The Week in Focus: 29th August to 4th September 2015

The country remained sandwiched between a high pressure system to the west and a low to the east, with the net result of northerly winds (with some easterly influence) and low temperatures. The predicted heavy rain throughout the bank holiday Monday duly materialised, promised much but delivered little and led to localised flooding outside the county.

Although a ‘C lister’, visits to the county by Barnacle Geese remain sporadic but this week saw one at Clifford Hill GP between 1st and 3rd and five at Hollowell Res on 2nd, while the two Ruddy Shelducks remained at Pitsford Res throughout the period. Aside from a Pintail at Summer Leys LNR on 31st, the only other ducks of note were three eclipse drake Red-crested Pochards at Pitsford Res on the same date. Visits by last week’s Great White Egret to Pitsford Res became erratic with reports from there on 29th and 2nd, while another visited Hollowell Res on the latter date and again on 4th and one was at Summer Leys on 31st and again on 3rd and 4th.

Ruddy Shelducks, Pitsford Res, 1st September (Alan Francis)

Juvenile Marsh Harriers visited Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 29th-30th, Clifford Hill GP on 1st and Pitsford Res the following day but, after a notable run in records, the week’s only Ospreys were one flying east at Naseby Res on 2nd and another at Hollowell Res on 4th.  Peregrines this week were singles at Pitsford Res and Stanwick GP on 31st, Higham Ferrers on 1st and Clifford Hill GP on 3rd.

The only Little Ringed Plovers were single juveniles at Clifford Hill GP on 29th and Naseby Res on 30th with six reported from Hollowell Res on 2nd, when there were six Ringed Plovers there (seven on 1st and 3rd-4th) with singles of the latter species at Naseby Res on 30th-31st, Pitsford Res on 2nd and up to three at Clifford Hill GP between 29th and 3rd. A juvenile Black-tailed Godwit was at Hollowell Res between 31st and 4th, being joined there by a second bird on 1st, the same date that another visited Clifford Hill GP.

Juvenile Black-tailed Godwit, Hollowell Res, 3rd September 2015 (Martin Swannell)

The Stanwick Little Stint remained from last week until at least 2nd and small numbers of Dunlin were located at Hollowell Res, Naseby Res, Pitsford Res, Summer Leys, Clifford Hill GP and Stanwick GP with a maximum of four at Hollowell on 3rd-4th. Ruff were found only at Hollowell Res and Naseby Res with a maximum of eleven at the latter site representing a sizeable local count by today’s standards, while Common Sandpiper

Juvenile Black-tailed Godwit and juvenile Ruff, Hollowell Res, 3rd September 2015 (Martin Swannell)

numbers were down on the previous period with records from reservoirs at Pitsford, Hollowell, Welford and Naseby plus Clifford Hill GP and Stanwick GP, with a maximum of eight at Hollowell on 31st. Green Sandpipers were found at Naseby, Pitsford, Ravensthorpe and Welford Reservoirs and Stanwick GP with a maximum of 9 at Naseby on 30th, while the only Wood Sandpiper this week was a one-day bird at Clifford Hill GP on 1st.Uncannily, after last week’s Spotted Redshank at Naseby Res on 27th, another turned up at the same site, exactly a week later, on 3rd. Greenshank numbers remained low, with just one at Summer Leys on 30th-31st and two at Naseby Res on 30th and 3rd, and Redshanks were similarly – though not unusually – scarce with singles at Clifford Hill GP on 29th and at Naseby Res the following day. The only Common Snipe were at Stanwick GP – where there was one on 30th and three the following day – and Summer Leys, where eight were counted on 31st.

Last week’s Hollowell Black Tern lingered to 2nd – so far it’s proving to be a lean year for this species – and two Arctic Terns were recorded including one at Stanwick GP on 31st and another at Hollowell Res the following day, while a first-winter Little Gull briefly visited Summer Leys LNR on 31st. The only Mediterranean Gull this week was a first-winter at Pitsford Res on 30th, the same date an adult Caspian Gull was found at Stanwick GP followed by a juvenile there the next day and two on 4th. There were far fewer Yellow-legged Gulls reported this week with just one or two adults at Pitsford Res on 31st-1st, an adult at Hollowell Res on 31st-2nd and a juvenile at Clifford Hill GP on 1st-3rd.

First-winter Mediterranean Gull, Pitsford Res, 30th August 2015 (Bob Bullock)

Caspian Gull, Stanwick GP, 4th September 2015 (Steve Fisher)

Some observers took their last 2015 look at a Cuckoo when a juvenile was found adjacent to Pitsford Res at Brixworth CP on 3rd, while scarce passerines included a Pied Flycatcher at Borough Hill on 1st followed by another between Pitsford Res and Walgrave the following day.

Juvenile Cuckoo, Brixworth CP, 3rd September 2015 (Alan Coles)

Whinchats were recorded between 29th and 3rd from five localities, Borough Hill and Blueberry Farm clocking up six each on 31st, while Common Redstarts continued to be seen in profusion with records from ten localities including ten birds together in an area of scrub between Pitsford Res and Walgrave on 2nd.

This must be one of the very few autumns where they have outnumbered Northern Wheatears – the latter appearing as singles at only Pitsford Res, Hollowell Res and Blueberry Farm. Long lost as a local breeding species, Tree Pipits now appear only as scarce passage migrants so two at Harrington AF on 29th, one there the next day and four at Borough Hill on 31st constituted a reasonable quota for the week, during which four Crossbills over Hanging Houghton on 29th was the only record of this specialised feeder which also occurs only as a migrant and scarce winter visitor.