Another week with the country under the influence of low pressure saw further strong south-westerlies and heavy showers, although temperatures remained largely above average. This week’s star bird was a bold, brazen, late, lingering Osprey along the Nene.
But before that … A Pink-footed Goose appeared at Daventry CP on 23rd, with perhaps the same bird then moving to Hollowell Res from 25th to 28th. The county struggled to get all its ducks in a row this week, the female Ruddy Shelduck and the escaped drake Cape Shelduck having completely abandoned DIRFT 3 for the more secluded site of Foxholes Fisheries at Crick, where the Ruddy Shelduck was present on all but one day and the Cape Shelduck for only the first two. A first-winter female Greater Scaup was found at Daventry CP on 27th and was still present the following day while, at the other end of the county, two Red-crested Pochards visited Thrapston GP on 26th.
Once again, last week’s Black-necked Grebe remained at the latter site throughout the period.
Oddly, there were no reports of the Summer Leys Bittern this week but the number of Cattle Egrets at the Ringstead GP roost reached nine on 25th, from which they dispersed during the daylight hours to Stanwick GP, where there were five on 27th and to Thrapston/Islip Water Meadows, where there were two on 24th and one on 26th-27th. Two that dropped in briefly at Summer Leys LNR on 23rd may not have been local birds.
Great Egrets, meanwhile, were found at Daventry, Earls Barton GP, Hollowell Res, Oundle, Pitsford Res, Ringstead, Summer Leys and Thrapston, with maxima of up to five at Pitsford on 28th and four at Hollowell on 25th and 28th.
Which brings us neatly to the long-staying Osprey, which has now been in the Nene Valley, between Billing GP and Summer Leys, since 11th October. Looking settled, it has recently been favouring the stretch of river between White Mills Marina and Earls Barton GP’s Hardwater Lake – and it appears almost fearless, choosing to hunt by plunge-diving from trees along the river bank, rather than soaring and hovering over adjacent open bodies of water. In so doing, it has been quite approachable, offering superb views as well as great photographic opportunities.
A juvenile – easily aged by the striking white feather tips to the upperparts and wing coverts, as well as the dark streaking in the white crown and the buffy underwing coverts – it is thought perhaps to be of Scandinavian origin as it is not ringed, like the majority of UK birds appear to be. We can be sure that the same individual accounts for all the sightings as this bird has minor damage in the form of a small nick near the end of the outermost primary of its left wing. How long it will stay is anyone’s guess but the latest record for the county was one which lingered at Stanford Res between 13th October and 9th November 2013, so it has a way to go yet to beat that one.
The weekly selection of Caspian Gulls comprised a second-winter at Boddington Res on 26th and single adults at Stanford Res on the same date and at both Hollowell and Pitsford on 28th. This week’s Yellow-legged Gulls were all seen on 26th, when there were two at Boddington, two or three at Pitsford and two at Thrapston.
On dry land, a Short-eared Owl was seen at Harrington AF on 25th, while a juvenile male Merlin was ay Hinton AF on 24th and an adult male flew over DIRFT 3 on 29th.
Stonechats were the only passerines of note this week, Hollowell being out in front with five, followed by four at Thrapston, two at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell and singles at Pitsford, Stanford and Upton CP, Northampton.