th to 13th February 2015

A slow moving high pressure system resulted in calm conditions throughout much of the week with an almost stationary blanket of cloud for the latter half. Signs of early spring were evident in the return of Oystercatchers to favoured Nene Valley locations and a number of species in full song.

A solitary Pink-footed Goose visited Ravensthorpe Res on 9th, while the three European White-fronted Geese remained all week at Pitsford Res, where the two Ruddy Shelducks were also present until at least 9th. Two Pintails visited Summer Leys LNR on 7th-8th and the two female Red-crested Pochards were still at Stanford Res at the same time, while single drakes remained at Hardingstone GP to 7th and Wicksteed Park Lake to 10th, with three again at Ringstead GP on 13th. The long-staying first-winter drake Scaup continued to commute between Ravensthorpe Res and Hollowell Res throughout the week but most noteworthy was the surprise reappearance of the female Ring-necked Duck – this time at Clifford Hill GP – on 11th. It is likely, of course, that it had been commuting between here and its much favoured locality of Billing GP during its apparent absence. Meanwhile, three Smew remained at Ravensthorpe Res, three at Stanwick GP and one at Stortons GP, with three or four at Pitsford Res on 13th.

Smew, Ravensthorpe Res, 8th February 2015 (Bob Bullock)
Smew, Ravensthorpe Res, 8th February 2015 (Bob Bullock)
Smew, Ravensthorpe Res, 8th February 2015 (Bob Bullock)
Smew, Ravensthorpe Res, 8th February 2015 (Bob Bullock)

Great White Egrets were again absent from the latter site but singles were seen on and off all week at Summer Leys LNR and Ditchford GP with all reports perhaps just relating to a single mobile individual.

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 7th February (Adrian Borley)
Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 7th February (Adrian Borley)

Raptors again maintained a low profile with just one Merlin again at Deenethorpe AF on 8th and twos of Peregrine at Rushden on 9th and Ditchford GP on 12th with one also at Pitsford Res the following day.

Apart from five at Stanford Res on 9th and three over Pitsford Res on 13th, a count of just two hundred at Sywell CP on 9th constituted the only other record and the maximum figure for Golden Plover this week; where are they all this winter? The only Jack Snipe were found at Hollowell Res, Pitsford Res and Barnes Meadow (Northampton), where the highest count was five or six on 7th, while Common Snipe were found at Stanwick GP, Summer Leys LNR, Hollowell Res, Stanford Res and Pitsford Res, with a top total of fifty-nine at the latter locality on 13th. Just one Redshank was at Summer Leys LNR on 7th-8th while nine were counted at Stanwick GP the following day and a Curlew at Ditchford GP on 12th hinted of better things to come.

Scare larids included a first-winter Mediterranean Gull at Pitsford Res on 13th, adult Caspian Gulls at Stanford Res on 7th and at Ditchford GP on 12th – the latter accompanied by a first-winter the next day, while the same site held two Yellow-legged Gulls and this species was also seen at Hollowell Res and Stanwick GP.  Now present for six weeks, the Great Grey Shrike at Burn Coppice, Deenethorpe continued to be seen

Great Grey Shrike, Burn Coppice, Deenethorpe, 8th February 2015 (Adrian Borley)
Great Grey Shrike, Burn Coppice, Deenethorpe, 8th February 2015 (Adrian Borley)

daily, there was just one report of Chiffchaffs near Brixworth on 8th, while three Central European Blackcaps were in a garden in Raunds and one in a Thrapston garden on 9th.

Central European Blackcap, Thrapston, 9th February 2015 (David Holden)
Central European Blackcap, Thrapston, 9th February 2015 (David Holden)

This week’s wintering Stonechats included one at Pitsford Res, two at Hollowell Res and up to four at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell).

 

The Week in Focus: 31st January to 6th February 2015

A very uneventful week weatherwise with odd, settling snow flurries which didn’t linger and cold easterlies to finish.

The four Pink-footed Geese were still at Blatherwycke Lake on 31st and another visited Stanwick GP the next day while the three European White-fronted Geese continued to be seen at Pitsford Res until at least 1st. Back on the scene this week were the two Ruddy Shelducks at the same locality after an apparent prolonged absence and a drake Pintail visited Summer leys LNR on 5th. The two female Red-crested Pochards were still at Stanford Res on 1st and single drakes were at Wicksteed Park Lake on 31st to 6th and Hardingstone GP on 2nd.

Drake Red-crested Pochard, Hardingstone GP, 3rd February 2015 (Mike Alibone)
Drake Red-crested Pochard, Hardingstone GP, 3rd February 2015 (Mike Alibone)

The long-staying first-winter drake Scaup continued to move erratically between Ravensthorpe Res and Hollowell Res all week. The early part of the week saw four Smew still present at Ravensthorpe Res and four were also at Pitsford Res and Stanwick GP, the latter being joined by a fifth on 2nd, while the lone ‘redhead’ remained at Stortons GP all week.

Smew, Ravensthorpe Res, 1st February 2015 (Simon Hales)
Smew, Ravensthorpe Res, 1st February 2015 (Simon Hales)

This week’s catch of Great White Egrets comprised three at Summer Leys LNR on 31st with one there on 5th-6th and another – or one of the same – at Ditchford GP on 1st

Capture1and few raptors were reported with just single Merlins at Pitsford Res on 1st and Deenethorpe on 6th and Peregrines at Daventry on 2nd and Higham Ferrers on 4th.

Small numbers of Golden Plovers were reported and the only Jack Snipe were two at Hollowell Res on 2nd and two Pitsford Res on 4th, while less than double-figure counts of Common Snipe came from Stanwick GP, Stanford Res, Pitsford Res and Brixworth. Four Redshanks were at Stanwick GP on 31st and 6 were at Ditchford GP on 4th-5th  along with three Green Sandpipers.

Gulls provided some interest this week in the shape of an adult Ring-billed x Lesser Black-backed hybrid in the Boddington Res gull roost on 2nd, otherwise a first-winter. Mediterranean Gull visited the Pitsford roost on 31st and an adult Glaucous Gull was found the Ditchford GP’s famous Viaduct Pit the next day. Caspian Gulls continued to be seen at Stanwick GP with an adult on 31st followed by a first-winter next day and the usual ones and twos of adult Yellow-legged Gulls lingered at both the latter locality and at Hollowell Res.

Continuing to draw a trickle of admirers, the Great Grey Shrike at Burn Coppice, Deenethorpe remained and appeared to be joined by another on 4th.

CaptureThere were fewer reports of Chiffchaffs this week with just one or two at Brixworth on 2nd and three at Ditchford GP on 4th, while single Central European Blackcaps were in gardens at Wootton on 31st and Byfield on 2nd and the only Stonechats were three at Hollowell Res on 2nd. Bramblings, however, came to the fore with singles in gardens in Wooton and Hanging Houghton and two at Harrington Airfield on 2nd.