Rarity Round-up, 1st to 7th February 2020

Continuing mild weather was the order of the week, with local temperatures hitting a high of 13°C on 2nd. There was even a touch of avian spring as two species of wader were back at potential breeding sites in two river valleys during the period.

Hollowell Res’ female Ruddy Shelduck again made it into the week, still present there on 1st, while last week’s Greater Scaups – the two first-winter drakes at Clifford Hill GP and the female at Stanwick GP – remained firmly in place throughout.

First-winter drake Scaup, Clifford Hill GP, 7th February 2020 (Bob Bullock)

A quick check of Ditchford GP’s Chester House Lake revealed the five Cattle Egrets to be all present and correct on 6th and 7th, along with a Great Egret and several Little Egrets on the same body of water – a sight which would never have been envisaged a couple of years ago. Great Egrets remained at seven localities, with a maximum of four at Stanwick on 6th.

A dearth of raptors saw just a ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier hunting over ploughed fields alongside the A605 near Warmington on 1st.

On a cursory note, a couple of waders provided a ‘heads up’ that spring is just around the corner as Oystercatchers returned to the Nene Valley at Thrapston GP on 6th and Clifford Hill the following day, while a Curlew was bubbling away in south Northants on 5th. A locally unseasonal Dunlin was found at Daventry CP on 4th while, more in keeping with winter, Hollowell produced a high total of nine Jack Snipe on 1st.

First-winter Dunlin, Daventry CP, 4th February 2020 (Gary Pullan)

Gull numbers picked up significantly from last week, at last including the first ‘white-winger’ of the winter. Single adult Mediterranean Gulls visited Daventry CP on 4th and 7th, Boddington Res on 5th and Stanford Res on 7th, when a third-winter Glaucous Gull was also found in the roost there. Earlier in the week it had been seen at nearby Shawell, just over the border in Leicestershire. Three Caspian Gulls – two adults and a third-winter – were at Rushton Landfill on 6th and an adult Yellow-legged Gull visited at Daventry on 4th.

There was no change on the Short-eared Owl front, last week’s four localities continuing to host birds seemingly eager to perform to a steady stream of appreciative onlookers. Borough Hill, topping the bill for both popularity and numbers, produced four, Stanford three and Harrington AF and Neville’s Lodge (Finedon) one apiece.

Short-eared Owl, Stanford Res, 3rd February 2020 (Iain Tidmarsh)
Short-eared Owl, Stanford Res, 6th February 2020 (Matt Jackson)
Short-eared Owl, Borough Hill, 6th February 2020 (Martin Swannell)

Ecton SF hung on to at least one Siberian Chiffchaff throughout and up to two more were discovered with up to eight Common Chiffchaffs at the nicely compact and insect-rich location of Islip STW on 3rd-5th. This (sub)species is probably commoner in winter than we think, although it would appear there are both good and bad winters as far as numbers nationally are concerned. Sewage works are a favoured winter habitat.

Siberian Chiffchaff, Islip STW, 5th February 2020 (Nick Parker)
Siberian Chiffchaff, Islip STW, 5th February 2020 (Nick Parker)

After last week’s Black Redstart in Corby, another was found in the much more easily accessible location of Oundle Church on 6th and it was still present there the following day, albeit after several hours’ absence. Sunday’s churchgoers could be in for a bonus … manna from heaven, maybe?

Black Redstart, Oundle, 7th February 2020 (John Moon)
Black Redstart, Oundle, 7th February 2020 (Nick Parker)
Stonechat, Borough Hill, 6th February 2020 (John Moon)

Stonechats were recorded at five sites, which included Borough Hill, Hollowell, Stanford, Thrapston and Barton Seagrave, with a maximum of three at Hollowell on 1st.

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