With the winds swinging to the north-west and then remaining so throughout, the week opened with Storm Corrie hitting northern parts of the UK, before closing with sleet showers locally as a band of freezing rain crossed the country. Arguably however, the weather had little influence on this week’s birds, top of which was the county’s sixth record of Dartford Warbler.
But it was all very much déjà vu on the wildfowl front – the small numbers of wintering geese apparently not in any hurry to move on. So, with seemingly nowhere to go, Pitsford’s Barnacle Goose remained all week, as did Ravensthorpe’s Pink-footed Goose and Sywell’s White-fronted Goose, while last week’s trios of the latter species continued to frequent Stanwick GP until at least 3rd and Stanford on Avon, border-hopping, throughout.
Found last week, the grazing adult Whooper Swan was still in fields near Cosgrove, just north of the Navigation Inn, on 4th and by 30th, the female Ruddy Shelduck had moseyed on down from Stanford to Hollowell, while the female-type White-cheeked Pintail was still at Deene Lake on the same date. Oh, the joy of flagging up ornamentals …
Back on the menu after the best part of three weeks’ absence, the only right and proper duck this week was a drake Smew, on show at Ravensthorpe for three days, between 31st and 2nd.
Remarkably appearing to elicit little interest, Pitsford’s Great Northern Diver was still present on 2nd and the Bittern, glimpsed flying into the reedbed at Stortons GP at the end of last week, offered similarly fleeting views there on 30th.
Cattle Egrets peaked at five at Stanwick GP on 3rd, although there were no reports from anywhere else during the period. Once again, Stanwick was also the place to be for impressive numbers of Great Egrets, the roost count there maxing out at fifteen on 1st. Other maximum site totals notched up included six at Summer Leys on 29th, five at Ravensthorpe on 1st, three at Thrapston GP on 29th, twos at Earls Barton GP on 30th, Hollowell on 2nd-4th and Naseby Res on 3rd, and singles at Stanford on 29th-30th and Ecton SF/Billing GP on 30th.
A Shag was reported from Pitsford on 2nd.
It’s fair to say the county struggled for waders this week. Aside from single Jack Snipes at Barnes Meadow LNR on 3rd and at both Hollowell and Ravensthorpe the next day, the only wader of note – simply because of its scarcity in winter – was a Common Sandpiper at Pitsford, on the overflow at the end of the dam, on 2nd. Despite almost daily coverage, the overwintering individual at Earls Barton GP’s new workings (north) could not be found this week so perhaps this bird is one and the same.
On the Larid front, Caspian Gulls maintained their recent high profile, the Stanford gull roost producing a second-winter on 29th, a first-winter on 31st and a third-winter on 4th, while Hollowell hosted one on 30th, an adult and a third-winter on 2nd and a third-winter on 4th. Away from established water bodies, DIRFT 3 held an adult, a third-winter and a second-winter on 1st with the latter two individuals still present the next day, while Rushton Landfill produced an adult and a third-winter on 2nd. Yellow-legged Gulls continued to be overshadowed by the last species, with just four in the roost at Stanford on 30th, 2 there on 31st and an adult at Pitsford on 3rd.
This week’s token Merlin was one flying east near Gordons Lodge, on the Bucks/Northants border, on 4th.
Heading up the passerines was a much welcomed, top-notch vagrant. Yes, hot on the heels of the fleeting back garden bird in October 2020 was a Dartford Warbler, looking distinctly female-like, at Duston Mill, Northampton on 2nd and 3rd. Constituting Northamptonshire’s sixth record, and loosely associating with two Stonechats, it occupied a somewhat straggly field between Stortons GP and the Northampton ring road, at times showing well and giving the opportunity for local birders to catch up with what, let’s face it, has not been an easy bird to see in the county.
Aside from the aforementioned Blakesley bird in October 2020, the last twitchable one, readily available for those happy to negotiate the then icy conditions, was at East Carlton in late November 2010. Prior to that, a couple of long stayers were, interestingly, in similar surroundings on the opposite side of the ring road to this week’s bird, the land now an industrial development known as Swan Valley. That was way back, between December 2004 and February 2005. How long this one will stay is anybody’s guess. Their uncanny habit of fraternising with Stonechats is well known, so … find a Stonechat or two, spend that extra bit of time following them around and, well, you never know … Talking of which, this week’s were dotted about at DIRFT 3, Duston Mill, Earls Barton GP, Hollowell, Ravensthorpe and Upton CP, with Hollowell laying claim to the week’s highest site total of six, on 4th.
And lest we should forget … this week, overshadowed and underwatched, the wintering Black Redstart remained at Borough Hill throughout while, a hair’s breadth from the Bucks border, a Hawfinch popped up at the unusual location of Gordons Lodge, near Ashton, before quickly departing Northamptonshire, on 3rd.