Apart from rain on 29th and some short-lived, light to moderate snow on 1st, this week’s weather remained dry and mainly bright, with temperatures of -6ºC overnight on 30th/31st delivering the coldest night of the season, so far. Many bodies of water froze over, or at least became frozen in part, as a result. Winds varied between north-westerly and south-westerly, swinging easterly to north-easterly during the last two days of the period.
At the eastern end of the Nene Valley, Thrapston GP featured well this week. Along with the long-staying first-winter Whooper Swan came a generous gaggle of winter geese, with the Greylag flock holding a single White-fronted Goose and three Pink-footed Geese, during the last two days of the period.
Most of last week’s scarce wildfowl remained in place, with up to twenty-three Red-crested Pochards again present at Pitsford Res and two still at Ditchford GP on 31st. Pitsford’s drake Ring-necked Duck spent an increasing amount of time in Pintail Bay this week and a first-winter Scaup put in an appearance there on 26th, while the two juvenile Great Northern Divers remained on site at the until at least 29th.
Back to Thrapston, where a Bittern was found on Aldwincle Lake on 1st and late news emerged of a Cattle Egret roosting among the Little Egrets on Town Lake in early January. However, it appears to have been a one-night stand and hasn’t been seen since. Thrapston also found itself in competition with Pitsford, bidding to hold the highest number of Great Egrets during the week by increasing its standing total from five to six on 27th. Pitsford scored an equaliser with its own six, four days later, on 31st. Elsewhere, Earls Barton GP/Summer Leys LNR hosted three, Ditchford GP held two and singles were at Ravensthorpe Res and Stanford Res.
Hen Harriers were still in evidence, the Stanford Res juvenile was seen on 27th, while last week’s ‘ringtail’ at Neville’s Lodge, Finedon, was seen on 26th, 27th and 28th and a new bird – a ‘ringtail’ was found near Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 1st. Once again, the only other raptors of note occurring were the male Merlin seen again in the vicinity of Blueberry Farm on 30th and another near Ravensthorpe Res on 1st.
Like last week, notable waders were restricted to Jack Snipe duos at Barnes Meadow LNR (Northampton) on 26th and Pitsford Res on 28th. Gull numbers, too, were significantly down, with Pitsford producing single Yellow-legged Gulls – an adult on 26th and a third-winter on 27th, followed by a momentary upturn in quality in the shape of a juvenile Glaucous Gull, briefly, on 28th.
Up to three Short-eared Owls continued to be seen around Neville’s Lodge, near Finedon, throughout the week, while reports of Waxwings included six at Staverton on 26th and one at The Plens NR, in Desborough, briefly on 30th. Nailing one down locally this winter has, so far, been well nigh impossible.
It’s been a different story, though, with the highly obliging Great Grey Shrike, which continued to wow visitors throughout the week, close to Blueberry Farm, Maidwell, and up to four Corn Buntings were still present in the seed crop at the same site. Unfortunately, there was no further sign of last week’s Lapland Bunting but the week produced another Nordic Jackdaw – this time at Stanwick GP on 29th