Rarity Round-up, 4th to 10th November 2017

The weather for the period was again influenced by depressions from the Atlantic, with alternating northerly to south-westerly winds, resulting in widely fluctuating temperatures and a series of wet and dry days locally. Passerine migration was still very much in evidence and included the ongoing movement of Hawfinches which, this week, was dramatically overshadowed by the occurrence of yet another county ‘first’, again tantalisingly out of reach for all but a lucky few …

Associated with last week’s movement of Whooper Swans were two which arrived at Clifford Hill GP during the morning of 4th. They had disappeared by the following day, unlike the longer-staying juvenile Pink-footed Goose, which was still making sporadic appearances at Stanwick GP until the week’s end. Also lingering were up to four Red-crested Pochard at Pitsford Res until at least 7th, two visited Ravensthorpe on 4th, four were at Stanwick GP and two were at Stanford Res – both from 7th to 10th. Up to four Scaup were still at Pitsford Res between 4th and 7th and last week’s first-winter remained at Ravensthorpe Res until at least 7th.

Red-crested Pochards, Stanwick GP, 7th November 2017 (Steve Fisher). Three of the four present at this site.

First-winter Scaup, Ravensthorpe Res, 7th November 2017 (Gary Pullan)

Potentially the biggest surprise of the autumn was the discovery of Northamptonshire’s first Cory’s Shearwater at Pitsford on 4th (see above). Unlike its one-day visit to Rutland Water, Leicestershire two days previously, it refused to play ball for Northamptonshire’s birders and the fact it did not stay resulted in a palpable sense of grief emanating from the fifty or so observers who turned up to see it …

More cryptic, but also much commoner, were the new Bitterns found this week – one at Boddington Res on 6th, still present on 8th, and another at Ditchford GP’s Wilson’s Pit, slap bang next to Rushden Lakes, on the latter date! Seemingly more Great White Egrets piled in during the week, with site maxima including five at both Pitsford and Stanwick on 9th, three at Ravensthorpe Res on 4th and one at Ditchford GP on 5th, with Ringstead’s Black-necked Grebe remaining on Kinewell Lake until at least the same date.

The north of the county produced two ‘ringtail’ Hen Harriers this week, both of which were fly-overs comprising one at Stanford Res on 5th and another between Kelmarsh and Great Oxendon the following day while a male Merlin at Spanhoe AF on 9th completed the raptor round-up for the period.

Putting Pitsford firmly back on the map this week (as if it was ever off!) was a Dotterel, which flew around with a small flock of Golden Plovers on 6th before they departed north. Subsequent searches of local fields failed to locate it, although there’s every chance it’s still out there … somewhere. This will be only the twelfth county record and only the second in the last twenty years, following one near Hemington on 5th May 2014. Apart from this, and in the absence of other uncommon waders, last week’s Black-tailed Godwit was still present at Stanford Res on 4th.

There was also a Little Gull at the same locality on the same date – perhaps the same individual as had been present there on 31st October paying a return visit but there was a further drop in numbers of other scarcer gulls. Just two Yellow-legged Gulls included singles at Ravensthorpe Res on 7th and Boddington Res the following day and a Caspian Gull was at Pitsford Res on 4th.

Hanging on in there from last week, although becoming much more elusive, was the Orlingbury Black Redstart, which was still present on 4th, while the same date produced a Water Pipit along the causeway at Pitsford, which remained in the vicinity until 6th. Meanwhile, the Hawfinch passage continued, with the south-west of the county producing two fly-overs at Brackley on 6th and at least two at Thenford churchyard on 9th-10th. Two more were in Bulwick churchyard on 8th, singles flew over Ravensthorpe Res on 7th and Pitsford Res on 9th and, the following day, eight flew west from Hanging Houghton and two paid a brief visit to Harrington AF before heading south.

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Rarity Round-up, 28th October to 3rd November 2017

The weather for the period was largely settled, dry and again predominantly influenced by a westerly to south-westerly airflow, which was most intense during the first two days. Although mild conditions ensued, a short-lived northern element to the wind introduced low overnight temperatures on 29th, resulting in the first local frost of the autumn on the morning of 30th. As the magic month of October slipped away, the air was thick with migrants throughout the week, with an almost constant stream dominated by Woodpigeons, thrushes, Starlings and Chaffinches, obvious over both towns and open countryside.

Tied in with this movement, the ‘event’ of the autumn was undoubtedly the enormous movement of Hawfinches across the country, resulting in well over one thousand records nationally during the past two weeks or so. Northamptonshire fared well with twenty-one records involving sixty-five birds during the week. To be added to this, of course, are the figures from the preceding two weeks – a further seven records of fourteen birds – pushing the totals so far to twenty-eight records of seventy-nine birds from twenty-one localities. The majority of these have been fly-overs and, in the few instances where birds have made landfall, they have not lingered.


Hawfinches were not the only locally scarce migrants this week, of course, as there was clearly a movement of Whooper Swans taking place, with 29th seeing ten over Warmington, three over Bulwick, seven briefly at Blatherwycke Lake before moving off south-west and four at Daventry CP, which had departed by the following day. One also flew south over Ravensthorpe Res on 3rd.

Whooper Swans, Daventry CP, 29th October 2017 (Gary Pullan)

Other scarce wildfowl included a drake Red-crested Pochard at Daventry CP on 29th, joined there by another seven the following day. Pitsford Res attracted six more – or perhaps some of the same – on 3rd as well as three Scaup on 2nd, none of which appeared to linger. A first-winter Scaup also visited Ravensthorpe Res on 3rd.

Red-crested Pochard, Daventry CP, 29th October 2017 (Gary Pullan)

Scaup, Pitsford Res, 2nd November 2017 (Adrian Borley)

The wintering population of Great White Egrets continues to build, with up to four counted at Pitsford Res on 2nd, the Ravensthorpe duo present all week, at least three still at Thrapston GP on 29th and three in flight over Stanford Res on the same date, plus singles at Stanwick GP on 29th, near Harpole on 31st and at Ditchford GP on 2nd. Further along the Nene Valley, the Ringstead Black-necked Grebe remained on Kinewell Lake until at least 29th.

Great White Egret, Ravensthorpe Res, 28th October 2017 (Mike Alibone)

Raptors on the move included a Marsh Harrier south over Borough Hill on 28th and a ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier over Sywell AF on 1st, while single fly-over Merlins were at both Hollowell Res and Evenley on 3rd. Wader numbers continued to dwindle with, as last week, single Black-tailed Godwits still at Stanford Res on 29th and at Pitsford Res on 29th and 3rd, while a Jack Snipe was found at the latter locality on 29th.

Adult Little Gull, Stanford Res, 31st October 2017 (Chris Hubbard)

Late autumn Little Gulls are almost to be expected so an adult at Stanford Res on 31st was clearly on trend, while Mediterranean Gull upheld its weekly occurrence status with two at Stanwick GP on 30th. Fewer Yellow-legged Gulls were reported, with just singles at Pitsford Res on 29th and 2nd and another at Ravensthorpe Res on 3rd, while the wintering adult Caspian Gull remained at Hollowell all week and a first-winter visited Pitsford Res on 30th.

Finding themselves in the shadow cast by the Hawfinch movement were some class passerines, the cast of which was headed by a showy vocal Siberian Chiffchaff at Boddington Res on 30th.

First-winter Black Redstart, Daventry, 2nd November 2017 (Gary Pullan)

Still present from last week was the Orlingbury Black Redstart, which remained faithful to two adjacent house roofs there until 30th, while another was discovered in Daventry on 2nd. Not far away, at Daventry CP, a Mealy Redpoll paid a brief visit to the area around the feeding station on 30th, the same date that a Snow Bunting flew low north at Pitsford Res – the latter the first in the county since 2014.

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Rarity Round-up, 21st to 27th October 2017

The beginning of the week kicked off with Storm Brian bringing strong south-westerlies to the western part of the UK on 21st. Northamptonshire, though windy, did not experience the full force of the gales as the storm tracked north-eastwards, bringing southerlies, hence higher than average temperatures, to the county. In contrast to last week, the birding was pretty much back to levels normally to be expected locally in late October but migration continued apace and there was still plenty to look at, nonetheless.

The three Whooper Swans remained at Pitsford Res until at least 22nd and the juvenile Pink-footed Goose was still at Stanwick GP on 24th. Beyond that, the only other unusual wildfowl were escapees and included the returning female Wood Duck at the Wellingborough end of Ditchford GP on 26th, while the escaped, metal-ringed female Bufflehead was still at Clifford Hill GP on 22nd.

Great White Egrets, Pitsford Res, October 22nd 2017 (Angus Molyneux)

In addition to the three Great White Egrets at Pitsford Res until at least 25th, three were together among a thirty-four-strong flock of Little Egrets on Thrapston GP’s Aldwincle Lake on 21st, one remained at Ravensthorpe Res, being joined there by a second individual on 26th, the Stanwick bird remained all week, likewise being joined by a second on 25th and one flew west over Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR on 26th. Records from the Nene Valley locations may involve some of the same wandering birds but it’s probably safe to say that there must have been at least eight in the county during the week. Also in the valley, the Black-necked Grebe remained at Ringstead GP until at least 26th.

Black-necked Grebe, Ringstead GP, 25th October 2017 (Adrian Borley)

The raptor count was down this week, with single fly-over Merlins at Kingsthorpe (Northampton) on 21st and at Stanford Res on 27th and the county fared little better for waders, with single Black-tailed Godwits at Pitsford Res on 22nd and at Stanford Res on 27th, while last week’s Knot stayed at Hollowell Res until 22nd.

On a par with last week, just one Mediterranean Gull, an adult, visited Stanwick GP on 21st and the putative adult Azorean Gull – now moulting its head streaking and looking less than pukka as a result – was seen again on the Visitor Centre Lake there on 24th.

Putative Azorean Gull and Yellow-legged Gull, Stanwick GP, 24th October 2017 (Bob Bullock)

Between one and four Yellow-legged Gulls were seen at Boddington, Hollowell, Pitsford and Ravensthorpe Reservoirs, Daventry CP and Stanwick, while the adult Caspian Gull at Hollowell was joined there by a second-winter on 26th.

Second-winter Caspian Gull, Hollowell Res, 26th October 2017 (Gary Pullan)

Passerine migrants were still much in evidence this week and, along with the many Redwings and first Fieldfares moving west, came two Ring Ouzels on 23rd – a short-stayer at Stanford Res and one which remained at Earls Barton GP until the next day. The 26th saw the discovery of a Black Redstart at Orlingbury – only the third in the county this year.

First-winter (probably male) Black Redstart, Orlingbury, 27th October 2017 (Martin Swannell)

First-winter (probably male) Black Redstart, Orlingbury, 27th October 2017 (Mike Alibone)

First-winter (probably male) Black Redstart, Orlingbury, 27th October 2017 (Mike Alibone)

It was still present on 27th, allowing those who were interested, time to catch up with it. Up to three Stonechats were at reservoirs at Boddington, Hollowell and Pitsford throughout the week and one was at Preston Deanery on 23rd, while the UK’s Hawfinch

Stonechat, Sywell CP, 24th October 2017 (Alan Francis)

movement continued to deliver, with one at Dallington Cemetery on 21st followed by two there on 26th, one west over Irthlingborough on 23rd and two south over Daventry CP on 26th.

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Rarity Round-up, 14th to 20th October 2017

What a difference a week makes! Suddenly it was full-on autumn. On 16th October ex-Hurricane Ophelia battered the west coast and whipped up Saharan sand and smoke from Iberian forest fires, turning the skies an eerie yellow-grey and the sun orange over Northants and much of the remainder of the country. The winds throughout the week took on a distinctly southerly bias, keeping temperatures high, but it is unknown if these conditions contributed to the arrival of some seriously scarce birds, one of which was a Northamptonshire first.

Sun over Alderton, 16th October 2017 (Mike Alibone)

Last week’s two Whooper Swans, which arrived at Pitsford Res on 7th remained all week and were joined by a third individual on 19th, while the 18th saw more arrivals, which included one at Ravensthorpe Res and four at Stanwick GP – the last birds staying until the following day.

Whooper Swans, Stanwick GP, 18th October 2017 (Steve Fisher)

The juvenile Pink-footed Goose also reappeared with Greylags at the latter site on 20th. Smaller scarce wildfowl included a Red-crested Pochard at Thrapston GP on 15th and a female Common Scoter at Boddington Res on 18th-19th, while the escaped, metal-ringed female Bufflehead was still at Clifford Hill GP on 14th.

Juvenile Pink-footed Goose, Stanwick GP, 20th October 2017 (Steve Fisher)

A Bittern was back in the scrape reedbed at Summer Leys LNR on 20th – assuming it had ever left the site – but considerably more upmarket than this, Northamptonshire’s 7th-ever Cattle Egret was found just down the valley at Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR on 14th. Although it flew east within a few minutes of its discovery, it remained ‘somewhere in the Nene Valley’ for the following three days.

Cattle Egret, Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows, Ditchford GP, 14th October 2017 (Tony Vials)

During this time, it flew west with Little Egrets over Stanwick GP shortly after first light on 16th and 17th and, on the morning of the latter date, it was discovered feeding with horses on the north side of Chester House Lake at Ditchford GP, again disappearing within two hours of its discovery. There is now a handful of birders who have seen all three egrets in one day in Northants – unimaginable less than a decade ago! So let’s not forget about the formerly rare Great White Egret, up to three of which remained north of the causeway at Pitsford Res all week, as did the individuals at Ravensthorpe Res and Stanwick GP, while two paid the briefest of visits to Stanford Res on the afternoon of 17th. With only one other on offer earlier in the year, a Black-necked Grebe at Ringstead GP from 14th was a welcome addition to this autumn’s cast. They have been unusually scarce this year.

This week’s raptors featured a Marsh Harrier around the scrape at Summer Leys during the early afternoons of 19th and 20th, single fly-over Merlins at East Hunsbury (Northampton) on 16th and at Daventry CP on 18th and a later than last week’s Hobby at Thrapston GP on 15th.

Late passage waders included another juvenile Little Ringed Plover at Boddington Res on 18th-19th, a Grey Plover over Pitsford village on 15th and single Black-tailed Godwits at Pitsford Res on 15th and one remaining at Stanford Res all week. There was more. A Knot was discovered at Hollowell Res on 20th and remained into the weekend, a rather tardy Common Sandpiper was in Pitsford’s Walgrave Bay on the same date and a Turnstone made a late autumn appearance at Stanwick GP on 15th.

On the gull front, an adult Mediterranean Gull visited Pitsford Res on 19th, the same day that the enigmatic, putative adult Azorean Gull was seen again on Stanwick’s Visitor Centre Lake. Up to two Yellow-legged Gulls were at Hollowell, Pitsford, Stanford and Daventry CP, while the adult Caspian Gull at Hollowell was joined by a third-year on 19th, a second-winter was at Pitsford Res on 14th and 19th and an adult visited Stanwick GP on the last of these two dates.

As hundreds now arrive in the UK every autumn it now seems almost inevitable that someone, somewhere, will find a Yellow-browed Warbler. The county’s ninth duly arrived on cue at Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows (that place again) on 19th. They often don’t stay long in autumn and this one was no exception, vanishing immediately after it was found. The same date brought a blockbuster of a bird to Stanford Res, where the county’s first-ever Dusky Warbler was pulled from the nets of the Stanford Ringing Group. It was released shortly afterward in the reservoir’s eastern car park (on the Leicestershire side) but it was seen only once, briefly, half an hour later.

Dusky Warbler, Stanford Res, 19th October 2017 (Chris Hubbard)

Photographs circulated after the event sparked a debate as to its true identity – read the story here. It was seen in Northamptonshire by only two very lucky birders. Will the rest of us ever get over it … ?

Back on earth, there was again no shortage of Stonechats, with reports from Brampton Valley, Hollowell, Pitsford, Stanford and Sywell CP, while a Northern Wheatear was still at Hollowell on 14th. October normally yields a few passage Rock Pipits and Hollowell produced four on 19th followed by one there the next day and a Water Pipit was mobile with Meadow Pipits around Pitsford’s Maytrees Hide on 18th.

Stonechat, Sywell CP, 19th October 2017 (Alan Francis)

Following last week’s occurrence of two Hawfinches over Long Buckby, it became evident that these were forerunners of a large movement of this species over the UK. One flew south over Scaldwell on 17th and five flew eat at Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR on 19th. So endeth the best week of the autumn so far – and one which will be difficult to top …

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Dusky Warbler at Stanford Reservoir

… or is it a Radde’s?

Before packing up this morning, the last bird pulled from the nets of the Stanford Ringing Group proved to be a Northamptonshire first but the subsequent circulation of the in-hand images generated a debate over its identity and a good deal of controversy as a result.

A break in today’s somewhat inclement weather provided a two-hour window of opportunity for Mick Townsend to get some ringing in at the usual site in, and around, the Blower’s Lodge Bay area at Stanford Reservoir. MT was just making the final round of checking the nets when he noticed a dull, brown passerine in the bottom pocket of the last net he came to. Upon approach, and with the bird facing away, Mick thought it was a late Reed Warbler but when he came to extract the bird it was immediately obvious that it was a dark phylloscopus warbler with a hugely prominent supercilium. He quickly identified it as a Dusky Warbler, took some biometrics and then set about putting the news out but – sod’s law – his phone’s battery was virtually dead and he just managed to get a text out to Chris Hubbard, a mile up the road, before it died.

Dusky Warbler, Stanford Res, 19th October 2017 (Chris Hubbard)

Chris arrived within 15 minutes and took the images reproduced here. Because the ringing station is on private land (and access to the reservoir is by permit only) it was decided to release the bird in the scrub in the car park by the inlet. Sadly, for Northants birders, this release area is the wrong side of the inlet, i.e. in Leicestershire!


The bird was duly released at 11.05 and flew to the nearest cover. It was next seen at 11.35, in hawthorns along the Leicestershire bank, about 100 metres from the car park but this was a brief observation after which it disappeared and was not seen subsequently, despite a search by good numbers of observers, who had gathered there since its release.

Dusky Warbler, Stanford Res, 19th October 2017 (Chris Hubbard)

The images circulated later in the day produced a mixed reaction, with some birders believing it was a Radde’s Warbler. I have to admit it does show some pro-Radde’s features and it had me wondering at the time.

Dusky Warbler, Stanford Res, 19th October 2017 (Chris Hubbard)

Had it been seen in the field and heard calling then there would have been no debate over its ID but a bird in the hand can be a different matter altogether and the two species can appear so similar that, in some instances, the only sure-fire method to confirm the ID is by measurement of the depth and the breadth of the bill – neither of which was recorded in this instance.

Dusky Warbler, Stanford Res, 19th October 2017 (Chris Hubbard)

Pro-Radde’s features exhibited by this individual are:

  • very long, strong, broad supercilium, extending along the full length of the ear coverts
  • very broad, almost blackish eyestripe, almost as deep as the eye, contrasting markedly with the supercilium and, in some images, appearing slightly darker than the mantle
  • ‘mean-looking’ appearance
  • pale spotted (not plain) ear coverts
  • cinnamon under tail coverts
  • large orange feet and, from what is visible, palish orangey legs

Pro-Dusky features are:

  • supercilium almost uniform in colour, whitish in front of eye in some images (Radde’s is buffish in front of eye, contrasting with paler behind)
  • Mantle is wholly brown – confirmed by MT (olive-tinged to strongly olive in Radde’s)
  • Edges to closed primaries are pale brown (not greenish-tinged like Radde’s)
  • Underparts sullied and dull, lacking the faint, sometimes ‘clean’ yellowish tinge of Radde’s
  • Bill shows dark upper mandible with extent of pale limited to cutting edge only (Radde’s usually shows more extensive pale areas); note the left side conforms to this but there is more extensive pale on the right side!

Having studied a number of photographs, Gary Pullan has today put forward what may yet prove to be a new identification feature for these two species, namely that the bill depth at its base is broader than the diameter of the eye on Radde’s Warbler but not on Dusky – and this fits the Stanford bird. GP went on to state that, having seen this bird briefly in the field, the bill appeared weak-looking and the bird did not look bull-necked like a Radde’s Warbler does.

Many – if not all – the pro-Radde’s features, above, can also be shown by Dusky Warbler. The logical ID conclusion is, then, that this is a Dusky Warbler. So, another amazing bird from the nets of Stanford. What will be next and … will we get to see it?

Of further interest, a number of feathers became dislodged when the bird was ringed. These will be sent off for DNA analysis … to be sure, to be sure …

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Rarity Round-up, 7th to 13th October 2017

Although it remained largely dry, the west wind continued to blow, swinging north during the early part of the week and then south-southwest, off the continent, elevating temperatures to around 20ºC at the week’s end. Birding came close to floundering in mediocrity but was rescued, in part, by the arrival of some choice winter wildfowl and some obvious visible migration – otherwise there was little change in the birds on the ground during the period.

Two fine adult Whooper Swans arrived at Pitsford Res on 7th – the joint second earliest arrival date (with 1990) in nearly fifty years after the earliest on 29th September 2007. They remained throughout the week.

Whooper Swans, Pitsford Res, 7th October 2017 (Mike Alibone)

Following the usual early autumn influx into the UK, a juvenile Pink-footed Goose appeared with Greylags at Stanwick GP on 12th, while last week’s female Red-crested Pochard remained at Stanford Res until 7th.

Juvenile Pink-footed Goose, Stanwick GP, 12th October 2017 (Steve Fisher)

With Pitsford Res continuing to hold on to its two Great White Egrets north of the causeway all week, two more were found – one at Ravensthorpe Res on 8th-9th and the other at Stanwick GP from 8th to 13th.

Great White Egret, Stanwick GP, 12th October 2017 (Steve Fisher)

For the second week running a Merlin appeared, this time at Daventry CP on 9th, while a late Hobby – likely to be the last of 2017 – was chasing Meadow Pipits at Stanford Res on the same date.

Also late, a juvenile Little Ringed Plover was at Hollowell Res on 7th, from which date a single Black-tailed Godwit remained at Stanford Res until 12th. Last week’s Little Stint (or another) was at Pitsford on 9th, while the only other wader of note was a Jack Snipe at Deene Lake on the same date.

Back on Stanwick’s Visitor Centre Lake, the putative adult Azorean Gull put in another appearance on 10th. Well documented in a series of images, it should surely be identifiable, one way or another, shouldn’t it …?

Putative adult Azorean Gull, Stanwick GP, 10th October 2017 (Steve Fisher)

The only Yellow-legged Gulls were up to three at Pitsford between 8th and 12th, up to five at Stanwick GP between 7th and 11th and one at Daventry CP on 9th, while the adult Caspian Gulls at Hollowell and Naseby were seen on 7th and 9th respectively with the latter date producing another adult at Stanwick and a first-winter at Pitsford.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Stanwick GP, 11th October 2017 (Steve Fisher)

There was again no shortage of Stonechats, which were reported from seven localities, with a maximum of six at Hollowell Res on 10th and 13th – the latter date also producing a

Stonechat, Pitsford Res, 8th October 2017 (Martin Swannell)

Stonechat, Hollowell Res, 13th October 2017 (Martin Swannell)

Northern Wheatear, Hollowell Res, 13th October 2017 (Martin Swannell)

Northern Wheatear there, while two Hawfinches were a vizmig flyover for one lucky observer at Cotton End Park, Long Buckby on 10th

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Rarity Round-up, 30th September to 6th October 2017

It was back to dominant low pressure systems and westerlies from the word go this week, with winds varying in both strength and direction but always somewhere between SSW and NNW. Still, it didn’t do any harm and a handful of interesting birds appeared, staying for widely varying lengths of time.

The female Red-crested Pochard remained at Stanford Res all week and, for the record, the escaped, metal-ringed female Bufflehead was back at Clifford Hill GP on 30th – assuming it ever left the site in the first place, of course. It’s worth noting that, because of consistently high water levels, Clifford Hill has not been receiving much attention this autumn.

With plenty of mud north of its causeway, Ravensthorpe Res has, however, been looking very attractive but mud’s not what it’s about if you’re a Gannet, four of which flew south there, over the head of one lucky observer, just after midday on 30th. Again, no new Great White Egrets appeared this week with Pitsford Res continuing to host the same two north of the causeway.

Juvenile Gannet, Ravensthorpe Res, 30th September 2017 (Stuart Mundy). One of a group of four to fly south over this site.

On the raptor front, the lingering juvenile Osprey remained in the vicinity of White Mills Marina (Earls Barton GP) until 1st, while the only other notable raptor was a female Merlin which flew over Stanwick GP on 6th.

The second Grey Plover of the autumn put in a brief appearance at Hollowell Res on 5th and Stanford’s five Black-tailed Godwits just made it into the period but they were not seen after 30th. Of interest, more than one hundred and fifty Black-tailed Godwits have been counted moving through Stanford this year, including good numbers of juveniles, and it’s not just down to water level. This species has enjoyed a better than average breeding season in Iceland as a result of very warm May temperatures there. By contrast, although never common, only the second Curlew Sandpiper of the year was found at Pitsford Res on 1st but it stayed only for the morning before disappearing. However, it – or more likely another – turned up at Hollowell Res during the afternoon of the same day, lingering only until the next morning.

Juvenile Curlew Sandpiper, Hollowell Res, 1st October 2017 (Jon Cook)

Four new Little Stints arrived this week – one at Pitsford on 30th-1st and another on 6th, one at Stanwick’s hallowed Visitor Centre Lake on 2nd-3rd and another at Hollowell Res on 4th. This species has been in short supply in the county in recent years.

First-winter Mediterranean Gull, Stanwick GP, 4th October 2017 (Steve Fisher)

Skuas have been in even shorter supply, however, and a possible Pomarine Skua chasing Black-headed Gulls at Billing GP on 1st would have been nice to see. What was presumably the same first-winter Mediterranean Gull which had been at Stanwick GP last week was there again on 2nd and 4th but much more noteworthy was the potential adult Azorean Gull seen there again and photographed on the latter date.

Putative Azorean Gull, Stanwick GP, 4th October 2017 (Steve Fisher)

The only Yellow-legged Gulls were up to four at Pitsford between 1st and 3rd and nine at Stanwick GP on 2nd, while the returning adult Caspian Gull at Hollowell was joined there by a first-winter on 4th, the Naseby adult was still there on 2nd and a second-winter visited Pitsford on 1st. A putative adult Baltic Gull was photographed at Ditchford GP on 2nd but it may well have been the same the same long-winged, dark Lesser Black-backed Gull which visited nearby Stanwick during the previous week. More to come on that.

A Firecrest was found in conifers behind the two hides at the northern end of Pitsford’s Scaldwell Bay on 2nd, while the run of Stonechats continued with up to three at both Pitsford and Hollowell, two at Stanford and singles at Stanwick and Clifford Hill GPs. Eight Crossbills flying south over Long Buckby on 30th was, apart from a breeding pair, one of the few records so far this year.

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