Exceptionally cold air across Greenland this week helped to fuel a strong Atlantic Jetstream, bringing wet, windy and very mild weather to the UK from as far south as the Azores. Not that it made any real difference to the birds we were seeing but it clearly put paid to any hard-weather movements which might have been in the offing at this time of the year. Highlights included the ever-popular, long-staying Great Grey Shrike and a newly discovered Siberian Chiffchaff.
Since the recent disappearance of the adult Whooper Swan which was on the cards to winter at Thrapston GP, this species looks set to revert to its former ‘connection not guaranteed’ status. However, seven dropping into Summer Leys LNR on the afternoon of 4th gave rise to hope they might remain until the following day which, unsurprisingly, they didn’t. On 5th, two flew from Oxfordshire into the upper Cherwell Valley but were not seen subsequently.
Meanwhile, the female Ruddy Shelduck was back at Hollowell Res on 4th, being seen there again on 10th. The female Greater Scaup continued to be seen at Stanwick GP until 4th and the elusive first-winter female was showing again at Daventry CP on 10th, while the drake Red-crested Pochard remained faithful to Summer Leys LNR’s Main Lake throughout the week.
Great Egrets, now considered part of the winter furniture, were at eight localities, including Ditchford GP, Hollowell, Kislingbury GP, Pitsford, Stanford Res, Stanwick, Summer Leys and Thrapston, with Stanwick holding a maximum of four on 5th. In contrast to last week, however, Cattle Egrets maintained a low profile, with just one at Stanwick on 4th and three at Ditchford GP the following day, on 5th.
Waders remained uncommonly scarce with up to three Jack Snipe remaining at Hollowell throughout the week being the only species of note during the period, while a Yellow-legged Gull at Pitsford on 10th was the only one reported. Away from the wetlands, the Harrington AF Short-eared Owl was again seen on 5th and the Great Grey Shrike remained ever-popular at DIRFT 3 throughout the week.
Not quite matching the latter’s charisma but with its own unique, charming character, was a Siberian Chiffchaff, discovered on 7th in the insect-rich vegetation along the banks of the outflow from Ecton SF into the River Nene. For many years this has been a favoured site for wintering Common Chiffchaffs and it has attracted the odd wintering ‘sibe’ from time to time, including a popular trio in 2013.
Siberian Chiffchaff is an almost annual visitor to the county, averaging 1.6 records per year over the last two decades, with more recorded on passage during November than in any other month.
This week’s Stonechats were ensconced in their favoured wintering sites at Hollowell, Pitsford, Stanford, Thrapston and Wicksteed Park (Kettering), with a maximum of four at Pitsford.