The air off the continent – south-easterlies, subsequently swinging southerly – resulted in a generally mild week, during which a number of new birds arrived on the scene, of which Great Northern Diver and Bearded Tits headed the cast …
Barnacle Geese on the romp, however, provided additional interest. We are used to the odd one or two feral birds tagging along with local Canadas and Greylags but it’s always exhilarating to encounter a large flock, whatever its origin. And so it came to pass that roving multiples were seen in the Nene Valley this week, with twenty-seven flying south-west over Ditchford GP on 10th, some or all of which may have accounted for the larger number of thirty-six on the ground at Clifford Hill GP, two days later, on 12th. The feral population in neighbouring Bedfordshire seems to be their most likely origin
Black and white toned down to not quite fifty shades of grey at Hollowell Res, as the six Pink-footed Geese remained throughout the period and the female Ruddy Shelduck, although there on 9th, took another trip up to Crick, where it was seen at Foxholes Fisheries on 11th.
Pitsford Res retained at least ten Red-crested Pochards throughout the period and four were found at Daventry CP on 9th, remaining until the following day.
Given the recent numbers inland over the past week, it would have been unthinkable not to have at least one of our reservoirs proving attractive to at least one Great Northern Diver and our first for 2020, a nice, scaly juvenile, duly appeared at Hollowell on 13th.
Similarly, with a great deal of focus on, and time invested by birders in, Stortons GP this week, it came as no real surprise when a Bittern appeared briefly in flight there on 10th.
The now resident population of Cattle Egrets in the Nene Valley remained, as usual, in the Stanwick/Irthlingborough area, where the highest count was nine on 7th. Away from there, one flew north-east at Boddington Res on 13th – the first record for the site and it may well have been the bird that briefly visited the Balscote Quarry NR near Banbury, Oxfordshire on 1st November. A humdrum of Great Egrets – the new collective noun, perhaps – saw double figures in the county, with five at Thrapston GP on 10th and ones, twos and threes across seven further localities. Given that our wintering population is quite mobile, it’s difficult to assess the true total.
Waders do not feature strongly at this time of the year, so three locally unseasonal Curlews coming in at dusk to roost on the pools at DIRFT 3 was unusual on 12th, while five Jack Snipes at Daventry CP on 9th appear to be the first for the autumn, as well as being a healthy site total.
We’re not quite there with the time window for ‘white-wingers’ yet, so the next tier down for the scarcer gulls was occupied this week by the itinerant third-winter Caspian Gull again at Hollowell on 9th and 11th, while a first-winter visited DIRFT 3 on 12th. The same site held up to three adult Yellow-legged Gulls on 11th-12th and further singles were seen at Thrapston on 7th and Pitsford Res on 11th.
Following last week’s discovery of two in the reedbed at Stortons GP, Bearded Tits had doubled their total to four there by 7th. Only two were seen on 8th and one was heard calling on 12th but two subsequently appeared at Stanford Res on 13th. Initially found in the small reedbed on the Leicestershire bank, they vacated the area after only a short period of time, and were watched heading east into Northamptonshire airspace …
Always popular, Stonechats were recorded from fewer sites during the period than of late. Boddington, The Brampton Valley, DIRFT 3, Pitsford, Stanford and Thrapston each held between one and four, while five at Hollowell on 9th was the highest total at any locality.
After a significant downturn in numbers a few weeks back, Crossbills bounced back, strengthening their presence this week with perhaps as many as forty in the car park larches at Wakerley Great Wood, smaller numbers at nearby Fineshade Wood, up to thirteen at Hollowell and ones or twos flying over Scaldwell, Stanford and Stanwick. Hopefully, they will stick around throughout the forthcoming winter.