Newsround – 30th July to 5th August 2022

No let up in the dry weather saw more migrants on the move, including some early bonus birds, comprising both the bold and the bizarre. Falling squarely into the latter category was the first ‘pure’ Ferruginous Duck in Northamptonshire for eleven years.

Following the short-term scare elicited by a hybrid at Stanwick back in January 2020, there is no doubt about the identification of this week’s bird, a juvenile male, which turned up at Daventry CP on 31st, remaining there throughout the week. What may be in doubt, however, is its origin. Clearly one of the two which turned up a stone’s throw away, at Draycote Water, it remains a mystery as to what they are doing there, unseasonally, in late summer – especially as this mirrors last year’s occurrence at the same locality around the same time. Is there a local wildfowl collection in the vicinity, from which captive-bred birds are escaping before they are pinioned? The jury is out …

Juvenile drake Ferruginous Duck, Daventry CP, 1st August 2022 (Gary Pullan)
Juvenile drake Ferruginous Duck, Daventry CP, 4th August 2022 (Gary Pullan)
Juvenile drake Ferruginous Duck, Daventry CP, 4th August 2022 (Gary Pullan)

Despite some twenty-five previous records, Ferruginous Duck – currently a ‘BB rarity’ – is now a seriously rare bird in the county. The last acceptable one was a drake at Pitsford Res, returning for its third year, from 28th September to 14th October 2011, while the only other record this century was a first-winter drake at Daventry CP from 15th December 2002 to 10th February 2003, and what was believed to have been the same bird visiting at Hollowell Res on 1st February 2003.

In contrast to the above, six Common Scoters (five drakes) at Pitsford in no way proved contentious when they dropped in while undertaking their overland moult migration, on 31st. Pitsford also held up to four Red-crested Pochards (two drakes) throughout the week, along with an eclipse drake Garganey on 1st, ahead of what was likely to have been the same bird there again on 4th-5th.

Last week’s Bittern was seen again at Summer Leys LNR on 30th while, back at Pitsford, two Cattle Egrets paid a brief visit the following day. The latter site also produced the week’s maximum count of Great Egrets with five present on the 5th, while Summer Leys and Thrapston GP held one apiece during the period.

Heading up the raptors, single Ospreys were seen over Hollowell Res on 30th and 31st, Stanford Res on 30th and 5th and at Daventry on 3rd. Marsh Harriers remained in the spotlight this week, though, with one flying west over Sulby on 30th, and singles at Stanford on the same date, Summer Leys on 30th-31st and 4th and over Pitsford on 5th.

Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 4th August 2022 (Ricky Sinfield)

On the wader front, two Whimbrels flew west over Ditchford GP and over Summer Leys shortly afterward on 30th and one flew over Pitsford on 31st. Pitsford also scored a respectable twenty-eight Black-tailed Godwits – albeit fleetingly – on 31st and a modest ten flying south there, on 4th. Four and seven were at Summer Leys on 31st and 4th, respectively, four visited Stanford on 5th and singles were found at Daventry, Hollowell and Pitsford on 1st.

Adult Black-tailed Godwit, Summer Leys LNR, 1st August 2022 (Matthew Cottrell)

The week’s only Greenshank was mobile around Summer Leys between 30th and 2nd, the same site hosting an adult Wood Sandpiper between 30th and 1st while, a little further west along the Nene valley, a juvenile Wood Sandpiper spent the day at Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) on 4th.

Greenshank and Wood Sandpiper Summer Leys LNR, 2nd August 2022 (Alan Coles)
Juvenile Wood Sandpiper, Earls Barton GP, 4th August 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Following the first pop-in juvenile Mediterranean Gull of the autumn at Stanford last week, another was there equally briefly on 4th. Upsizing, Yellow-legged Gulls peaked at seven at Pitsford on 31st, followed by three there on 1st and at least one lingering throughout the week. Elsewhere, single birds visited Stanford on 31st and 2nd, Harrington AF and Stanwick GP on 2nd and Wicksteed Park Lake (Kettering) on 4th.

A Short-eared Owl was captured on a trail-cam, positioned in the Brampton Valley, during the early hours of 5th.

A short hop away at Harrington AF, topping this week’s passerines were two rather nice Pied Flycatchers, present for one day, on 30th. A great find and a welcome distraction from the run-of-the-mill bits and pieces coming through hitherto. More were to follow, with 1st seeing another located at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell and yet another down in in the south-west of the county, at Eydon, on 4th.

First-winter male Pied Flycatcher, Harrington AF, 30th July 2022 (Nick Parker)

A scarce, much admir’d and locally sought after migrant, Pied Flycatcher is an almost annual visitor, producing an average of three records per year, although 1995 saw an amazing thirteen appearing, ten of which were in autumn. Though rare, records in July are not without precedent but August remains the peak month for occurrences.

Common Redstarts were again in profusion this week with up to two at six localities including Blueberry Farm (Maidwell), Clifford Hill GP, Harrington AF (where one was trapped and ringed on 4th), Lamport, Pitsford Res and Woodford Halse. Two more  Northern Wheatears appeared – one at Wollaston on 4th and the other in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton the following day. A single Common Crossbill flew over Harrington on 31st.

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Newsround – 23rd to 29th July 2022

Looking at the species list, the last week of July produced a heady mix of migrants, some in numbers normally associated with later on in the autumn. In this respect, ‘dry July’ continued apace and with water levels in free fall at many – but not all – local water bodies, the expectation of an early vagrant wader is sure to mount …

Somewhat perplexingly, a trio of Pink-footed Geese constituted an unseasonal ‘mini arrival’ which included one at Ravensthorpe Res from 24th until the week’s end, another at Thrapston GP’s Titchmarsh NR on 28th and one at Pitsford Res on 29th. At least two were adults and the species is believed to be uncommon in captivity.

Pink-footed Goose, Ravensthorpe Res, 26th July 2022 (Mike Alibone)
Pink-footed Goose, Thrapston GP, 28th July 2022 (Nick Parker)

The almost annual occurrence of another wildfowl species, which is all too often given short shrift, is that of Ruddy Shelduck. Last week’s female at Hollowell Res was joined by another there on 25th, while one arrived at Pitsford on 26th and singles were also found at Winwick on 24th and Ravensthorpe on 27th. The latter two localities are close to Hollowell as, to some extent, is Pitsford so duplication is possible if not highly likely.

Female Ruddy Shelduck, Hollowell Res, 25th July 2022 (Jon Cook)
Female Ruddy Shelduck, Pitsford Res, 26th July 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Northants Birds has long championed the cause here and here for these birds originating from the self-sustaining continental population. At last, the wheels are in motion and things are being taken seriously as only last year the British Ornithologists’ Union’s Records Committee (BOURC) announced it is currently reviewing the status of this species on the British List. Ruddy Shelduck is currently in Categories B, D, and E of the British List but is potentially also occurring in Britain as a vagrant from established naturalised populations on the near continent and must therefore be treated as a candidate for Category C5 (vagrant naturalised species from outside Britain). But don’t hold your breath …

The long-staying female Garganey at Stanford Res remained until 29th, as did two drake Red-crested Pochards at Pitsford.

Now encountered with increasing frequency in Northamptonshire during summer, a Bittern was seen at Summer Leys LNR on 23rd and 28th and with none recorded in the county since late May, two Cattle Egrets paid a brief visit to Thrapston GP’s Titchmarsh LNR on 25th. Numbers of Great Egrets remained low with a maximum of three at Pitsford on 29th and singles at Earls Barton GP on 23rd, Summer Leys from 25th to 27th and Thrapston GP on 26th.

Juvenile Cattle Egret, Thrapston GP, 25th July 2022 (Nick Parker)

On the raptor front, Marsh Harriers retained their prominence with singles at Lamport on 23rd and 27th, Summer Leys on 25th-26th, in Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton on 26th and 28th and at Stanford Res from 27th to 29th.

Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 25th July 2022 (Alan Coles)

The usual Ospreys were to be found around the reservoirs in the north-west of the county, two of these giving up their history through their ring numbers which were identified from photographs. Both birds were males from the extended Rutland Water breeding program and were together at Hollowell Res on 27th. One is a three-year-old male ringed at a nest near Rutland Water on 24th June 2019. It returned to the UK for the first time last year when it was seen at various sites including Cors Dyfi in Wales on 2nd June 2021 and Otmoor Reservoir on 16th July 2021, before eventually returning to Rutland in August. This summer it has been a regular visitor to Horn Mill Trout Farm in Rutland. The other was ringed on 30th June 2017. It spent time at Fishlake Meadows in Hampshire in 2019, 2020 and 2021, but has also been returning to Rutland/Northants each summer.

Male Osprey, Hollowell Res, 27th July 2022 (Jon Cook)

Singles also visited Stanford on 23rd and 28th, Hollowell on 25th and 28th and a male with a blue ring spent the best part of ten minutes at Naseby Res on 26th.

This week’s waders were thin on the ground, with single Black-tailed Godwits at both Summer Leys and Earls Barton on 25th, Daventry CP on 26th and Stanwick GP on 27th, while six visited Stanford on 25th. A moulting male Ruff was again present at Summer Leys on 26th and one of last week’s two Sanderlings at Hollowell remained on 23rd. Following the autumn’s first at Daventry last week, another Greenshank appeared at Pitsford on 29th.

Male Ruff, Summer Leys LNR, 26th July 2022 (Tony Stanford)

And while we’re talking ‘firsts’, the first juvenile Mediterranean Gull of the autumn spend just minutes at Stanford on 24th, otherwise it was down to Yellow-legged Gulls to prop up the Larids. The highest count was five in Wellingborough at the Ise Valley Industrial Estate on 26th, followed by two there on 29th. Four were at Priors Hall, Corby on 24th, two at Stanwick on 27th and singles were at Ringstead GP on 23rd, Wicksteed Park Lake, Kettering on 24th and Ravensthorpe Res on 25th.

Passerine passage was well represented by Common Redstarts, numbers of which were way ahead of where they normally are in July. Last week’s male at Pitsford remained all week, as did the male at Lilbourne Meadows NR, present since late June. Blueberry Farm, Maidwell held up to three throughout the period and the number at Harrington AF had also reached three by the end of the week. Elsewhere, two were between Old and Pitsford Res on 27th and singles appeared between Scaldwell and Hanging Houghton on 25th, and at both Stanford-on-Avon and in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton on 28th. A Black Redstart was the briefest of visitors to Harrington AF on the latter date before rapidly melting away and continuing the chat theme, the first of the autumn’s Northern Wheatears was found in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton on the same date. A single Common Crossbill flew over Denton Wood on 23rd but so far, there are no signs of a late summer influx.

Newsround – 9th to 22nd July 2022

Widely predicted to break records, temperaturewise, the second week of the period saw Northamptonshire reach an astonishing 40.2°C at the Met Office climate station in Pitsford on 19th – just short of the record-breaking national high of 40.3°C. Never mind dry January, we were deep into experiencing an uncomfortably dry July. As the period progressed, though, the birds appearing were none too shabby and provided ample reward for those willing to don their sunhats or to hit the field early doors.

Unsurprisingly, the water level has been dropping at Hollowell Res, where the female Ruddy Shelduck remained, intermittently, until at least 21st, while a Garganey pitching up at Stanford Res on 12th turned out to be a long-stayer, still being present there on 22nd. Another was found at Pitsford Res on 14th, the latter site hosting up to three drake Red-crested Pochards between 11th and 20th.

Garganey, Stanford Res, 12th July 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

A Common Quail was reported near Grimscote on 12th.

Pitsford and Summer Leys LNR shared the period’s Great Egrets between them – the former site holding up to three and the latter, two.

Great Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 22nd July 2022 (Alan Coles)

But bucking the trend in terms of drying out and producing those eagerly-awaited muddy margins, lush herbaceous borders of the overgrown, reedy kind were instead the order of the day at Summer Leys. Perfect, in fact, to deliver the reserve’s saving grace, which appeared in the form of up to three pristine, juvenile Marsh Harriers, present and performing well between 19th and 22nd. In most instances only one was visible at any one time but all three were present at the same time on 21st and could be individually identified from images taken by local – and some not so local – photographers.

Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 19th July 2022 (Tony Stanford)
Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 20th July 2022 (Sarah Runciman)
Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 20th July 2022 (Tony Clark)
Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 21st July 2022 (Leslie Fox)

More regular raptor fare was available in the form of single Ospreys, which were seen at Pitsford on 10th, Stanford on 11th, Hollowell on 14th, 18th and 22nd and north of Guilsborough on 15th.

On the wader front, the autumn’s first returning Whimbrel flew over Ringstead GP on 16th but numbers of the more prevalent Black-tailed Godwit continued to ramp up with twenty at Pitsford on 9th, followed by two there on 22nd and Stanford, meanwhile, enjoying a run of at least six on 9th, two on 10th, ten on 13th and one on 14th. At least four were at Summer Leys on 22nd and one visited Thrapston GP on the same date.

Adult Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit, Stanford Res, 9th July 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

A moulting male Ruff was present at Summer Leys on 16th-17th but most unusual were two Sanderlings at Hollowell on 22nd – a regular, though scarce, spring migrant in small numbers but much rarer as far as autumn passage goes. The first of the autumn’s Greenshanks appeared at Daventry CP on 13th, ahead of more due before the month’s end.

Adult Sanderling, Hollowell Res, 22nd July 2022 (Jon Cook)
Adult Sanderlings, Hollowell Res, 22nd July 2022 (Jon Cook)

By contrast, the period’s gulls were restricted to just one species – Yellow-legged Gull. Most records came from Pitsford, where a maximum of three was present on 20th, although Stanford produced singles on 12th and 22nd and four were at Wicksteed Park Lake (Kettering) on 13th and one was there on 21st.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Stanford Res, 12th July 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

Passerines were limited to an unseasonal Redwing photographed in Wellingborough on 17th and, after a very poor spring for the species, a succession of early passage Common Redstarts, which included the long-staying male at Lilbourne Meadows until at least 17th. Additionally, up to two were at Harrington AF between 11th and 20th, two were present at Stanford-on-Avon on 13th-14th, at least one was at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) on 13th and 18th-19th, while one-day singles were at Braunston on 12th, Woodford Halse on 15th, Lamport on 17th, Pitsford on 20th and Honey Hill on 21st. A solitary Crossbill flew over Lamport on 17th.

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Newsround – 25th June to 8th July 2022

Another fast-moving fortnight in which early autumn wader passage upped tempo and was instrumental in producing the second Pectoral Sandpiper of the year. Other birds were, of course, available …

Not least of which was Hollowell Reservoir’s female Ruddy Shelduck, still present there on 3rd, while the first eclipse drake Garganey of the autumn checked in at Thrapston GP on 6th. A drake Red-crested Pochard, also in eclipse, appeared at Pitsford Res on 8th.

Numbers of Great Egrets climbed from just the one at Pitsford during the last period to two there by the end of this one, while one visited Stanford Res on 4th.

Single Ospreys were seen in flight over Hollowell on 3rd, west over Little Irchester on 5th, Pitsford on 6th and Stanford on 8th.

Against the now established backdrop of Green and Common Sandpipers, Black-tailed Godwits began to move through in reasonable numbers which included one at Hollowell on 29th, two at Summer Leys LNR on 2nd followed by nine there on 4th, eleven at Pitsford on 5th and singles at Summer Leys again on 6th and Stanford on 7th.

Black-tailed Godwit, Hollowell Res, 29th June 2022 (Jon Cook)
Black-tailed Godwit, Stanford Res, 7th July 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

But the biggest surprise of the week was a Pectoral Sandpiper, originally found at Lilbourne Meadows NR on 2nd and quickly making the hop across to DIRFT 3’s A5 Pools, before moving back again to Lilbourne, where it remained until mid-afternoon the following day. There have been July records before but not as early as this one. In the life of the county bird report, Ditchford GP produced the previous earliest on 15th July 1987 while, a decade earlier, veterans will remember going for the bird which clung to the narrowest of muddy margins at Cransley Reservoir between 30th July and 9th August 1976 – at that time only the fourth county record. Hot on the heels of the Summer Leys individual, back in May, this month’s bird takes the DIRFT wader species tally to 26.

Adult Pectoral Sandpiper, DIRFT 3, 2nd July 2022 (Alan Boddington)

Also at Lilbourne and part of a recognised sizeable movement across the UK, three Wood Sandpipers dropped in on 29th.

And so on to gulls, with Daventry CP dishing up the first Mediterranean Gull of the autumn, an adult, on 8th. A first-summer Caspian Gull visited Pitsford on 28th and, becoming a little more abundant, Yellow-legged Gulls included singles at Wicksteed Park Lake (Kettering) on 26th, Pitsford on 27th-28th and 1st, with two there on 7th-8th, at least eight at DIRFT 3 on 30th and one at Stanwick GP on 5th.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Wicksteed Park Lake, Kettering, 26th June 2022 (James Underwood)

Following a report of a Golden Oriole near Cotterstock on 28th, passerines were limited to male Common Redstarts at Lilbourne Meadows from 30th until at least 5th and one reported at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) on 3rd and a female-type there the following day. In the same area, two Crossbills flew west over the Brampton Valley on 1st.

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Newsround – 11th to 24th June 2022

Mid-June and the sounds of summer come to the fore. We’re not talking Glastonbury – or Grantchester Meadows, come to that – no, for those with their ears tuned in the period’s highlights were characterised by the ephemeral and the invisible …

But first, not escaping attention – though likely escaping captivity – the Pink-footed Goose reported at Clifford Hill GP on 5th appears to have resurfaced at Ravensthorpe Res on 18th. Only a stone’s throw away, at Hollowell Res, the returning female Ruddy Shelduck looks set to be gracing us with its presence for yet another autumn after reappearing there on 12th. It was still seemingly settled on site a week later, on 19th.

Now, nipping nefariously into the nebulous – sometime … somewhere … supposedly … near Brafield-on-the-Green … a singing Quail was reported – getting a token mention here only as a result of its potentially being the sole record of 2022 … so far.

Typically more tangible, though, three White Storks were circling high above Summer Leys LNR on 19th. Whatever their origin, undeniably it’s been, to date, a grand year for the species in Northants.

White Storks, Summer Leys LNR, 19th June 2022 (Keith Griffiths)
White Stork, Summer Leys LNR, 19th June 2022 (Keith Griffiths)

Keeping up a local presence, a single Great Egret was at Pitsford Res on 17th.

Great Egret, Pitsford Res, 17th June 2022 (Tony Stanford)

Sharing the period’s Ospreys were Blatherwycke Lake on 19th, Hollowell on 17th and 20th and Stanford on 16th and 21st.

Osprey, Hollowell Res, 20th June 2022 (Jon Cook)

But it was the latter site which produced the goods in the wader camp with a short, drop-in visit by three Continental Black-tailed Godwits on 15th. June is a classic month for the occurrence of wandering, non-breeding nominate limosa race birds, which are very scarce in Northants and massively outnumbered during spring and autumn by their much commoner Icelandic counterparts.

Continental Black-tailed Godwit, Stanford Res, 15th June 2022 (Chris Hubbard)
Continental Black-tailed Godwits, Stanford Res, 15th June 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

Staying with Stanford, a first-summer Arctic Tern was present there on 13th, following what was presumably the same bird visiting Pitsford the previous day.

First-summer Arctic Tern, Stanford Res, 13th June 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

June is not exactly the best month for gulls so a third-summer Yellow-legged Gull at Stanwick on 15th, along with a Caspian Gull hybrid there on the same date at least secure a mention in the annals.

Caspian Gull hybrid, Stanwick GP, 15th June 2022 (Steve Fisher)

Saving the best for last, though, a Nightjar was heard in an undisclosed area at Barnwell during the evening of 16th. There must surely be more of these around in the county, so … if you go down to the woods tonight you could get a big surprise … but nothing like the surprise one lucky birder got when a European Bee-eater flew south over Clifford Hill GP on 21st. Experiencing a quirky juxtaposition of jubilation and frustration, alas, as so often is the case, it was heard only, despite calling seven times in passing. Hot on the heels of one last year, on 17th April over Summer Leys, if accepted, this will be only the sixth county record. With a breeding attempt in Norfolk, it’s been a good year for this species in the UK. Coming to a set of wires near you, soon, perhaps …?

Newsround – 28th May to 10th June 2022

As we move squarely into summer, the slow-down in the discovery of new birds continues and a further squeezing of the spring sponge delivered little at popular birding sites. Two ethereal, fly-over raptors sparked some momentary interest. Time to blow the dust off the barbecue …

Wildfowl were back on the menu during the period although, given the time of year, a Pink-footed Goose at Clifford Hill GP on 5th seems most likely to have resulted from dodgy descendance. Clearly in season, though, were single drake Garganeys at Stanwick GP on 29th, Thrapston GP on 31st and at Summer Leys LNR between 3rd and 7th.

Further down the Nene Valley, after an absence of some three and a half weeks, the White Stork sporting a small metal ring on its right tarsus, was back, if only for two days, on 5th and 6th. Will it ever reveal its ring number? A single Great Egret flew over Stanford Res on 2nd.

White Stork, Lower Barnwell Lock, Oundle, 5th June 2022 (Tony Winn)
White Stork, Lower Barnwell Lock, Oundle, 5th June 2022 (Tony Winn)
White Stork, Lower Barnwell Lock, Oundle, 6th June 2022 (Nick Parker)

On the raptor front, single Ospreys flew over Walgrave on 28th, Blatherwycke Lake on 31st and Stanford Res on 2nd, while a ringed male, ‘T3’ from the Rutland Water project, visited Hollowell Res on 6th and 9th. Further reports of fly-over raptors included a Honey Buzzard near Hartwell on 31st and a White-tailed Eagle moving east, from the A14, near Naseby on 2nd.

Male Osprey, Hollowell Res, 9th June 2022 (Martin Swannell)

Meanwhile, DIRFT 3 chalked up its 25th species of wader with the arrival of two (not three, as previously reported) Avocets on 8th. They did not linger. Other waders included a Tundra Ringed Plover at Stanwick on 3rd and five Sanderlings paying a brief visit to Summer Leys on 5th.

Avocet, DIRFT 3, 8th June 2022 (Steve Nichols)

Beyond that, the period delivered two Caspian Gulls – a third-summer and fourth-summer – to Stanwick on 3rd and an ‘all-day’ Black Tern to Stanford on 30th. The spring of 2022 has proven to be a bleak one in terms of records of the latter species. Hopefully, autumn will be a different story …

Black Tern Stanford Res, 30th May 2022 (Bob Bullock)

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Newsround – 21st to 27th May 2022

The week’s weather was dominated by a westerly airstream, which was largely unfavourable for the arrival of new migrants. In fact, the latter were few and far between, which, by late May, is generally to be expected. However, while a southerly-drifting White-tailed Eagle was, potentially, the highlight of the period, rather more static, coiffured and dapper fare was on offer in the nether reaches of a certain local reservoir.

Yes, last week’s Stanwick-cum-Pitsford Black-necked Grebes continued to put on a show in Scaldwell Bay over the weekend – and, for sheer splendour, a glitzy summer-plumaged Black-necked really does take some beating. There were no further reports beyond 22nd.

Black-necked Grebe, Pitsford Res, 21st May 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Stanwick’s Glossy Ibis remained throughout the week but was seen to fly off north-east on a couple of occasions, five Cattle Egrets were present at the same locality on 22nd, one remained on 23rd and one visited Summer Leys LNR on 24th.

While Summer Leys also hosted a passing Osprey on 23rd, an immature White-tailed Eagle reported flying south over the M1/A43 junction on 21st undoubtedly provided a ‘barn door’ moment for one observer. A subsequent check with a representative of the Roy Dennis Foundation quickly established there were no released immatures in the area at the time …

Returning to more traditional birding environments, four Bar-tailed Godwits were seen in flight over Summer Leys on 23rd and, on the morning of the same date, a Little Tern spent all of eight minutes at Daventry CP before heading off high east.

At the other end of the spectrum, late passerine migrants moving through included a male Common Redstart at Harrington AF on 24th, a female Northern Wheatear at Hartwell between 21st and 24th and, most unexpectedly for the time of year, a Hawfinch flying west at Stanwick GP, also on 24th.

Newsround – 14th to 20th May 2022

With winds showing a bias toward the southerly quarter, the UK saw its hottest day of the year so far with the national temperature peaking at 26°C on 17th, when Northants also reached 24°C. Intermittent, heavy showers again influenced what was seen on the ground, although this related more to numbers of commoner waders than anything else – and this week’s rare was in the air …

Predictably, ducks were down to just the one species, Garganey, with single drakes at both Summer Leys LNR and Stanwick GP on 15th and at Lilbourne Meadows NR on 19th, while the long-staying pair remained at Thrapston GP throughout the period.

New in this week – and the first in the county for 2022 – were two flamboyant and very showy Black-necked Grebes at Stanwick, sparking a mini-rush to see them on 19th. It seems highly likely this was the same duo that subsequently put in an appearance in Scaldwell Bay, at Pitsford Res, the following day.

Black-necked Grebes, Stanwick GP, 19th May 2022 (Steve Fisher, videograb)

Meanwhile, back at Stanwick, the Glossy Ibis remained ensconced on the Main Lake, while egret numbers tumbled, with Cattle Egrets down to one at Summer Leys on 14th and two at Stanwick on 16th and the only Great Egret was one at Earls Barton GP on 17th.

But as far as raptors are concerned, outdoor gatherings have the potential to be rewarding. Go to a BBQ, keep your eyes on the skies and you never know, you might just feature. Such was the case on 15th, when a male Honey Buzzard cruised over, adding much more than a sizzle to a social gathering in Byfield. Commoner, of course, but no less exciting, a Marsh Harrier appeared at Summer Leys late on 16th and was still present the following morning.

Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 17th May 2022 (Alan Coles)

And so to waders … For Grey Plovers there are good years and there are bad years and, to date, 2022 falls squarely into the latter category. With just the Stanwick short-stayer on offer so far this spring, an even less obliging bird graced DIRFT 3 for one evening only, on 18th.

Grey Plover, DIRFT 3, 18th May 2022 (Steve Nichols)

While the tendency is for spring records to outnumber those in autumn, there are, historically, still plenty of the latter and even a small number in winter, although the trend line over the last twenty years rolls out to reveal a decline – albeit a shallow one. In fact, in 2020 and 2021, there were more Black-necked Grebes in the county than Grey Plovers …

Equally short-staying were four Turnstones at Summer Leys on the evening of 15th. Back at DIRFT 3, though, and featuring only for their continuing exceptionally high totals, Ringed Plovers numbered twenty-seven on 15th and twenty-one on 19th, with sixteen on the adjacent Lilbourne Meadows NR the following day. Where reasonable views were obtained many showed characteristics of, and were assumed to be, the northern race tundrae, although we should not be overlooking the fact that psammodroma, which is closely similar and breeds no further away than Iceland, could also be occurring.

Ringed Plover, showing characteristics of race tundrae, Lilbourne Meadows NR, 20th May 2022 (Gary Pullan)

DIRFT 3 also produced a Sanderling on 15th and the week’s only Whimbrel was one near Daventry on 19th, while Ruffs were found only at Summer Leys, where breeding plumage males were present on 18th and 20th and one in non-breeding attire was seen on 19th.

Sanderling, DIRFT 3, 15th May 2022 (Gary Pullan)
Whimbrel, near Daventry, 19th May 2022 (Gary Pullan)

With tern passage appearing to be fast on the wane, two Arctic Terns were at Clifford Hill GP on 15th.

Rounding up some odds and sods, the year’s only known Turtle Dove was at an undisclosed location in the north of the county on 19th, a somewhat unseasonal Short-eared Owl visited Harrington AF on 14th and Northern Wheatears were down to four at Clifford Hill GP on 15th and one between Yardley Hastings and Easton Maudit on 19th.

Are we now in for a quiet period?

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Newsround – 7th to 13th May 2022

Beginning with brisk north-easterlies, which rapidly swung to sustained south-westerlies, this week’s weather played a key role in producing the goods, most particularly on the one significantly rainy day of the period, 11th May. Aside from a lingering White Stork, waders were once again the centre of attention, with a nifty Pectoral Sandpiper stepping up to provide this week’s crème de la crème – albeit fleetingly …

While this was happening, ducks were dwindling, with just one drake Garganey at Summer Leys LNR on 11th and the pair still present at Thrapston GP on 13th. Drake Red-crested Pochards continued to add colour to the week’s proceedings, with one visiting Summer Leys on 8th and two on the dam at Stanford Res on 13th.

Red-crested Pochards, Stanford Res, 13th May 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

Back in the marshy meadow at Lower Barnwell Lock was last week’s White Stork, which established a routine of turning up for a couple of hours or so during the mornings, on 7th, 8th, 9th and 11th.

White Stork, Lower Barnwell Lock, Oundle, 7th May 2022 (James Underwood)

Further up the Nene Valley, Stanwick’s Glossy Ibis was going nowhere fast, seeing out another full week on site.

Stanwick also continued to hold up to five Cattle Egrets between 7th and 11th and one visited Summer Leys on 11th and 13th. Great Egrets, meanwhile, were bumping along the bottom, with singles at both Hollowell Res and Stanwick on 8th, DIRFT 3 on 11th and Summer Leys on 12th.

Being down to just one species, the week’s raptors can be quickly summed up, as Ospreys were seen at Biggin Lake (Oundle) on 7th, Hollowell on 8th and over Barton Seagrave on 13th.  

Bird of the week, however, was the long-overdue Pectoral Sandpiper, which was found at the good old easybirdin’ site of Summer Leys, after the rain, during the early evening of 11th. This resulted in a mad dash, by some, to see it before the light faded and darkness closed in. Despite reports to the contrary, it would appear to have departed early the following day, long before many had awoken from their morning slumber.

Pectoral Sandpiper, Summer Leys LNR, 11th May 2022 (Adrian Borley)

Although there have been more than 40 county records, this is the first since 2011, when singles were at Pitsford Res from 10th to 17th September and Stanford Res from 23rd to 30th September. It is also only the fourth to be recorded in spring.

Summer Leys was also among four localities to briefly host two highly ambulatory Avocets on 7th. First located at Stanwick early doors, they quickly moved west to Clifford Hill GP before swiftly heading back east to Summer Leys and then rapidly on to Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows. Another was subsequently reported from the pool east of Warmington Mill, on the evening of 9th.

Avocets, Summer Leys LNR, 7th May 2022 (David Preece)

Further windfalls resulting from the steady precipitation of 11th appeared in the form of a record flock of Ringed Plovers, of which a minimum of forty-six was counted at DIRFT 3, including at least two Tundra Ringed Plovers. At least thirty were still present there the following day. Also on 11th, the same site produced a Greenland Dunlin (race arctica), while another showing characteristics of this race was present at Summer Leys on 11th-12th. After the first in May 2013, one in May 2015 and two in May 2017, these would constitute only the 5th and 6th records for the county, if accepted.

This week’s Whimbrels were restricted to two flying east over the Brampton Valley at Maidwell on 8th and, similarly, Bar-tailed Godwits, were down to one at Stanwick on 7th-8th and last week’s three still at Pitsford, dropping to two there from 9th until the end of the period.

Bar-tailed Godwits, Pitsford Res, 10th May 2022 (David Arden)

Two more Turnstones turned up, both of them on 13th, at Pitsford and Lilbourne Meadows NR.

Turnstone and Bar-tailed Godwits, Pitsford Res, 13th May 2022 (Tony Stanford)
Turnstone, Lilbourne Meadows NR, 13th May 2022 (Mike Alibone)

It was Summer Leys which had the monopoly on Ruffs, with three on 11th, four on 12th and two on 13th, while Pitsford pulled a Sanderling on 8th, five visited DIRFT 3 on 11th and further singles were at Stanwick on 11th, DIRFT 3 on 12th and Summer Leys on 12th-13th. The only Greenshanks of the week were single birds at Stanford and Summer Leys on 12th.

Gulls this week were at a premium – or not, depending on your opinion, and a second-summer Yellow-legged Gull at Stanwick on 11th was all the county could muster during the period. Not so for terns, though, with Arctic Terns still on the move and 7th delivering two to Clifford Hill and separate fly-through flocks of seventeen and five to Stanford. A single Black Tern paid a brief visit to Pitsford the following day.

Pretty much taking a back seat in the week’s proceedings, passerines were few and far between. After the year’s first, last week, another two Whinchats were found at Upper Harlestone on 7th and at Stanford on 12th – a somewhat meagre total.

Female Northern Wheatear, showing characteristics of Greenland race leucorhoa, Clifford Hill GP, 8th May 2022 (Mike Alibone)
Male Northern Wheatear, showing characteristics of Greenland race leucorhoa, Clifford Hill GP, 11th May 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Northern Wheatears were down to singles at Summer Leys on 7th, Clifford Hill on 8th, Ashton STW on 9th and Earls Barton GP on 11th, while Clifford Hill produced two showing characteristics of Greenland Wheatear on 7th and another one on 11th.

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Newsround – 30th April to 6th May 2022

Stepping into May sees expectations move up a gear. It’s the month most likely to produce the icing on the cake where spring migrants are concerned and, while this week’s mixed weather conditions made predictions a tough call, some of those most highly anticipated visitors turned up on cue.

So, another week, another White Stork and in terms of highlights, waders again proliferated, those at the scarce end of the spectrum refusing to stick around for any length of time. In the same vein, this week’s quota of rare terns proved even less cooperative. Such are the joys of spring …

Seemingly now part of this year’s spring furniture, Garganeys remained at both Summer Leys LNR and Thrapston GP, with three at the first of these two sites on 3rd and at least two at the latter on 4th. The drake Red-crested Pochard also remained at Wicksteed Park, Kettering until at least 5th.

Back on the menu, at least for some, was a White Stork … or maybe two – both of which proved to be as slippery as butter. On 30th, one flew over Oundle Rugby Club and it would appear logical to assume this was the same bird relocated on the ground at Lower Barnwell Lock, briefly, early in the morning on 5th. It didn’t stay, of course, and what was presumably the same individual was again seen heading high west over Summer Leys during the afternoon of the same day. What we can be sure of, though, was that it was not the same bird as that which visited Summer Leys and Stanwick GP late on 21st/early on 22nd April. The latter was traced to the White Stork Project via a numbered ring on its left tibia, while this week’s bird had no such ring, having instead a small metal ring on its right tarsus.

White Stork, Oundle, 30th April 2022 (Alleyn Plowright)
White Stork, Barnwell Lock, 5th May 2022 (John Hunt, videograb)

Meanwhile, Stanwick’s Glossy Ibis remained there until at least 3rd.

Both Cattle Egrets and Great Egrets slipped down into just single birds, with one of the former flying west at Summer Leys on 1st and at Stanwick GP on 2nd-3rd, while a Great Egret was also at Stanwick on 3rd.

Raptors, too, were in short supply – again being limited to the same two species as last week … and the week before. An Osprey flew north over New Duston, Northampton on 30th and singles visited Hollowell Res on 2nd, 3rd and 5th, while a Marsh Harrier appeared briefly at Stanford Res on 2nd.

Waderwise, though, things were on the up – looking up, that is, as catching up with the best required a fairly swift response. Topping this week’s bill was a Curlew Sandpiper on golden pond: DIRFT 3. Found just after midday on 1st, it remained until late afternoon, after which it apparently melted away.

Curlew Sandpiper, DIRFT 3, 1st May 2022 (Gary Pullan)

Time, perhaps, to reflect on just what this unassuming drainage pool on the DIRFT industrial development site has produced over the last four years. So, we have at least twenty-two species of wader, including Temminck’s Stint, eleven species of gull, including the county’s only proven Baltic Gull, Spoonbill, Dark-bellied Brent Goose and some unquestionably dodgy ducks. Not a bad haul to date but, as the construction of new buildings is fast encroaching, for how much longer will it continue to deliver?

Other waders proved popular while they were available, these including single Whimbrels at Earls Barton GP on 1st and 4th and two at Thrapston GP on the same date, rising to three on 2nd.

Whimbrel, Earls Barton GP, 4th May 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Bar-tailed Godwits, however, were easier to come by, with singles at Clifford Hill GP, DIRFT 3 and Pitsford Res on 2nd, two at Hardwater Lake (Earls Barton GP) on 3rd-4th, one at adjacent Summer Leys on 3rd-5th, one at Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR on 4th and three at Pitsford Res on 4th-6th.

Bar-tailed Godwit, Earls Barton GP, 3rd May 2022 (Mike Alibone)
Bar-tailed Godwits, Pitsford Res, 4th May 2022 (David Arden)
Bar-tailed Godwits, Pitsford Res, 6th May 2022 (Tony Stanford)

The first Turnstone of the year hit the shoreline of Clifford Hill GP’s Main Barrage Lake on 2nd, quickly followed by three very short-stayers at Stanwick the next day.

Turnstone, Clifford Hill GP, 2nd May 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Two Ruffs were at Summer Leys on 30th, followed by one there on 3rd and one also visited Clifford Hill GP on 2nd, while single Sanderlings visited DIRFT 3 on 4th and Clifford Hill on 6th. With most having long departed, Jack Snipes are unusual in May but one was still at Summer Leys on 1st and another lingered at Hollowell on 3rd. More Wood Sandpipers came through this week, starting with an obliging bird at Lilbourne Meadows NR on 3rd-4th and a couple of fleeting singles at Summer Leys on 4th and 6th, the latter site producing three stunningly summer-plumaged and equally fleeting Spotted Redshanks on 3rd which, after leaving Summer Leys, were found not too long afterwards in Lincolnshire, at Deeping Lakes, north of Peterborough. The only Greenshank of the week was at Lilbourne Meadows NR on 4th-5th.   

Wood Sandpiper, Lilbourne Meadows NR, 4th May 2022 (Mike Alibone)

After last week’s impressive numbers of Little Gulls, there was none during the period. Instead, two adult Mediterranean Gulls flew west over Summer Leys on 2nd and what was presumably the same two were back there, on Gull Island, briefly on 5th. Otherwise, it was down to a short-staying fourth-summer Caspian Gull at Daventry CP to keep the side going, on 3rd.

While terns were clearly more in evidence this week, the scarcest played hardest to get, with 3rd May seeing a flock of six Sandwich Terns flying non-stop north-east over Stanwick, followed a while later by a Little Tern paying the briefest visit to Ditchford’s IL&M reserve before moving swiftly on. The afternoon of same date also produced three Black Terns, the year’s first, at Boddington Res, where they lingered into the evening.

Black Terns, Boddington Res, 4th May 2022 (Gary Pullan)

In better numbers than last week, more Arctic Terns came through, with top tallies including fourteen at Stanford Res on 2nd and six at Thrapston GP on 4th. Elsewhere, Stanwick produced three on 3rd, the gravel pits at Ringstead and Clifford Hill hosting two apiece on the same date, while the latter locality held singles on 2nd and 5th and further singles were at Pitsford on 30th and Summer Leys on 3rd.

Passerines, though, proved to be a puzzle. While one of last week’s female Ring Ouzels lingered at Honey Hill until 2nd, there were no Common Redstarts this week. In fact, so far this year, Black Redstarts have outnumbered their commoner congener, with the latest one to be found near Little Brington on 5th.

Black Redstart, Little Brington, 5th May 2022 (Ken Prouse)

The year’s first Whinchats pitched up, perhaps a tad later than expected, starting with a male at Hollowell Res on 1st-2nd, swiftly followed by further birds at both Elkington and Priors Hall, Corby on 2nd and, on 5th, twos at Clifford Hill GP and Stanford Res and one in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton.

Female Whinchat, Clifford Hill GP, 5th May 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Found at no less than nine localities, Northern Wheatears were widespread, with the highest site total of five at DIRFT 3 on 2nd. Elsewhere during the week, ones and twos were at Boddington, Brampton Valley, Clifford Hill, Harrington AF, Honey Hill, Priors Hall (Corby), Sixfields (Northampton) and Willowbrook Industrial Estate (Corby).

Male Northern Wheatear, Northampton, 1st May 2022 (Tony Stanford)
Female Northern Wheatear, probably Greenland race leucorhoa, Corby, 2nd May 2022 (James Underwood)

Sharing the stage with Common Redstart, another passerine which has been strangely low in numbers so far this spring is White Wagtail. Just one was seen this week – on the dam at Stanford Res on 1st.

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