Rarity Round-up 5th to 11th August 2017

This week’s weather was largely a repetition of last week’s, with Atlantic lows sweeping across the country, although continual heavy rain accompanied more northerly winds on 8th-9th. No coincidence, then, that these two days produced some new and scarce arrivals, some of which lingered … while others didn’t.

Duck of the week was the female Common Scoter, which turned up at Daventry CP during the poor weather of 9th and was still present on 11th, while last week’s Great White Egret remained at Pitsford Res until at least 7th.

Female Common Scoter, Daventry CP, 9th August 2017 (Gary Pullan)

Just one Whimbrel was seen – at Stanwick GP on 9th – in contrast to last week’s double-figure flocks, while Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits continued to appear in reasonable numbers. On 5th there were three at Stanford Res and singles at Pitsford Res, Hollowell Res and Daventry CP, the following day there were five at Pitsford and one at Stanford, the 7th saw sixteen at Stanford and one at Daventry. Stanford also held four on 8th-9th and one thereafter on 10th-11th and one was at Stanwick GP on 9th.

Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits, Stanford Res, 7th August 2017 (Chris Hubbard)

The latter locality also produced an adult Knot, showing well on the Visitor Centre Pit from 8th to 11th, while another autumn Sanderling made landfall at Hollowell Res during the poor weather on 8th. The autumn’s second Wood Sandpiper was found at Stanford on 9th, remaining there until 11th.

Adult Knot, Stanwick GP, 9th August 2017 (Mike Alibone)

Three Arctic Terns flew east at Stanwick GP during the rain on 8th, as did an adult Little Gull and a first-summer Little Gull was discovered on the Visitor Centre Pit there later the same day. The only Mediterranean Gulls this week were single juveniles at Daventry CP on 8th and Boddington Res on 11th, while Daventry produced an adult and a

Juvenile Mediterranean Gull, Boddington Res, 11th August 2017 (Gary Pullan)

second-summer Caspian Gull on 5th and a juvenile two days later, on 7th. A third-summer Caspian Gull was also at Stanwick GP on 7th along with at least thirty Yellow-legged Gulls. Between one and four Yellow-legged Gulls were seen at each of Daventry CP, Boddington Res, Hollowell Res and Pitsford Res throughout the week.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Pitsford Res, 7th August 2017 (Alan Francis)

Juvenile Black Redstart, East Hunsbury, Northampton, 9th August 2017 (Paul Howes)

A juvenile Black Redstart was seen on houses and garage roofs in East Hunsbury (Northampton) on 9th but could not be relocated the following day while a male Common Redstart was discovered in hedgerow at Twywell Hills and Dales on 11th and a Northern Wheatear visited Pitsford Res on 7th.

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Rarity Round-up 29th July to 4th August 2017

The unsettled weather continued throughout the week – the product of a series of Atlantic lows which brought largely south-westerly winds and intermittent rain. The month of August got off to a tremendous start from day one, with the discovery of an adult Baird’s Sandpiper – the third for Northants and the first for more than twenty years – at Stanford Reservoir. After this, everything else seemed incidental …

The two juvenile Garganeys at Pitsford Res remained in Scaldwell Bay until at least 1st, while last week’s Great White Egret appeared settled there between 30th and 2nd and an Osprey visited on 1st. Another Osprey, a male, was seen at Hollowell Res on consecutive evenings of 31st and 1st – at around 18.30 on both occasions – while the first Marsh Harrier of the autumn arrived on cue at Summer Leys LNR on 2nd. Well, it is August …

Osprey, Hollowell Res, 31st July 2017 (Martin Swannell)


Two double-figure flocks of Whimbrels, eighteen and nineteen, flew south, non-stop, over Pitsford Res on 29th and 31st respectively and this locality and Stanford Res between them produced all this week’s Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits. Pitsford held seven on 30th and 3rd, one on 1st and six on 2nd, while Stanford produced six on 30th, ten on 2nd, three on 3rd and eleven on 4th.

Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits, Stanford Res, 4th August 2017 (Chris Hubbard)

Turnstone, Stanford Res, 29th July 2017 (Chris Hubbard)

Adult Baird’s Sandpiper, Stanford Res, 1st August 2017 (Chris Hubbard)

The latter locality also delivered two Turnstones, one on 29th-30th and the other, a flythrough, on 2nd. This week saw another autumn Sanderling – this time at Daventry CP, all day on 2nd but undoubtedly what may yet prove to be the autumn’s rarest visitor, an adult Baird’s Sandpiper, was found at Stanford on the evening of 1st. Frustratingly skittish, it was up and away within a few minutes of its discovery, much to the chagrin of local birders, many of whom were left contemplating the prospect of a twenty-year wait for the next one. Lacking in limelight, Summer Leys rustled up a short-staying Wood Sandpiper on the evening of 30th but this locality’s track record for delivering the goods in autumn is far from enviable.

Back to the reservoirs, then, and Daventry CP produced two juvenile Mediterranean Gulls on 29th and one the next day, while Pitsford held an adult on 1st and a juvenile on 3rd. Master gullers also identified a fourth-summer Caspian Gull at Daventry CP on 1st, with a juvenile and a third-summer there on 2nd and a juvenile and third-summer were also at Stanwick GP on 1st along with thirty-seven Yellow-legged Gulls – a marked return to the form of previous weeks after last week’s poor showing there. Smaller numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls included two at Pitsford Res on 30th and 3rd and three at Daventry CP on 1st with eight there on 2nd.

Juvenile Caspian Gull, Daventry CP, 2nd August 2017 (Gary Pullan)

Passerine migrants were, as expected, low in numbers. Two Common Redstarts were north of Braunston on 30th, a Northern Wheatear visited Pitsford Res on 31st and a Whinchat was there the following day.

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Baird’s Sandpiper at Stanford Reservoir

August 1st and Stanford’s waderfest continues unabated, producing Northamptonshire’s third-ever Baird’s Sandpiper this evening.

Hats off to Chris Hubbard for his sheer persistence in visiting Stanford Reservoir daily – often more than once – as his tenacity pays off handsomely with the discovery of the county’s third Baird’s Sandpiper this evening. This North American wader is very long-winged, with primary tips projecting well beyond the tail, giving the species a distinctively elongated appearance. This evening’s bird is an adult, aged by patchy upperparts with pale fringes worn off to some extent and lacking the uniformly fresh, scaly appearance of juveniles. It also has a fairly heavily streaked breast.

Unfortunately it hung around only just long enough for Chris to obtain the above phonescoped video and a small number of images before it flew off toward Blower’s Lodge Bay and was not relocated, despite several people searching.

Previous records were at Stanwick GP on 31st July 1994 and at Daventry CP on 29th September 1996.

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Rarity Round-up 22nd to 28th July 2017

Another unsettled week with frequent, heavy showers and a strong, north-westerly to south-westerly airstream. Autumn wader passage continued to deliver new, short-staying arrivals alongside exceptionally high numbers of Common Sandpipers, including twenty at Pitsford and sixteen at Stanford.

Last week’s eclipse drake Garganey was replaced by two juveniles at Pitsford Res, in Scaldwell Bay, where they remained from 23rd until the end of the week, while the two Red-crested Pochards appeared there again on 27th.The summering Bittern remained at Summer Leys all week and a Great White Egret was also there on 26th and 27th, with presumably the same bird visiting Pitsford Res on 23rd, 25th and 28th.

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 27th July 2017 (Alan Coles)

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 27th July 2017 (Alan Coles)

Bittern, Summer Leys LNR, 28th July 2017 (Alan Coles)

The week’s focus was on waders, commencing with four Whimbrels flying south over Pitsford Res on 22nd and one ‘on the deck’ there, in Scaldwell Bay, later the same day, while small numbers of Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits continued to trickle through. Two were at Stanford Res on 23rd but 28th produced two at Summer Leys, three at Hollowell Res and eight at Daventry CP. A Sanderling – scarce in autumn – visited Stanford Res on 25th, the same site producing a Turnstone on 27th-28th, heralding a small flurry which included one at Daventry CP on 27th and two more at Pitsford Res on 28th.

Turnstone, Daventry CP, 27th July 2017 (Mike Alibone)

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Pitsford Res, 22nd July 2017 (Mike Alibone)

An adult Arctic Tern – the first of the autumn – appeared at Pitsford Res on 27th and was still present on 28th. For those indulging in the black art of gull identification, a second-summer Caspian Gull was present at Daventry CP on 26th but Yellow-legged Gull numbers were dramatically down on last week with Daventry CP attracting up to four between 26th and 28th, Hollowell Res holding one on 26th and Pitsford Res producing up to three throughout the week.

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Rarity Round-up 15th to 21st July 2017

The week was unsettled and frequently cloudy, with a series of Atlantic lows bringing sporadic rain on westerly, south-westerly and – as they crossed the country – easterly winds. Wader passage continued and gull numbers increased as water levels at local reservoirs continued to fall …

Last week’s eclipse drake Garganey remained close to the causeway car park at Pitsford Res until at least 16th, two Red-crested Pochards appeared in Walgrave Bay at the same location on 17th and the escaped, metal-ringed female Bufflehead resurfaced at Clifford Hill GP on 15th. However, it has probably remained there since its initial discovery, having elicited little interest since its captive origin was revealed.

Eclipse drake Garganey, Pitsford Res, 16th July 2017 (Mike Alibone)

The summering Bittern continued to be seen daily at Summer Leys until at least 19th, the same site producing a Great White Egret – arguably the first of the autumn – on 20th.

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 20th July 2017 (John Nicholls)

Ospreys were again fishing at Stanford Res on 16th and 18th and one wandering individual visited Summer Leys, appearing over the scrape there on 17th.

Osprey, Summer Leys LNR, 17th July 2017 (Alan Coles)

Fresh waders in this week included single Whimbrels in flight over Pitsford Res and Stanford Res on 17th, while numbers of Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits were substantially lower than last week with one at Summer Leys on 16th being followed by six there the next day and two visiting Stanford Res on 18th.

Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits, Stanford Res, 18th July 2017 (Chris Hubbard)

A Turnstone was found on the main lake at Stanwick GP on 19th before it moved to the islands in the A45 Lay-by Pit the following day, while a Curlew Sandpiper in flight north of Pitsford’s causeway on 17th was unfortunately not relocated.

At Daventry CP, an adult Mediterranean Gull appeared on 15th, following the adult there on 8th, which turns out had been ringed only a month before, on 6th June at Berendrecht, Antwerp, Belgium. Over in the Nene Valley at Stanwick GP, a juvenile was seen on 15th and an adult plus a juvenile were there on 17th. Stanwick also produced a first-summer Caspian Gull on 17th and a third-summer three days later, on 20th, while the maximum count of Yellow-legged Gulls there was thirty-four on 17th. Stealing Stanwick’s thunder – at least as far as this species is concerned – was, however, Priors Hall, where some newly created pools attracted at least one hundred on 18th – an astonishing number away from the Nene Valley. Pitsford Res was the only other locality from which Yellow-legged Gulls were reported, with one on 18th, three on 20th and two on 21st.

Third-summer Caspian Gull, Stanwick GP, 20th July 2017 (Steve Fisher)

The only passerines reported this week were a Pied Flycatcher and a Common Redstart in the hedge along the entrance road to Brixworth CP on the evening of 20th, both of which vanished immediately after their discovery.

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Rarity Round-up 8th to 14th July 2017

A cooler week than the last, with temperatures ranging between the high teens and low twenties and, other than a hefty downpour on 11th, remaining dry. Winds varied between westerly and north-westerly, aiding the migration of Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits, which continued to arrive in appreciable numbers.

We are clearly experiencing the usual mid-summer lull, as far as ducks are concerned. Two Garganeys were the sole entry for the week – a juvenile at Stanford Res on 10th and an eclipse drake by the causeway at Pitsford Res on 10th and again on 13th-14th.

Eclipse drake Garganey, Pitsford Res, 10th July 2017 (Jacob Spinks)

The intriguing run of summer Bittern records continued at Summer Leys with daily sightings, in flight over the scrape and the car park, throughout the week.

Bittern, Summer Leys LNR, 8th July 2017 (Wayne Weedon)

Bittern, Summer Leys LNR, 10th July 2017 (Alan Coles)

Bittern, Summer Leys LNR, 12th July 2017 (Alan Coles)

Bittern, Summer Leys LNR, 14th July 2017 (Martin Swannell)

With the low water level it must be like shooting rats in a barrel for Ospreys visiting their now fondly favour’d site of Stanford Res, which drew one on 10th and two on 13th, while also continuing to attract Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits. Two were there on 9th, followed by twenty the next day and one from 11th to 13th. Elsewhere, thirteen arrived at Summer Leys on 9th with just two there the following day, two visited Pitsford Res on 8th, rising to three the next day, before falling to one on 10th and singles were at Stanwick GP on 8th and 10th and at Clifford Hill GP on 9th.

Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit, Stanwick GP, 8th July 2017 (Mike Alibone)

From one extreme to another, after last week’s one-day, Nene Valley ‘giant’, a Little Tern was picked up heading north over the causeway at Pitsford Res on 9th – however, it appeared not to be sticking around. The Mediterranean Gull family was still in residence in the Black-headed Gull colony at Stanwick GP this week. The two juveniles are now fully fledged and able to fly.

Juvenile Mediterranean Gulls, Stanwick GP, 8th July 2017 (Mike Alibone)

Elsewhere, an adult and an apparently unrelated juvenile visited Daventry CP on 11th and a juvenile was there on 14th. One size up, Caspian Gulls were also found at Stanwick, including an adult on 10th, a second-summer on 10th-11th and a first-summer on 13th. An adult also visited Pitsford Res on 10th. Yellow-legged Gull numbers increased dramatically this week with Stanwick GP accumulating a maximum of forty-two on 13th.

Second-summer Yellow-legged Gull, Pitsford Res, 9th July (Mike Alibone)

Away from here, a second-summer was at Pitsford Res on 8th-9th, a first-summer was there on 10th along with the autumn’s first juvenile on 12th and four on 14th. Elsewhere, an adult and a second-summer visited Daventry CP on 11th.

A juvenile Common Redstart was trapped and ringed at Stanford Res on 8th. It was a very young bird which appears, at first sight, not to have travelled far.

Juvenile Common Redstart, Stanford Res, 8th July 2017 (Adam Homer)

There is a possibility it fledged locally as this species once bred in some numbers in the grounds of Stanford Hall and a female with an active brood patch was also trapped at Stanford on 9th July 2015 so, who knows … Another young chat, a juvenile Northern Wheatear, was discovered at Pitsford Res on 13th – the first of the autumn and on a relatively early date for this species.

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Rarity Round-up 1st to 7th July 2017

A largely dry week, during which temperatures nudged 30ºC under the influence of a light south-westerly airstream, saw the continued arrival southbound passage waders, the discovery of an immense tern and the surprise rediscovery of breeding Mediterranean Gulls.

A drake Red-crested Pochard visited Summer Leys LNR on 4th, with presumably the same bird relocating to Stanwick GP the following day, while the metal-ringed, escaped female Bufflehead was still present at Clifford Hill GP on 1st. Rare herons were limited to last week’s Bittern again at Summer Leys on 7th.

A female Honey Buzzard was an unexpected bonus for one observer as it drifted south-west over Sywell on 2nd, while there were reports of three Ospreys this week with two on 2nd, including one at Pitsford Res and one at Welford Res. Interestingly enough, the latter, a male, was ringed and proved to be a different individual to either of the two regularly visiting Stanford and Welford Reservoirs which were highlighted in last week’s feature.

Male Osprey, Welford Res, 2nd July 2017 (Douglas McFarlane)

The third was watched flying south-west over Thrapston GP on 3rd.The flow of southbound Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits continued with singles at Stanford Res on 1st, 2nd and 6th, three at Thrapston GP on 3rd, two at Pitsford Res on 4th with three there the following day and one on 7th, two at Stanwick GP plus six at Summer Leys on 5th and one again at Stanwick on 7th.

Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit, Stanford Res, 6th July 2017 (Chris Hubbard)

Local birders were caught completely off guard by the totally unexpected arrival of Northamptonshire’s fifth Caspian Tern, a smart adult, located at Summer Leys on 1st.  This dagger-billed colossus pitched down on ‘The Slips’ and was viewable from the Screen Hide for 80 minutes, before disappearing off down the Nene Valley, only to return again 90 minutes later – this time for 40 minutes – before heading off west. Clifford Hill GP was the next stop, where it was on view for nearly 3 hours in the early evening, after which it flew high west toward the sunset and was gone. It bore a red ring on its left leg, which enabled it to be confidently identified as the individual that had been frequenting the National Wetlands Centre, Carmarthenshire until 29th June. After leaving Northants, it was located briefly the following day at Chew Valley Lake, Somerset, before returning bizarrely to the Wetlands Centre in Carmarthenshire on 3rd. But this is what Caspian Terns do! Proof, if ever there was, that Caspian Terns are really quite mad …

Caspian Tern, Summer Leys LNR, 1st July 2017 (Mike Alibone)

Another happy event was the surprise rediscovery of the breeding Mediterranean Gulls at Stanwick GP on 3rd. After a ‘missing, presumed dead’ status had been pronounced last month, there they were – bold as brass – in the middle of the Black-headed Gull colony again this week, the adults feeding two well-grown young. The local Lesser Black-backs are off the hook … for now. Elsewhere, single adults were seen at Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows reserve on 2nd and hawking insects over Daventry on 5th, again on 6th and one on 7th, while four adults visited the scrape at Summer Leys briefly on 3rd. July is the month when Yellow-legged Gull numbers begin to build and after one at Stanwick on 3rd, four were present there on 5th plus seven on 7th, four were at Pitsford Res and one at Daventry CP on 5th and a different individual visited the latter site the following day.

The male Common Redstart was still at Clifford Hill GP on 1st, otherwise the week was light in terms of migrant passerines.

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