Newsround – 18th to 24th March 2023

A relentless and blustery south-westerly airstream continued throughout the period, providing conditions conducive to spring migration for many species. Few would dispute that the Nene Valley was the place to be this week and, undoubtedly, the highlight for many was a hugely impressive flock of Black-tailed Godwits which descended on Summer Leys, while a new Ring-necked Duck was found at Ringstead. And then there were the new summer visitors …

On the face of it, some of these dates may seem to be a little early but none of them is anywhere near record-breaking – the earliest Yellow Wagtail, for instance, was on 9th March 2014 and the other three are all between eight and ten days later than the previous record holders. The week also produced further singles of Garganey at Summer Leys on 23rd, Yellow Wagtail near Lamport on 21st and Swallow at Thrapston GP’s Titchmarsh LNR on 24th.

Now, following due systematic process, there was little change to the week’s wildfowl, which saw the Pink-footed Goose remaining throughout with Greylags at Wicksteed Park, Kettering and the female Ruddy Shelduck still at Winwick Pools on 20th.

Similarly lingering was the female Red-crested Pochard at Summer Leys until at least 23rd, while the long-staying female Ring-necked Duck again chose to alternate between Hollowell and Ravensthorpe Reservoirs and was still present at the latter site on the last day of the week. Meanwhile, in the east of the county, another female Ring-necked Duck was discovered at Ringstead GP on 23rd, this bird highly likely to be the individual seen at nearby Thrapston GP on 27th-28th January – its whereabouts during the intervening period remaining unknown.

With no reports this week, the Ravensthorpe & Hollowell female Greater Scaup appears to have upped and gone but the first-winter drake saw another full week out at Billing GP.

A little further down the Nene Valley, a riot of Black-tailed Godwits caused a bit of a stir, ultimately proving a popular draw, at Summer Leys on 21st and 22nd. An exceptional flock of 163 dropped in on the Scrape there, mid-morning, on the first of these two dates and was still present at first light the following day. The flock then fragmented with groups moving off until the last had departed by very early morning – only to be replaced, almost three hours later, by the arrival of a new flock of up to thirty birds. While Pitsford Res cobbled together a mere three on 21st, it still holds the record for producing the most birds in one day – in excess of three hundred passing through on 28th April 2017.

With numbers of winter gulls fast dwindling, local scarcities were few and far between. Most notable was an adult Mediterranean Gull appearing intermittently at Summer Leys on 19th-20th, followed by a first-summer there, albeit only briefly, on 22nd.

The only Caspian Gulls making an appearance this week were a first-winter and second-winter at Daventry CP on 18th and a first-winter paying a short visit to Titchmarsh LNR’s Aldwincle Lake on 22nd.

On the raptor front, single Ospreys seen in two site-sensitive areas in the north of the county on 21st were not completely unexpected but a White-tailed Eagle over Hollowell and Ravensthorpe Reservoirs on 19th was a different kettle of fish entirely. This bird was radio-tagged ‘G547’, a second-winter female from the Isle of Wight reintroduction scheme, which has spent most of the last year in northern Scotland and, through tracking, is now said to be heading purposefully south. Before hitting Hollowell it had flown more than 217 km from the Yorkshire Dales during the day, choosing to roost at Ravensthorpe, where it was still present early the following morning.

It’s astonishing how these flying barn doors routinely slip through the county without being seen, raising the obvious question … what else are we missing?

And talking of things missing, there appears to have been a big clear out of Stonechats this week with the only birds seen being two at Priors Hall, Corby on 19th.

Hot on the heels of the first spring wave last week, Northern Wheatears were on the up with five together at Willowbrook Industrial Estate, Corby on 23rd, twos at Polebrook AF on 19th and in the Brampton Valley on 20th, plus singles at the latter locality on 21st, 22nd and 24th and one at Hinton AF on 18th.


Newsround – 11th to 17th March 2023

Despite the tussle between two opposing weather systems and the toing and froing of a cold northerly airstream, the period shaped up nicely into a classic mid-March week for spring migrants.

In this respect, Summer Leys LNR held good to its name, producing three firsts for the year, two of which were true summer visitors.

Aside from the above, other sites quickly followed suit, with Sand Martins in particular appearing on three further consecutive days, numbers of which included five at Wicksteed Park Lake on 14th, two at Kislingbury GP and seven at Pitsford Res on 15th, followed by forty at the latter site – plus singles at Lilbourne Meadows NR and Summer Leys – on 16th. DIRFT 3 also produced three Little Ringed Plovers on the last of these dates and another visited Summer Leys on 17th. And then there were Northern Wheatears, listed above but broken down into singles at two sites in the Brampton Valley, two at Harrington AF and one at Summer Leys. Last but not least, an Osprey was thrown in for good measure on the final day of the week.

Bouncing back to basics now, wildfowl of potentially questionable origin included the Upton CP Barnacle Goose, remaining until 12th, the Pink-footed Goose with Greylags at, and around, Wicksteed Park, Kettering until at least 15th and the female Ruddy Shelduck still at Winwick Pools, also on 15th.

Downsizing to diving ducks, last week’s female Red-crested Pochard continued to occupy the Main Lake at Summer Leys until mid-week and, attracting far less attention than it did some weeks back, the female Ring-necked Duck was still present at Ravensthorpe Res until 15th. Having apparently developed itchy feet though, for the first time, it clearly cast site faithfulness to the wind and had moved to nearby Hollowell Res by the week’s end.

The long-staying female Greater Scaup, however, remained at Ravensthorpe throughout, while the first-winter drake was still on site at Billing GP until at least 16th. It, or another, visited nearby Clifford Hill GP on 12th.

In addition to the aforementioned Little Ringed Plovers, a wider passage of waders this week included a trickle of Curlews, Ringed Plovers and Dunlins but unquestionably topping the bill were the three Avocets that dropped in to Summer Leys for a mere ten minutes on the morning of 14th. Having quickly departed to the west, searches at locations further up the Nene Valley unfortunately proved fruitless.

Three sites produced Black-tailed Godwits, with five at Summer Leys, briefly, on 13th, two at Lilbourne Meadows on 16th and the same number at Ditchford GP the following day. The latter site also produced a Jack Snipe on 15th and one was also at Pitsford Res on the previous day.

To gulls and the second-winter ‘Viking Gull’ (Glaucous x Herring hybrid) again visited Daventry CP on 14th – noteworthy but perhaps not measuring high enough on the laridometer to elicit any significant level of interest for most. It appears the same bird has recently been seen in the gull roost at Draycote, just over the border in Warwickshire. More run-of-the-mill fare appeared in the shape of Caspian Gulls, which included a first-winter at Stanford Res on 11th, a second-winter at Wicksteed Park Lake, Kettering on 12th and a bird of the same age on the same date at DIRFT 3. An adult also visited Stanwick on 14th, while Daventry pulled in a second-winter on 15th and a first-winter on 17th.

Meanwhile, the wintering adult Yellow-legged Gull remained at Pitsford throughout the period.

Scarce raptors were few and far between but Summer Leys did conjure up a transient Marsh Harrier, albeit very briefly, on 12th. Back over in the Brampton Valley, and the last day of the week produced not one but two Merlins – a male at the southern end, close to Brampton View Care Village, and a female/immature near Boughton Crossing.

Back on the menu, for one day only, was Stanwick’s male Bearded Tit, in precisely the same location as previously, on 15th. Its whereabouts over the preceding two weeks remains a mystery …

Aside from certain summer visitors already mentioned, other passerines were limited to two Siberian Chiffchaffs hanging on at Ecton SF until at least 12th and a widespread brace of Stonechats, most – if not all of which – appeared to be migrants.

At least three Stonechats were at Pitsford between 12th and 14th, twos were at Stanford Res on 12th, Clifford Hill GP from 12th to 16th, Kislingbury GP on 15th and possibly three in the Brampton Valley between 12th and 17th. Elsewhere, singles were at Sywell CP from 12th to 16th, Boughton on 12th and Ditchford GP on 15th.


Newsround – 4th to 10th March 2023

Spring was put well and truly on hold this week as winter came back with a vengeance. Biting northerlies from the Arctic brought temperatues down and, from mid-week, significant snowfall transformed the landscape, culminating on the last day of the period in 50 mph gales and blizzard conditions, courtesy of ‘Storm Larisa’.

Although many of last week’s birds remained in place, a sprinkling of migrants was evident – not least of which was a herd of fifteen Bewick’s Swans that arrived at Summer Leys LNR on 6th, sparking a mini-twitch before their departure to the east an hour or so after first light the following morning.

Although it’s tempting to believe these birds were from Slimbridge, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust have confirmed they do not recognise them and they did not winter there. The UK winter population of Bewick’s decreased by 88% between 1993/94 and 2018/19 (BTO) and, as such, this species is Red-listed nationally in the UK Birds of Conservation Concern. This figure is reflected in Northamptonshire’s records which, since the turn of the century, now average only 3 per annum. There was none in 2022.

Other wildfowl were available, of course, their ‘wildness’ open to debate in some cases. Falling squarely into the latter category, a Barnacle Goose joined Canadas at Upton CP on 8th, while the Pink-footed Goose remained with Greylags at Wicksteed Park, Kettering until at least 9th.

Back at Summer Leys, the female Red-crested Pochard was still present on 5th, after which a drake was found adjacent to the reserve, at Earls Barton GP’s Mary’s Lake, on the last day of the period. Also remaining in situ were the female Ring-necked Duck and the female Greater Scaup at Ravensthorpe Res, until 10th and 6th, respectively. In the Nene Valley, the drake Greater Scaup also saw the week out at Billing GP.

Waders on offer were at a premium with the first Black-tailed Godwit of the year dropping in briefly to Summer Leys on 7th and the week’s only Jack Snipe was found at Stortons GP on 8th.

Gulls, too, were somewhat thin on the ground. An adult Mediterranean Gull joined the roost at Stanford Res on 6th and 7th and the number of Caspian Gulls was also rather diminished with a third-winter at DIRFT 3 on 5th and an adult at Hollowell Res on 6th, followed by three adults there the next day. At Pitsford Res, the wintering adult Yellow-legged Gull remained all week.

Also in short supply – perhaps understandably – were passerines, which were propped up on the rarity front by the continuing presence of Siberian Chiffchaffs along the outflow stream at Ecton SF. Two were seen on 7th and at least one remained on 10th.

There was also some movement of Stonechats during the week. Stanford held one at the beginning of the period and a further two arrived there near the week’s end. Elsewhere, Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (South) held at least 6 on 7th, Sywell CP produced four – possibly six – on 9th, four were at Hollowell on 6th-7th, two were at Earls Barton Lock on 10th and one at Hartwell on 7th.


Newsround – 25th February to 3rd March 2023

With the wind primarily from the north-east and, although the movement of some species was clearly evident, there was not even a sniff of any long-awaited and much anticipated spring migrants this week. Still, having now stepped into meteorological spring, there is much to look forward to and, with just about everything still in place from the week before, plenty to look back on and revisit.   

With the grey goose barrel having almost run dry, three Pink-footed Geese came to the fore, although only one of them was truly new – that one being found at Blatherwycke Lake on 28th. Aside from this, the bird with Greylags at Lilbourne Meadows NR reappeared on 27th-28th, as did the one-eyed individual at Wicksteed Park, where it was still present on 2nd.

Pink-footed Goose, Wicksteed Park Lake, 2nd March 2023 (James Underwood)

The female Ruddy Shelduck remained at Winwick Pools throughout the week and so, too, did the female Red-crested Pochard at Summer Leys LNR and the female Ring-necked Duck at Ravensthorpe Res.

Female Red-crested Pochard, Summer Leys LNR, 25th February 2023 (James Underwood)
Female Ring-necked Duck, Ravensthorpe Res, 27th February 2023 (Mike Alibone)
Female Ring-necked Duck, Ravensthorpe Res, 28th February 2023 (James Urwin)
Female Ring-necked Duck, Ravensthorpe Res, 3rd March 2023 (Bob Bullock)

Emulating the above American, the female Greater Scaup also saw out another week at the same site, while a new bird – this one a first-winter drake – was discovered at Billing GP on 1st, remaining there until the end of the period.

First-winter drake Greater Scaup, Billing GP, 1st March 2023 (Mike Alibone)

Last week’s two Smews at Blatherwycke just made it into the new week but were not reported again after 25th.

Scarce waders continued to be in short supply and 25th was clearly ‘Jack Snipe day’, when single birds were seen at both Hollowell and Pitsford Reservoirs.

But on the Larid front, Caspian Gulls again loomed large with last week’s Summer Leys first-winter spilling over into day one of the period, Hollowell holding firm with two adults on 25th and again on 2nd-3rd and a second-winter plus a third-winter dropping in to DIRFT 3 on 27th. As far as Yellow-legged Gulls were concerned, there was a little more on offer than of late, with the usual adult loitering in the vicinity of Pitsford’s Sailing Club on 25th and 27th, a second-winter at Wicksteed Park Lake on 2nd and a first-winter at Hollowell on 3rd.

Second-winter Yellow-legged Gull, Wicksteed Park Lake, 2nd March 2023 (James Underwood)

Potential head-scratcher of the week, though, was a second-winter ‘Viking Gull’ at Daventry CP on 3rd. The way things are going, this Glaucous x Herring Gull hybrid seems likely to be the closest we’ll get this year to getting to grips with a Glaucous Gull proper, given the lack of numbers in the UK over the outgoing winter. Add to this the winding down and closure, this year, of Northamptonshire’s last remaining landfill site raises the question of what this spells for future appearances of ‘white-winged’ gulls in the county … they will be at a premium!

Second-winter ‘Viking Gull’, Daventry CP, 3rd March 2023 (Gary Pullan)

So, too, are passerines currently. No longer under the spotlight and retreating into the shadows was Stanwick’s male Bearded Tit, seen all too briefly this week only on 26th and 28th. Stonechats, though, were seemingly on the move, with Hollowell producing the highest count of five on 2nd-3rd, followed by four at Earls Barton GP on the first of these two dates, while Pitsford netted two on 25th and singles were at Lilbourne Meadows and Kettering on 28th and at Stanford Res from 28th until the week’s end.

Male Stonechat, Earls Barton GP, 2nd March 2023 (Leslie Fox)

Newsround – 18th to 24th February 2023

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.

Pink-footed Goose, Lilbourne Meadows NR, 19th February 2023 (Mike Alibone)

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.

Drake Red-crested Pochard, Daventry CP, 20th February 2023 (Gary Pullan)

Also new in on 18th were two Smews – a drake and a ‘redhead’ – at Blatherwycke Lake, where they remained throughout the period.

Smew, Blatherwycke Lake,19th February 2023 (James Underwood)

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.

Adult Caspian Gull, DIRFT 3, 22nd February 2023 (Mike Alibone)
Adult Caspian Gull, DIRFT 3, 22nd February 2023 (Mike Alibone)

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.

Male Bearded Tit, Stanwick GP, 20th February 2023 (Alan Coles)
Male Bearded Tit, Stanwick GP, 20th February 2023 (Mike Alibone)
Male Bearded Tit, Stanwick GP, 20th February 2023 (Mike Alibone)

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.


Newsround – 11th to 17th February 2023

With little rain, and winds chiefly from the south-west, local temperatures reached a balmy 15°C at the week’s end. The local birdscape remained largely unchanged, although the discovery of the year’s first Bearded Tits, headed up by an exceptionally showy male, proved to be a popular draw throughout the period.

Wildfowl continued in very much the same vein as last week with, in the north-west of the county, the female Ruddy Shelduck still at Winwick Pools on 11th and the drake Red-crested Pochard seeing another week out at Stanford Res. Another drake was found at Pitsford Res on 15th. Not so far away, Ravensthorpe’s female Ring-necked Duck remained faithful to the location, moving into its fourth week on site at the end of the period. The same could not be said for the female Greater Scaup in the same area as it alternated between Hollowell and Ravensthorpe but it was still present at the latter site at the week’s end. Blatherwycke Lake’s drake, found on 10th, remained until at least 12th.

Drake Greater Scaup, Blatherwycke Lake, 12th February 2023 (Mike Alibone)

After wildfowl, and in the absence of any notable waders, gulls rule the wetlands. This week’s pick of the crop includes the first-winter Mediterranean Gull again in the roost at Stanford on 12th and 13th and an adult at Daventry CP, briefly, on 17th.

Adult Mediterranean Gull, Daventry CP, 17th February 2023 (Gary Pullan)

Stanford also produced an adult Caspian Gull on 13th, two adults and a near-adult were at Hollowell on the same date, a first-winter was at DIRFT 3 on 16th and two first-winters were at Daventry CP the following day.

First-winter Caspian Gull, DIRFT 3, 16th February 2023 (Mike Alibone)

Daventry also held a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull on 17th, while the regular wintering adult was still at Pitsford on 14th and 15th.

The first Short-eared Owl of 2023 was seen between Canons Ashby and Eydon on 12th. There have been very few about over the current winter period with the last being seen at Daventry CP on 15th December 2022.

Similarly, the first Bearded Tits of the year appeared at Stanwick GP on 11th. Two were present until 13th, after which a particularly showy male remained on site, wooing the crowds and revealing itself as a true exhibitionist, until the week’s end.

Male Bearded Tit, Stanwick GP, 13th February 2023 (Nick Parker)

At the rather more subtle end of the scale, further up the Nene Valley, two Siberian Chiffchaffs remained at Ecton SF until at least 13th, while Stonechat numbers appeared to fall away to just two at Ditchford GP on 12th and the same number at Earls Barton GP on 15th-17th.

Female Stonechat, Earls Barton GP, 15th February 2023 (Leslie Fox)

Newsround – 4th to 10th February 2023

A mainly westerly airstream, a series of overnight frosts and generally dry conditions throughout appeared to have little influence on what was being seen over the review period. With nearly all of last week’s rares still in place, things remained pretty much unchanged as the week panned out.

A goose-free week means we can avoid the debate on whether or not some locally reported species are truly wild – or can we? Some interesting news emerged this week concerning the female Ruddy Shelduck which has been visiting the north-west of the county for the last few years. Seen at Winwick Pools on 8th and 9th, the local farmer has confirmed its presence there on most days over the last three winters, normally arriving in November and, one year, staying until April. This explains its more often than not absence from Hollowell and several other regularly birded localities in the area … but where does it go during the spring and summer months?

Female Ruddy Shelduck, Winwick Pools, 8th February 2023 (James Urwin)

Meanwhile, last week’s female Red-crested Pochard stayed at Summer Leys LNR until at least 8th and the long-staying drake remained on site at Stanford Res throughout the period. Similarly settled, the Ravensthorpe Ring-necked Duck saw another week out and the female Greater Scaup appears now to be favouring the latter site over its former abode at nearby Hollowell. Another Greater Scaup – this time a drake – was found at Blatherwycke Lake on the last day of the week. The fine drake Smew lingered at Pitsford Res until at least 6th and a Slavonian Grebe was present at the same site on 5th but apparently not since.

The sole representative for this week’s waders was Jack Snipe, one of which was present at Hollowell between 6th and 10th and the other was in the Brampton Valley below Brixworth on the first of those two dates.

And as for gulls … in terms of species, it was all pretty much as last week, with Stanford’s roost pulling in two Mediterranean Gulls – an adult on 7th and a first-winter on 9th and 10th. It also produced a near-adult Caspian Gull on 8th and three (two adults and a third-winter) on 10th. Hollowell held four adult Caspians on 8th and two adults and a second-winter on 10th, while two adults were among the many large gulls at DIRFT 3 on 8th.

The Brampton Valley played host to this week’s raptors on 6th, when a Marsh Harrier was seen near Blueberry Farm and a Merlin was below Hanging Houghton.

Passerines were at a premium during the period, with just one Siberian Chiffchaff identified at Ecton SF between 4th and 9th, the number of Common Chiffchaffs there also down in numbers compared to a couple of weeks ago.

And that just leaves Stonechat, with twos at Ditchford GP, Oundle Water Meadows and Pitsford – all on 6th, singles at Burton Latimer and Earls Barton GP on the same date, two again at Pitsford on 9th and one at Hartwell on 10th.

Male Stonechat, Upton CP, 8th February 2023 (Tony Stanford)

Newsround – 28th January to 3rd February 2023

With winds off the Atlantic, a dry and ultimately mild week ensued as temperatures rose to above average by the end of the period. Much of last week’s fare lingered, including Ravensthorpe’s Ring-necked Duck and at least two Siberian Chiffchaffs at Ecton while, out of the rarity hat, a surprise appeared in the form of a White Stork, briefly, in Moulton.

Following due process, though, the Barnacle Goose of more than questionable origin remained with Canada Geese at Upton CP on 30th, while the almost equally eyebrow-raising single Pink-footed Geese were still present with Greylags at both Hollowell and Ravensthorpe Reservoirs on 28th and Wicksteed Park until 31st. On a similar theme, the itinerant female Ruddy Shelduck returned to Hollowell for the day on 30th.

Three Red-crested Pochards included the long-staying drake at Stanford Res all week, a new drake at Daventry CP on 31st and a female was present throughout the period at Summer Leys.

Drake Red-crested Pochard, Daventry CP, 31st January 2023 (Gary Pullan)

But moving into the higher echelons of more worthy wildfowl, appearing settled and prone to showing well off the causeway, the now popular female Ring-necked Duck completed its first full week at Ravensthorpe. The same cannot be said, though, for the other female found at Thrapston GP on the final day of the previous week. It was still present there, on Aldwincle Lake, the following day, 28th, but it’s not been seen since …

Female Ring-necked Duck, Ravensthorpe Res, 3rd February 2023 (Mike Alibone)

Much more obliging, however, and despite going AWOL for a day, was the female Greater Scaup at Hollowell, now into its third week. Keeping up appearances in Pitsford’s Walgrave Bay, the drake Smew remained until at least 29th.

Drake Smew, Pitsford Res, 29th January 2023 (James Skinner)

In the absence of any notable waders, gulls lined up in pretty much the usual places. The week’s token Mediterranean Gull, an adult, was found in the roost at Boddington on 3rd and Hollowell and Stanford carved up the majority of this week’s serving of Caspian Gulls between them. Of the latter, Hollowell produced an adult on 28th, two adults, a second-winter and a third-winter on 30th, three adults on 1st and two adults on 3rd. Stanford’s gull roost held an adult on 29th, two adults on 30th and a near-adult plus a third-winter on 2nd. It would appear likely that some of these are duplicates, moving between the two sites which, after all, aren’t too far apart as the gull flies. Meanwhile, DIRFT 3 produced an adult on 3rd.

Adult Caspian Gull, DIRFT 3, 3rd February 2023 (Mike Alibone)

Yellow-legged Gulls were down to just the regular, wintering adult at Pitsford, where it remained all week.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Pitsford Res, 2nd February 2023 (Mike Alibone)

The week’s big surprise, then, came in the form of a White Stork on a house roof, briefly, in Moulton on 29th. Quick off the mark, the observer managed a hastily obtained record shot of it taking flight, which appeared on social media shortly after the event but it was not possible to determine if it had any rings. It did not linger, nor was it seen again …

This week’s Merlin decided to grace Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR on 1st.

And sticking with the Nene Valley … At least two Siberian Chiffchaffs remained along the outflow at Ecton SF throughout the period. ‘SF’ is a simple abbreviation of ‘Sewage Farm’ and latter-day birders may be inclined to view the area as the more recently named ‘Great Billing STW’ (Sewage Treatment Works), or even Billing Gravel Pits, as some would have it. But for those of us birding for well over fifty years in Northants, the name ‘Ecton SF’ has heritage and dates back to the pre-1940s. Little Bittern, Night Heron, Montagu’s Harrier, Rough-legged Buzzard, Black-winged Pratincole, Kentish Plover, Sociable Plover, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs … the list is endless, the name can never be dropped or forgotten. The site is legend!

Siberian Chiffchaff, Ecton SF, 29th January 2023 (James Underwood)

Ecton SF also periodically produces Stonechats – but not this week, though, when they were limited to two at Upton CP on 30th and singles at Lilbourne Meadows NR and Hollowell Res on the same date and at Earls Barton GP on 1st.

Stonechat, Lilborne Meadows NR, 30th January 2023 (Mke Alibone)

Newsround – 21st to 27th January 2023

The freezing temperatures and the attendant icy conditions of the previous week spilled over into the first half of the period, after which a thaw set in as the thermometer eased its way back up toward something approaching the seasonal norm. Once again, ducks stole the show in terms of overall rarity, although a quartet of easy-to-see Siberian Chiffchaffs proved equally popular, exerting a strong observer pull as the week rolled out.

And it’s probably because we’re becoming more accustomed to seeing Ring-necked Ducks as they’ve upped their numbers visiting the UK over the past few winters. A female discovered at Ravensthorpe Res on the penultimate day of the week, and remaining the following day, continued this species’ run of appearances in Northants for the third consecutive winter. As if to underline its increasing frequency of occurrence, another female was found at Thrapston GP’s Titchmarsh Reserve at the eleventh hour on 27th, setting a new standard for the multiple presence of Ring-necked Duck in Northamptonshire. The two birds constituted the 10th and 11th county records, following the long-staying female that visited Thrapston GP, Ringstead GP and Stanwick GP between December 2021 and April 2022.

Female Ring-necked Duck, Ravensthorpe Res, 26th January 2023 (Jon Cook)
Female Ring-necked Duck, Ravensthorpe Res, 27th January 2023 (Mike Alibone)
First-winter female Ring-necked Duck, Thrapston GP, 27th January 2023 (videograb, Nick Parker)

Knocked into second place by the above, Hollowell’s female Greater Scaup remained throughout the week.

Once again, the long-staying drake Red-crested Pochard saw another week out at Stanford Res, while the peripatetic female Ruddy Shelduck pitched up again at Hollowell on 23rd and stayed until 25th, when it relocated to Winwick Pools near West Haddon.

Feral to the core, a Barnacle Goose joined local Canadas at Upton CP on 26th while, of perhaps less questionable pedigree, Pink-footed Geese were found in three localities. Two flew north over Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 23rd, the same date on which one also joined the resident Greylags at Wicksteed Park, Kettering and the Ravensthorpe & Hollowell bird was still at the latter locality on 27th.

Pink-footed Goose, Wicksteed Park, 23rd January 2023 (Julie Roe)

This week’s notable wader line-up was once again limited to Jack Snipe with singles at three localities, which included both the Brampton Valley and Ecton SF on 21st and Hollowell, two days later, on 23rd.

Gulls were a little more numerous than during the last period – this comment referring more specifically to Caspian Gulls which, on 21st, broke the record for a single site total when up to six were present in the roost at Stanford. Three were present the following evening and two adults, probably a pair, were regularly visiting throughout the remainder of the week. Elsewhere, two adults and a second-winter were at Hollowell on 27th, two were at Naseby Res on 21st and an adult was there on 27th, single adults visited both Clifford Hill GP and Ravensthorpe Res on 23rd, a second-winter was on ice at Daventry CP on 25th and a first-winter was at DIRFT 3 on 27th.

Second-winter Caspian Gull, Hollowell Res, 27th January 2023 (Jon Cook)
First-winter Caspian Gull, DIRFT 3, 27th January 2023 (Mike Alibone)

A token appearance by Yellow-legged Gulls saw a second-winter in the roost at Hollowell on 22nd, single adults at Pitsford on 22nd and 27th and one at Clifford Hill GP on 23rd. That just leaves the rarest gull of the week, out on its own, a first-winter Mediterranean Gull which visited Daventry CP on 24th and 27th.

The rather depressed number of Cattle Egrets continued with just two flying over Summer Leys on 21st.

A Merlin flew over Greens Norton on 27th but making a far bigger impression for two observers in the south-west of the county on 27th, a White-tailed Eagle paid a low-level visit to Everdon Stubbs, where it was seen at one point to land in a tree. Unfortunately, it came under persistent pressure from five mobbing Red Kites before ultimately moving off. It appears that this individual was ‘G818’, a third calendar-year female from the Isle of Wight reintroduction scheme, which had roosted 30 miles north in Leicestershire, having flown over 100 miles south from the Forest of Bowland the previous day.

And from the large to the small … Up to four Siberian Chiffchaffs were present at Ecton SF at the beginning of the period, with at least one remaining as the week drew to a close. Variation in plumage and bare part colour gave rise to some debate on their identification but this is a complex area to delve into and recent DNA analyses on this race have thrown up some surprising results. A discussion will be forthcoming shortly.

Siberian Chiffchaff, Ecton SF, 21st January 2023 (James Underwood)
Siberian Chiffchaff, Ecton SF, 24th January 2023 (Martin Swannell)
Siberian Chiffchaff, Ecton SF, 24th January 2023 (Martin Swannell)

These ‘sibes’ were set against phenomenal, record-breaking numbers of wintering Common Chiffchaffs in the same area, in which at least seventy were present on 22nd and some fifty were counted on 25th. Too difficult? Stick to Stonechats – nice ‘n’ easy – unless, of course you run into a Siberian candidate … Ecton held up to two on 21st-22nd, five were at Upton CP on 25th, three were at Earls Barton GP on the same date and one was at Clifford Hill GP on 23rd.

Stonechat, Upton CP, 25th January 2023 (Tony Stanford)

Newsround – 14th to 20th January 2023

After last week’s wet and windy washout, daily frosts ensued and daytime temperatures plummeted, bottoming out at a chilly 2°C, as a northerly, Arctic airstream quickly took hold. New birds were in short supply, however, and the main attraction for some this week was a female Greater Scaup at Hollowell Reservoir.

Seemingly settled after its discovery on 16th, this bird remained faithful to the eastern side of the reservoir throughout the remainder of the period. Over the last 5 years, Greater Scaup has averaged 11 records annually. No doubt there will be more to come.

Female Greater Scaup, Hollowell Res, 18th January 2023 (Mike Alibone)
Female Greater Scaup, Hollowell Res, 19th January 2023 (Jon Cook)

Other ducks were available, of course, including the long-staying drake Red-crested Pochard clocking up another week at Stanford Res and the female remaining at Hardingstone GP until at least 17th. Also lingering until the latter date was a drake Smew at Pitsford Res.

The county’s only Pink-footed Goose – normally to be found at Ravensthorpe Res – left the latter site with Greylags on 20th to visit nearby Hollowell.

Pink-footed Goose, Ravensthorpe Res, 17th January 2023 (Bob Bullock)

Once again, the week’s one notable wader species was limited to Jack Snipe with singles at three localities, which included both the Brampton Valley and Summer Leys on 17th and Hollowell, three days later, on 20th.

Gull numbers were down on last week and much of the action was to be had at the significantly sizeable gull roost at Stanford, where what was presumably the previous week’s first-winter Mediterranean Gull was seen on 19th. Two adult Caspian Gulls were also there on 14th, followed by one on 19th, while the regular adult at Hollowell was joined there by a second-winter on 16th. Single adult Yellow-legged Gulls visited both Naseby and Pitsford Reservoirs on 18th and Hardingstone GP on 19th.

The winter so far has not been the greatest for numbers of Cattle Egrets. The local Nene Valley population appears to have taken a dive and birds are currently by no means guaranteed at the localities at which they once were. Weather-related or not, the period’s sole record relates to just one, flying west over Summer Leys, on 15th.

Also down this week were raptors, with just a Marsh Harrier flying west at Pitsford on 14th representing the poorest showing for some appreciable time.

But on a more promising note, heading up the period’s passerines were at least two Siberian Chiffchaffs, discovered at Ecton SF on the last day of the week. Once again they were present with some twenty to thirty wintering Common Chiffchaffs, in the traditional place which normally attracts them, along the outflow into the River Nene. This outflow has its own microclimate, in which ‘warmer than ambient’ effluent water allows insects to develop and emerge throughout the winter. By no means annual here, they have been observed in previous winters from the locally famous ‘Bridge of Sibes’ or, in down-to-earth alphanumeric reference terms, bridge K121.

Siberian Chiffchaff, Ecton SF, 20th January 2023 (Alan Coles)
Siberian Chiffchaff, Ecton SF, 20th January 2023 (Bob Bullock)

Identification is not always straightforward but we are better clued up than we were ten years ago (see here). Another bird showing characteristics of this race was found at Stortons GP on 15th and was still present there on 19th. This bird showed a minor excess of olive and yellow in its plumage and may simply be a variant colloquially known as fulvescens, usually associated with having originated from the western end of this (sub)species range. Common Chiffchaffs can, sometimes, also be quite grey, representing a potential ID pitfall. So, is Siberian Chiffchaff a species in waiting? The likelihood is high. Birdlife international have now split it …

Less challenging things abound, however, and the week’s Stonechats were found at Hollowell, Pitsford and Earls Barton GP, where there were one, two and three, respectively.

A Hawfinch was reported briefly at Yardley Gobion on 18th.