Rarity Round-up, 23rd to 29th March 2019

The week remained dry, largely sunny and pleasantly mild, with a predominantly light westerly to south-westerly airstream – conditions which were again conducive to migration. The birding wasn’t too shoddy, either. Cattle Egret, White Stork, Common Crane and Hooded Crow were the new in highlights, alongside some more of the expected summer migrants, including the first Swallows on 24th.

Time must surely be running out for the first-winter Whooper Swan and the three Pink-footed Geese still ensconced at Thrapston GP at the week’s end, as the arrival of a drake Garganey at Summer Leys LNR on 25th heralds the onset of ‘wildfowl spring’ and sets the clock ticking for their departure. Last week’s drake Red-crested Pochard remained at Pitsford Res until at least 26th and after missing a day, the drake Ring-necked Duck was back at Thrapston for 23rd-24th only.

Just one Great Northern Diver was seen at Pitsford on 23rd and 26th and this same locality pulled back a Great Egret on 28th, after an absence of several weeks. Top counts of this species at other sites comprised three at Summer Leys and twos at Stanford Res, Stanwick and Thrapston. A Cattle Egret also (re)surfaced in the Nene Valley. Following unconfirmed reports of one off Ditchford Lane last week, one was located on 25th, roosting in trees around the Cormorant colony at Ditchford GP’s Delta Lake. It was still present on 29th, having visited nearby Stanwick GP on 27th.

White Stork, Sawbridge, Warwickshire, 28th March 2019 (Bob Hazell)

Continuing the herons, storks and allies theme, a White Stork which roosted in Warwickshire, little more than a kilometre from the county boundary, on 27th, entered Northamptonshire airspace early the following morning as it made its way north-east over the A45 toward Barby. During the early afternoon of the same day it, or quite possibly another, was seen circling low over the A6 and the eastern end of Ditchford GP before drifting off west over Higham Ferrers. This is/are about 23rd/24th records of this species for the county, following a well-documented Dutch-ringed individual at Clifford Hill GP last year. There have been several reports around the UK so far this spring and the likelihood of their being different individuals is commented upon here.

Keeping eyes to the skies produced two Ospreys this week – one over Deene Lake on 26th and another flying west over Honey Hill, near Cold Ashby, on 29th but up there with them, in the troposphere, were two, four or six Common Cranes, depending on how you cut it. Two were seen flying east over Brixworth on 23rd, two flew south over Moulton late in the morning of 26th and on the same day, about 90 minutes later, two were over Holcot, heading toward Pitsford Res. Given the close geographical proximity of these reports, it seems logical to assume the same birds accounted for all sightings. These, then, constitute about the 27th record, following on from the ‘gang of five’ over Daventry CP last September, the migration path of which was tracked as they moved south over the UK.

Avocets, Summer Leys LNR, 23rd March 2019 (Bob Bullock)

On the wader front, Summer Leys attracted two Avocets on 23rd and further down the valley, Stanwick played host to sixteen Ruffs for the morning of 28th. A Jack Snipe was also found at the latter site on 26th, while another was at Thrapston GP two days earlier, on 24th.

In a week perhaps unsurprisingly devoid of scarce gulls, late news of the second-winter Iceland Gull revisiting Stanford Res on 22nd emerged too late to be included in last week’s round-up.

Short-eared Owl, Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR, 29th March 2019 (Tony Vials)

Two Short-eared Owls remained at the much favour’d locality of Neville’s Lodge (Finedon) all week, one was still at Lilbourne Meadows on 23rd and another was watched being mobbed by Carrion Crows over Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows on 29th. Which brings us neatly on to the rarest bird of recent times, Hooded Crow, one of which was seen in flight with Jackdaws, just beyond the northern boundary of Summer Leys on the same date. This is only the second county record this century, following one at Alderton in November 2018, which prompted this status review.

Hooded Crow, Summer Leys LNR northern periphery, 28th March 2019 (Ady Leybourne)

Meanwhile, the Great Grey Shrike remained in the Blueberry Farm area all week, and the first Firecrest to be found this year was in Pitsford’s Scaldwell Bay on 28th. Following the spring’s first Northern Wheatears last week, further singles were seen at Mears Ashby on 23rd, in the Blueberry Farm area on 24th and 29th and at Harrington AF on the latter date. Crossbills managed to keep up their recent weekly appearances, albeit scantily, with flyovers at Scotland Wood (Kelmarsh) on 23rd and Pitsford Res (two) on 27th. At least one Corn Bunting remained in the Blueberry Farm area again all week.

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