Slavonian Grebes at Clifford Hill Gravel Pits

While undertaking a WeBS count on 26th November, Bob Bullock found two Slavonian Grebes on the main barrage lake a Clifford Hill GP. Remaining faithful to an area in the north-west corner of the lake, they were still present two days later but there have been no reports since 28th. Are they still there?

Adult (left) and first-winter Slavonian Grebes, Clifford Hill GP, 27th November 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Adult (left) and first-winter Slavonian Grebes, Clifford Hill GP, 27th November 2016 (Bob Bullock)

November proved to be a good month for this species in the county, with multiple arrivals on 14th including one at Thrapston GP, which remained until at least 19th, and another at Ravensthorpe Res, which was quickly joined by another the same day, both having departed by the following morning.

The two at Clifford Hill GP provided an opportunity for relatively close study and it was immediately evident that the two birds were quite different in plumage.

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

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

First-winter Slavonian Grebe, Clifford Hill GP, 28th November 2016 (Alan Coles)

First-winter Slavonian Grebe, Clifford Hill GP, 28th November 2016 (Alan Coles)

captureOne was an obvious textbook grey, black and white, winter-plumaged adult with a sharply demarcated black crown, white cheeks and a clean white foreneck. The other could be aged as a first winter, still retaining some juvenile plumage in the form of diffuse, dusky areas, most obvious on the rear cheeks as well as on the neck sides (which show an noticeable brownish hue), extending across the foreneck, which is also rather dirty-looking compared to that of the adult.

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The Week in Focus 19th to 25th November 2016

The first and last days of the week were crisp, dry and sunny but the intervening period saw a low pressure system move rapidly across southern England, bringing wet and windy weather to Northants on 20th/21st, after which it was mainly dull, cold and showery. Few new birds were discovered in the seven-day period but there was still plenty to focus on, although the expected Waxwing invasion failed to materialise.

Up to twenty-five Pintails remained at Pitsford Res, where single male and female Red-crested Pochard x Mallard hybrids were found on 23rd and two drake Red-crested Pochards constituted a poor showing following regular double-figure counts there in previous weeks. Up to two female Scaup were at Stanford Res until at least 20th, with one remaining until 25th, and four of the original five remained at Pitsford Res until at least 23rd.

Six localities produced Great White Egrets this week with four regularly on view north of the causeway at Pitsford Res. This species was also recorded from Thrapston GP on 19th, Summer Leys LNR, where one was present on the same date, after which it or another was seen at nearby Ditchford GP on 20th and the long-staying individual remained at Ravensthorpe Res, visiting Hollowell Res on 24th.

Great White Egret, Pitsford Res, 20th November 2016 (Adrian Borley)

Great White Egret, Pitsford Res, 20th November 2016 (Adrian Borley)

The Slavonian Grebe found last week at Thrapston GP remained on Titchmarsh LNR, visible from the North Hide, until at least 19th.

In the vicinity of Stanford Res, the ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier continued to be seen regularly – if only fleetingly – throughout the week and was aged and sexed as a juvenile male from photographs taken on 23rd. Additionally, two more ‘ringtails’ were seen – one at Stanwick GP on 21st and the other the following day at Harrington AF.

Juvenile male Hen Harrier, Stanford Res, 23rd November 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Juvenile male Hen Harrier, Stanford Res, 23rd November 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Aside from a Merlin again at Stanford Res on 25th, Peregrines recorded from Ditchford GP, Harrington AF, Northampton and Pitsford Res constituted the only other raptor of note during the period.

Just two localities produced Golden Plovers this week, but the lack of sites was more than made up for in numbers with one thousand five hundred counted near Grafton Regis on 23rd.  On 20th, three Black-tailed Godwits appeared at Pitsford Res, two Dunlins visited Stanwick GP on 24th, where four Redshanks were also present on the same date, while one continued to linger at Pitsford Res until at least 23rd.

Black-tailed Godwit, Pitsford Res, 20th November 2016 (Adrian Borley). One of three present on this date.

Black-tailed Godwit, Pitsford Res, 20th November 2016 (Adrian Borley). One of three present on this date.

Two Green Sandpipers were also at Pitsford on this date with two more at Stanford Res and one at Ditchford GP on 20th. Single Common Snipe were at Ditchford GP on 20th and Grafton Regis on 25th but twenty-seven were counted at Pitsford on 23rd.

Pitsford also produced a second-winter Little Gull in the roost on 21st, while the usual adult Yellow-legged Gull remained there until at least 23rd. This week saw some new Short-eared Owls with one near Neville’s Lodge, Finedon on 22nd and 24th and two there on 23rd, while one was again in the Blueberry Farm (Maidwell)/Brampton Valley area on 24th-25th. Two Bearded Tits were again reported at Summer Leys LNR on 20th and the male Stanwick GP’s A45 Lay-by Pit, remained until at least 21st, while reports of Central European Blackcaps increased this week with singles at Summer Leys on 20th, Duston (Northampton), Kettering and Pitsford Res on 23rd and two near Kettering on 25th.

Female Central European Blackcap, near Kettering, 23rd November 2016 (Alan Francis)

Female Central European Blackcap, near Kettering, 23rd November 2016 (Alan Francis)

Not increasing – much to the disappointment of many – were Waxwings which, after last week’s sprinkling of sightings of birds on the move, the much-anticipated local invasion simply did not happen but the flyover individual at Brackmills (Northampton) on 24th provided some consolation for one observer at least. Blueberry Farm/Brampton Valley and several, heard only, in Brixworth. Stonechat numbers were down in comparison to previous weeks with one at Pitsford Res on 23rd and up to four in the Blueberry Farm/Brampton Valley area all week, with Bramblings at the same locality on 19th.

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The Stanford Hen Harrier

Hen Harrier with ‘Northern’ trait

First seen by Ian Bartlett on 13th November, this juvenile male Hen Harrier is as much stunningly well-marked as it is difficult to catch up with.

It was next observed on 17th and has since been seen almost daily, albeit briefly on each occasion, as it flies across the South Kilworth road between the settling pond and the old railway track, at the eastern end of Stanford Reservoir. Its regular hunting area is as yet unknown so prolonged observation has not been possible and all views to date have been fleeting.

However, a series of photographs taken by both Alan Coles and Bob Bullock on 23rd have nicely captured and revealed its resemblance to a juvenile Northern Harrier. With an extensively dark face and broad – though fragmented – boa, this is a Hen Harrier at the top end of the variation scale.

Juvenile male Hen Harrier, Stanford Res, 23rd November 2016 (Alan Coles)

Juvenile male Hen Harrier, Stanford Res, 23rd November 2016 (Alan Coles)

Ageing and sexing it is not too difficult. The combination of a largely ochre ground colour to the underparts with relatively thin streaks, cold, dark brown upperparts and a more ‘solid’ face than an adult female puts it squarely in the juvenile camp. Adult females in comparison have a whitish ground colour to the underparts with broader, blotchier streaks, slightly warmer upperparts and a more open facial disc. Its already yellow eye indicates it is a male as juvenile females have dark eyes.

Juvenile male Hen Harrier, Stanford Res, 23rd November 2016 (Alan Coles)

Juvenile male Hen Harrier, Stanford Res, 23rd November 2016 (Alan Coles)

Check out the contrast between the dark head/neck/boa/upper breast and the remainder of the pale underparts. It’s very marked and this is the initial, big, eye-catching, pro-Northern feature, as is the deeply solid dark brown face pattern with dark lores and the plain buff leading edge to the wing, formed by the underwing coverts.

Juvenile male Hen Harrier, Stanford Res, 23rd November 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Juvenile male Hen Harrier, Stanford Res, 23rd November 2016 (Bob Bullock)

While initially this may be enough to set pulses racing, more detailed examination reveals that there are only five dark bars on the longest primaries (Northern usually has 5-7, Hen 4-5), the dark subterminal tips to the underside of the inner primaries are strong (weaker and paler in Northern), the middle dark bar on the underside of the secondaries is broad (usually thin in Northern) and the ground colour of the underparts is too light (rustier in Northern).

Juvenile male Hen Harrier, Stanford Res, 23rd November 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Juvenile male Hen Harrier, Stanford Res, 23rd November 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Juvenile male Hen Harrier, Stanford Res, 23rd November 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Juvenile male Hen Harrier, Stanford Res, 23rd November 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Juvenile male Hen Harrier, Stanford Res, 23rd November 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Juvenile male Hen Harrier, Stanford Res, 23rd November 2016 (Bob Bullock)

So it’s an interesting-looking bird, an individual at the dark end of the Hen Harrier variation scale – and a nice bird for the county. It would be even nicer if it stuck around long enough to watch it hunting!

Northamptonshire records of Hen Harrier 2001-2015

Northamptonshire records of Hen Harrier 2001-2015

Hen Harrier is a scarce migrant and winter visitor, which averages 7 records a year in Northamptonshire. Its status appears stable in this context, despite persecution on moorland further north.

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2015 Northamptonshire Bird Report now out!

Northants Birds
nbr-2015-coverThe latest, limited edition, Northamptonshire Bird Report, with records for 2015, is now available. Contents include full Systematic List compiled using records from more than 320 observers, sections on Escapes and Ferals and Hybrids, as well as many photos and illustrations by local photographers and artists.

There are also reports from the Northants Ringing Group, as well as the full list of species recorded in Northants, tables of arrival and departure dates for summer and winter visitors and a County site map.

Copies and back issues from:

R W Bullock, 81 Cavendish Drive, Northampton NN3 3HL

Price £7.50 + £1.30 p&p

Also on sale at the Oundle Bookshop                                                                                                                          13 Market Place, Oundle PE8 4BA Phone:01832 273523

Cheques payable to ‘Northamptonshire Bird Report’

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Two Weeks in Focus, 5th to 18th November 2016

A topsy-turvy weather pattern ensued over the period, with temperatures oscillating between 18ºC at the mid-point and freezing. Winds were similarly variable – a cold north-easterly persisted in the early part of the first week before swinging southerly and then westerly at the period’s end. For the third week running another flyover Gannet was logged before birding took on a decidedly wintry feel with more traditional fare arriving from all points north.

The first of those winter birds were Whooper Swans although, true to form at this time of the year, none lingered. The first was a loner which appeared at Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR on the afternoon of 12th but it had departed by the next day and this was then followed by seven, including two juveniles, at Stanford Res on 18th, all of which were seen to fly off east during the late afternoon of the same day.

Whooper Swans, Stanford Res, 18th November 2016 (Alan Coles)

Whooper Swans, Stanford Res, 18th November 2016 (Alan Coles)

Whooper Swans, Stanford Res, 18th November 2016 (Martin Dove)

Whooper Swans, Stanford Res, 18th November 2016 (Martin Dove)

Whooper Swan, Stanford Res, 18th November 2016 (Chris Hubbard)

Whooper Swan, Stanford Res, 18th November 2016 (Chris Hubbard)

Similarly short-staying were four Dark-bellied Brent Geese, including one juvenile, at Hollowell Res on 9th. Pitsford Res produced the highest Pintail count of at least twenty on 8th while Daventry CP, Earls Barton GP, Ravensthorpe Res and Stanford Res mustered just one or two birds each. Pitsford also held the highest number of Red-crested Pochards with a maximum of at least twelve on 16th while Ditchford GP and Stanford

Red-crested Pochard, Ditchford GP, 13th November 2016 (Simon Hales)

Red-crested Pochard, Ditchford GP, 13th November 2016 (Simon Hales)

Res both managed to produce a drake a piece and one of Stanford’s three Scaup still present on 6th, remained until 13th. Five more Scaup – all first-winters – were discovered at Pitsford Res on 6th all of which remained until 13th, with at least three lingering until 17th.

Female Scaup, Stanford Res, 5th November 2016 (Chris Hubbard)

Female Scaup, Stanford Res, 5th November 2016 (Chris Hubbard)

An apparent adult Great Northern Diver at Pitsford Res on 11th was a typical November record for this species. What was not typical, however, was its short stay of just two days as well as its age, as the majority visiting the county in autumn/winter are juveniles/first-winters. Following this, an unidentified diver species was seen flying over Clifford Hill GP toward Hardingstone GP late on 16th, although efforts to relocate it the next day went unrewarded.

Great Northern Diver, Pitsford Res, 12th November 2016 (Adrian Borley)

Great Northern Diver, Pitsford Res, 12th November 2016 (Adrian Borley)

Yet another juvenile Gannet was logged, this time flying west over Daventry CP on 7th – the third in the county in as many weeks. Two Bitterns were also seen – one in flight at Stanwick GP on 11th and the other in front of Thrapston GP’s Kirby Hide two days later,

Bittern, Stanwick GP, 10th November 2016 (Steve Fisher)

Bittern, Stanwick GP, 10th November 2016 (Steve Fisher)

while Pitsford continued to host multiple Great White Egrets throughout the period, peaking at five on 17th. This species was also recorded from Ravensthorpe/Hollowell Reservoirs, at which one was present between 6th and 18th and from Summer Leys LNR, where a one-day bird dropped in on 11th.

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 11th November 2016 (Alan Coles)

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 11th November 2016 (Alan Coles)

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 11th November 2016 (Mark Tyrrell)

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 11th November 2016 (Mark Tyrrell)

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 11th November 2016 (Stuart Mundy)

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 11th November 2016 (Stuart Mundy)

Three Slavonian Grebes appeared on 14th, one at Thrapston GP – which remained until the end of the period, and two at Ravensthorpe Res, which had departed by the fiollowing day. The raptor highlight of the period was undoubtedly the ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier which was first seen at Stanford Res on 13th and then again on 17th and 18th; a post-dawn early morning vigil where the disused railway track crosses the road near the settling pond provides the best chance of connecting with it. In addition to that, a Merlin was in the same area on 18th and Peregrines were recorded from eight localities throughout the period.

Juvenile Peregrine, probably male, Pitsford Res, 11th November 2016 (Clive Bowley)

Juvenile Peregrine, probably male, Pitsford Res, 11th November 2016 (Clive Bowley)

Golden Plover numbers continued to build, with five sites producing counts, the highest of which was two hundred and forty-four at Daventry CP on 15th. A Curlew – unusual in November – visited Summer Leys on 14th and, equally surprising, Dunlins appeared at five localities with singles at Daventry CP and Stanwick GP, 2 at Hollowell Res, four at Summer Leys and up to five at Pitsford Res. Green Sandpipers continued to be recorded throughout the period from Daventry CP (producing the maximum of four on 15th), Deene Lake, Ditchford GP, Naseby Res, Pitsford Res, Ravensthorpe Res and Stanford Res, while Redshanks remained scarce with singles at Pitsford between 8th and 17th and at Ditchford GP on 18th.

Redshank, Pitsford Res, 16th November 2016 (Alan Francis)

Redshank, Pitsford Res, 16th November 2016 (Alan Francis)

Three Jack Snipe at Ditchford GP on 16th was the only record during the period, while single-figure counts of Common Snipe were made at Brixworth SWT, Deene Lake, Ditchford GP and Hollowell Res although Pitsford Res made it into double-figures with twelve there on 8th.

Three reservoirs produced Caspian Gulls. At Hollowell Res, single adults were present on 9th and 15th, at Boddington Res roost, an adult was present on 13th, a second-winter the next day and an adult and a third-winter visited on 18th and at Pitsford Res an adult was present on 14th. The usual adult Yellow-legged Gull was at Pitsford Res between 6th and 11th, one visited Summer Leys LNR on 13th and, at Boddington Res, five on 13th, one on 14th and three on 18th.

Short-eared Owls have been thin on the ground so far this autumn, with Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) hosting one on 8th-9th and 17th, while one was seen at Harrington AF on 13th. Scarce passerines reported include a Firecrest at Ravensthorpe Res on 12th and one or two Bearded Tits at Stanwick GP’s A45 Lay-by Pit, daily, between 6th and 12th with two at Summer Leys again on 13th.

Male Bearded Tit, Stanwick GP, 8th November 2016 (Steve Fisher)

Male Bearded Tit, Stanwick GP, 8th November 2016 (Steve Fisher)

The third Yellow-browed Warbler of the autumn – and equally as fleeting and elusive as the previous two – was at Stanwick GP on 10th, the same date that a Siberian Chiffchaff was found in the same area, the latter remaining in the same strip of trees and bushes until at least the following day. As a scarce winter visitor it may still be in the area. Another winter warbler – Central European Blackcap – was seen on 13th, when a male was at Pitsford Res and a foretaste of things hopefully to come later this winter was provided by the first Waxwing, at Hanging Houghton on 8th, followed by further reports the same day of eight over Blueberry Farm/Brampton Valley and several, heard only, in Brixworth. On 12th, five flew over Pitsford Res and five – perhaps the same – were seen in flight over Pitsford Quarry the next day, when six were also briefly in Kingsthorpe (Northampton) and approximately ten flew over Cranford, followed by eight at Brixworth CP on 14th. Stonechats continued to be reported from eight localities and small numbers of Bramblings from nine, while a single Crossbill flew over Pitsford Res on 13th and two were reported from Harlestone Heath the following day.

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The Week in Focus 28th October to 4th November 2016

The high pressure system sitting over southern Britain for two days at the beginning of the period set the scene for dry weather throughout the county and produced locally ‘high’ temperatures of up to 18ºC. As winds swung more northerly for the remainder of the week, these were soon replaced by much lower temperatures with Northants experiencing its first frost of the autumn overnight on 1st. Apart from another flyover Gannet, the week remained relatively quiet.

After a respectable count at Pitsford Res last week, just one Pintail was reported – on 31st at Daventry CP, where up to two Red-crested Pochards were present between this date and 2nd, while up to fifteen were counted at Pitsford on 30th. Wildfowl of the week award, though, goes to the three Scaup which were found at Stanford Res on 3rd, with at least one remaining until the next day.

Following last week’s Gannet over Earls Barton GP/Summer Leys LNR, another juvenile flew low over M1 Junction 15A at Rothersthorpe, heading toward Northampton, on 29th but attempts to relocate it elsewhere along its assumed flightpath ended in disappointment for those who tried. Three Great White Egrets remained north of the causeway at Pitsford Res on 30th, singles were seen at Stanwick GP on 29th and Thrapston GP on 31st, the same date the Deene Lake individual was still appearing on the roll-call.

Great White Egret, Deene Lake, 31st October 2016 (James Underwood)

Great White Egret, Deene Lake, 31st October 2016 (James Underwood)

Raptors were again limited to a Marsh Harrier flying east over Daventry CP on 2nd, two Peregrines in Northampton on 29th with further singles at Stanford Res on 3rd and at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell the following day.

Golden Plover numbers topped two hundred and seventy at Polebrook AF on 30th, while smaller numbers elsewhere consisted of fifty-one at Daventry CP on 31st with seven at Thrapston GP the same day and only five again at Daventry CP on 2nd. A Black-tailed Godwit visited Pitsford Res on 29th, the same site hosting the week’s only Redshank and two Green Sandpipers the following day. Other Green Sandpipers a were one at Stanford Res on 30th, four at Daventry CP and five at Deene Lake on 31st and two again at Daventry on 2nd. The only other waders of note were five Dunlins at Stanford Res on         3rd, while single-figure counts of Common Snipe were made at Daventry CP, Deene Lake, Ditchford GP, Lamport and Pitsford Res.

Scarce gulls remained exactly that, with single adult Caspian Gulls at Pitsford Res on 29th and Stanford Res on 4th, while single adult Yellow-legged Gulls were at these same two localities on 29th.

At least one Bearded Tit was reported from Stanwick GP’s A45 Lay-by Pit on 31st, while Stonechats continued to be seen at Blueberry Farm, Deenethorpe AF, Deene Lake, Ditchford GP, Northampton, Stanwick GP, Summer Leys and Twywell Hills & Dales, with a maximum of eight at the first of these localities on 4th. Following last week’s flyover Water Pipit, another did the same at Daventry CP on 31st and four Rock Pipits visited Ditchford GP very briefly on 30th. Reports of Bramblings this week were few and far between with singles at Glyn Davies Wood on 29th, Hanging Houghton on 30th and three at Yardley Chase on 3rd, the latter site producing a single Crossbill on the same date.

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The Week in Focus 22nd to 28th October 2016

Although short-lived, the easterly airstream resumed for the first two days of the period, after which it was replaced by a more westerly to south-westerly airflow from the Atlantic as an area of high pressure became established over southern England by the week’s end. The prime action was, however, limited to just one day – 23rd October – when a Gannet cruised over Summer Leys and Earls Barton GP and the County’s eleventh Woodlark since 1912 put in an all too brief appearance at Borough Hill.

The Ruddy Shelduck was still by the sailing club at Pitsford Res on 22nd, while the same site produced a sizeable total of thirty-six Pintails on 26th. Elsewhere, Pintail numbers were pegged to single figures which included seven at Earls Barton GP on 23rd, 2 at Daventry CP on 22nd and one at Stanwick GP on 25th. A Wood Duck of unknown origin – i.e. an escape – was on the canal at Stoke Bruerne on 28th. Back at Pitsford at least one late Garganey was discovered on 26th and up to eleven Red-crested Pochards remained throughout.

A juvenile Gannet flew over Mary’s Lake at Earls Barton GP and then over Summer Leys main lake as it tracked westwards along the Nene Valley on 23rd. This is the first since 2014 after a blank year in 2015, although this species is by no means annual in the County.

Juvenile Gannet, Earls Barton GP, 23rd October 2016 (Adrian Borley)

Juvenile Gannet, Earls Barton GP, 23rd October 2016 (Adrian Borley)

Northamptonshire Gannets, distribution of post-1969 records by month. Background image juvenile Gannet, Thrapston GP, 14th October 2013 (Bob Bullock)

Northamptonshire Gannets, distribution of post-1969 records by month. Background image juvenile Gannet, Thrapston GP, 14th October 2013 (Bob Bullock)

The Stortons GP Bittern was again seen on 25th and another flew into reeds at Titchmarsh LNR (Thrapston GP) at dusk the following day, while up to three Great White Egrets remained north of the causeway at Pitsford Res, one lingered at Daventry CP to at least 27th and the Deene Lake individual was still ensconced there on 23rd.

Great White Egret, Deene Lake, 23rd October 2016 (James Underwood)

Great White Egret, Deene Lake, 23rd October 2016 (James Underwood)

Although Little Egrets may be common nowadays, arguably bird photograph of the week was of this one grappling with a pike at Summer Leys on 27th.

Little Egret with Pike, Summer Leys LNR, 27th October 2016 (Alan Coles)

Little Egret with Pike, Summer Leys LNR, 27th October 2016 (Alan Coles)

Raptors were limited to a Marsh Harrier between Holcot and Walgrave on 26th, a Merlin at Harrington AF on 28th and Peregrines at Borough Hill, Brampton Valley, Harrington AF, Higham Ferrers, Northampton, Pitsford Res and Upton.

Although low in numbers, Golden Plover was the dominant wader this week with seventy at Daventry CP on 22nd being the highest count, followed by smaller numbers at Boddington Res, Deenethorpe, Clifford Hill GP, Harrington AF, Pitsford Res, Polebrook AF, Stanwick GP, Summer Leys and Sywell CP. A Ruff was feeding with Lapwings in a ploughed field at Polebrook AF on 23rd, two Dunlins were at Stanwick GP on 22nd and a late Common Sandpiper visited Daventry CP on the same date. Pitsford Res produced the week’s maximum of six Green Sandpipers on 26th and singles were also present at Daventry CP, Deene Lake and Stanford Res, while Pitsford also held a Redshank on 26th-27th. Between fifteen and twenty Common Snipe were at Barnes Meadow, Northampton on 25th with smaller numbers at Pitsford Res, Polebrook AF, Stanford Res, Summer Leys and Thrapston GP, the last of these producing a Jack Snipe on 22nd while four were still at Barnes Meadow on 25th.

A few more gulls than last week included single adult Caspian Gulls in the roosts at Boddington Res on 24th and Pitsford Res on 28th, while single adult Yellow-legged Gulls were at Culworth on 23rd and at Stanford Res on 23rd and 26th, five were at Boddington Res on 24th and up to two were at Pitsford Res all week.

In a similar vein to last week, another migrant Short-eared Owl was seen – this time on the western side of Northampton, in flight over Stortons GP on 26th.

Short-eared Owl, Stortons GP, 26th October 2016 (Alan Coles)

Short-eared Owl, Stortons GP, 26th October 2016 (Alan Coles)

The two Bearded Tits at Summer Leys were seen again on 23rd and up to six were reported from Stanwick GP the following day. Highlight of the week, however, was Northamptonshire’s eleventh Woodlark since the species last bred here in 1912. Touching down only briefly on Borough Hill early on 23rd, it was unfortunately flushed by non-birders and headed off north. Breeding no further away than Nottinghamshire and Breckland, and with migrants more frequently recorded in neighbouring counties, it’s surprising there are so few local records. It remains one to catch up with for the majority of today’s local birders.

Northamptonshire Woodlarks, distribution of records post-1969 by month. Background image Woodlark (Ron Knight/Wikimedia Commons)

Northamptonshire Woodlarks, distribution of records post-1969 by month. Background image Woodlark (Ron Knight/Wikimedia Commons)

The autumn Stonechat rush continues with the Blueberry Farm/Brampton Valley area featuring eight on 24th plus records of two or more from Borough Hill, Harrington AF, Summer Leys and Sywell CP.

Male Stonechat, Summer Leys LNR, 27th October 2016 (Ricky Sinfield)

Male Stonechat, Summer Leys LNR, 27th October 2016 (Ricky Sinfield)

Male Stonechat, Summer Leys LNR, 287th October 2016 (Ricky Sinfield)

Male Stonechat, Summer Leys LNR, 287th October 2016 (Ricky Sinfield)

Although never common, another species which has become more scarce in recent years is Water Pipit, one of which flew west over Pitsford Res on 28th. Also scarce but less so, the first Mealy Redpoll of the autumn/winter period was trapped and ringed at Stanford Res on 24th.

First-winter Mealy Redpoll, Stanford Res, 24th October 2016 (Adam Homer)

First-winter Mealy Redpoll, Stanford Res, 24th October 2016 (Adam Homer)

First-winter Mealy Redpoll, Stanford Res, 24th October 2016 (Adam Homer)

First-winter Mealy Redpoll, Stanford Res, 24th October 2016 (Adam Homer)

With no more than six Bramblings at any one site, single-figure counts came from Blueberry Farm, Borough Hill, Brampton Valley, Brixworth CP, Evenley Wood, Hanging Houghton and Walgrave, while two Crossbills flew east over the first of these sites on 24th, six more flew south over Borough Hill on 23rd and and another fly-over Hawfinch was logged at the latter site on 22nd.

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