Rarity Round-up, 7th to 13th December 2019

Storm Atiyah’s brush with the UK did little for Northants as the cold, bright conditions at the beginning of the period were subsequently replaced by more rain, bluster and ever-changing wind direction. A lingering Dark-bellied Brent Goose and the well-installed Great Grey Shrike continued to provide the main attractions.

Following its frustratingly fleeting appearances at the beginning and end of last week, the Stanford Dark-bellied Brent Goose was finally pinned down to a regular feeding area alongside the River Avon, at Stanford Hall, from 8th until at least 11th. However, it didn’t always play ball, more often than not choosing to remain on the Leicestershire side of the river. Although there are more records in spring and autumn, winter probably provides the best opportunity for catching up with this species as its stays tend to be much more protracted than in passage periods. All previous records assigned to race appear to have been of the nominate dark-bellied form bernicla from Siberia. A pale-bellied hrota from the east Canadian Arctic, or Svalbard, would likely constitute a ‘first’ for the county and in these days of surprise splits, would be a welcome insurance addition to many a county list.

First-winter Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Stanford on Avon, 9th December 2019 (Chris Hubbard)

In the east of the county, the adult Whooper Swan was still in place at Thrapston GP on 9th, while the female Ruddy Shelduck – seemingly absent for three weeks – again visited Ravensthorpe Res on 7th. At Summer Leys LNR, the drake Red-crested Pochard seemed settled throughout the period and the ‘redhead’ Smew was present until at least 7th, although there was a report of two there the following day.

Red-crested Pochard, Summer Leys LNR, 8th December 2019 (Mike Alibone)

Up to two Great Egrets were on site at Stanwick GP, Summer Leys and Thrapston and singles were seen at Ditchford GP, Hollowell Res, Pitsford Res and Stanford Res. Waders this week were limited to five Ruffs at Summer Leys on 13th – really quite unseasonal for Northamptonshire and winter gulls remained low in numbers, with Stanford again producing an adult Mediterranean Gull on 10th, while an adult Caspian Gull was at Sulby Res on 7th and an adult Yellow-legged Gull visited Hollowell Res on the same date.

Adult Caspian Gull, Sulby Res, 7th December 2019 (Mike Alibone)

Looking settled for the long term, the DIRFT 3 Great Grey Shrike was still present on 11th, remaining faithful to a remarkably small area of scrub.

Great Grey Shrike, DIRFT 3, 7th December 2019 (Mike Alibone)

Stonechat, Pitsford Res, 13th December 2019 (Tony Stanford)

The same site held at least three Stonechats, although four were at both Hollowell on 7th and Pitsford on 13th while, elsewhere, singles were seen at Stanford, Thrapston and Wicksteed Water Meadows (Kettering).

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