Newsround – 11th to 17th December 2021 

There was no drama in regard to this week’s weather, which remained settled and largely dry, with temperatures above average.

Emulating the weather, many of the previous week’s long-stayers also remained settled, among them the first-winter Dark-bellied Brent Goose, which was still at Clifford Hill GP when checked in on, on 14th. The Barnacle Goose, last reported at Pitsford Res on 3rd, was relocated there on 16th, the same site continuing to hang on to its star attraction of the two debonair drake Smews until at least 15th.

Drake Smews, Pitsford Res, 13th December 2021 (Martin Swannell)

A drake Greater Scaup was also reported there on 14th and, after a week without any, two Red-crested Pochards were at Daventry CP on 16th-17th.

Back at Pitsford, a Black-necked Grebe was reported on 14th and Cattle Egrets hit rock bottom this week with just one at Stanwick GP on the same date. Conversely, Great Egrets reached a new record high on 16th, when nineteen were counted coming in to roost at the latter site. Top totals elsewhere were up to eight at Pitsford on 16th, three at Thrapston GP on 11th, two at Stanford Res on 12th and singles at Upton CP on 15th and at Stortons GP and Summer Leys LNR on 16th.

Arguably the period’s top bird, in terms of rarity, was the juvenile/first-winter Shag found at Pitsford on 15th and still present there as the week drew to a close on 17th. Given that most records of this species are in autumn, December records are few and far between, this one likely to stir memories for many a local birder of the highly approachable, fearless first-winter that took a shine to Abington Park Lake in suburban Northampton, from 17th December 2006 until 4th February 2007.

Juvenile/first-winter Shag, Pitsford Res, 16th December 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Again, it was a case of as you were, on the wader front, with the Wood Sandpiper remaining at Pitsford and the long-staying Ruff lingering at Summer Leys until at least 16th, last week’s Black-tailed Godwit remaining at the latter locality until 12th and the wintering Common Sandpiper also staying put at Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) at the end of the period. Jack Snipe was added to the mix this week, with one near Wicksteed Park (Kettering) on 11th and five at Daventry CP on 16th.

Gulls fared better, with an adult Mediterranean Gull at Summer Leys on 12th, a third-winter Caspian Gull at Stanford Res on 11th, accompanied there by 2 adult Yellow-legged Gulls, while the usual, single adult Yellow-legged Gull was seen at Pitsford on 16th-17th.

Hardly a week passes without a Merlin these days, so one in a field adjacent to Ravensthorpe Res on 14th served to keep the species on the radar and comes as no real surprise.

On the passerine front, the number of Stonechats remained low, with up to four at Upton CP to 15th, two in the Brampton Valley on 13th and one at Borough Hill on 17th.

Male Stonechat, Upton CP, 15th December 2021 (Tony Stanford)

And it looks like the recent supply of Water Pipits has now dried up, with just one remaining on view at Summer Leys’ scrape until 11th, after which … nothing.

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