The Week in Focus: 23rd to 29th August 2014

With Britain firmly under the influence of a ‘further south than normal’ jet stream, a series of low pressure systems became a feature to the west of Britain, bringing south-westerly to south-easterly winds and persistent, heavy rain on 25th. Water levels rose at a number of well-watched locations but there was still just enough exposed mud remaining to attract passage waders. This week began to feel like autumn …

The two Barnacle Geese present at Hollowell Res all week seem set to be in it for the long haul and the two long-staying Ruddy Shelducks were still at Pitsford Res on 27th. There are normally more Garganeys around in late August but just one was reported this week, at Hollowell Res, on 26th-28th, while at least three Red-crested Pochards remained at Pitsford Res mid-week, along with summering female Goldeneyes there and at Earls Barton GP.

The ‘cream-crown’ Marsh Harrier continued to hunt in the Harrington AF area until at least 25th and others visited Summer Leys LNR on 25th and 28th while, for the second week running, a Goshawk was reported – this time flying over Broughton on 23rd. At least one Osprey remained in the vicinity of Hollowell Res, being seen on 23rd, 24th and 28th and single Peregrines visited Stanwick GP on 24th and Stortons GP on 26th, while two were in the Nene valley between Higham Ferrers and Irthlingborough on 26th-28th.

Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 26th August 2014 (John Friendship-Taylor)

Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 26th August 2014 (John Friendship-Taylor)

Adult Osprey, near Hollowell Res, 24th August 2014 (Simon Hales)

Adult Osprey, near Hollowell Res, 24th August 2014 (Simon Hales)

Peregrine, Northamptonshire Nene Valley, 26th August 2014 (John Broadbent)

Peregrine, Northamptonshire Nene Valley, 26th August 2014 (John Broadbent)

Despite rising water levels, wader passage picked up – if only a little – this week. Little Ringed Plovers visited Stanwick GP on 27th and Clifford Hill GP on 25th and five juveniles were at Hollowell Res on the same date, dropping to three there on 27th and two on 29th, while two adult Ringed Plovers were there on 25th, five visited Summer Leys the following day and singles were at Stanwick GP and Clifford Hill GP on 27th. The latter site produced the autumn’s third Turnstone on 23rd-24th and a Dunlin on 23rd, followed by five there on 25th. Further Dunlins included three at Hollowell Res on 25th and singles visited Stanwick GP and Pitsford Res on the same date while, back at Hollowell Res, four were present on 28th-29th. Things appeared to be shaping up nicely with the arrival of two Little Stints on the scrape at Summer Leys LNR on 26th but they departed after staying only a few hours. In contrast to last week, when there was none, Ruff appeared at four localities with two at Clifford Hill on 24th and singles at Pitsford Res on 25th-28th, Summer Leys on 26th and Stanwick GP on 28th. At least two Common Sandpipers were at Pitsford Res throughout the week, while singles were at Clifford Hill GP on 24th and Hollowell Res on 28th, while Stanwick GP held two on 24th and three on 25th dropping to one by 28th. The only Green Sandpipers this week were singles at Stanwick GP on 25th-27th and Summer Leys on 26th and three at Bozeat GP on 28th but arguably the wader highlight of the week was a Spotted Redshank at Hollowell Res on 29th. Back in the day, this species was a regular feature – sometimes in double-figure flocks – of late autumn at Pitsford Res but it is now a very scarce visitor to the county. Numbers of visiting Greenshanks have also fallen but it’s still a fairly common passage migrant, although this week managed to muster only one at Clifford Hill GP on 23rd and two at Stanwick GP on 28th. Redshanks were in similarly short supply with singles at Stanwick GP on 26th and Clifford Hill GP the following day and the only Common Snipe were two at Stanwick GP on 25th.

While the only Mediterranean Gull – a juvenile – this week was at Pitsford Res on 27th, Stanwick laid claim to the rarest with two juvenile Caspian Gulls on 27th

Juvenile Caspian Gull, Stanwick GP, 27th August 2014 (Steve Fisher)

Juvenile Caspian Gull, Stanwick GP, 27th August 2014 (Steve Fisher)

and a seriously good candidate for an adult Baltic Gull during the same evening gathering. Despite a showing a full suite of characters (small-billed, dainty, long-winged and pristine black upperparts apparently concolourous with primaries) records of this (sub)species are still not accepted by national records committees unless the individual in question comes adorned with a suitable leg-iron bearing a number proving its provenance.

Putative adult Baltic Gull, Stanwick GP, 27th August 2014 (Steve Fisher)

Putative adult Baltic Gull, Stanwick GP, 27th August 2014 (Steve Fisher)

Stanwick also continued to produce Yellow-legged Gulls daily, with a maximum count of up to thirty, also on 27th, while smaller numbers continued to be found elsewhere, including up to three at Pitsford Res between 23rd and 27th and one at Clifford Hill GP on 26th. With only small numbers of Common Terns remaining, a juvenile Arctic Tern at Pitsford Res on 25th was new in and a Black Tern at Stanwick GP on 28th was the first of the autumn.

The two Turtle Doves remained at Harrington AF until at least 27th and, next day, a Ring-necked Parakeet surfaced on wires close to an area where this species has bred in the recent past, Stoke Bruerne. Common Redstarts were still very much in evidence this week with 23rd producing singles at Duston and Harrington AF and two in the

Male Redstart, Blueberry Farm, Maidwell, 24th August 2014 (Bob Bullock)

Male Redstart, Blueberry Farm, Maidwell, 24th August 2014 (Bob Bullock)

Brampton Valley, while the following day saw singles again at  Woodford Halse, Blueberry Farm (Maidwell), Pitsford Res (trapped) and Harrington AF and four at Hellidon and one was at Harrington AF on 25th and 27th. Similarly, Whinchats were widespread with two in the Brampton Valley on 23rd, singles at Pitsford Res and Sywell CP and two at Harrington AF on 27th and one at Bozeat GP the following day.

First-winter Whinchat, Bozeat GP, 28th August 2014 (Bob Bullock)

First-winter Whinchat, Bozeat GP, 28th August 2014 (Bob Bullock)

Two Northern Wheatears were at Hellidon on 24th and singles were at Harrington AF on 24th and 27th and at Bozeat GP on 28th, while Tree Pipits overflew Brampton Valley and Harrington AF on 23rd and 24th respectively.

First-winter Northern Wheatear, Bozeat GP, 28th August 2014 (Bob Bullock)

First-winter Northern Wheatear, Bozeat GP, 28th August 2014 (Bob Bullock)

First-winter Northern Wheatear, Bozeat GP, 28th August 2014 (Bob Bullock)

First-winter Northern Wheatear, Bozeat GP, 28th August 2014 (Bob Bullock)

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