Rarity Round-up, 18th to 24th May 2019

Another fine, largely dry week commenced with the convergence of two pressure systems over the central part of the country, producing only a few short-lived, local showers on northerly winds. Though fairly quiet, undoubtedly bird of the week was a Hoopoe, which stayed long enough to pose briefly for photos for just one lucky, right place, right time photographer …

Two Garganeys at Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows (Ditchford GP) on 18th were this week’s sole representatives of their kind and it looks like we will have to wait until the autumn before the appearance of any further rare or scarce wildfowl – escapes and ferals notwithstanding.

Who would have thought it but this week saw more Cattle Egrets in the county than Great Egrets, when a second individual joined the herd at the northern end of Stanwick GP from 21st to 24th and the only Great Egret reported was one at Stanford Res on 19th and 22nd. Continuing the kaleidoscope run of Black-necked Grebes this spring, another was found at Clifford Hill GP on 18th but like the previous birds at Daventry CP, a couple of weeks back, it moved swiftly on.

Black-necked Grebe, Clifford Hill GP, 18th May 2019 (Andrew Cook)
Black-necked Grebe, Clifford Hill GP, 18th May 2019 (Mike Alibone)

A Marsh Harrier – unusually scarce this spring – appeared over Summer Leys LNR on 24th. For anyone yet to catch up with a local Osprey this year, the reservoirs in north-west Northamptonshire are often a good bet for picking up wandering individuals from the slowly expanding Midlands population. Singles this week visited Hollowell Res on 18th and 21st and Naseby Res on 23rd.

Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 24th May 2019 (Ady Leybourne)
Osprey, Hollowell Res, 21st May 2019 (Jon Cook)

And with expanding populations in mind, some may wonder why we don’t seem to stumble across the odd migrant Corncrake, or two, given the proximity of the RSPB reintroduction project running since 2003 at the Nene Washes reserve near Peterborough. This is, of course, in response to their re-establishment in England being identified as a priority in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. But it remains a true rarity and an unconfirmed report of a calling male between Dalscote and Gayton on 20th-21st remained exactly that, as numerous birders put in the hours throughout 22nd along the quiet, single-track road bordering the monoculture crop-field in which it was reported. Veterans will no doubt be casting their minds back to the famous singing male, which spent three weeks, sometimes showing well, in an overgrown and richly plant-diverse meadow adjacent to Billing GP in May 1972. Ah yes, those were the days …

First-summer Bar-tailed Godwit, Clifford Hill GP, 18th May 2019 (Mike Alibone)
Bar-tailed Godwits, Clifford Hill GP, 18th May 2019 (Mike Alibone)

And so to waders and two of the three Bar-tailed Godwits at Clifford Hill GP on 15th remained until 18th, with at least one still present the following day, while the Hollowell Sanderling stayed overnight on 17th, still being present the following morning. Refusing to be left out, Stanford Res cashed in on its bid for this species, producing one on the dam there on 22nd, while two more were found on the dam at Pitsford on 23rd.

Sanderling, Pitsford Res, 23rd May 2019 (David Smith)
Sanderling, Pitsford Res, 23rd May 2019 (David Smith)
Sanderlings, Pitsford Res, 23rd May 2019 (David Smith)

Meanwhile, a Greenshank spent four days at Summer Leys, from 18th to 21st. Passage of gulls and terns dwindled considerably.

The 18th produced single Black Terns at Clifford Hill GP, Stanwick GP and Pitsford Res, followed by a first-summer Little Gull at the latter locality the next day.

Saving the best until last – or maybe it’s just the way the systematic cookie crumbles – but when it comes to sheer style and flamboyance, Upupa epops everybody’s cork. In this instance, however, it was not to be and the masses missed out this week on the first Northamptonshire Hoopoe since 2015.

Hoopoe, Ditchford GP, 19th May 2019 (Trev Earl)
Hoopoe, Ditchford GP, 19th May 2019 (Trev Earl)
Hoopoe, Ditchford GP, 19th May 2019 (Trev Earl)
Hoopoe: Monthly distribution of records, 50 years, 1969-2018. (Background image Bob Bullock).

Glebe Meadow, ‘Home of Kasa Lake Alpacas’ and part of the Ditchford GP complex, was the venue chosen by this particular individual, which rapidly did a bunk after being harassed by Jackdaws but not before it was quickly caught on camera. There have been forty records in the last fifty years, during which there were twenty-nine blank years, a massive seven-year gap (1996 to 2003) with no records and a maximum of four records in any one year (1973). They are impossible to predict but May accounts for 35% of all records followed closely by April with 30%. How long will we have to wait until the next … ?

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