Newsround – 3rd to 9th December 2022

With the onset of a strong easterly airstream off the near continent, temperatures tumbled from the word go. They were to fall even lower as the winds subsequently swung northerly, delivering significantly colder air from the high Arctic …

Sub-zero overnight temperatures and heavy ground frosts had become the norm as the week drew to a close and, on the last day, single Pink-footed Geese were found at both Ravensthorpe Res and Stanwick GP. There was no way of telling if these were new birds or if they had been kicking around backstage for some time, although the latter seems highly likely for the Ravensthorpe individual at least.

Red-crested Pochards maintained their presence with the highest numbers again at Stanford Res, where last week’s nine had dropped to four as the week opened, further dwindling to one by the end of the period. Elsewhere, two were at Pitsford Res on 4th, the long-staying drake at Daventry CP was joined by another on 8th and two drakes were found at Kislingbury GP on 9th.

Several rungs up the celebrity ladder and looking rather settled – at least for the time being – last week’s dapper drake Smew remained at Pitsford throughout, dividing its time between Holcot and Walgrave Bays.

Drake Smew, Pitsford Res, 8th December 2022 (Mike Alibone)

This week’s Cattle Egrets were thin on the ground – and in the air, come to that – with single birds seen flying east over Irthlingborough on 4th, at Stanwick on 5th, flying north over Thrapston GP on 9th and in the riverside meadow opposite Earls Barton GP’s Hardwater Lake on the same date.

Nearby, Summer Leys’ Marsh Harrier continued to be seen sporadically throughout the period and it, or another, was also seen almost daily further down the Nene Valley at Stanwick. The ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier was again hunting in the Brampton Valley on 6th.

Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 7th December 2022 (Clive Bowley)

Unsurprisingly, there were no new waders to add to last week’s. Pitsford’s Wood Sandpiper remained on site until at least 7th and this week’s Jack Snipes comprised four at Daventry on 5th and two at Hollowell on 9th.

Hollowell also broke Stanford’s monopoly on Mediterranean Gulls with an adult in the roost there on 3rd. On the same date, Stanford’s roost held a first-winter, followed on 4th by an adult and a first-winter, an adult on 5th-6th and the first-winter back on 8th. The same two sites vied again to host the county’s Caspian Gulls this week: Stanford produced single adults on 3rd, 5th and 8th, and Hollowell on 4th, 7th and 9th.

Adult Caspian Gull, Hollowell Res, 4th December 2022 (Jon Cook)
Adult Caspian Gull, Hollowell Res, 4th December 2022 (Jon Cook)

Meanwhile, single adult Yellow-legged Gulls were present at Stanford on 3rd, DIRFT 3 on 4th and at Pitsford on 7th and 9th.

Remaining scarce during the autumn and now into the winter, Short-eared Owls are still in short supply. Observed from a moving vehicle, the week’s only bird was seen sitting on a roadside hedge near Sywell on 6th. The man behind the wheel was a photographer in a hurry, with no time to undertake a drive-by shooting …

Passerines were few and far between. Stanwick’s long-staying male Bearded Tit remained along the causeway of the A45 Lay-by Pit until at least 7th – the same date on which a Black Redstart was reported to have been killed by a cat at Sywell CP. Sywell also produced the highest number of Stonechats – six on 7th – while, elsewhere, Hollowell and Stanwick scored four apiece, Clifford Hill and Summer Leys, two and Oundle, one.

Female Stonechat, Earls Barton GP, 6th December 2022 (Leslie Fox)

A Crossbill in flight over the last-mentioned locality, on 4th, was only the 8th record for 2022, the last being on 24th September, when three flew over Harrington AF.

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