Rarity Round-up, 30th December 2017 to 5th January 2018

Caught on the southern periphery of ‘Storm Dylan’, the first day of the week was marked by hefty south-westerly winds, the strength of which quickly subsided, before ‘Storm Eleanor’ brought further rain and gales from the same direction three days later. Temperatures remained above freezing all week. Local water bodies became flooded, with access limited in several places. Aside from movement between locations for some long-stayers there was little new to add to the week’s proceedings …

Looking like it’s going nowhere fast, the young Whooper Swan entered its second calendar year at Ravensthorpe Res this week and the Stanwick GP Pink-footed Goose was still visiting the site until 5th. Similarly long-staying, the female Scaup remained faithful to Sywell CP throughout the period but a drake Red-crested Pochard at Pitsford Res appeared to be new in on 1st, with the same site also producing two drake Smew on the same date.

Female Scaup, Sywell CP, 4th January 2018 (Alan Francis)

Hollowell’s juvenile Great Northern Diver got itchy feet, disappearing after 2nd and presumably relocating to Pitsford Res, where one was discovered late on 5th. Great White Egrets were still lumbering around in ones and twos at Hollowell, Pitsford and Ravensthorpe Reservoirs, Ditchford and Stanwick Gravel Pits and Summer Leys LNR, while an unidentified small grebe sp., discovered in the gathering dusk at Pitsford on 5th, is likely to morph during daylight hours into either a Slavonian or Black-necked – if it remains on site.

A Black-tailed Godwit, appearing at Stanwick GP on 5th, was a good winter record but single Jack Snipes at Hollowell on 30th and 2nd, Stanford Res on 31st and Welford Quarry on 2nd were more in keeping with the season.

Now well into winter proper, we should be on the look-out for arctic gulls – so far in short supply – and scrutiny of reservoir gull roosts, landfills and daytime loafing flocks could well produce that sought after ‘white-winger’, as well as some of the more uncommon species, such as Yellow-legged Gull, of which there was one at Stanwick GP on 30th and two at Stanford Res roost on 2nd. Caspian Gulls are also seen most weeks, with the wintering adult still in residence at Hollowell Res throughout, a second-winter at Rushton Landfill on 30th and an adult there on 5th. The latter locality continued to host a juvenile Glaucous Gull, which temporarily vacated the site on 1st for a wash and brush up at nearby Thorpe Malsor Res, before returning to remain throughout the week.

There was a little more passerine action during the period, commencing on 30th with the discovery of a Water Pipit at Stanwick GP, where it remained until 5th. A Mealy Redpoll was found in alders on the northern perimeter of Sywell CP on 3rd, while Hawfinches continued to feature, with singles at Fawsley Park on 30th-31st, Blatherwycke Churchyard on 31st and Charwelton on 1st and up to two at Thenford Churchyard until 5th. Most popular, however, was the small flock at Cottesbrooke, which peaked at fourteen on 1st, followed by single-figure counts daily there until the week’s end. Bizarrely rarer – at least for the moment – were two Corn Buntings found with Yellowhammers near Thorpe Mandeville on 31st.

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