Rarity Round-up, 18th to 24th November 2017

A mild mid-week, though windy with southerly gales, was sandwiched between two northerly blasts of cold Arctic air at both ends of the period. Visible migration dwindled further, being evidenced primarily by a continuing small, westward passage of winter thrushes. The autumn Hawfinch movement likewise diminished, with most reports now of small numbers in potential wintering habitats.

Last week’s showy juvenile Whooper Swan remained at Ravensthorpe Res until at least 21st, while the long-staying juvenile Pink-footed Goose was still present at Stanwick GP on 23rd. Numbers of Red-crested Pochards were restricted this week to a female at Pitsford Res from 18th to 21st and the two at Stanford Res until the latter date, while the female Scaup remained at Sywell CP all week. Three Scaup were still at Pitsford on 18th, with at least one still present until 21st and the same site sprung a female Common Scoter – initially reported north of the causeway and subsequently relocated in Pintail Bay – on 19th.

Scaup, Sywell CP, 24th November 2017 (Alan Francis). Extensive, clean white facial blaze, yellow iris and clean white belly age this as an adult.

November is the classic month for the arrival inland of Great Northern Divers and this month did not disappoint, with Stanford Res attracting a juvenile to the area by the dam on the last day of the week.

Juvenile Great Northern Diver, Stanford Res, 24th November 2017 (Chris Hubbard)

Another sign of the approaching winter was the appearance of a Bittern, seen coming in to roost at Stortons GP on 22nd. This suburban site has become established as a wintering site for two or the individuals over the past few years. Great White Egret were still ensconced in the usual sites, with maxima including five at Pitsford on 18th, four at Stanwick GP on 22nd, three at Ravensthorpe on 21st and two over Ditchford GP on 24th.

First-winter Little Gull, Boddington Res, 18th November 2017 (Gary Pullan)

In a similar vein to last week, there were few notable gulls around but a first-winter Little Gull managed a one-night stand at the Boddington Res gull roost on 18th, along with six Yellow-legged Gulls, while two Caspian Gulls were at Hollowell on 18th and two appeared in the Pitsford Res gull roost the following evening.

The latter site again produced a Water Pipit on 18th – no doubt the same which has been reported sporadically there of the past three weeks.

There has been no better time to be religious, but it’s unlikely when he wrote Take me to Church that Hozier had Hawfinches in mind. Churchyards have become a magnet for this species and, therefore, birders in recent weeks – primarily as a result of the tradition of growing Yew trees in them as evergreens are said to be linked with immortality. In England long before the Christian era, yew trees were planted on pagan temple sites, and they were eventually adopted by the church as “a holy symbol.” Traditions die hard, and although nonconformists did not follow the trend, modern British cemeteries still feature yew trees in their flora. Sermon over, then, but it’s no coincidence that BWP commences its list of Hawfinches’ favoured non-invertebrate food with Yew. Three popular localities continue to hold birds this week, fuelling speculation that they will stay throughout the forthcoming winter.

Hawfinch, Delapre Park, Northampton, 24th November 2017 (John Nicholls)
Hawfinch, Delapre Park, Northampton, 24th November 2017 (Alan Coles)
Hawfinch, Delapre Park, Northampton, 24th November 2017 (Alan Coles)
Hawfinch, Delapre Park, Northampton, 19th November 2017 (Ant Hall)

So, this week’s little (seed) crackers gave themselves up to photographers and came out into the open at Blatherwycke Churchyard, where up to two were present all week, Delapre Abbey (Northampton), where up to three remained throughout and Thenford Churchyard, where a minimum of four was present until at least 19th. Elsewhere on 19th, two were at Edgcote and singles were at Hinton-in-the-Hedges and Scaldwell and one flew over Bulwick on 23rd. Hopefully they will stick around …

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