A persistent westerly airstream delivered gales on day two of what was an otherwise calm and largely dry week. The Duston Mill Dartford Warbler continued to head the cast of the period’s top birds, while a number of new discoveries were added to this week’s mix.
Wintering geese remained firmly in focus on the wildfowl front with, again, Pitsford’s Barnacle Goose, Ravensthorpe’s Pink-footed Goose and Sywell’s White-fronted Goose, all remaining throughout. So, too, did the three Whitefronts at Stanford on Avon, while the Nene Valley trio moved from Stanwick GP back to Thrapston GP on 6th, before returning to Stanwick the following day, remaining there until at least 10th.
Another river valley, the Tove, continued to host the adult Whooper Swan, still nicely settled in fields north of the Navigation Inn, near Cosgrove, until at least 9th.
This week’s duck of the week – in fact, the only duck of the week – was the drake Smew which, having vacated Ravensthorpe on 3rd, was relocated at Pitsford a week later, on 10th.
Clearly lacking the latter’s itchy feet and looking rather more settled, Pitsford’s Great Northern Diver had chalked up twenty days’ stay by the week’s end.
Numbers of Cattle Egrets wax and wane and they were clearly down, with just singles – or the same individual – at Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR and Stanwick on 7th and two at the latter site the following day. Stanwick also remained top of the leader board for numbers of Great Egrets, with a consistent weekly roost count of fifteen on 8th. With the early to mid-winter high counts seemingly having evaporated, numbers continued to fall elsewhere, with other site maxima including three at Stanford Res on 7th, two at Ravensthorpe on 10th and singles at Billing GP, Ditchford GP, Earls Barton GP, Pitsford and Summer Leys.
A Marsh Harrier was seen briefly at Clifford Hill GP on 8th, before clearly moving on.
Waders were few and far between. After going unreported for a week, a Ruff resurfaced at Summer Leys on 7th, remaining on show until at least 9th, while last week’s Common Sandpiper continued to occupy the dam at Pitsford until at least 9th.
The first Mediterranean Gull of 2022, a fine adult, dropped into the roost at Stanford on 10th, revisiting for the evening again on 11th.
And while gulls may not be everyone’s cup of tea, ringed individuals are often obvious in the field, thereby providing the opportunity for a bit of ‘track and trace’ detective work. This particularly applies to the larger larids and one such, a first-winter Caspian Gull, watched at Rushton Landfill on 9th, bore a shiny yellow bangle inscribed with the code P:WH7, which ultimately indicated it had been ringed as a pullus at Wyspa NA RZ.Wisla, Kepa Nadbrzesk, Otwock, Mazowieckie, Poland, on 15th May 2021.
During its travelling the 1490 km to Rushton, it stopped off and spent some time at Thetford, Norfolk, between 2nd and 30th November 2021.
Other Caspian Gulls were also up for grabs, with a second-winter visiting DIRFT 3 on 6th, the Stanford gull roost producing an adult on the same date, followed by two the following evening. Two adults were also at Hollowell on 7th, 9th and 11th, being joined on the latter date by a third-winter, while a third-winter also visited Clifford Hill GP, briefly, on 10th. Single adult Yellow-legged Gulls were at Pitsford on 5th-6th and at Hollowell on 9th.
This week’s token Merlin was a female flying north over Southbrook, Daventry on 10th.
On the edge of suburbia, puller and pleaser, the Duston Mill Dartford Warbler, continued to woo the crowds throughout the week.
It’s a pity the same cannot be said for the Siberian Chiffchaff, found feeding with two Chiffchaffs in riverside vegetation by the Sixfields Lake car park at Stortons GP on 6th. Found by visitors to the Dartford Warbler, this bird moved on quickly and was not seen subsequently. Another one not available to the masses spent 15 minutes in a Kettering garden on 11th. In a winter which has seen record numbers of what must surely be a ‘species in waiting’, it seems strange that the most frequently blessed wintering site of Ecton SF has not (yet) produced one among the ten or so Chiffchaffs which are currently wintering there.
Overshadowed by the events at Duston Mill/Stortons GP, well out of the limelight, the wintering Black Redstart at Borough Hill scraped into the week’s proceedings on 5th. It’s probably still there … And Stonechats have enjoyed more attention this week, given their association with a certain warbler and all that … The Duston Mill duo continued to revel in their time under the spotlight, although two at Borough Hill on 5th didn’t exert the same pull, two were at DIRFT 3 on 6th and Hollowell again produced the highest count of four, on 9th.
Following last week’s Bucks-bound, border-hopping Hawfinch, near Ashton, two more were discovered – and fortunately nailed down – at Cottesbrooke on 11th.
This particular locality produced Hawfinches during the invasion in winter 2017-18, which begs the question, how many more may be out there? Time, once again, to yomp through your local Yew trees and check those Hornbeams …