In the week when we officially waved goodbye to another autumn, winter was ushered in under a foggy mantle. Gloom, yes, but not quite doom, as a number of new arrivals emerged between the clag and haar of an otherwise dull and gloomy Northamptonshire.
At home in the cool, chilly conditions, Stanwick GP’s juvenile Dark-bellied Brent Goose saw the autumn out, still being present on 30th. But, heralding the onset of winter, were three adult White-fronted Geese found at Stanford Res on 2nd. Hopefully, there will be more of these to come as winter unfolds, so check those local Greylag flocks, which normally harbour them.
Ducking and diving, the usual scattering of Red-crested Pochards held good this week with numbers climbing to nine at Stanford by the end of the period, single drakes still at both Daventry CP and Wicksteed Park on 28th and at least one still at Pitsford Res on 30th.
Topping all of the above, though, the first Smew of the new winter season – a fine, dapper drake – arrived on cue, on 30th. Found late in the morning in Pitsford’s Holcot Bay, it appeared to have vanished by mid-afternoon but it was clearly still there and showing, bold as brass, on 2nd. For many locals these birds often represent the highlight of a winter’s day – but for how much longer? Based on their scarcity in southern England over the last few years, it’s recently been suggested that, as a result of climate change and milder winters, Smews are shifting their wintering range further north. So, get them while you can …
The only Cattle Egrets this week were seven at Stanwick GP on 2nd.
Seen again throughout the week, the Marsh Harrier continued to provide both entertainment and photographic opportunities as it extended its dwell time at Summer Leys, while an adult male Hen Harrier was reported in the Welland Valley, near Gretton, on 29th, along with a Merlin.
Back at Pitsford, last week’s waders were this week’s waders, with the Wood Sandpiper remaining in Scaldwell Bay throughout. The imminent onset of cold weather, coupled with continually rising water levels, will provide a true test of its resilience as the UK’s only known overwintering bird. So, too, the Common Sandpiper remained in the vicinity of dam until at least 27th. Away from this site, the only Jack Snipe reported was one at Ditchford GP on 26th.
Stanford remained the premier site for gulls this week, with Mediterranean Gulls represented by a first-winter in the roost on 26th, followed by two first-winters and a second-winter there on 27th. Upsizing, two adult Caspian Gulls were also there on 26th and one again on 30th while, on 27th, 2 adults visited Pitsford Res and another was in the pre-roost gathering at DIRFT 3. That just leaves Yellow-legged Gulls, of which there were three at Pitsford, also on 27th.
The week’s best passerines were not the easiest to connect with. A report of ten Waxwings caused a bit of a kerfuffle in Long Buckby on 26th and, remaining no less difficult to see, Stanwick’s long-staying male Bearded Tit remained along the causeway of the A45 Lay-by Pit until at least 29th.
Just upriver, at nearby Ditchford GP, a Siberian Chiffchaff was found on 26th and, while constituting the first for the autumn/winter period, it is only the third for 2022.
Another week, another Black Redstart … or two. Following the one at Pitsford last week, a first-winter male was found in the, as yet unused, lorry park at DIRFT 3 on 27th and Harrington AF, too, unsurprisingly got in on the act with one reported there the following day.
After last week’s low, Stonechat numbers rallied this week, with the top count being four at DIRFT 3 on 27th, twos at Ditchford on 26th, Summer Leys on 28th, Earls Barton GP on 29th and Barnes Meadow LNR on 1st, while singles were at Pitsford on 29th and Stanwick on 30th-2nd.
An extensive high pressure system in place over Russia looks promising for the delivery of some more traditional winter visitors – particularly wildfowl – over the forthcoming week.