The beginning of the week was marked by a shift in the wind direction with a more northerly vector, bringing with it lower daytime, and sub-zero overnight, temperatures with associated heavy frosts. The conditions did not produce anything dramatic beyond a few new and scarce wildfowl, while local Short-eared Owls and Waxwings continued to prove popular attractions.
The 5th brought five adult Bewick’s Swans to Pitsford Res, albeit fleetingly as they were picked up flying south over the dam. Veteran local birders will recall the time when this species was a fairly common visitor, with Pitsford annually holding flocks of between sixty and seventy individuals from late October well into the winter months.
Conversely, the adult Whooper Swan remained at Sywell CP all week, while the Eurasian White-fronted Geese – now down to twenty-three – became much more mobile, being seen to fly off from White Mills Marina, Whiston on 2nd, arriving shortly afterwards at Clifford Hill GP. The following morning they visited the main lake at Summer Leys LNR before relocating to nearby fields alongside the River Nene, below Great Doddington, where they remained until at least 4th. Two adult White-fronts also visited Pitsford Res, where they were seen in Pintail Bay – also on 4th. Red-crested Pochard numbers remained low with singles at both Sywell CP and Pitsford Res on 2nd and two at the latter site on 5th. In the Nene Valley, a female Scaup appeared at Summer Leys on 2nd before quickly relocating later the same day to Stanwick GP, where it remained until the end of the week. A drake Scaup appeared on the large lake behind Mary’s Lake at Earls Barton GP on 4th but it was not seen subsequently.
Further north, Stanford’s Long-tailed Duck remained there until at least 4th there along with the ‘redhead’ Smew. Elsewhere drake Smews were seen at Stanwick GP on 3rd and at Earls Barton GP the following day, both records almost certainly relating to the same individual.
By 2nd, the Thrapston GP Bittern had moved from Heron Lake to Aldwincle Lake, where it was seen in reeds at the north end of the lake, while Great White Egrets continued to number three throughout at Ravensthorpe Res, up to two at Pitsford Res and the same number intermittently at Summer Leys along with one at Thrapston GP.
The Slavonian Grebe remained at Pitsford Res throughout, although it became more mobile, ranging between Catwalk Bay and the sailing club, while an unusual winter visitor in the shape of a Marsh Harrier visited Summer Leys briefly on 3rd.The only scarce gulls reported this week were single adult Caspian Gulls at Stanwick GP on 4th and at Pitsford Res the following day.
Neville’s Lodge, near Finedon, again continued to prove a popular draw for observers of Short-eared Owls, now with up to five present throughout the period and birders visiting daily.
After the rush last week to see the first Waxwings of the winter there were no reports of the reportedly forty-strong crowd-pleasing birds in Roade, where the flock size peaked at fifteen just prior to their departure on 2nd.
One of these birds was colour-ringed and traceable to Kincorth, Aberdeen, where it was ringed on 2nd December 2016; it’s a first-winter female. Another Waxwing, a male, paid a brief visit to a garden on Borough Hill on 3rd and, perhaps surprisingly, three return to the site of the ‘Boxing Day One’ – the Rowan outside the Co-op at Woodford Halse – on 6th. Lastly, Crossbills continued to be reported intermittently from Fineshade Wood to 5th.