More of the same as the country remained under the influence of a continued south-westerly airstream, ensuring generally mild – though blustery – conditions with only a minor, short-lived north to north-easterly airflow in the second half of the period. A new record high temperature of 24°C (21°C locally) was set for the last day of October.
The Pink-footed Goose at Stanford Res seems set to stay and was still being seen there on 6th, while the two Ruddy Shelducks at Pitsford Res were still present until at least 30th and the Pintail flock appeared to peak at eighteen there the following day. The only other Pintail during the period was one at Stanwick GP on 29th. Also reaching new heights, the flock of Red-crested Pochards at Pitsford Res increased to thirty on 2nd and the Stanford Res flock comprised seventeen between 29th and 6th, while three were at Thrapston GP on 1st and singles visited Stortons GP on 4th and Ravensthorpe Res on 7th. A female Scaup was discovered at Daventry CP on 29th, remaining there until 6th and a female Common Scoter paid a brief visit to Stanford Res before flying of west on 2nd.
Up to three Great White Egrets remained at Pitsford Res until at least 3rd, and another dropped in to Byfield Pool (Boddington Res) briefly before heading south on 26th, another was at Irthlingborough Meadows (Ditchford GP) on 28th and possibly the same individual visited Barclaycard Pit at Thrapston GP on 4th. By comparison a Bittern at Stortons GP on 25th seemed rare … The two Black-necked Grebes were again very much in evidence on Thrapston GP’s Town Lake between 28th and 1st.
A better than normal selection of raptors included a female Merlin at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 28th, 29th and 2nd plus a male at Stortons GP on 1st, while Peregrines were seen at Blueberry Farm, Cold Higham, Daventry CP, Harrington AF, Polebrook AF, Stanford Res and Thrapston GP. Moving up a size, a ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier visited Blueberry Farm on 2nd and a male flew SSW at Daventry CP on 6th and a male Marsh Harrier was at Great Oxendon on 25th. Raptor of the week – or year – or decade, depending on your perspective, was the juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard which drifted past a couple of seriously jammy observers as it headed down the Brampton Valley, without so much as a look back, on 29th. This is the 17th record for the Teflon county and the first since 2009 when two were seen in spring. Prior to that it was a fly-over in October 1994 and veteran birders will remember the one before that as being a single-observer fly-by at Pitsford Res in October 1974 – the last time there was an invasion of this species into the UK. With others currently appearing well inland it’s clearly time to stop counting Tufted Ducks and get out to the remoter parts of the county to look for them. Can you really afford to wait another 40 years for the next influx …?
The maximum number of Golden Plovers during the period was three hundred and fifty at Stanford Res on 25th with smaller numbers in Brampton Valley, Harrington AF and near Cotterstock, while a Grey Plover put in appearances in Brampton Valley on 29th and 1st. A Ruff visited Pitsford Res on 1st, single Dunlins were seen briefly at Stanwick GP on 30th, Hollowell Res on 31st and Stanford Res on 6th and the (relatively) long-staying Grey Phalarope remained at Pitsford Res before finally departing on 30th. A sprinkling of Green Sandpipers included two at Pitsford Res on 25th and 31st and singles at Ravensthorpe Res on 27th-29th and again on 7th, while the Greenshank – believed to have had a damaged wing – was still at the latter site on 29th. The only Redshank reported was one at Stanwick GP on 30th, small numbers of Common Snipe were reported from reservoirs at Hollowell, Ravensthorpe and Stanford as well as at Stortons GP, where there was also a Jack Snipe on 25th-26th and another of the latter species was flushed at Harrington AF on 3rd.
The 29th produced two Mediterranean Gulls – an adult at Hollowell Res and a first-winter at Daventry CP and another first-winter visited the gull roost at Pitsford Res on 1st, while a strong candidate for an adult Baltic Gull was seen well for a period of thirty minutes at Hollowell Res – also on 29th. No more than two Yellow-legged Gulls were seen at Daventry CP, Pitsford Res, Hollowell Res, Stanford Res and Stanwick GP during the period, with the latter site hosting single adult Caspian Gulls on 29th and 1st with an adult and a second-winter there on 2nd and two adults there on 5th.
Up to two Short-eared Owls remained throughout the period proving, as ever, to be a popular draw with locals and out-of-county birders alike, and further singles were at Harrington AF on 27th-29th, below Hanging Houghton on 30th and at Stanwick GP on 4th.
It’s worth mentioning that a Cetti’s Warbler trapped at Stanford Res on 1st was the second to be trapped at the site this year; this species is rare in Northants away from the Nene Valley.
Airfield Ring Ouzels continued to appear with a male – this time at Chelveston on 31st while a Black Redstart on farm buildings near Long Buckby on 3rd was another typical late autumn record in a similarly typical choice of habitat.
It’s still proving to be a good autumn for Stonechats and, aside from the six present at Blueberry Farm, lower numbers were found in the wider Brampton Valley and at Borough Hill, Ditchford GP, Harrington AF, Hollowell Res, Pitsford Res and Sywell CP, while two late Greenland race Northern Wheatears were at Polebrook AF on 26th. What was probably the last Rock Pipit of the autumn flew over Stanford Res on 1st and, as winter drew ever closer, more Bramblings were found at Daventry CP, Hanging Houghton, Harrington AF, Pitsford Res, Stanwick GP and near Lyveden New Bield, while four Crossbills were at Harlestone Heath on 27th.