The Whiston Cattle Egret

Northamptonshire’s 6th Cattle Egret was found by Neil Underwood this morning, close to the site of last month’s White-fronted Goose grazing area alongside the River Nene, at Dunkleys, between Whiston and Earls Barton. Around midday it moved a few hundred metres to the south to a weedy field between Dunkleys and the newly-formed earth bank running alongside the new quarry conveyor belt.

In a winter notable for its Cattle Egret invasion it would have been surprising (and disappointing!) if Northants had not featured. Currently there are well over 100 individuals at large in the UK, most of which are in south-west England, although some have reached as far north as Lancashire.

A few digiscoped shots below. dscn3319-copy                                                                                                     dscn3326-copydscn3325-copy                                     Lack of dark tip to bill (when not soil-covered) ages it as an adult. There have been 5 previous  records, 4 of which have been in the same short stretch of the Nene Valley as this one. Previous accepted records are:

2006   Earls Barton GP, 11th-13th August                                                                                                                 2008   Fotheringhay, 23rd February; Earls Barton GP, 30th-31st July                                               2009   Earls Barton GP, 27th-28th May                                                                                                            2012   Earls Barton GP, 1st-6th May

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Rarity Round-up 1st to 6th January 2017

The beginning of the week was marked by a shift in the wind direction with a more northerly vector, bringing with it lower daytime, and sub-zero overnight, temperatures with associated heavy frosts. The conditions did not produce anything dramatic beyond a few new and scarce wildfowl, while local Short-eared Owls and Waxwings continued to prove popular attractions.

The 5th brought five adult Bewick’s Swans to Pitsford Res, albeit fleetingly as they were picked up flying south over the dam. Veteran local birders will recall the time when this species was a fairly common visitor, with Pitsford annually holding flocks of between sixty and seventy individuals from late October well into the winter months.

Bewick's Swans, Pitsford Res, 5th January 2017 (Jacob Spinks)

Bewick’s Swans, Pitsford Res, 5th January 2017 (Jacob Spinks)

Conversely, the adult Whooper Swan remained at Sywell CP all week, while the Eurasian White-fronted Geese – now down to twenty-three – became much more mobile, being seen to fly off from White Mills Marina, Whiston on 2nd, arriving shortly afterwards at Clifford Hill GP. The following morning they visited the main lake at Summer Leys LNR before relocating to nearby fields alongside the River Nene, below Great Doddington, where they remained until at least 4th. Two adult White-fronts also visited Pitsford Res, where they were seen in Pintail Bay – also on 4th. Red-crested Pochard numbers remained low with singles at both Sywell CP and Pitsford Res on 2nd and two at the latter site on 5th. In the Nene Valley, a female Scaup appeared at Summer Leys on 2nd before quickly relocating later the same day to Stanwick GP, where it remained until the end of the week. A drake Scaup appeared on the large lake behind Mary’s Lake at Earls Barton GP on 4th but it was not seen subsequently.

Drake Scaup, Earls Barton GP, 4th January 2017 (Alan Horsley)

Drake Scaup, Earls Barton GP, 4th January 2017 (Alan Horsley)

Further north, Stanford’s Long-tailed Duck remained there until at least 4th there along with the ‘redhead’ Smew. Elsewhere drake Smews were seen at Stanwick GP on 3rd and at Earls Barton GP the following day, both records almost certainly relating to the same individual.

By 2nd, the Thrapston GP Bittern had moved from Heron Lake to Aldwincle Lake, where it was seen in reeds at the north end of the lake, while Great White Egrets continued to number three throughout at Ravensthorpe Res, up to two at Pitsford Res and the same number intermittently at Summer Leys along with one at Thrapston GP.

Great White Egrets, Ravensthorpe Res, 2nd January 2017 (Mike Alibone)

Great White Egrets, Ravensthorpe Res, 2nd January 2017 (Mike Alibone)

The Slavonian Grebe remained at Pitsford Res throughout, although it became more mobile, ranging between Catwalk Bay and the sailing club, while an unusual winter visitor in the shape of a Marsh Harrier visited Summer Leys briefly on 3rd.The only scarce gulls reported this week were single adult Caspian Gulls at Stanwick GP on 4th and at Pitsford Res the following day.

Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 3rd January 2017 (Ricky Sinfield)

Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 3rd January 2017 (Ricky Sinfield)

Neville’s Lodge, near Finedon, again continued to prove a popular draw for observers of Short-eared Owls, now with up to five present throughout the period and birders visiting daily.

Short-eared Owl, Finedon, 2nd January 2017 (Mark Tyrrell)

Short-eared Owl, Finedon, 2nd January 2017 (Mark Tyrrell)

Short-eared Owl, Finedon, 5th January 2017 (Martin Swannell)

Short-eared Owl, Finedon, 5th January 2017 (Martin Swannell)

Short-eared Owl, Finedon, 5th January 2017 (Martin Swannell)

Short-eared Owl, Finedon, 5th January 2017 (Martin Swannell)

After the rush last week to see the first Waxwings of the winter there were no reports of the reportedly forty-strong crowd-pleasing birds in Roade, where the flock size peaked at fifteen just prior to their departure on 2nd.

Waxwings, Roade, 2nd January 2017 (Simon Hales)

Waxwings, Roade, 2nd January 2017 (Simon Hales)

Waxwing, Roade, 2nd January 2017 (Alan Coles)

Waxwing, Roade, 2nd January 2017 (Alan Coles)

Waxwing, Roade, 2nd January 2017 (Alan Coles)

Waxwing, Roade, 2nd January 2017 (Alan Coles)

Waxwing, Roade, 2nd January 2017 (Alan Coles)

Waxwing, Roade, 2nd January 2017 (Alan Coles)

Waxwings, Roade, 2nd January 2017 (Simon Hales)

Waxwings, Roade, 2nd January 2017 (Simon Hales)

Waxwings, Roade, 2nd January 2017 (Doug Goddard). Note the colour-ringed individual on the left (see text).

Waxwings, Roade, 2nd January 2017 (Doug Goddard). Note the colour-ringed individual on the left (see text).

One of these birds was colour-ringed and traceable to Kincorth, Aberdeen, where it was ringed on 2nd December 2016; it’s a first-winter female. Another Waxwing, a male, paid a brief visit to a garden on Borough Hill on 3rd and, perhaps surprisingly, three return to the site of the ‘Boxing Day One’ – the Rowan outside the Co-op at Woodford Halse – on 6th. Lastly, Crossbills continued to be reported intermittently from Fineshade Wood to 5th.

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Rarity Round-up 24th to 31st December 2016

The light west to south-westerly airstream continued throughout the eight-day ‘week’ extending the period to fit to the last day of 2016. The weather was generally mild, with slow-clearing thick fog a prominent feature during the latter half of the week. The Christmas highlight for most was the appearance of the first twitchable Waxwings between Boxing Day and the New Year.

The adult Whooper Swan remained at Sywell CP until at least 29th, while at least twenty-three of the twenty-four Eurasian White-fronted Geese were still present by the River Nene at White Mills Marina, Whiston until the year’s end. Also present to 31st were up to four Red-crested Pochards at both Pitsford Res and Stanford Res with the latter site also producing a first-winter Scaup again on 30th, on which date another first-winter was also discovered at Ravensthorpe Res. Arguably, though, wildfowl of the week was the Long-tailed Duck found at Stanford on 27th, remaining there along with the ‘redhead’ Smew until 31st. Last week’s two drake Smew were also still present at Pitsford Res until at least 27th.

Long-tailed Duck, Stanford Res, 27th December 2016 (Chris Hubbard)

Long-tailed Duck, Stanford Res, 27th December 2016 (Chris Hubbard)

Perhaps one of the Stanwick birds relocating, a ‘new’ Bittern was viewable from the hide on Heron Lake at Thrapston GP between 27th and 30th, while Great White Egrets continued to feature throughout with daily reports from Pitsford Res, where four were seen together on 26th and Ravensthorpe Res, where three remained all week, while one was seen at Summer Leys LNR intermittently between 24th and 29th, with two there on 31st.

The Slavonian Grebe present at Pitsford Res from 19th was last seen there on 28th, by which time it had moved closer to Catwalk Bay and, at nearby Scaldwell, the only scarce raptor of the week, a male Merlin, appeared fleetingly on 27th. Similarly, the only uncommon wader during the period was a Jack Snipe at Boddington Res on the same date.

An adult Mediterranean Gull appeared at Stanford Res on 31st, while in the far south-west of the county, near Chacombe, the loafing, mixed gull flock again included a first-winter and second-winter Caspian Gull on 24th and a second-winter and third-winter on 27th. Additionally, a first-winter Caspian was at Pitsford Res on 24th and two – an adult and a third-winter – visited Hollowell Res on 30th.

Short-eared Owl, Neville's Lodge, Finedon, 29th December 2016 (Martin Swannell)

Short-eared Owl, Neville’s Lodge, Finedon, 29th December 2016 (Martin Swannell)

Short-eared Owl, Neville's Lodge, Finedon, 29th December 2016 (Martin Swannell)

Short-eared Owl, Neville’s Lodge, Finedon, 29th December 2016 (Martin Swannell)

Neville’s Lodge, near Finedon, again proved a popular draw for observers of Short-eared Owls with four present throughout the period but their popularity was eclipsed by the arrival of the first twitchable Waxwings of the winter. Just one in a Rowan outside the Co-op at Woodford Halse on Boxing Day was enough to scramble birders from as far away as Northampton and Rugby and, although it performed well all day, it had departed by the following morning.

First-winter male Waxwing, Woodford Halse, 26th December 2016 (Bob Bullock)

First-winter male Waxwing, Woodford Halse, 26th December 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Hot on its heels came three in Roade on 29th, the number there rapidly growing to ten, which drew a sizeable procession of spectators during their stay into the New Year.

Female Waxwing, Roade, 29th December 2016 (Mike Alibone)

Female Waxwing, Roade, 29th December 2016 (Mike Alibone)

Waxwing, Roade, 30th December 2016 (Alan Coles)

Waxwing, Roade, 30th December 2016 (Alan Coles)

Down in the Nene Valley, the male Bearded Tit remained along the causeway at Stanwick GP’s A45 Lay-by Pit until at least 27th, while four Crossbills were found at Fineshade Wood on 26th.

Male Crossbill, Fineshade Wood, December 2016 (Roger Eads)

Male Crossbill, Fineshade Wood, December 2016 (Roger Eads)

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Woodford Halse Waxwing

Couldn’t resist posting a few pics of the Woodford Halse Waxwing this afternoon. After the late autumn influx – chiefly ‘up north’ – and a few fleetingly fickle or fanciful fly-overs locally, this is the first twitchable individual in Northants this year. Clean-cut black bib and broad yellow tail-band sex it as a male and the reduced yellow feather edgings in the primaries age it as a first-winter.dscn3205-copy A big thank you to Donna Wise for putting the news out.dscn3227-copydscn3224dscn3208-copy

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Rarity Round-up 17th to 23rd December 2016

In the run up to Christmas the week remained mild and largely dry, although it was gloomy, dank and dull for the greater part of the period. The wind direction remained unchanged from last week’s light south to south-westerly airstream. The highlight of the week was the discovery of the largest flock of Eurasian White-fronted Geese locally for nearly twenty years.

The Sywell CP Whooper Swan continued to be reported throughout the period, now seemingly settled and showing all signs of being present for the winter.

Whooper Swan, Sywell CP, 18th December 2016 (Mike Alibone)

Whooper Swan, Sywell CP, 18th December 2016 (Mike Alibone)

Whooper Swan, Sywell CP, 18th December 2016 (Mike Alibone)

Whooper Swan, Sywell CP, 18th December 2016 (Mike Alibone)

On 19th, a flock of twenty-four Eurasian White-fronted Geese was discovered alongside the River Nene, close to the new White Mills Marina, east of Whiston Lock, where they remained all week. While family parties, single-figure flocks and fly-overs are not unusual, this is the largest ‘on the ground’ flock in Northants since December 1998, when up to thirty-eight were present at Ditchford GP. Nevertheless, it remains scarce in the county but not as scarce as Greenland White-fronted Goose, for which there are only four records, in 1981 (2), 1991 and 2009. Another would undoubtedly be appreciated.

white-fronted-geese-caption

White-fronted Geese, Whiston, 21st December 2016 (Mike Alibone)

Eurasian White-fronted Geese, Whiston, 21st December 2016 (Mike Alibone)

Somewhat overshadowed by the birds at White Mills, another adult Eurasian White-front was found with Canada Geese at Fawsley Park Lakes on 20th and was still present there on 22nd.

White-fronted Goose, Fawsley Park, 22nd December 2016 (Angus Molyneux)

Eurasian White-fronted Goose, Fawsley Park, 22nd December 2016 (Angus Molyneux)

In a similar vein to last week the only other wildfowl of note were up to four Red-crested Pochards at Pitsford Res between 18th and 20th, with the two drake Smew still there on 23rd and a ‘redhead’ Smew at Stanford Res from the beginning of the week to 22nd.

The three Great White Egrets remained at Ravensthorpe Res on all week, while ones, twos and, on 20th, three, were reported from Pitsford Res and one was found at Ditchford GP on 18th. On 19th a ‘new’ Slavonian Grebe was discovered north-east of the dam at Pitsford Res, where it was still being seen on 23rd.

Slavonian Grebe, Pitsford Res, 21st December 2016 (Angus Molyneux)

Slavonian Grebe, Pitsford Res, 21st December 2016 (Angus Molyneux)

There were no reports of the wintering juvenile male Hen Harrier at Stanford Res this week, although a ‘ringtail’ was seen flying north, close to the A508 at Kelmarsh on 21st. A Curlew at Pitsford Res on 20th was the only notable wader during the period.

All the gull action was restricted to the west of the county where, at Daventry CP, a third-winter Mediterranean Gull was present on 19th and 23rd, followed by an adult and a first-winter in the pre-roost gathering there on 21st, while an adult Caspian Gull was in the roost at Boddington Res on 17th and single first-winters were in fields near Chacombe and at Daventry CP on 23rd.

Third-winter Mediterranean Gull, Daventry CP, 19th December 2016 (Gary Pullan)

Third-winter Mediterranean Gull, Daventry CP, 19th December 2016 (Gary Pullan)

Neville’s Lodge, near Finedon, remained the only reliable location to see Short-eared Owl this week, with up to two present there while, not too far to the south, the male

Short-eared Owl, Neville's Lodge, Finedon, 20th December 2016 (Geof Douglas)

Short-eared Owl, Neville’s Lodge, Finedon, 20th December 2016 (Geof Douglas)

Bearded Tit remained throughout the week along the causeway at Stanwick GP’s A45 Lay-by Pit and a ‘Nordic’ Jackdaw – of which there have been few reports in recent winters – was seen at Bozeat on 18th.

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Rarity Round-up 10th to 16th December 2016

Under the influence of an Atlantic airstream, the mild and frequently wet weather continued throughout the week, pegging daytime temperatures in the low teens. Few new birds were discovered and perhaps the biggest surprise was an unseasonal Turnstone for one day at Stanwick GP.

The Sywell CP Whooper Swan remained all week and the only other wildfowl of note were a female Red-crested Pochard at Ravensthorpe Res on 10th and two drake Smew at Pitsford on 11th.

Whooper Swan, Sywell CP, 14th December 2016 (Alan Francis)

Whooper Swan, Sywell CP, 14th December 2016 (Alan Francis)

On the same date, one of two Bitterns was again seen at Stanwick GP, while the three Great White Egrets remained on show at Ravensthorpe Res all week, two were at Pitsford Res on 11th and one visited Summer Leys on 14th and 16th. In the north-east of the county, at Thrapston GP, a Slavonian Grebe was (re?)discovered on Aldwincle Lake on the morning of 11th but had promptly disappeared by the afternoon.

Becoming more erratic in its appearances, the wintering juvenile male Hen Harrier was again seen at Stanford Res on 14th, although the lack of reports probably relates to a lower level of observer coverage and diminishing interest following its initial discovery in November.

On the wader front, a Turnstone arrived at Stanwick GP on 11th but had departed by the next day. This is a most unusual time of the year for this species to occur, the peak months being May and August. Aside from this, single Jack Snipe were found at both Ditchford GP and Stanford Res on 10th.

There was little change from last week in the numbers of scarce gulls being found. A second-winter Mediterranean Gull visited Daventry CP on 11th and 15th and a first-winter Caspian Gull was at Pitsford Res on 11th and 13th, with an adult there on 14th and another adult at Hollowell Res on 13th.

Male Bearded Tit, Stanwick GP, 14th December (Geof Douglas)

Male Bearded Tit, Stanwick GP, 14th December (Geof Douglas)

Finedon continued to hold at least one Short-eared Owl in the Neville’s Lodge area on 11th-12th but the only other one this week was in the Brampton Valley on 14th. The male Bearded Tit remained throughout the period along the causeway at Stanwick GP’s A45 Lay-by Pit but a Siberian Chiffchaff, calling and showing well near the Bird Club Hide at Pitsford Res on 11th, was new.

Male Crossbill, Fineshade Wood, 11th December 2016 (Martin Dove)

Male Crossbill, Fineshade Wood, 11th December 2016 (Martin Dove)

Male Crossbill, Fineshade Wood, 13th December 2016 (Roger Eads)

Male Crossbill, Fineshade Wood, 13th December 2016 (Roger Eads)

Lastly, Crossbills can be a bit hit and miss to catch up with in the county but Fineshade Wood’s Wildlife Hide was the place to be to see a showy male present from 10th to 13th, being joined by a female there on 11th.

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Rarity Round-up 26th November to 9th December 2016

The first week of the review period saw the coldest overnight temperatures of the autumn so far, with temperatures resulting from a northerly airstream falling to well below freezing on several occasions. The second week saw a swing to the west with daytime temperatures having hit the low teens by the period’s end. The spotlight fell firmly on wildfowl with the appearance of both species of wild swan constituting the highlight for those who managed to catch up with them.

First up were two adult Bewick’s Swans, which dropped into Summer Leys on 26th, remaining there for the afternoon only, and these were quickly followed by another one-day bird at Daventry CP, three days later, on 29th.

Adult Bewick's Swans, Summer Leys LNR, 26th November 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Adult Bewick’s Swans, Summer Leys LNR, 26th November 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Adult Bewick's Swans, Summer Leys LNR, 26th November 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Adult Bewick’s Swans, Summer Leys LNR, 26th November 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Also on 29th, a first-winter Whooper Swan was found at Stanford Res but it too, like the Bewick’s, remained for just one day. On 3rd, however, another Whooper was found – this time an adult at Sywell CP and, on this occasion, it remained until at least 8th.

Adult Whooper Swan, Sywell CP, 3rd December 2016 (Clive Bowley)

Adult Whooper Swan, Sywell CP, 3rd December 2016 (Clive Bowley)

Adult Whooper Swan, Sywell CP, 7th December 2016 (Martin Dove)

Adult Whooper Swan, Sywell CP, 7th December 2016 (Martin Dove)

Shorter-staying than any of the above, though, was an adult Dark-bellied Brent Goose, which was found at Clifford Hill GP on 26th but had disappeared within a couple of hours of its discovery. At Pitsford Res, two Red-crested Pochards were present between 29th and 2nd and three out of five relatively long-staying first-winter Scaups were still there on 30th, with at least one remaining until 7th. Stanford Res also continued to hold on to its Scaup – well, one of them at least – until 3rd, with some debate as to age and sex.

First-winter Scaup, Stanford Res, 30th November 2016 (Bob Bullock). Grey scapulars, the diffuse white surround to the bill and a greenish tinge to the head suggest this is a male.

First-winter Scaup, Stanford Res, 30th November 2016 (Bob Bullock). Grey scapulars, the diffuse white surround to the bill and a greenish tinge to the head suggest this is a male.

The same site also produced three female or first-winter Common Scoters on 27th and, back at Pitsford, another was found the following day.

Common Scoters, Stanford Res, 26th November 2016 (Chris Hubbard)

Common Scoters, Stanford Res, 26th November 2016 (Chris Hubbard)

Staying with the maritime theme, and locally scarcer than any of the above, a female Long-tailed Duck was discovered on Mary’s Lake at Earls Barton GP on 29th but it had gone by the following day.

Female Long-tailed Duck, Earls Barton GP, 29th November 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Female Long-tailed Duck, Earls Barton GP, 29th November 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Up to three ‘redhead’ Smew arrived and were at Pitsford on 26th-29th, followed by a drake there between 3rd and 8th.

Bitterns featured at Stanwick GP during the period with one coming in to roost in the reedbed there, between16.00 and 16.30 almost nightly, from 1st to 8th and two present on 2nd. Four localities produced Great White Egrets this week with a minimum of two north of the causeway at Pitsford Res daily, although three or four were reported there on 29th. Ravensthorpe Res is now clearly being favoured by this species with records daily and three there on several dates between 27th and the end of the period, although it’s likely there is some commuting between there and Pitsford Res. Two Slavonian Grebes were found at Clifford Hill GP on 26th, remaining in the north-west corner of the main barrage lake where they were on view until 3rd.

Adult (rear) and first-winter Slavonian Grebes, Clifford Hill GP, 26th November 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Adult (rear) and first-winter Slavonian Grebes, Clifford Hill GP, 26th November 2016 (Bob Bullock)

First-winter Slavonian Grebe, Clifford Hill GP, 27th November 2016 (Alan Coles)

First-winter Slavonian Grebe, Clifford Hill GP, 27th November 2016 (Alan Coles)

Favouring the disused railway track and small area of set-aside east of Stanford Res, the wintering juvenile male Hen Harrier continued to be seen regularly between 26th and 6th and a Merlin was again present there on 9th, with another reported from the Brampton Valley area on 28th.

December is normally the first month of the winter in which white-winged gulls are found locally but this has not yet been the case. A single first-winter Mediterranean Gull at Hollowell Res on 9th with Caspian Gulls there on the same date and on 26th – plus two at Pitsford Res on 27th and one again on 3rd – reflects the current paucity of wintering scarce Larids in Northants.

Short-eared Owls continued to be seen in the late afternoons at Neville’s Lodge, Finedon, with two on 27th, one on 29th and three on show on 8th while, elsewhere, singles were at Borough Hill on 26th, Sywell CP on 27th, in the Brampton Valley/Blueberry Farm area on 28th and 1st and at Harrington AF on 29th. The male Bearded Tit continued its presence throughout at Stanwick GP’s A45 Lay-by Pit, where it remained mobile along the causeway but at the same time occasionally providing remarkably close views.

Male Bearded Tit, Stanwick GP, 5th December 2016 (Alan Coles)

Male Bearded Tit, Stanwick GP, 5th December 2016 (Alan Coles)

 

Male Bearded Tit, Stanwick GP, 9th December 2016 (Simon Wantling)

Male Bearded Tit, Stanwick GP, 9th December 2016 (Simon Wantling)

Male Stonechat, Summer Leys LNR, 9th December 2016 (Alan Coles). This species is enjoying a 'good' winter locally, with many records in the period including a maximum of 5+ at Hollowell Res on 9th.

Male Stonechat, Summer Leys LNR, 9th December 2016 (Alan Coles). This species is enjoying a ‘good’ winter locally, with many records in the period including a maximum of 5+ at Hollowell Res on 9th.

The only other passerines of note during the period were two Waxwings which flew south over Harrington AF on 26th.

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