The first week of the review period saw the coldest overnight temperatures of the autumn so far, with temperatures resulting from a northerly airstream falling to well below freezing on several occasions. The second week saw a swing to the west with daytime temperatures having hit the low teens by the period’s end. The spotlight fell firmly on wildfowl with the appearance of both species of wild swan constituting the highlight for those who managed to catch up with them.
First up were two adult Bewick’s Swans, which dropped into Summer Leys on 26th, remaining there for the afternoon only, and these were quickly followed by another one-day bird at Daventry CP, three days later, on 29th.
Also on 29th, a first-winter Whooper Swan was found at Stanford Res but it too, like the Bewick’s, remained for just one day. On 3rd, however, another Whooper was found – this time an adult at Sywell CP and, on this occasion, it remained until at least 8th.
Shorter-staying than any of the above, though, was an adult Dark-bellied Brent Goose, which was found at Clifford Hill GP on 26th but had disappeared within a couple of hours of its discovery. At Pitsford Res, two Red-crested Pochards were present between 29th and 2nd and three out of five relatively long-staying first-winter Scaups were still there on 30th, with at least one remaining until 7th. Stanford Res also continued to hold on to its Scaup – well, one of them at least – until 3rd, with some debate as to age and sex.
The same site also produced three female or first-winter Common Scoters on 27th and, back at Pitsford, another was found the following day.
Staying with the maritime theme, and locally scarcer than any of the above, a female Long-tailed Duck was discovered on Mary’s Lake at Earls Barton GP on 29th but it had gone by the following day.
Up to three ‘redhead’ Smew arrived and were at Pitsford on 26th-29th, followed by a drake there between 3rd and 8th.
Bitterns featured at Stanwick GP during the period with one coming in to roost in the reedbed there, between16.00 and 16.30 almost nightly, from 1st to 8th and two present on 2nd. Four localities produced Great White Egrets this week with a minimum of two north of the causeway at Pitsford Res daily, although three or four were reported there on 29th. Ravensthorpe Res is now clearly being favoured by this species with records daily and three there on several dates between 27th and the end of the period, although it’s likely there is some commuting between there and Pitsford Res. Two Slavonian Grebes were found at Clifford Hill GP on 26th, remaining in the north-west corner of the main barrage lake where they were on view until 3rd.
Favouring the disused railway track and small area of set-aside east of Stanford Res, the wintering juvenile male Hen Harrier continued to be seen regularly between 26th and 6th and a Merlin was again present there on 9th, with another reported from the Brampton Valley area on 28th.
December is normally the first month of the winter in which white-winged gulls are found locally but this has not yet been the case. A single first-winter Mediterranean Gull at Hollowell Res on 9th with Caspian Gulls there on the same date and on 26th – plus two at Pitsford Res on 27th and one again on 3rd – reflects the current paucity of wintering scarce Larids in Northants.
Short-eared Owls continued to be seen in the late afternoons at Neville’s Lodge, Finedon, with two on 27th, one on 29th and three on show on 8th while, elsewhere, singles were at Borough Hill on 26th, Sywell CP on 27th, in the Brampton Valley/Blueberry Farm area on 28th and 1st and at Harrington AF on 29th. The male Bearded Tit continued its presence throughout at Stanwick GP’s A45 Lay-by Pit, where it remained mobile along the causeway but at the same time occasionally providing remarkably close views.
The only other passerines of note during the period were two Waxwings which flew south over Harrington AF on 26th.