The Week in Focus: 12th to 18th December 2015

Bolstered by winds from the south-west and again largely dry, the unseasonally mild weather continued throughout the week, with this month on course to enter the record books as the mildest December for seventy years, if not the mildest ever.

Three Bewick’s Swans flew west over Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 12th and two – which appeared to be a pair – arrived in Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Res, four days later, on 16th. In decline, it is now a rare visitor to the county, with wintering flocks regularly exceeding sixty at this site in the 1970s now sadly consigned to history. An exciting new conservation initiative for this species will be announced by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust next week.

Bewick's Swans, Pitsford Res, 16th December 2015 (Bob Bullock)
Bewick’s Swans, Pitsford Res, 16th December 2015 (Bob Bullock)

The Pitsford Ruddy Shelduck was still present on 16th and same site held six Pintails on the same date. Stanford Res again produced the week’s only Red-crested Pochard – a male on 13th, with the first-winter Scaup still present on the same date, and Pitsford Res’s drake Smew still on site on 14th.

After two uncharacteristically short-stayers, it would have been surprising if the larger part of the winter had passed by diverless so the discovery of another juvenile Great Northern at Ditchford GP on 13th was welcomed, if not entirely unexpected, as it remained throughout the week.

Juvenile Great Northern Diver, Ditchford GP, 14th December 2015 (Bob Bullock)
Juvenile Great Northern Diver, Ditchford GP, 14th December 2015 (Bob Bullock)

Also remaining were up to two Great White Egrets at Pitsford Res, one at Ravensthorpe Res and another in the mid-Nene Valley, which visited Wellingborough on 14th, Ditchford GP on 17th and Summer Leys LNR the following day. By comparison, Bittern is a ‘rarity’, with only one being seen at the regular wintering site of Stortons GP on 16th. The Red-necked Grebe, discovered at Pitsford Res at the end of last week, appeared settled, remaining just off the dam, by the overflow, throughout. However, it has a long way to go to equal the length of stay of the second calendar year male Marsh Harrier which was still in the Summer Leys area at the end of the week. The only other raptors on the radar during the period were Peregrines at Ditchford GP on 13th, Daventry CP on 14th (two) and Higham Ferrers on 18th.

Golden Plovers counts this week were restricted to approximately five hundred between Pitsford Res and Sywell Airfield on 16th and the same number at Summer Leys two days later. The only Redshank was again one at Pitsford Res on 12th with three Green Sandpipers there on 16th and up to two at Ravensthorpe Res on 14th-18th. Two Common Snipes were also at Ravensthorpe Res on 15th and 18th and a Curlew visited Pitsford Res the following day.

This week’s rare larids were represented by adult Caspian Gulls at Stanford Res on 13th and Pitsford Res on 14th with a first-winter at Daventry CP the following day and the only Yellow-legged Gulls were single adults at Daventry CP and Ravensthorpe Res on 14th and 15th respectively.

Female Central European Blackcap, Sywell, 15th December 2015 (Jim Dunkley)
Female Central European Blackcap, Sywell, 15th December 2015 (Jim Dunkley)

Two Short-eared Owls remained into the week at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell while the bird in the set-aside area, east of the feeder stream at Stanford Res, continued to be reported almost daily and was joined by another there on 16th. Feeding on halved apples and fatballs, Central European Blackcaps visited gardens in Barton Seagrave, Corby, Sywell and Wellingborough, while a Siberian Chiffchaff was found with Chiffchaffs along the outfall stream at Ecton SF on 14th and the only Stonechats reported were two at Ditchford GP on 13th and one at Thrapston GP on 18th.

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