Two Weeks in Focus, 13th to 26th August 2016

A largely dry couple of weeks saw temperatures hit 30º C as the winds swung south-easterly, for a time ushering in hot air from mainland Europe. A two-week period makes a significant difference to what can be expected as migration gathers pace and we head into autumn proper. Numbers of waders, gulls and especially passerines are ramping up as September looms large in the birding calendar.

The Ruddy Shelduck remained at Pitsford Res, where it was seen on 20th, while the same locality saw the beginning of the annual autumn build-up of Red-crested Pochards with up to six there from 23rd.

Ruddy Shelduck, Pitsford Res, 15th August 2016 (Alan Francis)

Ruddy Shelduck, Pitsford Res, 15th August 2016 (Alan Francis)

Elsewhere, the drake Goldeneye remained at Stanford Res until at least 24th and a Garganey was at Daventry CP on 25th-26th and, back at Pitsford Res, another was found on 26th. The same dates saw a juvenile Shag at Stanwick GP, which was only the second record for the site, while this species is by no means annual in the county with the last being in December 2013.

Juvenile Shag, Stanwick GP, 25th August 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Juvenile Shag, Stanwick GP, 25th August 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Raptors this in the period included a Marsh Harrier in the vicinity of Scaldwell and Walgrave Bays at Pitsford Res between 15th and 25th with perhaps the same individual visiting the nearby Brampton Valley on 23rd-24th. Single Ospreys were also at Pitsford Res on 14th and 24th-25th while others were seen at Hollowell Res on 14th and at Sywell CP on 23rd, although it is possible that just one roaming individual could account for all of these records. Peregrines appeared at Hellidon on 14th, Ditchford GP on 15th, at Summer Leys LNR on 17th and 23rd and at Hollowell Res on 25th.

Adult Peregrine, Summer Leys, 23rd August 2016 (Ricky Sinfield)

Adult Peregrine, Summer Leys, 23rd August 2016 (Ricky Sinfield)

The autumn’s first Golden Plover appeared at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 17th and Little Ringed Plovers were recorded from Daventry CP, Hollowell Res, Pitsford Res, Summer Leys and Sywell CP. Most, if not all, were single juveniles.

Juvenile Little Ringed Plover, Sywell CP, 22nd August 2016 (Alan Francis)

Juvenile Little Ringed Plover, Sywell CP, 22nd August 2016 (Alan Francis)

By contrast there were only two Ringed Plovers, which consisted of singles at Ditchford GP on 13th and Stanwick GP on 21st-22nd. A Whimbrel flew south-west at Daventry CP on 26th, while three Curlews flew west at Stanford Res on 23rd and two were at Hollowell Res two days later but, compared with the previous period, Black-tailed Godwit passage had slowed to just one at Summer Leys on 19th and two there on 21st. A juvenile Turnstone took up residence on the Visitor Centre Lake at Stanwick GP from 17th and was still present on 26th, while the first of the autumn’s Ruffs appeared with singles at Summer Leys on 15th and 19th and at Hollowell Res on 16th and 21st.

Juvenile Turnstone, Stanwick GP, 21st August 2016 (Mike Alibone)

Juvenile Turnstone, Stanwick GP, 21st August 2016 (Mike Alibone)

The latter locality produced three Dunlins on 25th, but numbers otherwise remained low with just singles at Summer Leys on 19th and Stanwick GP between 20th and 26th.

Juvenile Dunlin, Hollowell Res, 15th August 2016 (Martin Swannell)

Juvenile Dunlin, Hollowell Res, 15th August 2016 (Martin Swannell)

Juvenile Little Stint, Summer Leys LNR, 12th August 2016 (Ricky Sinfield)

Juvenile Little Stint, Summer Leys LNR, 12th August 2016 (Ricky Sinfield)

Sometimes quite elusive, a Little Stint remained at Summer Leys between 12th and 14th. Common Sandpipers continued to be seen in good numbers throughout the period, being recorded from eight localities with a maximum count of six at Daventry CP on 24th,

Juvenile Common Sandpiper, Sywell CP, 22nd August 2016 (Alan Francis)

Juvenile Common Sandpiper, Sywell CP, 22nd August 2016 (Alan Francis)

while Green Sandpipers were recorded at six with a maximum of five at Summer Leys on 17th. A Spotted Redshank appeared briefly at Summer Leys on 25th and Greenshank numbers were surprisingly low with, apart from four at Stanwick GP on 22nd, singles at Summer Leys on 13th, Stanwick on 18th and 21st, Stanford Res on 23rd and Hollowell Res on 25th. Hollowell and Summer Leys were the only localities to host Common Snipe with the former producing singles on 13th and 21st, two on 16th and six on 25th and the latter with two on 14th and three on 21st.

Green Sandpiper, Summer Leys LNR, 21st August 2016 (Ricky Sinfield)

Green Sandpiper, Summer Leys LNR, 21st August 2016 (Ricky Sinfield)

Green Sandpiper, Summer Leys LNR, 22nd August 2016 (Ricky Sinfield)

Green Sandpiper, Summer Leys LNR, 22nd August 2016 (Ricky Sinfield)

Along with diminishing numbers of Common Terns, the period saw a short-staying Little Tern at Stanford Res on 19th – the same date on which ten Black Terns paid an equally brief visit to Summer Leys, departing high to the west during the evening. Three Mediterranean Gulls included a juvenile at Daventry CP on 18th, a second-summer there on 24th and another juvenile at Hollowell Res the following day. Potentially hugely rarer, however, was the adult gull showing characteristics of Azorean Yellow-legged Gull at Stanwick GP’s pre-roost gathering on 24th and 25th. We’ve been here before, of course, and with this well-marked race now officially on the British List and a previous record of a returning individual (Stanwick 2013, 2014) pending acceptance by BBRC, this bird – believed by some to be the same individual – clearly warrants further study if it lingers.

Caption AZGUCaption AZGU

Putative adult Azorean Gull, Stanwick GP, 25th August 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Putative adult Azorean Gull, Stanwick GP, 25th August 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Putative adult Azorean Gull, Stanwick GP, 25th August 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Putative adult Azorean Gull, Stanwick GP, 25th August 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Normal’ Yellow-legged Gulls were recorded in smaller numbers than during the lastperiod at Stanwick, Daventry CP, Summer Leys and Pitsford Res with a maximum of eight at the latter site on 13th.

Cartion YLGU

 

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Summer Leys LNR, 14th August 2016 (Mike Alibone)

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Summer Leys LNR, 14th August 2016 (Mike Alibone)

Caspian Gulls, represented largely by immatures, were found at Daventry CP on 13th, with two there on 15th, one on 16th and 25th, Stanwick GP, where there were two on 15th, 17th (one adult) and 23rd, one on 25th and four the next day and Clifford Hill GP, where there was an adult on 14th.

First-summer Caspian Gull, Stanwick GP, 26th August 2016 (Steve Fisher)

First-summer Caspian Gull, Stanwick GP, 26th August 2016 (Steve Fisher)

Again, Turtle Doves were found only at Harrington AF, where there were four to five on 21st and one on 24th. The ringing highlight of the second week was undoubtedly a Wryneck which was trapped on 26th at Stanford Res by the Stanford Ringing Group, which has an enviable track record for pulling scarce migrants from its nets.

Wryneck, Stanford Res, 26th August 2016 (Mick Townsend)

Wryneck, Stanford Res, 26th August 2016 (Mick Townsend)

Common Redstarts came through in good numbers with records from Blueberry Farm, Borough Hill, Daventry CP, Eydon, Fawsley Park, Harrington AF, Hellidon, Hollowell Res and Walgrave, with a maximum of four at the latter site on 25th and, in addition, a first-year female was trapped and ringed at Stanford Res on 18th. Related species remained scarce, however, with reports of Whinchats limited to two at Borough Hill on 13th, two at Blueberry Farm on 17th and 23rd and one in the Brampton Valley on 24th, where there were still two Stonechats on the same date. Just three Northern Wheatears included singles at Blueberry Farm on 17th and at both Stanford Res and Harrington AF on 21st. The latter site also produced two Tree Pipits on 26th – following the autumn’s first over Fineshade Wood on 14th – and a Corn Bunting on 24th.

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Juvenile Turnstone at Stanwick

Turnstone: does what it says on the can

I spent a good hour with the Turnstone at Stanwick Lakes yesterday. It was pretty quiet there otherwise and the Turnstone was busy feeding, non-stop, on one of the Visitor Centre Lakes. It’s only when you try to digiscope a bird like this that you appreciate just how animated these things are – it did not stand still at all.Turnstone 1

Turnstone 2 - Copy (2)Turnstone 3 - CopyTurnstone 4 This was also a great opportunity to closely study the plumage. Broad, deep buff fringes to the coverts, white fringes to tertials and small, neat white tips to upperparts and primaries easily age this bird as a juvenile. Adults out of breeding plumage are much more uniform in these areas, their feathers being dull brown with only slightly paler fringes.

 

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The Week in Focus, 6th to 12th August 2016

Winds remained between north-westerly and south-westerly throughout, gusting quite strongly for a short time at beginning of week. Warm, mainly dry weather ensued throughout the period as migrants continued to trickle through.

Clearly still going nowhere, the Ruddy Shelduck remained at Pitsford Res, where there was also a female Red-crested Pochard x Ferruginous Duck hybrid and a Goldeneye on 10th. Pitsford also produced an Osprey, fishing south of the causeway on 6th, the same date as a Marsh Harrier visited Summer Leys LNR along with a Peregrine. Further Peregrines were seen at Ditchford GP on 8th and in the Brampton Valley the following day.

On the wader front, the only Little Ringed Plovers this week were two at Clifford Hill GP on 6th and singles at Stanwick GP and Summer Leys on 7th. Three Ringed Plovers included singles at Ditchford GP on 8th, Hollowell Res on 9th and Pitsford Res on 10th

Ringed Plover, Hollowell Res, 9th August 2016 (Martin Swannell)

Ringed Plover, Hollowell Res, 9th August 2016 (Martin Swannell)

and a Curlew also visited the latter site on 6th. Up to two Dunlins remained at Pitsford Res between 8th and 11th and up to three were at Hollowell Res between 7th and 10th and

Juvenile Dunlins, Pitsford Res, 8th August 2016 (Alan Francis)

Juvenile Dunlins, Pitsford Res, 8th August 2016 (Alan Francis)

Adult Dunlin, Hollowell Res, 10th August 2016 (Martin Swannell)

Adult Dunlin, Hollowell Res, 10th August 2016 (Martin Swannell)

two were at Summer Leys on 12th along with a Little Stint. Just two Greenshanks this week include one that visited Stanwick GP on 10th and one at Summer Leys on 12th, and a solitary Redshank was at Daventry CP on 8th. Common Sandpipers were reported from Boddington Res, Daventry CP, Hollowell Res, Pitsford Res, Stanwick GP, Summer Leys LNR and Welford Res with no more than two at any one location, with the exception of four at Stanwick GP on 8th and six at Pitsford Res

Adult Common Sandpiper, Pitsford Res, 11th August 2016 (Alan Francis)

Adult Common Sandpiper, Pitsford Res, 11th August 2016 (Alan Francis)

on 10th. Similarly, Green Sandpipers were seen in ones and twos throughout the week at Hollowell Res, Pitsford Res, Stanford Res, Stanwick GP and Summer Leys, while twos of Common Snipe were at Hollowell Res on 7th and at Clifford Hill GP and Summer Leys on 10th but the best count was six at Ditchford GP on 8th.

Three Mediterranean Gulls – all juveniles – continued last week’s run with one at Clifford Hill GP on 6th and two at Boddington Res on 12th, while numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls rallied with at least fifty at Stanwick GP late on 8th and approximately seventy there the following evening, with adults visiting Pitsford Res on 10th and Boddington Res on 12th and four juveniles were at Daventry CP during the week. Stanwick, as usual, produced all the week’s Caspian Gulls with a second-summer on 8th, an adult and two third/fourth-summers on 9th-10th, a first-summer plus a third/fourth-summer on 11th and a juvenile, first-summer and third/fourth-summer on 12th.

First-summer Caspian Gull, Stanwick GP, 11th August 2016 (Steve Fisher)

First-summer Caspian Gull, Stanwick GP, 11th August 2016 (Steve Fisher)

Again, this week’s only Turtle Doves were two at Harrington AF between 6th and 8th but rarer on a local level was a Nightjar found on private land adjacent to Stanford Res on 12th. More migrant passerines included single Common Redstarts at Harrington AF on 6th and 8th, Pitsford Res on 10th and Twywell Hills & Dales on 12th but five were at Eydon on 10th, while two Whinchats were at Harrington AF on 6th and one on 9th, four were at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) on 6th and two were in Brampton Valley on 9th-10th. At least two Stonechats remained at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell, on 9th and the autumn’s first Northern Wheatears visited Harrington AF on 6th, Brampton Valley on 9th-10th and Hollowell Res on 10th.

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The Week in Focus, 30th July to 5th August 2016

The county and country remained in a mild westerly airstream, which brought occasional heavy showers and a modicum of new migrants. Water levels are beginning to drop at some of the county’s reservoirs with Hollowell in pole position for attracting waders, along with other freshwater marginal foragers, and even the lowly, often overlooked Cransley has managed to pull a Dunlin this week …

We came dangerously close to having no ducks, dodgy or otherwise, to report this week but two female Red-crested Pochards were at Sywell CP on 5th and the summering eclipse drake Goldeneye at Stanford Res on 31st just about qualifies for a mention. A Great White Egret slipped into the pond behind the dam at Daventy CP on 2nd and was out again just as quickly, while scarce raptors included a flyover Honey Buzzard at Stanford Res on 30th and two – or, given the proximity of the locations, perhaps just one – Marsh Harriers, with singles near Walgrave on 31st and at Harrington AF on 2nd.

The only Little Ringed Plovers this week were a juvenile at Hollowell Res on 30th and four there on 5th, with an adult Ringed Plover there on the first of these two dates and

Juvenile Little Ringed Plover, Hollowell Res, 5th August 2016 (Mike Alibone)

Juvenile Little Ringed Plover, Hollowell Res, 5th August 2016 (Mike Alibone)

two juveniles there on 4th. Two Black-tailed Godwits occurred during the period – both on 5th – at Daventry CP and at Summer Leys LNR while, back at Hollowell Res, up to nine Dunlins were still present between 30th and 4th, dwindling to three on 5th. Two were also at Pitsford Res on 2nd and one at Cransley Res on 4th.

Juvenile Dunlins, Pitsford Res, 2nd August 2016 (Alan Francis)

Juvenile Dunlins, Pitsford Res, 2nd August 2016 (Alan Francis)

Four Greenshanks visited Hollowell Res on 5th and Common Sandpipers were reported from Hollowell Res, Pitsford Res, Stanwick GP, Summer Leys LNR and Sywell CP with no more than three at any one location.

Common Sandpiper, Sywell CP, 30th July 2016 (Martin Swannell)

Common Sandpiper, Sywell CP, 30th July 2016 (Martin Swannell)

With the exception of Stanwick, similar numbers of Green Sandpipers were at the same sites and, additionally, five were counted at Daventry CP on 4th, while single Common Snipes were at Summer Leys on 1st, 3rd and 4th and at Hollowell Res on 4th and 5th.

Green Sandpiper, Summer Leys LNR, 4th August 2016 (Ricky Sinfield)

Green Sandpiper, Summer Leys LNR, 4th August 2016 (Ricky Sinfield)

Common Snipe, Summer Leys LNR, 1st August 2016 (John Nicholls)

Common Snipe, Summer Leys LNR, 1st August 2016 (John Nicholls)

Mediterranean Gulls are now filtering through in multiples, with a juvenile at Stanwick GP on 2nd being followed by an adult and two juveniles there on 3rd and a juvenile at Daventry CP the following day.

Juvenile Mediterranean Gull, Stanwick GP, 3rd August 2016 (Steve Fisher)

Juvenile Mediterranean Gull, Stanwick GP, 3rd August 2016 (Steve Fisher)

Numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls were, however, considerably down on last week’s three-figure total, with up to ten at Stanwick GP on 31st, singles at Pitsford Res on 2nd and  5th and at least seven at Daventry CP on 4th, while the only Caspian Gull was a near-adult at Stanwick GP on 31st.

Caption for Caspian Gull

Again, this week’s only Turtle Dove was at Harrington AF on 31st, where there was also a Common Redstart on the same date, and it appears that Stonechats may well have bred at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell, where two adults accompanied by two young juveniles were present on 30th and 3rd. At least six Crossbills were feeding in pines in the car park at Sywell CP on 5th.

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The Week in Focus, 23rd to 29th July 2016

Great White Egret, Stanwick GP, 26th July 2016 (Steve Fisher)

Great White Egret, Stanwick GP, 26th July 2016 (Steve Fisher)

Last week’s hot and humid air ebbed away after the weekend, being replaced by fresher conditions on the back of a restored westerly airstream from the North Atlantic. The autumn’s second Great White Egret appeared, while migrant waders continued to filter through.

The injured Ruddy Shelduck remained at Pitsford Res and up to three Red-crested Pochards were there between 24th and 26th, while a female appeared at Clifford Hill GP on 23rd. Last week’s Great White Egret stayed at Summer Leys LNR until 23rd but was quickly followed by another at Stanwick GP on 26th-27th. Although there is often movement between Nene Valley sites, these were two different birds with completely different bill patterns.

The only large raptor seen this week was the Osprey which flew west over Scaldwell Bay on 26th and the usual smattering of Peregrines included singles at Summer Leys on 27th, Higham Ferrers on 28th and Stanwick GP on 29th.

There was a more diverse selection of waders this week. Four Little Ringed Plovers visited Clifford Hill GP on 23rd and singles were seen at Stanwick GP on 24th and at Summer Leys on 28th, while two Ringed Plovers were at Hollowell Res on 26th. The autumn’s first Whimbrel flew east over Pitsford on 23rd and Black-tailed Godwits continued to move through, singles of which at Stanwick GP on 23rd and 27th and at Summer Leys on 28th with four at the latter locality on 25th and two there on 27th. Summer Leys also produced single Dunlins on 23rd and 27th, while nine visited Hollowell Res on 26th and seven were there on 29th. Common Sandpipers included one at Summer Leys on 23rd and four there on 27th, three at Stanwick GP on 23rd and five on 27th, singles at Pitsford Res on 24th-25th and Sywell CP on 25th and three at Stanford Res on 26th, with four there the following day.

Common Sandpiper, Sywell CP, 25th July 2016 (John Nicholls)

Common Sandpiper, Sywell CP, 25th July 2016 (John Nicholls)

A handful of Green Sandpipers included singles at Clifford Hill GP on 23rd, Pitsford Res on 23rd and 25th and Summer Leys on 27th, while two were at Stanwick GP on 28th and the only Greenshanks was one at Stanford Res on the same date. The first Wood Sandpiper of the autumn appeared briefly at Summer Leys on 28th but did not linger, a Redshank was also there on the same date and a Common Snipe was at Stanwick on 23rd.

Also at Stanwick, the build-up of Yellow-legged Gulls continued with one hundred and fourteen counted there on 28th, while two were at Thrapston GP on 23rd and singles visited Pitsford Res on 24th-25th and Summer Leys on 28th. The only Caspian Gulls this week were, of course, at Stanwick GP with a second-summer on 26th followed by an adult there the next day.

Again, this week’s Turtle Doves were restricted to two at Harrington AF on 23rd and a Firecrest visited a Warmington garden briefly on 23rd.

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The Status of Red Grouse in Northamptonshire

Red Grouse, Hawsen Burn, Cheviot Hills, Northumberland, 21st April 2014 (MPF/Wikimedia Commons)

Red Grouse, Hawsen Burn, Cheviot Hills, Northumberland, 21st April 2014 (MPF/Wikimedia Commons)

Vagrant. The only county record was of a male shot near Warkworth in November 1892. It’s as simple as that. But its status in the UK is a different thing altogether as this species plays a pivotal role in determining the way in which our country’s uplands are ‘managed’ and the significant, largely detrimental, impact this ‘management’ has on other wildlife and the environment as a result.

There is now a fast-growing movement to ban the so-called ‘sport’ of driven grouse shooting which has given rise to moorland ‘management’.  If you have not heard about this already then read on … and sign the online petition organised by our very own local birder and conservationist campaigner, Mark Avery. Below, is an article explaining why this issue is important to every birder, naturalist and environmentalist in the country.

My grouse with grouse shooting by Dr Mark Avery

Driven grouse shooting is an unsporting and pointless sport that damages the ecology of our hills and depends on illegal killing of protected wildlife.

Some say birdwatching is an odd hobby, but compare it with driven grouse shooting and we all seem completely normal. In driven grouse shooting, a line of people with shotguns wait for a line of people with flags and whistles to drive Red Grouse past them so that they can shoot at them as they fly over.  There is no hunting involved in this – it’s merely using wildlife as living targets. An individual may pay upwards of £5,000 for a day of such ‘sport’.

The record ‘bag’ for a day of such shooting is 2929 birds, shot by eight guns in the Trough of Bowland in Lancashire on 12 August 1915. That’s over 350 birds/gun that day. Modern bags are approaching such levels again.

To generate such high densities of Red Grouse, to justify such high prices; heather moorland is burned into a patchwork of long and short vegetation; Foxes, Stoats, Carrion Crows etc are killed in large numbers; Mountain Hares are killed off too (because they carry a tick which can transmit a virus to the grouse); the moorland is drained and medicated grit is provided to kill intestinal worms. Red Grouse are not reared and released (like Pheasants), but driven grouse shooting depends on intensive management of the prey, their predators and their habitat.

Many raptors are illegally killed because they are unsporting enough to include Red Grouse in their diet, eg Golden Eagle, Goshawk, Peregrine and Hen Harrier. This year is a survey year for Hen Harrier – the last, in 2010, found c650 UK pairs whereas the science shows that there should be c2600 pairs.  English uplands should hold around 300 of those 2600 pairs, and yet in recent years, breeding numbers have rarely reached double figures – this year there aren’t 300 pairs, there aren’t 30 pairs, there are just 3 pairs.

A scientific study on a grouse moor in Scotland in the 1990s showed that when birds of prey are properly protected, as the law requires, then their numbers will rise and they can remove much of the ‘shootable surplus’ of birds on which driven grouse shooting depends. There is a real conflict, you can’t have protection of birds of prey and massive grouse bags. You have to choose! What is your choice?

The grouse shooters say that it’s only a few bad apples that kill raptors, but they don’t deny the massive impacts that bad apples (I believe there are more than a few) have on protected wildlife.  So you do have to choose whether you want an unsporting sport to continue or whether you want the legal protection given to birds of prey to be real. I choose legality and birds of prey over criminality and a pointless ‘sport’!

Grouse shooters contend that other ground-nesting birds benefit from grouse moor management (some do, it’s true, but not all), that the hills would be covered with conifers, sheep and windfarms if grouse shooting were stopped (they wouldn’t – it’s environmental legislation that controls these activities not grouse shooters) and that all those people paying for grouse shooting are delivering wealth to the economy (economists say the figures are greatly inflated and do not take everything into account anyway).  You must choose who you believe.

All that intensive management for grouse, the burning and the drainage, have other important ecological impacts. Grouse moors shed water more quickly than moorland not managed for grouse shooting – and this increases flood risks for masses of people downstream, people who never go grouse shooting and have never heard of a Hen Harrier. Greenhouse gas emissions are higher from grouse moors where burning occurs on peatlands; grouse moor management was criticised by the Committee on Climate Change last year. Water companies spend more money on water treatment in catchments dominated by grouse shooting and those costs go to the customer not the grouse shooter. And aquatic biodiversity is lower in watercourses draining managed moorlands too. Intensive grouse moor management imposes big costs on the rest of society. And so, again, you have to choose – grouse shooting or sustainable uplands?

Over the years of wrestling with these issues my views have hardened. I used to think that grouse shooting was a bit odd but if only we could reduce the levels of wildlife crime then it wasn’t a high priority. As time has passed I have realised that our uplands are the scenes of unrelenting wildlife crime, and all for a hobby (sport, pastime) that is enjoyed by the few and which imposes costs on the many.

I’ve made my choice and it is that we should do away with driven grouse shooting which is why I have launched a number of e-petitions to ban this sport. The current e-petition has far surpassed the total signatures of the previous two and runs until 20 September. If it reaches 100,000 signatures by then this whole issue will be debated in Parliament and that will flush out the arguments and put them even more strongly in the public domain. If you are keen on wrecked uplands and wildlife crime then please don’t sign my e-petition, but if you choose change in the uplands, even if you don’t favour a total ban (and I think you should!) then please sign because this is the strongest way you can make your voice heard. It really is your choice!

Sign the e-petition for a debate in parliament here https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/125003 .  Every signature counts so please give yours now. For more information then check out my blog at www.markavery.info/blog/ and/or read my book Inglorious – conflict in the uplands for the 100,000 word version of the case against driven grouse shooting. But thank you for letting me have 1000 words here.

Dr Mark Avery is an author, blogger, birder and campaigner. He worked for the RSPB for 25 years until 2011 and for 13 of them was the RSPB Conservation Director.

 

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The Week in Focus, 16th to 22nd July

In complete contrast to last week’s rather bland and dreary weather conditions, the wind swung south as a high pressure system crossed Europe, dragging hot and humid air from the Iberian Peninsula and raising local temperatures to the mid-thirties. A true taste of summer then, with, for good measure, some new autumn migrants arriving at the same time.

The injured Ruddy Shelduck was still at Pitsford Res on 17th, having walked or swam under the road bridge to reach Scaldwell Bay from the sailing club. The female Garganey remained at Stanwick GP on the same date and the drake Goldeneye – now in eclipse – was still at Stanford Res on 19th, while an unseasonal female Scaup visited Daventry CP on 22nd. A Bittern was found at Stanwick GP on 19th – this species is now becoming more frequent outside the winter period – while the inevitable deluge of Great White Egrets commenced on 22nd with an early morning arrival on the scrape at Summer Leys LNR. I would bet my bottom dollar we are in for a double-figure wintering population in Northants during 2016-17.

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 22nd July 2016 (Martin Swannell)

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 22nd July 2016 (Martin Swannell)

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 22nd July 2016 (Martin Swannell)

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 22nd July 2016 (Martin Swannell)

In a week of few raptors single juvenile Marsh Harriers were at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 22nd and over the scrape at Summer Leys on 17th, as was an adult

Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 17th July 2016 (Ricky Sinfield)

Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 17th July 2016 (Ricky Sinfield)

Peregrine, Summer Leys LNR, 16th July 2016 (Ricky Sinfield)

Peregrine, Summer Leys LNR, 16th July 2016 (Ricky Sinfield)

Peregrine the day before and the same site produced migrant Black-tailed Godwits, with at least thirty-four over on the evening of 17th and six on 20th.

Black-tailed Godwits, Summer Leys LNR, 17th July 2016 (Ricky Sinfield). Part of a flock of at least thirty-four migrating over the reserve.

Black-tailed Godwits, Summer Leys LNR, 17th July 2016 (Ricky Sinfield). Part of a flock of at least thirty-four migrating over the reserve.

Black-tailed Godwits, Summer Leys LNR, 20th July 2016 (Martin Swannell)

Black-tailed Godwits, Summer Leys LNR, 20th July 2016 (Martin Swannell)

There were fewer Common Sandpipers this week, with one at Daventry CP on 18th followed by three there on 22nd, while another was at Pitsford Res on 20th and 22nd.

Common Sandpiper, Pitsford Res, 20th July 2016 (John Nicholls)

Common Sandpiper, Pitsford Res, 20th July 2016 (John Nicholls)

The only Green Sandpipers were at Daventry CP, where up to two were present between 18th and 22nd and the only Greenshanks were three at Stanwick GP on 20th along with three juvenile Redshanks there two days later.

Stanwick also produced a single adult Mediterranean Gull on 16th and 18th, which was highly likely to have been the same bird watched ‘anting’ with Black-headed Gulls over nearby Irthlingborough on the latter date. The first juvenile Med Gull of the autumn appeared at Daventry CP on 20th. Yellow-legged Gulls at Stanwick GP peaked this week at at least sixty-four on 18th, while elsewhere three different individuals visited Daventry CP between 18th and 22nd, the latter date also seeing two at Pitsford Res. An adult, a first-summer and second-summer Caspian Gulls came into the evening pre-roost gatherings at Stanwick GP intermittently between 16th and 20th and a second-summer visited Daventry CP on 18th.

Caspian Gull, Stanwick GP, 19th July 2016 (Steve Fisher)

Caspian Gull, Stanwick GP, 19th July 2016 (Steve Fisher)

Showing no signs of picking up in numbers, this week’s Turtle Doves were restricted to two again at Harrington AF on 20th and a Firecrest was still singing at one locality on 18th, while a single Crossbill flew over Denton Wood the following day and two more were over Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 22nd.

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