Rarity Round-up, 17th February to 2nd March 2018

Although signs of spring weather were apparent during the first week of the two covered by this review, the lengthening, sunny days and blue skies belied the fact that temperatures were low and were about to tumble dramatically from the beginning of week two. A veritable ‘polar vortex’ of strong winds whirling around arctic and sub-arctic latitudes brought sustained, biting, sub-zero easterlies to the UK from Siberia and snow … lots of it, dispelling any hopes of finding early spring migrants. Considering previous years have seen arrivals in the county of Sand Martin as early as 26th February and Northern Wheatear on 3rd March, the prospect of either of these occurring any time soon seems, well, a long way off …

Whooper Swans, Stanford Res, 1st March 2018 (Chris Hubbard)

So, hard weather movements is what it’s all about but braving the grim conditions to discover what’s moving is another matter entirely. However, some avid patchwatchers did just that and the discovery of three Whooper Swans at Stanford Res on 1st was, perhaps, ample reward. They had gone the following morning but the juvenile Whooper wintering at Ravensthorpe Res stayed put until at least 24th, while the other long-stayer – Stanwick GP’s Pink-footed Goose – was still being seen sporadically throughout the period. Stanwick also produced two Scaup on 2nd, following one at Ditchford GP on 18th. The only other wildfowl of note were two Smew – a drake visiting

Juvenile Whooper Swan, Ravensthorpe Res, 24th February 2018 (Stuart Mundy)

Pitsford Res briefly on 21st and the drake still at Ditchford GP throughout the period, seemingly having become settled on Wilson’s Pit. Smew has remained a very scarce bird in the county this winter so this drake has become a popular attraction since its arrival back in December last year.

Drake Smew, Ditchford GP, 24th February 2018 (Mike Alibone)

The Slavonian Grebe remained between the sailing club and Pintail Bay at Pitsford Res until at least 23rd but there have been no subsequent reports. Site-loyal Great White Egrets continued to be seen at Ditchford GP, Earls Barton GP/Summer Leys LNR, Stanwick GP and Thrapston GP with maxima of three at Stanwick GP on 19th-20th and at Summer Leys on 23rd. Away from the Nene Valley, singles were at Ravensthorpe Res on 17th and Stanford Res on 18th and 27th.

Great White Egret, Mary’s Lake, Earls Barton GP, 23rd February 2018 (Leslie Fox)

After a week without any, waders made a bit of a comeback during the period. A Black-tailed Godwit was again at Stanwick on 21st, followed by a Knot at the same locality on 2nd. The latter stayed only briefly, flying off west shortly after its discovery. Also of note were Jack Snipe duos at Hollowell Res on 17th, Ditchford GP on 18th and near Hartwell on 1st and one at Stanwick GP on 2nd.

And so to gulls … Not quite equalling the splash of northerners to be found the previous week but two Mediterranean Gulls visited the Pitsford roost on 20th, five Yellow-legged Gulls were at Daventry CP on 18th and Caspian Gulls were scattered, with Rushton Landfill producing the lion’s share of two adults on 17th, one on 18th and a second-winter and third-winter on 25th. Elsewhere, the wintering adult was seen at Hollowell Res on 17th and a second-winter was present there on 22nd and 26th, a second-winter was at Pitsford Res on 20th, followed by a third-winter on 1st and a first-winter was in the roost at Thrapston GP on 22nd. Rushton Landfill retained its juvenile Glaucous Gull until at least 17th and an adult appeared there on 25th.

Juvenile Glaucous Gull, Rushton Landfill, 17th February 2018 (Mike Alibone)

Six localities produced Hawfinches, including the favoured sites of Cottesbrooke (three on 17th, one on 18th), Thenford (at least five on 20th-21st and twelve on 27th) and Blatherwycke, (four on 22nd). Elsewhere, one was at Lings Wood, Northampton on 19th and two were at a ‘traditional’ site in Oundle on 19th-20th. A Corn Bunting – only the second in Northants this year – was found near Upper Benefield on 22nd. Surely there must be more of these now scarce buntings out there, somewhere …