The Week in Focus: 12th to 18th July 2014

A predominantly dry week with temperatures starting to build to the high twenties in the latter part in advance of wet weather systems crossing the channel from the near continent.

One of last week’s ‘Cackling’ Geese (or a hybrid) – apparently there had been two – remained at Daventry CP until at least 14th and the two Ruddy Shelducks continued to be prominent in the dam area of Pitsford Res all week, while a Garganey remained at Stanwick GP. A female Red-crested Pochard at Pitsford Res on 12th-13th had been joined by two more by 15th and two flew east at Stanwick GP on the same date, while the Earls Barton female Goldeneye was again on Mary’s Lake on 13th and another visited Stanford Res on 17th.

The latter site also produced Northamptonshire’s fifth-ever Glossy Ibis during the afternoon of 15th. True to form, it did not stay, arriving from the north and circling the reservoir before continuing south. This week’s Ospreys were singles at Brixworth on 13th and Hollowell Res on 18th, otherwise it was a lean week for raptors.

Waders continued to trickle through with a Ringed Plover and six Little Ringed Plovers at Hollowell Res on 18th, while top counts of the latter were nine at Stanwick on 13th and seven at Summer Leys on the same date. On 12th, Summer Leys also produced a Little Stint – uncommon in the county in recent years and exceptional in July. A Black-tailed Godwit was in a field adjacent to Stanwick GP on 14th and a Greenshank visited Hollowell Res on 18th while up to 7 Green Sandpipers remained at Stanwick all week with smaller numbers at Daventry CP, Hollowell Res and Summer Leys. Common Sandpipers topped the bill for numbers this week with a single flock of sixteen arriving at Stanwick GP on the morning of 15th, six were at Hollowell Res on 18th and up to four at Summer Leys on 13th. The leucistic Black-headed Gull appeared again at Stanwick GP on 14th with the Yellow-legged Gull count peaking at twenty-seven there on the same date, while smaller numbers elsewhere included three at Pitsford Res on 15th and singles there and at Hollowell Res on 18th.

Harrington AF continued to host up to two Turtle Doves throughout the week, while two Grasshopper Warblers were still singing there on 15th with singles of Common Redstart and Whinchat there on the same date

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Which Cackler?

Prompted by the last post on the subject, Minimal Interest, Joan Chaplin sent me these images of a Cackling Goose at Foxholes Fisheries, Crick from 23rd April 2012.

Taverner's Cackling Goose, Foxholes Fisheries, Crick, 23rd April 2012 (Joan Chaplin)

Taverner’s Cackling Goose, Foxholes Fisheries, Crick, 23rd April 2012 (Joan Chaplin)

This bird arrived with visiting Canada Geese and was subsequently thought to be of the race minima. In common with the Daventry individual it shows a number of features which are inconsistent with that race: too large, too long-necked, the body is more elongated, the head not square enough and the bill – though small, is the wrong shape, i.e. too long.

Taverner's Cackling Goose, Foxholes Fisheries, Crick, 23rd April 2012 (Joan Chaplin)

Taverner’s Cackling Goose, Foxholes Fisheries, Crick, 23rd April 2012 (Joan Chaplin)

Taverner's Cackling Goose, Foxholes Fisheries, Crick, 23rd April 2012 (Joan Chaplin)

Taverner’s Cackling Goose, Foxholes Fisheries, Crick, 23rd April 2012 (Joan Chaplin)

All features are, however, spot-on for taverneri, Taverner’s Cackling Goose, right down to the thin, broken throat line which almost divides the two white cheek patches.

Taverner's Cackling Goose, Foxholes Fisheries, Crick, 23rd April 2012 (Joan Chaplin). The broken throat line is just visible.

Taverner’s Cackling Goose, Foxholes Fisheries, Crick, 23rd April 2012 (Joan Chaplin). The broken throat line is just visible.

Note how the bird’s size and shape appear to vary with pose and camera angle! While this western USA bird was surely an escape, Taverner’s has been recorded in Ireland in the recent past.

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Minimal Interest

That’s what this Cackling Goose at Daventry CP today is likely to elicit. Apparently it has been present two weeks among the local Canada Geese and, given its range along the western seaboard of North America, and its time and place of occurrence, it is almost certainly an escape – although it is a long-distance migrant!

Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii minima, Daventry CP 13th July 2014 (Mike Alibone)

Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii minima?, Daventry CP 13th July 2014 (Mike Alibone)

Cackling Goose was split from Canada Goose as long ago as 2004 and four races are recognised: hutchinsii (‘Richardson’s Cackling Goose’), taverneri (‘Taverner’s Cackling Goose’), leucopareia (‘Aleutian Cackling Goose’) and minima (‘Ridgway’s Cackling Goose’). Each race is identifiable on a combination of structure and plumage characters and the individual at Daventry most closely resembles minima in plumage but it can sometimes appear a little larger than would be expected and the head shape is not quite right, minima should show a squarer head profile and shorter bill than this bird. So is it another race or a hybrid?

Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii minima, Daventry CP 13th July 2014 (Mike Alibone)

Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii minima?, Daventry CP 13th July 2014 (Mike Alibone)

It’s between half and two-thirds the size of the accompanying Canada Geese, darker, shorter-necked and much smaller-billed. The main plumage difference is the all dark brown breast and belly, with the black at the base of the neck ‘fuzzing’ into it.

Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii minima, Daventry CP 13th July 2014 (Mike Alibone)

Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii minima?, Daventry CP 13th July 2014 (Mike Alibone)

Richardson’s Cackling Goose is similar in size and can be almost as dark but has a clear cut neckline with normally a narrow white base dividing it from the brown breast.

Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii minima, Daventry CP 13th July 2014 (Mike Alibone)

Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii minima?, Daventry CP 13th July 2014 (Mike Alibone)

Cackling Goose is not on the British List though a number of records have been accepted by BBRC. The Daventry individual is a nice bird and well worth a look, even though it must surely be an escape …

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Significant Threat to Wildlife in Fineshade Wood

by Barrie Galpin

Many of you will know Fineshade Wood, even though it is at the far north of Northants. It is a large area of Forestry Commission Woodland, and part of the historic Rockingham Forest.

View from the wildlife hide, Fineshade Wood (Tim Heaton, Wikimedia Commons). Views expressed in the accompanying text are not necessarily those of the photographer.

View from the wildlife hide, Fineshade Wood (Tim Heaton, Wikimedia Commons). Views expressed in the accompanying text are not necessarily those of the photographer.

There is a proposal by Forest Holidays to build a 70-cabin holiday park on 96 acres of this part of the Public Forest Estate – a proposal that will devastate a very important wildlife-rich area.  Fineshade has been developed as a walking and cycling destination in recent years with a network of forest trails and the former RSPB Visitor Centre. There are still important undisturbed areas where human access is difficult – which is what makes it great for birds and reptiles in particular.  In one of these areas of semi-natural woodland, north east of the visitor centre Forest Holidays plan to build a network of 2 miles of new forest tracks leading to 70 cabins, a central leisure block, maintenance site and 189 parking spaces. There will be year-round accommodation for 352 people within the depths of the wood. 352 people having a normal holiday experience i.e. making noise, having barbecues, walking dogs, starting and driving cars, switching on lights, playing music etc..

Such a devastating development would normally require an Environmental Impact Assesment but the planning application now before East Northants Council is accompanied by only a “Preliminary Ecological Report”. There has been a partial survey of reptiles and amphibians, no survey of breeding birds (they rely  BTO and county records) , no bat survey, no survey of dormice, a partial plant survey. They do not even appear to have considered Butterflies, Moths and other invertebrates.

The Wildlife Trust together with local and national wildlife groups will be making their comments to the Council but we really need a huge swell of supporting objections from individual birders and naturalists. Please can you help? You can do so simply by sending an email now. Details are below.

The threat to birds

The following birds are listed in the FH report

“Red list species that have been recorded include: Song Thrush, Tree Pipit, Yellow Hammer, Marsh Tit, Grasshopper Warbler, Nightjar, Willow Tit, Skylark and Cuckoo. Amber list species that have been recorded include: Dunnock, Garden Warbler, Red Kite, Redstart, Willow Warbler, Whitethroat, Green Woodpecker, Bullfinch and Mistle Thrush.”

To that I can add Long-eared Owls and roding Woodcock this year.

They conclude “therefore the site is of at least county importance for birds”. They reach a similar conclusion for reptiles, particularly adders.

Suggested “Mitigation and Enhancement” amounts to don’t clear the vegetation during the nesting season, try to create some good habitat elsewhere and stick up some bird boxes!

The planning application

The full application is online here, where objections can also be lodged

www.east-northamptonshire.gov.uk/planningapplications

The reference number for the application is 14/01156/FUL.
The deadline for objections is 23 July but please do it now

How to object:

You can object by email to:   planning@east-northamptonshire.gov.uk
or online or by letter to
Planning comments,  East Northants Council, Cedar Drive, Thrapston  NN14 4LZ

You must give your name and address  and include the reference number 14/01156/FUL and use the word objection very clearly.

More reasons to object?

Please email Fineshade.wood@zen.co.uk for more details, particularly about unsuitable vehicle access.

PLEASE OBJECT NOW

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The Week in Focus: 5th to 11th July 2014

The early part of the week saw the UK sandwiched between two areas of low pressure which brought intermittent showers, some of them heavy, to the county although dry weather ultimately prevailed.

A Cackling Goose – presumably an escape – at Daventry CP on 11th has apparently been present two weeks and the two Ruddy Shelducks, ensconced by the dam at Pitsford Res all week, are clearly in it for the long haul, while a Garganey remained at Stanwick GP and two eclipse drake Red-crested Pochards dropped in there on 7th. Maidwell’s Blueberry Farm produced this week’s star raptors – an Osprey on 7th and a ‘cream-crown’ Marsh Harrier on 7th and 10th, while an adult Peregrine was at Blatherwycke Lake on 11th, but Stanwick GP stole the show with its superb run of waders this week. While Hollowell Res produced a Ringed Plover and three Little Ringed Plovers on 11th, nine Little Ringed Plovers was the top count at Stanwick on 9th, a Dunlin visited on 8th followed by a Common Snipe next day. Another Common Snipe was at Summer Leys LNR on 7th and, having attracted a Whimbrel and 4 Black-tailed Godwits on 6th, twenty-two of the latter species were there the following day; ten also turned up at Stanwick GP on 8th and one remained there between 7th and 10th, being joined by a Bar-tailed Godwit on the last of these dates.  Stanwick’s mid-summer puple patch continued with two Spotted Redshanks on 8th, with three there briefly the following day, while a Greenshank was there on 9th followed by three on 10th, two visited Hollowell Res on 11th while up to 6 Green Sandpipers remained at Stanwick all week and singles visited both Daventry CP and Hollowell Res on 11th. Common Sandpipers continued to trickle through with four at Hollowell Res on 11th, up to three at both Stanwick and Summer Leys and one at Daventry CP on 11th. The number of Yellow-legged Gulls continued to build at Stanwick, climbing to twenty-one on 10th, while two adults visited Pitsford Res on 8th and singles were at both Hollowell Res and Clifford Hill GP on 11th. Turtle Doves were still in short supply with just the regular duo remaining on site at Harrington AF on 7th, while nearby a male Black Redstart was around farm buildings at Blueberry Farm on 7th-8th, a Common Redstart was in the wider Brampton Valley on 10th and the singing male Grasshopper Warbler remained there on 7th. Three more of the latter species comprised singles Lady Wood on 6th, Fermyn Wood CP on 8th and Earls Barton GP on 6th and 10th, while eight Crossbills flew over Blueberry Farm on 7th.

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Leucistic juvenile Starling

Phil Jackman forwarded these images of a leucistic juvenile Starling present in his Kettering garden this weekend. While generally uncommon, leucism (really a lower concentration of melanin) in juvenile Starlings has been recorded on numerous occasions and invites confusion with juvenile Rose-coloured Starling which, however, has a largely yellow bill (especially at the base) and pale lores.

Leucistic juvenile Starling, Kettering, 5th July 2014 (Phil Jackman)

Leucistic juvenile Starling, Kettering, 5th July 2014 (Phil Jackman)

Also, this individual has already begun its post-juvenile moult, which commences with the wing feathers – in this case all the juvenile greater coverts, except the outer two, have been replaced.

Leucistic juvenile Starling, Kettering, 5th July 2014 (Phil Jackman)

Leucistic juvenile Starling, Kettering, 5th July 2014 (Phil Jackman)

This feather tract is again different to the equivalent plainer feathers of Rose-coloured. It’s interesting that these first-winter feathers are apparently normal, suggesting the bird’s leucism (lack of melanin) is age-related.

Many thanks to Phil for the images of this interesting bird.

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The Week in Focus: 28th June to 4th July 2014

Warm and dry with variable light winds gave way to south-westerlies and rain at the very end of the period. A largely quiet week, it was marked only by the appearance of more southerly-heading passage waders.

Last week’s two Ruddy Shelducks at Pitsford Res had commenced body moult and the male, at least, had become flightless as a result. Clearly they will be there for the foreseeable future.

Ruddy Shelducks, Pitsford Res, 3rd July 2014 (Clive Bowley)

Ruddy Shelducks, Pitsford Res, 3rd July 2014 (Clive Bowley)

Ruddy Shelducks, Pitsford Res, 4th July 2014 (Alan Coles)

Ruddy Shelducks, Pitsford Res, 4th July 2014 (Alan Coles)

An early (or more likely mobile, summering) Wigeon was at Stanwick GP on 1st, along with last week’s female Garganey all week and the same site hosted up to eight Little Ringed Plovers while up to six, including young, were present at Summer Leys LNR. Black-tailed Godwits made their autumn debut this week with one at Pitsford Res, and seven dropping in briefly at Summer Leys, on 29th, followed by three at the latter site the following day and five at Stanwick GP on 1st. Those at Summer Leys were of the race islandica and it is more than likely the others were also Icelandic in origin. A maximum of seven Green Sandpipers was also recorded at Stanwick GP on three dates and one remained at Summer Leys from 28th to 30th, while both localities notched up a single Common Sandpiper. The number of Yellow-legged Gulls at Stanwick GP climbed to nine – up four onlast week’s total, a male Black Redstart was near Rocking ham Speedway (Corby) on 1st, the singing male Grasshopper Warbler remained at Fermyn Wood CP on 29th – the same site hosting two Crossbills on 3rd, while another Crossbill was at Denton Wood on 30th.

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