Rarity Round-up, 19th to 25th May 2018

The fact that weather can be a massive influencer in what turns up where, and when, was aptly demonstrated during this week which, for the first half was clear, warm and sunny. A light easterly airflow predominated, bringing murky, wet and, for a time, windy conditions off the continent during the latter half – a classic scenario for grounding migrants. In stark contrast to the previous week, there was plenty to get excited about, topped dramatically during the last hours by the fourth Rose-coloured Starling for Northamptonshire.

Summer Leys LNR saw the reappearance of a drake Garganey on 19th, followed by a male and female there on 24th-25th, while Stanwick GP hung on to its two drakes from last week before a third drake appeared there from 21st to 24th. Back to provide some summertime entertainment, last year’s presumed escaped female Bufflehead returned to Clifford Hill GP on 25th, after visiting Nottinghamshire earlier in the year.

A Great White Egret continued to visit Thrapston GP, with sightings on 21st, 23rd and 25th although, based on bill colour, local observers have identified two different individuals there over the past two weeks. A Marsh Harrier was also hunting there again on 20th, while two days later, on 22nd, single Ospreys were seen at both Hollowell Res and flying west at Summer Leys.

And then the floodgates opened. After bemoaning the fact that this had been an exceptionally poor spring for waders (and for some species, it has), local birders were treated to a weather-induced rush of Arctic-bound lovelies at the week’s end. A Grey Plover – scarce this year – appeared at Stanwick GP on the 25th, the date on which wader passage was most evident. This day also saw up to forty Ringed Plovers, the majority of which appeared to be of the race tundrae, at Clifford Hill GP after three more tundrae had been identified at Stanwick GP the previous day. Just one Black-tailed Godwit arrived this week, staying a day at Summer Leys on 24th, while the same site hung on to its Turnstone from 18th until 19th.

Turnstone, Clifford Hill GP, 25th May 2018 (Mike Alibone)

At least four more Turnstones appeared at Clifford Hill GP on 25th and a Knot made a stopover on a tern raft at Thrapston GP on 21st, while a brief and elusive evening visitor to Summer Leys on 23rd appeared in the shape of a fine summer-plumaged Curlew Sandpiper.

And so to Sanderlings … there had been three prior to this week but singles were found at Summer Leys on 23rd and 24th (two different individuals), Stanwick GP on the same dates with four (possibly six) there on 25th, two more at Summer Leys on 25th and twenty-three at Clifford Hill GP – comprising groups of eight, twelve and three – also on 25th. Single Wood Sandpipers visited Summer Leys and Stanwick on 23rd and 24th respectively, while a late flurry of Greenshanks included singles at Croughton Quarry on 23rd-24th, Stanford Res on 24th, Summer Leys and Ditchford GP on 25th with four at Lower Barnwell floods on the latter date.

Greenshank, Stanford Res, 24th May 2018 (Steve Nichols)

The last two days of the month saw an arrival of Black Terns. On 24th, ten were at Summer Leys, nine at Boddington Res, seven at Stanford Res and six at Pitsford Res and on the following day, five visited Thrapston GP, two were at Clifford Hill GP and one was at Pitsford Res.

Black Tern, Stanford Res, 24th May 2018 (Chris Hubbard)

Meanwhile, late Arctic Terns included one at Stanwick on 24th, followed the next day by ten flying east there and two at Clifford Hill GP. The adult Mediterranean Gull was again at Stanwick on 23rd.

Rose-coloured Starling, Wellingborough, 25th May 2018 (Alex Martin)

Which brings us neatly on to … Rose-coloured Starling. This ‘bird of the week’ or, more likely, ‘bird of the year’ in this instance, was discovered in a private garden in Wellingborough, late in the afternoon of 25th. It lingered long enough to be photographed and then promptly vanished, not being seen during the evening or subsequently. This is only the fourth record for Northamptonshire, having been seen previously in 1888, 1908 (both of which were shot) and 1998 – the latter an accommodating adult which frequented Woodford Halse between 11th and 22nd September. It appears that years ending in 8 may prove to be good for finding this species in future …

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