Rarity Round-up, 14th to 27th July 2018

Unless you were particularly unlucky, over the past two weeks the rain has again held off and the southerly airstream has continued with its delivery of abnormally high summer temperatures. Perhaps surprisingly, local bodies of water remain at relatively high levels, with one source stating reservoirs are currently around 90% full – principally Hollowell (86.42%), Pitsford (90.78%) and Ravensthorpe (91.24%). Hollowell is traditionally the one to expose its mud first and so frequently becomes the initial autumn ‘go-to’ destination to find passage waders for local birders not faithful to a patch.

Somewhat seasonally skewed – or simply an escape – a Pink-footed Goose visited Clifford Hill GP on 17th, while the number of Red-crested Pochards at Pitsford Res climbed from two, through five on 18th-25th, to nine on 26th. Topping the bill for wildfowl, however, was a drake Common Scoter discovered at Boddington Res on 26th. This species undertakes a ‘moult migration’ in which many thousands congregate at favoured sites – principally in the eastern North Sea, the Baltic and off western France so inland records at this time of the year should not be considered unusual.

Drake Common Scoter, Boddington Res, 26th July 2018 (Gary Pullan)

The two Great White Egrets at Thrapston GP remained throughout the period, favouring the northern end of Titchmarsh LNR’s Aldwincle Lake. The same site produced an Osprey on 17th and again three days later, on 20th, when two flew over. Two more fly-over Ospreys included singles at Towcester on 20th and Stanwick GP on 27th. The latter site also produced a Marsh Harrier, flying west, on 16th.

Osprey, Stanwick GP, 27th July 2018 (Steve Fisher)

Sticking with Stanwick, the evening of 27th produced what is likely to be the largest autumn flock of Whimbrels in the County. Sixty-two flew west together, followed by two more shortly afterward. Numbers of Black-tailed Godwits ramped up during the period, with flocks of fifteen at Earls Barton GP on 17th, twenty at Clifford Hill GP on 20th, five over Thrapston GP on 26th and singles at both Stanwick and Summer Leys on 21st and 27th. Worthy of note also was a Ruff at Stanwick on 21st.  Another milestone along the road to autumn was passed on 17th, when the first fresh, scaly, juvenile Mediterranean Gull appeared at Daventry CP. This was quickly followed by four different individuals there during 20th and 21st, plus another on 27th. Two more juveniles were also seen at Pitsford Res from 21st.

Whimbrels, Stanwick GP, 27th July 2018 (Steve Fisher). Part of a flock of 62 which flew west.
Black-tailed Godwit, Stanwick GP, 27th July 2018 (Steve Fisher)

Daventry CP also briefly played host to what was potentially bird of the summer so far. A ‘black-backed gull’, present during the afternoon of 26th and early morning of 27th, showed all the characteristics you could ever wish to see if you were going to claim a Baltic Gull in the UK. From the observer’s photographs, it certainly looks the business and more will be published on this site in due course. More gull action at Daventry included the occurrence of a first-summer Caspian Gull on 26th and up to four Yellow-legged Gulls between 17th and 27th. Several were seen regularly at Pitsford Res and

Probable Baltic Gull, Daventry CP, 26th July 2018 (Gary Pullan)
Second-summer Yellow-legged Gull, Wicksteed Park Lake, 19th July 2018 (Alan Francis)

singles visited Wicksteed Park Lake on 19th and Thrapston GP on 25th but Stanwick accounted for the lion’s share with the highest counts of seventeen on 20th and thirty-three on 26th.

On the passerine front, a Common Redstart at Fawsley Park on stands decidedly lonely …

Rarity Round-up, 30th June to 13th July 2018

And so it continues – almost wall-to-wall sunshine and no sign of any rain. Water levels are indeed falling and some of the more outlying and lesser watched sites have begun to attract waders. Both Cransley and Welford Reservoirs produced Common Sandpipers and Dunlins appeared on pools at Priors Hall, while the autumn’s first Greenshank was found at Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows on 30th June. Things can only get better …

The Summer Leys drake Garganey was joined by a female from 30th to 2nd, with only the female remaining until 3rd but the only other wildfowl of note were two drake Red-crested Pochards at Pitsford Res on 2nd.

Garganeys, Summer Leys LNR, 1st July 2018 (Bob Bullock)

Also doubling up, at Thrapston GP’s Titchmarsh LNR, the hide-and-seek Great White Egret was joined by a second individual on 12th, with both still present the following day. Stretching the doubles theme perhaps a bit too much, a singing male Quail was heard between Billing GP and Cogenhoe on 13th, constituting only the second record for the county this year.

Two Marsh Harriers were also found – one at Pitsford Res between 30th and 4th, while the other was seen flying east at Summer Leys LNR on 2nd but the only other species of raptor to be recorded during the period was, unsurprisingly, Osprey. Singles were at Thrapston GP on 2nd, flying over the A605 nearby on 3rd, at Stanford Res on 7th and 8th and in flight over the A605 near Oundle on the latter date, while two flew high south over Corby on 4th.

Spotted Redshank, Summer Leys LNR, 1st July 2018 (Bob Bullock)

If football isn’t coming home, then waders certainly are. Against a backcloth of small numbers of commoner species, more Black-tailed Godwits were found, with seven at Earls Barton GP on 5th, three at Stanwick GP on 6th and the same number at Summer Leys the following day but the highlight of the early autumn wader passage, so far, is the fine, summer-plumaged Spotted Redshank, which graced Summer Leys for a full five days from 1st before moving on. And if waders are on their way back so too, it seems, are gulls. July is the month when Yellow-legged Gulls begin to reappear and, following one at Pitsford Res on 6th, two were at Stanwick GP on 10th and 13th.

Yellow-legged Gull, Pitsford Res, 6th July 2018 (Richard How)
Yellow-legged Gull, Stanwick GP, 10th July 2018 (Steve Fisher)

Meanwhile, on the passerine front, the same two species featured in the last round-up again make an appearance in this one. The singing male Firecrest was still at Badby Wood on 3rd and a lone Crossbill flew over Wellingborough’s Westminster Estate on 10th.