Rarity Round-up, 10th to 16th February 2018

A mixed bag of weather, predominantly north-west Atlantic-driven, delivered dollops of persistent, heavy rain to the county on 10th and 14th, in between and after which, low temperatures and dry conditions ensued. In the absence of anything else significant, northern gulls took centre stage with three new arrivals teasing at least some local birders out of their comfort zones to visit a habitat just a little more challenging than the regular, easy birding, ‘path-and-hide’ localities.

Now firmly established as part of the winter décor at Ravensthorpe Res, the juvenile Whooper Swan continued its stay, while Earls Barton GP/Summer Leys LNR held on to at least three of last week’s Red-crested Pochards – a male and female on 10th and two drakes on 15th. The only other wildfowl of note were the drake Smew again at Ditchford GP on 16th and a female Common Scoter in Pitsford’s Pintail Bay on 13th, the same locality continuing to host the wintering Slavonian Grebe – now having notched up four weeks on site.

Slavonian Grebe, Pitsford Res, 5th February 2018 (Bob Bullock)

Great White Egrets continued to be seen at Ditchford GP, Ravensthorpe Res, Earls Barton GP/Summer Leys LNR, Stanwick GP and Thrapston GP with maxima of three at Stanwick GP on 10th and at Earls Barton/Summer Leys on 15th.

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 16th February 2018 (Ray Seagrove)

Landfill Larids steal the show

In keeping with their current high abundance in the UK, white-winged gulls from the north made a splash alongside some of the regulars at Rushton’s landfill site this week. Viewing conditions at this locality can often be awkward. The active refuse area faces north and on a clear, sunny day, observation from the road which overlooks it is invariably difficult as a result of the area having to be viewed against the light. The contours of the site provide areas for large numbers of loafing gulls to hide, thereby evading detection, so birding there can be both challenging and frustrating. Meeting the challenges, however, can reap rewards, as this week aptly demonstrated.

A second-winter Iceland Gull, discovered in fields immediately south of the landfill on 10th, was still present the following day, when a fourth-winter Glaucous Gull was also discovered there. On 12th, yet another Glaucous Gull was found at the site – this time a juvenile.

Second-winter Iceland Gull, Rushton Landfill, 10th February 2018 (Bob Bullock)
Second-winter Iceland Gull, Rushton Landfill, 10th February 2018 (Bob Bullock)
Juvenile Glaucous Gull, Rushton Landfill, 12th February 2018 (Beth Clyne)
Juvenile Glaucous Gull, Rushton Landfill, 12th February 2018 (Beth Clyne)

For anyone willing to put the time in, there is great potential for further discoveries. Taking a back-seat, an adult Caspian Gull was present there on 10th and 13th and a Yellow-legged Gull was there on 12th plus two the following day. Elsewhere, the wintering adult Caspian Gull at Hollowell Res was seen on 10th and 12th, while an adult was in the roost at Thrapston GP on 11th and 12th, accompanied by a second-winter on the first of these dates. The Thrapston roost also produced an adult on 11th and two on 12th and 14th and one was in the roost at Pitsford on 12th.

Adult Caspian Gull, Rushton Landfill, 10th February 2018 (Mike Alibone)

Up to four Mealy Redpolls were visiting feeders in an Irthlingborough garden on 12th, having been seen there, on and off, over the previous week, while this week’s crop of Hawfinches was much reduced, with Cottesbrooke producing one on 11th and four on 13th, while singles were at Thenford Churchyard on 12th and Salcey Forest on 14th.

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