A largely southerly airstream throughout the week kept temperatures above average, peaking at 15ºC on 5th-6th. Wildfowl numbers continued to build and most of last week’s rare fare remained settled and on show. Additionally, for the second week running, a handful of new arrivals included another species which was the first this century in Northamptonshire …
The flow of Whooper Swans over the past weeks appears now to have halted but it has left us with eleven (nine adults and two first-winters) at Pitsford Res, present north of the causeway for nigh on two weeks. Hopefully they will remain for the foreseeable future. Similarly ensconced, the two adult White-fronted Geese remained at Sywell CP and the female Ruddy Shelduck was still at Ravensthorpe Res on 4th.
Red-crested Pochards were widespread with this week’s highest count of six at Stanford Res on 9th. Elsewhere, between one and three were seen at Daventry CP, Hollowell Res, Stanwick GP, Thrapston GP and Wicksteed Park Lake and the first-winter Scaup remained at Thrapston GP all week.
Held over by popular demand, the six first-winter Velvet Scoters remained on Thrapston GP’s Town Lake for a second week, still showing well there on 9th. Conversely, of interest but of limited appeal, a very distinctive drake American Wigeon x Eurasian Wigeon hybrid visited Daventry CP on 7th.
Last week’s Bittern was again seen on the A45 Lay-by Pit at Stanwick on 3rd but the site’s main attraction continued to be Cattle Egrets – last week’s two having doubled to four by the end of the week. Great White Egrets were reported from eight localities including Clifford Hill GP, Ditchford GP, Hollowell Res, Pitsford Res, Ravensthorpe Res, Stanford Res, Stanwick GP, Summer Leys LNR and Thrapston GP with Pitsford again boasting the highest count of five on 6th.
Raptors were limited to the ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier, remaining elusive at Stanford Res between 3rd and 5th and a Rough-legged Buzzard reported on roadkill along the relatively short stretch of road between Apethorpe and Woodnewton on 9th. Should the latter be proven to remain, it is likely to become a more popular attraction than the six smart scoters down the road. Despite occasional reports, the last accepted record, only the third this century, was in October 2014 and as always, it was a fly-over. There has never been a twitchable Rough-leg in Northants …
Save the odd Jack Snipe – of which there was one at Stanwick on 6th – it’s normally all over for waders until spring but both the Black-tailed Godwit at Daventry CP and the Common Sandpiper at Stanwick remained until 7th and 9th respectively, while a late and fleeting Spotted Redshank at the latter site was a surprise on 6th.
On the gull front it was more of the usual fare, with single adult Yellow-legged Gulls at Hollowell, Pitsford and Daventry and a third-winter at the latter locality on 5th, while a first-winter Caspian Gull was at Hollowell on 3rd and 5th and a third-winter visited Stanwick on the last of these two dates.
Another Short-eared Owl was found at Harrington AF on 3rd but bird of the week – at least for one observer – was the Hooded Crow which flew south-west over Pury Hill, Alderton on 7th. The species was formerly a more regular, though scarce, winter visitor to Northants but its appearance in the south, east and central parts of the UK is now much less frequent than it was during the last century. In fact, this is the first in the county since 1999. Others were seen inland during the period in Cambridgeshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and East, South and West Yorkshire. More readily accessible and guaranteed to delight, however, were two Bearded Reedlings, which were discovered at Stanwick on 4th and did the decent thing of posing well for photos until at least 6th.
The only Brambling this week was one at Harrington AF on 3rd.