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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.