Rarity Round-up, 16th to 22nd December 2017

The cold, northerly airstream in place at the beginning of the week ultimately gave way to warm air from the Atlantic, resulting in damp, foggy conditions and a local daytime temperature peak of 11ºC, 5ºC above average, at the week’s end. This appeared to have little effect on local birds, with most of the scarce winter visitors staying put and the arrival of the first ‘white-winged’ gull of the winter more likely down to seasonality than weather conditions.

A sense of déjà vu ensued as Ravensthorpe Reservoir’s juvenile Whooper Swan remained throughout the week and, again, Stanwick GP’s juvenile Pink-footed Goose was reported only on one date, 17th, with the four first-winter/female Scaup also still there on the same day.

Juvenile Whooper Swan, Ravensthorpe Res, 20th December 2017 (John Moon)
Female Scaup, Sywell CP, 19th December 2017 (Alan Francis)

Sywell CP’s long-staying female Scaup was still present on 19th and a drake was discovered halfway between the causeway and the dam at Pitsford Res on 21st. Pitsford was also one of only two localities to produce Smew, with a ‘redhead’ from 18th to 20th being joined by a drake there on 19th. Another drake was at Ditchford GP’s Higham Lake from 18th to 20th.

The juvenile Great Northern Diver remained at Hollowell Res all week and, again, seven localities produced Great White Egrets, with no more than two at Pitsford, Ravensthorpe and Stanwick and singles at Summer Leys LNR, Billing GP, Thrapston GP and Ditchford GP.

Juvenile Great Northern Diver, Hollowell Res, 15th December 2017 (Andrew Cook)
Juvenile Great Northern Diver, Hollowell Res, 15th December 2017 (Andrew Cook)
Juvenile Glaucous Gull, Rushton Landfill, 22nd December 2017 (Mike Alibone)

A Black-tailed Godwit at the latter site on 20th was the only wader of note this week. Winter gulls were on the radar for some of us, although Yellow-legged Gulls again remained scarce, with just single first-winters at Rushton Landfill on 17th and 22nd and this week’s Caspian Gulls including the wintering adult at Hollowell Res on 16th and 21st, a third-winter in the gull roost at Pitsford Res on 16th, an adult and a first-winter at Rushton Landfill on 17th and two adults there on 22nd. Rushton also produced the first ‘white-winger’ of the winter – a juvenile Glaucous Gull on 22nd and with around four thousand large gulls now visiting the landfill when active, this locality is now clearly on the map as the county’s premier winter gull-watching site.

Female Hawfinch, Fawsley Churchyard, 18th December 2017 (Ian Dobson)

The world beyond wetland birds was relatively quiet, with just a Short-eared Owl at Harrington AF on 17th and a trickle of Hawfinch sightings comprising one in flight over Kelmarsh on 16th, two at Fawsley Park on 16th and 18th and one or more at Cottesbrooke on 19th.

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