Rarity Round-up, 5th to 11th January 2019

Sandwiched between a North Atlantic high and a low over north-east Europe, the country was the recipient of northerly winds from just inside the Arctic Circle for much of the week. Despite this, temperatures did not drop below the expected average for the time of year and the weather remained largely dry. Apart from the discovery of a new Ring-necked Duck, the week saw little change in what was on offer across the county.

Following our best autumn and early winter period for Whooper Swans, the sole survivor, making it through to 2019, was the first-winter at Thrapston GP, which remained throughout the week. Ravensthorpe Res continued to host the distinctive drake Wigeon x Gadwall hybrid, while over at Pitsford Res, Red-crested Pochard numbers remained stable at fourteen until at least 9th but the only others reported were two females at Ringstead GP on 5th.

Drakes and leucistic female Red-crested Pochards, Pitsford Res, 9th January (Bob Bullock)

On 8th, however, Pitsford’s drake Ring-necked Duck found itself vying for attention with a newcomer in the shape on another adult drake found on the main lake at Summer Leys. Immediately after its discovery, this second individual promptly went into hiding but it reappeared, all brute and charisma, to pose for photos on 11th.

Drake Ring-necked Duck, Summer Leys LNR, 11th January 2019 (Bob Bullock)
Drake Ring-necked Duck, Summer Leys LNR, 11th January 2019 (Alan Coles)
Drake Ring-necked Duck, Summer Leys LNR, 11th January 2019 (Alan Coles)

Two Ring-necked Ducks in the county at the same time is a first and it appears these are part of a national influx involving the presence of birds at approximately twenty sites across Britain and Ireland. Also at Summer Leys was a rather striking drake Tufted Duck x Pochard hybrid, adding a sprinkling of spice to the duck mix on 10th-11th, while further down the valley, at Ditchford GP, the first-winter or hybrid Scaup remained at Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows.

At Pitsford, the two young Great Northern Divers were seen on and off throughout the period, usually in the area east of Pintail Bay. The same site continued to host up to five Great Egrets, while Thrapston GP again held at least four, Stanford Res and Summer Leys produced up to two each and singles were found at Ditchford GP/Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows, Earls Barton GP, Ravensthorpe Res and Stanwick GP.

Juvenile Great Northern Divers, Pitsford Res, 6th January 2019 (Doug Goddard)

The popularity of Stanwick’s second-winter male Hen Harrier showed no sign of waning as it continued to put in daily appearances. Conversely, the juvenile at Stanford Res has become far more erratic in its visits to the site, being seen only on 6th. The only other raptor occurring this week was a female Merlin between Oundle and Warmington on 9th.

Second-winter male Hen Harrier, Stanwick GP, 8th January 2019 (Martin Swannell)

Waders were limited to a solitary Jack Snipe at Hollowell Res on 11th, while an adult Yellow-legged Gull also remained at this site throughout week. Further Yellow-legged Gulls included an adult at Chacombe on 6th and a first-winter in the roost at Boddington Res on the same date. Hollowell Res also held an adult Caspian Gull all week, joined there by a second-winter on 6th, 10th and 11th, while an adult appeared in the Boddington roost on 6th and a second-winter was at Rushton Landfill on 11th.

The grasslands of Neville’s Lodge near Finedon continued to attract Short-eared Owls with two or three there on 9th and at least one on 11th, while two Crossbills were seen at Yardley Chase on 10th.

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