The Week in Focus: 5th to 11th December 2015

Strong south-westerly winds dominated the first two days of the period as ‘Storm Desmond’ dumped significant rain on northern Britain, leaving the Midlands relatively unscathed. The following five days saw sporadic rain and continuing above average temperatures, albeit lower than those of the previous week.

Three Pink-footed Geese flew east over Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 5th; none has yet been found on the ground so far this winter. The Pitsford Ruddy Shelduck was seen twice – on 9th and 11th and the same site hosted up to four Pintails on 6th, while two were seen flying over Burton Latimer on 11th. Stanford Res produced the week’s only Red-crested Pochard – a female on 5th, along with last week’s first-winter Scaup, still present on the same date, and Pitsford Res’s drake Smew reappeared on 6th and was later joined by a ‘redhead’ from 9th.

Smew, Pitsford Res, 9th December 2015 (Clive Bowley)

Pitsford also continued to hold up to two – possibly three – mobile Great White Egrets throughout the period, while singles remained at Summer Leys LNR until at least 7th and at Ravensthorpe Res until 8th. The first in the county this year, a Red-necked Grebe just off the dam at Pitsford was a nice end of week find on 11th and will hopefully remain for birders to catch up with over the weekend.

Red-necked Grebe, Pitsford Res, 11th December 2015 (Bob Bullock)

Showing no signs of departing any time soon, the second calendar year male Marsh Harrier remained in the Summer Leys area until at least 9th but no other scarce raptors were reported during the week.

Second calendar year male Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 9th December 2015 (Clive Bowley)

Approximately one thousand Golden Plovers at Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR on 6th represents the best count for this species so far this autumn, while the only other record for the week was eleven at Pitsford Res. The only Redshanks were one at Pitsford Res on 6th and six at Stanwick GP on 8th, while up to two Green Sandpipers were Daventry CP on 5th, singles were at Ravensthorpe Res on 5th and 8th and two were at Pitsford Res on 6th. Twenty-one Common Snipe were counted at Pitsford Res on 6th and two were at Ravensthorpe Res on 8th.

Scarce gulls were few and far between this week and included a first-winter Mediterranean Gull at Daventry CP on 5th, adult Caspian Gulls again it the gull roost at Pitsford Res on 5th and 9th and another adult at Daventry CP on 10th and a Yellow-legged Gull at Stanwick GP on 8th.

Four localities produced this week’s Short-eared Owls which comprised singles at Stanford Res, Harrington AF and in the Brampton Valley on 7th plus one at Stanwick GP the following day. Central European Blackcaps visited gardens in Maidwell on 6th, Wellingborough on 7th (two) and Duston, Northampton on 8th but of more interest was a Lesser Whitethroat – possibly of eastern origin – in a garden at Adstone on 11th. Two Stonechats remained at Blueberry Farm, two were nearby in the Brampton Valley and one was at Summer Leys on 8th-9th, while the only Bramblings reported were three at

Stonechat, Summer Leys LNR, 9th December 2015 (Bob Bullock)

Stanford Res on 5th and singles at Pitsford Res and Guilsborough on 6th and 10th respectively. Between seven and ten Crossbills were seen near the dam at Pitsford Res on 7th.