Northerly winds and sub-zero overnight temperatures, followed by heavy rain and widespread flooding, did little to dampen this week’s festive fare.
Wildfowl were again very much the order of the week, with White-fronted Geese coming to the fore as twenty-three made landfall at Summer Leys LNR on 20th, while the two adults remained at Clifford Hill GP until the same date. Similarly, the eleven Pink-footed Geese held out at Hollowell Res until 22nd but were not reported subsequently. Two Barnacle Geese visited Summer Leys on 24th and the one at Stanford Res remained until at least 21st while, back at Hollowell, the female Ruddy Shelduck took rising water levels in her stride, remaining throughout and this week’s Red-crested Pochards were a drake at Thrapston GP on 21st, a female at Ravensthorpe Res on 22nd and one of each at Stanwick GP on 24th.
As the 25th dawned crisp and bright, many sites remained devoid of birders and, while most were tucking into their Christmas roasts, a handful of lost souls (or old stalwarts, depending on your perspective) were out there, finding what were arguably the best birds of the week. On the menu, then, were five Smew, including one fine drake, found in Pitsford’s Scaldwell Bay along with three Bewick’s Swans, the icing on the cake, though all had quickly melted away by the time Boxing Day came round.
At the opposite end of said reservoir, a juvenile Great Northern Diver emerged from Pintail Bay before cruising down to the dam, where it subsequently remained. Speculation that it’s ex-Hollowell seems prudent, as it was not reported from the latter site after 22nd. Stanford’s four Black-necked Grebes also remained all week.
A little Christmas magic saw Summer Leys pull a Bittern out of the hat, presenting flight-only views on 19th and again on 21st, while Cattle Egrets once again became fair game at Stanwick, where eight were present at its north end on 22nd and 25th. The latter site was also one of nine to produce Great Egrets, with Thrapston holding the highest count of five on 19th.
Three of the larger bodies of water hosted Jack Snipes this week, with singles at Hollowell on 19th and Stanford on 20th, while five were found at Daventry CP on 24th but the only other wader of note was the regularly roosting Curlew at DIRFT 3 on 20th and 22nd. The same site on the same dates produced the week’s only Caspian Gulls, with two adults on both dates being joined by a third-winter on 22nd, up to three Yellow-legged Gulls were at Pitsford between 21st and 25th and another visited Daventry CP on 24th.
After neither sight nor sound at the locality for several weeks, a Bearded Tit was heard at Stortons GP on 20th. It seems the installation of a grit-tray in the reedbed, designed to keep them there, seems to have had the opposite effect. Sod’s law, as they say … Not so difficult to come by, though, were wintering Stonechats, which were prominent at six sites in all, with a maximum count of five at Ditchford GP on 19th.
After last week’s low, Crossbills rallied somewhat during the period. Five sites accounted for this week’s modest haul of at least twenty at Wakerley Great Wood on 19th, three at Harlestone Heath on the same date, with approximately ten there on 22nd, two at Hollowell Res on 20th and singles at Pitsford Res and at Brookfield Plantation, Corby on 22nd.