Newsround – 19th to 25th March 2022

As the county basked in barely interrupted sunshine and unseasonally high temperatures, things were shaping up nicely on a number of fronts, with two species in particular coming to the fore. Garganeys and Little Gulls well exceeded their allotted March quotas, as well as generously sticking around for anyone on a mission to catch up with them.

Conversely, it was an altogether different – and somewhat disappointing – picture as far as the arrival of new summer visitors was concerned.

By this time in 2021, we’d already seen the arrival of Swallow, House Martin and White Wagtail, in addition to the rather lacklustre spring tally so far this year …

But no matter. The profusion of Garganeys made up for it, while four sites offered a choice of viewing, geographically speaking. Stanwick GP produced birds daily between 20th and 23rd, with a maximum of five on 22nd but, by virtue of its comfy seating arrangements, by far the most popular venue was the easybirdin’ site of Summer Leys LNR, which kicked off with two on 20th and closed the week with four, including three fine drakes. Two of these absconded to Earls Barton GP’s Hardwater Lake on 23rd and 25th. Elsewhere, Pitsford Res produced two on 21st and singles on 22nd and 25th, while Thrapston GP held three mobile birds on 24th.

Drake Garganey, Summer Leys LNR, 22nd March 2022 (Peter Ford)
Garganeys, Summer Leys LNR, 23rd March 2022 (Paul Wyer)

Showing no sign of going anywhere soon, Pitsford’s juvenile Great Northern Diver completed yet another week, still being present there on the last day of the period.

Great Northern Diver, Pitsford Res, 21st March 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Not quite the same can be said for Stanwick’s Glossy Ibis which, as the week progressed, appeared to be developing itchy feet as it left its hitherto preferred area around North Lake in favour of the site’s Main Lake, before wandering across the A6 to Ditchford GP on 25th.

Glossy Ibis, Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows, Ditchford GP, 25th March 2022 (Tony Vials)

Following a report of a White Stork flying south-west over Ringstead GP/Stanwick GP during the morning of 21st, it promptly appeared at Clifford Hill GP shortly after midday, circling, before heading off south. As ever with this species, its origin is open to debate.

Just one Cattle Egret put in an appearance at Stanwick, on 21st, this week and Great Egrets were also at a low ebb, with up to two at Summer Leys between 22nd and 25th and singles on floodwater in the Tove Valley near Towcester on 21st, Pitsford Res on 22nd and at Daventry CP on 23rd.

Following the year’s first Osprey last week, further individuals were seen over both Moulton and Yelvertoft on 19th, over Hollowell Res on 24th and over Deene Lake the following day. The only other raptor of note, as well as being only the second record for the year, was a Marsh Harrier heading east over Clifford Hill GP, early evening on 24th.

For the second week running, topping the wader bill was an Avocet, which remained throughout the day on the Main Lake at Summer Leys, on 20th.

Avocet, Summer Leys LNR, 20th March 2022 (Mike Alibone)

The same day saw a Bar-tailed Godwit at Stanwick GP – much earlier than is usual for this species in the county, while a Black-tailed Godwit also turned up there on 24th-25th. Although the wintering Ruff remained at Summer Leys throughout, swelling the ranks this week were five on floodwater at Lower Barnwell Lock, Oundle on 20th and a new bird at Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) on 25th, where the overwintering Common Sandpiper remained until at least 23rd. Pitsford’s wintering individual remained on, and around, the dam there until at least 22nd. Meanwhile, Jack Snipes were still to be found at three localities, with two at Boddington Res on 22nd, one at Hollowell Res on 23rd, followed by two there on 25th and two at Summer Leys on the same date.

Vying with Garganey for a place in the limelight this week was Little Gull – and in numbers the likes of which we are certainly not used to seeing this early in the spring. A strong easterly vector in this week’s continued southerly airflow seems the most likely factor involved in their appearance here as part of a widespread influx across central, southern and eastern England.

Little Gull: distribution of UK records, 21st-25th March 2020 (Birdguides.com)

At least six were found at Pitsford Res on 21st, followed by two there the next day, then four on 23rd and two on 25th. Not to be left out, of course, Summer Leys held seven on 23rd, four on 24th and two on 25th, while Boddington produced one on 23rd.

Little Gulls, Summer Leys LNR, 24th March 2022 (Leslie Fox)

Arguably as smart, single adult Mediterranean Gulls showed up at Daventry CP on 24th and at Summer Leys the following day, while the week’s only Yellow-legged Gull was, once again, an adult at Pitsford on 21st.

Adult Mediterranean Gull, Summer Leys LNR, 25th March 2022 (Paul Gibbs)

Passerines continued to feature poorly, with Borough Hill’s Black Redstart resurfacing on 23rd and still being present at the week’s end. That is, of course, assuming it has remained there since it was last reported on 5th February … or could this be a new bird? The only other passerine of note was Northern Wheatear, the first of the spring being the aforementioned Harrington bird on 21st, followed by another behind Mary’s Lake at Earls Barton GP two days later, on 23rd.

Newsround – 12th to 18th March 2022

The continuing southerlies off the near continent remained dominant throughout the period but the mild, dry conditions were rudely interrupted by a deluge of heavy rain mid-week. ‘Wet Wednesday’ saw parts of the county receive around 75% of their average March rainfall, causing localised flooding within a matter of hours. By contrast there was only a trickle, not a torrent, of spring migrants, as two more summer visitors were added to the county year list.

Demonstrating a migrational tour de force was a certain stripey-headed duck, the advance guard of which arrived at Pitsford Res on 15th, quickly to be followed by more the next day. Enter stage right … a flotilla of Garganeys – eight to be precise, comprising seven drakes and a female, which pitched up at Stortons GP ahead of the rain on 16th. Remarkably, this appears to be the largest recorded flock size for Northamptonshire but they had all moved on by the following morning, and a lone female was then discovered at Pitsford later in the day.

As in the previous week, other ducks were also available – these including the drake Red-crested Pochard at Daventry CP and the drake Common Scoter at Stortons, both of which were present until 13th.

Drake Common Scoter, Stortons GP, 4th March 2022 (Mike Alibone)

The Stanwick White-fronted Goose trio remained until at least 17th.

Pitsford’s juvenile Great Northern Diver completed yet another week, still being present there on the last day of the period.

Back to Stanwick, where the Glossy Ibis again remained throughout the period and the week’s highest tally of four Great Egrets was present the following day. Numbers of the latter continued to dwindle, Stanford Res producing a maximum of three on 13th,  while singles were at Summer Leys LNR between 13th and 17th and Ravensthorpe Res on 14th.

In a nod to early spring, the first Osprey of 2022 was seen cruising north over Wicksteed Park, Kettering on 17th.

Kicking off the week’s waders were two rather fine Avocets, which remained throughout the day on the north side of Clifford Hill GP’s Main Barrage Lake on 15th.

Avocets, Clifford Hill GP, 15th March 2022 (Ant Hall)

The same day saw a Black-tailed Godwit paying a brief visit to Ditchford GP, while the wintering Ruff remained at Summer Leys all week.

Ruff, Summer Leys LNR, 14th March 2022 (Mark Tyrrell)

Other wintering waders included both Common Sandpipers, the longest staying at Earls Barton’s New Workings (North) and the relatively recent individual on, and around, Pitsford Res dam. Daventry CP continued to produce the highest single-site count of Jack Snipes, with seven there on 14th and four on 16th.

Common Sandpiper, Pitsford Res, 12th March 2022 (Doug Goddard)

It would be good to have reported a glut of gulls this week but, sadly, things were quite the opposite. An adult Mediterranean Gull at Daventry CP on 17th was the only one of its kind, while second-winter Caspian Gulls visited Stanwick on 13th and DIRFT 3 on 15th – the latter date also delivering the week’s only Yellow-legged Gull, an adult, at Pitsford.

Second-winter Caspian Gull, DIRFT 3, 15th March 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Passerines again fared poorly, with Ravensthorpe’s Black Redstart at the on-site waterworks scraping in on 12th. Where were all the Northern Wheatears …?

Newsround – 5th to 11th March 2022

Sandwiched between a series of Atlantic lows and an eastern European high, the UK experienced a mild southerly airstream which, for much of the week, was clearly conducive to the arrival of some interesting spring migrants and summer visitors. And come they did – the latter on the final day, scraping in by the skin of their teeth during the last hours of daylight …

Oddly, though, these were a tad later than last year, when the first Sand Martin arrived on 3rd March and the first Little Ringed Plover on 7th.

It’s still early days, though, and winter visitors were still very much in evidence. The Stanford Res White-fronted Geese were back in Northants on 6th before again taking to the Leicestershire side of the border, where they were still present on the last day of the period. The four Whitefronts at Stanwick GP remained until at least 9th, while Stanford also clocked up a Pink-footed Goose on 5th and Pitsford’s Barnacle Goose was still very much in evidence on 11th.

Also still in situ was the drake Red-crested Pochard on the filtration pools below the dam at Ravensthorpe Res until at least 10th, while new birds popped up at Pitsford on 6th and at Daventry CP from 9th to 11th.

Drake Red-crested Pochard, Daventry CP, 9th March 2022 (Gary Pullan)

After causing a stir last week at Thrapston GP, the female Ring-necked Duck appeared to receive little further attention and went unreported after 8th. The reverse was true, however, in the case of last week’s drake Common Scoter at Stortons GP. It attracted a non-stop stream of admirers, its central and easily accessible location, combined with obligingly close views, unprecedented local photographic opportunities and a record-breaking length of stay – at least for Northants – were key contributory factors. It was still present as the week drew to a close on 11th.

Drake Common Scoter, Stortons GP, 7th March 2022 (Alan Coles)

Pitsford’s juvenile Great Northern Diver completed another week, sometimes appearing off the dam.

Similarly settled, the Glossy Ibis at Stanwick’s North Lake had clocked up sixteen days’ stay by the end of the week. But a most unexpected find was a hugely flamboyant adult Spoonbill, on its way to who knows where, making a short stopover at DIRFT 3 on 8th. Discovered feeding on the main A5 Pool, mid-afternoon, it subsequently took a long nap and, as light began to fade, looked set to roost. Unfortunately it decided to move on and headed off north before dark. Spoonbill is becoming an increasingly regular visitor to Northants, largely on the back of its recently expanding UK breeding and wintering populations. Data from the 2020 WeBS survey show that peak counts of the species have increased by more than 300% in the past decade, so more will surely follow …

Adult Spoonbill, DIRFT 3, 8th March 2022 (Mike Alibone)

And, like last week and the week before, Stanwick produced all of the week’s Cattle Egrets – up to five again, as well as the highest count of twelve roosting Great Egrets. Elsewhere, Thrapston held six, Stanford three, while up to two were to be found at Ditchford GP, Earls Barton GP, Ravensthorpe, Summer Leys and Wicksteed Park Lake (Kettering).

Hot on the heels of the first last week were more Black-tailed Godwits, with floodwater at Lower Barnwell Lock (Oundle) producing one on 7th followed by two on 11th. Meanwhile, the long-staying Ruff remained at Summer Leys all week, as did the wintering Common Sandpiper at Earls Barton’s New Workings (North). An impressively high single-site count of at least twelve Jack Snipes was made at Daventry CP on 9th, while three were on a farm pond near Teeton on 7th and two were seen at Hollowell Res on 8th.

March traditionally sees the beginning of a small, though regular, passage of Mediterranean Gulls and following last week’s at Stanford, the same site produced another adult in the roost on 5th, while DIRFT 3 got in on the action, also producing an adult in the pre-roost there on 8th.

Adult Mediterranean Gull, DIRFT 3, 8th March 2022 (Mike Alibone)

But it was not the best gull on site this week, that accolade falling to a juvenile Glaucous Gull first discovered loafing on DIRFT’s main A5 Pool on 6th and subsequently joining the pre-roost there on 7th and 8th.

Juvenile Glaucous Gull, DIRFT 3, 6th March 2022 (Mike Alibone)

The status of Glaucous Gull in Northants is interesting. While the trend line shows a steady increase in records over the fifty years, 1971-2020, this is likely to be reversed as the closure of local landfills in recent years begins to bite … DIRFT 3 also produced the obligatory Caspian Gull – a second-winter – on 6th and 9th, while an adult was at Stanwick on 7th, third-winters visited both Stanford and Hollowell on 8th and not to be left out, of course, Rushton Landfill produced an adult and a first-winter on 9th and an adult and a third-winter on 11th.

Black Redstart, Ravensthorpe Res, 9th March 2022 (Martin Swannell)
Male Stonechat, Willowbrook Industrial Estate, Corby, 5th March 2022 (James Underwood)

Once more, passerines were in short supply, with Ravensthorpe’s Black Redstart continuing to favour the on-site waterworks throughout and the number of Stonechats continuing to diminish as they begin to vacate their winter quarters. Two were at Willowbrook Industrial Estate (Corby) on 5th, while singles were at Pitsford and Stanwick on 6th and one remained at Hollowell Res on 8th.

Newsround – 26th February to 4th March 2022

Blow the wind southerly … and it did – at least for the early part of the week in which we crossed the date line into meteorological spring. And while many of our long-staying winterers remained, there were sure signs of things moving – both large, very large and small.

There can’t be much more time left locally for our handful of wintering geese, as mid-March sees the start of the return to their breeding grounds. Some will recall, in days gone by, flocks of White-fronted Geese heading high above the Nene Valley from Slimbridge to the east coast, before making the crossing over the North Sea. With UK wintering numbers having declined considerably this is no longer the case and we have to make do with small mercies. And so it was that the three Stanford on Avon Whitefronts remained settled there until 27th, after which they appeared to develop itchy feet, moving into fields in Leicestershire, both north and east of Stanford Res. By contrast, the Stanwick trio remained until the week’s end, while Ravensthorpe’s Pink-footed Goose continued to keep company with the Greylags there until at least 28th. Meanwhile, back at Stanford on Avon, another Pinkfoot was found on the latter date, the escaped Cackling Goose showed up there at the same time and, undoubtedly with no better pedigree, Pitsford’s Barnacle Goose was still loafing well south of the causeway on 2nd. After nearly a month with no reports, the Tove Valley Whooper Swan resurfaced on 3rd near Yardley Gobion, not too far away from its original place of discovery near Cosgrove.

In contrast to last week, things picked up considerably on the duck front. After keeping an extraordinarily low profile, back on the menu was the female Ring-necked Duck at Thrapston GP. Last reported on 12th January, it was relocated on the Heronry Lake on 26th and remained all week, this time presenting itself quite simply as a sitting duck for anyone who wanted to catch up with it.

Female Ring-necked Duck, Thrapston GP, 27th February 2022 (Bob Bullock)

Still present throughout the period were the single drake Red-crested Pochards, remaining on show at Earls Barton GP and at Ravensthorpe Res, the latter moving to a filtration pool below the dam from 28th. New in this week was a drake Common Scoter, the first of the year, at Stortons GP on 4th.

Drake Common Scoter, Stortons GP, 4th March 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Pitsford’s juvenile Great Northern Diver was still on site, between Pintail Bay and The Narrows, on 2nd.

Now appearing reasonably settled, last week’s Glossy Ibis attracted a steady stream of admirers to its preferred feeding area along the west side of Stanwick’s North Lake, where it remained until at least 3rd.

Glossy Ibis, Stanwick GP, 1st March 2022 (Mike Alibone)

And, like last week, Stanwick also hosted all of the period’s Cattle Egrets – up to five, to be precise and, with no more than three at any other site in the county, for the first time in a while, outnumbering all single site totals of Great Egrets. Small numbers of the latter were found at Ditchford GP, Pitsford, Ravensthorpe, Stanford, Stanwick, Summer Leys and Thrapston.

And then, on 1st, the skies over Upper Harlestone darkened momentarily as an immature White-tailed Eagle made its presence felt, rising up from ground level, gaining height and circling over the village, mobbed by Red Kites, before subsequently heading over trees behind the local cricket club. Totally unprepared, the experience left the observer agog. Well, it would, wouldn’t it! When the news comes through, however majestic an eagle may be, it’s easy to ‘write it off’ as a non-wild, radio-tagged bird from the ongoing Isle of Wight reintroduction scheme. We should now be waking up to the fact that, because this species is doing well in mainland Europe, some immatures are wandering to the UK in winter … and it appears this was one of them as no IoW birds were in the area at the time. Despite being looked for, it was not seen again.

Not quite in the same league but still a little on the large side, two Common Cranes flew low south-east over Ravensthorpe on 26th. Again, with the UK population growing, we should expect these to occur with increasing frequency.

Back down to earth, more meagre fare was on offer on the wader front, a line-up which featured the first Black-tailed Godwits of the year, at Summer Leys, where four were found on 3rd and the long-staying Ruff remained all week. The two wintering Common Sandpipers both made it into the period, the Pitsford bird remaining until at least 26th, while the Earls Barton individual was still present at New Workings (North) at the week’s end. A single Jack Snipe was seen at Hollowell Res on 28th.

Stanford had the monopoly of this week’s Mediterranean Gulls with an adult in the roost there on 28th and 2nd, while Rushton Landfill continued to produce the period’s highest number of Caspian Gulls with a first-winter, a second-winter and two third-winters on 4th. Meanwhile, Hollowell produced an adult on 28th and a third-winter on 3rd.

First-winter Caspian Gull, Rushton Landfill, 4th March 2022 (Mike Alibone)

While passerines were in short supply, a new Black Redstart was discovered below the dam at Ravensthorpe Res on 2nd, remaining there to see the week out, while Stonechats were again thin on the ground with two at Hollowell on 28th and singles at Clifford Hill GP on the same date and at Harrington AF and Hartwell on 3rd.

Black Redstart, Ravensthorpe Res, 2nd March 2022 (Angus Molyneux)
Black Redstart, Ravensthorpe Res, 4th March 2022 (Jon Cook)

Another first for the year materialised in the shape of a Mealy Redpoll, briefly inspecting a garden feeder in Farthingstone on 2nd, while two Crossbills were around the garden centre at Harlestone Heath on 28th and one was seen at Wakerley Great Wood on 4th.

Newsround – 19th to 25th February 2022

On the back of a continuing westerly airflow, the week kicked off with some serious bluster as Storm Franklin pushed in off the Atlantic. But it was very much a case of in like a lion, out like a lamb, as the last day of the period dawned calm and bright, providing ideal conditions and ample opportunity to catch up with this week’s star bird, the second Glossy Ibis of 2022.

Wading through the wildfowl has taken little time of late, as we’ve been no more than ankle-deep, with geese largely propping up the cohort and ducks in short supply. The Barnacle Goose at Pitsford Res stood up to be counted on 20th, while Ravensthorpe’s Pink-footed Goose remained with the local Greylags there until at least 24th. The three long-staying White-fronted Geese at Stanford on Avon saw another week out and the three at Stanwick GP were joined by a fourth bird on 22nd, all of which were still present at the week’s end.

Pink-footed Goose, Ravensthorpe Res, 24th February 2022 (Mike Alibone)

With winter ducks deluxe in seriously short supply, birders had to make do with last week’s drake Red-crested Pochard, on show throughout the period at Earls Barton GP, while another drake turned up at Ravensthorpe on 22nd, remaining there until at least 24th.

Red-crested Pochard, Earls Barton GP, 21st February 2022 (Mike Alibone)

The juvenile Great Northern Diver, first found on 23rd January, clocked up a month’s stay and saw another full week out at Pitsford.

Headliner of the week, then, was the second Glossy Ibis in as many months – a bird which followed hot on the heels of the 30-minute wonder at Summer Leys LNR on 10th January. With a good sixty-five noted across Britain over the past week or so, it would have been disappointing if Northants hadn’t been paid another visit. Fortunately, after its discovery at Stanwick’s North Lake on 24th, it was still present the next day, thereby allowing many a second bite of this 2022 cherry.

Glossy Ibis, Stanwick GP, 25th February 2022 (Bob Bullock)

Stanwick also hosted all of this week’s Cattle Egrets – two on 22nd, four on 23rd and five on 25th. Topping fourteen on the latter date, the same site again produced the highest tally of Great Egrets, while smaller numbers elsewhere included fives at both Ditchford and Thrapston GPs, two at Ravensthorpe and singles at Earls Barton, Hollowell Res, Pitsford, Stanford and Summer Leys.

On the wader front, the long-staying Ruff was still to be found at Summer Leys until at least 23rd but it appears we now have two wintering Common Sandpipers in the county – the Pitsford bird remaining all week, while the Earls Barton individual was relocated on 21st, having repositioned itself on a different pool, where it was still present at the end of the period.

Common Sandpiper, Pitsford Res, 21st February 2022 (David Smith)

Gulls left their mark, making further advances on last week’s numbers, with a second-winter Mediterranean Gull in the roost at Boddington Res on 21st and a new adult found in the Stanford roost the following evening. Caspian Gulls hit their highest weekly site total so far, with Rushton Landfill producing two first-winters on 21st, an adult and a third-winter on 22nd and a first-winter, second-winter, two third-winters and a fourth-winter on 25th. Elsewhere, a second-winter was in the Stanford gull roost on 21st and an adult visited Hollowell Res on 22nd.

Third-winter Caspian Gull, Rushton Landfill, 22nd February 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Smaller numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls were in evidence and included one at Stanford on 21st and a third-winter in the roost there, nightly, from 22nd to 25th, while at Pitsford an adult was present on 19th and 20th, along with a fourth-winter on the latter date.

Suboptimal viewing conditions, combined with a lack of observer coverage, resulted in the Duston Mill Dartford Warbler dropping off the radar this week. It may still be there, of course. Otherwise, it was indeed slim pickings on the passerine front, with only small numbers of Stonechats including top counts of three at Earls Barton and Hollowell on 22nd and twos at Ditchford GP on the latter date and at Thrapston on 25th.

Stonechat, Earls Barton GP, 22nd February 2022 (Leslie Fox)

The two Hawfinches at Cottesbrook were still present and dodging the gusts on 19th and 20th.

Newsround – 12th to 18th February 2022

Though generally mild throughout, this week’s weather was dominated by storms Dudley and Eunice, borne and delivered by the Atlantic gulf stream. Although Eunice amounted to little more than a wet fart locally, it was a different picture in southern regions of the UK, where there was widespread damage, numerous fallen trees, aircraft struggling to land and trains cancelled, while the Isle of Wight Needles recorded winds reaching 122 mph – provisionally the highest gusts ever recorded in England. Heeding warnings not to travel and to avoid the somewhat turbulent conditions, few birders ventured out on the last day of the week, but for the amber gamblers who did, and were betting on finding something good, it failed to materialise on the day. Let’s wait and see what the aftermath holds in store … Meanwhile, the Duston Mill Dartford Warbler once again remained the single point of interest throughout the week.

The weekly wildfowl selection was largely unchanged, with Ravensthorpe’s Pink-footed Goose still present until at least 14th and Sywell’s White-fronted Goose remaining until at least 13th. The three Whitefronts at Stanford on Avon were still settled in, and around, the field with the Percy Pilcher Monument and the Stanwick trio also remained in residence at the week’s end.

White-fronted Geese, Stanford on Avon, 12th February 2022 (Stuart Mundy)

New on the scene, a drake Red-crested Pochard was found at Earls Barton GP, also visiting adjacent Summer Leys LNR, on 17th, while the peripatetic drake Smew, having returned to Ravensthorpe Res on 14th, was still present there on 16th after last week’s visit to Pitsford Res.

Meanwhile, Pitsford’s Great Northern Diver remained on site for another full week.

The period’s Cattle Egrets were limited to a single day, 14th, when four were at Stanwick and one was found with Little Egrets along the River Nene opposite Summer Leys. Although not limited to a single day, Great Egrets were limited to single-figure counts, with Thrapston GP hosting the maximum of a mere five on 12th. Elsewhere, two were at Ravensthorpe between 14th and 16th and singles were found at Clifford Hill GP, Earls Barton, Hollowell Res, Pitsford, Stanford Res, Stanwick and Summer Leys.

On the wader front, the long-staying Ruff remained at Summer Leys until at least 15th, while the wintering Common Sandpiper seemed well settled on, and around, the dam at Pitsford until at least 17th. Just one Jack Snipe scraped into the proceedings, at Hollowell on 14th.

Last week’s adult Mediterranean Gull continued to turn up to the roost at Stanford until 14th, the same venue hosting the single-site majority of the period’s Caspian Gulls, which included two adults on 12th, a first- or late moulting second-winter on 16th and an adult on 18th. Three other sites regularly favoured by this species were DIRFT 3, where an adult and a first-winter were present on 14th, Hollowell, where a third-winter was found on 14th and the two sporadically visiting adults were again at large on 16th, and Rushton Landfill, which produced a third-winter on 15th and two first-winters on 17th.

First-winter Caspian Gull, DIRFT 3, 15th February 2022 (Mike Alibone)
First-winter Caspian Gull, Rushton Landfill, 17th February 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Somewhat overshadowed, single adult Yellow-legged Gulls were at Pitsford all week and at both DIRFT 3 and Stanford Res on 17th.

Duston Mill’s durable Dartford Warbler held out until at least 17th, Eunice likely putting paid to any on-site appearance the following day.

Dartford Warbler, Duston Mill, 13th February 2022 (Lee Willcocks)
Dartford Warbler, Duston Mill, 17th February 2022 (Ken Prouse)

It’s not every day you can boast a Siberian Chiffchaff in your back yard – unless you live in Russia, that is, but this is, after all, Kettering not Krasnodar we’re talking about, and the bird found on the last day of last week was back in the same garden on 12th and 15th. Hats off to Nikolai Tikalotov. We’re gripped!

Back at Duston Mill and the supporting cast of two Stonechats remained throughout, while further duos were at Clifford Hill on 12th and Hollowell on 16th and singles were present at DIRFT 3 on 14th as well as at both Sywell CP and Bucknell Wood on 17th.

Male Stonechat, Earls Barton GP, 15th February 2022 (Leslie Fox)
Female Stonechat, Duston Mill, 17th February 2022 (Tony Stanford)

Inevitably having dropped off the radar, there were no reports of the Borough Hill Black Redstart during the period.

Hawfinch, Cottesbrooke, 17th February 2022 (Jon Cook)

Still showing on and off, though, were last week’s two Hawfinches at Cottesbrooke, still present on 17th.

Newsround – 5th to 11th February 2022

A persistent westerly airstream delivered gales on day two of what was an otherwise calm and largely dry week. The Duston Mill Dartford Warbler continued to head the cast of the period’s top birds, while a number of new discoveries were added to this week’s mix.

Wintering geese remained firmly in focus on the wildfowl front with, again, Pitsford’s Barnacle Goose, Ravensthorpe’s Pink-footed Goose and Sywell’s White-fronted Goose, all remaining throughout. So, too, did the three Whitefronts at Stanford on Avon, while the Nene Valley trio moved from Stanwick GP back to Thrapston GP on 6th, before returning to Stanwick the following day, remaining there until at least 10th.

White-fronted Goose, Stanford on Avon, 5th February 2022 (Jon Cook)
White-fronted Goose, Sywell CP, 11th February 2022 (Clive Bowley)

Another river valley, the Tove, continued to host the adult Whooper Swan, still nicely settled in fields north of the Navigation Inn, near Cosgrove, until at least 9th.

This week’s duck of the week – in fact, the only duck of the week – was the drake Smew which, having vacated Ravensthorpe on 3rd, was relocated at Pitsford a week later, on 10th.

Clearly lacking the latter’s itchy feet and looking rather more settled, Pitsford’s Great Northern Diver had chalked up twenty days’ stay by the week’s end.

Juvenile Great Northern Diver, Pitsford Res, 11th February 2022 (Tony Stanford)

Numbers of Cattle Egrets wax and wane and they were clearly down, with just singles – or the same individual – at Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR and Stanwick on 7th and two at the latter site the following day. Stanwick also remained top of the leader board for numbers of Great Egrets, with a consistent weekly roost count of fifteen on 8th. With the early to mid-winter high counts seemingly having evaporated, numbers continued to fall elsewhere, with other site maxima including three at Stanford Res on 7th, two at Ravensthorpe on 10th and singles at Billing GP, Ditchford GP, Earls Barton GP, Pitsford and Summer Leys.

A Marsh Harrier was seen briefly at Clifford Hill GP on 8th, before clearly moving on.

Waders were few and far between. After going unreported for a week, a Ruff resurfaced at Summer Leys on 7th, remaining on show until at least 9th, while last week’s Common Sandpiper continued to occupy the dam at Pitsford until at least 9th.

Common Sandpiper, Pitsford Res, 9th February 2022 (Martin Swannell)

The first Mediterranean Gull of 2022, a fine adult, dropped into the roost at Stanford on 10th, revisiting for the evening again on 11th.

Adult Mediterranean Gull, Stanford Res, 11th February 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

And while gulls may not be everyone’s cup of tea, ringed individuals are often obvious in the field, thereby providing the opportunity for a bit of ‘track and trace’ detective work. This particularly applies to the larger larids and one such, a first-winter Caspian Gull, watched at Rushton Landfill on 9th, bore a shiny yellow bangle inscribed with the code P:WH7, which ultimately indicated it had been ringed as a pullus at Wyspa NA RZ.Wisla, Kepa Nadbrzesk, Otwock, Mazowieckie, Poland, on 15th May 2021.

Polish-ringed first-winter Caspian Gull, Rushton Landfill, 9th February 2022 (Mike Alibone)

During its travelling the 1490 km to Rushton, it stopped off and spent some time at Thetford, Norfolk, between 2nd and 30th November 2021.

Movement of Polish-ringed first-winter Caspian Gull, ring number P:WH7 (Mike Alibone/Google Maps)

Other Caspian Gulls were also up for grabs, with a second-winter visiting DIRFT 3 on 6th, the Stanford gull roost producing an adult on the same date, followed by two the following evening. Two adults were also at Hollowell on 7th, 9th and 11th, being joined on the latter date by a third-winter, while a third-winter also visited Clifford Hill GP, briefly, on 10th. Single adult Yellow-legged Gulls were at Pitsford on 5th-6th and at Hollowell on 9th.

Second-winter Caspian Gull, DIRFT 3, 6th February 2022 (Mike Alibone)

This week’s token Merlin was a female flying north over Southbrook, Daventry on 10th.

On the edge of suburbia, puller and pleaser, the Duston Mill Dartford Warbler, continued to woo the crowds throughout the week.

Dartford Warbler, Duston Mill, 6th February 2022 (Leslie Fox)
Dartford Warbler, Duston Mill, 10th February 2022 (Martin Swannell)
Dartford Warbler, Duston Mill, 11th February 2022 (Andrew Cook)

It’s a pity the same cannot be said for the Siberian Chiffchaff, found feeding with two Chiffchaffs in riverside vegetation by the Sixfields Lake car park at Stortons GP on 6th. Found by visitors to the Dartford Warbler, this bird moved on quickly and was not seen subsequently. Another one not available to the masses spent 15 minutes in a Kettering garden on 11th. In a winter which has seen record numbers of what must surely be a ‘species in waiting’, it seems strange that the most frequently blessed wintering site of Ecton SF has not (yet) produced one among the ten or so Chiffchaffs which are currently wintering there.

Siberian Chiffchaff, Stortons GP, 6th February 2022 (James Underwood)
Siberian Chiffchaff, Kettering, 11th February 2021 (Nick Parker)

Overshadowed by the events at Duston Mill/Stortons GP, well out of the limelight, the wintering Black Redstart at Borough Hill scraped into the week’s proceedings on 5th. It’s probably still there … And Stonechats have enjoyed more attention this week, given their association with a certain warbler and all that … The Duston Mill duo continued to revel in their time under the spotlight, although two at Borough Hill on 5th didn’t exert the same pull, two were at DIRFT 3 on 6th and Hollowell again produced the highest count of four, on 9th.

Female Stonechat, Duston Mill, 10th February 2022 (Martin Swannell)
Male Stonechat, Duston Mill, 11th February 2022 (Andrew Cook)

Following last week’s Bucks-bound, border-hopping Hawfinch, near Ashton, two more were discovered – and fortunately nailed down – at Cottesbrooke on 11th.

Hawfinch, Cottesbrooke, 11th February 2022 (Leslie Fox)
Hawfinch, Cottesbrooke, 11th February 2022 (Leslie Fox)

This particular locality produced Hawfinches during the invasion in winter 2017-18, which begs the question, how many more may be out there? Time, once again, to yomp through your local Yew trees and check those Hornbeams …

Newsround – 29th January to 4th February 2022

With the winds swinging to the north-west and then remaining so throughout, the week opened with Storm Corrie hitting northern parts of the UK, before closing with sleet showers locally as a band of freezing rain crossed the country. Arguably however, the weather had little influence on this week’s birds, top of which was the county’s sixth record of Dartford Warbler.

But it was all very much déjà vu on the wildfowl front – the small numbers of wintering geese apparently not in any hurry to move on. So, with seemingly nowhere to go, Pitsford’s Barnacle Goose remained all week, as did Ravensthorpe’s Pink-footed Goose and Sywell’s White-fronted Goose, while last week’s trios of the latter species continued to frequent Stanwick GP until at least 3rd and Stanford on Avon, border-hopping, throughout.

Pink-footed Goose, Ravensthorpe Res, 1st February 2022 (Alan Coles)

Found last week, the grazing adult Whooper Swan was still in fields near Cosgrove, just north of the Navigation Inn, on 4th and by 30th, the female Ruddy Shelduck had moseyed on down from Stanford to Hollowell, while the female-type White-cheeked Pintail was still at Deene Lake on the same date. Oh, the joy of flagging up ornamentals …

Back on the menu after the best part of three weeks’ absence, the only right and proper duck this week was a drake Smew, on show at Ravensthorpe for three days, between 31st and 2nd.

Drake Smew, Ravensthorpe Res, 1st February 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Remarkably appearing to elicit little interest, Pitsford’s Great Northern Diver was still present on 2nd and the Bittern, glimpsed flying into the reedbed at Stortons GP at the end of last week, offered similarly fleeting views there on 30th.

Cattle Egrets peaked at five at Stanwick GP on 3rd, although there were no reports from anywhere else during the period. Once again, Stanwick was also the place to be for impressive numbers of Great Egrets, the roost count there maxing out at fifteen on 1st. Other maximum site totals notched up included six at Summer Leys on 29th, five at Ravensthorpe on 1st, three at Thrapston GP on 29th, twos at Earls Barton GP on 30th, Hollowell on 2nd-4th and Naseby Res on 3rd, and singles at Stanford on 29th-30th and Ecton SF/Billing GP on 30th.

A Shag was reported from Pitsford on 2nd.

It’s fair to say the county struggled for waders this week. Aside from single Jack Snipes at Barnes Meadow LNR on 3rd and at both Hollowell and Ravensthorpe the next day, the only wader of note – simply because of its scarcity in winter – was a  Common Sandpiper at Pitsford, on the overflow at the end of the dam, on 2nd. Despite almost daily coverage, the overwintering individual at Earls Barton GP’s new workings (north) could not be found this week so perhaps this bird is one and the same.

Common Sandpiper, Pitsford Res, 2nd February 2022 (Mike Alibone)

On the Larid front, Caspian Gulls maintained their recent high profile, the Stanford gull roost producing a second-winter on 29th, a first-winter on 31st and a third-winter on 4th, while Hollowell hosted one on 30th, an adult and a third-winter on 2nd and a third-winter on 4th. Away from established water bodies, DIRFT 3 held an adult, a third-winter and a second-winter on 1st with the latter two individuals still present the next day, while Rushton Landfill produced an adult and a third-winter on 2nd. Yellow-legged Gulls continued to be overshadowed by the last species, with just four in the roost at Stanford on 30th, 2 there on 31st and an adult at Pitsford on 3rd.

First-winter Caspian Gull, Stanford Res, 31st January 2022 (Chris Hubbard)
Third-winter Caspian Gull, Rushton Landfill, 2nd February 2022 (Mike Alibone)

This week’s token Merlin was one flying east near Gordons Lodge, on the Bucks/Northants border, on 4th.

Heading up the passerines was a much welcomed, top-notch vagrant. Yes, hot on the heels of the fleeting back garden bird in October 2020 was a Dartford Warbler, looking distinctly female-like, at Duston Mill, Northampton on 2nd and 3rd. Constituting Northamptonshire’s sixth record, and loosely associating with two Stonechats, it occupied a somewhat straggly field between Stortons GP and the Northampton ring road, at times showing well and giving the opportunity for local birders to catch up with what, let’s face it, has not been an easy bird to see in the county.

Dartford Warbler, Duston Mill, 3rd February 2022 (Martin Swannell)
Dartford Warbler, Duston Mill, 3rd February 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Aside from the aforementioned Blakesley bird in October 2020, the last twitchable one, readily available for those happy to negotiate the then icy conditions, was at East Carlton in late November 2010. Prior to that, a couple of long stayers were, interestingly, in similar surroundings on the opposite side of the ring road to this week’s bird, the land now an industrial development known as Swan Valley. That was way back, between December 2004 and February 2005. How long this one will stay is anybody’s guess. Their uncanny habit of fraternising with Stonechats is well known, so … find a Stonechat or two, spend that extra bit of time following them around and, well, you never know … Talking of which, this week’s were dotted about at DIRFT 3, Duston Mill, Earls Barton GP, Hollowell, Ravensthorpe and Upton CP, with Hollowell laying claim to the week’s highest site total of six, on 4th.

Male Stonechat, Ravensthorpe, 4th February 2022 (Jon Cook)

And lest we should forget … this week, overshadowed and underwatched, the wintering Black Redstart remained at Borough Hill throughout while, a hair’s breadth from the Bucks border, a Hawfinch popped up at the unusual location of Gordons Lodge, near Ashton, before quickly departing Northamptonshire, on 3rd.

Newsround – 22nd to 28th January 2022

The period’s weather remained predominantly dry but was essentially a mixed bag of dull, overcast conditions for the first four days, followed by a glimmer of sunshine during the last three, ahead of mild south-westerlies from the Azores. The best new bird this week was a Great Northern Diver, found in the fading light at Pitsford Res on 23rd.

With very few proving evasive, many of last week’s birds remained on station for anyone wanting to catch up with them. Geese were again prominent with the county’s sole Barnacle Goose, whatever its origin, still languishing at Pitsford at the period’s end. Ditto for the Ravensthorpe Pink-footed Goose, with another Pinkfoot being reported with two White-fronted Geese at Islip Water Meadows, on 22nd. At the adjoining site of Thrapston GP, the two adult and single first-winter Whitefronts remained until 23rd, subsequently being relocated at Stanwick GP on 27th-28th. Sywell CP’s first-winter Whitefront remained until at least 27th, while the trio at Stanford on Avon were still present, showing on the Northamptonshire side of the river on 27th-28th.

White-fronted Geese, Stanford on Avon, 28th January 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

Following a minor flurry of records last week, just one Whooper Swan was available to catch up with this week, an adult in fields near Cosgrove, a mere stone’s throw from the cosy setting of the Navigation Inn, on 25th-26th.  

Adult Whooper Swan, Cosgrove, 26th January 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Now to more dodgy fare and after last week’s appearance at Hollowell, on 17th, the female Ruddy Shelduck popped again, this time at Stanford on 27th and the female-type White-cheeked Pintail was still frequenting Deene Lake on 22nd.

Female Ruddy Shelduck, Stanford Res, 27th January 2022 (Chris Hubbard)
White-cheeked Pintail, Deene Lake, 22nd January 2022 (James Underwood)

Kicking off the week, although two months later than the peak for arrivals, a Great Northern Diver was found at Pitsford, late on 23rd. It remained throughout and if you’ve got it in mind to find one, Pitsford’s the place, accounting for more than half of all the county’s records in the last 35 years, and November’s normally the month, producing 48% of the records during the same period, followed by December with 33%.

The first Bittern of 2022 also pitched up at Stortons GP, where it was seen flying into the reedbed on 28th. Cattle Egrets peaked at eight at Stanwick GP on 24th and two were at Irthlingborough/Ditchford on 24th and 28th. Great Egrets maintained last week’s low profile with fourteen leaving the roost at Stanwick on 27th, while top counts elsewhere were threes at Ravensthorpe and Summer Leys LNR, twos at Ditchford and Pitsford and singles at Clifford Hill GP and Hollowell.

Great Egrets, Summer Leys LNR, 24th January 2022 (Paul Crotty)

With no reports of the Wood Sandpiper at Pitsford this week, top waders were down to just three species. Earls Barton’s Common Sandpiper remained throughout, while a Ruff scraped in at Summer Leys on 22nd and single Jack Snipes were present at Hollowell all week and at Ditchford on 27th.

Common Sandpiper, Earls Barton GP, 28th January 2022 (Leslie Fox)

On the Larid front, Caspian Gulls once again came to the fore, with Stanford hosting a third-winter on 23rd and DIRFT 3 producing two adults on the same date. An adult was at Rushton Landfill on 24th and 28th with two first-winters there on the latter date and Hollowell held an adult on 26th and two adults on 28th. In a similar vein to last week, Yellow-legged Gulls remained in short supply with just a first-winter at Clifford Hill on 25th.

First-winter Caspian Gull, Rushton Landfill, 28th January 2022 (Mike Alibone)

This week’s token Merlin was again between Cottesbrooke and Hanging Houghton on 28th.

Once again, the Black Redstart remained at Borough Hill throughout, Stonechats were thinly distributed this week with birds at Ditchford, Upton CP and Hollowell, with a maximum of six at the latter site on 28th. And it looks as though interest in Hawfinches is now running at a low ebb, with just one seen at the much favoured site of Blatherwycke Churchyard on 23rd. At least one Corn Bunting hung on in the Brampton Valley, between Cottesbrooke and Hanging Houghton, being seen on 24th and 28th.

Newsround – 15th to 21st January 2022

In a similar vein to last week, a high pressure system remained over the UK for the greater part of the period, extending the calm, dry conditions with low, single-figure daytime temperatures and sometimes heavy, overnight frosts.

In the dim and distant past, January was once described by the late, great DIM Wallace as the only truly migration-free month, as far as the UK was concerned. But are things changing? We are only a few weeks away from the first Sand Martins and Northern Wheatears … or are we?

More on that later but this week’s rattle through the top birds kicks off with a veritable Goosefest and for anyone who cared to take a gander, there were plenty of geese on offer. The long-staying Dark-bellied Brent Goose appeared settled at Clifford Hill GP at the beginning of the week but had seemingly gone AWOL by the end of it. It may still be in the area, of course. The Barnacle Goose stood up to be counted with the Canadas at Pitsford Res on 18th and the escaped Cackling Goose, missing for a good while, joined the mixed gaggle at Stanford on Avon on 21st. The three White-fronted Geese, mobile and elusive in the same area, did the decent thing and spent some time on the Northamptonshire side of the river on 18th and 21st, while a sprinkling of new Whitefronts comprised four at Thrapston GP on 16th-17th, dropping to three on 20th and one at Sywell CP from 17th until the week’s end.

Adult White-fronted Goose, Thrapston GP, 17th January 2022 (Nick Parker)
First-winter White-fronted Goose, Sywell CP, 17th January 2022 (Mike Alibone)
Adult White-fronted Goose, Stanford on Avon, 18th January 2022 (Chris Hubbard)
White-fronted Geese, Thrapston GP, 20th January 2022 (Nick Parker)

A ’new’ Pink-footed Goose appeared at Hollowell Res on 19th at the same time as the original bird was still present near Ravensthorpe village and at its reservoir on the same date.

Pink-footed Goose, Ravensthorpe Res, 19th January 2022 (Bob Bullock)

Whooper Swans were clearly on the move on 15th, when eleven flew west over Blatherwycke, appearing shortly afterward on the lake of the same name, while one was also found on DIRFT 3’s A5 Pool. Although none was present the following day, ‘approximately twelve’ seen flying east over Gretton on 18th appear likely to have been the Blatherwycke birds hanging on in the general area.

Whooper Swans, Blatherwycke Lake, 15th January 2022 (Jon Cook)
Whooper Swans, Blatherwycke Lake, 15th January 2022 (Jon Cook)

As the 17th dawned bright and clear, the long-lost female Ruddy Shelduck reappeared at Hollowell, a former favourite haunt at which it was last seen on 11th November last year. But with inimitable style, falling into this week’s truly dodgy duck category was a female-type White-cheeked Pintail at Deene Lake on 19th.

Cattle Egrets were seen only at Stanwick GP, where the highest count was five on 17th, the same date and location producing the week’s highest number of Great Egrets, fifteen. Numbers elsewhere were down, with six at Pitsford, three at Naseby, two at Summer Leys and singles at Stanford and Sywell.

On the wader front this week, the star of the winter, Pitsford’s Wood Sandpiper remained throughout, as did Earls Barton GP’s Common Sandpiper, while up to two Ruffs were still at Summer Leys on 15th-16th.

Wood Sandpiper, Pitsford Res, 21st January 2022 (Alan Coles)

Four sites produced Caspian Gulls this week, Stanford hosting a third-winter on 15th, an adult or third-winter on 16th and an adult on 18th. An adult and a third-winter were at DIRFT 3 on 16th with 2 adults and a second-winter there on 18th, while an adult was at Rushton Landfill on 19th and two adults were on ice at Naseby Res on 21st. By contrast, the only Yellow-legged Gulls reported were a first-winter at DIRFT 3 on 16th and an adult at Stanford on 20th. None of these, collectively or otherwise, however, makes up for the lack of white-winged gulls so far this winter but there is still time …

Adult Caspian Gull, Rushton Landfill, 19th January 2022 (Mike Alibone)
Adult Caspian Gulls, Naseby Res, 21st January 2022 (Jon Cook)

The Hinton AF Merlin was again present there on 16th, while another was seen in the Brampton Valley, between Cottesbrooke and Hanging Houghton on 19th.

Black Redstart, Borough Hill, 18th January 2022 (Martin Swannell)

Passerines were pretty much the same as last week with the Black Redstart keeping up appearances on Borough Hill until at least 20th, while Lilbourne Meadows produced the period’s highest tally of four to five Stonechats on 16th. Elsewhere, Borough Hill, Clifford Hill, Hollowell and Stanwick each produced two, while singles were found at Deene, Ravensthorpe and Upton CP.

Male Stonechat, Lilbourne Meadows LNR, 16th January 2022 (Jon Cook)
Female Stonechat, Borough Hill, 18th January 2022 (Martin Swannell)
Male Stonechat, Ravensthorpe Res, 19th January 2022 (Bob Bullock)

Easily the most unusual report of the week was of a Northern Wheatear on a field fence post north of Maidwell, before flying off west, on 21st. Although initially eyebrow-raising, it’s not unprecedented in a UK context as one was also seen at Lee-on-the-Solent in Hampshire on 9th January and what was presumably the same bird was at Southampton on 18th.

Which brings us neatly on to the ever-popular Blatherwycke Hawfinches. Continuing to attract a steady stream of admirers on a daily basis, the churchyard has never been so busy. There’s even a strategically-placed, comfy bench, on which you can sit, relax and chew the cud with fellow observers while you wait for the birds to fly into the stark, bare branches of the nearby trees.

Hawfinch, Blatherwycke, 22nd January 2022 (James Underwood)

Although two birds is a given, up to five were reported there by a visiting Leicestershire birder on 16th.

Corn Bunting, Brampton Valley, 21st January 2022 (Alan Coles)

Perhaps less appealing but with their current local rarity adding that appealing touch to the proceedings, two Corn Buntings remained in the Brampton Valley, between Cottesbrooke and Hanging Houghton, at the week’s end.