Newsround – 18th to 24th December 2021 

This week saw little brightness between the clag and haar as rather damp and gloomy conditions prevailed in the run up to Christmas. Nevertheless, the weather failed to put the dampers on birding and new birds were still being found in addition to the established long-stayers …

In the latter category, the first-winter Dark-bellied Brent Goose remained at Clifford Hill GP until at least 22nd, while Pitsford’s Barnacle Goose, not quite in the same league, was again present on 21st.

First-winter Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Clifford Hill GP, 22nd December 2021 (Mike Alibone)

This last date saw an obvious and noteworthy movement of wildfowl across the county as more geese added flavour to the week’s proceedings. A Pink-footed Goose joined the local Greylags at Thrapston GP, where it remained the following day and the Ravensthorpe bird was still in the area on 23rd, feeding in fields between Ravensthorpe village and the reservoir causeway. White-fronted Geese were also added to the mix on 21st, when four flew south over the causeway at Pitsford and three arrived at Hollowell Res. Three were also found at Stanwick GP the following day.

White-fronted Geese, Hollowell Res, 21st December 2021 (Jon Cook)

It was back in October when we last saw a big day movement of Whooper Swans, echoed this week on 21st when, following two at Pitsford the day before, three flew south-east over the causeway and five appeared there in The Narrows during the morning, before moving up to Scaldwell Bay as daylight faded, late in the afternoon. The morning also saw two adults on Clifford Hill GP’s Main Barrage Lake, while two flew south-east over Denton Wood late in the afternoon, when one was also found at Stanford Res. None remained the following day.

Adult Whooper Swan, Stanford Res, 21st December 2021 (Chris Hubbard)

With the highest number of six, at Kislingbury GP – again on 21st – Red-crested Pochards made a bit of a comeback this week and this also included two at Ditchford GP on 20th-21st and a female at Stanford Res from 20th to 22nd. A first-winter female Greater Scaup was also found at Stortons GP on 19th, remaining throughout the week.

First-winter female Scaup, Stortons GP, 20th December 2021 (Mike Alibone)

After an apparent week’s absence, the ‘redhead’ Smew resurfaced on Thrapston GP’s Aldwincle Lake on 20th but it was nowhere to be seen the following day, while the two dapper drakes, last seen at Pitsford on 15th, were relocated at Hollowell on 21st.

Smew, Hollowell Res, 21st December 2021 (Jon Cook)

Cattle Egrets rallied somewhat this week, with the fields below Irthlingborough Church mustering eight on 18th and four on 22nd, while nearby Stanwick GP produced up to four during the period, as well as the week’s highest total of at least seventeen Great Egrets coming in to roost there on 18th. Top totals elsewhere were three at Pitsford on 23rd, two at Ditchford GP on 19th and singles at Summer Leys on 20th and at Stanford Res from 20th to 22nd.

Pitsford’s juvenile/first-winter Shag total doubled to two on 18th, falling back to one from 19th to 21st – at least that’s what it looked like, although the bird on the latter date was seen off the old Scaldwell road and therefore well away from its/their usual haunt of the pontoon at the north end of the sailing club.  

Juvenile/first-winter Shag, Pitsford Res, 20th December 2021 (Bob Bullock)

There was no real movement on the wader front this week, with the Wood Sandpiper remaining at Pitsford throughout the period and the long-staying Ruff, or two, lingering at Summer Leys until at least 20th and the wintering Common Sandpiper also remaining at Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) on 22nd. Jack Snipe was well represented this week with six at Ditchford on 19th and seven apiece at Ravensthorpe on 23rd and Daventry CP the following day.

Common Sandpiper, Earls Barton GP, 21st December 2021 (Leslie Fox)

An adult Mediterranean Gull dropped in to Daventry CP on 21st but there were more Caspian Gulls this week, with adults in the roost at Stanford Res on 18th and 23rd and a third-winter there on 20th. At Rushton Landfill, a first-winter was present on 21st and an adult visited Hollowell Res on 23rd. Aside from the regular adult at Pitsford, present all week, a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull was seen at Rushton Landfill on 21st, where the number of gulls appears to be down on previous winters.

A Short-eared Owl was reported from Harrington AF on 19th, while star of this week’s passerines proved to be a Siberian Chiffchaff, calling frequently and showing well, close to the causeway car park at Pitsford on the last day of the week. In second place, a Black Redstart, scarce at any time but even rarer in winter, was found near the summit compound on Borough Hill on 22nd and was still present there on 24th.

Male Stonechat, Earls Barton GP, 19th December 2021 (Leslie Fox)

Stonechats, on the other hand, were well represented by two at Ditchford from 18th to 20th, three at Lilbourne Meadows on 19th, four at Upton CP on 22nd, when two were also at Borough Hill, and three at Hollowell Res on 23rd.

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