There was no drama this week as far as the weather was concerned and, come to that, the same statement applies equally to the status of the county’s birds for the same period. Once again, it was the flamboyant, bold as brass, male Bearded Tit which held sway at Stanwick, pulling the punters and wooing watchers and photographers alike as the week rolled out …
As we near the end of February, it’s turned out to be a locally lean winter for grey geese. Apart from three White-fronts at Stanford Res on 2nd December last year, plus a smattering of odd Pink-footed Geese, there’s been no real sniff of any. This week, one of the latter species joined the Greylag flock at Lilbourne Meadows NR on 19th but was not present subsequently.
Just down the road, the female Ruddy Shelduck remained at Winwick Pools on 20th and, seemingly now in it for the long haul, the females of Ring-necked Duck and Greater Scaup both chalked up another week at Ravensthorpe Res. Static, too, was the long-staying drake Red-crested Pochard at Stanford, while a ‘new’ male was found at Daventry CP on 20th and a female spent 22nd-23rd on the Main Lake at Summer Leys.
Also new in on 18th were two Smews – a drake and a ‘redhead’ – at Blatherwycke Lake, where they remained throughout the period.
Winter waders were limited to Jack Snipe, two of which were at Hollowell Res on 20th with at least one still there on 24th, while one was also seen at Pitsford Res on the same two dates.
Numbers of scarce gulls remained fairly steady with Caspian Gull being the dominant species. An adult paid a brief visit to Boddington Res on 20th, the same date seeing a trio, comprising an adult, a ‘near-adult’ and a second-winter, at Hollowell Res, while an adult and a second-winter were there on 24th. Four – two adults, a second-winter and a first-winter – were at DIRFT 3 on 22nd and a first-winter visited Summer Leys on 24th.
The regular wintering adult Yellow-legged Gull remained in the vicinity of the sailing club at Pitsford until at least 22nd. A teaser and potential pitfall for any would-be ‘white-winged’ gull finders was a strikingly conspicuous, leucistic Lesser Black-backed (or possibly Herring) Gull, bearing a passing resemblance to a second-winter Iceland Gull, at DIRFT 3 on 22nd.
Other odds and sods this week were a Merlin in the Brampton Valley, below Hanging Houghton, on 18th and a Bittern in flight at the western end of Stanwick GP on 21st.
But the true star of Stanwick was, for the second week running, the male Bearded Tit, positively sizzling in the late winter sunshine as it continued, unabated, to pull in an avalanche of admirers until 23rd, when two birds were reportedly present.
Somewhat overshadowed, and in an arguably less appealing setting, was the single Siberian Chiffchaff that lingered throughout the period along the sewage outflow stream at Ecton SF. Elsewhere, Stonechats were seen at four sites, with trios at Earls Barton GP, Hollowell and Pitsford and two near Walgrave.