The Week in Focus: 10th to 16th October 2015

An established easterly airstream flowing from well beyond the Baltic persisted throughout the week, bringing a combination of low temperatures and largely dry weather as well as some interesting migrants from the east.

Back on the menu this week was one – presumably of the original two – Ruddy Shelduck which, after almost four weeks’ absence, was again by the dam at Pitsford Res

Ruddy Shelduck, Pitsford Res, 12th October 2015 (Stuart Mundy)

on 12th.  Beyond this, however, there was little to write home about with just two Pintails at Pitsford Res and three at Earls Barton GP – both on 12th – plus two at Stanwick GP on 16th and the two juvenile Garganeys remaining at Pitsford Res and at Ravensthorpe Res until 10th. On 12th, five Red-crested Pochards visited Summer Leys LNR and a female was at Pitsford Res – both of these localities also hosting Great White Egrets with three at Pitsford on 10th-11th, of which at least one remained until 14th, and singles at Summer Leys on 11th and 16th. In the generally underwatched south of the county a Bittern was present in reeds on small lake just south of Farthinghoe NR before flying off low to the north-east on 13th.

This week’s raptors were few, but varied, and included possibly the twentieth county record of Rough-legged Buzzard, which flew low west over the chippings compound at Harrington AF at 10.30 on 12th. Interestingly one – possibly the same – was seen to arrive at Clayhanger Marsh, West Midlands, 80 km WNW of Harrington AF at 12.50 later that same day. Now, assuming a flight speed of 35 km an hour … There was also one in Cambridgeshire on 15th. Somewhat overshadowed by this event were Marsh Harriers at Summer Leys on 14th and 16th and a Merlin at Stanford Res on 14th.

Waders during the period were limited to a count of one hundred and twenty-five Golden Plovers at Daventry CP on 11th and forty at Stanwick GP plus a Dunlin on 16th, two Green Sandpipers at Ravensthorpe Res on 10th and one at Pitsford Res the following day, the first Jack Snipe of the autumn at Stanwick on 16th, plus a sprinkling of Common Snipe, which included approximately forty in a field between Pitsford Res and Scaldwell on 13th, up to seven at Pitsford Res proper on various dates to 14th and one at Hollowell Res on 10th.

A first-winter Arctic Tern arrived at Stanwick GP on 15th (late October records of this species are not unusual) and the same site produced a putative adult Azorean Gull on 10th – echoes of this time last year. Will we ever discover what they really are …

Putative adult Azorean Gull, Stanwick GP, 10th October 2015 (Steve Fisher)

‘Standard’ Yellow-legged Gulls included ten at Stanwick GP on 10th, single adults at Hollowell Res on 10th, Wicksteed Park Lake on 12th-13th and one again at Stanwick on 16th plus two at Pitsford Res on 14th. A first-winter Caspian Gull visited Stanwick on 10th.

The remarkable run of scarce passerines trapped at Stanford Res over the years continued this week, bearing testament to the many hours spent on site and sheer persistence of the Stanford Ringing Group. With the winds full of eastern promise, the team struck silver (if not gold) on 12th with a Yellow-browed Warbler trapped and ringed, followed quickly by Northamptonshire’s second-ever ‘Eastern’ Lesser Whitethroat being pulled from

Yellow-browed Warbler, Stanford Res, 12th October 2015 (Paul Riddle)

‘Eastern’ Lesser Whitethroat, Stanford Res, 12th October 2015 (Paul Riddle)

the net only an hour or so later. Subspecific identification of this species can be tricky – even in the hand – so a couple of feathers which became dislodged during processing were quickly despatched to the University of Aberdeen for DNA analysis … Looking dapper but a lot less rare was the Black Redstart which spent 12th-16th around Dentonwood Lodge

Black Redstart, Denton Wood, 12th October 2015 (Steve Brayshaw)

Black Redstart, Denton Wood, 14th October 2015 (Steve Brayshaw)

(Yardley Chase), while the only Stonechats reported this week were two/three in Brampton Valley on 12th. Joining a mixed finch flock at Geddington Chase on 12th, a Brambling served as a reminder that winter is surely on its way …