Looking initially like a largely flat week, the continuation of above average temperatures, rain and an erratic, wuthering wind off the Atlantic probably did little to lift local spirits. Factor in fleeting occurrences of the rare and the scarce, along with birds tantalisingly off limits and, arguably for many, there was seemingly little to shout about.
Routine reservoir watching established the ongoing presence of the Pink-footed Goose at Ravensthorpe, lingering until the end of the week. Also remaining on site throughout was the drake Red-crested Pochard at Stanford, while the female at Hardingstone GP went unreported after 8th. Pitsford continued to host two drake Smews until at least 8th, with one still present on 13th and a Greater Scaup was reported in Scaldwell Bay there, also on 8th.
The week’s only waders of note were Jack Snipes – one at Barnes Meadow LNR on 8th followed, on 9th, by one at Summer Leys LNR and two at Ditchford GP.
Hot on the heels of last week’s adult at Daventry CP was another Kittiwake – this time a first-winter and, this time, in the gull roost at Stanford on 9th. The past week has seen a number of records across the Midlands, namely in Bedfordshire, Gloucestershire, Nottinghamshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire.
The Stanford gull roost also produced the county’s first Mediterranean Gull of 2023, a first-winter, on 12th and it continued to work its magnetic magic by pulling in the highest single site total of Caspian Gulls with five (four adults and a third-winter) there on 13th. DIRFT 3 delivered two Caspian Gulls – a third-winter and a first-winter on 9th, while the regular adult was at Hollowell Res on 7th-9th and 12th-13th and single adults were at Stanford on 9th-10th and Ditchford GP on 12th.
Once again outnumbered by the above species, single adult Yellow-legged Gulls visited Hardingstone GP on 7th and Ditchford GP on 12th, while Pitsford Res retained its regular adult on 12th-13th.
On the raptor front, Merlins were not in short supply but, as ever, being in the right place at the right time was a prerequisite for connecting with them. In this respect, single flyovers were seen at Yardley Gobion on 9th, New Duston (Northampton) on 12th and at Earls Barton GP on 13th.
As for passerines, well, once again, the same out-of-reach group of Waxwings made it into the news for the second week running. Tantalisingly close, the twenty or so birds on the wrong side of the River Ouse that is Buckinghamshire, were again seen in, and around, Stony Stratford on 10th, when it was reported that, for a second time, some had crossed into Northants, briefly visiting the rear gardens of some local houses. So near, yet so far …
By contrast, things were going swimmingly along Mary’s Lane at Earls Barton, where one Yellow-browed Warbler continued to perform throughout the weekend of 7th-8th. Come the working week, however, in line with the old proverb, all good things must come to an end – they did … and there was no subsequent sign of it.
Stonechats appeared settled at four localities, with four at Earls Barton on 12th, twos at Pitsford on 8th and at Raunds CP on 13th and one at Hollowell on 9th.
Arguably for some, in terms of local rarity, the bird of the week slot was occupied by Twite, two of which were found close to the Grand Union Canal near Yardley Gobion, on 9th. If accepted, these would constitute only the fourth county record this century, the previous three being at Ditchford in December 2014, Pitsford in October 2011 and Borough Hill in October 2000. Twite was formerly a scarce, but almost annual, winter visitor, numbers of which peaked in the 1970s, with a flock of forty-one at Pitsford Res – the prime location for this species – in January 1976. Records continued through the 80s with notably smaller numbers, waning considerably in the 90s, when the last was down to just one in 1998. This represents a sad reflection of its precarious status in England, having suffered a steep decline this century, with the breeding population falling by 75% between 1999 and 2013.