Rarity Round-up, 16th to 22nd March 2019

The storm before the calm saw a continuation of last week’s gale force westerlies for the first two days of the period, before high pressure built over the country to deliver conditions more conducive to migration. On that theme, the first Osprey was seen cruising north and Northern Wheatears made landfall at three localities.

Maintaining the status quo, the first-winter Whooper Swan – now developing some yellow bill pigmentation – and the three Pink-footed Geese remained at Thrapston GP all week, as did the two Pink-footed Geese at Stanford Res.

First-winter Whooper Swan, Thrapston GP, 17th March 2019 (Adrian Borley)

A drake Red-crested Pochard was present at Pitsford Res between 18th and 21st and a drake Ring-necked Duck paid a fleeting visit to Thrapston GP on the latter date. Tempting, though it is, to believe this was a reappearance of the Earls Barton/Summer Leys/Stanwick bird, with more than twenty individuals scattered across a dozen sites this winter, the fact that remains that it could simply be another of its kind on the move.

Great Northern Diver, Pitsford Res, 19th March 2019 (Alan Coles)

Great Northern Diver, Pitsford Res, 20th March 2019 (Ken Prouse)

Pitsford’s two juvenile Great Northern Divers, now having moulted a good proportion of their pale-fringed juvenile feathers, stayed all week, ranging widely between the causeway and the dam, while dwindling top counts of Great Egrets were restricted to three at Stanford Res, two at each of Summer Leys and Thrapston, and singles at Ditchford GP and Welton.

Back at Pitsford, an Osprey flew north over Brixworth CP on 18th and a fly-by Merlin was seen south of the causeway the following day. At the time of compiling this report, five Ospreys have now returned to their Rutland Water breeding site.

Aside from the first spring migrant Little Ringed Plovers at Stanwick on 18th and at both Clifford Hill GP and DIRFT3 on 21st, other waders on the move this week were single Black-tailed Godwits at Stanwick on 18th and Summer Leys the following day, while Hollowell’s wintering Jack Snipe was still present on 17th and further singles were discovered at Pitsford Res on 18th-20th and at Stortons GP on 21st.

Black-tailed Godwit, Summer Leys LNR, 20th March 2019 (John Moon)

More Mediterranean Gulls came through this week, including single adults at both Clifford Hill GP and Stanford Res on 17th and at Daventry CP the following day. Two days later, on 20th, Daventry also hosted a juvenile Glaucous X Scandinavian Herring Gull hybrid, commonly dubbed ‘Viking Gull’ but it did not linger. Elsewhere, the first-winter Caspian Gull was again at Hollowell on 17th, while a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull visited Pitsford on 16th and a second-winter dropped in at Hardingstone GP on 18th.

Second-winter Yellow-legged Gull, Hardingstone GP, 18th March 2019 (Mike Alibone)

Remaining site-faithful, two Short-eared Owls were still at the regular location of Neville’s Lodge (Finedon) on 21st and one was still at Lilbourne Meadows on 20th, while the Great Grey Shrike remained in the Blueberry Farm area, becoming even more mobile and elusive towards the week’s end. The spring’s first Northern Wheatear was discovered on 17th at Clifford Hill GP, where it remained the following day, while the second appeared at Blueberry Farm on 20th, followed by a third at Borough Hill on 21st.

Northern Wheatear, Clifford Hill GP, 17th March 2019 (Mike Alibone)

After last week’s White Wagtails at Hollowell, further singles appeared at Clifford Hill GP on 17th and at nearby Hardingstone GP the next day and Crossbills were back on the menu at Wakerley Great Wood, where seven or eight were present on 18th, including one noticeably large-billed individual. Two Corn Buntings remained in the Blueberry Farm area all week, fuelling speculation that they might breed locally. Let’s hope so …

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