This week, the meteorological pendulum swung in the opposite direction and almost at the flick of a switch, temperatures soared from well below, to significantly above, average. South-westerlies were back and the ice melted as one celebrity bird ended the long wait for many local birders to catch up with it in the county.
But first things first and new on the scene this week were more Pink-footed Geese – one at Stanwick GP from 13th until at least 17th and two just along the valley near Ringstead GP on 17th with at least one remaining until 19th. Back at Stanwick, the wintering White-fronted Geese topped thirty-three – a highly respectable total for the county in recent years.
All the pizzazz exuded by Ditchford’s glitzy drake Ring-necked Duck quickly evaporated as it seemingly vanished after 14th, the date it was last seen on Higham Lake. It might just be that no one has looked since, of course. Perhaps the same could be said about the two Smews at the same locality – the ‘redhead’ not having been seen since the day it was found and the drake coincidentally appearing to do a bunk after 14th. What is it about Valentine’s Day?
Perhaps the drake making a brief appearance in Pitsford’s Holcot Bay on 16th was the same bird. Some consolation was subsequently provided by a bevy of three ‘redheads’ which turned up at Ravensthorpe Res on 13th, remaining there until 15th, after which only one appeared to be present the following day. Across the road, at Hollowell Res, a female Greater Scaup was discovered on 14th, remaining there until the week’s end.
Meanwhile, fast fading into the background was Pitsford’s juvenile Great Northern Diver, which was reported only on the first day of the period.
In a bizarre and unexpected turn of events, however, it was a species hitherto notoriously difficult to catch up with locally that stole the limelight this week. After multiples in neighboring Cambridgeshire and a roving bird in Bedfordshire this winter, a Glossy Ibis finally found its way into Northants. First seen flying south over Thrapston GP on 13th it was subsequently discovered three days later on Islip Water Meadows, only a stone’s throw from where it had originally been seen in flight. Providing respectable views from the track running down the western flank of Thrapston’s Town Lake and from Islip’s Mill Lane, unlike the previous six seen in the county, it did the decent thing and settled there throughout the remainder of the week, allowing many a local to catch up with it. Hopefully, it has now dug in for the rest of the winter.
First-winter Glossy Ibis, Islip Water Meadows, 18th February 2021 (Mike Alibone)
Undoubtedly overshadowed by the above, just two Cattle Egrets were reported, not a million miles away, at this species’ favoured location of Stanwick on 13th. Nine wetland localities produced between one and four Great Egrets apiece this week with, once again, Summer Leys LNR laying claim to the lion’s share of seven on 13th. A Bittern was reported from Thrapston on 19th.
Some of last week’s hard weather waders remained in the county throughout the period, most notably Stanwick’s Bar-tailed Godwit, which crossed the A6 to visit Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows LNR on 16th before returning to Stanwick to see out the remainder of the week. A single Knot further contributed to putting Islip Water Meadows firmly on the map during its brief visit on 13th, while Dunlins maintained a presence of sorts, with lower numbers this week including up to four at Stanwick and Clifford Hill GP, three at Earls Barton GP and one at Pitsford. Only to be expected were Jack Snipes at the usual locality of Hollowell, where there were up to three and at the less renowned sites of Wicksteed Water Meadows, Kettering – again with three and two at Clifford Hill GP.
Apart from an adult Yellow-legged Gull at Pitsford on 16th-17th, a gull with ‘form and history’ visited Stanford Res on 13th, identifying itself to observers as a Polish-ringed, first-winter Caspian Gull by way of its decorative legwear. Yellow ring, number P:PW6, enabled its movements to be followed since being ringed as a nestling at Mazowieckie, Poland on 16th May 2020. On 12th December 2020, it visited Zeeland in The Netherlands, subsequently crossing the North Sea to appear at Tanholt Landfill, Peterborough on 26th January 2021, before being seen again at Shawell Landfill in Leicestershire on 5th February – a distance of 1522 km from its Polish colony.
On dry land, last week’s Short-eared Owl remained at Harrington AF throughout and another was seen nearby, in the Brampton Valley, on 14th, while a female Merlin was at Harrington on 13th.
Stonechats were found at eight sites this week, with Hollowell producing the highest count of six between 16th and 19th, as well as solely accounting for this week’s Crossbills the highest number of which was eight or nine on 13th.
That would be it, other than for the fact that we now know the first summer visitors have arrived in the UK this week, with South Wales producing the first Northern Wheatear and Sand Martin, Dorset seeing the country’s first Swallow and the first Ring Ouzel appearing in Devon. Dare we hope the forthcoming week will deliver at least one early migrant to our own county … ?