The Week in Focus: 23rd to 29th August 2014

With Britain firmly under the influence of a ‘further south than normal’ jet stream, a series of low pressure systems became a feature to the west of Britain, bringing south-westerly to south-easterly winds and persistent, heavy rain on 25th. Water levels rose at a number of well-watched locations but there was still just enough exposed mud remaining to attract passage waders. This week began to feel like autumn …

The two Barnacle Geese present at Hollowell Res all week seem set to be in it for the long haul and the two long-staying Ruddy Shelducks were still at Pitsford Res on 27th. There are normally more Garganeys around in late August but just one was reported this week, at Hollowell Res, on 26th-28th, while at least three Red-crested Pochards remained at Pitsford Res mid-week, along with summering female Goldeneyes there and at Earls Barton GP.

The ‘cream-crown’ Marsh Harrier continued to hunt in the Harrington AF area until at least 25th and others visited Summer Leys LNR on 25th and 28th while, for the second week running, a Goshawk was reported – this time flying over Broughton on 23rd. At least one Osprey remained in the vicinity of Hollowell Res, being seen on 23rd, 24th and 28th and single Peregrines visited Stanwick GP on 24th and Stortons GP on 26th, while two were in the Nene valley between Higham Ferrers and Irthlingborough on 26th-28th.

Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 26th August 2014 (John Friendship-Taylor)

Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 26th August 2014 (John Friendship-Taylor)

Adult Osprey, near Hollowell Res, 24th August 2014 (Simon Hales)

Adult Osprey, near Hollowell Res, 24th August 2014 (Simon Hales)

Peregrine, Northamptonshire Nene Valley, 26th August 2014 (John Broadbent)

Peregrine, Northamptonshire Nene Valley, 26th August 2014 (John Broadbent)

Despite rising water levels, wader passage picked up – if only a little – this week. Little Ringed Plovers visited Stanwick GP on 27th and Clifford Hill GP on 25th and five juveniles were at Hollowell Res on the same date, dropping to three there on 27th and two on 29th, while two adult Ringed Plovers were there on 25th, five visited Summer Leys the following day and singles were at Stanwick GP and Clifford Hill GP on 27th. The latter site produced the autumn’s third Turnstone on 23rd-24th and a Dunlin on 23rd, followed by five there on 25th. Further Dunlins included three at Hollowell Res on 25th and singles visited Stanwick GP and Pitsford Res on the same date while, back at Hollowell Res, four were present on 28th-29th. Things appeared to be shaping up nicely with the arrival of two Little Stints on the scrape at Summer Leys LNR on 26th but they departed after staying only a few hours. In contrast to last week, when there was none, Ruff appeared at four localities with two at Clifford Hill on 24th and singles at Pitsford Res on 25th-28th, Summer Leys on 26th and Stanwick GP on 28th. At least two Common Sandpipers were at Pitsford Res throughout the week, while singles were at Clifford Hill GP on 24th and Hollowell Res on 28th, while Stanwick GP held two on 24th and three on 25th dropping to one by 28th. The only Green Sandpipers this week were singles at Stanwick GP on 25th-27th and Summer Leys on 26th and three at Bozeat GP on 28th but arguably the wader highlight of the week was a Spotted Redshank at Hollowell Res on 29th. Back in the day, this species was a regular feature – sometimes in double-figure flocks – of late autumn at Pitsford Res but it is now a very scarce visitor to the county. Numbers of visiting Greenshanks have also fallen but it’s still a fairly common passage migrant, although this week managed to muster only one at Clifford Hill GP on 23rd and two at Stanwick GP on 28th. Redshanks were in similarly short supply with singles at Stanwick GP on 26th and Clifford Hill GP the following day and the only Common Snipe were two at Stanwick GP on 25th.

While the only Mediterranean Gull – a juvenile – this week was at Pitsford Res on 27th, Stanwick laid claim to the rarest with two juvenile Caspian Gulls on 27th

Juvenile Caspian Gull, Stanwick GP, 27th August 2014 (Steve Fisher)

Juvenile Caspian Gull, Stanwick GP, 27th August 2014 (Steve Fisher)

and a seriously good candidate for an adult Baltic Gull during the same evening gathering. Despite a showing a full suite of characters (small-billed, dainty, long-winged and pristine black upperparts apparently concolourous with primaries) records of this (sub)species are still not accepted by national records committees unless the individual in question comes adorned with a suitable leg-iron bearing a number proving its provenance.

Putative adult Baltic Gull, Stanwick GP, 27th August 2014 (Steve Fisher)

Putative adult Baltic Gull, Stanwick GP, 27th August 2014 (Steve Fisher)

Stanwick also continued to produce Yellow-legged Gulls daily, with a maximum count of up to thirty, also on 27th, while smaller numbers continued to be found elsewhere, including up to three at Pitsford Res between 23rd and 27th and one at Clifford Hill GP on 26th. With only small numbers of Common Terns remaining, a juvenile Arctic Tern at Pitsford Res on 25th was new in and a Black Tern at Stanwick GP on 28th was the first of the autumn.

The two Turtle Doves remained at Harrington AF until at least 27th and, next day, a Ring-necked Parakeet surfaced on wires close to an area where this species has bred in the recent past, Stoke Bruerne. Common Redstarts were still very much in evidence this week with 23rd producing singles at Duston and Harrington AF and two in the

Male Redstart, Blueberry Farm, Maidwell, 24th August 2014 (Bob Bullock)

Male Redstart, Blueberry Farm, Maidwell, 24th August 2014 (Bob Bullock)

Brampton Valley, while the following day saw singles again at  Woodford Halse, Blueberry Farm (Maidwell), Pitsford Res (trapped) and Harrington AF and four at Hellidon and one was at Harrington AF on 25th and 27th. Similarly, Whinchats were widespread with two in the Brampton Valley on 23rd, singles at Pitsford Res and Sywell CP and two at Harrington AF on 27th and one at Bozeat GP the following day.

First-winter Whinchat, Bozeat GP, 28th August 2014 (Bob Bullock)

First-winter Whinchat, Bozeat GP, 28th August 2014 (Bob Bullock)

Two Northern Wheatears were at Hellidon on 24th and singles were at Harrington AF on 24th and 27th and at Bozeat GP on 28th, while Tree Pipits overflew Brampton Valley and Harrington AF on 23rd and 24th respectively.

First-winter Northern Wheatear, Bozeat GP, 28th August 2014 (Bob Bullock)

First-winter Northern Wheatear, Bozeat GP, 28th August 2014 (Bob Bullock)

First-winter Northern Wheatear, Bozeat GP, 28th August 2014 (Bob Bullock)

First-winter Northern Wheatear, Bozeat GP, 28th August 2014 (Bob Bullock)

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The Week in Focus: 16th to 22nd August 2014

A minor recovery from last week’s unseasonal cool, wet and blustery conditions saw a low pressure system stationed to the north-east, delivering a westerly or north-westerly airstream for much of the period, with no surprises.

The two Barnacle Geese remained at Hollowell Res all week and the two long-staying Ruddy Shelducks were still at Pitsford Res on 18th. It’s been a good year for Egyptian Geese breeding in the county and a pair with eight goslings found at Ditchford GP on 13th were still all present and correct on 17th. Up to six Red-crested Pochards remained at Pitsford Res all week with the female Goldeneye there on 16th and the summering female was still at Earls Barton GP the following day.

Egyptian Geese, Ditchford GP, 17th August 2014 (Simon Hales)

Egyptian Geese, Ditchford GP, 17th August 2014 (Simon Hales)

Ospreys continued to feature this week with singles at Thrapston GP on 16th, Pitsford Res on 16th and 20th, Hollowell Res on 18th, 21st and 22nd and Stanford Res on 20th while the ‘cream-crown’ Marsh Harrier remained in the Harrington AF/Maidwell area until at least 20th. A Goshawk flew over Raunds on 18th and Peregrines were at Stortons GP on 16th and Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 20th.

Osprey, Hollowell Res, 22nd August 2014 (Alan Coles)

Osprey, Hollowell Res, 22nd August 2014 (Alan Coles)

If wader passage was slow last week then it had almost ground to a halt this week. Two juvenile Little Ringed Plovers were still at Summer Leys on 17th with singles there on 22nd and Clifford Hill GP on 20th, while Hollowell Res held up to five plus a Ringed Plover at the week’s end. A juvenile Turnstone paid a brief visit to Stanwick GP on 17th and single Dunlins visited Summer Leys LNR on 17th and Clifford Hill GP on 20th, while the only Common Snipe this week were singles at Pitsford Res on 16th and Summer Leys LNR on 22nd. Up to six Common Sandpipers were at Pitsford Res throughout the week, while singles were at Stanwick GP on 17th-18th and Clifford Hill GP on 20th. Singles of Curlew and Redshank visited Pitsford Res on 16th and a Greenshank was at Hollowell Res on 22nd.

Capture

The only Mediterranean Gull this week was a juvenile in the Pitsford Res roost on 16th although Caspian Gulls stepped up to the fore at Stanwick GP with an adult on 18th, two juveniles and a sub-adult on 19th, an adult and a juvenile on 20th and a juvenile on 21st. Stanwick also continued to produce Yellow-legged Gulls daily, with a maximum count of fifty-one on 19th, while smaller numbers elsewhere included up to six at Pitsford Res and one at Clifford Hill GP.

The two Turtle Doves remained at Harrington AF until at least 21st, two Tree Pipits were at Borough Hill on 18th and singles flew over Pitsford Res and Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 20th. Common Redstarts continued to filter through the county with one at Brackley on 19th, three at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell the next day and one at Harrington AF on 22nd while twos of Whinchat were at Blueberry Farm and in the wider Brampton Valley on 20th with one at Hollowell Res on 21st. Single Northern Wheatears were found at Brackley on 19th and Pitsford Res on 20th, while two visited Harrington AF on the last of these two dates.

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The Week in Focus: 9th to 15th August 2014

The week kicked off with storm-force south-westerlies and heavy downpours as the remnants of Hurricane Bertha hit northern European shores and a low pressure system tracked north-east across the UK. With the exception of a Sabine’s Gull in neighbouring Warwickshire, the much hoped-for inland seabirds failed to materialise and the week passed by somewhat limply and at a few degrees cooler than the temperatures enjoyed during the preceding few weeks.

The two Barnacle Geese remained at Hollowell Res all week, as did the two long-staying Ruddy Shelducks – now capable of flight – at Pitsford Res, along with the two drake Red-crested Pochards, female Goldeneye and the only new arrival there – a juvenile Common Scoter on 11th-13th. The two Garganey from last week remained at Daventry CP until at least 11th with one still present there on 15th.

Two reports of Osprey this week included one at Pitsford Res on 11th and two at Hollowell Res on 15th, while the site-faithful Marsh Harrier continued to put in appearances at Harrington AF until 12th, followed by singles – or possibly one individual – at Ditchford GP and Summer Leys LNR the following day. The 9th saw Peregrines at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell), Daventry CP and Summer Leys LNR with one again at Blueberry Farm on 11th-12th and three at Ditchford GP on 13th.

The movement of waders was slow and unremarkable with just one Little Ringed Plover reported from Stanwick GP on 11th and three at Hollowell Res on 15th, while a Ringed Plover was at Stanwick on 14th – the same day as three at Hollowell Res and a Dunlin was at Clifford Hill GP on 9th, with two there on 11th and one at Stanwick GP on the same date. The only Common Snipe this week were six on 11th and one on 14th – also at Stanwick GP, while a Whimbrel flew north at Hollowell Res on 15th. Common Sandpipers were seen throughout the week at seven localities, with a maximum of five at Hollowell Res on 11th, and Green Sandpipers were found at five with a maximum of three at Daventry CP on 9th and at Ditchford GP’s Broadholme STW on 11th, while last week’s juvenile Greenshank remained at Summer Leys LNR until 9th and another visited Hollowell Res on 15th.

Juvenile Mediterranean Gulls continued to show in the Pitsford Res roost with up to three there between 10th and 15th and a juvenile Caspian Gull appeared at Stanwick GP on 14th, where in excess of twenty Yellow-legged Gulls were counted on 11th and more than eighteen on 14th. Elsewhere, Pitsford Res produced up to four adult and one juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls between 9th and 15th, two juveniles were at Clifford Hill GP on 9th and single adults visited Daventry CP on 9th and Hollowell Res on 11th and 15th.

The two Turtle Doves remained at Harrington AF until at least 12th and a Tree Pipit flew south over nearby Hanging Houghton early on 15th. Common Redstarts were still very much in evidence this week, the 9th seeing singles at Hellidon and Summer Leys LNR and two at Borough Hill, singles were also in the Brampton Valley on 10th and Blueberry Farm on 12th when three were also at Harrington AF. The latter site produced a Whinchat on 12th and two were at nearby Blueberry Farm between 9th and 12th, while single Northern Wheatears visited Hellidon on 9th, Harrington AF on 12th and Denton Wood on 14th.

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The Week in Focus: 2nd to 8th August 2014

Atlantic weather systems ensured a mainly south-westerly airstream for much of the week with passerine migration more marked than in previous weeks.

Last week’s two Barnacle Geese remained at Hollowell Res until at least 5th, while the two long-staying Ruddy Shelducks at Pitsford Res were still there on 4th with the autumn’s first Pintail appearing there on 8th. The only Garganeys this week were two at Daventry CP between 3rd and 8th, while the two drake Red-crested Pochards remained at Pitsford Res and single female Goldeneyes were also still at the latter locality and at Earls Barton GP all week. A Red-necked Grebe displaying at a Great Crested Grebe with young at Pitsford Res was a surprise find on 8th.

With no Ospreys reported this week Marsh Harriers took centre stage with the Harrington AF ‘cream-crown’ continuing to put in appearances there almost daily, also visiting nearby Blueberry Farm on 2nd-3rd, and one appearing at Summer Leys LNR on 6th with Peregrines there on the same date and at Hollowell Res on 8th.

Marsh Harrier, Harrington AF, 6th August 2014 (Bob Bullock)

Marsh Harrier, Harrington AF, 6th August 2014 (Bob Bullock)

Little Ringed Plovers were thin on the ground this week with single juveniles at Summer Leys LNR on 3rd and 6th and at Hollowell Res on 5th and 8th, while single Dunlins visited both Hollowell Res and Clifford Hill GP on 5th and two were at the latter locality the following day. The male Ruff hung on at Summer Leys LNR/Earls Barton GP

Adult male Ruff, Summer Leys LNR, 2nd August 2014 (Simon Hales)

Adult male Ruff, Summer Leys LNR, 2nd August 2014 (Simon Hales)

until 6th and the only Common Snipe of the week were singles at Stanwick GP on 5th and Pitsford Res on 8th, while three Whimbrels flew south at the latter locality on 2nd. Common Sandpipers were seen throughout the week at Clifford Hill GP, Daventry CP, Hollowell Res, Pitsford Res, Summer Leys LNR and Stanwick GP with no more than two at any one locality and Green Sandpipers were found at Clifford Hill GP, Summer Leys LNR, Stanwick GP and Daventry CP with a maximum of three at the latter locality from 5th to 8th. Following last week’s Wood Sandpiper at Hollowell Res, another visited Summer Leys LNR for one day only on 6th and a Greenshank was at the same site from 6th to 8th.

Capture

More juvenile Mediterranean Gulls appeared with two at Pitsford Res on 2nd and onethere on 4th and 8th and further singles in a ploughed field at Kelmarsh on 5th and at Clifford Hill GP on 7th. A juvenile Caspian Gull was found at Daventry CP on 8th, while up to four Yellow-legged Gulls were at Pitsford Res between 2nd and 4th, one was at Kelmarsh on 5th, singles visited Daventry CP on 6th and Clifford Hill GP on 5th-6th with two there on 7th. Surprisingly, none was reported from Stanwick GP this week.

The two Turtle Doves continued their summer residence at Harrington AF throughout the week with the same site continuing to host a singing Grasshopper Warbler to the 7th (with another two nearby at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 4th) and a Pied Flycatcher plus a proliferation of Common Redstarts were also at Harrington AF, with one of the former reported on 7th and up to three of the latter throughout the week. Other Common Redstarts were reported from Blueberry Farm, Maidwell with singles on 2nd and 5th and three on 4th and Hellidon, where there was an unusually high count of eight on 7th.  A Whinchat was seen almost daily at Harrington AF, while up to two were nearby in the Brampton Valley and single Northern Wheatears were at Harrington AF on 5th and Hellidon on 7th. Harrington AF produced a Ring Ouzel briefly on 4th and two Crossbills flew over Hanging Houghton on 7th.

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The Week in Focus: 26th July to 1st August 2014

Another mainly warm, dry week dominated by a largely westerly airstream continued to deliver early autumn migrants, albeit at steady trickle.

Two Barnacle Geese visited Hollowell Res on 28th, making themselves available for those desperate to add this ‘C lister’ to their county tally for the year, while the two Ruddy Shelducks at Pitsford Res remained all week. Both the Stanwick GP and the Summer Leys LNR Garganeys were still present on 29th, two drake Red-crested Pochards were at Pitsford Res on 30th and single female Goldeneyes were still at Stanford Res on 26th, Earls Barton GP on 27th and one at Pitsford res on 1st.

The fifth Spoonbill to be seen in the county this year flew north-east along the River Ise Valley between Wellingborough and Finedon on 1st. Ospreys featured again at favoured localities with two at Stanford Res on 26th, one there on 28th, one at Hollowell Res on 29th and one at Pitsford Res on 1st, while a Marsh Harrier was found at Harrington AF on 30th and an adult and juvenile Peregrine were food-passing over Irthlingborough on 27th and a juvenile visited Hollowell Res the next day.

Waders failed to soar to prominence with just one Ringed Plover remaining at Hollowell Res on 28th, where there were up to four Little Ringed Plovers and up to two of the same species at Stanwick GP and Summer Leys LNR. Single Dunlins visited both Daventry CP and Hollowell Res on 28th, while single Ruffs visited the latter locality on 27th, Pitsford Res on 28th and Summer Leys LNR/Earls Barton GP on 28th-1st. The only Common Snipe of the week was one at Hollowell Res on 27th, while the Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit present at Summer Leys at the end of last week remained until 28th, one appeared at Stanwick GP on the same date, increasing to two there on 29th, and three visited Clifford Hill GP briefly on 30th. A Curlew was at Pitsford Res on 30th, small numbers of Common Sandpipers were seen throughout the week at Hollowell Res, Pitsford Res, Summer Leys LNR and Stanwick GP with a maximum of four at the first of these sites on 28th and the same can be said for Green Sandpipers which, in addition to these sites were also found at Daventry CP and Thrapston GP, with no more than three at any locality. Last week’s Wood Sandpiper remained at Hollowell Res until 28th and a Turnstone was found there the following day.

Wood Sandpiper, Hollowell Res, 26th July 2014 (Derek Hales)

Wood Sandpiper, Hollowell Res, 26th July 2014 (Derek Hales)

Juvenile Mediterranean Gulls continued to be seen with one again at Pitsford Res on 26th and two on 1st and one at Daventry CP on 28th, while the first of the autumn’s Caspian Gulls – a third- or fourth-summer – pitched up at Stanwick GP on 29th and was present again the following day. The same site has built a reputation for hosting large numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls – the majority of which gather during early evening, although a handful usually remains throughout the day; this week’s highest count was nudging fifty on 30th and the first juveniles appeared there on 26th. Smaller numbers elsewhere included three each at Pitsford Res and Stanford Res on 26th and 1st and singles at Daventry CP on 28th and Pitsford Res on 30th.

Two Turtle Doves remained at Harrington AF throughout the week, while up to two Ring-necked Parakeets were in the Abington Park/Norman Road/Church Way area of Northampton between 26th and 28th and a juvenile Grasshopper Warbler was trapped and ringed at Stortons GP on 26th with the male still singing at Harrington AF on 30th and one at Abington Park on 28th. Narrowly preserving its status as an annual visitor, a first-winter Pied Flycatcher spend a day at Denton Wood on 27th and up to three

First-winter Pied Flycatcher, Denton Wood, 27th July 2014 (Steve Brayshaw)

First-winter Pied Flycatcher, Denton Wood, 27th July 2014 (Steve Brayshaw)

Common Redstart, Chapel Brampton, 26th JUly 2014 (Douglas McFarlane)

Common Redstart, Chapel Brampton, 26th JUly 2014 (Douglas McFarlane)

Common Redstarts were at Harrington AF between 26th and 1st with one near Chapel Brampton during the same period. In the same area, single Whinchats were at Harrington AF on 26th, 30th and 1st with up to two in the Brampton Valley on 27th-28th, followed by the autumn’s first Northern Wheatears there on 29th and 1st, one at Harrington AF also on 1st and four Crossbills at the same site on 29th with three there on 1st.

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First-winter Pied Flycatcher

First-winter, in July and present for just one day. A local scarcity with only one or two records per year. Thanks to this excellent set of images by Steve Brayshaw we can confidently age last weekend’s Denton Wood Pied Flycatcher as a first-winter.

First-winter Pied Flycatcher, Denton Wood, 27th July 2014 (Steve Brayshaw)

First-winter Pied Flycatcher, Denton Wood, 27th July 2014 (Steve Brayshaw)

A combination of characters set this bird apart from adult female and non-breeding male but the clincher is the pattern on the middle tertial: broad white fringe on the outer web, thickening at the tip while extending slightly down the shaft, creating a ‘step’ effect where it joins the thinner, white border on the inner web.

First-winter Pied Flycatcher, Denton Wood, 27th July 2014 (Steve Brayshaw)

First-winter Pied Flycatcher, Denton Wood, 27th July 2014 (Steve Brayshaw)

In adults the white fringe is narrow and more uniform in width, like that on the lower tertial of this individual. Other first-winter features include the slightly darker throat, making the pale submoustacial stripe stand out, paler tips to some of the median coverts, curved white tips to the greater coverts forming a ‘sawtooth’ effect and the relatively pointed tail feathers.

First-winter Pied Flycatcher, Denton Wood, 27th July 2014 (Steve Brayshaw)

First-winter Pied Flycatcher, Denton Wood, 27th July 2014 (Steve Brayshaw)

Black (not brown-black) tail and upper tail coverts suggest this is a young male. A very smart bird indeed!

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Leucistic juvenile Starling revisited

More from Phil Jackman on the ‘leucistic’ juvenile Starling in his Kettering garden.  It – or one like it – is back, this time having moulted much more of its juvenile plumage during the intervening three weeks and, as suggested in the previous post on the topic, it appears that the bird’s ‘leucism’ may be/is age-related.

'Leucistic' juvenile Starling, Kettering, 28th July 2014 (Phil Jackman)

‘Leucistic’ juvenile Starling, Kettering, 28th July 2014 (Phil Jackman)

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