Apart from northerly winds and persistent rain on the first day of the period, the remainder of the week saw the winds blow southerly, bringing unseasonally warm weather from Iberia and temperatures peaking locally at 23ºC on 11th. The wind intensified on the last day, as ‘Storm Callum’ approached from the Atlantic.
The weather, however, appeared to have little effect on migrants from the north-east, with the first Fieldfares arriving on 7th and the first Brambling on 9th, while other factors were clearly responsible for delivering the main rarity of the week – Northamptonshire’s seventh-ever Cattle Egret.
Against a backcloth of coincident arrivals inland, an adult Whooper Swan was discovered at Cransley Res on 7th, while the mobile female Ruddy Shelduck continued to yo-yo between Ravensthorpe and Hollowell Reservoirs, last being seen at the latter site on 11th. Summer Leys attracted far in excess of its usual quota of regulars and casual visitors this week, following the discovery of a first-winter Cattle Egret among a herd of cows in the field immediately north of the reserve on 7th. A popular pull for photographers, it remained throughout the week, commuting frequently between its favoured cattle field, Summer Leys and nearby Mary’s Lake.
With a liberal scattering of some two hundred across the UK, including at least one hundred and five roosting at Shapwick Heath, Somerset on 28th September, its occurrence was only to be expected. It was just a question as to who was going to be the first to find one. In this instance, it was Matt Hazleton’s lucky day! The first Cattle Egret for Northants was also found at Summer Leys, back in August 2006. In fact, only one of the six previous records has occurred away from the Summer Leys/Earls Barton GP complex. It would appear highly likely that many more will follow as this species seems to be on the brink of imminent colonisation.
Firmly in the shade this week, Great White Egrets continued to be seen at six localities, with Daventry CP hosting the period’s maximum of three between 10th and 12th. Elsewhere, Ravensthorpe Res held one all week – joined by a second individual on 10th, one remained at Pitsford Res throughout, with two there on 9th, while singles visited Ditchford GP on 7th, Summer Leys on 7th and 10th and Stanford Res on 8th.
Summer Leys again featured with a Gannet, photographed on the main lake on 10th, ‘back of camera’ images from an unknown photographer being on view to egret-watchers on the day.
Reports of raptors were thin on the ground but what was missing in quantity was made up for by quality in the shape of a Honey Buzzard, which was seen twice – including in a tree – at Kingsthorpe Golf Course, Northampton on the afternoon of 10th. Waders, too, only narrowly made it into this week’s copy, with a Black-tailed Godwit lingering at Daventry CP from 8th until 12th and the autumn’s first Jack Snipe appearing at Hollowell Res on 10th.
No autumn would be complete, however, without a visit by a late, juvenile Arctic Tern and Hollowell duly obliged with one of these crisp little classics on show between 6th and 10th. The same reservoir produced a third-winter Caspian Gull on 12th – the same date that a first-winter was mobile around the Moulton Grange Bay/dam area of Pitsford Res.
Lest they should be forgotten, small numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls were scattered with up to three at both Pitsford Res and Daventry CP, two at Hollowell Res and one at Stanwick GP during the period.
Passerines were again making news this week and heading the cast was Northamptonshire’s tenth-ever Yellow-browed Warbler, pulled from a net at Stanford Res (just for a change) on 10th. Overall, some 500 were recorded nationwide in the run up to this date, so there are surely more out there to be found.
The first migrant Ring Ouzel of the autumn was a juvenile at Fermyn Wood CP on 7th when, back at Stanford, a late (for Northants) Common Redstart was trapped and ringed, while the autumn’s second Rock Pipit stayed briefly at Daventry CP on 11th.