Newsround – 4th to 10th December 2021 

Pushing on into December and Arwen’s successor, Storm Barra, swept in off the Atlantic during 7th and 8th but appeared to have a negligible impact on local bird movements. New in, and undeniably topping this week’s celebrity bill, were two handsome drake Smews, found at Pitsford Reservoir at the eleventh hour …

But the wildfowl line-up kicks off with the first-winter Dark-bellied Brent Goose, remaining faithful throughout the period, to the eastern end of the Main Barrage Lake at Clifford Hill GP. The Ravensthorpe Pink-footed Goose was still with Greylags at Ravensthorpe Res on the last day of the week and a ‘small flock’ flew south, calling, over the Brampton Valley near Hanging Houghton, after dark on 9th.

A female Greater Scaup was reported from Summer Leys LNR on 6th but our ducks deluxe highlight was provided by the two dapper drake Smews, discovered at Pitsford Res on the last day of the week. With the two recently at Ringstead GP and the ‘redhead’ currently settled at Thrapston GP’s Aldwincle Lake, things look like they’re shaping up nicely for the usual sprinkling of this species over the winter – a far cry from last year, when local Smews were very much in short supply.

Drake Smews, Pitsford Res, 10th December 2021 (Alan Coles)
Drake Smew, Pitsford Res, 10th December 2021 (Tony Stanford)
Drake Smews, Pitsford Res, 10th December 2021 (Bob Bullock)

This week’s capricious Cattle Egrets were unpredictable in terms of where they might be reliably encountered. The much-depleted Ringstead roost, seemingly now out of favour with this species, produced three, in from the nearby horse paddocks, on 10th, while at least eight were seen leaving the former roost at Stanwick, early on 5th. On the latter date, the same roost also produced the week’s highest count of Great Egrets when nine also emerged at first light. Elsewhere, Pitsford held at least six – well down on the recent record high of eighteen – and singles were at Clifford Hill, Foxholes Fisheries (Crick) and Summer Leys.

Great Egret, Pitsford Res, 10th December 2021 (Alan Coles)

A Marsh Harrier flying west at Stanford Res on 10th was the period’s only raptor of note.

Once again, this week, the county remained in a winter waderland, with the Wood Sandpiper remaining at Pitsford throughout, the long-staying Ruff lingering at Summer Leys, again being joined by another on 4th, while a Black-tailed Godwit dropped in there on 10th. The wintering Common Sandpiper was also still present at Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) at the week’s end.

Ruff, Summer Leys LNR, 7th December 2021 (Mike Alibone)
Common Sandpiper, Earls Barton GP, 9th December 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Propping up the Larids, as usual, single adult Yellow-legged Gulls were at Pitsford on 9th-10th and at Clifford Hill on the first of these two dates.

Passerines were limited to last week’s two Water Pipits on Summer Leys’ scrape until 5th, with one remaining until the week’s end. A quick analysis of the records for the last twenty years reveals a trendline indicating a slight decline in numbers, November being the peak month for occurrences and, historically, Ditchford accounting for the majority of those seen during the winter months.

Water Pipit, Summer Leys LNR, 8th December 2021 (Leslie Fox)
Female Stonechat, Earls Barton GP, 10th December 2021 (Leslie Fox)

The number of Stonechats was down on last week, with just two at Upton CP on 8th and the same number at Earls Barton GP on 10th.

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