Rarity Round-up, 15th to 21st December 2018

No dramatic changes in weather served to shift the balance on the birding front as we slipped ever more deeply into the festive season. Cold easterlies and northerlies quickly gave way to bouts of wet and windy southerlies and westerlies at the end of the period, which ended quietly on the shortest day of the year.

As the week came to a close, the adult Bewick’s Swan remained in place at Pitsford Res, along with the eleven Whooper Swans, while the first-winter Whooper at Thrapston GP similarly showed no signs of upping and going.

Bewick’s Swan, Pitsford Res, 16th December 2018 (Mark Williams)
Whooper Swans, Pitsford Res, 16th December 2018 (Mark Williams)
Whooper Swans, Pitsford Res, 16th December 2018 (Adrian Borley)

Also apparently rooted were the Pink-footed Goose and the six White-fronted Geese at Stanwick GP and Red-crested Pochard numbers bounced back to sixteen at Pitsford Res on 17th and 21st and 17th also saw two at Thrapston GP, while the lone drake was still at Hollowell Res and a female visited Ditchford GP – both on 16th. On the latter date a first-winter Scaup was at Pitsford Res and the first-winter or hybrid was still at Ditchford GP before relocating next door to Stanwick the following day and the first-winter remained all week at Thrapston GP. Back at Pitsford, the drake Ring-necked Duck remained until at least 20th and the drake Smew reappeared on 19th, followed by a ‘redhead’ there the next day.

Drake Ring-necked Duck, Pitsford Res, 17th December 2018 (Bob Bullock)
Drake Ring-necked Duck with Tufted Duck, Pitsford Res, 17th December 2018 (Bob Bullock)

At the opposite end of Pitsford, two Great Northern Divers continued their residence throughout the week, both being seen on 16th and 21st.

Great Northern Divers, Pitsford Res, 21st December 2018 (Richard How)

This was the first blank week for Cattle Egrets since the beginning of October. We’ve enjoyed an amazing run of records of these cheeky little frog-gobblers and given their recently acquired national resident status, the next one is surely not too far away. Up to four Great White Egrets continued to be seen at Pitsford, while Stanford Res and Stanwick continued to host three each, Thrapston held two and Ringstead GP and Summer Leys produced singles during the period.

Stanwick’s male Hen Harrier, now seen closely enough to age as a second-winter, has arguably stolen the celebrity crown from the Pitsford Ring-necked Duck and although tricky to catch up with, continued to be seen almost daily throughout the week. The juvenile at Stanford Res returned this week for an encore on 16th and on the same date, a male Merlin was a surprise bonus for the harrier-watchers back at Stanwick.

Pitsford continued to host last week’s Ruff until at least 17th and Hollowell Res produced a Jack Snipe, as well as two adult Yellow-legged Gulls on 16th, while the wintering adult Yellow-legged Gull was still at Pitsford until at least 19th. Down in the extreme south-west of the county, the not so lowly cattle sheds at Chacombe continued to attract masses of gulls including still, on 16th, the adult Caspian Gull first seen there on 25th November. Three more Caspians – two adults and a first-winter – were located at Rushton Landfill on 20th.

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