Blast from the past: Fulmar ‘breeding’ in Northamptonshire

Fulmarus_glacialis_1_2 (Michael Haferkamp, Wikimedia Commons)I received a nice letter today from Jan Pickup, daughter of AJB (‘Tommo’) Thompson, who was an eminent Northamptonshire birder in the latter part of the last century.  Jan and husband, Tony, had kindly given me some literature which formerly belonged to AJBT and Jan had posted me a ‘missing’ bird report from 1969 – the very first edition of the Northamptonshire Bird Report, the forerunner of today’s annually produced Northants Birds.

In her letter she drew my attention to a note relating to an interesting local encounter with a Fulmar in May 1961, published by Laurie Taylor in British Birds in 1962, a transcript of which is reproduced below. What was not published, however, was the personal account from the Thompson family perspective, which Jan remembers well and recounts as follows:

Laurie lived in Bush Hill, quite close to us in The Headlands and came round and knocked on the door. He said to Dad, “I’ve got something to show you.” Dad said, in protest, “I can’t come now, I’m listening to Beethoven’s Seventh.” Laurie said “Blow Beethoven, I’ve got a new breeding record for the County.” So Dad went!

And this is what it was all about …

Fulmar laying egg in Northamptonshire garden. – On 27th May 1961, I was told by my aunt that a “sea-gull” had laid an egg in her garden in Northampton and that the bird was still there. Very dubiously I investigated and to my astonishment I was confronted with a Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis). I captured the bird and released it at Pitsford Reservoir, Northamptonshire that evening. It settled on the water to preen and bathe before flying off in a southerly direction. The egg, which is now in my possession, was also seen by A. J. B. Thompson and M. Goodman. It is a typical Fulmar’s egg, white with a rough surface and slightly pyriform, measuring 73 mm. x 53 mm. It seems extraordinary that a Fulmar in breeding condition should be so far inland during the nesting season, but this hardly constitutes a breeding record for Northamptonshire!                                     British Birds (1962) Vol  55: 164

Header image Fulmar (Michael Haferkamp, Wikimedia Commons)

2 thoughts on “Blast from the past: Fulmar ‘breeding’ in Northamptonshire

  1. Good to see some names from the past! I still see Laurie Taylor occasionally in Norfolk. He lives in Downham Market and still chases rarities on occasion, Mick Goodman still lives just around the corner from me and I keep him updated on the local birding scene. I will show him this post. (I can remember the story, just, but I don’t remember seeing the Fulmar) Geof

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