Newsround – 24th to 30th December 2022

Continuing last week’s theme, the relatively mild weather continued throughout, with some areas recording a positively balmy 14°C as the week unfolded. After Boxing Day though, the post-Christmas rush was not for the sales but instead to Earls Barton GP where, it seems, Yellow-browed Warblers abounded …

But first, paying due diligence to the systematic list, the Ravensthorpe Pink-footed Goose was back, around and about the area of the reservoir, on 27th and in fields behind the Fishing Lodge there on 30th. Three sites produced Red-crested Pochards during the period – Stanford Res hung on to its long-staying drake throughout, two drakes appeared at Pitsford Res on 24th and a female found at Hardingstone GP on 27th remained until at least 30th.

Female Red-crested Pochard, Hardingstone GP, 30th December 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Moving upmarket somewhat, last week’s two drake Smews were still at Pitsford on 24th, at least one of which was still present on 27th.

By the time the week closed, the back end of this year had notched up another Great Northern Diver – this second bird on Mary’s Lake at Earls Barton GP, on 27th, following the trait of the one at Pitsford in November insomuch as it was present for less than 24 hours. Such short visits are very much out of character for this species in Northants, where we’re much more accustomed to seeing protracted stays over the winter period. There’s still time for another …

Juvenile Great Northern Diver, Earls Barton GP, 27th December 2022 (Bob Bullock)

Following an apparent absence of any last week, a single Cattle Egret was found with cows on the edge of Southfield Farm Marsh NR, near Kettering, on 28th.

The long-staying ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier remained in the north-central part of the county, being seen near Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 24th and at Harrington AF again on 27th. The latter date also saw the appearance of a male between Mears Ashby and Earls Barton and what was presumably the same individual flew over Summer Leys LNR toward Bozeat not long afterwards.

Waders were in short supply this week but in a bizarre turn of events, the Wood Sandpiper – last seen at Pitsford on 7th December – made a reappearance on 29th on the same building site pool at Upton, Northampton, as it did in early April, again after vacating Pitsford at the end of January. It didn’t stay beyond the morning of that date and, despite a local search, it wasn’t relocated by the time the week closed on 30th.

On the Larid front, two adult Caspian Gulls were at Hollowell on 27th and an adult visited Stanford on 28th and 29th, the latter date producing two Yellow-legged Gulls there, while an adult was seen briefly at Hardingstone GP on 30th.

Stanford also produced one of this week’s two Merlins, on 26th, while the other was seen between Harrington AF and Draughton on 29th.

A Waxwing was reported flying from the Gladstone Road area of Northampton toward Dallington Park on Boxing Day but there was never any doubt about the week’s top passerines when a veritable tsunami of Yellow-browed Warblers hit on 27th, as two were found in close proximity in trees and scrub adjacent to the entrance of Earls Barton GP’s Mary’s Lake. Clearly one of these birds was the individual first seen on the nearby island in the lake, briefly, on 16th. This stripey duo clearly saw fit to do the decent thing and remained, showing well, to the delight of all comers, until the week’s end.

Yellow-browed Warbler, Earls Barton GP, 27th December 2022 (Bob Bullock)
Yellow-browed Warbler, Earls Barton GP, 27th December 2022 (Martin Swannell)
Yellow-browed Warbler, Earls Barton GP, 27th December 2022 (Bob Bullock)
Yellow-browed Warbler, Earls Barton GP, 27th December 2022 (Martin Swannell)

We’re so used to hearing of this species being trapped and ringed in the county (two at Stanford earlier, in the autumn) and these birds go some way to redress the balance. And two together? Well, that’s a first, locally! Winter records are rare in Northants but not without precedent. Indeed, with increasing numbers appearing in Europe during autumn and winter, Yellow-browed Warbler has been suggested as an ideal model for studying the links between vagrancy and the emergence of new migratory routes.

Female Stonechat, Earls Barton GP, 26th December 2022 (Leslie Fox)
Female Stonechat, Upton CP, 29th December 2022 (Mike Alibone)

But back down to earth, the week’s Stonechats were seen at Earls Barton GP, Lilbourne Meadows NR, Pitsford Res, Summer Leys LNR, Sywell CP and Upton CP with no more than four at any one locality.

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