The Week in Focus: 17th to 23rd August 2013

A warm southerly airstream ensured continued warm weather throughout the week and may have contributed to the appearance of a species not seen in Northamptonshire for at least one hundred and thirty years …

Two Egyptian Geese were at Ditchford GP on 23rd, the escaped Ross’s Goose was again with Greylags at Stanwick GP on 17th and a Garganey appeared at Pitsford Res on 22nd. The long-staying eclipse drake Red-crested Pochard lingered at Stanwick GP all week with another briefly visiting Summer Leys LNR on 20th and two females at Pitsford Res on 23rd and a Goldeneye was again at Pitsford Res on 22nd-23rd. A Great White Egret was again at the latter locality on 17th.

One of last week’s Marsh Harriers remained at Harrington AF, being seen daily until 23rd while it, or another, visited nearby at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 18th and another flew west over Boddington Res on 21st and a juvenile was seen at Ditchford GP on 23rd. Single Ospreys were seen at Pitsford Res on 17th and 22nd, over Blueberry Farm on 18th, over Harrington AF on 20th and over both Hanging Houghton and Quinton the following day. A juvenile Peregrine was observed taking a Lapwing at Stanwick GP on 17th and another was at Twywell Hills and Dales on 23rd.

Two juvenile Little Ringed Plovers were at at Summer Leys until at least 17th, two were at Stanwick GP on 22nd-23rd and one at Earls Barton GP on 23rd. The only Ringed Plover this week was one at Pitsford Res on 17th, while Summer Leys produced a Dunlin on the same date and small numbers were at Stanwick GP all week, peaking at seven on 21st. The same site held a juvenile Ruff on 21st-23rd. Adult Black-tailed Godwits were still moving through, with two at Summer Leys on 19th, one there on 23rd and four over Daventry CP on 22nd, although Common Sandpipers were strangely scarce this week with just two at Pitsford Res on 17th and 22nd, with singles at Daventry CP and Stanwick GP on the latter date and one at Earls Barton GP on 23rd. Green Sandpipers were a little more numerous, however, with singles at Pitsford Res on 17th and 20th-22nd and at Summer Leys and Ditchford GP on 23rd, seven at Daventry CP on 19th with five there on 22nd and two at Stanwick GP on 20th with three there on 21st. Summer Leys continued to hold on to its Greenshanks with three still there on 17th, two on 19th and one on 23rd and further records of singles came from Stanwick GP on 20th, Pitsford Res on 21st, Ditchford GP on 23rd and Clifford Hill GP on 22nd, with three at the latter site on 23rd.

A juvenile Mediterranean Gull was found at Daventry CP on 21st and two juveniles visited the gull roost at Pitsford Res the following evening, while two Caspian Gulls – an adult and a juvenile were discovered with Yellow-legged Gulls at Stanwick GP on 21st.

Juvenile Caspian Gull, Stanwick GP, 21st August 2013 (Martin Elliott)

Juvenile Caspian Gull, Stanwick GP, 21st August 2013 (Martin Elliott). Arguably in the most difficult plumage to identify this species, the combination of  sloping forehead with long, parallel-sided bill, creating the characteristic ‘snouty’ appearance are clues to its identity and enough to initially attract attention.

Numbers of the latter continued to remain relatively high at this locality with a maximum of approximately thirty on 21st and, elsewhere, singles were at Pitsford Res on 20th-21st and Clifford Hill GP on 22nd with four at Pitsford Res on 22nd and seven at Clifford Hill GP on 23rd.

Few would dispute that the ‘Bird of the Century’ title should surely go to the juvenile Woodchat Shrike which was found at Harrington AF on 20th. Showing well to all comers during the afternoon, this was the first to be seen in Northants for at least 130 years but it did not linger, much to the disappointment of early morning birders the following day. One was also seen at Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire on 17th and it is tempting to speculate that this was the same bird moving south.

Juvenile Woodchat Shrike, Harrington AF, 20th August 2013 (Bob Bullock)

Juvenile Woodchat Shrike, Harrington AF, 20th August 2013 (Bob Bullock)

Juvenile Woodchat Shrike, Harrington AF, 20th August 2013 (Bob Bullock)

Juvenile Woodchat Shrike, Harrington AF, 20th August 2013 (Bob Bullock)

A Common Redstart was found near the river at Woodford Halse on 20th, two more were at Harrington AF on 23rd and one was at Ditchford GP on 23rd, while a Stonechat was in the Brampton Valley/Blueberry Farm, Maidwell area on 21st and up to four Whinchats were in the same area between 17th and 22nd, with two more at Ditchford GP on 23rd. Northern Wheatears were found in the Brampton Valley on 17th and 21st and one visited Clifford Hill GP on 18th, while Tree Pipits flew over Harrington AF and Hanging Houghton on 18th.  Migrant Crossbills continued to be seen, with two over Hanging Houghton on 18th and six over Harrington AF on 18th and 22nd.

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