Rarity Round-up 24th to 31st December 2016

The light west to south-westerly airstream continued throughout the eight-day ‘week’ extending the period to fit to the last day of 2016. The weather was generally mild, with slow-clearing thick fog a prominent feature during the latter half of the week. The Christmas highlight for most was the appearance of the first twitchable Waxwings between Boxing Day and the New Year.

The adult Whooper Swan remained at Sywell CP until at least 29th, while at least twenty-three of the twenty-four Eurasian White-fronted Geese were still present by the River Nene at White Mills Marina, Whiston until the year’s end. Also present to 31st were up to four Red-crested Pochards at both Pitsford Res and Stanford Res with the latter site also producing a first-winter Scaup again on 30th, on which date another first-winter was also discovered at Ravensthorpe Res. Arguably, though, wildfowl of the week was the Long-tailed Duck found at Stanford on 27th, remaining there along with the ‘redhead’ Smew until 31st. Last week’s two drake Smew were also still present at Pitsford Res until at least 27th.

Long-tailed Duck, Stanford Res, 27th December 2016 (Chris Hubbard)

Perhaps one of the Stanwick birds relocating, a ‘new’ Bittern was viewable from the hide on Heron Lake at Thrapston GP between 27th and 30th, while Great White Egrets continued to feature throughout with daily reports from Pitsford Res, where four were seen together on 26th and Ravensthorpe Res, where three remained all week, while one was seen at Summer Leys LNR intermittently between 24th and 29th, with two there on 31st.

The Slavonian Grebe present at Pitsford Res from 19th was last seen there on 28th, by which time it had moved closer to Catwalk Bay and, at nearby Scaldwell, the only scarce raptor of the week, a male Merlin, appeared fleetingly on 27th. Similarly, the only uncommon wader during the period was a Jack Snipe at Boddington Res on the same date.

An adult Mediterranean Gull appeared at Stanford Res on 31st, while in the far south-west of the county, near Chacombe, the loafing, mixed gull flock again included a first-winter and second-winter Caspian Gull on 24th and a second-winter and third-winter on 27th. Additionally, a first-winter Caspian was at Pitsford Res on 24th and two – an adult and a third-winter – visited Hollowell Res on 30th.

Short-eared Owl, Neville’s Lodge, Finedon, 29th December 2016 (Martin Swannell)

Short-eared Owl, Neville’s Lodge, Finedon, 29th December 2016 (Martin Swannell)

Neville’s Lodge, near Finedon, again proved a popular draw for observers of Short-eared Owls with four present throughout the period but their popularity was eclipsed by the arrival of the first twitchable Waxwings of the winter. Just one in a Rowan outside the Co-op at Woodford Halse on Boxing Day was enough to scramble birders from as far away as Northampton and Rugby and, although it performed well all day, it had departed by the following morning.

First-winter male Waxwing, Woodford Halse, 26th December 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Hot on its heels came three in Roade on 29th, the number there rapidly growing to ten, which drew a sizeable procession of spectators during their stay into the New Year.

Female Waxwing, Roade, 29th December 2016 (Mike Alibone)

Waxwing, Roade, 30th December 2016 (Alan Coles)

Down in the Nene Valley, the male Bearded Tit remained along the causeway at Stanwick GP’s A45 Lay-by Pit until at least 27th, while four Crossbills were found at Fineshade Wood on 26th.

Male Crossbill, Fineshade Wood, December 2016 (Roger Eads)