Rarity Round-up, 9th to 15th December 2017

The low temperatures experienced at the end of last week continued well into the period with dramatic effect. Warm, moist, Atlantic air from the south-west met high Arctic air sweeping south over the Midlands, resulting in persistent snow across Northamptonshire on 10th, when deposits of 15 cm or more produced a ‘whiteout’ and made for hazardous driving conditions. Few birders ventured out on this date, or indeed over the following two days, when early morning temperatures down to -5ºC ensured the continued presence of icy road conditions and the freezing over of local bodies of water. The effect on bird movements was clearly apparent, with easterly movements of Redwings and Fieldfares noted at numerous localities and local waterbodies becoming frozen over – albeit for a very short period before temperatures rose and rainfall ate deeply into the laying snow.

Ravensthorpe Reservoir’s juvenile Whooper Swan remained all week, while Stanwick GP’s juvenile Pink-footed Goose was reported only on one date, 11th. Last week’s four first-winter/female Scaup were still present there until at least 12th and the long-staying female at Sywell CP remained off the dam all week. Back at Ravensthorpe, a ‘redhead’ Smew was found on 9th but promptly disappeared thereafter.

The juvenile Great Northern Diver remained in place off the dam at Hollowell Res until at least 12th and eight localities produced Great White Egrets, with site maxima comprising three at Ravensthorpe Res, two at Pitsford Res and singles at Ditchford GP, Stanford Res, Stanwick GP, Summer Leys LNR, Thrapston GP and between Wootton and Quinton.

Adult Medterranean Gull, Daventry CP, 14th December 2017 (Gary Pullan)

A Jack Snipe at Hollowell Res on 9th was the only wader of note, while this week saw the occurrence of two Mediterranean Gulls – a first-winter at Pitsford Res on 11th and an adult in the pre-roost at Daventry CP on 14th. Yellow-legged Gulls again remained scarce, with one at Pitsford Res on 11th and two in the roost at Boddington Res on 15th, while this week’s Caspian Gulls comprised the wintering adult at Hollowell Res, an adult at Sulby Res and a third-winter at Pitsford Res – all on 9th – and two adults at Rushton Landfill, plus an adult and a third-winter at Boddington Res roost on 15th.

Firecrest, Shires Meadows, Towcester, 12th December 2017 (Nick Holder)

On the passerine front, a suburban Firecrest at Towcester’s Shires Meadows was a nice find on 12th but Hawfinch sightings continued to dominate, with twos at both Cottesbrooke and East Carlton CP on 9th, three just west of Blatherwycke Churchyard on 11th, two or three at Thenford Churchyard on 14th and singles at Bucknell Wood and in flight over Shires Meadows, Towcester the following day.

Hawfinches, Thenford Churchyard, 14th December 2017 (John Friendship-Taylor)

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