Chilly east to north-easterlies kept temperatures depressed in the first half of the period, after which a mild spell saw a double-figure rise to 11°C, under the influence of a south to south-westerly airstream. The week’s focus was centred firmly on the presence of two White-tailed Eagles, the anticipated easy connectivity with one giving rise to a small, though appreciable, stream of ‘local’ birders to its favoured wetland site.
It was, however, a poor week for wildfowl by recent standards with the thirty or so White-fronted Geese remaining around their chosen fields at the northern extremity of the Stanwick GP complex until at least 2nd and the female Ruddy Shelduck enjoying an away-day at Foxholes Fisheries, Crick on the same date. The infamous female Ferruginous Duck x Pochard hybrid again materialised at Stanwick on 31st, remaining in the area until at least 3rd. In terms of its physical appearance it looks almost the real deal – close but no cigar.
The juvenile Great Northern Diver remained loyal to Pitsford Res all week and, keeping a low profile, between one and three Cattle Egrets were seen at Stanwick GP throughout, while three were on fields immediately south of Irthlingborough on 31st. A rather modest number of Great Egrets was logged, with up to three at Stanwick and singles at Ditchford GP (IL&M), Hollowell Res, Pitsford, Ringstead GP, Stanford Res and Stortons GP.
This week, the county played host to no less than two immature White-tailed Eagles from the Isle of White introduction scheme, their paths almost crossing near Pitsford Res on 1st. Their movements are documented here. Despite not being ‘fully wild’, their majesty, grandeur and sheer enormity were more than enough to captivate, interest, and inspire a number of local birders to make the interpreted ‘permitted short journey to exercise’ at Pitsford to connect with the lingering male, on 31st. He departed to Oxfordshire the following day, when the female arrived, this second bird remaining in the county until moving into Cambridgeshire on 3rd.
Waders’ sole representative this week was a Jack Snipe at Hollowell on 30th-31st but gulls rallied somewhat, with an adult Mediterranean Gull in the roost at Stanford on 4th, followed the next day by a juvenile Iceland Gull at Rushton Landfill – only the second of the winter so far, the previous one having also been found at the same site. Two adult Caspian Gulls were also present there on 5th and another adult visited Hollowell on the same date, while single adult Yellow-legged Gulls visited Daventry CP on 1st, Pitsford on 2nd and Hollowell on 5th.
Juvenile Iceland Gull, Rushton Landfill, 5th February 2021 (Mike Alibone)
Although passerines were poorly represented during the period, suburban Northampton was still delivering the goods in the shape of at least one Bearded Tit, a male, at Stortons GP, where it popped up again in the reedbed on 4th.
Otherwise, Stonechats continued to delight at Hollowell, Pitsford, Raunds, Stanford, Summer Leys and Sywell CP, with no more than three at any one locality.