Rarity Round-up 17th to 23rd December 2016

In the run up to Christmas the week remained mild and largely dry, although it was gloomy, dank and dull for the greater part of the period. The wind direction remained unchanged from last week’s light south to south-westerly airstream. The highlight of the week was the discovery of the largest flock of Eurasian White-fronted Geese locally for nearly twenty years.

The Sywell CP Whooper Swan continued to be reported throughout the period, now seemingly settled and showing all signs of being present for the winter.

Whooper Swan, Sywell CP, 18th December 2016 (Mike Alibone)

Whooper Swan, Sywell CP, 18th December 2016 (Mike Alibone)

On 19th, a flock of twenty-four Eurasian White-fronted Geese was discovered alongside the River Nene, close to the new White Mills Marina, east of Whiston Lock, where they remained all week. While family parties, single-figure flocks and fly-overs are not unusual, this is the largest ‘on the ground’ flock in Northants since December 1998, when up to thirty-eight were present at Ditchford GP. Nevertheless, it remains scarce in the county but not as scarce as Greenland White-fronted Goose, for which there are only four records, in 1981 (2), 1991 and 2009. Another would undoubtedly be appreciated.

Eurasian White-fronted Geese, Whiston, 21st December 2016 (Mike Alibone)

Somewhat overshadowed by the birds at White Mills, another adult Eurasian White-front was found with Canada Geese at Fawsley Park Lakes on 20th and was still present there on 22nd.

Eurasian White-fronted Goose, Fawsley Park, 22nd December 2016 (Angus Molyneux)

In a similar vein to last week the only other wildfowl of note were up to four Red-crested Pochards at Pitsford Res between 18th and 20th, with the two drake Smew still there on 23rd and a ‘redhead’ Smew at Stanford Res from the beginning of the week to 22nd.

The three Great White Egrets remained at Ravensthorpe Res on all week, while ones, twos and, on 20th, three, were reported from Pitsford Res and one was found at Ditchford GP on 18th. On 19th a ‘new’ Slavonian Grebe was discovered north-east of the dam at Pitsford Res, where it was still being seen on 23rd.

Slavonian Grebe, Pitsford Res, 21st December 2016 (Angus Molyneux)

There were no reports of the wintering juvenile male Hen Harrier at Stanford Res this week, although a ‘ringtail’ was seen flying north, close to the A508 at Kelmarsh on 21st. A Curlew at Pitsford Res on 20th was the only notable wader during the period.

All the gull action was restricted to the west of the county where, at Daventry CP, a third-winter Mediterranean Gull was present on 19th and 23rd, followed by an adult and a first-winter in the pre-roost gathering there on 21st, while an adult Caspian Gull was in the roost at Boddington Res on 17th and single first-winters were in fields near Chacombe and at Daventry CP on 23rd.

Third-winter Mediterranean Gull, Daventry CP, 19th December 2016 (Gary Pullan)

Neville’s Lodge, near Finedon, remained the only reliable location to see Short-eared Owl this week, with up to two present there while, not too far to the south, the male

Short-eared Owl, Neville’s Lodge, Finedon, 20th December 2016 (Geof Douglas)

Bearded Tit remained throughout the week along the causeway at Stanwick GP’s A45 Lay-by Pit and a ‘Nordic’ Jackdaw – of which there have been few reports in recent winters – was seen at Bozeat on 18th.