The Week In Focus, 15th to 21st October 2016

This week saw the easterly airstream, which had become a protracted feature over the preceding two weeks, slipping away and being replaced by southerly, south-westerly, north-westerly and northerly winds as the week progressed. Temperatures fell and, despite some local heavy showers, conditions remained largely dry. Migrants continued to be found as large numbers of thrushes – principally Redwings – moved through the county and, at last, two Yellow-browed Warblers were reported, seen briefly, then, slipping into the ether … and gone …

The Ruddy Shelduck, still by the sailing club at Pitsford Res, remained throughout the period and the same location held up to nineteen Pintails and four Red-crested Pochards. More Pintails were seen on 21st, with singles at Stanford Res and Summer Leys LNR and four at Earls Barton GP.

The Stortons GP Bittern was again seen in only flight on 19th and Great White Egrets were less numerous or widespread this week, with up to three throughout Pitsford Res and one continuing to linger at Daventry CP, where the Black-necked Grebe remained until at least 15th. The best raptor materialised in the shape of a ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier, which was seen flying from Blueberry Farm toward Haselbech on 19th but the only other raptors reported were Peregrines, including singles in Northampton on 15th and 17th, in Brampton Valley on 18th and at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell the following day.

The wader supply continued to dry up, with barrel-scraping highlights restricted to fifty-three Golden Plovers at Pitsford Res on 16th, also up to fifty at Harrington AF all week, three Green Sandpipers at Pitsford Res on several dates and twenty-one Common Snipe at Barnes Meadow, Northampton on 15th, when seven Jack Snipe were also counted there. Smaller numbers of Common Snipe were also seen at Pitsford Res, Ditchford GP and Summer Leys.

An adult Caspian Gull at Boddington Res briefly on 17th and an adult Yellow-legged Gull at Pitsford Res all week represented the poorest weekly showing of gulls for a long, long time. With the nights drawing in there’s never been a better time to find Northamptonshire’s first Laughing Gull in a roost on the way home from work …

And as we head into winter are we destined to see any decent numbers of Short-eared Owls? One at Harrington AF on 19th seems more likely to have been a passing migrant than a local winter visitor. The two Bearded Tits at Summer Leys were seen again on 17th but there was no further sign of any of last week’s at Stortons GP. With record numbers both on the coast and inland and, after a good three weeks of high expectation, two Yellow-browed Warblers were finally found – one at Stanford Res on 20th, the other at Harrington AF the following day. Both were with roving tit flocks, they were not pinned down and if accepted, they will represent only 9th and 10th Northamptonshire records.

A suburban Northampton garden would appear to be an unlikely setting for a migrant Ring Ouzel but, as unlikely as it seems, a confiding first-winter male remained in one at Bush Hill for four days from 19th.

First-winter male male Ring Ouzel, Northampton, 18th October 2016 (David and Sally Irven)
First-winter male male Ring Ouzel, Northampton, 18th October 2016 (David and Sally Irven)

It’s proving to be a good autumn for Stonechats, which were recorded from Blueberry Farm, Boddington Res, Borough Hill, Harrington AF, Pitsford Res and Sywell CP, with a maximum of four at Blueberry Farm on 19th.

Male Stonechat, Sywell CP, 17th October 2016 (Alan Francis)
Male Stonechat, Sywell CP, 17th October 2016 (Alan Francis)

Two very late Tree Pipits were reported this week – one from Blueberry Farm on 20th and two at Stanford Res on 21st, although they don’t quite beat the latest ever, which was also at Stanford Res on 29th October 1995. More Bramblings arrived this week with single-figure counts from Fawsley Park, Hellidon, Harrington AF, Pitsford Res, Brampton Valley and Blueberry Farm with possibly as many as ten at the latter site on 20th, the same locality and date also producing a Corn Bunting – still very much a local rarity.

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