Rarity Round-up, 30th September to 6th October 2017

It was back to dominant low pressure systems and westerlies from the word go this week, with winds varying in both strength and direction but always somewhere between SSW and NNW. Still, it didn’t do any harm and a handful of interesting birds appeared, staying for widely varying lengths of time.

The female Red-crested Pochard remained at Stanford Res all week and, for the record, the escaped, metal-ringed female Bufflehead was back at Clifford Hill GP on 30th – assuming it ever left the site in the first place, of course. It’s worth noting that, because of consistently high water levels, Clifford Hill has not been receiving much attention this autumn.

With plenty of mud north of its causeway, Ravensthorpe Res has, however, been looking very attractive but mud’s not what it’s about if you’re a Gannet, four of which flew south there, over the head of one lucky observer, just after midday on 30th. Again, no new Great White Egrets appeared this week with Pitsford Res continuing to host the same two north of the causeway.

Juvenile Gannet, Ravensthorpe Res, 30th September 2017 (Stuart Mundy). One of a group of four to fly south over this site.

On the raptor front, the lingering juvenile Osprey remained in the vicinity of White Mills Marina (Earls Barton GP) until 1st, while the only other notable raptor was a female Merlin which flew over Stanwick GP on 6th.

The second Grey Plover of the autumn put in a brief appearance at Hollowell Res on 5th and Stanford’s five Black-tailed Godwits just made it into the period but they were not seen after 30th. Of interest, more than one hundred and fifty Black-tailed Godwits have been counted moving through Stanford this year, including good numbers of juveniles, and it’s not just down to water level. This species has enjoyed a better than average breeding season in Iceland as a result of very warm May temperatures there. By contrast, although never common, only the second Curlew Sandpiper of the year was found at Pitsford Res on 1st but it stayed only for the morning before disappearing. However, it – or more likely another – turned up at Hollowell Res during the afternoon of the same day, lingering only until the next morning.

Juvenile Curlew Sandpiper, Hollowell Res, 1st October 2017 (Jon Cook)

Four new Little Stints arrived this week – one at Pitsford on 30th-1st and another on 6th, one at Stanwick’s hallowed Visitor Centre Lake on 2nd-3rd and another at Hollowell Res on 4th. This species has been in short supply in the county in recent years.

First-winter Mediterranean Gull, Stanwick GP, 4th October 2017 (Steve Fisher)

Skuas have been in even shorter supply, however, and a possible Pomarine Skua chasing Black-headed Gulls at Billing GP on 1st would have been nice to see. What was presumably the same first-winter Mediterranean Gull which had been at Stanwick GP last week was there again on 2nd and 4th but much more noteworthy was the potential adult Azorean Gull seen there again and photographed on the latter date.

Putative Azorean Gull, Stanwick GP, 4th October 2017 (Steve Fisher)

The only Yellow-legged Gulls were up to four at Pitsford between 1st and 3rd and nine at Stanwick GP on 2nd, while the returning adult Caspian Gull at Hollowell was joined there by a first-winter on 4th, the Naseby adult was still there on 2nd and a second-winter visited Pitsford on 1st. A putative adult Baltic Gull was photographed at Ditchford GP on 2nd but it may well have been the same the same long-winged, dark Lesser Black-backed Gull which visited nearby Stanwick during the previous week. More to come on that.

A Firecrest was found in conifers behind the two hides at the northern end of Pitsford’s Scaldwell Bay on 2nd, while the run of Stonechats continued with up to three at both Pitsford and Hollowell, two at Stanford and singles at Stanwick and Clifford Hill GPs. Eight Crossbills flying south over Long Buckby on 30th was, apart from a breeding pair, one of the few records so far this year.

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