Newsround – 8th to 14th January 2022

A high pressure system settled over the UK for much of the week delivered calm, though cold, conditions with overnight frosts and a succession of patchy, early morning fogs. Topping the week’s news, a short-staying Glossy Ibis had no difficulty in filling the slot for bird of the week.

But we start, as usual, with the Clifford Hill GP Dark-bellied Brent Goose which, present all week and in contrast to the aforementioned ibis, is now potentially a record-breaking long-stayer for this species in the county, having been on site since 17th November last year. Hopefully, it will remain there to see the winter out. The only Pink-footed Goose on show during the period was the individual mobile around fields between Ravensthorpe village and its reservoir, visiting the latter on 11th. Last week’s three White-fronted Geese remained in the vicinity of Stanford Res throughout the week but they were tricky to pin down, occasionally spending time with the Greylags and Canadas at nearby Stanford on Avon, where they were invariably on the wrong side of the river of the same name.

No Newsround would be complete without the inclusion of the odd dodgy duck, or two, so, enter Wood Duck, a female of which was on the river at Wellingborough Embankment during the last two days of the week. It’s not the first time one’s turned up on the Nene and it won’t be the last. Although a sure-fire escape, this species is currently vying for a place on the British List on the basis of several nationally occurring individuals, favourably located in time and space, all be they lacking other credentials beyond reproach. Over to you, BOURC.

Female Wood Duck, Wellingborough Embankment, 14th January 2022 (James Underwood)

A flash in the pan female Ring-necked Duck was reported from Thrapston GP on 12th. Unsurprisingly, those scrambling to see it went away empty-handed. Drake Smews were more obliging, though, with a good two at Pitsford remaining until at least 12th.

However, bird of the week was, indisputably, the county’s eighth-ever Glossy Ibis. Discovered on the currently flooded Main Lake at Summer Leys, at 09.15 on 10th, despite looking settled, it promptly did a bunk at 09.45 and hasn’t been seen since. Once again, local birders were robbed! In line with all but one previous occurrences, this sharp exiting behaviour represents a true return to form for this species in Northants. The exception was, of course, last winter’s long-stayer at Thrapston GP, which was present between 13th February and 17th April, also visiting Stanwick during the final days of its stay.

Glossy Ibis, Summer Leys LNR, 10th January 2022 video grab (John Hunt)

Its occurrence at this time comes as no real surprise. The UK and Eire are currently enjoying a huge winter influx, with a record minimum of 125 Glossies currently on the romp, from Shetland to the south coast, including double-figure flocks at some locations. So, is it still in the county? Well, that’s the problem because although generally associated with water, these birds are not fussy when choosing somewhere to feed. It appears any old, wet, boggy field will do. Some of us will no doubt have memories of seeing the wintering bird in Weymouth in December 2013, which spent most of its time on and around a waterlogged football pitch. It could be anywhere …

The number of Cattle Egrets roosting at Stanwick GP climbed no higher than eight on 9th and up to four visited Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows reserve on 9th-10th. Stanwick’s magic egret roost also produced the highest number of Great Egrets with a maximum of seventeen there, again on 9th, while Pitsford and Thrapston produced six apiece, Hollowell Res, Summer Leys and Sywell CP each mustered two and singles were found at Clifford Hill, Cranford STW, Earls Barton GP and Fawsley Park Lakes.

And while we’re in the west of the county, following the disappearance of the two first-winter Shags from Pitsford after the 2nd, two were discovered at Daventry CP on 10th and were still present off the dam there on 12th. Undoubtedly, they represented a welcome cache for the 2022 yearlisters who rapidly scurried over to see them.

First-winter Shag, Daventry CP, 10th January 2022 (Gary Pullan)
First-winter Shag, Daventry CP, 10th January 2022 (Bob Bullock)

With everything still in place, no such haste was necessary on the wader front this week. The Pitsford Wood Sandpiper and the Earls Barton Common Sandpiper both rode it out until the end of the period, one Ruff remained at Summer Leys until at least 11th and Jack Snipes were present at Daventry CP, where there were three on 10th, at pools near Raventhorpe, where up to three were present all week and at Hollowell, where one remained on 9th.

Ruff, Summer Leys LNR, 8th January 2022 (Leslie Fox)

Winter gulling continues to be slow, with an adult Caspian Gull at Clifford Hill GP on 9th and a first-winter on the roof of the recycling centre at Rushton Landfill on 13th, while the only Yellow-legged Gull reported was an adult in the roost at Clifford Hill GP’s Main Barrage Lake on 11th.

So far, winter 2021-22 has turned out to be somewhat poor for Short-eared Owls, so one over rough grassland, east of Ellands Farm, Hemington, was a wholly worthwhile find for one observer on 13th. Two airfield-based Merlins were singles at Harrington on 8th and 10th and at Hinton on 9th.

There was no improvement on last week’s thinly spread collection of passerines but who would grumble about the quality – after all, how many showy, mid-winter Black Redstarts are currently at large in the UK? OK, nearby Milton Keynes currently has a handsome male … but it’s not in Northants. Our wintering Borough Hill bird was still playing to an audience this week and remained in place around the summit compound there on 14th.

Black Redstart, Borough Hill, 9th January 2022 (Alan Coles)
Black Redstart, Borough Hill, 9th January 2022 (James Underwood)

With a maximum of four at Upton CP on 13th, Stonechats were found at a further ten localities, comprising Borough Hill, Catesby, Clifford Hill, Earls Barton, Ecton SF, Hollowell, Ravensthorpe, Summer Leys, Sywell CP and Wellingborough Embankment, the image of one at the last of these perfectly encapsulating the foggy, frosty conditions characterising the latter part of this week.  

Stonechat, Upton CP, 12th January 2022 (Tony Stanford)
Stonechat, Wellingborough Embankment, 14th January 2022 (James Underwood)

The other ‘quality’ passerine on show throughout the period was, of course, the one Hawfinch, still in Blatherwycke Churchyard, while similarly remaining were two Corn Buntings in the Brampton Valley, between Cottesbrooke and Hanging Houghton at the week’s end.

Newsround – 1st to 7th January 2022

With many of December’s birds clearly going nowhere fast, it was time to sharpen the pencil as 2022 had local yearlisters off to a sprinting start, stepping out into the dawn of a New Year’s Day which delivered a UK record-breaking balmy high of 16.2°C. Temperatures were to tumble, however, as a northerly blast from the Arctic set in during the latter half of the week, with sub-zero daytime figures and overnight frosts.

Going unreported for a week, Clifford Hill GP’s Dark-bellied Brent Goose was still present on 1st, duly remaining on parade and approachable throughout the period. Back on show, too, was the Pitsford Barnacle Goose on 2nd, as was the Ravensthorpe Pink-footed Goose on 7th and, also making it over the line, the three White-fronted Geese at Stanford Res on 1st but not subsequently. Other Whitefronts were available, however – at least one, anyway – as an adult was seen at Ditchford GP on 2nd and later relocated at Stanwick GP on 6th-7th.

The year’s first Red-crested Pochard was found at Summer Leys LNR on 1st, shortly to be followed by eight at Stanford on 4th, while a female Greater Scaup was reported from Thrapston GP on 7th, the date on which a ‘redhead’ Smew was also reported there. Better looking and more tangible, however, last year’s three drake Smews at Pitsford were all present and correct for anyone wanting to take a peak on 1st and 2nd but only two remained at the week’s end.

Red-crested Pochards, Stanford Res, 4th January 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

Once again climbing into double figures, Cattle Egrets peaked at thirteen at Stanwick on New Year’s Day, followed by smaller numbers there on subsequent dates throughout the week. The Ringstead GP roost on Kinewell Lake maxed out at seven on 3rd and 7th and three visited Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows reserve on the latter date. Stanwick also hosted the highest number of  Great Egrets with a tally of twelve there on 3rd, while Pitsford came second with eight, Thrapston mustered three, Ringstead two and Ditchford and Naseby Res one apiece.

Cattle Egret, Stanwick GP, 5th January 2022 (Mark Tyrrell)
Cattle Egrets and Little Egret, Stanwick GP, 6th January 2022 (Bob Bullock)

With no reports for a week, it could have been considered a bonus when, on 1st, one of the first-winter Shags which had been frequenting Pitsford since 15th December, surfaced by the causeway car park. It remained for the following day but there have been no subsequent sightings.

A male Hen Harrier was reported flying south-east at Bulwick on 5th.

Despite rising water levels and subsequent icy weather, the Pitsford Wood Sandpiper miraculously remained, providing another welcome fillip to 2022 local yearlisting. How much longer it stays remains to be seen.

Wood Sandpiper, Pitsford Res, 7th January 2022 (Tony Stanford)

The two Ruffs at Summer Leys also remained on 1st at least, two Jack Snipes were at Stanwick on 6th and last week’s was still present at Hollowell Res on 7th, while the wintering Common Sandpiper saw the New Year in at Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North), again remaining there for another week.

Winter gull flocks are always worth scrutiny and, for that matter, so too are they during other seasons. While nothing breathtaking has appeared so far this winter, two adult Caspian Gulls at Naseby Res on 6th were noteworthy, as were two more at Rushton Landfill on 7th and a first-winter at Ravensthorpe on the same date. Other than that, an adult Yellow-legged Gull was found in the roost at Clifford Hill GP’s Main Barrage Lake on 3rd.

Adult Caspian Gull, Naseby Res, 6th January 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Adding a touch of wholly anticipated magic to the new year’s proceedings, a Merlin was found in the Brampton Valley, between Cottesbrooke and Hanging Houghton, on 2nd and may have been the same bird reported across the other side of the A508, at Harrington AF, later in the week.

And a collective sigh of relief came as the Borough Hill Black Redstart hung on into the new year, duly lining up for a procession of snap-happy admirers throughout the week. Stonechats, normally a popular quarry for toggers, simply had to take a Borough Hill back seat this week, while others were seen at Clifford Hill, Hollowell and Upton CP.

Black Redstart, Borough Hill, 2nd January 2022 (Bob Bullock)
Black Redstart, Borough Hill, 5th January 2022 (Martin Swannell)
Black Redstart, Borough Hill, 7th January 2022 (Linda Honeybourne)

But a big, New Year’s Daze for some was delivered by two superb Hawfinches, found in Blatherwycke Churchyard on 1st and remaining for all good people of the yearlisting congregation over the following four days. This is a site which has earned a reputation for producing winter records of this species over a many years but its appearance there is sporadic and far from guaranteed.

Hawfinch, Blatherwycke, 1st January 2022 (James Underwood)
Hawfinch, Blatherwycke, 5th January 2022 (Nick Parker)

Far less impressively adorned, though, two Corn Buntings were found in the Brampton Valley, between Cottesbrooke and Hanging Houghton, on the last day of the week. Having undergone a massive decline in recent years, they are now a scarce visitor to the county. Get them while you can …

Newsround – 25th to 31st December 2021 

Under the influence of a strong south-westerly airstream, delivering unseasonally mild weather, which culminated in a UK record-breaking high temperature of 16°C on New Year’s Eve, the last week of 2021 saw little respite from the overcast and wet conditions of the previous review period. Once again, unsurprisingly, the focus was on wildfowl, the highlight of which was the discovery of a Ring-necked Duck at Thrapston.

Kicking off this week’s geese, a Pink-footed Goose found at Stanford Res on 26th and remaining throughout the period, may have been the same bird that was in the area during late November, while another Pinkfoot was discovered with Greylags at Stanwick GP on 31st.

Pink-footed Goose, Stanford Res, 28th December 2021 (Chris Hubbard)

Joining the Stanford individual were an adult and two first-winter White-fronted Geese on 31st – again, maybe not entirely new birds as the number and ages matched those of last week’s trio which visited Hollowell Res on 21st.

Adult and two first-winter White-fronted Geese, Stanford Res, 31st December 2021 (Chris Hubbard)

Which brings us neatly to bird of the week, which appeared in the shape of a female Ring-necked Duck at Thrapston on 30th. As the UK is once again experiencing a sizeable influx, under the circumstances it was really only a matter of time before someone, somewhere, stumbled across one. This bird, only the county’s 10th, follows hot on the heels of the popular drake which, earlier this year, remained at Ditchford GP between early February and late March before becoming more mobile along the Nene Valley.

Female Ring-necked Duck, Thrapston GP, 30th December 2021 (Adrian Borley)
Female Ring-necked Duck, Thrapston GP, 30th December 2021 (Nick Parker)

An altogether meatier Aythya was the first-winter female Greater Scaup which remained at Stortons GP throughout the week, as did Stanford’s female Red-crested Pochard, while eight of the latter were found at Pitsford Res on 27th, with two remaining there on 29th.

Female Red-crested Pochard, Stanford Res, 26th December 2021 (Chris Hubbard)

This week’s Smew action was also confined to Pitsford where, after a report of a ‘redhead’ on 27th, two drakes on 29th were joined there by a third for the following two days.

Drake Smews, Pitsford Res, 30th December 2021 (Steven Peppiatt)

Cattle Egrets were found in their usual hotspots of Stanwick, where there were four on 26th and five on 31st, Irthlingborough, where three were below the church on 31st and at Ringstead GP on the same date, when seven were present on the main island in Kinewell Lake. Compared with recent high counts, the number of Great Egrets was no great shakes, with at least twelve at Pitsford, four at Thrapston, two at Ditchford and one at Stanford.

Following the recent spate of rainfall, water levels have been on the rise, rendering some wetland localities potentially suboptimal for wintering waders. The Pitsford Wood Sandpiper remained, however, the two Ruff at Summer Leys were still in situ and at least one Jack Snipe was present at Hollowell Res on 31st, while the wintering Common Sandpiper also saw the year out at Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North).

Scarce gulls were at a premium, or so it appears, with just two Caspian Gulls propping up this week’s Larids – an adult at Hollowell on 29th and a third-winter at Stanford the following day.

On the passerine front, the Black Redstart, mobile around the summit compound and concrete blocks on Borough Hill, saw the year out by still being present at sunset on 31st.

Black Redstart, Borough Hill, 24th December 2021 (Kyle Smith)

The latter site continued to hold two Stonechats throughout, while singles were at both Pitsford and Thrapston on 27th and Upton CP on 30th, with five at Hollowell Res on 31st.