Newsround – 20th to 26th February 2021

A south to south-westerly airstream ensured temperatures remained above average throughout the period. This week the spotlight remained firmly on Thrapston.

Barnacle Geese came to the fore in this week’s wildfowl line-up, with nine at Stanwick GP, apparently replacing the White-fronted Geese there on 23rd. In fact, the only White-fronts during the period were two in flight over Byfield on 20th, while single Pink-footed Geese were at both Ringstead GP and Stanwick on 20th.

Stanwick was also paid another visit by the itinerant female Ferruginous Duck x Pochard hybrid on 21st, the day on which the drake Ring-necked Duck was refound back on Ditchford GP’s Big Lake, where it was still present at the week’s end. Paralleling this, last week’s two Smews at the same locality also re-emerged on Higham Lake on 23rd and on the same date, a new ‘redhead’ was discovered on Thrapston GP’s Aldwincle Lake, where it, too, remained until the end of the week.

‘Redhead’ Smew, Thrapston GP, 23rd February 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Looking set to see the winter out, Pitsford’s juvenile Great Northern Diver stayed mobile between the causeway and the dam there until at least 23rd.

The focus of attention remained, however, on Thrapston’s Glossy Ibis, having abandoned its regular haunt of Islip Water Meadows in favour of Aldwincle Lake, where it appeared settled throughout the week, mercifully free of human disturbance.

Glossy Ibis, Thrapston GP, 23rd February 2021 (Mike Alibone)
Glossy Ibis, Thrapston GP, 23rd February 2021 (Mike Alibone)
Glossy Ibis, Thrapston GP, 24th February 2021 (Angus Molyneux)

Thrapston’s purple patch continued with the appearance, albeit briefly, of a Cattle Egret on 21st – seemingly the first record for this locality while, further up the valley, up to three remained at the usual Stanwick stronghold.

Back at Thrapston, a milestone was reached this week in the shape of a single-site, double-figure count of Great Egrets, with a likely ten there on 25th. So it looks very much like the county’s wintering population is now twenty plus, the majority of which are in the Nene Valley. Common as muck, as they say …

No so common and, in reality, at the other end of the scale, a White-tailed Eagle was seen drifting high over the Boughton Estate, north of Kettering, on 21st. With those from the Isle of Wight reintroduction scheme floating around off the leash, it might not ordinarily have raised too many eyebrows but we have it on good authority that all the satellite-tagged birds were accounted for elsewhere. Boom! Somewhat overshadowed, under the circumstances, was a Marsh Harrier, which passed through almost unnoticed, at Stanford Res on 20th.

Numbers held up on the wader front this week, with Stanwick’s Bar-tailed Godwit continuing to occupy the prime slot until at least 22nd, while new in was a Black-tailed Godwit at Summer Leys LNR on 21st. Also new were single Curlews at Stanford Res on 21st, Lilbourne Meadows on 22nd and at Clifford Hill GP on 25th, while numbers of Dunlins again fell to just four at the DIRFT 3 development area and 2 at Stanwick GP – all on 21st. Only two localities hosted Jack Snipes with possibly up to eight present in suitable habitat near Ravensthorpe – again on 21st – and up to four at Hollowell between 23rd and 26th.

With only a few more days to go until March, the prime spring month for the movement of Mediterranean Gulls, a few have already started coming through. Stanford’s gull roost held two on 24th and 26th, while the second of these two dates saw one in a gathering of gulls at Hollowell during the last hour of daylight. All birds were adults. By contrast, a young bird with nowhere to go anytime soon was the juvenile Iceland Gull at Rushton Landfill, which remained there throughout the period.

Juvenile Iceland Gull, Rushton Landfill, 20th February 2021 (Mike Alibone)

This week’s Yellow-legged Gulls were all adults, with singles seen at Ditchford GP on 20th and sporadically throughout at Pitsford, plus four at Hollowell on 26th.

The 23rd saw Merlins at Sutton Bassett and Harrington AF while, on the passerine front, Stonechats were found at ten sites this week, with no more than three at any one of these.

Stonechat, Stortons GP, 21st February, 2021 (Tony Stanford)
Stonechat, Ecton SF, 25th February 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Although it’s late February and Crossbills should be breeding, it appears we still have flocks locally, with up to twenty at Wakerley Great Wood on 25th-26th and up to fifteen still at Hollowell between 21st and 26th. Maybe our birds are from further north …

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