Rarity Round-up, 12th to 18th January 2019

Following the swing to northerly winds at the end of last week, the weather for a time reverted to being relatively mild, on the back of a more westerly airstream from the North Atlantic. However, northerlies were back by 17th and the county experienced its first taste of snow this winter, albeit a light dusting. Along with this came another winter first in the shape of three Waxwings, while the first Glaucous Gulls of the season also dropped in.

First-winter Whooper Swan, Thrapston GP, 13th January 2019 (Adrian Borley)

In the absence of any other wild swans, the first-winter Whooper Swan continued to enjoy the environs of Thrapston GP’s Elinor Trout Lake throughout the period and Stanwick GP’s erratically occurring Pink-footed Goose also remained, being seen on 14th and 17th. New in, though, were two more Pinkfeet found on the dam at Stanford Res on 13th, where they were mysteriously replaced by two White-fronted Geese the following day, the latter still present on 16th.

White-fronted Geese, 14th January 2019 (Steve Nichols) and Pink-footed Goose, 13th January 2019 (Chris Hubbard). Both images from Stanford Res.

Pitsford Res was the only locality to hold Red-crested Pochards this week with the maximum count of twelve there on 13th, while the drake Ring-necked Duck remained until at least 16th. This appeared not to be the case with the Summer Leys drake, which was last reported on 13th.

Drake Red-crested Pochard, Pitsford Res, 16th January 2019 (Alan Coles)
Drake Ring-necked Duck, Summer Leys LNR, 13th January 2019 (Martin Swannell)

Staying with the Nene Valley gravel pit chain, at Ditchford GP, the first-winter or hybrid Scaup remained at Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows all week and a drake Smew paid a fleeting visit to Stanwick’s A45 Lay-by Pit on 12th, although it was not seen subsequently.

Back at Pitsford, the two juvenile Great Northern Divers were still present together on 16th, one being seen there the following day and the same site continued to hold at least four Great Egrets, while Thrapston GP also held at least four. Elsewhere, Stanwick GP hosted up to two and singles were at Earls Barton GP/Summer Leys LNR and Stanford Res – a relatively poor showing in comparison to previous weeks.

Great Egret, Pitsford Res, 16th January 2019 (Alan Coles)

Stanwick’s second-winter male Hen Harrier became more adventurous, ranging 5 km to the west to visit Neville’s Lodge, Finedon, where its appearance surprised and delighted local birders looking for Short-eared Owls, late in the afternoon on 12th. It was back there for an encore at the same time the following day, performing well for a small gathering of expectant and elated observers. The juvenile at Stanford Res was also still in the game, appearing there again on 16th and 17th. As with last week, the only other raptor occurring was a female or immature Merlin near Badby on 16th.

Second-winter male Hen Harrier, Neville’s Lodge, Finedon, 13th January 2019 (Angus Molyneux)

At least two species of wader – double last week’s tally – were found this week, with a Ruff at Summer Leys LNR on 12th and five Jack Snipe at Barnes Meadow LNR (Northampton) on 15th.

On to some gull action, then, with a second-winter Yellow-legged Gull at Daventry CP and an adult and first-winter at Pitsford Res – all on 16th. A second-winter Caspian Gull was still at Hollowell Res on 15th but it was Stanford Res which came up trumps with a juvenile Glaucous Gull on 12th and 16th and a second-winter Glaucous on 17th – the same date on which a second-winter Iceland Gull decided to pay a visit to the reservoir. These particular individuals have been present at nearby Shawell Landfill in Leicestershire, only 7 km to the west as the gull flies, since early this month. They usually roost on Draycote Water, not too far away in Warwickshire, so the boys at ‘Stanny’ have been lucky this week!

Up to two Short-eared Owls were present in the grasslands of Neville’s Lodge near Finedon throughout the period – no doubt overshadowed by a certain harrier during the first two days of it. The first Waxwings of the winter were found in Kettering on 16th but their stay was short-lived and they eluded all who went looking the following morning. Still, there’s plenty of time left before they all head back north … Finally, a good candidate for a Siberian Chiffchaff was discovered – but not clinched – at Stanwick GP in the last hours of daylight on the last day of the period. Up to twelve Chiffchaffs were counted at the favoured site for this (sub)species, along the outflow into the River Nene from Ecton SF, on 18th, with apparently no ‘sibes’ in tow.

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