Rarity Round-up, 6th-12th January 2018

The start of the week was cold and largely dry and bright, with west to north-westerly winds preceding rather dank, dull, misty and sometimes wet conditions during the middle and at the tail-end. A few new discoveries added potential interest to this otherwise murky period of early January.

The juvenile Whooper Swan remained all week at Ravensthorpe Res, while Stanwick GP’s Pink-footed Goose was similarly ensconced deep in the Nene Valley.

Pink-footed Goose, Stanwick GP, 10th January 2018 (Steve Fisher)
Pink-footed Goose, Stanwick GP, 10th January 2018 (Steve Fisher)

Doubling the winter goose line-up, meanwhile, was an adult Dark-bellied Brent, discovered on roadside pools alongside the A5 at DIRFT 3, just north-west of Crick, on 7th. Averaging little more than two records per year, this species, has failed to appear in only three out of the last twenty, while the pale-bellied race has never been recorded locally and, if it ever appears, the first example would no doubt prove itself popular. Lower down the pecking order, the long-staying female Scaup notched up nine weeks at Sywell CP and the roaming drake Smew appeared again at Ditchford GP on Wilson’s Pit on 7th-8th, before again vanishing into the murk of the Nene Valley. This species is proving to be very scarce in the county so far, this winter.

Adult Dark-bellied Brent Goose, DIRFT 3, 7th January 2018 (Mike Alibone)
Records of Brent Geese in Northamptonshire, by month, last 20 years (1998-2017)

The Great Northern Diver – presumably the Hollowell individual – which turned up at Pitsford on 5th, stayed until early morning on 6th, before promptly vanishing, while one or two Great White Egrets continued to be seen at Pitsford and Ravensthorpe Reservoirs, Earls Barton, Ditchford, Stanwick and Thrapston Gravel Pits and Summer Leys LNR, with a maximum of three at Ditchford GP on 9th.

Raptors hit the headlines this week. A male Hen Harrier taking a Woodpigeon in ploughed field by the A5, just north of Grafton Regis on 11th, was said by locals to have been in the general area for several days previously. Prior to this, a Rough-legged Buzzard, reportedly seen well along the minor road between Greens Norton and Blakesley on 7th, could not be found during brief searches in inclement weather over the following two days. Also in the south of the county, a Merlin was seen in flight near Chacombe on 6th.

No new waders were found this week – the Black-tailed Godwit remaining at Stanwick GP throughout the period, while 6th saw the number of Jack Snipes up on last week, with two now at Hollowell and three at Welford Quarry.

Scarce gulls were at a low ebb, with just one Yellow-legged Gull at Ravensthorpe Res, on 7th, along with a first-winter Caspian Gulls there on the same date. The only other Caspians were recorded on 6th, when the wintering adult was still at Hollowell and an adult plus a first-winter joined the scavenging mass of large gulls at Rushton Landfill.

Waxwing, Corby, 10th January 2018 (Sophie Barrell)

Given the current paucity of Waxwings, one photographed from an office window in Corby provided much excitement for the observer on 10th. It would not be surprising if this remains the only one locally this winter. Another Mealy Redpoll was reported this week, this one accompanying Lesser Redpolls in a Scaldwell garden on 11th, while the run on Hawfinches continued.

Male Hawfinch, Cottesbrooke, 12th January 2018 (Ken Prouse)

Two were at Aynho and three over Edgcote on 6th, singles were roosting with Greenfinches in Northampton on 7th and at Badby on 9th and six were at Thenford Churchyard again on 12th. Meanwhile, the small flock at Cottesbrooke – numbering up to eight – continued to attract a steady trickle of admirers throughout the week.

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