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.

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