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.

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