Rarity Round-up, 10th to 16th November

Maintaining temperatures some 5°C higher than they should have been, the wind this week again blew southerly and then south-westerly, before swinging south-easterly during the last two days of the period. Making the news this week were two birds which, in all likelihood, nobody ever saw, although we know at least one of them was there …

The eleven Whooper Swans remained at Pitsford Res all week and look settled for the winter. New arrivals during the period were three adults, arriving at Stanford Res on 13th before hurriedly departing to the north-east the same day and a lone first-winter, which was discovered at Thrapston GP on 16th.

Whooper Swans, Pitsford Res, November 2018 (Bob Bullock)
Whooper Swans, Stanford Res, 13th November 2018 (Bob Bullock)
Whooper Swan, Stanford Res, 13th November 2018 (Chris Hubbard)

Now for the first of those two intangible birds. Belated news concerns the curious case of the Greenland White-fronted Goose, which dropped into a field near Aynho, under the cover of darkness, for just two hours on 27th October. A radio-tagged female, originally bound for Wexford, went well off course to the Dutch coast, before successfully re-orientating west across the UK, which included a short stop-off in Northants. Read the full story here. The appropriate radio telemetry, had it been available live online to the masses, would no doubt have had a good number of us reaching for those infra-red bins – well, maybe. This is only the 5th county record of this potential species, the last being in 2009. Back down to earth, the two adult White-fronted Geese remained at Sywell CP all week and a Barnacle Goose visited Stanwick GP on 12th. The top count of Red-crested Pochards was ten at Pitsford Res on 14th, followed by seven at Stanford Res on the previous day.

Red-crested Pochards, Stanford Res, 13th November 2018 (Bob Bullock)

Elsewhere, up to three were seen at Hollowell Res and one was at Stanwick GP during the period. The six first-winter Velvet Scoters remained on Thrapston GP’s Town Lake until 11th, after which only one remained until the end of the week, as did the first-winter Scaup there and the drake American Wigeon x Eurasian Wigeon hybrid at Daventry CP.

Three Cattle Egrets, happily ensconced at Stanwick, continued to entertain and remained all week, having moved to a smaller, more constrained cow field adjacent to the North Lake at the Ringstead end of the complex.

Cattle Egret, Stanwick GP, 14th November 2018 (Steve Fisher)
Cattle Egret with Little Egret, Stanwick GP, 14th November 2018 (Steve Fisher)
Cattle Egrets, Stanwick GP, 14th November 2018 (Steve Fisher)

Great White Egrets continued to be seen regularly, with Pitsford and Stanwick recording three a piece, Ravensthorpe Res held two and singles were also seen at Clifford Hill GP, Earls Barton GP, Hollowell Res, Stanford Res, Summer Leys LNR and Thrapston GP.

Great White Egret, Stanford Res, November 2018 (Bob Bullock)
Great White Egret, Pitsford Res, November 2018 (Bob Bullock)
Great White Egret, Ravensthorpe Res, 11th November 2018 (Paul Crotty)
Great White Egret, Earls Barton GP, 15th November 2018 (Leslie Fox)

On the raptor front, a Marsh Harrier flew south at Stanwick GP on 11th and the ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier – aged as a juvenile – was seen on and off all week at Stanford Res. Though last week’s Rough-legged Buzzard near Apethorpe ultimately proved to be a Common Buzzard incognito, another was reported near Aldwincle on 11th. Said to be watched for fifteen minutes in the Brancey Bridge area, no one has stepped forward to take responsibility for the sighting and the origin of the report is vague, to say the least. Ah well, fake news it is, then. “Another glass of Tempranillo, Donald?” “Don’t mind if I do, Buddy!”

So, moving swiftly on to waders … a Black-tailed Godwit appeared at Pitsford Res on 12th and was still present on 14th and another appeared at Summer Leys, also on 12th. The late autumn lingering Common Sandpiper remained at Stanwick until at least 11th but it was joined by another one just prior to dusk on 10th, although this second individual had vanished by the following morning. Surprisingly, another Common Sandpiper was found at Hollowell Res on 16th. All three are very late occurrences and anyone coming across an Actitis sandpiper here in November is surely in with a 50:50 chance of it being a Spotted Sandpiper. While surrounding counties have enjoyed multiple records, Northamptonshire awaits its first …

First-winter Mediterranean Gull, Daventry CP, 16th November 2018 (Gary Pullan)

Two Mediterranean Gulls – both of them first-winters – were found this week, one in the Pitsford gull roost on 14th and the other two days later at Daventry CP. The usual adult Yellow-legged Gulls were to be found at Pitsford and Hollowell, with three at the latter site on 16th, although a first-winter was in the Pitsford gull roost on 14th and a fourth-winter visited Daventry CP on 16th.

Two Short-eared Owls were found on 11th, hunting the grassy summit of Borough Hill, where they remained all week, while last week’s two Bearded Reedlings at Stanwick performed a short encore on 10th before apparently disappearing for good. Single Bramblings were seen at Hollowell on 10th and Stanwick on 12th, a female Crossbill was found at Fineshade Wood on 13th and eight more visited Ditchford GP briefly on 16th before flying toward nearby Irchester CP. Also on 13th, a single Hawfinch was heard calling at Brixworth CP.

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