Anticipation was running high among local birders when Storm Aileen made landfall in the UK on Tuesday, with the strong westerly blow continuing into the early part of Wednesday. The resultant winds, 70 mph in some areas, were already producing storm-driven seabirds along the western seaboard and the scene was set for discoveries further inland.
Wednesday, therefore, called for an early start and a reservoir tour was clearly in order, commencing at Pitsford dam. Unfortunately, Pitsford delivered nothing unusual – neither did Naseby, Welford, Sulby or Stanford.
I was beginning to run out of steam by the time I reached Hollowell and decided on a quick, long-distance overview of the northern and central parts of the reservoir from the lay-by on the A5119. And there it was, apparently the only wader there at the time, an animated speck, busily feeding along the shoreline of the Guilsborough Bay Point.
I quickly made my way to the point and, after putting the news out, started to watch and video it, keeping a safe distance so as not to disturb it. I needn’t have bothered. I was soon joined by Cathy Ryden and we were then dismayed to witness a crew of noisy young rowers cruising alarmingly close to the phalarope, at which point it was spooked and promptly vanished. Fortunately, Cathy relocated it later in the afternoon and it remained on site until at least mid-morning today.
Part of a national influx, this is the first Grey Phalarope in Northants since the relatively long-staying Pitsford individual in autumn 2014 and prior to that, there was one in 2011. There have been thirty-three previous records. As result of Aileen, many have been recorded across the UK during the past few days, although most have been seen at coastal locations.
Many thanks to Cathy Ryden and Jonathan Cook for supplying images,