The Week in Focus: 12th to 18th October 2013

The week kicked off with a slow-moving low pressure system sitting just over south-eastern Britain and adjacent mainland Europe, which produced significant north-easterly winds accompanied by low cloud and rain – ideal conditions for pushing species more normally associated with the coast into Northants.

Part of last week’s Whooper Swan movement spilled over into this week with three adults flying north-east over Boddington Res just before dusk on 13th. An Egyptian Goose was at Stanwick GP on 16th, a Ruddy Shelduck was again reported fleetingly from Pitsford Res on 14th and a drake Mandarin Duck visited Wicksteed Park Lake on 15th.  A single Pintail was found at Thrapston GP on 12th, two were at Stanwick GP the following day and up to eight were counted at Pitsford Res on 13th-14th, while the menu of scarce diving ducks became more extensive this week with the eclipse drake Red-crested Pochard still at Stanford Res to 17th, singles at Clifford Hill GP on 13th and Wicksteed Park Lake on 14th and three at Pitsford Res on the latter date. A female or first-winter Scaup visited Daventry CP on 17th and storm-driven drake Common Scoters appeared at Pitsford Res (two) and Clifford Hill GP on 13th

Drake Common Scoter, Clifford Hill GP, 13th October 2013 (Mike Alibone)

and Clifford Hill GP also hosted the year’s only Red-breasted Merganser on 12th, while last week’s Goosander remained on the fishing lake at Wicksteed Park all week.

Eclipse drake Red-breasted Merganser, Clifford Hill GP, 12th October 2013 (Mike Alibone). The ‘third’ white panel in the wing, comprising lesser and median coverts, serves to age this as an adult drake. These feather tracts are dark greyish in females and first-winter males.

Also from last week, the Stanford Res Black-necked Grebe reappeared on 18th.

Hot in off the North Sea, Northamptonshire’s thirty-fourth Gannet, a juvenile, splashed down early in the afternoon of 14th on Thrapston GP’s Barclaycard Pit, where it remained, showing well, until dusk.

Juvenile Gannet, Thrapston GP, 14th October 2013 (Bob Bullock)
Juvenile Gannet, Thrapston GP, 14th October 2013 (Bob Bullock)
Juvenile Gannet, Thrapston GP, 14th October 2013 (Bob Bullock)
Juvenile Gannet, Thrapston GP, 14th October 2013 (Bob Bullock)
Juvenile Gannet, Thrapston GP, 14th Oct (Bob Bullock)
Juvenile Gannet, Thrapston GP, 14th Oct (Bob Bullock)

This species has appeared in no more than three years out of the past ten with September being the peak month of occurrence in the county.Gannets, Northants, by month

All three of last week’s Great White Egrets – two at Pitsford Res and one at Stanwick GP – remained until at least 15th

Great White Egret, Stanwick GP, 12th October 2013 (Steve Fisher)
Great White Egret, Stanwick GP, 12th October 2013 (Steve Fisher)

while the county’s third-ever Glossy Ibis appeared at the latter site on 12th. First seen flying high west over the eastern pits there, it whiffled down and appeared to land on the A45 Lay-by Pit. Despite a thorough search by a number of local observers it was not relocated. Uncannily – or perhaps predictably – this bird followed exactly the same pattern of occurrence as the previous two: one observer, less than twenty minutes, gone. This would have been the case other than for an unconfirmed report of its revisiting the same site briefly on 15th so it could still be lurking somewhere in the Nene Valley, although Northants appears to be a Teflon-coated county as far as this species is concerned. Will there ever be one which stays long enough for the birding masses to catch up with it?

The trio of notable raptors this week include an Osprey lingering at Stanford Res all week, a Merlin at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 17th and a couple of Peregrines at Hellidon on 12th.

While numbers of Golden Plovers began to build for the winter, with three hundred and fifty at Clifford Hill GP on 13th, wader passage in general continued to dwindle. Dunlin numbers were down with up to three at Pitsford Res between 12th and 15th, up to two at Clifford Hill GP during the same period and two at Stanwick GP on 12th. The only Ruff this week were singles at Pitsford Res on 12th and Clifford Hill GP on 14th, a Bar-tailed Godwit flew south at Pitsford Res on 13th along with a Curlew while another Curlew flew east at Stanford Res on 12th and two Green Sandpipers were also at Pitsford Res on 14th.

Two Caspian Gulls were found at Stanwick GP on 12th and an adult was again at Thrapston GP on 14th along with four Yellow-legged Gulls while single adult Yellow-legged Gulls visited Clifford Hill GP on 12th and Pitsford Res on 15th. The depression also dumped Little Gulls – all first-winters – at three localities: Summer Leys on 12th, Thrapston GP from 12th to 14th and Stanford Res from 13th to 15th as well as a typically late juvenile Arctic Tern at Clifford Hill GP on 13th.

On the passerine front, a Firecrest was discovered with a tit flock at Titchmarsh Wood on 17th, straggler Swallow duos were at Clifford Hill GP on 12th and Pitsford Res the following day and a Ring Ouzel showed well at Hellidon – if only for a short while – on 12th. The same locality also hosted a Greenland Wheatear at the same time and a male Stonechat was discovered at Pitsford Res on 14th while single Rock Pipits appeared on cue at Hollowell Res on 13th and at Thrapston GP the following day. More Bramblings arrived this week with singles at Hellidon and Stanford Res on 12th and at Woodend near Blakesley on 18th, with two at Geddington Chase on 17th and approximately twelve Crossbills flew over Spratton on 16th with another over on 17th and several over Daventry CP on the same date.

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