Short Week in Focus: 19th to 24th December 2015

The period saw a slight drop in temperature accompanying largely wet and blustery conditions, still backed by a south-westerly Atlantic airstream, still effectively blocking arrivals of numbers of wildfowl – and other potentially interesting species – from the east.No longer site faithful, the Pitsford Ruddy Shelduck went on vacation to Sywell CP

Ruddy Shelduck, Sywell CP, 20th December 2015 (Charlie Bridgeford)

on 20th, leaving behind the drake and ‘redhead’ Smew in Holcot Bay until at least 23rd, while another drake Smew was discovered at Stanford Res on 21st and another at Earls Barton GP on 24th. Meanwhile, the juvenile Great Northern Diver remained throughout on the watersports pit at Ditchford GP

and last week’s Great White Egret was also still there on Viaduct Pit on 20th. Other long-staying Great White Egrets were one at Ravensthorpe Res and up to two still at Pitsford Res during the period. This week also saw the discovery of another Bittern – this time at Stanwick GP on 20th. The Red-necked Grebe remained off the dam at Pitsford Res until at least 20th, although it’s still likely to be present there. Is anyone looking?

Red-necked Grebe, Pitsford Res, 20th December 2015 (Martin Swannell)

This week’s raptors included the long-staying second calendar year male Marsh Harrier at Summer Leys LNR on 19th and an unidentified harrier species south of Broughton the following day, while single Peregrines were at Buckby Wharf on 19th and Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 21st, the latter site producing a Merlin on the same date and another Merlin was seen at Ditchford GP on 23rd.

Just two reports of Golden Plovers this week included ‘many’ at Summer Leys on 19th and in excess of one thousand between Yardley Gobion and Potterspury on 21st, the latter having been present in the area for the last six weeks. The only Redshanks were again the one at Pitsford Res on 19th and another at Wicksteed Park Lake on 22nd, while single Green Sandpipers were at both Daventry CP and Ravensthorpe Res on 19th and Pitsford Res from 20th to 23rd, with two there on 21st.

Winter gulling has not really got underway this year and the closure of Sidegate Landfill last January will no doubt have a severe impact on gulls visiting previously favoured roost sites in the Nene valley. Nevertheless, the Pitsford Res roost produced an adult Mediterranean Gull on 21st, while earlier in the day the same site produced a third-winter Caspian Gull and a first-winter Caspian visited Stanford Res on the same date.

Third-winter Caspian Gull, Pitsford Res, 21st December 2015 (Jacob Spinks)

Third-winter Caspian Gull, Pitsford Res, 21st December 2015 (Jacob Spinks)

North of Pitsford, a Short-eared Owl was again at Harrington AF on 21st, while the bird in the set-aside area, east of the feeder stream at Stanford Res, was still present on 23rd. On the passerine front there were single Stonechats at Summer Leys on 19th and

Ditchford GP the following day, while the usual handful of Central European Blackcaps lingered in some of the county’s favoured gardens, with a new male visiting an East Hunsbury (Northampton) garden on 20th – the same garden also producing what appears to be the county’s only 2015 Mealy Redpoll from 19th to 24th.