Two Weeks in Focus, 13th to 26th August 2016

A largely dry couple of weeks saw temperatures hit 30º C as the winds swung south-easterly, for a time ushering in hot air from mainland Europe. A two-week period makes a significant difference to what can be expected as migration gathers pace and we head into autumn proper. Numbers of waders, gulls and especially passerines are ramping up as September looms large in the birding calendar.

The Ruddy Shelduck remained at Pitsford Res, where it was seen on 20th, while the same locality saw the beginning of the annual autumn build-up of Red-crested Pochards with up to six there from 23rd.

Ruddy Shelduck, Pitsford Res, 15th August 2016 (Alan Francis)

Elsewhere, the drake Goldeneye remained at Stanford Res until at least 24th and a Garganey was at Daventry CP on 25th-26th and, back at Pitsford Res, another was found on 26th. The same dates saw a juvenile Shag at Stanwick GP, which was only the second record for the site, while this species is by no means annual in the county with the last being in December 2013.

Juvenile Shag, Stanwick GP, 25th August 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Raptors this in the period included a Marsh Harrier in the vicinity of Scaldwell and Walgrave Bays at Pitsford Res between 15th and 25th with perhaps the same individual visiting the nearby Brampton Valley on 23rd-24th. Single Ospreys were also at Pitsford Res on 14th and 24th-25th while others were seen at Hollowell Res on 14th and at Sywell CP on 23rd, although it is possible that just one roaming individual could account for all of these records. Peregrines appeared at Hellidon on 14th, Ditchford GP on 15th, at Summer Leys LNR on 17th and 23rd and at Hollowell Res on 25th.

Adult Peregrine, Summer Leys, 23rd August 2016 (Ricky Sinfield)

The autumn’s first Golden Plover appeared at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 17th and Little Ringed Plovers were recorded from Daventry CP, Hollowell Res, Pitsford Res, Summer Leys and Sywell CP. Most, if not all, were single juveniles.

Juvenile Little Ringed Plover, Sywell CP, 22nd August 2016 (Alan Francis)

By contrast there were only two Ringed Plovers, which consisted of singles at Ditchford GP on 13th and Stanwick GP on 21st-22nd. A Whimbrel flew south-west at Daventry CP on 26th, while three Curlews flew west at Stanford Res on 23rd and two were at Hollowell Res two days later but, compared with the previous period, Black-tailed Godwit passage had slowed to just one at Summer Leys on 19th and two there on 21st. A juvenile Turnstone took up residence on the Visitor Centre Lake at Stanwick GP from 17th and was still present on 26th, while the first of the autumn’s Ruffs appeared with singles at Summer Leys on 15th and 19th and at Hollowell Res on 16th and 21st.

Juvenile Turnstone, Stanwick GP, 21st August 2016 (Mike Alibone)

The latter locality produced three Dunlins on 25th, but numbers otherwise remained low with just singles at Summer Leys on 19th and Stanwick GP between 20th and 26th.

Juvenile Dunlin, Hollowell Res, 15th August 2016 (Martin Swannell)

Juvenile Little Stint, Summer Leys LNR, 12th August 2016 (Ricky Sinfield)

Sometimes quite elusive, a Little Stint remained at Summer Leys between 12th and 14th. Common Sandpipers continued to be seen in good numbers throughout the period, being recorded from eight localities with a maximum count of six at Daventry CP on 24th,

Juvenile Common Sandpiper, Sywell CP, 22nd August 2016 (Alan Francis)

while Green Sandpipers were recorded at six with a maximum of five at Summer Leys on 17th. A Spotted Redshank appeared briefly at Summer Leys on 25th and Greenshank numbers were surprisingly low with, apart from four at Stanwick GP on 22nd, singles at Summer Leys on 13th, Stanwick on 18th and 21st, Stanford Res on 23rd and Hollowell Res on 25th. Hollowell and Summer Leys were the only localities to host Common Snipe with the former producing singles on 13th and 21st, two on 16th and six on 25th and the latter with two on 14th and three on 21st.

Green Sandpiper, Summer Leys LNR, 21st August 2016 (Ricky Sinfield)

Green Sandpiper, Summer Leys LNR, 22nd August 2016 (Ricky Sinfield)

Along with diminishing numbers of Common Terns, the period saw a short-staying Little Tern at Stanford Res on 19th – the same date on which ten Black Terns paid an equally brief visit to Summer Leys, departing high to the west during the evening. Three Mediterranean Gulls included a juvenile at Daventry CP on 18th, a second-summer there on 24th and another juvenile at Hollowell Res the following day. Potentially hugely rarer, however, was the adult gull showing characteristics of Azorean Yellow-legged Gull at Stanwick GP’s pre-roost gathering on 24th and 25th. We’ve been here before, of course, and with this well-marked race now officially on the British List and a previous record of a returning individual (Stanwick 2013, 2014) pending acceptance by BBRC, this bird – believed by some to be the same individual – clearly warrants further study if it lingers.

Putative adult Azorean Gull, Stanwick GP, 25th August 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Putative adult Azorean Gull, Stanwick GP, 25th August 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Normal’ Yellow-legged Gulls were recorded in smaller numbers than during the lastperiod at Stanwick, Daventry CP, Summer Leys and Pitsford Res with a maximum of eight at the latter site on 13th.


Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Summer Leys LNR, 14th August 2016 (Mike Alibone)

Caspian Gulls, represented largely by immatures, were found at Daventry CP on 13th, with two there on 15th, one on 16th and 25th, Stanwick GP, where there were two on 15th, 17th (one adult) and 23rd, one on 25th and four the next day and Clifford Hill GP, where there was an adult on 14th.

First-summer Caspian Gull, Stanwick GP, 26th August 2016 (Steve Fisher)

Again, Turtle Doves were found only at Harrington AF, where there were four to five on 21st and one on 24th. The ringing highlight of the second week was undoubtedly a Wryneck which was trapped on 26th at Stanford Res by the Stanford Ringing Group, which has an enviable track record for pulling scarce migrants from its nets.

Wryneck, Stanford Res, 26th August 2016 (Mick Townsend)

Common Redstarts came through in good numbers with records from Blueberry Farm, Borough Hill, Daventry CP, Eydon, Fawsley Park, Harrington AF, Hellidon, Hollowell Res and Walgrave, with a maximum of four at the latter site on 25th and, in addition, a first-year female was trapped and ringed at Stanford Res on 18th. Related species remained scarce, however, with reports of Whinchats limited to two at Borough Hill on 13th, two at Blueberry Farm on 17th and 23rd and one in the Brampton Valley on 24th, where there were still two Stonechats on the same date. Just three Northern Wheatears included singles at Blueberry Farm on 17th and at both Stanford Res and Harrington AF on 21st. The latter site also produced two Tree Pipits on 26th – following the autumn’s first over Fineshade Wood on 14th – and a Corn Bunting on 24th.