The cold, northerly, Arctic air brought the first lying snow of winter to the county at the beginning of the period, before giving way to a warmer, Atlantic weather system in the latter part of the week, while a certain large raptor slipped in, unnoticed …
Otherwise, there was little change in the county’s mid-winter mix, with the thirty or so White-fronted Geese remaining around the northern extremity of the Stanwick GP complex throughout and the three Pink-footed Goose at Kislingbury GP on 22nd hanging on until 23rd in the waterlogged meadows of the surrounding Upton CP. A Barnacle Goose was also present there on the same date a, while the Stanford Res bird remained until at least 26th and six were found at Clifford Hill GP on 24th.
Back on the menu, once again, were Whooper Swans, with a mighty large dollop of thirty-five dished out onto the flooded meadows south of Nassington on 24th. This would appear to be the largest flock recorded in Northamptonshire in recent history although, as the swan flies, the location is not too far away from its Cambridgeshire wintering grounds, where such herds are commonplace. Not quite measuring up in many birders’ books, the long-staying female Ruddy Shelduck was still at Hollowell on 26th. In terms of it being taken more seriously, things could change, however, with the recent announcement by the BOURC that it is currently reviewing the status of this species on the British List as it is potentially occurring in Britain as a vagrant from established naturalised populations on the near continent. It should, therefore, be treated as a candidate for Category C5 (vagrant naturalised species from outside Britain). We await the outcome of the review with bated breath …
The juvenile Great Northern Diver was still at Pitsford Res on 27th and four Cattle Egrets were still at Stanwick GP on 24th, one was seen there the following day and one visited Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR on the same date. This week’s Great Egrets were at Ditchford GP (IL&M), Hollowell, Oundle, Pitsford, Ringstead GP, Stanford, Stanwick and Summer Leys LNR, with no more than two at any one locality.
Eclipsing all of the above, literally, was the immature White-tailed Eagle, which roosted at Brampton Wood, near Desborough on 28th and just north of Pitsford’s Scaldwell Bay the following evening, on 29th. Yes, he’s back. G393, the radio-tagged immature male from the Isle of Wight’s reintroduction scheme, which visited Northamptonshire last year, slipped into the county after spending five months in West Norfolk from 1st August 2020, before moving west into Lincolnshire and then Leicestershire earlier this month.
It is amazing how elusive the birds from this scheme are proving to be and this individual hasn’t actually been reported since it left Norfolk! Many thanks to Dr Tim Mackrill for supplying the satellite tracking information. Where will it appear next?
Back down to earth and well out of the limelight, a Jack Snipe was found on floods just north of Summer Leys on 25th and three days later, on 28th, fourteen Ruffs were nearby, on the reserve proper – a superb mid-winter total, beating any single-site autumn counts in recent years!
A paucity of gulls this week left just a single adult Yellow-legged Gull at Pitsford on 23rd and this week’s token Merlin was a female, over farmland near Braunston, on the same date.
Stonechats were present at Earls Barton GP, Ecton SF, Oundle, Pitsford, Stanford, Stanwick, Sywell CP and near Towcester, with the highest count of at least five at Pitsford on 28th. Apart from two at Salcey Forest on 23rd, Crossbill sightings were confined to Hollowell, where they were seen on four dates, with a maximum of ten present on 29th.