As we dig deeper into what would traditionally be the coldest season of the year, right on cue, the first true ‘winter’ duck pays a fleeting visit to the county’s most heavily watched reservoir … and is gone in a flash …
But it’s geese which continue to dominate the local scene and elicit the most interest. While there were no reports this week of the ‘Clifford Hill 20’, two Barnacle Geese appeared at Thrapston GP on 14th and the one at Stanford Res remained until at least 16th. Meanwhile, eight northings down, at Hollowell Res, the eleven Pink-footed Geese hung on all week.
However, the Nene Valley further cashed in on this winter’s generous offering of White-fronted Geese, with Saturday 12th delivering double figures to both Summer Leys, where thirteen arrived, and Thrapston, over which ten flew south-west. In addition to last week’s juvenile – which remained until at least 15th – seven were discovered at Stanwick GP on 14th, remaining there until the week’s end and nine were at Earls Barton GP, opposite Summer Leys, on 15th. Additionally, the two adults from last week remained with the Greylags at Clifford Hill GP throughout the period.
On 12th, two adult Whooper Swans completed a brief stopover at Stanford, where a ‘redhead’ Smew – the first of the season – topped this week’s ducks deluxe, equally briefly, on 15th. Back at Hollowell, the female Ruddy Shelduck was still putting in appearances, on and off, until at least 16th and a drake Red-crested Pochard was seen at Pitsford Res between 13th and 17th.
Once again, Hollowell hung on to its juvenile Great Northern Diver throughout the period and Stanford’s four Black-necked Grebes also remained all week.
The first Cattle Egrets to be seen in the county for a month were six with sheep in a field beyond the northern end of Earls Barton GP on 12th-13th, while another was discovered in a horse field at Grendon on 16th, before flying off west.
Eliciting rather less excitement – if any at all – between one and four Great Egrets continued to languish at the usual sites, which included Hollowell, Pitsford, Stanford, Stanwick, Thrapston and Summer Leys, with six reported from the latter site on 12th. Additionally, singles were seen at Billing GP on 17th, Ringstead GP on 18th and Thorpe Malsor Res on 12th.
In a week when uncommon waders failed to feature, the number of scarce gulls also remained low, with a third-winter Caspian Gull at Hollowell on 12th, an adult there on 16th and an adult at Rushton Landfill on 15th, while a second-winter Yellow-legged Gull was at Hollowell on 16th.
A Short-eared Owl was seen at the northern end of Summer Leys on 12th, the same site being one of six from which wintering Stonechats were reported, along with Earls Barton GP, Hollowell, Pitsford, Stanford and Yardley Chase.
Scarce passerines came to the fore this week in the shape of two Firecrests along the northern side of Stortons GP on 17th, while belated news from earlier in the month concerns a Mealy Redpoll, seemingly moribund, and photographed in Salcey Forest on 7th December, representing only the third record for the year after two at Stanford during October.
Which just leaves Crossbills. They were down this week to appearing at only two localities – Harlestone Firs, with at least twenty-six on 17th and Hollowell, where four were present on 15th and eleven on 17th …