Rarity Round-up, 18th to 24th November 2017

A mild mid-week, though windy with southerly gales, was sandwiched between two northerly blasts of cold Arctic air at both ends of the period. Visible migration dwindled further, being evidenced primarily by a continuing small, westward passage of winter thrushes. The autumn Hawfinch movement likewise diminished, with most reports now of small numbers in potential wintering habitats.

Last week’s showy juvenile Whooper Swan remained at Ravensthorpe Res until at least 21st, while the long-staying juvenile Pink-footed Goose was still present at Stanwick GP on 23rd. Numbers of Red-crested Pochards were restricted this week to a female at Pitsford Res from 18th to 21st and the two at Stanford Res until the latter date, while the female Scaup remained at Sywell CP all week. Three Scaup were still at Pitsford on 18th, with at least one still present until 21st and the same site sprung a female Common Scoter – initially reported north of the causeway and subsequently relocated in Pintail Bay – on 19th.

Scaup, Sywell CP, 24th November 2017 (Alan Francis). Extensive, clean white facial blaze, yellow iris and clean white belly age this as an adult.

November is the classic month for the arrival inland of Great Northern Divers and this month did not disappoint, with Stanford Res attracting a juvenile to the area by the dam on the last day of the week.

Juvenile Great Northern Diver, Stanford Res, 24th November 2017 (Chris Hubbard)

Another sign of the approaching winter was the appearance of a Bittern, seen coming in to roost at Stortons GP on 22nd. This suburban site has become established as a wintering site for two or the individuals over the past few years. Great White Egret were still ensconced in the usual sites, with maxima including five at Pitsford on 18th, four at Stanwick GP on 22nd, three at Ravensthorpe on 21st and two over Ditchford GP on 24th.

First-winter Little Gull, Boddington Res, 18th November 2017 (Gary Pullan)

In a similar vein to last week, there were few notable gulls around but a first-winter Little Gull managed a one-night stand at the Boddington Res gull roost on 18th, along with six Yellow-legged Gulls, while two Caspian Gulls were at Hollowell on 18th and two appeared in the Pitsford Res gull roost the following evening.

The latter site again produced a Water Pipit on 18th – no doubt the same which has been reported sporadically there of the past three weeks.

There has been no better time to be religious, but it’s unlikely when he wrote Take me to Church that Hozier had Hawfinches in mind. Churchyards have become a magnet for this species and, therefore, birders in recent weeks – primarily as a result of the tradition of growing Yew trees in them as evergreens are said to be linked with immortality. In England long before the Christian era, yew trees were planted on pagan temple sites, and they were eventually adopted by the church as “a holy symbol.” Traditions die hard, and although nonconformists did not follow the trend, modern British cemeteries still feature yew trees in their flora. Sermon over, then, but it’s no coincidence that BWP commences its list of Hawfinches’ favoured non-invertebrate food with Yew. Three popular localities continue to hold birds this week, fuelling speculation that they will stay throughout the forthcoming winter.

Hawfinch, Delapre Park, Northampton, 24th November 2017 (John Nicholls)
Hawfinch, Delapre Park, Northampton, 24th November 2017 (Alan Coles)
Hawfinch, Delapre Park, Northampton, 24th November 2017 (Alan Coles)
Hawfinch, Delapre Park, Northampton, 19th November 2017 (Ant Hall)

So, this week’s little (seed) crackers gave themselves up to photographers and came out into the open at Blatherwycke Churchyard, where up to two were present all week, Delapre Abbey (Northampton), where up to three remained throughout and Thenford Churchyard, where a minimum of four was present until at least 19th. Elsewhere on 19th, two were at Edgcote and singles were at Hinton-in-the-Hedges and Scaldwell and one flew over Bulwick on 23rd. Hopefully they will stick around …

Northamptonshire Bird Report 2016

Northants Birds

Essential reading for all Northamptonshire birders.

The latest Northamptonshire Bird Report, with records for 2016, is now out!

Contents include full Systematic List, sections on Escapes and Ferals, Corrections and Additions from previous years, report on breeding Hobbies, checklist of species recorded in Northants, tables of Summer and Winter Arrivals and Departures and an updated County Site Map. The number of contributors has again risen and there is also a list of unaccepted records.

 Copies and back issues from:
R W Bullock, 81 Cavendish Drive, Northampton NN3 3HL
Price £9.00 each, including postage
Cheques payable to ‘Northamptonshire Bird Report’

Northants BTO Launches Quarterly Newsletter

The BTO in Northamptonshire has launched the first issue of a new, quarterly newsletter, which will be emailed out automatically to members for whom the organisation has contact details. Contents in this issue include an introduction to the local team, membership details, training courses, bird ID videos, breeding birds survey, wetland birds survey (WeBS), heronries census, details of Birdtrack, Garden Bird Watch, House Martin Survey, Pitsford Nature Reserve, conference details, local resources and team contact details.

No doubt there will be items of further interest to come in future issues as the newsletter becomes established.

Rarity Round-up, 11th to 17th November 2017

After a wet start, this week’s weather was predominantly dry and cold, with a north to north-westerly airstream keeping temperatures relatively low. Visible passerine migration continued and again included significant numbers of Hawfinches at various localities across the county. Further news on the Stanford Dusky Warbler also emerged this week …

It is panning out to be the best autumn locally for Whooper Swans for many years, with this week’s arrivals comprising seven – four adults and three juveniles – at Stanwick GP on 11th and a juvenile at Hollowell Res on 15th, later moving to nearby Ravensthorpe Res on 17th.

Whooper Swans, Stanwick GP, 11th November 2017 (Adrian Borley). Four of seven which arrived at this site on the above date.
Juvenile Whooper Swan, Ravensthorpe Res, 17th November 2017 (Gary Pullan)

The long-staying juvenile Pink-footed Goose remained at Stanwick GP all week, the same locality hanging on to is four Red-crested Pochards until at least 12th, when two were also still at Stanford Res. Just one – a drake – remained at Pitsford Res on 15th-16th, where up to five Scaup remained throughout the period, while one of these, or another, visited nearby Sywell CP from 14th to 16th.

Great White Egret counts held steady, with site maxima including five at Pitsford, four at Stanwick and two at Ravensthorpe – all on 17th – while this week’s raptors included a male Hen Harrier between Harrington AF and the Brampton Valley on 12th and single male Merlins at Stanford Res on 11th, Thenford on 13th and Newton Bromswold on 16th.

It’s still a little early for northern white-winged gulls and the only scarce larids this week were a first-winter Mediterranean Gull at Stanwick on 13th, a Yellow-legged Gull at Pitsford on 11th-12 and two and six in the roost at Boddington Res on 12th and 13th respectively. Caspian Gulls were at three localities, including one at Pitsford on 11th, two at Hollowell on 11th and 14th with one there on 15th and one in the roost at Boddington on 13th.

Apart from Hawfinches, scarce passerines were poorly represented but the appearance of a back garden Firecrest in Little Billing on 11th was the highlight of the weekend for one lucky observer. So, back to Hawfinches, then. Although predominantly fly-overs, two localities at opposite ends of the county – one in the far north, the other in the extreme south – stood out as the most reliable places to see them ‘on the ground’. These are Thenford churchyard and environs, at which there were two on 11th, one on 12th, six on 13th and three on 17th, and Blatherwycke churchyard, where up to two were seen on 11th, 14th and 16th and believed to be commuting to nearby Bulwick churchyard, where they have been seen on three separate occasions. Elsewhere, birds in transit included one over Pitsford Res and seven over Ditchford GP on 11th, one over Ravensthorpe Res on 12th, one over Hanging Houghton, thirteen at East Carlton CP and two at Wakerley Great Wood on 13th, three over Daventry CP and four at Wicken on 14th, two over Borough Hill, five over Sywell CP and three at Harrington AF on 15th and, on 16th, two at Harrington AF, three over Earls Barton and one over Upper Harlestone. Hopefully we are in for a good winter with this charismatic crusher of fruits and seeds …

Rarity Round-up, 4th to 10th November 2017

The weather for the period was again influenced by depressions from the Atlantic, with alternating northerly to south-westerly winds, resulting in widely fluctuating temperatures and a series of wet and dry days locally. Passerine migration was still very much in evidence and included the ongoing movement of Hawfinches which, this week, was dramatically overshadowed by the occurrence of yet another county ‘first’, again tantalisingly out of reach for all but a lucky few …


Associated with last week’s movement of Whooper Swans were two which arrived at Clifford Hill GP during the morning of 4th. They had disappeared by the following day, unlike the longer-staying juvenile Pink-footed Goose, which was still making sporadic appearances at Stanwick GP until the week’s end. Also lingering were up to four Red-crested Pochard at Pitsford Res until at least 7th, two visited Ravensthorpe on 4th, four were at Stanwick GP and two were at Stanford Res – both from 7th to 10th. Up to four Scaup were still at Pitsford Res between 4th and 7th and last week’s first-winter remained at Ravensthorpe Res until at least 7th.

Red-crested Pochards, Stanwick GP, 7th November 2017 (Steve Fisher). Three of the four present at this site.
First-winter Scaup, Ravensthorpe Res, 7th November 2017 (Gary Pullan)

Potentially the biggest surprise of the autumn was the discovery of Northamptonshire’s first Cory’s Shearwater at Pitsford on 4th (see above). Unlike its one-day visit to Rutland Water, Leicestershire two days previously, it refused to play ball for Northamptonshire’s birders and the fact it did not stay resulted in a palpable sense of grief emanating from the fifty or so observers who turned up to see it …

More cryptic, but also much commoner, were the new Bitterns found this week – one at Boddington Res on 6th, still present on 8th, and another at Ditchford GP’s Wilson’s Pit, slap bang next to Rushden Lakes, on the latter date! Seemingly more Great White Egrets piled in during the week, with site maxima including five at both Pitsford and Stanwick on 9th, three at Ravensthorpe Res on 4th and one at Ditchford GP on 5th, with Ringstead’s Black-necked Grebe remaining on Kinewell Lake until at least the same date.

The north of the county produced two ‘ringtail’ Hen Harriers this week, both of which were fly-overs comprising one at Stanford Res on 5th and another between Kelmarsh and Great Oxendon the following day while a male Merlin at Spanhoe AF on 9th completed the raptor round-up for the period.

Putting Pitsford firmly back on the map this week (as if it was ever off!) was a Dotterel, which flew around with a small flock of Golden Plovers on 6th before they departed north. Subsequent searches of local fields failed to locate it, although there’s every chance it’s still out there … somewhere. This will be only the twelfth county record and only the second in the last twenty years, following one near Hemington on 5th May 2014. Apart from this, and in the absence of other uncommon waders, last week’s Black-tailed Godwit was still present at Stanford Res on 4th.

There was also a Little Gull at the same locality on the same date – perhaps the same individual as had been present there on 31st October paying a return visit but there was a further drop in numbers of other scarcer gulls. Just two Yellow-legged Gulls included singles at Ravensthorpe Res on 7th and Boddington Res the following day and a Caspian Gull was at Pitsford Res on 4th.

Hanging on in there from last week, although becoming much more elusive, was the Orlingbury Black Redstart, which was still present on 4th, while the same date produced a Water Pipit along the causeway at Pitsford, which remained in the vicinity until 6th. Meanwhile, the Hawfinch passage continued, with the south-west of the county producing two fly-overs at Brackley on 6th and at least two at Thenford churchyard on 9th-10th. Two more were in Bulwick churchyard on 8th, singles flew over Ravensthorpe Res on 7th and Pitsford Res on 9th and, the following day, eight flew west from Hanging Houghton and two paid a brief visit to Harrington AF before heading south.

Rarity Round-up, 28th October to 3rd November 2017

The weather for the period was largely settled, dry and again predominantly influenced by a westerly to south-westerly airflow, which was most intense during the first two days. Although mild conditions ensued, a short-lived northern element to the wind introduced low overnight temperatures on 29th, resulting in the first local frost of the autumn on the morning of 30th. As the magic month of October slipped away, the air was thick with migrants throughout the week, with an almost constant stream dominated by Woodpigeons, thrushes, Starlings and Chaffinches, obvious over both towns and open countryside.

Tied in with this movement, the ‘event’ of the autumn was undoubtedly the enormous movement of Hawfinches across the country, resulting in well over one thousand records nationally during the past two weeks or so. Northamptonshire fared well with twenty-one records involving sixty-five birds during the week. To be added to this, of course, are the figures from the preceding two weeks – a further seven records of fourteen birds – pushing the totals so far to twenty-eight records of seventy-nine birds from twenty-one localities. The majority of these have been fly-overs and, in the few instances where birds have made landfall, they have not lingered.

Hawfinches were not the only locally scarce migrants this week, of course, as there was clearly a movement of Whooper Swans taking place, with 29th seeing ten over Warmington, three over Bulwick, seven briefly at Blatherwycke Lake before moving off south-west and four at Daventry CP, which had departed by the following day. One also flew south over Ravensthorpe Res on 3rd.

Whooper Swans, Daventry CP, 29th October 2017 (Gary Pullan)

Other scarce wildfowl included a drake Red-crested Pochard at Daventry CP on 29th, joined there by another seven the following day. Pitsford Res attracted six more – or perhaps some of the same – on 3rd as well as three Scaup on 2nd, none of which appeared to linger. A first-winter Scaup also visited Ravensthorpe Res on 3rd.

Red-crested Pochard, Daventry CP, 29th October 2017 (Gary Pullan)
Scaup, Pitsford Res, 2nd November 2017 (Adrian Borley)

The wintering population of Great White Egrets continues to build, with up to four counted at Pitsford Res on 2nd, the Ravensthorpe duo present all week, at least three still at Thrapston GP on 29th and three in flight over Stanford Res on the same date, plus singles at Stanwick GP on 29th, near Harpole on 31st and at Ditchford GP on 2nd. Further along the Nene Valley, the Ringstead Black-necked Grebe remained on Kinewell Lake until at least 29th.

Great White Egret, Ravensthorpe Res, 28th October 2017 (Mike Alibone)

Raptors on the move included a Marsh Harrier south over Borough Hill on 28th and a ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier over Sywell AF on 1st, while single fly-over Merlins were at both Hollowell Res and Evenley on 3rd. Wader numbers continued to dwindle with, as last week, single Black-tailed Godwits still at Stanford Res on 29th and at Pitsford Res on 29th and 3rd, while a Jack Snipe was found at the latter locality on 29th.

Adult Little Gull, Stanford Res, 31st October 2017 (Chris Hubbard)

Late autumn Little Gulls are almost to be expected so an adult at Stanford Res on 31st was clearly on trend, while Mediterranean Gull upheld its weekly occurrence status with two at Stanwick GP on 30th. Fewer Yellow-legged Gulls were reported, with just singles at Pitsford Res on 29th and 2nd and another at Ravensthorpe Res on 3rd, while the wintering adult Caspian Gull remained at Hollowell all week and a first-winter visited Pitsford Res on 30th.

Finding themselves in the shadow cast by the Hawfinch movement were some class passerines, the cast of which was headed by a showy vocal Siberian Chiffchaff at Boddington Res on 30th.

First-winter Black Redstart, Daventry, 2nd November 2017 (Gary Pullan)

Still present from last week was the Orlingbury Black Redstart, which remained faithful to two adjacent house roofs there until 30th, while another was discovered in Daventry on 2nd. Not far away, at Daventry CP, a Mealy Redpoll paid a brief visit to the area around the feeding station on 30th, the same date that a Snow Bunting flew low north at Pitsford Res – the latter the first in the county since 2014.