Two Weeks in Focus, 5th to 18th November 2016

A topsy-turvy weather pattern ensued over the period, with temperatures oscillating between 18ºC at the mid-point and freezing. Winds were similarly variable – a cold north-easterly persisted in the early part of the first week before swinging southerly and then westerly at the period’s end. For the third week running another flyover Gannet was logged before birding took on a decidedly wintry feel with more traditional fare arriving from all points north.

The first of those winter birds were Whooper Swans although, true to form at this time of the year, none lingered. The first was a loner which appeared at Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR on the afternoon of 12th but it had departed by the next day and this was then followed by seven, including two juveniles, at Stanford Res on 18th, all of which were seen to fly off east during the late afternoon of the same day.

Whooper Swans, Stanford Res, 18th November 2016 (Alan Coles)

Whooper Swans, Stanford Res, 18th November 2016 (Martin Dove)

Whooper Swan, Stanford Res, 18th November 2016 (Chris Hubbard)

Similarly short-staying were four Dark-bellied Brent Geese, including one juvenile, at Hollowell Res on 9th. Pitsford Res produced the highest Pintail count of at least twenty on 8th while Daventry CP, Earls Barton GP, Ravensthorpe Res and Stanford Res mustered just one or two birds each. Pitsford also held the highest number of Red-crested Pochards with a maximum of at least twelve on 16th while Ditchford GP and Stanford

Red-crested Pochard, Ditchford GP, 13th November 2016 (Simon Hales)

Res both managed to produce a drake a piece and one of Stanford’s three Scaup still present on 6th, remained until 13th. Five more Scaup – all first-winters – were discovered at Pitsford Res on 6th all of which remained until 13th, with at least three lingering until 17th.

Female Scaup, Stanford Res, 5th November 2016 (Chris Hubbard)

An apparent adult Great Northern Diver at Pitsford Res on 11th was a typical November record for this species. What was not typical, however, was its short stay of just two days as well as its age, as the majority visiting the county in autumn/winter are juveniles/first-winters. Following this, an unidentified diver species was seen flying over Clifford Hill GP toward Hardingstone GP late on 16th, although efforts to relocate it the next day went unrewarded.

Great Northern Diver, Pitsford Res, 12th November 2016 (Adrian Borley)

Yet another juvenile Gannet was logged, this time flying west over Daventry CP on 7th – the third in the county in as many weeks. Two Bitterns were also seen – one in flight at Stanwick GP on 11th and the other in front of Thrapston GP’s Kirby Hide two days later,

Bittern, Stanwick GP, 10th November 2016 (Steve Fisher)

while Pitsford continued to host multiple Great White Egrets throughout the period, peaking at five on 17th. This species was also recorded from Ravensthorpe/Hollowell Reservoirs, at which one was present between 6th and 18th and from Summer Leys LNR, where a one-day bird dropped in on 11th.

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 11th November 2016 (Alan Coles)

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 11th November 2016 (Mark Tyrrell)

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 11th November 2016 (Stuart Mundy)

Three Slavonian Grebes appeared on 14th, one at Thrapston GP – which remained until the end of the period, and two at Ravensthorpe Res, which had departed by the fiollowing day. The raptor highlight of the period was undoubtedly the ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier which was first seen at Stanford Res on 13th and then again on 17th and 18th; a post-dawn early morning vigil where the disused railway track crosses the road near the settling pond provides the best chance of connecting with it. In addition to that, a Merlin was in the same area on 18th and Peregrines were recorded from eight localities throughout the period.

Juvenile Peregrine, probably male, Pitsford Res, 11th November 2016 (Clive Bowley)

Golden Plover numbers continued to build, with five sites producing counts, the highest of which was two hundred and forty-four at Daventry CP on 15th. A Curlew – unusual in November – visited Summer Leys on 14th and, equally surprising, Dunlins appeared at five localities with singles at Daventry CP and Stanwick GP, 2 at Hollowell Res, four at Summer Leys and up to five at Pitsford Res. Green Sandpipers continued to be recorded throughout the period from Daventry CP (producing the maximum of four on 15th), Deene Lake, Ditchford GP, Naseby Res, Pitsford Res, Ravensthorpe Res and Stanford Res, while Redshanks remained scarce with singles at Pitsford between 8th and 17th and at Ditchford GP on 18th.

Redshank, Pitsford Res, 16th November 2016 (Alan Francis)

Three Jack Snipe at Ditchford GP on 16th was the only record during the period, while single-figure counts of Common Snipe were made at Brixworth SWT, Deene Lake, Ditchford GP and Hollowell Res although Pitsford Res made it into double-figures with twelve there on 8th.

Three reservoirs produced Caspian Gulls. At Hollowell Res, single adults were present on 9th and 15th, at Boddington Res roost, an adult was present on 13th, a second-winter the next day and an adult and a third-winter visited on 18th and at Pitsford Res an adult was present on 14th. The usual adult Yellow-legged Gull was at Pitsford Res between 6th and 11th, one visited Summer Leys LNR on 13th and, at Boddington Res, five on 13th, one on 14th and three on 18th.

Short-eared Owls have been thin on the ground so far this autumn, with Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) hosting one on 8th-9th and 17th, while one was seen at Harrington AF on 13th. Scarce passerines reported include a Firecrest at Ravensthorpe Res on 12th and one or two Bearded Tits at Stanwick GP’s A45 Lay-by Pit, daily, between 6th and 12th with two at Summer Leys again on 13th.

Male Bearded Tit, Stanwick GP, 8th November 2016 (Steve Fisher)

The third Yellow-browed Warbler of the autumn – and equally as fleeting and elusive as the previous two – was at Stanwick GP on 10th, the same date that a Siberian Chiffchaff was found in the same area, the latter remaining in the same strip of trees and bushes until at least the following day. As a scarce winter visitor it may still be in the area. Another winter warbler – Central European Blackcap – was seen on 13th, when a male was at Pitsford Res and a foretaste of things hopefully to come later this winter was provided by the first Waxwing, at Hanging Houghton on 8th, followed by further reports the same day of eight over Blueberry Farm/Brampton Valley and several, heard only, in Brixworth. On 12th, five flew over Pitsford Res and five – perhaps the same – were seen in flight over Pitsford Quarry the next day, when six were also briefly in Kingsthorpe (Northampton) and approximately ten flew over Cranford, followed by eight at Brixworth CP on 14th. Stonechats continued to be reported from eight localities and small numbers of Bramblings from nine, while a single Crossbill flew over Pitsford Res on 13th and two were reported from Harlestone Heath the following day.