The Week in Focus: 19th to 25th September 2015

After a quiet start, with two still and foggy weekend mornings, a largely westerly airflow brought a mixture of sunshine and heavy showers to the county but little in the way of new birds. Although mainstream wader passage is now clearly over for another autumn, historically, the last week of September has a track record for producing some class American shorebirds in the county … and another is long overdue.

Despite the continuing autumn build-up of wildfowl – particularly evident at Pitsford Res – the recent WeBs count failed to produce any surprises with a Barnacle Goose again at Clifford Hill GP on 25th and last week’s drake Pintail remaining at Wicksteed Park Lake until at least 24th, while three were at Pitsford Res between 19th and 23rd.

Drake Pintail, Wicksteed Park Lake, 21st September (Alan Francis)

A ‘new’ Garganey (or perhaps the Hollowell bird relocating) was discovered at Ravensthorpe Res on 20th, remaining there until the next day and seven Red-crested Pochards were found at Ditchford GP on 19th, while four eclipse drakes remained at Pitsford Res all week with the latter site continuing to host a Great White Egret until at least 24th.

Bird of the week was undoubtedly the Honey Buzzard which drifted low south over Harrington AF late in the afternoon on 20th – the fourth to have occurred in the county this year – while, nearby, a juvenile Marsh Harrier was again seen in the Blueberry Farm, Maidwell/Brampton Valley area on 20th, 21st and 23rd. After a week with none, two Ospreys were seen – one flew over Sywell on 19th and the other flew south at Pitsford Res on 21st and this week’s Peregrines were at Higham Ferrers on 20th-22nd, Blueberry Farm on 20th and nearby in the Brampton Valley on 24th.

Wader numbers continued to plummet with four Ringed Plovers at Pitsford Res on 23rd-24th, single Dunlins at the same site on 19th and 24th and single Common Sandpipers at both Naseby Res and Hollowell Res on 20th. Green Sandpipers were still being seen at six localities with singles at Ditchford GP and Summer Leys LNR, two at Naseby Res and four at each of Pitsford Res, Ravensthorpe Res and Deene Lake. Large numbers of Common Snipe have yet to materialise and this week’s were two at Ditchford GP on 19th, four at Deene Lake the following day and the same number at Pitsford Res on 23rd. Small numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls included the regular adult at Hollowell Res on 20th, up to two adults daily at Pitsford Res between 20th and 24th with seven visiting the gull roost there on the latter date.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Pitsford Res, 22nd September 2015 (Alan Francis)

On terra firma, a late juvenile Cuckoo was discovered at Yelvertoft on 20th, a Short-eared Owl was reported at Summer Leys on 19th and, again on 20th, the autumn’s third Wryneck was watched ‘anting’ on the Cold Ashby road outside Stanford on Avon. After the tremendous autumn run of Common Redstarts there were just two at Blueberry Farm and one at Scaldwell on 19th and two still in a hedgerow between Pitsford Res and Walgrave on 20th-22nd. Whinchat numbers also dropped with one at Harrington AF on 20th and up to six at Blueberry Farm between 19th and 21st, being replaced there by up to four Stonechats there by 25th, while one was at the Northampton end of the Brampton Valley on 24th.

Stonechat, Blueberry Farm, Maidwell, 19th September 2015 (Martin Swannell)

Stonechat, Brampton Valley, 24th September 2015 (Douglas McFarlane)

Northern Wheatears remained scarce with just singles at Duston and Blueberry Farm on 19th and at Harrington AF on 19th-20th.