Rarity Round-up, 27th January to 2nd February 2018

Although an uneventful week weatherwise, mild, south-westerly winds off the Atlantic produced the warmest day of the year so far on 28th, when local daytime temperatures reached 13ºC (15ºC nationally). Perhaps reflecting the generally mild winter, wrapped up in the wider parameters of global climate change, a newly fledged juvenile Blackbird in a Hartwell garden on 31st January was early, to say the least!

The week opened with a new Whooper Swan – this time an adult – in flight over Bragborough, near Daventry, on 27th, while the long-staying juvenile remained on site at Ravensthorpe Res. In the Nene Valley, at Stanwick, the Pink-footed Goose was still present on 30th and the forty-four-strong flock of Barnacle Geese remained there until 28th, after which they moved north to Leicestershire, where they were seen circling over Rutland Water. This movement – clearly not hard weather-related – resurrects the earlier speculation that perhaps they are wild – after all, how far do the ‘Bedfordshire ferals’ travel? Further down the Nene Valley, at Thrapston GP, two Red-crested Pochards were discovered on Town Lake on 30th, the female Scaup was still off the dam at Sywell CP on the same date and the drake Smew at Ditchford GP was perhaps ‘dunroamin’ as it was seen there on a record three consecutive days, 28th-30th, at Higham Lake.

Female Scaup, Sywell CP, 30th January 2018 (Alan Francis)

Apart from one at Ravensthorpe Res on 31st, sightings of Great White Egrets were restricted to locations in the Nene Valley, with at least two at Summer Leys LNR all week, two at Ditchford GP on 27th, one at Thrapston GP on the same date and one at Stanwick GP on 28th-30th. Pitsford’s Slavonian Grebe remained until at least 1st.

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 30th January 2018 (Alan Coles)

Just one locality on just one day, 28th, produced the week’s star raptors in the shapes of Merlin and Hen Harrier at Pitsford Res. Similarly, the only waders during the period – the Stanwick Black-tailed Godwit and one of the Hollowell Jack Snipes – were both still present from last week – again, both on the same day, 27th.

Two Yellow-legged Gulls visited the gull roost at Pitsford Res on 29th and two adults were at Ravensthorpe Res on 31st, while the wintering adult Caspian Gull was still at Hollowell Res on 27th-28th, a second-winter was on floodwater near Hinton-in-the-Hedges on 28th and the gull roost at Pitsford produced a first-winter on 28th, followed by a second-winter on 29th.

Male Hawfinch, Thenford, 28th January 2018 (John Friendship-Taylor)

Passerines fared slightly better this week, with two Waxwings reported briefly at Gretton on 30th, the flock of at least twenty Hawfinches at Thenford Churchyard on 28th and one at Silverstone on the same date, plus a minimum of six at East Carlton CP on 30th. At least one Corn Bunting was still with a mobile flock of Yellowhammers between Sulgrave and Thorpe Mandeville on 27th.

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