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

Largely dry conditions prevailed although a strong, northerly airstream was in place on 21st, temporarily displacing the hitherto mild autumn weather and delivering the first local frost of the autumn on 22nd.

A herd of fourteen Whooper Swans flying north over Warmington on 21st was perhaps unsurprising as this village is close to the border with Cambridgeshire where this species regularly winters. At least two Pintails were still at Earls Barton GP on 25th and the same number of Red-crested Pochards at Pitsford Res on 22nd, when there was also a female Scaup there, followed by a first-winter Scaup at Ravensthorpe Res on 24th.

Pintails, Earls Barton GP, 25th November 2015 (Bob Bullock)

Back at Pitsford, the first Smew of the winter – a drake – was found north of the causeway on 23rd, the same site also continuing to host up to four Great White Egrets. Single Great Whites remained at Ravensthorpe Res until at least 25th and at Summer Leys LNR all week.

The second calendar year male Marsh Harrier continued its regular visits to the latter site until 25th, while other scarce raptors included single Merlins at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 22nd and Ravensthorpe Res on 24th and two – possibly three – Peregrines visited Fawsley Park on 25th, attracted to the large Starling roost which is currently building there.

Waders were thin on the ground this week with Golden Plovers reported only from Harrington AF, where there were approximately twenty-five on 21st and sixty-three on 25th while the only Dunlins were singles at Pitsford Res on 22nd and Daventry CP the following day. Pitsford produced the only Redshank, one on 22nd, and one of two Green Sandpipers on the same date, while the other was at Ravensthorpe Res on 25th.  The only Common Snipe were seven at Daventry CP on 23rd and three at Pitsford Res on the same date.

Hot on the heels of the two at Stanford Res last week, a first-winter Kittiwake appeared at Earls Barton GP during the northerly gales of 21st and an adult Mediterranean Gull visited Daventry CP on 23rd. Single Yellow-legged Gulls at Stanford Res on 21st and Daventry CP on 23rd represented the lowest number reported in a long time.

Up to two Short-eared Owls remained at Blueberry Farm until at least 22nd and another was near Little Harrowden on the same date but it is not (yet) looking good for a big shortie winter.

Short-eared Owl, Blueberry Farm, Maidwell, 22nd November 2015 (Simon Wantling)

Short-eared Owl, Blueberry Farm, Maidwell, 22nd November 2015 (Simon Wantling)

Although there have been several around during late autumn, it would now surely be safe to say that single males visiting gardens in Greens Norton on 23rd and Northampton on 25th are Central European Blackcaps which are set to overwinter. How long will it be before they are granted full subspecific status? Another warbler still climbing the ladder to specific rank is Siberian Chiffchaff, two of which were identified this week – one at Ravensthorpe Res on 24th and the other at Pitsford Res the following day, the latter individual likely to have been present since 20th.

Siberian Chiffchaff, Pitsford Res, 25th November 2015 (Bob Bullock)

Up to ten Stonechats remained at Blueberry Farm and two further singles were at Ditchford GP on 22nd and Summer Leys from 24th to 27th. The only Brambling reported was one at Kelmarsh on 22nd.