Rarity Round-up, 1st to 7th December 2018

The first week of winter and some may say, the end of anything new turning up, or was it? The Atlantic airstream brought predominantly south-westerly winds and rain and unseasonally high temperatures, peaking at 13ºC on both 3rd and 6th. Wildfowl were still the number one quarry for local birders in a week when persistent reservoir-watching paid dividends.

After last week’s Bewick’s Swans’ brief dalliance with Thrapston GP, another was found in Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Res on 5th, remaining until the end of the week.

Bewick’s Swan, Pitsford Res, 5th December 2018 (Bob Bullock)
Bewick’s and Whooper Swans, Pitsford Res, 6th December 2018 (Doug Goddard)
Bewick’s and Whooper Swans, Pitsford Res, 6th December 2018 (Doug Goddard)
Mute, Bewick’s and Whooper Swans, Pitsford Res, 7th December 2018 (Richard How)

Overshadowing the eleven on-site Whooper Swans with its newly acquired celebrity status – Bewick’s have become really quite uncommon in Northants over the last decade or more – it attracted a steady stream of admirers, many of whom were willing to brave the rain for an optics-sodden glimpse in miserable conditions. Only one more Whooper was seen, the young bird now looking settled for the winter at Thrapston GP, where it remained all week. In the Nene Valley, the Pink-footed Goose was again seen at Stanwick GP on 5th and 6th and last week’s five White-fronted Geese, which had previously flown west over Ditchford GP on 25th, had clearly circled back and were also located at Stanwick on 5th, while another White-front was off the dam at Sywell CP on 7th.

White-fronted Goose, Sywell CP, 7th December 2018 (Alan Francis)

Back at Stanwick, the Barnacle Goose was still present until at least 6th. The mobile female Ruddy Shelduck ventured north of the causeway at Pitsford Res, where it was seen on 4th and 6th. Meanwhile, at Ravensthorpe, the drake American Wigeon x Eurasian Wigeon hybrid failed to elicit any interest until at least 1st and the female Ferruginous Duck x Pochard hybrid was again seen at Pitsford on 3rd, where the week’s highest site total of Red-crested Pochards was fourteen on 6th. Elsewhere, last week’s two were still at Stanford Res until 3rd and the drake remained at Hollowell Res until 4th, while the first-winter Scaup also remained at Thrapston GP until at least 3rd and a female was found at Ditchford GP, remaining there until the week’s end. Apparently missing for most of last week, the drake Ring-necked Duck in Pitsford’s Scaldwell Bay reappeared on 1st, after which it was seen intermittently until 6th, although it remained elusive for a great deal of the time.

Ring-necked Duck, Pitsford Res, 2nd December 2018 (Mark Williams)
Ring-necked Duck, Pitsford Res, 2nd December 2018 (Mark Williams)

Another first for the winter, a juvenile Great Northern Diver, was discovered off the dam at Pitsford on 1st before promptly being joined by another there on 2nd. Although both were seen together on the latter date, only one has been reported subsequently, right through to the end of the period.

Great Northern Divers, Pitsford Res, 2nd December 2018 (Peter Grimbley)
Juvenile Great Northern Diver, Pitsford Res, 2nd December 2018 (Adrian Borley)
Juvenile Great Northern Diver, Pitsford Res, 2nd December 2018 (Adrian Borley)
Juvenile Great Northern Diver, Pitsford Res, 2nd December 2018 (Adrian Borley). This bird is a different individual to the one in the above two photographs.

There was little change on the egret front, with the two Cattle Egrets still at the north-east end of the Stanwick GP complex on 6th, while up to two Great White Egrets continued to be seen there, with the same number at Hollowell Res, Ravensthorpe Res, Stanford Res and Thrapston GP, with three at Pitsford and one at Ditchford GP. Some of these will no doubt be duplicates where records from nearby localities are concerned.

Great White Egret, Pitsford Res, 5th December 2018 (Chris Donohoe)

The only raptor of note this week was a fine male Hen Harrier which flew west at Stanwick GP on 4th.

Pitsford continued to host the first-winter Black-tailed Godwit until at least 1st, along with the Ruff all week. There were also two Yellow-legged Gulls there on 5th, while another was logged at Hollowell Res the day before.

The Borough Hill Short-eared Owl remained until at least 1st, another was seen again at Harrington AF on 3rd and the Firecrest discovered near the feeding station at Pitsford Res on 29th was heard calling there again on 3rd. On the latter date, two Bearded Tits were discovered on land with no public access and eleven Crossbills were at Fineshade Wood on 4th.

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